Friars’ Reflections

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C)

Isaiah 66:10-14c; Galatians 6:14-18; Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

Fr. Gerald Werner, OCD

A few days ago it was exactly six months until Christmas. Being aware of this might dispose us to think of a well-known Christmas hymn when considering this Sunday’s Scripture passages for Mass. The hymn is “God rest you merry, gentlemen.” The hymn’s refrain is “O tidings of comfort and joy / Comfort and joy; / O tidings of comfort and joy.” That is a message for us this Sunday: comfort and joy.

The reading from Isaiah exhorts us to rejoice, to rejoice because God is our Mother. God is our Mother who nurses us, cares for us, comforts us—we her children. God brings us joy, God gives us comfort.

In the reading from Galatians St. Paul brags about something that does not seem joyful at all—the cross of Christ. This is really shocking. Crucifixion was a degrading form of death reserved for slaves, violent criminals, and political revolutionaries. It was excruciatingly painful and extremely humiliating.

St. Paul rejoices (and is comforted) because the crucifixion of Christ has blessed him with peace and mercy and made him a new creature. Through the cross of Christ his own sufferings as an apostle have brought him peace and mercy.

In the Gospel reading Jesus sends out seventy-two disciples to preach and to heal—to share in his mission and to begin to expand it. They return to Jesus “rejoicing” because they have experienced the power of God at work in them as they work for Jesus. He tells them they have even bigger reason for joy: they belong to God and have a place in God’s kingdom.

We have these same reasons for joy. This is God’s word to us today, God’s message for us now. God is like a mother who cares for her children and comforts them—and we are God’s children. Christ crucified has overcome death and suffering. We do not yet see the final, decisive victory; but we already know the sure beginnings of peace and mercy. The Holy Spirit lives inside each of us and brings us comfort and joy. All of us have a place in God’s kingdom.

* * *

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C)

1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21; Galatians 5:1, 13-18; Luke 9:51-62
 
Bro. John Mark Charlesworth, OCD
 
In today’s Gospel, one man said to Jesus that he would follow Him wherever He was to go. Jesus said in reply that He (and thus His followers) had no place to call His home, showing that this man was seeking worldly gain. Next we have our Lord asking another to follow Him. Our Lord’s saying “let the dead bury their dead” can sound rather cold, but since it is virtuous to bury the dead, we know that this man’s father was still alive, and that he was speaking of the future, being hesitant to leave the family riches behind at that time. Finally, we have the man who said that he would follow Jesus, but first wanted to bid his family farewell. Our Lord responded by saying that no one is fit for the kingdom of God who has his hand on the plow but looks behind. This shows that this man was not thinking of saying goodbye, but more likely was considering arranging material things so that he could return to them later if necessary (considering how our Lord responded).
 
With each of these cases, we have men who were not considering Jesus and His message first and foremost, but had the so called riches of this passing world on their minds. Concerning those who mentioned their families, we can be assured they were not concerned about the members in themselves, but were more likely not willing to let go of the family fortune and connections. Had they left all and followed Christ, they would have developed a much greater and truer love for their family members. The lesson to learn is that God must be what is on our minds at all times, and if this is so, all else will fall into its proper place.
 
Let us now consider Elisha’s response to Elijah. He asked that he may say farewell to his family, and was not forbidden to do so. Was he similar to the above men, but was able to get away with it since it was in the times of the Old Testament? No, for his actions show that he was clearly determined to follow the Lord. First of all, he did not return the twelve yoke of oxen and equipment to the barn, thinking he might need to return to them someday, but rather, slaughtered the oxen then and there, while using the equipment as fuel for the fire by which he cooked them (all of which is stated specifically in the sacred text). Then he showed charity by giving it all to the people there to eat. So see how he clearly terminated any way he could return easily to the world, while also practiced charity towards others there, which is what makes a sacrifice pleasing to the Lord (as Jesus taught). Then Elisha left all and devoted the rest of his life to doing the will of God (the former act being of His will as well).
 
So may it be for each one of us in whatever way God has called us to live and serve Him. May we receive His grace each day through Mary. Amen.

* * *

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Cycle C)

Genesis 14:18-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Luke 9:11b-17

Fr. Gerald Werner, OCD

The earliest Christians called the celebration of the Eucharist or the Lord’s Supper “the breaking of bread.”  We can follow the lead this offers us:  bread and the breaking of bread.  At the Last Supper Jesus took bread, thanked God, broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said:  “Take this and eat it:  it is my body.”  As the head of the household, Jesus by these words explains the meaning of the bread he is passing around.  He interprets what is happening.  The bread is his body, and body in the Bible means the whole person in the person’s actual concrete reality.  So the bread is his body is himself.

Jesus breaks bread.  Why?  Obviously he does this so that everybody can have some of it.  The breaking is a sharing.  The broken bread shared is Jesus himself shared.  The sharing contains and creates a oneness—a union of Jesus and disciple and a unity among the disciples, a union among human beings.

There is another, related reason why Jesus breaks bread.  He is performing a prophetic action.  It is Holy Thursday.  The next day is Good Friday.  Jesus knows what he is doing.  The breaking of bread is a breaking of his body—that is, his death.

And something else, and all of this is tied together.  The bread broken and shared is  Jesus taking upon himself and identifying himself with all of our brokenness—and transforming it, which means transforming us.  This is what happened two thousand years ago and what happens today whenever we celebrate Mass.  Perhaps the reality is obscured:  the hosts do not exactly look like bread, there is not one loaf we break and share, and so on.  Still, it is what happens.

What is our brokenness that Jesus takes upon himself?  It is physical, psychological, social, political, economic, and religious.  Most of all it is the last, religious.  In old-fashioned language, it is sin—the malice in each one of us that each one of us is personally responsible for and unwilling or unable to let go of.  These things are the “stuff” of the brokenness that Jesus takes upon himself. The brokenness that is ours is his, and his is ours.  He is broken bread, and so are we.

That is not the end of the story.  Jesus overcomes our brokenness, transforms it, gives new significance to it, reverses the apparent meaning of it.  Ultimately this is what the Eucharist, “the breaking of bread,” is all about.  It is all about Jesus, a way to live with physical pain, integrate emotional hurts by making them occasions for us to become better people, heal social and political and economic hostility and injustice, and clear out the evil in our hearts.  It is all about Jesus.  His brokenness is ours, and ours is his, and he transforms it.  This is one of the ways we know him in the breaking of bread.

* * *

Trinity Sunday (Cycle C)

Proverbs 8:22-31; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15

Bro. John Mark Charlesworth, OCD

The first Sunday after Pentecost Sunday is Trinity Sunday.  What a wonderful time to ponder upon our God!  So often we think of God only in respect to creation and our salvation (which is certainly worth doing), but it is proper that we also consider Who God is in Himself.

