GOSPEL REFLECTION: Matt 10:32-33, 37-38, 19: 27-30
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of Me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:37–38
At first read, this appears to be a difficult teaching of our Lord. But when properly understood, it is clear that it helps us keep our relationships with God and with our family properly ordered in charity and truth. Following this command will never result in a lack of love for family; rather, it will help us to love solely with the heart of Christ.
What does this teaching of Jesus require of us? Simply put, if a family member, or anyone else, imposes expectations on us that are contrary to the will of God, then we must choose the will of God over those other expectations. To understand this more clearly, think about how one might choose to love “father or mother” or “son or daughter” more than God. Say, for example, that a child chooses to go astray in their moral or faith life, and they want their parents to support them in their sin. But the parents remain firm in their moral convictions and, out of love, offer no support for the immoral lifestyle their child has chosen. This would become especially difficult for the parents if the child becomes angry and criticizes the parents, with the claim that the parents are being judgmental and are lacking in love. What the child is actually requesting is “Mom and dad, you must love me more than God and His laws.” And if the parents do not support their child’s misguided lifestyle, the relationship may be deeply wounded. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that Jesus followed this command by saying, “and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” Love always involves the Cross. At times, it is a cross of personal self-sacrifice and self-giving. And at other times, it’s a cross by which our love is misunderstood, and we are deemed as “unloving” by those we actually love the most. When parents truly love their child, they will care first and foremost for their child’s eternal salvation and moral living, and they will not choose “friendship” with their child over truth.
Of course this same truth applies to every relationship we will have and even to our “relationship” to society as a whole. More and more, there are those who demand of us all that we support them in behaviors that are objectively disordered and contrary to the will of God. We are told that if we oppose these choices that some make, then we are judgmental and hateful. But this is exactly what Jesus is speaking about. If we choose to “love” others more than God and His holy will, meaning, if our first priority is to make people “feel” supported in the immoral and confused decisions they make, then we are not actually loving them at all. At least not with the love of God. Instead, we are prioritizing their sin over the truth they so deeply need to know so as to be set free and to enter into an authentic relationship of love with the God of Truth.
MEDITATION: Lord, I give to You my whole mind, heart, soul and strength. Help me to love You above all things and in all things and, from that love, help me to love those whom You have put in my life.
THE DESCENT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
TODAY is the “Birthday” of the Church, Pentecost Sunday. Among Byzantine Catholics it is sometimes called “Zelenyj Svjat” (the Green Holy Day) because it is the only time in the year that the priest wears green vestments and because the church is decorated with branches of trees that have just sprouted their new green leaves for Spring…..the tender new green leaves being the sign of new life which comes forth from barren branches which seemed so brittle and “dead” during the winter months. The word “Pentecost” comes from the Greek word meaning “fifty.” It is the 50th day after Easter, and that day when the Holy Spirit came down in the form of fiery tongues and descended upon Mary and the Apostles. Filled with the Holy Spirit, the Apostles were able to begin a new life with strength and vigor to fulfill the command our Lord gave them to go and teach all nations. The Holy Spirit dwelt within them and gave them a certain charism which enabled them to do things which they could never do before. People do not ordinarily think of themselves as “Temples of God” or as “churches” in which God dwells. Yet that is the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. St. Paul spoke of this. He wrote to the Corinthians: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are….” It is clear from these words of the Holy Bible that a pious, believing person can have the Spirit dwell in him.
Christ had something to say about this also. At the Last Supper, when He opened His heart to His beloved friends, Jesus said: “If You love Me, keep My commandments…..and I will ask the Father and He will send you the Holy Spirit….you know Him for He dwells with you and will be in you….” Now, if the Holy Spirit dwells in you, you are a temple of God. When the Father did send the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Day, He came with certain outward signs, tongues of fire and a rushing wind. But these were visible signs which soon disappeared. Where was the Spirit? Of course, He took up His abode in the souls of the Christians assembled there. And what a tremendous change His coming made on the 12 people! The Holy Spirit still comes, still dwells in the humble, the pious, the believing. We say “God is with us,” and it’s true. He dwells in us, if we but want Him.
