Sunday, April 28, 2019

Thoughts on the devine mercy

John 20:19-31

Friends, our magnificent Gospel today declares that there is no greater manifestation of the divine mercy than the forgiveness of sins. We are in the upper room with the disciples, those who had denied, betrayed, and abandoned their master. Jesus came and stood in their midst. When they saw him, their fear must have intensified; undoubtedly, he was back for revenge.

Instead, he spoke the simple word "Shalom," peace. He showed them his hands and his side, lest they forget what the world (and they) did to him, but he does not follow up with blame or retribution—only a word of mercy.

And then the extraordinary commission: "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." Jesus’ mercy is communicated to his disciples, who in turn are sent to communicate it to the world.

This is the foundation for the sacrament of Penance, which has existed in the Church from that moment to the present day as the privileged vehicle of the divine mercy.

Bishop Robert Barron


Saturday, April 27, 2019

Thoughts on prayer

Open Yourself to God
To pray means to open your hands before God. It means slowly relaxing the tension that squeezes your hands together and accepting your existence with an increasing readiness, not as a possession to defend, but as a gift to receive. Above all, prayer is a way of life that allows you to find stillness in the midst of the world where you open your hands to God’s promises and find hope for yourself, your neighbor, and your world. In prayer, you encounter God not only in the small voice and the soft breeze, but also in the midst of the turmoil of the world, in the distress and joy of your neighbor, and in the loneliness of your own heart.

Prayer leads you to see new paths and to hear new melodies in the air. Prayer is the breath of your life that gives you freedom to go and to stay where you wish, to find the many signs that point out the way to a new land. Praying is not simply some necessary compartment in the daily schedule of a Christian or a source of support in a time of need, nor is it restricted to Sunday mornings or mealtimes. Praying is living. It is eating and drinking, acting and resting, teaching and learning, playing and working. Praying pervades every aspect of our lives. It is the unceasing recognition that God is wherever we are, always inviting us to come closer and to celebrate the divine gift of being alive.

In the end, a life of prayer is a life with open hands—a life where we need not be ashamed of our weaknesses but realize that it is more perfect for us to be led by the Other than to try to hold everything in our own hands.
Henri Nouwen

Friday, April 26, 2019

Thoughts on the Spirit of God

God is Gentle
While realizing that ten years ago I didn’t have the faintest idea that I would end up where I am now, I still like to keep up the illusion that I am in control of my own life. I like to decide what I most need, what I will do next, what I want to accomplish, and how others will think of me. While being so busy running my own life, I become oblivious to the gentle movements of the Spirit of God within me, pointing me in directions quite different from my own.

It requires a lot of inner solitude and silence to become aware of these divine movements. God does not shout, scream, or push. The Spirit of God is soft and gentle like a small voice or a light breeze. It is the Spirit of Love.
Henri Nouwen

Thursday, April 25, 2019

More thoughts on mercy

God never gives up on his mercy, especially in our time where there exists the false perception of self-sufficiency and lack of awareness of one’s very sinfulness. These joint heresies endanger souls by creating the erroneous perception so prevalent in this day and age: that we have no need for mercy. Nothing could be further from the truth—and yet, for those who are willing to concede their need, nothing is simpler to remedy. Mercy is his loving face directed to the healing of the wounds of sin, the wounds that trigger a separation and distance in our relationship with God.

by Monsignor Peter Vaghi

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Thoughts on solitude

Solitude Creates Space for God
To live a Christian life means to live in the world without being of it. It is in solitude that this inner freedom can grow. Jesus went to a lonely place to pray, that is, to grow in the awareness that all the power he had was given to him; that all the words he spoke came from his Father; and that all the works he did were not really his but the works of the One who had sent him. In the lonely place Jesus was made free to fail.

A life without a lonely place, that is, a life without a quiet center, easily becomes destructive. When we cling to the results of our actions as our only way of self-identification, then we become possessive and defensive and tend to look at our fellow human beings more as enemies to be kept at a distance than as friends with whom we share the gifts of life.