St. Thomas, summarizing the teachings of the fathers of the Church, stated that the Son is the knowledge of the Father.  This is shown in the first reading which speaks of the wisdom of God (which accompanies knowledge) and how it was always with God, preceding all creation. It is by the Son that we have knowledge of the Trinity, as well as the grace (merited by Him) to be in union with It. 

St. Thomas went on to teach that the Holy Spirit is the Love of the Father and the Son.  This Love always was, and God never was without Divine Love.  This is why St. Paul in the second reading states that “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us”.  Just as by Christ we know of the Holy Trinity, so it is by the Holy Spirit that we can come to love God, thus fulfilling the reason we were created.

This leads us right into considering ourselves and our relationship with the Holy Trinity.  What exactly is this personal relationship? It is our partaking in the Divine Love of the Trinity by having the Holy Spirit within us, leading us so that someday all of our acts may be acts of Divine Love.  Is this impossible? No, for this was evident in the lives of many of the saints.  As were they, so must we be open to the Holy Spirit so that we may love with the love of God Himself, making it possible that we love God in the way we were created to love. 

But one can lose hope if one is not careful, for it is all too easy to say “but I am not like the saints!”  Let us look at the Gospel.  Christ tells the apostles that He has much to tell (thus give to) them, but that they were not yet ready to receive it.  Is this not how it is with so many of us?  We still have much grace to receive, and yet are not yet ready for it.  But we must have hope!  For what does Jesus say, but that He will send the Spirit.  We are not just to wait by saying a prayer now and then, but are to plea to the Holy Spirit as It has already come and is among the members of the Church today.

Going back to the Trinity, see what Jesus has to say at the end of the Gospel: everything that the Father has is the Son’s, while the Holy Spirit takes what is the Son’s and declares it to us.  In other words, the love of the Father and the love of the Son is precisely the Holy Spirit Itself.  We are called to partake in this love, and so the Holy Spirit comes to us and enables us to do so, due to the mercy of the Father and the merits of the Son.  So it is never a matter of our having a union with just one of the persons of the Trinity, but all Three.  So may it be for all. Amen.

* * *

Pentecost Sunday

Acts 2:1-11; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13; John 20:19-23

Fr. Gerald Werner, OCD

The word Gospel means “Good News.”  That is its literal meaning.  That is also its New Testament meaning.  In part the Gospel, the Good News, is God’s response to the bad news.  Let us start there.

One of the works of the devil in ordinary life is division.  By that I do not mean a function in arithmetic, one that goes with multiplication, addition, and subtraction.  By that I do not mean a part of a sports league or the army or a business company.  I mean:  antagonism, hostility, conflict.

We can find division in ourselves as individuals.  We can find division among us in our interpersonal relationships.  We can find division in the larger dimensions of life—for example, among nations, races, ethnic groups, ideologies, religions.  Wherever there is division there may be evil.  Note that difference does not mean division.

Pentecost means the coming of the Holy Spirit.  One of the works of the Holy Spirit in ordinary life is not division but unity and union.  We see this in our Scripture readings for Mass today.

In the first reading we find different peoples from different places with different languages all having one and the same understanding.  In the second reading we find different spiritual gifts, different forms of service, different workings—but one Spirit, one Lord, one God.  It all is like the different parts of the human body forming one body.  In the Gospel reading Jesus twice says, “Peace be with you.”  He also says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  This “Peace” is not merely a greeting or a wish; it is a blessing, a blessing conferred.  That blessing is harmony, integrity, union, unity.

This is a sign of the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit:  unity, not division.  This is a work of the Holy Spirit:  unity, not division—unity in diversity, union in difference.

* * *

The Ascension of the Lord (Cycle C)

Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:17-23 or

Hebrews 9:24-28; 10:19-23; Luke 24:46-53

Fr. Gerald Werner, OCD

Long ago and far away a priest celebrant preaching his homily at a Mass for the Vigil of the Ascension of the Lord said that the Ascension does not mean Jesus was present and now is absent, but rather it means Jesus was present in one way and now is present in another, new way.

We are that presence.  We are he.  We are his work.  We are the eyes, ears, hands, heart, and mind of Jesus.  We are he teaching and healing.  We are he performing works of mercy and love.  Each of us has a unique path for following Jesus.  Our circumstances are different.  According to our path and circumstances we are the presence of the risen Jesus ascended into heaven.

Jesus tells us that we will be his witnesses “in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts1:8).  He sends us out into the whole world to proclaim his Gospel to every creature by deed and word.  For us this is both honor and challenge.  It is both our dignity and our task.

In the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus ascends and the apostles are “looking intently at the sky as he was going” and “suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.”  They asked, “Why are you standing there looking at the sky?” (Acts 1:10-11)     It is as if they are telling them to look around them on the earth and get to work . . . preaching, teaching, healing, fighting against evil, performing the works of love, building the kingdom of God on earth.

Again, we are the presence of Jesus in the world, and we continue his work and mission.  He empowers us to be this and to do this.  He empowers us by his gift of the Holy Spirit.  Again, let us see this for what it is:  a great honor and a big challenge.  It is a source of our profound dignity, and it is an always engaging task for us to accomplish. 

* * *

Sixth Sunday of Easter (Cycle C)

Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23; John 14:23-29

Fr. Gerald Werner, OCD

This Sunday’s gospel has a simple message—simple, but perhaps not obvious at first sight.  Jesus is saying to us:  “Trust me, and I will give you my peace.  Whatever is happening, trust me and you will know peace.”

Let us set the scene for this message of Jesus.  It is the Last Supper, and Jesus is saying goodbye to his disciples.  Saying goodbye means that he is telling them he is no longer going to be visibly and tangibly present with them.  They love him, and he loves them; but he is going to leave them.  They will no longer enjoy his immediate presence.  We know what this means because we know what it is like when we are separated from the people we love the most.  We miss them in their immediate presence with us.  Sometimes this is hard for us.  Sometimes it is painful.

But Jesus also has words of consolation.  One day he and his disciples will be reunited.  If this reunion seems far-off or remote, he tells them that soon they will experience his presence with them in a new and unprecedented way:  the Holy Spirit.

So, the goodbye word of Jesus is “Peace,” “Shalom.”  “Shalom” is a traditional Hebrew greeting.  Already it has deep religious meaning.  Jesus gives the word new and deeper meaning.  It is not just a hello or a goodbye word.  It is a word that expresses the gift of salvation, of ultimate deliverance and beatitude, of new life and new love.

Jesus is not saying to the disciples or to us that henceforth there will be no more wars and no more psychological tension and nor more evil in the world.  He is not saying that they—or we—will all enjoy a great feeling of well-being from now on.  He is saying:  “Whatever happens, I am the Lord of all.  I am in charge.  I am the boss.”  This is peace, the gift of Jesus to all his disciples, including us.  To receive it, whatever is happening, we have to trust him, really and truly trust him.

