As I prayed with these readings, the words of an Advent song we used to sing , kept singing themselves in my heart:
“Long is our winter, dark is our night,
O come set us free, O saving Light…
come dwell within us, O Saving Light”
This week, in the Buffalo area, we’ve felt the first days of cold and seen the ground covered with that “white stuff ” - no blizzard yet! These signs remind us that winter is coming, darkness will be with us for weeks, and an Advent quiet has fallen upon us.
But this year, it seems like we’ve been living in a certain kind of silence and stillness since about March, because of the Covid virus and the pandemic. We’ve spent weeks hunkered down with the people with whom we live. We think twice before venturing out to a store, our worship com-munities have limited space set up, and most often, our worship is live-streamed. Our “long winter” began months ago and we have no idea when it will be over.
As I began this reflection, our local fire station’s siren blew the signal that doesn’t mean fire but does mean someone is in distress – a stark reminder that around the globe and in local towns, we are experiencing not only cold and darkness, but also hunger, unemployment, illness and death. Our prayer reaches out to those who are suffering and to the large number of people who have died as well as their family members who haven’t been able to be with them.
Advent’s readings were very consoling to the people who first heard them and they can also speak to us in 2020. “Comfort, give comfort to my people”…” every valley shall be filled in, every mountain made low”…”like a shepherd he feeds his flock”; “in his arms he gathers the lambs.” John the Baptist arrives in Mark’s Gospel today, bringing good news to the people in the desert.
A speaker once reminded us that HOPE is the virtue when we’re in darkness. Hope is also the virtue for Advent. As we experience that “Long is our winter, dark is [this] night”, may we also know that our Shepherd “feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying [us] in his bosom”
Lord, please hold in your arms, all those who are suffering.
- Sr. Marian Baumler
FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT
NOVEMBER 29, 2020
Advent! The gateway to Christmas. The prelude to Christmas trees and presents and manger scenes and stockings hanging from a fireplace. Maybe this is what Advent brings to mind for many. But really, Advent is an invitation to avoid sleepwalking your way toward Christmas. Be awake! Be on the alert! Watch! These words could jar us awake and give us a gentle shake of awareness.
We have to really keep our attention on what we’re waiting for and why it’s so important to watch. We all know what it feels like when we are waiting for a long desired event to occur, or a person well-loved to appear or a moment that is going to bring us great joy. There is an eagerness in our manner, a “watch so you don’t miss it” feeling. Imagine if Advent could be that kind of moment in time for us. A moment to live in expectation for a great arrival. The coming of salvation, the coming of new life, the coming of Jesus. This, of course, has already happened, but it is so astounding when you think about it that we are invited every year to live it again.
This time of Advent is also a moment for us to recall that Jesus will come again as promised. We don’t know when or how but it will be a moment like no other. It will be the coming of the one who loves us so much that he was born, lived, died and rose for us, to give us the gift of eternity with him. This is the one we love, the long-awaited Messiah. “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down..” (Isaiah).
Yes, he is coming. He has already come but continues to come, again and again. So, let’s be awake, alert, eager and waiting. No sleepwalking! We won’t be disappointed. If we prepare and get ready and stay awake, we will receive the greatest Christmas present of all.
-Sr. Patricia Brady
THIRTY-FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
NOVEMBER 22, 2020
FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING
Today we name Jesus “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords”. In all 3 Cycles for the Feast, the Gospels chosen focus not only on Jesus, but also on those who join him: those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, who have been purified, and who now bear his mark on their foreheads. All 3 Gospels focus on identifying who it is who can be found in this vast throng, and how Jesus relates to them.
In Year A, for example, Matthew 25 cites the example of a shepherd who separates the sheep from the goats. Jesus is a shepherd who knows his sheep, and who is able to distinguish genuine goodness from every mask of deception and self-interest. While God may have allowed the weeds and the wheat to grow together before, the time has now come to separate them, and to admit only the pure-hearted into the final Banquet.
In Year C, Luke 23 tells the story of the 2 thieves crucified with Jesus. Both are guilty of grave offenses, and both deserve the punishment they are receiving. Yet the story reminds us that hearts can change… One is closed to the truth about Jesus, and joins his voice to the chorus of derision and self-destruction. The other thief miraculously recognizes in Jesus the embodiment of love and mercy, and he longs to be a part of that reality, in spite of his unworthiness. Jesus does not hesitate to promise him that his heart’s desire will be granted. He and others like him will be welcome – ALL will be welcome.
In Year B, however, we have an entirely different focus. John 18 describes Jesus before Pilate. It is a strange scene, where Jesus appears powerless, while Pilate maneuvers adroitly to keep his hands clean, revealing only his pathetic weakness in the situation. Jesus knew what it meant to have true power, to stand unbowed before forces which could destroy his body, but could never render God powerless, and could never prevent God’s success in the task entrusted to Jesus: those whom God had created in love are about to be redeemed in love, to be returned to the embrace of God where they can abide in peace, forever.
This Feast of Christ the King reminds us that God’s Victory is not imaginary – it is already real. Yes, we long for the culmination of the final Day, but we also believe that it is already here; that Jesus’ victory is already total and complete and available to every heart ready to receive it. The Gift is free, and it has already been given. All that remains is the choice to receive it, to embrace it, to allow ourselves to be changed by it. God intends for no one to be excluded – but the choice is always ours, and no one is ever forced.
If we have eyes to see the great procession forming, will our hearts be free enough to let go of everything that hinders us, and race to join it, allowing Jesus to take our hand and accompany us, to lift us up when we fall, and to carry us whenever necessary? Will we allow him to be the One who sustains us and strengthens us, who feeds us and heals us, who loves us into existence every step of the way? And all that he asks is that we do the same for one another: that we walk together, supporting one another in this great procession… Like him, we must embrace any who begin to slip and fall along the way. We want to arrive at the great banquet hall together, and miraculously find that for each of us, our soiled garments have become white as snow… Together – God asks that it not be a solitary journey, but that, no matter how late someone joins the procession, they be welcomed in and embraced. Only then can we truly be a People who mirror the face of our God.
-Sr. Patrice Yarborough
THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
NOVEMBER 15, 2020
It was only a few days that I had settled in at the mission assigned me in Chile, South America. The other two sisters were out and as I sat at my desk I heard a knock. New and still keenly aware of my limitations, I froze! My initial reaction was to ignore the knocking, fearing failure. But thanks be to God, His Spirit prevailed this time.
Fear can surely paralyze us and cause us to lose everything as did the servant in todays’ gospel. The fact that the master ‘entrusted his possessions’ to them should have been an obvious sign of the great confidence he was showing. Unfortunately, that third servant let fear get the upper hand.
As we know the word ‘talent’ not only refers to money but to our own personal abilities and gifts; the many qualities our families nurtured in us. God’s gifts are as countless as the stars! And it’s not for us to compare ours’ with others’ nor to allow ourselves to believe they are not important. The One who bestows them generously, expects us to use them generously.
Many years ago I read an allegory whose main character was called ‘Much Afraid’. Her many fears crippled her, body and soul, until one glorious day after a long journey, she finds her courage and becomes completely transformed.
Most likely all of us have ‘Much Afraid’ moments but hopefully unlike that servant in the gospel we trust that Our master not only lavishes upon us many beautiful gifts but also sends a special one, His Spirit to help us learn how to let them bear fruit.
There is a wonderful unity in the readings of today: Wisdom which comes from God and is to be valued above everything else. Even though freely given, Wisdom must still be sought after and treasured, and often that involves serious choices. We hear in our Responsorial Psalm 63 this longing: “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.” Yet in the Gospel we see that not everyone called to wisdom pursues it wholeheartedly. In Jesus’ parable, we see both wise and foolish virgins, each of whom had received a high calling to attend to the bridegroom. Those who act wisely are generously rewarded, while those who recklessly refuse to do so are not only locked out and excluded, but they are also told by the bridegroom: “I do not know you…” (Mt 25:12) For these virgins, it has become a moment of extremely harsh reckoning.
We prefer when Jesus and his stories speak merciful words, yet when he chooses not to, it’s a call to take notice. We need to struggle, (as Jacob did with the angel of God) and allow the spirit to leads us to the truth. All of Jesus’ sayings, including the “hard” ones, are meant to be pondered and treasured. In prayer, God will reveal their full meaning to us.