In solitude we can slowly unmask the illusion of our possessiveness and discover in the center of our own self that we are not what we can conquer, but what is given to us. In solitude we can listen to the voice of him who spoke to us before we could speak a word, who healed us before we could make any gesture to help, who set us free long before we could free others, and who loved us long before we could give love to anyone. It is in this solitude that we discover that being is more important than having, and that we are worth more than the results of our efforts. In solitude we discover that our life is not a possession to be defended, but a gift to be shared. It’s there we recognize that the healing words we speak are not just our own, but are given to us; that the love we can express is part of a greater love; and the new life we bring forth is not a property to cling to, but a gift to be received.
Henri Nouwen

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Thoughts on the resurrection

John 20:11-18

Friends, today’s Gospel reveals St. John’s report of Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the risen Jesus. An interesting lesson follows from the disquieting fact of the Resurrection, namely that this world is not it. What I mean is that this world is not all that there is. We live our lives with the reasonable assumption that the natural world as we’ve come to know it is the final framework of our lives and activities. And one of the most powerful and frightening features of the natural world is death. Every living thing dies and stays dead.

But what if death and dissolution did not have the final say? What if, through God’s power, and according to his providence, a "new heavens and a new earth" were being born? The Resurrection of Jesus from the dead shows as definitively as possible that God is up to something greater than we had imagined or thought possible.

And therefore we don’t have to live as though death were our master. In light of the Resurrection, we can begin to see this world as a place of gestation, a place of growth and maturation toward something higher, more permanent, and more splendid.

Bishop Robert Barron

Thoughts on mercy

Thoughts on hope

Sometimes our faith moves us outward with great joy and fervent hope. But sometimes we need to go within, to renew our strength and our courage in quiet times of prayer. Depending on the circumstances of our lives this year, we might not be feeling the exuberant joy we expect in this season of Easter. Illness, death, unemployment, depression, and other human realities don’t necessarily happen according to the liturgical year. But in a time when it seems the only constant is change, our faith—and even more, our hope—reminds us that God’s love will always be there for us.

—from the book The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis by Diane M. Houdek

Monday, April 22, 2019

More thoughts on Easter

Matthew 28:8-15

Friends, in today’s Gospel Mary Magdalene and the other Mary encounter the risen Jesus. I know that I have harped often on this theme, but I do so only because the Bible harps on it—and also because the culture tends so thoroughly to miss the point. I’m talking about the meaning of Easter. Many people agree with David Cameron, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain, who once said that the message of Easter is "kindness, compassion, hard work, and responsibility."

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m for all of those things. But so is, I would guess, any decent person from any religious or nonreligious background. Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and fair-minded atheists and agnostics would all sign on for those values.

None of it is getting anywhere near the heart of what Easter really means. What Easter means is that Jesus of Nazareth, who claimed throughout his public life to be speaking and acting in the very person of God, and who was brutally put to death by Roman executioners, rose bodily from the dead. That’s what it’s all about.

Bishop Robert Barron


Sunday, April 21, 2019

Thoughts on Easter

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

Every sermon preached in the New Testament, every
proclamation of the Gospel message by the first believers,
had this message at its heart. The news that galvanized the
first disciples and that changed the ancient world—and that
continues to change our world—is the Good News that the
Crucified One is alive.

Everything said by Augustine, Aquinas, Francis of Assisi,
Dante, Teresa of Avila, Thérèse of Lisieux, Pascal, Newman,
Chesterton, and John Paul II comes down to the declaration
that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Every act of every
saint is related to the fact of the Resurrection.

Over the centuries, various thinkers and theologians have
tried to maintain that Christianity is fundamentally a moral
system at whose center stands the command to love God and
neighbor. Some have wanted to strip Christianity of its
mystical and supernatural elements, turning the Resurrection
into a pleasant myth or an evocative symbol.

But St. Paul gives the lie to these reductionistic
interpretations: "If Christ has not been raised, your faith 
is futile."

In other words, what your faith comes down to is the
conviction that God the Father has raised his Son from the
realm of the dead. Everything else in Christianity—ritual,
liturgy, theology, morality—flows from this fact and is
related to it.

May the truth of the Resurrection encourage your spirit
and enliven you with the gifts of faith, hope, and love this
Easter season!

