Imagine yourself in this scenario. You’ve been with Jesus for quite some time now. You’ve paid attention to all that has been going on. And now, Jesus is asking you to go out on mission. Could you do it? Could you go without any visible means of support, having only the companionship of one other person? Could you live depending on the total generosity of others for food, shelter, and any other support you might need?
This call to leave it all is a radical call. Not all of us are called to leave home and family to be itinerant missionaries. All we have to do is pack for one journey, whether it is a vacation, or a pilgrimage, or even work travel. We often realize that we pack too much! It is difficult to travel lightly; our decisions often depend on a feeling that we might need things, just in case! We are attached to things!
The invitation then is to begin practices of trust and detachment. Some would call it living simply.
What material comforts might Jesus be inviting us to leave behind in order to be a freer and more faithful disciple? What do you really need to go out into the world? Are we able to trust the companion on our journey and do we have the faith that God will provide? Can we begin to travel lightly? And what will we learn about ourselves and our dependence on God in the process?
Prophets in Native Places
When Jesus “goes home” to his native place, the people take offense at him and he is not able to perform any mighty deeds among them. Was Jesus too familiar to them? Did they misjudge and underestimate him? Why were they so resistant to Jesus’ message?
The Scriptures contain the words of prophets who strongly admonish the people who have been lured by the culture to attend to “worldly things.” The greatest challenges to our faith come from turning our eyes away from God. Misplaced priorities require conversion, the process that invites us to turn our minds and hearts back to God’s word, to God’s wisdom, to God’s universal truth.
Often the conversion that is needed calls us to pay attention to God’s presence and action in our lives. It isn’t easy to be counter-cultural. We might be rejected, like Jesus, by our friends and even by our own family members. Nevertheless, we act with open eyes and brave hearts, listening to the cries of those in need and seeking God’s wisdom, God’s truth.
From our own homes, our own native places, let’s seek to break through the asphalt, the protective walls around our hearts and bring forth new life according to God’s vision for our lives.
Reach Out and Touch
In both healings described in the Gospel for this weekend, Jesus breaks taboos of his society in order to give a young girl and a bleeding woman new life. He acknowledges the power of touch. His touch brings a young girl back to life in the presence of her parents. He gives a new life, freedom from intense suffering, to a woman who dared to reach out and boldly touch his garment.
Who are the parents among us who are experiencing the “death” of their children? Yes, some are physical deaths. So many others are what feels like death in that parents feel that they have lost their children to so many realities that threaten the fullness of life—drug use, self-mutilation, mental illness, loss of faith, abusive relationships, and other afflictions that literally seem to take the “life” out of their children. Like Jairus, they cry out for restoration to life, to at least some semblance of the kind of life they want for their children. They pray for God’s love and compassion to make their loved ones feel alive again.
And who are the women who bleed, who hemorrhage today? What are their long-time afflictions, the things that keep them from being the “whole” women they aspire to be? For some, it is sexual abuse often at the hands of a relative at a very young age, human trafficking of very young women, on-going wage and compensation inequalities (equal pay for equal work), double standards regarding physical appearance, the impenetrability of the “glass ceiling,” body shaming, eating disorders, and other kinds of long-term suffering. These women, too, are longing for healing, for a feeling of being whole again, for becoming a new creation through God’s love and compassion.
How will we respond to the readings for this weekend? Jesus is with us, in us, and works through us in this Body of Christ—our families, our communities, our Church. How will we ask for healing? What garments exist that we can reach out and touch? What can we bring to life?
Jesus has given us through baptism an even greater power than his. We can be healers. We can be instruments or garments of healing. May it be so! Lord, hear our cry and move us to action!
Advocating with Our Voices
Many of us use Lectio Divina when praying with Scripture. When we do that, we read the Scripture multiple times and identify words that stay with us, words that “find us,” words that catch our attention perhaps in ways they never have before. Upon further reflection or meditation, we often find that those words or phrases speak to our minds, hearts, and lives. They call us to change our minds, hearts and lives in some way. This is how we describe conversion. This is how we become followers of Jesus.
This Wednesday morning, the story of the Birth of John the Baptist spoke to me in several specific ways. The image above helps! “They rejoiced with her.” It is incredible, miraculous that a woman of Elizabeth’s age, an advanced age, gives birth to a child. The message: All things are possible with God, if it is God’s will, God’s intention. God dwells in possibilities; hope lives.
The second awareness I gained is that Elizabeth used her voice to name the child. The angel announcing her pregnancy told her that the child’s name would be John. Over the protests of those representing the custom of carrying on the family legacy, the culture of naming the child after the father, Elizabeth won’t have it and gives the name John. Suddenly Zechariah is cured of his inability to speak and repeats what Elizabeth had already said. (Sound familiar to anyone?) Definitively, his name was to be John.