The harsh words from the bridegroom at the end were not spoken in a vacuum. The parable shows us that Wisdom (or the lack thereof) is directing all the activities of the virgin attendants in the story. Life can be characterized as a series of choices, each one ratifying earlier ones, and ultimately confirming the direction a life is taking. That’s what we see with the virgins in this parable. Jesus called “wise” those who looked to the future and anticipated needing an extra flask of oil if the bridegroom were to be late. The foolish ones did not.
We might ask: WHY was the judgment of the bridegroom so harsh? Why did he even claim not to know them, and then prevent them from entering? Perhaps it’s because foolish behavior often reveals what’s in the heart. The foolish virgins had in reality made the choice NOT to prepare – to spend their time instead on other pursuits. They had undervalued what it meant to be chosen to be a bridesmaid, and had not bothered to pursue the tasks expected of them. Each of the virgins knew that the Bridegroom could be late, yet the unwise ones didn’t consider how that would affect their primary task: to be ready with their lamps whenever he arrived, ready to light the way to the joyous celebration. The foolish ones failed in their primary task, and their reckless behavior then caused the bridegroom to be unable to recognize a faithful servant in them, and to exclude them from his presence… Only the virgins who had wisely prepared and executed their roles were allowed to enter.
The choices we make in life matter. This parable is indeed a “hard saying” of Jesus. It reminds each of us to be attentive, to do all that we must to keep our lamps lit and burning brightly as we journey, so that we are ready to follow the Bridegroom whenever he arrives. It also reminds us to accompany and light the way for others – our primary task. Only then will we ourselves be invited in. Only then can the celebration begin.
The verses in today’s Gospel give us a sense that we’re nearing the end of our Church year. I am struck by both that and the first reading from Exodus. They both speak to us of some of the realities we’re aware of, or living, this year… “you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt” … these days we hear that lawyers cannot find the parents of 545 migrant children. In Exodus the Lord says, “If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry.” This situation our country has created, haunts me and perhaps you too. Both the Old and the New Testament remind us also “you shall not wrong any widow or orphan”…those who are poor. Exodus also says that if you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you will return it before sunset….a man needed his cloak when the night air moved in. These are biblical examples of caring for the poor … the alien, the widow, the orphan, those who needed to be cared for….the poor, and those who are grieving family members or suffering because of Covid-19. Surely those children whose parents cannot be found are very, very poor. Do we pay attention and let situations like these disturb us? Do we let them be a call to each of us to open our hearts and eyes to the poor, to the alienated – there are so many ways we recognize the poor in 2020.
In the Gospel Jesus speaks of similar realities. When asked what is the greatest commandment, Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
This Sunday we’re reminded that the first commandment, and the call we learn from the Lord, which is the call to love our neighbor are at the center of who we are as Christians. There is so much of which to be aware in this year of the pandemic, awareness of racism, politics, those caring for the victims of the virus, etc. We are called to see our neighbor, to care for and love our neighbor. Personally, I am haunted by the television night that we watched George Floyd’s life drain away….So many of our sisters and brothers have died alone this year, many have been bullied or victims of untruths, and education is a struggle for children, parents, teachers in so many ways…
As Mr. Rogers would say, “Won’t you let me be your neighbor?”
As Jesus says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
-Sister Marian Baumler
TWENTY-NINTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
OCTOBER 18, 2020
Isaiah 45:1,4-6 1Thessalonians1:1-5b Matthew 22:15-21
Today is Mission Sunday. The first and second readings could very well be appropriate to the day, but the Gospel if we stretched it could also be, as we are called to be missionaries of God for God; give to Caesar what is Caesar and to God what is God.
I was a missionary for 29 years in the Dominican Republic and would like to share a story that shows that it is God who works in us; we are only his instruments.
In 1994, I started a school for kids on the street who couldn’t go to school because they didn’t have the clothes or resources. People in the states donated shorts and t-shirts for uniforms. I went to the highways and byways getting kids. They ranged from 10-13 years old.
I had two rules, as my Spanish wasn’t that good: don’t fight and listen. I taught kindergarten, first grade and second. Then they were able to go to the other school.
Many years later, 4 boys knocked on my door to tell me that they finished College and were so grateful for their first beginnings. I was so happy.
God has a mission for each of us whether in another land or right in our neighborhood.
Let us pray that we may know and follow our mission.
It is amazing to read a few words and have those words trigger a strong memory. As I reflected on the passage from Isaiah I was taken back in memory to a sharing in Savannah, GA with Sr. Anna and others in the early 90’s. Sr. Anna was transfused with joy as she spoke of this passage from Isaiah as revealing the heart of God’s relationship with God’s beloved people. Beginning on a mountaintop where God and humans can be closest, this reading’s verses then continue to give us the experience of the world that God has always wanted for us: a world of a banquet for humanity where no one is hungry, a world of life, where death has no power or reality, a world of healing love and relationship. These few sentences reveal God’s heart to us.
The Responsorial Psalm verses of Psalm 23 repeat the belief and message that God is faithful at all times. Acknowledging our own fragile reliability, we marvel at God’s constancy accompanying us separately and together through the ups and downs of life. Our current national and world situations impel us to reach out to the one who loves us and heals us and to reach out to one another as members of the same flock.
Paul, from his prison cell in Philippi, waiting to go to his death in Rome, assures us of God’s faithful presence in his life and in ours. Paul’s reassurance that he “can do all things in the one who strengthens” him is in contrast with the sentence that follows. He is deeply touched, moved by the simple kindnesses given to him on this his last journey.
And then we hear proclaimed another parable which recalls the scene in the Isaiah passage. The king invites people to a banquet. Who would not want to come? And yet we hesitate, make excuses, decline the invitation until, to our disbelief, the host of the banquet extends the invitation to anyone who will come. The condition for attending is that the guest observe the simplest of courtesies and come dressed for the banquet. No free lunch this. No come one and all picnic. This is a feast and even though the time before the feast is brief, one must not just show up ready to eat but be prepared for an experience of love and generosity that transforms.
In these politically charged times, we ask ourselves who is being invited to fuller life, who is being invited to know the bounty which freedom gives IF one is ready, if one is prepared to sacrifice for the good of all. Maybe, in our case, it is not so much a case of just putting on the festal garment but also of taking off the blinders that prevent us from seeing one another, our sisters and brothers.
Let us open our ears and our hearts to God’s invitation. It is not too late to attend the banquet. It is not too late to join hands and hearts with God and with our friends and enemies in recreating this world in the image of the banquet to which God invites us all.
-Sr. Mary Laura Lesniak, ssmn
TWENTY-SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
OCTOBER 4, 2020
Isaiah 5: 1-7 Philippians 4: 6-9 Matthew 21: 33-43
The readings that the Church gives us for this Sunday draw us through the nature around us into the mystery of transformation.
Has your leaf trip this year taken you down to the “Southern Tier” yet? Up and down every hill the vines are heavy with grapes ready for the harvest to come in just a few weeks.
St. Basil the Great reminds us that again and again, Scripture likens our human souls to vines.
“My beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hillside,”
“I planted a vineyard and put a hedge around it.”
Isaiah, in the First Reading, describes the careful preparation a vineyard demands from its owner. “What more could I do? God has shown tender love for his vineyard and for us…spaded, planted and cleared.” But, do we even notice God’s loving care?
The Gospel parable also deals with a vineyard, too. One which has not produced any fruit. Rather than focusing on the vineyard though, it brings our attention to the caretaker of the vines. What were the tenants doing to care for their vineyard? What are the fruits they and we need to be looking for? This is, I think, one of the key questions in this parable.
From what had been planted the Lord expected more fruit, …..the fruit of covenant love which is justice.
The God of life and love wants covenant justice to be the rule among his people. And the tenants in our parable have not practiced this. Matthew makes it clear to us that Jesus has been rejected because of his goal to establish, beyond any question, just, fair, honest relationships, covenant love justice.
One thing we might ask ourselves as we reflect on this Sunday’s readings is the role that the establishment of justice plays for us in our lives. What fruits do you bring to a world of poverty, racial injustice, the corruption of public institutions…? Let us trust that, as Paul promises in our Second Reading, that “the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds” to find our personal part in establishing justice in our world today today.
TWENTY-SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
SEPTEMBER 27, 2020
Matthew 21: 28-32
In Latin American Countries the work of Comunidades de Base (base communities) has always been essential in parishes. These small Christian groups read a Bible text and dedicate time to reflect on its’ meaning in their everyday lives. Action would always accompany their words. Decisions were made on how to meet the basic needs of food, water, electricity or other justice issues. I have witnessed and admired their sincerity and commitment.