* * *

Fifth Sunday of Easter (Cycle C)

Acts 14:21-27; Revelation 21:1-5a; John 13:31-33a, 34-35

Bro. John Mark Charlesworth, OCD

Joys and Sufferings

In the first reading (from The Acts of the Apostles) we are told how Paul and Barnabas traveled from town to town, telling the Gentiles about the merits of Christ and how they could partake in them by embracing the faith.  What is good to notice is that in this selection, there is only one direct quotation: “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God”.  Just think about it, of all the things they could have said, as well as all that could have been recorded, this one line was centered upon.  What does this mean but that it is a very important truth for us to ponder upon?

Consider how often we think of the joys of the next life, but fail to concentrate on the way by which we can come to receive it, the way of embracing suffering?  (And now days we can ask: how often do people even think of this eternal reward?) Yes, it is very important that we have the final end in mind, but to keep it from being some abstract dream we have now and then, we need to also consider the “here and now” aspect of it.  At this present time and place we are getting closer to the end of each of our lives, so are we preparing ourselves for it or are we getting further from God by considering this life and world alone? Put another way, are we simply dreaming of some future joy, or are we also offering all sufferings to God for the sake of that end? 

The second reading (from Revelation) combines both aspects in a very helpful way.  We are told of Heaven and how in it are souls, members of the One Church, who have been prepared to adore God for all eternity.  It tells of how God will be as a spouse, dwelling with His people, while at the same time being their omnipotent King and Lord.  But notice how it does not just tell of the end, but includes the means as well.  After saying this is a new heaven and new earth, it clarifies that there was first a former heaven and earth which passed away.  This is the life and place where we are living right now.  Then when it tells of the joys of being with God, it clarifies how tears were wiped away, there was no more “death, mourning, wailing or pain”. What does this teach us but that before we can enjoy the joys of the next life, we must first endure and even embrace the cross in its various forms in each one of our lives?

The Gospel gives us the same message, for right before St John tells us what Jesus said concerning His being glorified, he first states that it was after Judas had left them.  This immediately reminds us that as Jesus was speaking of His future glory (although He always had glory in that He is God), first He had to be betrayed and suffer to an extent which we cannot grasp.  

But see what Our Lord says after speaking of both glory and suffering: “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another”, showing us that this is how one is to be a true disciple of His.  What is He teaching us here but that this life of suffering, as well as the following life of joy have one common thread, the thread that keeps everything together: that of love of God. Yes, God’s loving us, and our loving Him in return (which is shown by charity towards others) is what both this and the next life are all about.  Only by loving God can we embrace the cross here and now, while the next life consists primarily of our loving God for all eternity.  And we can have great hope, for we can certainly do so because God loves us with His own, infinite love, which is beyond any extent that we can possibly grasp. 

* * *

Fourth Sunday of Easter (Cycle C)

Acts 13:14, 43-52; Revelation 7:9, 14b-17; John 10:27-30

by Fr. Gerald Werner, OCD

We can find a difficulty for us Christians in this Sunday’s first reading for Mass, from the New Testament book of the Acts of the Apostles.  We can express the difficulty simply:  In some instances, no matter how hard we try to make known the Gospel of Jesus the Risen Christ, there are some people who do not welcome that Gospel.  In fact, they may be outright hostile to it.  The life and power of Jesus Christ are sufficient for the salvation of the whole world, and are present always and everywhere; but they are effective only to the extent people receive them well and cooperate with them willingly.

The first reading shows active and organized resistance to Paul and Barnabas and to the person and teaching of Jesus they proclaim.  The two apostles shake the dust from their feet in protest and move on to preach God’s word elsewhere.

So, we have a stand-off.  There will be some situations in which we will have to acknowledge that we have done all we can do and accept that our resources have to be preserved and gathered for another effort, either in a different place or at a different time or in the same place and time but in a different way.  To reach this kind of conclusion is never easy.  A complex value judgment is involved, and it seems our conclusion represents some sort of failure on our part.  This awareness of failure is always uneasy for us.

But we cannot really know whether we have been successful or not.  This is a consoling thought we should keep in our minds in situations like this and, in fact, at all times.  We cannot judge with real certainty the effectiveness of our own witness and ministry, what a positive difference for good we as Christians are making in the world.  The life that abides in us does not come simply from ourselves and our own talents and resources.  It comes from God our Father, through the Son Jesus Christ, and in their Holy Spirit.  This life makes itself felt and known in ways we are not able to recognize or measure.

We will never really know when we have been an aid to God’s grace by our life and efforts to give witness to the Lord.  We will never know when our efforts have been well meaning but ineffective.  All we can do is cooperate with the saving life and power of Jesus and try as best we can to receive his Gospel message in our own lives and share that message, that good news, with others, wherever and whenever we can, according to our calling and circumstances.

* * *

Third Sunday of Easter (Cycle C)

Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19

by Bro. John Mark Charlesworth, OCD

Today (Sunday) we have the account of St. John which tells how our Lord appeared again after His resurrection to the apostles at the lake.  At that time the apostles knew that Jesus had risen from the dead, but were still weak in themselves, as the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon them.  Also, as they were not yet evangelizing, it was difficult for them to simply wait “doing nothing” (although they would have had times for prayer), as our Lord was no longer with them physically each day.  It is for this reason that Peter decided to go fishing.  Many of the apostles joined him in doing so.

Thus they were not waiting idly when our Lord came to them, but had been working hard all night, even though there was no gain in sight (as it says clearly that they had caught no fish).  It also shows that they had humility, which is always a vital factor if one is to grow closer to the Lord.  Picture it: here they were, experienced fishermen who had worked all night, when one who was younger (33) tells them to throw the net over the other side of the boat (while addressing them as “children”).  Once someone said that perhaps one could see better from the shore, and so the apostles followed the advice, but I find it easier to picture it being not so easy.   Consider how they had been working all night, and not just for an hour. Surely they would already have tried different areas in the lake.  To have someone from the shore claim that he had a better view and knowledge of fishing, while calling them children, could easily have caused irritation.  But as the apostles had been so greatly humbled as they saw clearly how they had run from our Lord during the time of His passion, they were open to receiving such advice.  Therefore, I see it more as being an act of meekness and humility, rather than being their logically following the advice from a reliable source (as they did not know it was the Lord).