GOSPEL REFLECTION: John 7: 37-52, 8:12
Are you willing to give yourself totally to the Lord Jesus? No one could be indifferent for long when confronted with Jesus’ message. It caused division for many who heard it. Some believe he was a prophet, some the Messiah, and some believed he was neither. The reaction of the officers was bewildered amazement. They went to arrest him and returned empty-handed because they never heard anyone speak as he did. The reaction of the chief priests and Pharisees was contempt. The reaction of Nicodemus was one of timidity. His heart told him to defend Jesus, but his head told him not to take the risk. There often will come a time when we have to take a stand for Christ and for the gospel. To stand for Jesus may provoke mockery or unpopularity. It may even entail hardship, sacrifice, or suffering. Are you ready to stand for Jesus and to defend the cause of the gospel?
GOSPEL REFLECTION: John 17:1-13
In his Last Supper discourse Jesus speaks of his glory and the glory of his Father. What is this glory? It is the cross which Jesus speaks of here. How does the cross reveal his glory? In the cross God reveals the breadth of his great love for sinners and the power of redemption which cancels the debt of sin and reverses the curse of our condemnation. Jesus gave his Father the supreme honor and glory through his obedience and willingness to go to the cross. The greatest honor, trust, and love any person can give one’s leader is through his obedience even to the point of sacrificing his own life. In warfare the greatest honor belongs not to those who survive but to those who give the supreme sacrifice of their own lives for their fellow countrymen. Jesus also speaks of the Father bringing glory to the Son through the great mystery of the Incarnation and Cross of Christ. God the Father gave us his only begotten Son for our redemption and deliverance from slavery to sin and death. There is no greater proof of God’s love for each and every person on the face of the earth than the Cross of Jesus Christ. In the cross we see a new way of love — a love that is unconditional, sacrificial and generous beyond comprehension.
Jesus also speaks of eternal life. What is eternal life? It is more than simply endless time. Science today looks for ways to extend the duration of life; but that doesn’t necessarily make life better for us here. Eternal life is qualitative more than quantitative. To have eternal life is to have the life of God within us. When we possess eternal life we experience here and now something of God’s majesty, his peace, joy and love and the holiness which characterizes the life of God. Jesus also speaks of the knowledge of God. Jesus tells his disciples that they can know the only true God. Knowledge of God is not simply limited to knowing something about God, but we can know God personally. The essence of Christianity, and what makes it distinct from Judaism and other religions, is the knowledge of God as our Father. Jesus makes it possible for each of us to personally know God as our Father. To see Jesus is to see what God is like. In Jesus we see the perfect love of God — a God who cares intensely and who yearns over men and women, loving them to the point of laying down his life for them upon the Cross. Jesus is the revelation of God — a God who loves us completely, unconditionally and perfectly. Do you seek unity of heart, mind and will with God and unity of love and peace with your neighbor?
GOSPEL REFLECTION: John 9 : 1-38
Blindness” is our inability to see the hand of God at work all around us. We struggle to see the daily miracles of God’s grace alive in our lives and in the lives of others. So the first thing we should do with this Scripture is strive to see our lack of sight. We should strive to realize that we so often do not see God at work. This realization will inspire us to desire a spiritual healing. It will invite us to want to see God at work.
The good news is obviously that Jesus cured this man, as He willingly cures us. To restore sight is easy for Jesus. So the first prayer we should pray as a result of this story is simply, “Lord, I want to see!” The humble realization of our blindness will invite God’s grace to work. And if we do not humbly acknowledge our blindness, we will not be in a position to seek healing.
How He heals this man is also significant. He uses His own spit to make mud and smear it on this man’s eyes which is not immediately that appealing. But it does reveal something quite significant to us. Namely, it reveals the fact that Jesus can use something exceptionally ordinary as a source of His divine grace!
Too often we look for God’s action in the extraordinary. But He so often is present to us in that which is ordinary. Perhaps we will be tempted to think that God only works His grace through heroic acts of love or sacrifice. Perhaps we are tempted to think that God is not able to use our daily ordinary activities to perform His miracles. But this is not true. It is precisely those ordinary day to day actions of life where God is present. In fact, the more ordinary the activity, the more we should strive to see God work. And when we do “see” Him at work in the ordinary activities of life, we will be healed of our spiritual blindness.