In a way I see today’s parable related to one of the motivations of base communities: Action. In this particular gospel it’s a call to personal action, not the collective one. Jesus is telling us something important about the Kingdom of God and salvation. We can’t afford to dilly-dally around. Our belief must be decisive and our action must carry through and be consistent with our belief. Believing is doing God’s will.
All of us are a little like both sons in today’s Gospel. Sometimes we hear and respond faithfully to God’s will but at other times our actions don’t carry through what we hear and believe. The good news however is that God doesn’t change the Divine Mind about calling us. The invitations are many. We are constantly invited to the ‘change of mind’ described in the gospel; calls which entail self-emptying for the sake of others and are lived every day in the little things that come our way.
So today we ask help to listen to those ‘prophets’ God sends to call us to conversion of life, to change our minds about whatever blocks our believing in what they say, and to put into action what we come to believe.
-Sister Ann Marie Grasso
TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
SEPTEMBER 20, 2020
Is 55:6-9 Matt 20:1-16a
Isaiah reminds us, “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call to him while he is near.” At the center of each of our hearts is a desire: what do we really seek, whom do we seek? God asks us to ponder this question deeply. We are promised all the graces we will need to grow closer to God. We must believe that God walks with us on our journey, giving us what we need, knowing what we need most.
In the Gospel, the parable of the landowner emphasizes our dilemma as we try to understand the way God is acting – what does it mean to be “fair?” Surely the landowner is not fair to his workers.
One thing we can never ever begin to understand is the heart of God. God is generous in unfathomable ways. Nothing is earned, all is freely given. Yet, perhaps this story is about more than the landowner’s being generous. Is Jesus also emphasizing the value of work, even a “small amount” – that the value is in working conscientiously, and not in the amount accomplished? There are so many among us who are sick or infirm, or for some reason are unable to compete as far as the quantity of work done. Jesus does not compare them, but simply values each one.
When our God acts towards us, we’re given what we have never earned (not even begun to earn, not even come close to earning). Can we learn to appreciate the labor of others, even when theirs is “less” – and be happy that the landowner is generous to them?
All of this calls for humility and gentleness. The “strong” one pushes his/her weight around, demanding what is due, but the one who has understood the teachings of Jesus has an appreciation hidden from “the wise and the learned” – given to the little ones, to the humble, the meek, the gentle. It takes a deeper vision to see that we are due nothing, that all is gift, pure gift.
We need to "Let God be God." God’s “rules” are so different from ours, with kindness, blessing and generosity far outweighing anything we can ever find in our own hearts. We must pray to understand God’s heart.
At mass the other morning Father Tuan spoke about being “equal.” The workers complained, “These last ones worked only one hour and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and heat.” Often we do not want to be equal, but to be better than another. This is never the way of Jesus. Jesus was content to wash the feet of the apostles, to make himself the servant. The worker is asking essentially, “How dare you make us equals?” Is it so humiliating to be equal, so demeaning? What lofty ideas do we carry about ourselves?
Which brings us back to the beginning, to the deepest desire of our hearts. Let us learn to seek these attributes of the heart of God. May we trust that God will do this for us, and help us to be the children he desires us to be.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways… As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.”
Each reading really strikes me this weekend. Sirach’s words are strong and wise: “Wrath and anger are hateful things yet the sinner hugs them tight.” We’ve all heard that holding onto our anger is not wise and not even healthy. Sirach asks me today that if I nourish anger against someone, how could I ever expect to find healing from the Lord? If within me, I work hard at keeping my wrath “alive and well” and hang onto it, how could I ever expect mercy and the forgiveness of my sins to come to me?
Today’s Psalm refrain is one to be absorbed, to let it seep deep within me, within you:
“The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger and rich in compassion,”
Our God has not only revealed God’s very self as a God who is loving and forgiving, slow to anger, and full of kindness and mercy. Jesus’ life, words, and self-gift reveal the very Face of God to us. Jesus is the very Face of Mercy.
In response to Peter’s asking Jesus just how often we must forgive, Jesus says, “seventy-seven times” and then tells today’s parable. The story Jesus tells, speaks of a king/ master who wants to settle accounts with his servants and right away, the first one before him has accumulated a huge debt which he could never pay back. As was the custom, the master ordered that the servant, his wife and family and all his possessions will be sold to pay the debt. Then the servant, on his knees, begs for patience and promises to pay everything back. The master is full of compassion and freely lets the servant go, forgiving everything he owed, with no conditions. When that servant, finding another servant who owes him a wee bit, begins to throttle him, he forgives nothing.
This Sunday’s readings remind me of two very painful instances in my life when I was treated “very shabbily” and deeply pained. Perhaps they challenge each of us to live as people who know we are loved and forgiven by our merciful God.
“The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger and rich in compassion”
The readings for this Sunday’s liturgy seemed a bit puzzling to me. First of all, I wasn’t ready to tell ‘my brother his fault’ (Romans 13: 8) and then gather someone else to join me if he didn’t ‘get it.’ I also wasn’t drawn to the idea of ‘warning the wicked about their sin’. (Ezekiel 33: 7) Granted, we all have our bad days, but I sure stay far away from wicked.
But I was drawn to two powerful sentences in this Sunday’s readings that seemed to me to be direct messages from God. The first one is Romans 13: 10; “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” The second is from the gospel of Matthew 18: 20 - “love does no wrong to a neighbor – therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.”
Do you often wonder where God is? With so much conflict, confusion, upheaval going on around us, do you find yourself asking God – where are you, God? I do. These readings however, seem to make clear that God is where love is - where two or three are gathered in God’s name – there is God. We don’t have to look far to find God because God is right in front of us – maybe so close that we don’t even pay attention. Which reminds me of the following story:
“There was a Sufi called Mullah Nasrudin who smuggled treasure across the border and masterfully eluded the guards. Every day for four years he would parade back and forth, and with every crossing the guards knew he was hiding expensive goods that he would sell for outrageous amounts of money on the other side. But despite their thorough searches, and despite the fact that they could see that he was prospering, they could find nothing in the saddle of the donkey he rode. Finally, years later, after Mullah Nasrudin had moved to another country, the frontier guard said, “Okay, you can tell me now. What were you smuggling?” The mullah smiled broadly and said, “My dear friend, I was smuggling donkeys.”
This story, of course, led me to ask myself the following question - like- how many times have I missed the face of God because I was too busy looking someplace else to realize that the face of God was right in front of me? The face of God is in my neighbor – the face of God is where two or three are gathered in God’s name. Are we sometimes too busy looking far far away and yet God is right there in front of our very eyes? And, of course, in the end, I began to realize as well, that if I can’t find God, it doesn’t really matter. Because God has already found me.
-Sr. Sandra Makowski
TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
AUGUST 30, 2020
Jeremiah 20: 7-9 Romans 12:1-2 Matthew 16:21-27
Today all the readings are speaking of giving oneself to God- -fully, totally. We have just recently celebrated our Jubilees throughout the congregation.
Sisters who have given 70, 60, 50 years of serving their God. Sisters who have suffered physically, mentally, and spiritually in order to follow their Lord.
Jeremiah speaks of following the will of the Lord, he is unable to keep the name of the Lord inside himself. It becomes a fire burning in his heart. How many times in our lives have we burned within to proclaim the Word... of justice, peace reconciliation, hope...etc.?
“ Black lives matter”, “We are all Children of God”. The Lord speaks in and through us.
How can we be silent?
Paul to the Romans- he urges them and us “to offer yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed...” Do the will of God in the way you can today.
Jesus is strong - to follow Him is not wishy- washy, but total. It demands daily to carry ones cross and to live in the Spirit of the Gospel. Don’t be afraid to give all to follow Him. Remember it isn’t the way of the world, but it is the way to live life fully. In Christ you can do all things.
As Paul says, "It is not I who live but He who lives in me." Galatians 2:20
In 2 Corinthians 9:8 - "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfect in weakness."
One of Anthony DeMello’s stories is about an unconventional shepherd. Instead of gathering his sheep in an enclosure with one gate, across which he would lay at night, the shepherd created a pen with two gates. When asked why, the shepherd responded that he wanted the sheep to remain with him because they wanted to, not because they were forced to. This story sheds some light on today’s First Reading and the Gospel which for many years have been interpreted as showing us that there is a hierarchy of leadership which ultimately goes back to God.
Respecting that leadership unquestioningly for some was the indication of a true disciple. Following the rules was the way of life. Western Europeans and the cultures influenced by them emphasized the Roman ideal of the leader—the one who is the ultimate decision-maker over life and death. The leader is the one who is omniscient, omnipotent and infallible.