And consider the fruits of such receptiveness: not only was the net suddenly filled with fish, but John recognized that it was Jesus.  Notice how it was John who was the one to proclaim “It is the Lord!” Now while it is true that they all would have then recalled how earlier Jesus had done the same thing when He first called them to follow Him, still it was John alone who proclaimed that it was Jesus. The reason he was more ready than the other apostles to see this and respond so promptly was the simple fact that he was the one who was closest to Mary (it being Mary who led him to the cross) and thus would have received more grace at that point, having more of a life of prayer.  Such a gift enables one to see our Lord in daily circumstances.  This is a good reminder that even when one is performing good works, it does not meant that one is not praying, for as one advances in prayer, so one learns to pray while working.  So it was with Mary throughout all her life, as her every act was an act of love to God, inspired by the Holy Spirit while appearing to be like everyone else (save without sin) in her daily life.  This was granted to the apostles on Pentecost Sunday.

So let us learn from this, being resolved to have a life of prayer, not only at set times of silence (which are important) but also as we carry out our daily deeds.  Turn to Mary for this, and truly it will come to be. Amen.

* * *

Second Sunday of Easter (Cycle C)

(SUNDAY OF DIVINE MERCY)

Acts 5:12-16; Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; John 20:19-31

by Fr. Gerald Werner, OCD

This Sunday’s gospel has given our language an expression we use in both religious and non-religious circumstances:  a doubting Thomas.  A doubting Thomas, the dictionary tells us, is “an incredulous or habitually doubtful person.”  As often as not, when we use the expression we do not intend to compliment the person we are referring to.

But perhaps Thomas the apostle exhibits a virtue, not a shortcoming, when he doubts, when he questions.  He shows himself to be a down-to-earth realist.  For him it must be no ghost, no spook, no phantom, no pure spirit.  For him it must be only a full, complete human being, body and soul together, flesh and spirit in a whole, in a unity.  This only is the risen Jesus he is able and willing to believe in.

To see the wounds in the hands and the feet, to touch the wound in the side:  the wounds show that this is indeed the same Jesus who suffered crucifixion.  They show that this is no ghost or spook or phantom or figment of the human imagination.  It is the real Jesus of Nazareth who suffered crucifixion.  It is the same Jesus even if he is also a  very different Jesus–Jesus risen from the dead and manifesting himself to the apostles.

The climax of the story, and some have suggested of the entire gospel according to John, are the words of Thomas, “My Lord and my God!”  This is Thomas’s wonderful expression of faith in Jesus.  So, he may be the doubting Thomas, but more truly he is the believing Thomas.

* * *

Easter Sunday, 2022

Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Colossians 3:1-4/1 Corinthians 5:6b-8; John 20:1-9

by Bro. John Mark Charlesworth, OCD

Easter has come already!  Since we will have much to ponder upon over the next 8 weeks (until the descent of the Holy Spirit), let us consider what happened between our Lord’s freely giving up His spirit on Good Friday up until He was reunited with His body on Easter Sunday.

When our Lord descended into Hell, the demons fled and the righteous souls were filled with joy.  Such souls were in the outermost region of Hell, as they were there not to suffer punishment, but were simply waiting until the price of reparation had been paid.  Some knew the truth of salvation more clearly than others, but they all knew then that Jesus, the Word Incarnate, was the Savior.  Imagine what it must have been like.  Picture St. Joseph being the first one Jesus would have come to, and then the prophets and all other souls who believed.  Then picture the joy of all such souls as Jesus led them out of Hell, revealing to them at that time what He had undergone for their salvation, how the prophecies were fulfilled to the last letter, and how the evil one and all the demons were conquered and even had part in it (without realizing it) by leading others to crucify Him.  How joyfully did those souls follow Jesus up to Heaven!

It is certainly believable that Jesus would have then come to Mary, granting her some consolation before the actual Resurrection.  This would be so, for Mary suffered more than we can possibly imagine, being the one who suffered the most, and only after Jesus Himself.  As Jesus suffered so much more interiorly than He did exteriorly (and we cannot even grasp how much He suffered exteriorly), so it was with Mary.  Mary was still feeling the pain deep within (but not being overcome by it) while exteriorly offering great consolation and charity to the apostles and followers of Jesus (especially the other women with whom she would have been with).  Perhaps in the early morning she even went to visit the places where Jesus had fallen underneath the cross, or had a place to pray by herself, when Jesus would have come in spirit to console her.  And she would have received Him with great peace, as she knew with the clarity of faith and indwelling of the Holy Spirit that He was to rise again.  This explains why Mary did not go to the tomb with the other women, as she knew He was no longer there.

Let us place all of our trust in God as we ponder upon His victory over death and the evil one, turning to Mary that she may lead us to Him.  Amen. 

* * *

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

Luke 19:28-40

Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Luke 22:14-23:56

by Fr. Gerald Werner, OCD

The first Palm Sunday was the first Jesus rally.  The conduct of the crowd that day offers a sharp contrast with their conduct a few days later, when they shouted, “Crucify him!  Crucify him!”  The triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem was the prelude or prologue to his passion.  That is why today is called Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord.

Yes, the acceptance of Jesus on this Sunday is quite different from his rejection a few days later.  It is not just a case of Jesus having to undergo suffering and death.  One can suffer as a hero and receive great admiration and support.  But the rejection of Jesus robs his passion of all earthly glory because it is a suffering without honor.  His death is physically painful and socially shameful.  He dies as a reject, not a hero.

The first Christians had to deal with a grave scandal:  if Jesus suffered and died, how can he be the Messiah?  The scandal continues, but we are so accustomed to the idea of a suffering Messiah that we may hardly feel the scandal.

Perhaps another scandal strikes closer to home for us.  If Jesus is the Messiah, then what about all the beautiful prophecies and promises he supposedly fulfills?  Why are they not realized?

We know those prophecies and promises about universal peace and brotherhood and sisterhood, light and love and life, joy and happiness, for everybody and without end.  The Savior has come and done his thing, and it would seem the world is still pretty bad.  For example, if Jesus proclaims peace for all, why are there still wars—and worse wars than ever before, and even the possibility of war that will wipe humankind off the face of the earth?

Actually, it is not so scandalous and shocking that Jesus, the Messiah, should suffer and die and thus enter glory.  The real scandal is that we are so slow to do as he has done.  The truly shocking thing is that we are so persistent in failing and even refusing to act like people who are redeemed by Jesus Christ.  That is the challenge:  really to be what we are, to act as people belonging to the Lord—not just to attend a Jesus rally, but to be real Jesus people and live accordingly.

* * *

Fifth Sunday of Lent (Cycle C)

Isaiah 43:16-21; Philippians 3:8-14; John 8:1-11

by Bro. John Mark Charlesworth, OCD

Consider how in today’s Gospel our Lord went to the Temple to instruct the people there, when suddenly the Pharisees brought to Him a woman who had been caught in adultery (or more likely, threw her down to the ground before Him).  Without any concern for her soul (and letting the other person involved go away as he was of no use in their wicked plot, or perhaps may even have had a part in it), they pointed out to Jesus how the Jewish law commanded that she be stoned to death, asking Him what He had to say about it.  This was basically placing the case before our Lord, telling Him to be the judge.  They thought that by this they had a “win – win” situation, for if our Lord had her stoned, they could contact the Roman authorities (as the Jews could not condemn anyone to death under Roman law), while if He let such a one be pardoned, they could say He was a breaker of the law of Moses, one who approved of sinful acts.  Since they had already witnessed the mercy which our Lord had shown towards prostitutes and tax collectors, they were most likely expecting the latter to happen, while at the same time would have had great delight if the former came to be.