Bishop Robert Barron

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Thoughts on Holy Saturday

Luke 24:1-12

Friends, how wonderful are the readings for the Easter season! So full of theological depth, so spiritually rich, so marked by joy.

In light of the Resurrection, we know that God’s deepest intention for us is life, and life to the full. He wants death not to have the final word; he wants a renewal of the heavens and the earth.

Therefore, we have to stop living in the intellectual and spiritual space of death. We have to stop living intellectually in a world dominated by death and the fear of death. We have to adjust our attitudes in order to respond properly to what God really intends for us and the world.

Though we rarely admit it, we live in a death-haunted space. The fear of death broods over us like a cloud and conditions all of our thoughts and actions. What if we really believed, deep down, that death did not have the final word? Would we live in such fear, in such a cramped spiritual space? Or would we see that the protection of our egos is not the number one concern of our existence?

Reflect: When you think of your own death, what do you fear? How can belief in the Resurrection mollify those fears? 
Bishop Robert Barron

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Thoughts on foot washing

Perhaps no action by Pope Francis has generated as much astonishment  as his washing the feet of prisoners—men, women, Christian, Muslim. It is a return to what Jesus intended: As I have done, so you must do. The Holy Thursday liturgy is marked by the ritual gesture of the washing of the feet. The central action of service reminds us that our communion is more than a meal, more than nourishment for our bodies and souls. It’s the act of taking on the mission, the ministry, the very body of Christ. And it is a challenge to us to remain in communion with one another.
—from the book The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis by Diane M. Houdek

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Thoughts on humiliation

Jesus calls us to follow him on his own path of humiliation. When at certain moments in life we fail to find any way out of our difficulties, when we sink in the thickest darkness, it is the moment of our total humiliation, the hour in which we experience that we are frail and are sinners. It is precisely then, at that moment, that we must not deny our failure but rather open ourselves trustingly to hope in God, as Jesus did.
Dear brothers and sisters, this week it will do us good to take the crucifix in hand and kiss it many, many times and say: Thank you, Jesus, thank you, Lord. So be it. 
—from the book The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis by Diane M. Houdek

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Thoughts on Notre Dame

I was shocked and saddened to see the headline and video images of the Notre Dame Cathedral burning yesterday.  It was like someone had punched me in the stomach.  As a young man, I lived in Paris for three years.  I had visited Notre Dame and walked through it's magnificent structure many times, marveling at the architecture of the building and the relics it held within.  Even though I was not a Catholic at that time in my life, I was a Christian, and I understood the significance of that great church and what it meant to Paris and to Christians around the world.  So again, I was deeply saddened to see Notre Dame burn and witness the destruction that most likely could never be replaced, even if it was to be rebuilt.  Ironically, this happened at the beginning of Holy Week, a time when Catholics and Christians will remember the sadness, betrayal, trial, torture, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  My prayer is that this tragedy will bring some people back to the church.  That this loss of a historical church will touch someone who has left the church, to come back to the church.  What was lost, can be found.  Our Lady, pray for us!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Thoughts on discipleship

One of the principles that is at the heart of Jesus's plan or vision for Christianity is spiritual multiplication. Jesus, he invested most of his time during his public life on twelve people. And of course, these twelve people then went out, and Christianity spread all around the world.
How did that happen? Discipleship and spiritual multiplication. Because if twelve people go out and work with twelve people, and then those people go out and work with twelve people each, it adds up very, very quickly. In fact, it compounds astoundingly quickly. But one of the things that is missing in our churches is discipleship.
Very often we haven't been discipled. We haven't sat at the feet of Jesus and allowed him to disciple us. And so, in turn, we're not able to disciple other people. And so there are two things that we should think about very seriously. One is, okay, how am I being discipled? Am I sitting at the feet of Jesus enough so that he can disciple me? Am I allowing other great Christian voices to disciple me so that I can in turn go out and disciple other people? That was Jesus's plan. His plan wasn't one person going out and discipling ten million people. His plan was you going out and discipling a dozen people in a really, really powerful way. That's what he did, you know?
We talk a lot about being like Jesus. We talk a lot about Jesus as a role model. He picked twelve. He focused on twelve. And I think very often we overlook that. We overlook that. And we should be on both sides of that. We should be on the side of, okay, we need to be discipled. We need to be transformed into disciples of Jesus, and then we need to be constantly encouraged and inspired as disciples of Jesus, because it is very easy to get discouraged. But then we also need to go out. We're called to disciple other people. And that is the powerful principle of spiritual multiplication, which is right at the core of Jesus's vision for Christianity.