The life example and teachings of Jesus witness to a different model, a servant model of leadership, one in which, as Pope Francis says, we “smell like the sheep.” Our current American political and social cultures cry out for this kind of leadership--one that is not hierarchical, but ordered to serve and to serve especially those who are most in need and most powerless. The Corona virus, the economic instability and the political upheaval in so many nations are signs of this shift from power to powerlessness. Surely this is one of the gifts of the tumultuous times in which we live.
The powerlessness of self-giving love, of mutual listening, of seeing beyond one’s own needs, of feeling the pain of the other person, these are invitations to enter into the “depths and riches and wisdom and knowledge of God” in St. Paul’s words. Who in our times are the people who are making change happen? Are they the rule keepers? Are they the “nones”? Are they the one who put their lives on the line daily so that others may have life to the fullest? What calls to conversion are we hearing from them? What support and encouragement are they hearing from us? How will we allow God to convert us? This is the daily choice for each of us.
The real Christian option for us is to not be afraid to risk, to trust, to be like Christ the Good Shepherd who was not afraid to smell like the sheep, who time and again sees us leave the sheepfold…
-Sr. Mary Laura Lesniak
TWENTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
AUGUST 16, 2020
Is 56:1, 6-7 Rom 11:13-15, 29-32 Mt 15:21-28
The prophet Isaiah describes the heart of God: it is filled with a desire to bring under his protective embrace everyone, even foreigners, who choose to “join themselves to the Lord” (v. 6). Isaiah recognizes that God invites everyone to his holy mountain – the place where God can always be found by those who seek him, by those who never stop longing for the joy of living in God’s presence. This surprising revelation is also what motivates Paul’s outreach to the Gentiles, as well as Jesus himself, as we see so clearly in his joy over the faith expressed by the Canaanite woman. She knew in her heart that God would heed her desperate call; she knew that God loves all of his children, and that it was impossible for anyone to ever be excluded from his mercy. Jesus therefore praised her for believing in such a God.
We too can, at times, find our beliefs about God exposed and tested. Too often we imagine that God’s heart is as small as our own: that God sees as we see, and values what we value… But God’s Heart is not defined by such limitations. God embraces all: the good and the bad, the worthy and the unworthy. God seems to almost rejoice when certain circumstances allow him to surprise us with his generosity and desire to forgive. The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart which we celebrated recently may offer us a deeper insight into this. The feast focuses us on coming to understand the Heart of God. The decision to love is costly, even for God – Good Friday taught us that. But Good Friday also revealed that God’s “Love on a Mission” cannot be defeated. Jesus was sent into our world as Emmanuel, God always with us, God always loving us… The feast of the Sacred Heart probes that mystery.
From 1673-74, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, through a series of visions, came to understand, and brought the Church itself into a deeper understanding of God’s all-consuming love for us. The Incarnation had allowed God to do something new. In the God/man Jesus, God was able to experience human life – not from the outside, watching – but from the “inside”, living it. God, in Jesus, would experience human life just as we humans experience it, and thus also experience the full spectrum of those human emotions often attributed to the heart. Jesus was able to experience the joys of human relationships, but also those sorrows that relationships marred by human failures can bring. He experienced the very real pain of rejection and betrayal when those he had come to save turned away. The “human heart” of Jesus was vulnerable… What a mystery!
Jesus spent his life reaching out to those his Father loved: those who were broken, bleeding, and drowning in sin. And in the end, he endured the unimaginable in an effort to prove the genuineness of his love – yet he was still rejected! Margaret Mary understood that the Heart of Jesus was actually surrounded by a Crown of Thorns… She understood that God’s heart had truly been pierced by sin. Pierced – but NOT shattered… Yes, sin had pierced and penetrated what we now understand to be the “tender” heart of God. Yet that reality only served to strengthen God’s resolve to heal and restore his wayward beloved children. God’s Heart is bound to us forever. (And God has never and will never regret his decision to bind himself to us.) God will also never stop surprising us by offering yet another chance to experience and return love for Love. This is a mystery we can never fully grasp. We need to experience, as Margaret Mary did, God removing our hearts of stone, placing them into his own Heart, purifying them, and returning them to us ablaze. Then we need to become vessels which will bring that Love to a waiting, love-starved world.
The readings are filled with hope for the times we’re experiencing. In the first reading we hear the story of the Prophet Elijah who has been called to go out of the cave in which he found shelter and to go and stand on Mount Horeb. The second reading from Romans speaks of the sorrow of heart that Paul had because the Jews as a nation had refused to see Christ as the Messiah. In the Gospel, Jesus is walking on the water coming to the rescue of the disciples being tossed in all directions.
During these situations we’re experiencing, I have felt like the disciples in the fourth night watch on a stormy sea. Many times, I have called out, Lord save us. It seems as if we’re being tossed in all directions with the Coronavirus Pandemic, Black Lives Matter, Systemic Racism, injustices and the upcoming election. Like the disciples we are anxious for solutions and we’re fearful. We are challenged by the dark powers that threaten the goodness of life and our common home.
Both Elijah and Peter are disciples of faith. However, doubt and fear get in the way of them hearing the voice of the Lord. Like the disciples, we too can be blind-sighted and not see or hear the voice of Jesus in the strong winds of racism, injustice and the suffering poor. Jesus invites us to take his hand and “come” to him. We are invited to daily stand on the mountain and hear the voice of God in the tiny whispering sound.
With a bold and renewed faith and trust, we will walk on the water knowing that our God is there leading and guiding us. Our hope is firm. No storm can shake our inmost calm. Perhaps, we will lead others to see that Jesus is truly the Messiah. The question before us this Sunday is can we wade in the water and come to Jesus? The song below gives a clear direction. Don’t let doubt and fear get in the way. Our faith will be tested again and again. Stand firm and “Wade in the Water.”
Jesus is mourning. He is mourning the death of his cousin John the Baptist. Strong emotion must have filled his heart. He tries to go away by himself to be alone, to mourn, to pray. But upon arriving at his destination, he is met by a large crowd waiting for him. Once again...emotion overtakes Jesus. His “heart was moved with pity for them and he cured their sick.” The heart of Jesus was a vast expanse of love. This heart had no boundaries of time, fatigue, or other limitations. When the disciples encourage Jesus to send the people home because they must be hungry and it is late, he once again cares for them by telling the disciples to feed them. More than 5,000 men, women and children! Only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish! The loaves and the fish become endless. They multiply in the baskets and even provide 12 baskets of leftovers. What is happening here? How in the world is Jesus doing this?
Love, grace and fulfillment pour forth from Jesus. We see this constantly in the gospels. He satisfies the hungry heart. He satisfies those who hunger for healing and forgiveness. He satisfies those who hunger for justice. He satisfies those who hunger for love. He, who one day would satisfy the clamoring of the crowds for his death, will give his own body as bread for the world. And this bread is multiplied over and over again to feed crowds today, just as it has been through the centuries. The compassionate heart of Jesus has fed, and will continue to feed, the hungry.
The actual multiplication of loaves and fish in this gospel can’t be rationally explained. It is, and will continue to be, a Jesus mystery. Why do we even need to try to explain it or understand it? It is enough just to believe it and believe in the amazing gift it was. Somehow, in some way, Jesus feeds us. When we are in need of nourishment of any kind, he is there, ready to multiply whatever it is that will fulfill the need we have.
-Sr. Patricia Brady
SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
JULY 26, 2020
1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12 Rom 8:28-30 Mt 13:44-52 or 13:44-46
This Sunday’s gospel is a continuation of Jesus’ parables about the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, or like a merchant searching for fine pearls. The one who finds either will sell all that he has to obtain that which he values above all else. Two more parables are used to illustrate that the kingdom of heaven is for those who are good and righteous. We learn that the kingdom of heaven is something of great value, something we search for, long for; something we will pay dearly for. But, do we know what the kingdom of heaven is?
Contemporary parables play out right in front of us every day. The other night on the television news there was the story of a woman whose husband had early-onset Alzheimer’s and was in a nursing home. She never wanted him to be alone and so visited him daily – until Covid-19 made that impossible. And so, when the nursing home advertised for a dishwasher, she applied for the job so that she could continue to see her husband daily. Her love found a way. Perhaps the kingdom of heaven is a world infused with that kind of love.