Now let us consider how our Lord handled the situation.  With great wisdom (as He is Wisdom) Jesus simply let there be a period of silence as he stooped down and wrote on the ground.  Impatiently, the Pharisees pressed Him to pass a judgment on her.  In due time, Jesus said: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”.  These words had more power behind them than we may think at first, for the law of Moses demanded that those who were witnesses were to be the first ones to throw the stones. So our Lord was not simply “stepping back”, but was following the law to the end.  Having been defeated (knowing they themselves would have been arrested had they done so), they left, one by one.  Notice that it began with the elders, as they were the ones who arranged all of this, and thus recognized the defeat right away.

Then our Lord was left alone with the woman, standing upright and asking where were those who condemned her, asking if anyone had even done such a thing. Her response was a humble, “No one, sir”.  What does this show but that the Lord is ready to forgive and heal souls, rather than condemn them?  Jesus verified her contrition and His forgiveness (His granting, and her receiving, grace) when He said, “Neither do I condemn you”.

As for the words which followed, have we properly pondered upon the depths of their meaning? “Go, and from now on do not sin any more”.  These were not simply words of suggestion, but a true grace which was then granted to her and which she received fully.  The result was complete conversion, as she most likely became one of the women who followed and served Him.

So let us not ponder upon our past, save our humbly admitting that we can do nothing good on our own, but instead run to the heart of Jesus, abandoning ourselves to Him while relying with confidence on His mercy and grace.  So may it be with all souls. Amen.

* * *

Fourth Sunday of Lent (Cycle C)

Joshua 5:9a, 10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

by Fr. Gerald Werner, OCD

All of us are familiar with this Sunday’s gospel reading.  We call it the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  The word prodigal means “extravagant” or “wasteful.”  The younger son is certainly that.  He uses up his inheritance as if it were nothing.  Then he finds himself desolate.

We can also call the passage the Parable of the Prodigal Brother.  The older brother also is extravagant and wasteful.  No doubt he faithfully carries out his duties on the farm, but it seems he has wasted months and even years of opportunities to discover the true meaning of home and sonship.  He is as far from his father as is his younger brother in a distant land.

There is one other name we can give to the passage:  the Parable of the Prodigal Father.  There is a good way to be “extravagant.”  The father is extravagant in the generous welcome he extends to his irresponsible, dissolute son; and he is gentle in his response to the angry, self-righteous outburst of his older son.

So, there are three “prodigals” in this parable—son, brother, and father (daughter, sister, and mother).  These characters represent three parts of ourselves.  In each one of us there is a younger son (daughter):  we are part libertine, part dissolute person.  We waste the gifts we have received.  We misuse our freedom.

In each of us there is also an older brother (sister).  We are part picky calculator of our own rights.  Our self-righteousness is unpleasant, even ugly.  We can be petty; we can be cheap.  We squander our opportunities by not recognizing and accepting them for what they really are.

In each of us there is a father (mother) like the father in the parable.  We are in part a big-hearted person.  We are anxious to normalize relations as soon as possible.  We are not interested in revenge.  We do not insist on our own rights when there is something better to do.  Of course, this part of us is part of the image of God in us—the God of compassion, forgiveness, love, and tenderness.

* * *

Third Sunday of Lent (Cycle C)

Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15; 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12; Luke 13:1-9

by Bro. John Mark Charlesworth, OCD

The readings today give us a warning about being presumptuous.  What is presumption?  It is a vice which is closely related to that of despair.  When one despairs, he/she has no hope for obtaining a good, whereas if one is presumptuous, he/she thinks that the good is already (or is on its way of being) obtained (without there being any risk of its being lost).  In relation to salvation, both of these vices pertain to one’s having a false notion of the good, which is that of being united with God.  Having a proper view of it pertains particularly to understanding the mercy of God.  If one despairs, he/she does not believe that God is merciful, or that His mercy is not infinite and thus obtainable to all who ask for it (due to the merits of Christ); whereas if one is presumptuous, he/she believes that God is not just (in the aspect that He does not judge what is evil) and thus has no repentance for sins committed (which in the end is not having love for God).  What is common in both cases is that pride is behind it all (“I know all and thus can judge the situation”).  The virtuous way is in between the two, in that one humbly trusts entirely in God and His mercy, while doing all that he/she can which is pleasing to Him (relying upon grace).  In the end, it is one’s seeking and trusting in God’s divine love.

The Gospel message is even clearer, as our Lord Himself warned the people that if they did not repent, they would perish as did those who died in the construction accident and persecution of that time.  Again, this warning pertains to us as well, for while it is true that those who rejected Jesus eventually suffered the fall of Jerusalem, still, the word “perish” does not necessarily mean an early death in this life, but refers primarily to eternal punishment in the next (which applies to all).  This is a warning to those who are presumptuous, although our Lord reached out to those who despaired as well.  With the latter, it was the tax collectors and prostitutes, while here in the Gospel He is addressing those who presumptuously viewed themselves as being good, while hidden away within them were many sins.  In other places we see where our Lord openly corrected the Pharisees who sought places of honor and riches, while the faithful under them were not assisted by them in any way.  But there is hope, for the tax collectors and other sinners who humbled themselves by turning to Christ were saved.  Also those who were in high places and humbled themselves by taking in what Jesus taught, such as Nicodemus did, were saved as well.  Our Lord truly reaches out to us all.  

Overall, what is good to realize is our final end is to love the Lord for all eternity, and therefore is something we should be doing in this life.  As God is infinite, we can always come to know and love Him more at any time of our lives.  Let us then turn to Mary who loves Him more than all the angels and saints together, asking her to help us see where we need to improve, as well as to grant us the grace to actually do so through her intercession.  Then we can continue with confidence.  Amen.    

* * *

Second Sunday of Lent (Cycle C)

Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 9:28b-36

by Fr. Gerald Werner, OCD

In this Sunday’s gospel Jesus takes Peter, John, and James and goes up a mountain to pray.  While he is praying, something happens.  Peter, John, and James are all agog over what they witness.  They are filled with intense interest and excitement.  Peter says something, but he does not know what he is saying.  “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  The three disciples fall silent and do not tell anyone what they have seen.

These disciples have seen the glory of Jesus.  They have had a “Wow!” experience.  They have had an AGOG experience, which means A Glimpse Of Glory experience.  One purpose of it is to teach them about who and what Jesus is.  Another is to strengthen them for the sufferings and death that lie ahead of him and of themselves.