What’s in a name and who does the naming? It matters, doesn’t it? Zechariah Jr.’s name would mean “God remembers.” John’s name means “God is gracious.” Birthing in advanced age for women is a bold action. Having a woman determine the name is a bold action. Both were God’s action in Elizabeth’s life.
From this rather revolutionary (turning things around, sometimes upside down) birth, we have John the Baptist. John was born to lead Jesus into a new future. He lived his life to prepare the way, a way of life that turns remembering into graciousness.
For me, there are connections to what we are experiencing in Texas right now. John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus. Jesus always stood with the most vulnerable. What would Jesus say? What would Jesus do? Do we see Jesus in the children? Do we see Jesus in the mothers?
What conversion of mind, heart and life is Jesus asking of me? How do I name what is happening? How do I use my voice to advocate for those vulnerable ones, the ones Jesus called “the least among us?”
With tears in my eyes and a heart breaking with empathy, I have to believe that with God all things are possible. And I also know that like Elizabeth, others joined her in belief and joy. Others confirmed her naming and made radical change possible. May it be so for us!
Can we follow Jesus in his action for love above law?
Going Beyond Planting Seeds
In the creation story, we learn that God created abundant plants and trees. And God said that it was good. Today we have an opportunity to continue God’s creative work in caring for the earth and its abundance. Pope Francis has written an encyclical, Laudato Si’: On Care of the Earth. Father James Martin summarizes that document with these top ten takeaways:
- The spiritual perspective is now part of the discussion on the environment.
- The poor are disproportionately affected by climate change.
- Less is more.
- Catholic social teaching now includes teaching on the environment.
- Discussions about ecology can be grounded in the Bible and Church tradition.
- Everything is connected—including the economy.
- Scientific research on the environment is to be praised and used.
- Widespread indifference and selfishness worsen environmental problems.
- Global dialogue and solidarity are needed.
- A change of heart is required.
(America Magazine, June 18, 2015)
In the ecological crisis that we face, Pope Francis reminds us that we can awaken our hearts and move towards action. We can be the voice that cries out for the earth. And if we want to act, Catholic Climate Covenant has resources galore to put our faith into action. With St. Francis as our patron, we can also pray the Canticle of the Sun often.
As you listen to the readings this weekend, notice the many references to nature. Praise and thank God for these gifts of beauty and goodness and pray for an awakening of our hearts to greater care for the earth, for ourselves, and for future generations.
Meal and Sacrifice
Each Sunday we are offered the meal that sustains our faith. Our participation at Mass through prayer, Scripture and song, our reception of the Eucharist and our being sent forth are all elements of the Eucharistic celebration. We remember God’s activity in our lives, we ask for forgiveness, and we resolve to act—to live the Gospel message in every aspect of our lives throughout the week.
Accustomed as we are to think of all the healing and miracles we read about in Scripture, the communal aspects of a meal shared, the satisfaction that comes from nourishment, we also know that the Eucharist is about sacrifice. We remember that Jesus emptied himself, even unto death, out of love for us.
In the Responsorial Psalm this weekend, we ask ourselves, “how shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me? …. to you will I offer sacrifice…” What is the sacrifice that love demands or asks of us? We often see and hear what sacrifices parents make for their children. We can see what sacrifices wives and husbands make for each other because of love. Where do you experience sacrifice in your life?
Sacrificial love is self-sacrifice with the pure motivation to alleviate the suffering of others. Sacrificial love says I love you even when you are not very lovable. Who are the suffering among us?
These are some of the images of suffering that come to my mind: images of children taken away from their parents at the border; images of families who have lost children to gun violence in schools or who are affected by that violence because they were there to experience it; images of persons who, because of skin color, gender, sexual orientation or anything that makes them “different” or “the other,” are to be feared, held suspect and become the object of others’ hate; images of women and children who become the objects of sexual desire; images of persons who work multiple jobs and still cannot find affordable housing; images of those living with diseases of addiction, mental illness.
Pope Francis offered this reflection on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi:
Let us ask ourselves, in adoring Christ who is really present in the Eucharist: do I let the Lord who gives himself to me, guide me to going out ever more from behind my little enclosure, in order to give, to share, to love him and others?
What is my response of love and sacrifice to those who are suffering? How does my understanding of Eucharist send me forth to act?
Expanding the Notion of Family
Jesus’ disciples had a hard time accepting the fact that Jesus was attracting so many followers and had so much activity going on—miracles, healings, restored relationships—that they didn’t even have time to eat. They told Jesus that he was out of his mind. Imagine saying that to Jesus! In essence, they were saying, no begging Jesus to take a break!