Pre-Covid, an elderly priest was in the hospital, on a ventilator for a lung ailment. The pandemic reached critical proportions while he was in the hospital and there was a shortage of ventilators. When a younger man, a husband and father, was brought in with Covid-19, there were no more ventilators. The priest gave up his own ventilator, saving the stranger’s life while losing his own.
Several years ago, a young man walked into an Amish school house and shot and killed many of the Amish children before killing himself. The mothers of those Amish children embraced the parents of the shooter to show their forgiveness for their son.
Never-ending love, complete selflessness, unlimited forgiveness. Perhaps, like Solomon, we need to pray for an understanding heart to know what is right, and to be “conformed to the image of God’s Son,” as St Paul says is our predestination. The kingdom of heaven is not some nebulous other world. It is as real as we wish to make it.
-Regina Murphy, SSMN
SIXTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
JULY 19, 2020
Wisdom 12:13, 16-19 Romans 8:26-27 Matthew 13:24-43
There is a common theme in the readings today. The vision of God Isaiah expresses is one of gentleness and kindness, in spite of our weakness and sin. Isaiah says “Your might is the source of justice.” Yes, leniency & clemency are the way God always deals with us. Some think that justice requires a stern, “letter of the law” approach, with harsh enforcement of laws and regulations. Leniency and clemency from God seem to connote something different. They do not negate enforcing laws, but do have another way of looking at punishment for disobedience. Isaiah is saying that God has repeatedly chosen to deal with us in this lenient way. He is reminding us that God’s ways are not our ways, that in his love for us, God has chosen a milder method, a kinder method. (I sometimes wonder if the person believing in that stern enforcement is usually expecting it to be used more for others than for him/herself.)
Paul says that in our weakness the Sprit comes to our aid. When we see that someone is weak, the implication is that harshness is inappropriate and a gentler response is needed. He continues to say that the Spirit searches our hearts and intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will. He also points to the kindness of God.
Matthew quotes Isaiah, speaking of the bruised reed and smoldering wick, which God will not quench until he brings justice to victory. Matthew is thus using both the idea of gentleness toward the wounded but also bringing justice to victory. I have to ask, how do the concepts of gentleness and bringing justice “fit together?” How do they help us to live more consistently in the manner that Jesus taught? “What would Jesus do?” We are asked to constantly reflect on how Jesus would act (if he were in this situation). The answer is clear in the pages of the Gospels. Jesus used these images: a parent with a child, a mother hen, a shepherd… Each can be stern when necessary – but also protective and nourishing: to act in goodness and love is primary.
This can feel a little overwhelming, so it requires a great deal of prayer. We see the people now demonstrating in our streets and are reminded of that. People are hurting greatly. There are no easy answers, but we need to keep struggling to find solutions. Peace in our country and in our world depends on our doing so. Injustice cannot be allowed to continue while we ask those who suffer to be “gentle” or to “turn the other cheek” and accept more passively what is. More is required of us than that.
God will bring justice – yes, but God uses people to accomplish this. What is our part in making that happen? If justice does not come, we are not “blameless.” This is our world. Just as creating a healthy environment needs our help – as Pope Francis has so often reminded us – so does peace, equality and justice. We are not free of responsibility.
-Sr. Corinne Yarborough
FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
JULY 12, 2020
Today’s Gospel fits perfectly into some of our present coronavirus culture. Jesus is teaching from easily 6 feet away a “great crowd” who were perhaps social distancing. Most probably they were farmers and knew from their own experience about tending the soil and sowing seeds.
We quickly see in this parable that the whole terrain is hopeless. The farmers knew that the road could not be plowed. The seed would stay on the surface where the birds easily fed on it. It sprouted too soon because it had no roots. Other seeds landed among the thorns. They had enough rich soil, but it was already filled with thriving weeds, powerful enough to choke the seeds. With good luck, some seed fell on good soil and produced “abundantly” but not in equal measure.
Certainly Jesus makes it clear in the parable that it is not the seed of God that is at fault, but rather the ground, the soil that receives the seed. The thorny terrain, the stony hearts. The life of God bears no fruit in a dry, hardened heart.
I think it’s clear in the Gospel that we must not measure our efforts at sowing the seed of God’s Word, by the immediate result. We are called every day to have confidence in the providence of God. We don’t have to reap the benefits. It is blessing enough for us to be privileged to share in the sowin
Some Tiny Seeds Fell…
By Miriam Pollard, OCSO
We are the path. So dusty and hard and bored with our lot in life. And the word – this word we know so well and have heard so often – drifts down to be squashed into soil to be pecked at by the dull routine of one more day. Dry. Drought. Caked and unproductive earth.
We are the rocks. Somebody needs us, needs our enthusiasm, our smile, our toleration and understanding. And we are so tired. So tired. Too tired to send down roots, to search for water.
We are a bed of thorns. Don’t you feel that way sometimes? If only for a little while? Cranky and sensitive to every noise. Grouchy. Intolerant. Why can’t they sing right? Why can’t they keep quiet when I have a headache? Why does the dog bark?
We are good soil. Soft and moist and full of sun. Not because we feel pious, not because the baking has been uneventful and is now over. Or because the bananas have come. Or because we feel a little -just a little- more important than yesterday.
But because, by the grace of God, the little seeds in my heart have begun to sprout into responsibility for myself, for the world I came to help save, for the lost and lonely people who wander in darkness, for the life I have been given with which to save and heal and comfort.
Because the tiny seeds are poking their way into the sun, are waving small leaves of joy, a new and different kind of joy, at being the minister of God’s peace, at being the companion, the home, the hands and the heart of Jesus the eternal Lord.
FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
JULY 5, 2020
Zech 9:9-10; Ps 145:1-14; Rom 8:9-13; Matthew 11: 25-30
When I was rereading the Gospel and thinking about it, I began to see why Jesus talks about the “little ones” who have things revealed to them and not those of us who are adults and feel we are so “wise”. How are the little ones to understand the business about the yoke, which is normally a little heavy, and the fact that it will be light when it is Jesus’ burden and yoke.
All of us labor to some extent and many times we feel burdened. This can mean many things, depending on what burdens are in one’s life. However, the key or clue to figuring out how the burden can feel easier or lighter is to hone in on one of the last words in the gospel. The part where Jesus says: “For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” When Jesus is connected to whatever the pain, burden, hardship, misery is, then the lightness can somehow happen because we know that we are not alone in the struggle. We aren’t alone in bearing the yoke. The image of the yoke usually refers to animals because it connects them to whatever it is they are pulling and often it is two animals doing the pulling. Usually, they are oxen. But they walk together pulling the burden behind them together. They pull it equally, in step so as to manage the load.
It is little ones, those who know they need help, those who know they don’t have all the answers, those who know that their strength must come from someone stronger, who know the secret of how to take a yoke upon themselves. They call upon Jesus to pull with them. The burden is shared. The burden is lighter. Most of us have heard the famous story of the person walking along the seashore who asks Jesus why he wasn’t walking along side the one in need in his/her time of need because the person saw only one set of footprints. The famous response tells the person that there was only one set of footprints because Jesus was carrying the person. He was always there. The footprints belonged to Jesus.
So, in this moment of worldly turmoil and distress, when as an international community we are fighting an invisible enemy, the corona virus, we need to dig deep into our hearts and spirits and find the truth this gospel reveals to us. The one who is meek and humble of heart, whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light, he is the one who is in the midst of the pandemic with us. He is pulling the yoke with us and will not abandon us if we become little ones.
“Then in awe, I turned to the single-hearted:
How does it feel to be pure in heart? I asked.
With tenderness the single-hearted replied:
It feels like a child exploring a new day.
It feels like having all your false images
smashed with brand new eyes.
In fact it feels like having eyes that do nothing but see
And all things are possible for those who can see...
It is to have a heart with direction and purpose and love.
It is to seek the kingdom first
believing that all else will be given besides.” (Origin unknown)
The underlying theme for the readings is hospitality. In the first reading we hear the story of the Prophet Elisha frequent travels to Shunem and how a woman prepares a special room to welcome him into their home. The reading from Romans puts everything at the center by focusing on the cost of discipleship. The Gospel reading reminds me of an old Gospel Spiritual, “Plenty Good Room” There are different kinds of love we have- love of God, love of the SSMN Congregation, love of family and friends. The love of Jesus is at the center and holds a special place in our hearts. Jesus wants to claim a special room in our hearts. When we welcome the Lord into our hearts, “we die to sin” and accept the cross. Being a disciple of Jesus invites us to leave behind whatever might blur our vision of discipleship and living a Gospel way of life. Jesus requires first place in the life of his followers. Jesus depended upon the hospitality and the graciousness of the people he met. Jesus offered a cup of water to many “little ones”. We are called to welcome the prophets and little ones into our hearts. We lift high the cross of Christ and walk at the forefront of injustice and those things that keep us from offering a cup of water to the little ones. Jesus' demand for a dedication stronger than love of our parents is challenging. When recently have you been asked for a cup of water or given a cup of water? Putting Jesus first in our lives can be a costly grace. “There’s Plenty Good Room”. Our receiving a cup of water might become a source of joy and blessing to the giver.
