The Word in Peace, Divine Mercy Sunday: It is in community that we see to believe

Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)

As I mentioned in a recent post on the CTA 20/30 blog, Good Pope John XXIII is a special saint to me. As I was a lapsed Catholic adrift in a spiritual Nowhere Land, the Italian pope with a big belly and an even bigger heart taught me the much of the good that is to be found in our faith tradition. So it was something of a no-brainer for me to decide to visit the newly rededicated St. John XXIII (until today Blessed Pope John XXIII) parish in South Fort Myers to join the celebratory mass.

Both this parish and its patron saint embody that crucial component of Christian conduct: a sense of community. St. John welcomed the world with open arms, reaching out to Jews, Orthodox Christians, Protestants, even those “godless” communists. He was not posturing; the pope’s actions showed that he really saw the people of the world as his brothers and sisters.

St. John XXIII parish does much to live up to this commission. There is a dynamic pastor, numerous ministries and, most importantly, an enthusiastic congregation.

It is in fellowship with others that we as Christians have the chance to live out our faith. The First Reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, tells us that the Church first establishes itself and performs its “many wonders and signs” (2:43) through communal living, sharing possessions, caring for the sick and needy of the community, and joining each other at the table (vv. 44-46).

Thomas the apostle provides us with an example of belief emerging from community in the Gospel reading. When he was away from the other disciples, Thomas is, as most of us would be, skeptical when he learned of the resurrection (John 20:25). But notice that Jesus does not go out to find Thomas to validate himself. He waits until Thomas returns, giving the apostle the opportunity to see and believe among other believes. It is at that moment that he makes that great confession of Christ’s divinity, “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28)

As the Second Reading tells us, we believe even though we have not seen Jesus (1 Peter 1:8). But that does not happen on its own. We must see the image of God in every person that we encounter if we are to truly live in union with God. And we can’t do that by staying home every day. Even hermits communicate the Good News with others from time to time.

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The Word in Peace, Easter Sunday: The Resurrection Continues

Vigil: Genesis 1:1 – 2:2; Psalm 104:1-2, 5-6, 10, 12-14, 24, 25; Psalm 33:4-7, 12-13, 20, 22; Genesis 22:1-18; Psalm 16:5, 8-11; Exodus 14:15 – 15:1; Exodus 15:1-6, 17-18; Isaiah 54:5-14; Psalm 30:2, 4-6, 11-13; Isaiah 55:1-11; Isaiah 12:2-6; Baruch 3:9-15, 32 – 4:4; Psalm 19:8-11; Ezekiel 36:16-28; Psalm 42:3, 5, 43:3-4; Psalm 51:12-15, 18-19; Romans 6:3-11; Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Matthew 28:1-10
Sunday: Acts 10:34, 37-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Colossians 3:1-4; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; John 20:1-9

“All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!” – Isaiah 55:1

He is risen! And I am late.

Truth be told, I had a packed weekend that included three egg hunts, a birthday party and a day trip across the state to see the family, so I think I can get a dispensation for writing my Easter reflection on the following Wednesday.

Besides, Easter is supposed to be a 50-day long celebration, and that has taken on a particular meaning for me. It was around Easter of last year that my wife told me that she wanted to part ways. As I wrote in the aftermath of that, it was the joy of the resurrection that was sustaining me.

A year later, I believe that I am through the worst of it. I still have my house, my kids (albeit for less time) and my faith. My pastor even asked me to be part of the leadership team for a new divorce support group.

So I am happy to say that the Resurrection remains a focal point for me. I feel the Spirit when the lights turn on at the vigil mass as we sing “Alleluia!” for the first time in a month and a half. I move forward without knowing what lies ahead, but with the knowledge that the Jesus who defeated death itself will carry me through whatever comes my way.

The saint who helped bring me back to the Church

When it came to be time to select my confirmation name, I chose John.

Officially, my choice came from St. John Berchmans, the patron of altar servers. But in reality, I wanted to have a simple name, so I went with John. I had an apathetic faith, so it made sense that I should choose an apathetic name to go with an apathetic confirmation.

Blessed John XXIII

Soon-to-be Saint John XXIII

Perhaps something was preparing me for a different John, one who would not become a canonized saint for another 18 years. That John, Pope John XXIII, will be canonized next Sunday, along with Pope John Paul II.

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Time to make peace with St. John Paul II

When the Vatican announced the impending canonization of Blessed Pope John Paul II last fall, many were thrilled. Many were disappointed. Few were surprised. It was always seen as a matter of when, not if, John Paul Two would get the official halo.

Soon-to-be Saint John Paul II

Soon-to-be
Saint John Paul II

John Paul II will share a canonization ceremony with Blessed Pope John XXIII on Sunday, April 27. Orthodox Catholics will likely ratchet up to a fever pitch their adulation for the man they call “John Paul the Great” and maybe make a few comments about John XXIII. On the progressive side, we can expect effusive praise heaped upon Good Pope John for creating the Second Vatican Council and lamentation of John Paul II’s (as we see it) demolition of it.

I say we take a step back from the battle lines and offer our admiration of both.

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The Word in Peace, Good Friday: Take Comfort in Discomforts

Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Luke 23:46; Psalm 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-17, 25; Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42

“Yet it was our pain that he bore,
our sufferings he endured.” – Isaiah 53:4

I woke up groggy and congested, starting a cloudy day alone.

It’s Good Friday.

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The Word in Peace, Holy Thursday: Christian Trifecta!

Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14; Psalm 116:12-13, 15-18; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-15

“Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.” – John 13:12-16

You know what I love about the Holy Thursday mass readings? This is the only time that all three readings describe three unique events that are central to our Catholic faith.

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The Word in Peace, Palm Sunday: With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Matthew 21:1-11; Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24; Philippians 2:6-11; Matthew 26:14-27:66

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” – Matthew 27:46

Jesus knew a thing or two about the finicky nature of human fidelity. This weekend’s readings bear witness to that. In fact, the reading covering the Passion starts with Judas’ initial act of betrayal (Matthew 26:14).

It is easy to key in on Judas. He performed the ultimate act of betrayal by selling his spiritual leader to his death for 30 pieces of silver. The name “Judas” remains a synonym of the word “traitor,” along with “Benedict Arnold” and “Quisling.” But after taking a closer look at the readings today, betrayal was something of a common theme.

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