The graphic used for this reflection suggests two things. The disciples had a hard time understanding why Jesus attracted such huge crowds. For them, it was still a mystery. Essentially they were asking, “Why do all these people flock to him? What do they want? How can we stop this?” Perhaps they were limited in their thinking of “how big” the community could become. Perhaps they were concerned about “right-sizing.” Perhaps they wanted to claim Jesus as their own.
When Jesus’ family comes looking for him, perhaps trying to provide him an escape route, Jesus instead expands their notion of who belongs. He uses the biological images of mother, sisters, and brothers and expands the relationship—the belonging to—“anyone who does the will of God.”
This weekend, we are invited to reflect then on how both our natural families and our faith families support each other in doing the will of God. The Holy Spirit gives us “new life” in both families. How is the Spirit inviting us to refine, to refresh the “why” of our following Jesus? Where is the invitation “follow me” leading me, my family, my community?
Apart from being his brothers and sisters, we are also, Jesus tells us, his mothers. What could Jesus mean by that? I am going to seriously reflect on that. I’d be happy to share with any of you.
Go and Make Disciples
The Solemnity of the Holy Trinity celebrates the community—the intense love relationship that exists between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That same intense and enduring love is given and remains present in each of us from the time of our Baptism. Remember the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Remember!
That same love is not intended only to dwell within us. That love is meant to be shared in the same intricately connected way that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share as a community. The Trinity is always about relationship; it is always communitarian.
This Sunday we celebrate our being co-missioned by Jesus. We call it the Great Commission. We also celebrate the power and the presence of the Trinity in our lives. Jesus has given us the Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations. To help us to do that, Jesus has promised to be with us always. In other words, we share in God’s own life. And we are to share that life with one another—everywhere, always, with everyone! Making disciples is now OUR mission!
Will we go? To whom will we go?
The Pentecost Event
Wind and Fire—not the name of a musical group, but the elements that most often describe the Pentecost event, the birthday of the Church. Listen to the ways these words are used in the Mass this weekend!
The power of the Holy Spirit created unity out of the chaos that followed Jesus’ Ascension. The Holy Spirit brought miraculous unity to people very divided, and filled with fear. We need the Holy Spirit in our world today. We need the Holy Spirit in our marriages, in our families, in our Church as well as in our personal lives.
We too are divided and filled with fear. Think about how much we hear about divisions and fear.
What would happen if instead of division and fear, we focused on unity and hope, on community and love? Jesus came to bring peace. After all, Jesus told us to not be afraid countless times in the Scriptures.
Will we invite the Holy Spirit to work in us as individuals, as families, and as communities to renew us, refresh our souls, dispel the fear and create in us hearts that are filled with zeal for living the Gospel?
Perhaps we can embrace the reminders that the Church gives us in the celebration this weekend. Wear red. Find ways to enjoy the playfulness of wind and air. Blowing bubbles, flying a kite, playing with pinwheels aren’t activities reserved for children, although their delight increases ours! Breathe intentionally with a focus on breathing in God’s goodness and breathing out all that separates us from that goodness. Eat red foods, drink red wine! Learn to say Peace and or Love in multiple languages. Speak love languages to replace criticism, gossip, and complaining. The words we use create our reality. What kind of reality are we seeking?
And so we pray from the prayer for the V Encuentro: “May the fire of your Word rekindle our hearts and prepare us to become missionary disciples ready to share the joy of the Gospel to present and future generations of every race, culture, and language.”
Fill our hearts and minds, Holy Spirit! Dwell in us all. Move us to action that creates unity out of chaos.
What do you do after spending precious, quality time with the persons you admire most in life, who have accompanied you and taught you incredible things about what it means to be family, community?
That’s what it was like for the followers of Jesus when he ascended from their midst. Suddenly, they were left in charge. I’m reminded of the countless time that I have heard, “Don’t just stand there, do something.” Usually, it’s when someone is in trouble and no one seems to know what to do.
What must it have felt like to be left in charge? Jesus told his followers to proclaim the Good News to every creature. And he told them to expect to see the signs—the healing of the sick, the casting out of demons, and speaking in tongues. Were these intended for that time only? Jesus is clear about that. He says “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” And Mark, the evangelist, tells us that they went forth and preached everywhere. The Lord continued to work with and through them to accomplish the signs–demons driven out, new languages spoken, incredible healings.
How do we keep from standing there looking at the sky? At every Mass, we are sent forth on mission. Go forth and live the Gospel! Go forth and spread the Good News! Preach always, with your lives!
The Eucharist empowers us, strengthens us for the task, puts us on fire for the mission. After being fed in mind, body, and spirit by the Eucharistic celebration, we SING our way out of the church. The words to our recessional remind us, prod us and keep us from just standing there. We go out with the strength of our community as disciples of Jesus.