-Sister Roberta Fulton
TWELFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
JUNE 21, 2020
Jeremiah 20:10-13 Romans 5:12-15 Matthew 10: 26-33
One of the themes for today’s readings is, “The Lord is on our side, no matter what we face. Courage in the face of difficulty God’s immense care for us” A short form of this theme is , “Don’t fear.
Jeremiah- the prophet is disparaged from every side, but knows that God is near...praise the Lord for he has delivered the soul of the needy from the hands of evil ones.
Romans- Sin entered the world through one man... divine grace coming through... Jesus Christ. The grace of God and gracious gift one one man Jesus Christ overflows for all.
God will triumph and will vanquish all sin and evil.
Matthew- Jesus says, “Fear no one...” It means that we must cling to the teachings of the Lord Jesus without any fear.
Just a few quotes from the Bible on fear:
Psalm 27:1- Light, spare, zest-that’s God! So, with Him on my side I’m fearless, afraid of no one and nothing.
Mark 4:40- storm at sea - why are you such cowards (fear)? Don’t you have any faith at all?
Matthew 10:28 -Save your fear for God, who hold your entire life - body - soul in his hands.
1John 4:18 - God is love. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear.
Today we celebrate Father’s Day, as we think about God our Father and our natural father, let us give thanks because of their love and care for us.
God our Father, in your wisdom and love you made all things. Bless our father. Let the example of his faith and love shine forth.
-Sister Rose Ann
THE SOLEMNITY OF
THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF THE LORD
JUNE 14, 2020 ELEVENTH SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME
Deuteronomy 8:2-3. 14b-16a Psalm 147: 12-13, 14-15, 19-20
I Corinthians 10:16-17 John 6: 51-58
We are one body, one body in Christ…
The events of the last few months have been like a muted summons to live more deeply the mystery of the Triduum. What we have not been able to celebrate fully in timeless liturgical ritual, we have been experiencing in real-time events.
We are one body, one body in Christ and he came that we might have life.
Have we not deepened our experience and understanding of our ancestors’ journey for forty years in the desert by our struggle to live in quarantine virtually mourning the sickness and death of so many people? Have we not seen and experienced the hunger for food and for Eucharist celebrated with Easter joy and festivity? Would we not say that our God has brought us through the desert despite our weak faith?
We are one body, one body in Christ and he came that we might have life.
Have not the constant images of the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests been a vivid recalling of our apparent failure to live as one body through many years? Are the peaceful marches and protests not the true response in our times to Pilate’s question of who is to be freed? Is it only when we can participate fully in the true meaning of the breaking of the Body of Christ that we will finally become one with those whose body and spirit are constantly broken by our complicity of silence and our need for distraction from truth and change?
We are one body, one body in Christ and he came that we might have life.
Is it not amazing grace that we celebrate this feast just as many of our churches are able to open for Mass even in the shadows of the pandemic? How will the festive joy of the small gatherings of brothers and sisters for Eucharist be not only the arrival of the “new normal” but also a reminder of all of our sisters and brothers who are not present because of quarantine, racism, xenophobia…
The procession of the Blessed Sacrament has taken place in ambulances and emergency procedures. As people of faith in action, we choose to go forward in the steps of Jesus who has given his life for the life of the world through our prayer, our donations of time and food, our phone calls. But most of all, this feast calls us to feed one another with life-giving food, with unity in diversity, with compassionate care, with the acknowledgment of our often silent complicity with death-dealing forces.
This feast calls us to life, blessed, broken and shared…
We are one body, one body in Christ and he came that we might have life.
-Sr. Mary Laura Lesniak, ssmn
THE MOST HOLY TRINITY
JUNE 7, 2020 TENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9 I Corinthians 13:11-13 John 3:16-18
“Brothers and sisters, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the holy ones greet you. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you."
This passage taken from St. Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians is vital to a true response to our call to live as daughters and sons of God. We are called and enabled to love as God loves, it is our birthright. How often do we miss the mark? How often do we forget and instead get busy with other things? Today’s political, economic and educational structures cry out for a greater justice. They cry out for us to care about our fellow human beings, to work for justice and strive for peace. We are all connected to one another, the fate of others is our fate as well. When we raise others up, we ourselves are raised up. How can we move on from our present situation? What choices can we make to heal our world and make it a better place for all?
Many of our great Saints have testified to the love of God and neighbor. They have left us testimony through their words and deeds. Just to quote a few:
“Would you know your Lord’s meaning? Learn it well. Love was his meaning. Who showed it to you? Love. What did he show you? Love. Why did he show you? For love. Hold fast to this and you shall learn and know more about love.” -Julian of Norwich
“The brotherly and sisterly love that we love others with is proclaimed on the highest authority not only to be from God but also simply to be God. When therefore we love our brother and sister out of love, we love our brother and sister out of God: and it is impossible that we should not love especially the love that we love our brothers and sisters with.”
- Saint Augustine
“In your nature, eternal Godhead,
I shall come to know my nature.
And what is my nature, boundless love?
It is fire because you are nothing but a fire of love.
And you have given humankind a share in this nature,
For by the fire of love you created us…..
And so with all other people and every created thing:.
You made them out of love. “ -Catherine of Siena
It is said of Saint Catherine that through her intense life of prayer, works of charity and social outreach, she was a witness to the one essential reality: to live with God and in God and in union with others, to love and be loved. Let us pray that grace for each other.
MAY 31, 2020
Acts 2:1-11, 1 Cor. 3b-7, 12-13 John 20:19-23
Today’s feast is one of special significance for the Church in a number of ways. It is one of the few feasts that have a period of preparation set aside so that we take time to anticipate the mystery that we will celebrate. There are the 40 days of Lent, the 4 weeks of Advent and the novena preceding the feast of Pentecost.
It is also one of the feasts that irrevocably alters humanity’s relationship to the Divine. With the Incarnation we learn that God’s love for us leads Him to share our humanity. With the Resurrection we learn that God’s love for us leads Him to let us share His eternity. With the Descent of the Spirit we learn that God’s love for us leads Him to not only be with us, but to dwell within us, to give us the possibility of being His hands, His voice, His love for others.
The reading from Acts is so familiar to us that we might simply be taken with the long list of all the varied languages that were spoken that day, spoken so that everyone, regardless of the country of origin, would have equal opportunity to learn of the “mighty acts of God.” As this year’s At Home with the Word points out, only one verse of the reading focuses on the gift of tongues (as wonderful as it is), while seven verses focus on the gift of hearing and understanding what God has accomplished on our behalf.
This, of course, brings us to Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians, where he points out so clearly that the gifts God gives His people are always for the benefit of the Body of Christ. I love teaching this passage to young people because they so deeply want to believe that they have a gift to one day share with the world. One year, I was very surprised by a student who obviously had no delusions of grandeur. When I asked, “What part of the Body of Christ do you think you might be at this point in your life?” She responded instantly, “I am the thumb on the right hand.” She was delighted with this! She was in charge of communications for the Student Council, and every day she had to post the day’s announcements on every bulletin board in the building. She was so excited to realize, on her own, that this could be more than a boring task. I still admire her faith, simplicity and enthusiasm. I still pray to share them.
And then we have the very brief Gospel from John, taking place on Easter itself. Time is so telescoped here that a multitude of mysteries occur within 4 verses. The disciples rejoice in Jesus, risen, but still bearing his wounds. Twice, Jesus assures them that He is leaving them the gift of peace. With that peace as their armor, he sends them into the world, as the Father had sent Him. Jesus breathes on them, and, filled with the Spirit, they are missioned. It is still the same Pentecost gift that we will try to understand and embrace on Sunday.