Matthew Kelly

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Thoughts on faith

Trust Unreservedly That You Are Loved
The word faith is often understood as accepting something you can’t understand. People often say: “Such and such can’t be explained, you simply have to believe it.” However, when Jesus talks about faith, he means first of all to trust unreservedly that you are loved, so that you can abandon every false way of obtaining love. That’s why Jesus tells Nicodemus that, through faith in the descending love of God, we will be set free from anxiety and violence and will find eternal life. It’s a question here of trusting in God’s love. The Greek word for faith is pistis, which means, literally, “trust.” Whenever Jesus says to people he has healed: “Your faith has saved you,” he is saying that they have found new life because they have surrendered in complete trust to the love of God revealed in him.
Henri Nouwen

Friday, April 12, 2019

Thoughts on Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday
Many of the Jews of Jesus' day were waiting for and expecting a Messiah who would restore power and glory to their nation by driving out the Romans who were occupying their country. When he did not preach rebellion, many were disappointed and stopped following him. When Jesus performed his miracles of healing and deliverance from evil spirits, deeds of the Messiah, he often told the people not to tell anyone. In Mark's gospel it is known as the Messianic Secret. When he is asked if he is the Messiah, he doesn't answer. He did not come as a military leader but as the Prince of Peace, the Anointed of the Lord.
The people all knew the prophecy of Zechariah: "Behold, your king is coming to you, a just savior is he, humble and riding on a donkey." (9:9) When Jesus rides into Jerusalem, he is proclaiming his true identity. The crowd recognizes him and greets him with palm branches and loud songs of joy and praise. Let us ask the Lord for the grace to recognize him as he comes into our presence every day in the person of our family and loved ones, friends and neighbors and even enemies, the poor and suffering. Let us not keep his deeds of love and reconciliation a secret but rather give witness to all who would see and hear.
Fr. Ralph Huse, S.J.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Thoughts on reputation

As Christians, as Church, we don't have a great reputation at this time in history for serving people's human needs in a powerful way. Throughout history, we have done it very powerfully with churches, hospitals, schools, feeding the hungry, offering shelter to the homeless.
People's human suffering in our modern age tends to be different. In some ways, we still have the sick, the hungry, the homeless, great poverty in our world. But, there are also modern human needs that cause great distress to people. Things like credit card debt. Things like joblessness, unemployment. Some people would say, “Well, these are high-class problems compared to poverty and homelessness and hunger.” And that's true, but they're very, very real and very, very significant for the people who are actually dealing with them. And one of the ways for us to be the hands of Christ, to be the heart of Christ in people's lives, is to help them deal with their very human needs, and to get beyond our church boundaries, to get beyond our local Christian community.
If we're to place ourselves back at the center of the culture in modern times, it will more likely be because we develop a reputation of really helping people in a loving way with their human needs rather than because of some great preaching or some profound message that we bring to the world. It's the action of serving people powerfully in their deeply personal needs that's most likely to give us, as Christians, the great reputation that has been our reputation for two thousand years, which is a reputation of love and kindness and generosity towards not only people who believe but towards people who don't believe. And very often, it’s reaching out to people in their humanity, and loving them powerfully and serving them powerfully, that shows them that they do belong, and leads them to become believers.

Matthew Kelly


Thoughts on pain

Do You Own Your Own Pain?
The main question is: “Do you own your pain?” As long as you do not own your pain—that is, integrate your pain into your way of being in the world—the danger exists that you will use the other to seek healing for yourself. When you speak to others about your pain without fully owning it, you expect something from them that they cannot give. As a result, you will feel frustrated, and those you wanted to help will feel confused, disappointed, or even further burdened.