GOSPEL REFLECTION: John 4: 5-43
What happens to us as ‘people of faith’ when the stranger confronts us and asks us for “a drink?” A “drink” could be anything from help with bus fare, help for something to eat, a dollar or even fifty cents. Like the Samaritan woman, we’re generally taken by surprise. In such circumstances, we just don’t know what exactly to do! You can’t predict these chance encounters. They just seem to come our way, and to some of us, more so than to others.
“Give me a drink.” Didn’t Jesus say in the Gospel teachings that even if we give a “drink of cold water” to one of the least of his brethren, we give it to Him and we shall receive our just reward? Something as simple as a cup of water! That doesn’t take much effort on our part! It’s all in being conscious for whom and why we are doing it.
If only we’d leave judging the sincerity of the persons requesting up to God’s judgments we’d probably be far more blessed. Unfortunately, we let the mentality and judgments of our secular society be our final guide and subsequently miss out on so many blessings from God. The joy of giving could be boundless! That’s where the image of “living waters” comes in. A holy joy that’s bubbling all over and cannot be explained.
Yes, the true message of the story is about our human thirsts, the greatest of which is for a Savior. Christ alone can fill the hole deep inside of us that we stuff with so many other things on our earthly journey. But when we’ve found Him our lives are transformed and made new. Maybe right now you’re thirsting for joy, for “living waters.”
The next time a person “asks you for something to drink” try following the Samaritan woman’s example and go against the tide. Living waters are guaranteed to bubble up.
Was there a time when you turned you’re head away when “Christ of the streets” asked you for “something to drink?”
GOSPEL REFLECTION: John 5: 1-15
Is there anything holding you back from the Lord’s healing power and transforming grace? In the pool at Bethzatha we see an individual’s helplessness overcome by God’s mercy and power. On this occasion Jesus singles out an incurable invalid, helpless and hopeless for almost forty years. He awakens hope when he puts a probing question to the man, “Do you really want to be healed?” And he then orders him to “get up and walk!” God will not force our hand against our will. The first essential step towards growth and healing is the desire for change. If we are content to stay as we are, then no amount of coaxing will change us. The Lord manifests his power and saving grace towards those who desire transformation of life in Christ.
The Lord approaches each of us with the same probing question: “Do you really want to be changed, to be set free from the power of sin, and to be transformed into my holiness?”
This Sunday is dedicated to the Myrrh-Bearing Women and the miracle that they witnessed. The Holy Scripture tells us that early in the morning on the first day of the week, these faithful women went to fulfill their last obligation of love and service to the dead body of their Teacher. Because of their faithfulness, they received the amazing blessing of being the first to see our Risen Lord. At first, they thought He was a gardener, but when their eyes were opened spiritually, they were able to discern the spiritual resurrected body of their Teacher. Then their Teacher gave them an order to go and tell the others the good news of His Resurrection, and that He would be with them. We can certainly understand here that our Lord delivered His message and instruction to humans just like us, to women who were both courageous and faithful. When our Lord chose these women to communicate the good news of His Resurrection to the disciples, they were hiding in the locked upper room, from fear of the authorities. It was to this locked room of fear, hopelessness, grief and defeat that the women brought the astounding news that their Teacher was not dead, but alive! So in the same way does our Risen Lord bring His grace to the locked rooms of our own lives, releasing us from our pain, anger and grief, setting us free from sin, death and the power of evil, to receive His abundant blessings of love, life and hope.
GOSPEL REFLECTION: John 20: 19-31
It’s easy to be critical of St. Thomas for his lack of belief reflected in his statement above. But before you allow yourself to think poorly of him, think about how you would have responded. This is a difficult exercise to do since we know clearly the end of the story. We know Jesus did rise from the dead and that Thomas ultimately came to believe, crying out “My Lord and my God!” But try to put yourself in his situation.