-Sister Elizabeth Buchala
from Julian of Norwich
SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
MAY 24, 2020
Acts 1:12-14 1Peter 4: 13-16 John 17: 1-11a
The post resurrection appearances of Jesus had bolstered the shaken faith of the disciples who had been confused and disillusioned by Jesus’ crucifixion and death. But then Jesus left them, at least physically, for good. Today’s first reading is an account of the days after the ascension. You can imagine the followers of Jesus looking at one another and saying, “And now what?” The truth is, they probably did not know what to do next, so they simply did the most natural thing: they came together in mutual support and they devoted themselves to prayer. And, significantly, they prayed in community.
The Buddhist monk and pacifist Thich Nhat Hanh once said that “without a community we can’t go very far.” Evidently the disciples sensed that as they gathered once again in Jerusalem. In those days spent together they most likely also remembered, recalling the words of Jesus, looking for hints to help direct their future. Jesus’ words in today’s gospel were probably among their memories. Shortly before his death Jesus prayed that God would give eternal life to all those God had given to him: “They belonged to you . . . they have kept your word . . . they have believed that you have sent me. . . they are yours . . . and I have been glorified in them . . . And now I will no longer be in the world, but they will be in the world. . .”
A sudden realization, no doubt – the onus is on them! It will be up to them to be Christ in the world – to teach, to preach, to heal, to pray, to break bread and drink from the cup in memory of him. Perhaps, too, to suffer and to die like him. And so they prayed. It was probably a somewhat anguished prayer where they tried to find both a clarity of direction, and the moral fortitude to move ahead. It makes me think of T.S. Eliot’s embellishment of the words of Julian of Norwich. “And all shall be well . . . by the purification of the motive in the ground of our beseeching.”
Today, we are the ones “in the world.” May we, too, find in prayer the purity of heart and intention to go forward in faith and to work for the coming of the Kingdom of God.
-Regina Murphy, SSMN
Icon of the Ascension
SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
MAY 17, 2020
Acts 8:5-8, 14-17 1 Peter 4:13-16 John 17
On earlier Sundays in this Easter season, our gospel readings focused on the experiences of the disciples as they “discovered” who this “risen Jesus” is. However, on this Sunday before the Ascension, the Church has switched our attention to John’s account of the Last Supper. John gives us a glimpse into Jesus’ mind and heart as he anticipated what was about to happen. John allows us to see what it meant to Jesus that he was about to accomplish all that he had been sent on earth to do.
At this intimate meal with the disciples whom he loved, Jesus had already surprised them by inserting a gesture of cleansing and forgiveness: he tenderly washed the feet of each one – including Judas (Jn 13). Soon afterward, Judas would depart, and only those devoted to Jesus would remain. Jesus then addressed his beloved companions, warning them not to let their hearts be troubled by what is to come, and cautioning Peter that even he is capable of betraying him (Jn 13). Jesus also warned them that the world would turn on them just as it had on him (Jn 15), but that they would not be left alone. Jesus would send an Advocate, One who would be with them, strengthening them and guiding them as they needed it (Jn 16).
Now, in Jn 17, Jesus turns his attention away from his followers and toward his Father. It is as though, in this prayer, Jesus is aware only of the Love that flows from the Father – toward himself and toward these beloved disciples. He perceives a Oneness between the Father and himself, but he is also acutely aware that this bond extends to all of them, to all of those who have come to believe in him (even though they still understand so little). Jesus recognizes so clearly that it was for THIS that he has been sent by his Father: to destroy all the barriers between God and his fallen people, once and for all… Jesus has come to bring about this union, and now it is about to be accomplished. It’s as if, in this moment, we are witnessing Jesus again choose to ENABLE this to happen: to enable the long-desired oneness between God and the people God has loved so faithfully to finally be achieved.
Yes, THIS is the reason why God had sent his beloved Son into our world: to destroy Satan’s stranglehold on the human heart – the stranglehold of lies which has distorted their perception of God and of God’s work in their world, causing them to turn away from God. In this moment of prayer, the heart of Jesus seems to be bursting in anticipation: The time of fulfillment is here! John says: “his hour has come…” (17:1) It’s as if we are witnessing Jesus embracing his hour, choosing again to reveal, in his own flesh, the inexhaustible love of God which will NOT be deterred…
In the days after the death and resurrection of Jesus, we saw the disciples grappling with the meaning of all that had happened. Jesus, now risen, appeared to them and reassured them – but their understanding was still clouded by uncertainty. Jesus would ascend and leave them again. Most especially, they have not yet experienced the great Promise: Jesus’ own Spirit, poured out upon each one, and abiding with them forever. They have yet to see themselves transformed from fear-filled people, hiding and reclusive, into people ready to speak fearlessly about Jesus and even ready to give their lives, if necessary… Yes, they desperately need this promised Gift. Still, no one could begin to imagine the change that the Spirit will bring…
In the meantime, they are called to stay together, united in prayer, until every Promise is fulfilled. The best is yet to come…
-S. Patrice Yarborough
FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
MAY 10, 2020
Acts 6. 1 - 7 Psalm 33 1 Peter 2. 1 - 9 John 14. 1 – 12
Alleluia! He is Risen! Alleluia!
Each year, we celebrate Easter with such exuberance that the Church needs seven weeks, seven Easter Sundays. Even though the pandemic has made this a very strange time, hopefully we’ve all read the Scriptures for each Sunday and felt the amazement we experience when the mystery of Jesus’ Resurrection bubbles up from deep within us. The Acts of the Apostles lead us gradually from the disciples who are panicked and afraid, over-whelmed with the image of Jesus hanged on the Cross…an image most of them didn’t see because they ran. The Gospel women did see him suffer, anointed him, and cared for his body. They stayed by his tomb and met him as he showed himself to them. It is they who first know, “He is Alive!”
In Western New York, the birds and flowers have finally arrived and help our hearts jump up with, “He is alive!” This year we are very aware of people suffering, people dying but we can also rejoice when someone escapes from the virus that bound them. In unexpected ways we are living the Pascal Mystery, experiencing dying and rising with every evening newscast or more personally through family or friends. We’ve experienced fear and sorrow, hope and joy. Our daily lives are different. Parents and children at home together every day. There is time to relax, time to pray, be creative, to just “be.” The new life of Easter is experienced in entirely new ways – 20 cars lined up in our school parking lot with signs and balloons to slowly parade through a neighbor-hood to celebrate a girl’s 10th birthday. Proms and graduations carry a sadness in their absence but schools have found ways to live stream “graduations” and a former student told me of a “prom” that the people on her street set up - fancy dresses, music, joy always staying about six feet away from one another. These Easter weeks are teaching us about dying and living…about living and giving.
The Acts of the Apostles, a favorite of mine, again lead us from the disciples’ dark days of loss to the early community breaking bread together as Jesus had done with them. This is our “sacrament” season. Weddings, First Communions, Baptisms are on hold and we haven’t gathered for Eucharist for weeks out of genuine caring for one another’s well-being. Perhaps these weeks we are experiencing new depths of longing and caring, loving and serving, finding the depths of dying and rising, as Jesus, Our Risen Lord has shown us.
Again this year, the Gospels, in particular the Gospel according to John, have shown us Jesus and the depth of his love and mercy. “I came that you may have life and have it to the full.”
Just the other day I was deeply struck by these words from Sr. Ruth Burrows:
“His own Son is the Father’s gift to us,
and we must creep into that Son’s welcoming heart,
content to shelter in his holiness, his goodness, his wisdom”
-Sister Marian Baumler. SSMN
FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
MAY 3, 2020
Acts 2:14a,36-41 1 Peter 2:2b-25 John 10: 1-10
In these times of Covid 19 and sheltering in place, most of us are probably finding new ways of entering more deeply into our prayer life and community life. Our prayer is for our world, for those on the “front lines,” the sick, the dying, and all who service the needs of others. Our community life is bearing new fruit because of the time of sharing and of being together in new ways.
The Good Shepherd theme in our liturgy comes as a great comfort this Sunday! The readings give us hope. Peter’s sermon from Acts 2 bolsters our courage. Psalm 23 reminds us of the peace, comfort and protection our Shepherd provides. John 10 is rich in imagery of the ways that Jesus is our good Shepherd.
To help us understand God as our shepherd, I believe that we are sent, throughout our lives, human beings who reflect God’s shepherding care. When the Pandemic began in our country, I purposefully started recording all the happy memories of my life that I could think of. I thought of people who had guided me, who were like shepherds! One vivid memory was of a neighbor across the street from where I spent my childhood, Mrs. Curtis. My sister and I used to play with her daughter, Judy, who was about our age. I have 3 vivid memories of how Mrs. Curtis shepherded me.