But when you fully own your pain and do not expect those to whom you minister to alleviate it, you can speak about it in true freedom. Then sharing your struggle can become a service; then your openness about yourself can offer courage and hope to others.
Henri Nouwen

Monday, April 8, 2019

Thoughts on solidarity

Solidarity is the Other Side of Intimacy
Those who have entered deeply into their hearts and found the intimate home where they encounter their Lord come to the mysterious discovery that solidarity is the other side of intimacy. They come to the awareness that the intimacy of God’s house excludes no one and includes everyone. They start to see that the home they have found in their innermost being is as wide as the whole of humanity. . . . it is of great importance to see the inner connection between intimacy and solidarity. If we fail to recognize this connection, our spirituality will become either privatized or narrowly activist and will no longer reflect the full beauty of living in God’s house.
Henri Nouwen

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Thoughts on Holy Moments

We've been talking about Holy Moments and creating more Holy Moments today than yesterday—or creating more Holy Moments this week than last week. One of the things about Holy Moments is they're really attractive, and they differentiate us from the culture—from the world. And that's part of the incredible power of these Holy Moments. You go out there, you create a Holy Moment.

Let's remind ourselves what a Holy Moment is: it's a moment where you set aside self-interest, where you set aside what you feel like doing, where you have a little conversation with God and you say to God, “All right God, what do you want me to do in this moment?” And then you do exactly what you feel God is calling you to do in that moment. That's a Holy Moment. And Holy Moments tend to be filled with kindness and love and generosity and patience and thoughtfulness and courage. Holy Moments are filled with these things, and so, they're incredibly attractive.

Now the first time someone sees a Holy Moment, they might just think, “Oh, that's a bit different.” But if they see it over and over and over again, what do they realize? They realize, Wow, this is part of who this person is.

Holy Moments: they help us to grow in virtue; they help us to grow in character; they help us to become a-better-version-of-ourselves; they help us to become the person God created us to be—and that's a beautiful path. And you create enough of them, people say: “Wow, she's got something I don't have”; “He's got something. I want what he's got.”

That's how the first Christians did it. That's how they spread across the world at an alarming pace. They didn't rely on promoting Christianity. They used the very, very powerful force of attraction. Christianity's always been about attraction, not promotion.

 Matthew Kelly

Thoughts on giving back

Living in the second half of life, I no longer have to prove that I or my group is the best, that my ethnicity is superior, that my religion is the only one that God loves, or that my role and place in society deserve superior treatment. I am not preoccupied with collecting more goods and services; quite simply, my desire and effort—every day—is to pay back, to give back to the world a bit of what I have received. I now realize that I have been gratuitously given to—from the universe, from society, and from God. I try now, as Elizabeth Seton said, “to live simply so that others can simply live.”
—from the book Yes, And...: Daily Meditations by Richard Rohr

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Thoughts on the spiritual life

Saint Catherine of Siena pictured the spiritual life as a large tree:
The trunk of the tree is love.
The core of the tree is patience.
The roots of the tree are self-knowledge.
The many branches are discernment.
In other words, said Catherine, love does not happen without patience, self-knowledge, and discernment. Today we have little encouragement toward honest self-knowledge or training in spiritual discernment from our churches. We prefer the seeming clarity of black-and-white laws. By nature, most of us are not very patient. All of which means that love is not going to be very common. We need Saint Catherine’s tree again. 
—from the book Yes, And...: Daily Meditations by Richard Rohr

Monday, April 1, 2019

Thoughts on the Eucharist

God's Non-Violent Love
On the cross, Jesus has shown us how far God’s love goes. It’s a love that embraces even those who crucified him. When Jesus is hanging nailed to the cross, totally broken and stripped of everything, he still prays for his executioners: “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus’ love for his enemies knows no bounds. He prays even for those who are putting him to death. It is this, the enemy-loving God, that is offered to us in the Eucharist. To forgive our enemies doesn’t lie within our power. That is a divine gift. That’s why it’s so important to make the Eucharist the heart and center of your life. It’s there that you receive the love that empowers you to take the way that Jesus has taken before you: a narrow way, a painful way, but the way that gives you true joy and peace and enables you to make the non-violent love of God visible in this world.
Henri Nouwen