Like the three disciples, we can have an AGOG experience, and we do have them.  For example, we can see a beautiful sunset or sunrise.  We can have a wonderful insight.  We can be astonished by a mutual understanding shared with a spouse or a friend or several people.  We can know love and peace in a moment of profound prayer.  We need just to be open, ready, alert, and receptive.

Why do we have such experiences?  From the Christian perspective of the Transfiguration, we have them to catch a glimpse of the glory that we are destined for and to strengthen us for the passage to that glory—for the passage through suffering and dying that leads us to the fullness of glorious and never-ending life.

St. Leo the Great tells us (in the Office of Readings for the Second Sunday of Lent): “With no less forethought he [the Lord] was also providing a firm foundation for the hope of holy Church.  The whole body of Christ was to understand the kind of transformation that it would receive as his gift.  The members of that body were to look forward to a share in that glory which first blazed out in Christ their head.”  In the Eucharist we glimpse the glory that will be and know the glory that is, the glory that is both not yet and also already.  The pattern we see we recognize both in Christ and in Christ in ourselves.

* * *

First Sunday of Lent (Cycle C)

Deuteronomy 26:4-10; Romans 10:8-13; Luke 4:1-13

by Bro. John Mark Charlesworth, OCD

Here we have for the Gospel the well-known account of our Lord’s freely undergoing temptation in the desert for our sake.  Let us consider some of the aspects which the evangelists recorded for us.

First of all, all three accounts state that our Lord was in the desert for forty days.  Right away we see why our season of Lent consists of forty penitential days.  (I stated specifically “penitential days” as the forty does not include the six Sundays.)  But what is stated before the amount of time is mentioned?  It states that our Lord Jesus was led, or rather even more strongly, driven there by the Holy Spirit.  Why is this fact given to us, save to teach us a valuable lesson, that as our Lord in His humanity was guided and even moved by the Holy Spirit, so must it be with us.  Just consider that if our Lord, Whose human will was in perfect harmony with His divine will, was led as such, do not we with our fallen nature and human weakness have that much more need of the same guide?  We should thus begin each day asking the Holy Spirit to lead us along the way to sanctity, which is nothing other than our doing the will of God with love for Him as our moving force.

Then it states how our Lord fasted.  This is most appropriate, for if we are to be moved in spirit by the grace of God, we must be open to such a gift.  We should ask: if our attention is always fixed upon the material things which our lower senses partake in, how can we ponder upon God with the faculties of our souls: our intellect and will?  One does not have to put much effort into seeing how modern society with its forms of media tries to lead us to putting aside reason and simply act on feelings.  How many times have you seen forms of entertainment which stress satisfying the sensual desires, striving to feel good, gaining the esteem of others by exterior things, etc.?  The result is that many do not think of God in any way, having their thoughts fixed only on such lowly things instead.  In order to make sure that we are not led into that same snare, we need to mortify our lower senses and properly direct our thoughts so that we may have God first and foremost on our minds.

Now let us briefly consider the temptations.  Just consider the contempt our Lord would have felt, even having to listen to the evil one suggest such things!  Oh, what our Lord endured out of love for us!  This also shows that the Devil never had a clear idea of Who our Lord was, and thus he was trying to find out at that time (for if he did know of our Lord’s divinity, he never would have moved others to kill Him, as such merit freed souls).  And see how our Lord refutes such evil, not with His own words (in His humanity), but quotes from the Sacred texts (which are His in His divinity).  And it is by the authority of Scripture that Jesus orders the devil to depart from Him.  What an example of humility which is the sure way to defeat the evil one.

So let us now turn to our Lord this Lent, living out the way of life to which we have been called, while having true peace of soul within, even when there is suffering which much be endured.  Let us offer to God our simple acts which we have resolved to do at this time, relying upon His grace and with the desire to return some love to Him Who loves us more than we can possibly grasp. Amen.

* * *

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C)

Sirach 27:4-7; 1 Corinthians 15:54-58; Luke 6:39-45

by Fr. Gerald Werner, OCD

Let us spotlight one part or aspect of each of this Sunday’s Scripture readings for Mass.  The first reading is from the Old Testament book of Sirach, a book rich in both human and divine wisdom.  The author asserts that “in tribulation is the test of the just.”  The author also asserts that when a person speaks, “it is then that people are tested.”  In other words, trial and tribulation test a human being and reveal his or her character.  A person’s speech also reveals their character, who they really are and whether or not they are really virtuous.  We know by our own human experience that this is true:  how we make our way through difficulties and struggles shows what we are made of, and what we say and how we say it reveal who we are.

Jesus in the gospel reading, from Luke, states at the end:  “from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.”  So the passage connects well with the passage chosen from Sirach.  Paraphrasing, a person produces good from the goodness in their heart and a person produces evil from the evil in their heart.  Every one of us has both good and evil in our heart, and we strive mightily to act, speak, think, and feel from the good that is in us rather than from the evil.  Before teaching this, Jesus affirms that we ought to be careful about judging people because we may well be guilty of the same bad as the other person, or even of worse.

The second reading is the end of chapter 15 of St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.  The whole chapter is about the resurrection.  It is providential that this year we have this reading three days before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.  The Lenten season is a special time for conversion and penance.  It is a time of preparation for what comes at the end of the period—the solemn annual celebration of the Pascal Mystery of Jesus.  St. Paul writes of the victory of Jesus over death and sin and evil.  All of us die; all of us sin; all of us know evil.  Jesus Christ is our victor over them all.  Whenever we celebrate Mass, we celebrate this victory.  We know by faith that Christ in his victory is always present with us even if that victory has not yet been fully and finally accomplished in us.

* * *

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C)

1 Samuel 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49; Luke 6:27-38

by Bro. John Mark Charlesworth, OCD

Today we have the wonderful and vitally important message of respect and forgiveness. 

In the Gospel we have a strong message. Our Lord does not just say “respect and obey your leaders” but “Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you”.  This is a difficult message, but if understood in the light of God’s offering us grace, one is able to do by the merits of Christ.  If a family member or friend argues with us, eventually we can get back together as there is a pre-existing relation.  But what about when one with whom we have no relation (or already have a difficult/dysfunctional one) causes us harm (our name, etc.) or our family members and has no contrition at all? How are we to come to forgive such a person?

First of all we need to understand what forgiveness is.  It is not necessarily that we are going to treat that person like a friend, but simply that we pray for him/her.  What helps with this is to consider the fact that once a person goes through purgatory (if one dies in the proper state) he/she will be hard to recognize as all their sins and vices will have been washed away. Then such a person will be seen as being one who is loved by God and in turn loves God and neighbor (truly regretting any offences against others).  So try to view the person that way, rather than as he/she is when engulfed in sin (or simply with bad habits). 