First, Thomas probably doubted, in part, out of extreme sadness and despair. He had hoped that Jesus was the Messiah, he had dedicated the last three years of his life to following Him, and now Jesus was dead…so he thought. This is an important point because very often in life when we encounter some difficulty, disappointment or painful situation, our faith is tested. We are tempted to allow despair to draw us into doubt and when this happens we make decisions based more upon our hurt than upon our faith.
Second, Thomas was also called to deny the physical reality that he witnessed with his own eyes and believe something that was completely “impossible” from an earthly perspective. People simply do not rise from the dead! This simply doesn’t happen, at least from an earthly perspective alone. And even though Thomas had seen Jesus perform such miracles before, it took much faith to believe without seeing with his own eyes. So despair and an apparent impossibility went to the heart of Thomas’ faith and extinguished it.
Reflect, today, upon two lessons we can take from this passage: 1) Do not ever allow despair, disappointment or hurt to be the guide of your decisions or beliefs in life. They are never a good guide. 2) Do not doubt the power of God to be able to do anything and everything He chooses. In this case, God chose to rise from the dead and so He did. In our own lives, God can do anything He wills. We must believe that and know that what He reveals to us in faith will come to be if we but trust in His provident care.
Today is the feast of St. Thomas, the apostle. He is popularly dubbed as the “doubting Thomas” because of his unbelief in the appearance of the Risen Christ. St. Thomas, even upon seeing the resurrected Christ walk in through a closed door, required some sort of proof to mend his disbelief in the Resurrection. Jesus, acknowledged this human need of St. Thomas, obliged by presenting Thomas with the wounds of his crucifixion and invited him to feel them in order to relieve Thomas’ doubts.
As you reflect on St. Thomas, the Apostle, bring to mind your own doubts and place them before the Lord in prayer. He will, as with Thomas, invite you closer to the mystery so that you, too, may believe.
So as we continue our celebration of the feast of St. Thomas, let’s thank him for his courage of expressing his doubts in his faith because that led him to his firm and sure belief that Jesus indeed is his “Lord and God”. At the same time let’s also pray that like Thomas we may grow in our faith by touching ‘the wounds’ of Jesus .
Blessed are we who have not seen and have believed!
GOSPEL REFLECTION: John 1:1-17
John describes Jesus as God’s creative, life-giving and light-giving word that has come to earth in human form. Jesus is the wisdom and power of God which created the world and sustains it who assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it. Jesus became truly man while remaining truly God. “What He was, He remained, and what He was not He assumed” . Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God who, without ceasing to be God and Lord, became a man and our brother. From the time of the Apostles the Christian faith has insisted on the incarnation of God’s Son “who has come in the flesh” (1 John 4:2)
Christians never cease proclaiming anew the wonder of the Incarnation. The Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it.
The Son of God … worked with human hands; He thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart He loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin .
If we are going to behold the glory of God we will do it through Jesus Christ. Jesus became the partaker of our humanity so we could be partakers of His divinity (2 Peter 1:4). God’s purpose for us, even from the beginning of His creation, is that we would be fully united with Him When Jesus comes God is made known as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. By our being united in Jesus, God becomes our Father and we become His sons and daughters.
HOLY WEEK PRAYER MEDITATION
My Most Glorious and Suffering Lord, it is the Hour by which You conquered sin and death. It is the Hour for which You came into this world, taking on flesh so as to offer Your precious life for the salvation of the world.
May I be with You, dear Lord, in these moments of suffering and death. May I, like Your Mother, John and Mary Magdalene, stand at the foot of the Cross, gazing upon the perfect Gift of Love.
My suffering Lord, may I see in Your Cross the most perfect act ever known in this world. May I see Love in its most pure form. May my eyes and soul look beyond the blood and pain and see Your Divine Heart, pouring forth Mercy upon me and upon the whole world.
Today I kneel in silent adoration of You, my God. I sit quietly, beholding the great mystery of our faith. I behold God, beaten, bruised, mocked, tortured and killed. But in this act, I see all grace and Mercy flowing from Your wounded Heart. Bathe the world in Your Mercy, dear Lord. Cover us with Your grace and draw us to new life through Your death.