One day, when I was about five years old, I was at Judy’s house playing dolls. I was warming my doll’s blanket (very thin) at the gas stove when it suddenly ignited!! I just as suddenly remembered how you blew out candles on a birthday cake so I shook the blanket really hard to give it more air!!! It just gave it more fire! Then, out of nowhere, appeared Mrs. Curtis, who calmly took it away from me and proceeded to stomp out the fire on the floor with her black granny shoes! I expected a very great reprimand from her. I knew I had done a bad, stupid thing. But since she was a gentle person, there was no reprimand at all to my great surprise and relief!
Fast forward to eighth grade. I walked a block from the bus stop after school one rainy day and found I had forgotten my key to get in my house. (No one was home!) A major tornado came barreling down my street and I ran with Judy into her house. Just a few moments after we arrived in the hall, the tornado hit her house, taking the roof up. All the while Mrs. Curtis had her arms around me and held on tight! As the storm moved on, the roof fell back down on the front porch. But we were all safe.
Then after high school, I was getting ready to enter the convent. Since Mrs. Curtis was a seamstress, my mother got her to sew white pajamas and a black bathrobe (both required!) to take with me. (She kept saying, “Are you sure this robe has to be black???)
This time of sheltering in place is difficult. Many say that when it is over we will never be the same. Yes, this is a time of transformation. We are closer in community, closer in prayer. We are deep into soul-searching and, if you will, soul-finding. Most of all, we are closer to our Shepherd Jesus: listening for his voice, sheltering in his peace. He is where he has always been, right here with us.
In today’s gospel, John 10:7, Jesus says that he is the GATE. In those days if the sheep were in a sheepfold on a hillside, there was no gate and so the shepherd had to lie across the opening to BE THE GATE to keep the sheep safe. Furthermore, in John 10:9, Jesus says, “Anyone who enters through me will be safe: such a one will go in and out and will find pasture.” In other words, where ever we go: when we go out; when we come in, Jesus is there to keep us safe.
As we listen to and follow our Good Shepherd these days, let us give thanks for the many shepherds who have blessed our lives. Let us also be grateful for all those shepherds who, like Mrs. Curtis, have held us tight through the many storms of life.
-Sister Ginny Vissing, SSMN Western Region
THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER
APRIL 26, 2020
Acts 2:14,22-23 1Peter 1:17-21 Luke 24:13-35
We are already at the 3rd Sunday of Easter and starting our 6th week of lock in.
Today’s readings have a special theme of the Risen Lord that brings new life and renewal. People are different after their experience of the Risen Lord.
In the Acts of the Apostles, we see and hear Peter testifying with conviction about the Risen Lord. He quotes David who says that he saw the Lord before him. Peter, who denied the Lord 3 times and then acknowledged his love for him 3 times. Peter who saw the Risen Lord is changed forever. He becomes the rock of the new Church.
Psalm 15 - is one that I think Peter prayed a lot. The response is show us, Lord, the path of life. The psalms says Jesus will not leave us, he is always with us to guide us.
In the first letter of Peter, he acknowledges that God is our Father and He shows no favorites. We must live as children of the Father and that Jesus is our Savior and Lord.
The Gospel has a special meaning for me as I chose it when I made my final vows. It has always spoken to me of the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the breaking of the bread. Two disciples were going to a village called Emmaus. Emmaus means warm baths / hot springs. In Jesus’s day , there used to be hot springs where people would bath to get healing from skin conditions.
We know that one of the disciples was called Cleopas but the other was not named. I think it was a couple as woman were not often named in the Gospel. ( Remember the loaves and fishes - 5000 men not counting the women).
Jesus walks with them explaining the scriptures slowly perhaps so that they could take in all in and reflect and make some meaning of the days. As they reach their house they invite Jesus to eat with them and their eyes were open as they broke the bread. Their hearts were on fire that they hurried back the same day to Jerusalem to tell the disciples about what had happened.
Do our hearts burn within as we share the bread at Eucharist ?
Are our hearts burning so that we desire to go forth from Eucharist to share Jesus with whoever we meet, namely in our family or on the street ?
Are we ready to share a word of faith , love, charity, joy with those we live with and those we encounter?
- Sister Rose Ann Cappola
SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER
APRIL 19, 2020 DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY
The Gospel, on this Divine Mercy Sunday, is quite familiar. The “one-week later” experience of the apostle Thomas, recognizing Jesus as my Lord and my God upon seeing Jesus alive, earned for him the unflattering title of “doubting Thomas”. Often, I believe, we can recognize ourselves in the response of Thomas. Others telling us of an event is one thing, witnessing it for ourselves is something else entirely!
I think there are two easily underappreciated parts in this passage from St. John’s gospel. As the passage begins, we are told it is the evening of “that first day of the week”; that is, it is Easter Day itself. In this description it is clear that, for St. John, the resurrection and the descent of the Holy Spirit happen all at once. He breathed on them and said, Receive the Holy Spirit, this is Pentecost on Easter Day! While our traditional observances follow the 50 day pattern between Easter and Pentecost as laid out by St. Luke, John’s gospel exposes a sense of God’s time where all things are present at once in eternity!
The final paragraph of today’s Gospel includes a wonderful opening for our imaginative prayer. We are told that there are many other things the Risen Jesus did that are not written down. Now, isn’t that an invitation to ponder what other encounters with the Risen One happened and continue to happen? Whether our prayerful thoughts focus on lepers of ancient Israel encountering Jesus alive and being healed or we sense our Lord and our God with us in our present day trials, the truth is that HE LIVES and has triumphed over death forever.
-Sister Lori High
APRIL 12, 2020
Acts 10:34, 37-43 Col 3:1-4 Jn 20:1-18
John’s account of the encounter between the Risen Jesus and Mary Magdalene reveals the intense levels of confusion and heartache experienced by all the disciples after the Crucifixion. Jesus had rescued Mary Magdalene from a life of self-degradation; he had lifted her up to a position of respectability within the community, and had placed her among the women who accompanied him. (cf. Lk 8:1-2). In Lk 7:35-50, both Jesus and the Pharisee Simon agreed: “Who will love [their creditor] more? The one whose forgiven debt was larger.” Mary’s devotion to Jesus was unwavering. Understandably, her world crumbled with Jesus’ death, and she was inconsolable.
John tells us that Mary Magdalene went alone to the tomb and found the tomb empty. Then she ran to tell Peter and John. After they left, she remained, searching for the body. Then Jesus himself came to her, but she mistook him for the gardener! As soon as Jesus called her by name, her eyes were opened and she recognized him. The One whom she loved and revered as “Master” was reaching out to her personally. Yet Jesus asked her not to “cling to him”. He asked her to move forward (as the others would also need to do). All of them would need to readjust to this new situation, and allow the Risen Jesus to continue doing all that his Father was asking of him in this new moment. Because Jesus came to her personally, Mary was able to move on and do whatever he asked.
Then Jesus said to her: “Go to my brothers…” (Jn 20:17), allowing this broken woman to become (according to John) the first one to deliver the message: “I have seen the Lord!” (vs. 18) It is a simple proclamation of what had transformed her despair into hope. It is not a theological reflection on the meaning of the resurrection, but a statement of the fact that had changed everything: “Jesus lives!”
Regardless of all that the powers of EVIL had done to try to destroy Jesus, now He lives… Jesus had been sent by his Father to reveal God’s love to a world being destroyed by its refusal to love. In this moment, Jesus’ resurrection was exposing the undeniable truth that God’s love had triumphed in the end – that God’s love is unconquerable… This is the NEW message which Jesus’ disciples must now carry to the world. It must be proclaimed by the mouth and life of every Christian who will ever live: Because of Jesus, Evil will never win… Jesus endured all that he did so that the world could see that God will never stop loving, never stop forgiving, and never stop restoring those on whom he has set his heart.
Today the Church continues to struggle to find ways to preach this Truth to a world which still refuses to believe. Why would people prefer to believe the LIE that Evil will win?? Why is it so hard to believe that God has rendered this LIE null and void??
God continues to this day, reaching out to each one and revealing the Love behind all that he does, offering each one a relationship like the one he offered to Mary Magdalene. When we are finally able to let go of whatever lie controls our heart and keeps us from recognizing the Truth, then we will be able to proclaim, as Mary did: “Jesus lives!” In that moment, we will know that Evil will never have the last word… This is the message that our world needs so desperately to hear. But first, we have to believe it ourselves… THAT is the Easter miracle each of us needs…
-S. Patrice Yarborough