Secondly recall that Christ died just as much for others as He did for you.  He desires their salvation, if they themselves will respond to His grace.  We must therefore desire the salvation of all souls and do all we can for that end (as we do not know who will be saved and who will not, as God alone knows).  With this we need not consider who the person is in him/herself, but rather should try to keep in mind how God sees him/her (knowing He had all in mind when upon the cross).

Finally, if you feel angry towards another (i.e. have deeply hurt feelings), it is not in itself a sin.  Feelings are signs but not sins. Such a feeling warns you that you have a difficulty with that person, but it does not mean that you really and truly hate them.  One can still pray for another without having warm feelings towards him/her. This is still an act of charity as it is out of love for God. In fact this is more of an act of charity than any love one might show towards another simply due to lower passions.   So it is important that we recognize the difference there is between the will and mere feelings.  It also does not mean that one has to think of a difficult person at all times either, for just an occasional prayer for him/her is fine.  Eventually when the passions have settled, then one can consider the case more rationally; but when a serious wrong is involved, it is better to simply say “Lord, I place this person into Thy hands, asking Thee to bring him/her to Thyself”.

But considering what our Lord teaches here, we should also pray for the grace to be able to return good for evil, while we must also never think that we can so do on our own.  With more simple cases, it is a matter of simply being kind towards another who has insulted us without showing any contrition.  Some people are simply unable to apologize (sad to say), and such an act will bring healing for them as well.  If the case is more complicated and it is best to not be in contact with that person, then one can always pray for him/her and act with charity when there must be some kind of communication.  (Of course there are always more serious cases with psychological impact, such as of abuse, but we are considering more day to day things here.)

Finally, we must not rely upon ourselves when it comes to practicing true charity and forgiveness.  We must turn to God through His loving Mother Mary, asking for the grace to love all others as He does, doing so not for the individuals themselves, but out of love for God.  Such is true charity.  So may it be within all souls.  Amen.

* * *

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C)

Jeremiah 17:5-8; 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20; Luke 6:17, 20-26

by Fr. Gerald Werner, OCD

This Sunday’s first reading says to us (in essence):  “Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings, who relies on people for support and help.  That person is like the scraggly tree in the desert, burnt by the sun, having no sustenance, living in an uninhabited, barren salt flat.”  It is certain that such a tree will die, and this is the implication of “cursed”:  death.  Condemned to death is the man or woman who puts their trust in another mortal being.

This Sunday’s first reading also says to us:  “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.”  This person is like a tree planted next to a stream.  The one who relies on God for help and sustenance will have abundant life.  This is the meaning of “blessed”:  life.  Often we talk about “the quality of life.”  The reading is talking about abundant life, good quality of life—but about ten thousand times better.

These words may roll off us like water off a duck’s back.  They will not if we recall that in the Bible blessing and cursing are matters of life and death.  Often we use “God bless you!” as nothing more than a social convention and curses as mindless expletives.

But in the Bible to be blessed is to have the power and life-force and life-strength of God poured out upon one’s life; to be cursed is finally to die.  In the Bible God alone is the source of life and good and prosperity; when one stands in God’s favor, one receives life in all its fullness—abundant life.

But there is more.  We can trust human beings.  We must trust human beings.  We will not survive if we do not.  We do in fact find hope and strength in our own selves and in other people.  But somewhere, sometime human beings and human resources let us down.  At some point they fail, they are not enough, they do not satisfy.  When the chips are down and the cards are on the table face up, we see:  ultimately all comes from someone, something other than ourselves.  We name that someone, that something, God.  Ultimately only God can be counted on.  Ultimately we find strength and well-being only in God.

In religious language, God is the Creator we depend on for our existence.  God is the Savior, the only one who can get us out of the mess we are in.  God is the Faithful One, ever reliable.  The person who trusts in God does experience need and danger.  Using the imagery of the first reading, that person is like “a tree planted beside the waters”—it knows heat and drought; but its leaves stay green and ultimately the tree is none the worse and produces fruit.  The person who trusts God can flourish no matter what the circumstances.

* * *

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C)

Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11

by Bro. John Mark Charlesworth, OCD

Looking at the readings today, all point in the same direction: that of having a vocation, of being called specifically to follow the Lord and to help bring others to do so.  This does not just pertain to religious vocations, but to all as we are universally called to be followers of Christ. In general we are all members of His Church, while specifically each one of us has been called to follow the Lord in a specific manner (assisting in the conversion and salvation of souls).

In the first reading, Isaiah is called to be a prophet.  While his call is quite specific, we can learn by what he was doing before the Lord appeared, as well as how he was able to respond.  First of all, notice that he was praying in the temple by the altar (from which the angel took the ember).  We thus need to pray, not only that the Lord show us how He wishes us to live out the faith (according to our way of life), but primarily so that we may come to know the Lord and desire to do only what He wills.  If we do not prepare ourselves to hear the Lord (not in words but in the depths of our hearts), then we will only hear what the world has to tell us. 

Next, Isaiah heard the Lord saying “Whom shall I send?” to which he responded, saying “Here I am, send me”.  When we come to realize how the Lord wishes us to live and spread the faith, it is not enough to simply think “yes, that will be nice someday”, but rather we need to respond fully and practically as did Isaiah.  But what caused him to be so ready to volunteer himself?  Again, we go back to seeing that he was praying in the temple.  So praying to the Lord each day is important for anyone in any state of life, not only that the Lord’s will can be known, but also so that one will have the grace to properly respond.

In the Gospel we have Peter with James and John performing their normal day to day job, when suddenly the Lord asked them to let Him preach from their boats.  They could have said no (as we all have free will), but as our Lord supplies grace with what He asks of us, they were able to say yes.  So it is with ourselves, insofar as we do not block Him by saying no (as He chose to respect free will of human and angelic beings).  And we know that their vocation was not simply to be fishermen who would simply supply our Lord with a place to preach from, but were to become the first bishops of the Catholic Church – teachers and protectors of the truths of faith.  So we should never think that we are simply called to be “average Christians”, but saints who live for the end of adoring God!

You never know what our Lord has in mind for you, as you can always grow in love of God as long as you are in this life – even down to the last second of it!  Pray to God with trust and He will lead you along the way.

* * *

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C)

Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19; 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13; Luke 4:21-30

by Fr. Gerald Werner, OCD

This Sunday’s second reading for Mass is from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Christians at Corinth and is one of the best known passages in the New Testament.

Corinth was a city in Greece.  In New Testament times it was one of the chief commercial cities of the ancient world.  It was a crossroads for different peoples and cultures.  Paul preached the Gospel there; his listeners received his message and formed a Christian community.  Then he continued on his missionary journey.  Later, word of problems in the church at Corinth reached Paul, and so he wrote this letter, which we know as his First Letter to the Corinthians.

One of the problems in the community concerned special spiritual gifts or charisms.  This reading is part of a longer section where Paul treats of this matter.  It seems that the Corinthians valued certain spiritual gifts, such as ecstatic prayer, more highly than they valued the works of charity.  Paul considered it necessary to set the record straight, reminding them of what is of greater importance and what of lesser importance.  So, he points out that Christian love, or charity, is better than all the other spiritual gifts

St. Paul tells the Corinthians (and us) that:  (1) without love everything else in life is worthless; (2) love includes all the virtues and expresses itself in them; and (3) love is supreme because it is the most basic, pervasive, and enduring of the spiritual gifts.

None of the other gifts or virtues is like it.

St. Paul tells us that love shows the characteristics of all the virtues.  This means that he is specific in describing Christian love.  He gives us both a guide and a challenge.  What is our love like?  What characteristics does it show?  For example . . .

“Love is patient.”  There are circumstances in life when our love can wear thin and even break down.  Does our love wear thin, perhaps even break down?  How do we respond when this happens?

“It is not jealous.”  Jealousy is a form of possessiveness.  It arises when a person fears that they may lose in whole or in part the one they love to someone or something else.  Does our love become possessive when we are called upon to share the person whom we love or to let that person truly be free?

“It does not brood over injury.”  Sometimes we are wronged, and we know it.  How do we react?  Do we desire, even seek, revenge?  Do we carry a grudge?  Is this the kind of love we practice?

“It does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.”  Here, as often in the Bible, truth is synonymous with moral rectitude.  Does our love make us persons of integrity?  Does our love help other people to be persons of integrity?

These are the kinds of questions we ought to be asking ourselves.  Some have called this passage the hymn of love; but if it is nothing more to us than nice words or pious thoughts, then really it is worthless to us.  If it does not inspire us to live better and to love better, then we are wasting our time paying attention to it.  We are to take its message to heart and put that message into practice.

* * *

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C)

Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10; 1 Corinthians 12:12-30; Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21

by Bro. John Mark Charlesworth, OCD

St. Paul’s message for today is enough to provide for us a meditation.

St. Paul explains how we are of one body which has many members.  Just as each one of our bodies has a head, hands, feet, etc. so does the body of the Catholic Church have various members, each of whom has specific roles.  Some are called to be priests so as to instruct the laity in the faith and to provide them with the Sacraments, as well as to assist God in bestowing grace upon the world simply by offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass each day.  Others are called to be parents of a family, raising children to be members of the Church militant and eventually, God willing, members of the Church triumphant in Heaven. Others are called to be religious, offering their lives to serving God and His Church in various ways, all for the end of assisting in the conversion of souls and thus giving praise to God. Others offer themselves to the service to the Lord in many different ways while still being out in the world.  We could go on and on considering in detail how different members of the Church have various roles.

However, there is another aspect of this reading, and that is what the members of the Church all have in common.  Notice how Saint Paul begins with stating that A BODY IS ONE and has many members.  Towards the end of the reading, he states how we are individual members of CHRIST’S BODY.  In other words, often with this reading we concentrate on how there are many members, but it is important to realize that we can also center on the fact that there is simply ONE BODY.  So what do all the members of this one body have in common?  What makes it one body and not many?  It is simply the fact that we are all created to love and praise the Lord for all eternity.  This means that no matter what differences there may be in the various ways of life and apostolates, there is simply one end we are all trying to reach: to bring ourselves and others to love and praise the Lord for all eternity.  This is done not individually, but together.

I stress this common aspect of all of us, as it is sometimes forgotten today.  We must have this end in mind, or else any of our apostolates could turn out to be fruitless.  And what makes what one does fruitful?  Is it external success? Is it a priest’s being popular and successful in running a parish?  Is it parent’s having children who are successful in the world? It is a religious’ being useful to an order in a material way?  Is it simply one’s achieving what he/she was striving for on a lower level?  What if none of these ends were reached?  But if each one of the above simply did his/her best, offering it to God with love, then even if material success was not achieved, still, a much higher end was gained.  Such offerings of love gain the salvation of souls: the result of our lower acts being combined with the merits of Christ. This is what we are all striving to gain as members of the Catholic Church. Yes, many may never know of the success God has them obtain until they reach the next life, but if all is done primarily for God, then grace has been bestowed upon souls and thus success has been gained.

Let us conclude by asking ourselves, am I putting loving the Lord first and foremost in my life?  Am I spending time in prayer, desiring this end not only for myself, but all of humanity?  Am I offering to God my way of life, making ordinary acts become acts of love?  Let us ask for this grace and trust not in ourselves but in the merits of Christ and Mary’s intercession.  Amen.

* * *

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C)

Isaiah 62:1-5; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; John 2:1-11

by Fr. Gerald Werner, OCD

This gospel story is a simple one.  Jesus acts so a celebration can continue, a celebration that otherwise might have come to an embarrassing end.  But notice:  Jesus provides a huge quantity of wine (120-180 gallons), and he does so after apparently refusing to do anything to help the situation!

The story raises a lot of questions.  Briefly, why did the wine run short?  The mother of Jesus brings the situation to his attention, and it seems she expects him to do something; but what does she expect him to do?  Why does Jesus politely refuse to get involved?  In view of this refusal, why does his mother persist?  So the story is unclear and incomplete.

But there is more than that involved.  It is easy enough to fail to identify correctly what is the primary emphasis.  The gospel writer does not put the primary emphasis on the replacement of the water, the action of changing the water into wine, or even the resulting wine itself.  The gospel writer does not put the primary emphasis on the mother of Jesus, her intercession, why she persists in her request, or the reaction of the headwaiter or the bridegroom.

The evangelist writes, “And so [Jesus] revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.”  The primary focus is on Jesus, and what shines through this miracle story is his glory, and the only reaction emphasized is the faith of the disciples.  The miracle is a sign of the glory of Jesus, a sign of who he is—the one whom the Father has sent who is the only way to the Father.

This story can remind us of the way it often is with us in our lives.  The story of our lives raises a lot of questions.  Some we answer, some we don’t, some we can’t.  The story of our lives is incomplete and unclear.  There is often a sense that someone or something is missing.  We are always aspiring, seeking, reaching out for more.  There is always at least a little bit of fog, even darkness, in our lives.  We don’t see clearly enough.  We don’t love purely enough.

It is easy for us to fail to identify correctly the primary emphasis in our lives.  We call what is most important by the wrong name, or we find it in the wrong person or thing.  We get our priorities mixed up.  It is easy for us to miss what the story of our lives is really about.  Whoever and whatever comes our way is meant to be, in some way, a sign of the glory of Jesus.  It is meant to show us, or at least suggest to us, the glory of the Lord.  And we are meant to respond as the disciples in the gospel did when they believed in Jesus.  That is what our lives are about.

* * *