In Luke’s Gospel for this weekend, the disciples of Jesus are given their instructions for ministry. Imagine that you are one of the disciples Jesus sent out. What directives do you think Jesus would give to you today? What do you say and do? What challenges do you meet? What further help do you need from the Lord?
Jesus sent them out by two’s—a companion is always good to have for back-up! Who is the person you would choose to accompany you?
I am reminded of all the ways that we provide companionship on our faith journeys at St. Francis. We choose godparents and sponsors for Baptism, Confirmation, and RCIA. We have sponsor couples who accompany those in formation for the sacrament of Marriage. We visit the homebound to bring Eucharist and to bring our assurance that we accompany even those who cannot be with us physically.
During our listening sessions, we heard the experiences of so many who are ”left out”, invisible, or excluded from participation and communion in Church life. Living as a synodal church requires more than listening. Who are some of the persons we know who need accompaniment? Who are the new people we can share Christ’s love with this weekend? What healing and what peace can we bring into the lives of others?
To help us to be disciples of Jesus, we invoke the wisdom of the Holy Spirit:
Come to me, Holy Spirit, and kindle in me the wisdom I need to follow in the path of Jesus Christ.
Come to me, Holy Spirit, and give me the strength to face challenges in my daily life.
Come to me, Holy Spirit, and grant me the fortitude to make the right decisions.
Come to me, Holy Spirit, and help me believe that God knows all and walks beside me every moment of my life. Amen.
Imagine this: Pope Francis personally contacts you and requests an audience with you. The Vatican will take care of the expenses and logistics for the trip. You would excitedly drop everything to accept Pope Francis’ invitation, right?
Jesus extends the same invitation to us every day, and we should meet his call to “follow me” with the same enthusiasm. However, we often allow our busy lives to get in the way of dropping everything to be with our Lord. Some days, at best, we will give a conditional acceptance to Jesus’ call. If I check off everything on my to-do list and am not too exhausted by the end of the day, then I will spend some time in prayer.
Nowadays, unfortunately, it seems more and more common and even acceptable or expected to avoid commitments or postpone promises. We like to keep our options open, so we wait until the last minute for a lot of things to see if something better comes along.
As disciples of Jesus, we cannot “wait for it” (shoutout to the Hamilton fans). In both Luke’s Gospel for this Sunday and the First Reading about Elijah following God’s instructions to recruit Elisha as his successor as a great prophet, there is no time for delay.
Pope Francis said, “Jesus pointed out to us, his disciples, that our mission in the world cannot be static, but is itinerant. The Christian is itinerant. The Church by her very nature is in motion; she does not stay sedentary and calm within her enclosure. She is open to the broadest horizons, sent forth—the Church is sent forth—to bring the Gospel through the streets and to reach the human and existential peripheries” (Angelus message on June 30, 2019).
We hesitate to make commitments because we value our freedom, but St. Paul tells us in the Second Reading in his letter to the Galatians not to use this freedom selfishly; “rather, serve one another through love” (Gal 5:13). Let us embrace our baptismal call to live as priest, prophet, and king as we journey without delay toward our Christian mission to know, love, and serve Christ.
And what is it that we hunger for? Our 31 parish listening sessions, our process of learning to live as a Synodal Church, have given us evidence of some of our hungers. One of them is that we hunger for connections between the Scripture readings each week and their relevance for life today. How does what we hear in the readings, the music, our own personal reflection on the readings in SCC’s, the praying with Scripture that we continue to do, the presence we are to each other in the community gathered, and the preaching help us to be followers of Jesus?
I found the reflections from Catholic Women Preach especially meaningful and hopeful in the midst of all that we are experiencing in our city, our country, and our world. Listen here:
One of our liturgical music selections is a preview of our weekend experience. Listen to it here:
Trinitarian Life Includes Us
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit! That’s the prayer many of us learned first, when we learned the “Sign of the Cross.” It’s the beginning of most of our prayers. Recently, I have found myself using expressions like, “In the name of our parish…” “In the name of our pastor and the staff at St. Francis…” “In the name of my family…” I realized today that “In the name of” always expresses a relationship, a kinship, a connectedness that implies a familiarity, a closeness, and definitely a fondness.
The relationship means something. When I think of the Holy Trinity, I think of relatedness. The Father sent the Son who sent the Holy Spirit. Jesus told us that he was sending the Holy Spirit to teach us everything we needed to know and SENT US to continue God’s creation—to build the kingdom of God on earth.
The life of the Trinity is ongoing. It is not self-contained or self-absorbed, but ever flowing outward, touching and embracing all of God’s creation, all of God’s creatures, and all of God’s people! All of life in unity and communion!
And therein is the challenge! How are we living in unity and communion? What words and actions bring about unity and communion?
As we gather this weekend to pray and worship together, how will we give witness to “undivided unity”? How will we go forth to do the same? Will my conversations and my deeds create unity and communion?
The Power to Speak
“Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.” As we sing this refrain from Psalm 104 this weekend, are we ready for the wind and the fire, the presence of the Holy Spirit among us? Most of the time, we hold firm or lean into the wind to resist being blown over. We run from fire or do everything we can to put it out. But in the Acts of the Apostles, the wind—the breath of God—and the fire—the tongues of fire that led to common understanding—lead us to overcome our fear and to work to renew the face of the earth.
Like the disciples, we receive the gifts of wisdom, understanding, right judgment, courage, knowledge, reverence and awe in God’s presence. We receive them in a special way at the reception of the sacrament of Confirmation. Pentecost reminds us that we have those gifts; perhaps it is time to open them! Perhaps it is time to use them for the benefit of ourselves and others!
The coming of the Holy Spirit to the disciples changed their fear into power, the power to speak with great courage and freedom. That same Spirit is dynamic and constant in all of life. Are we confident enough to invite the Spirit to work through us and in us to change things that need changing—to renew the face of the earth? Climate crisis? Hunger? Living wages? Immigration? Gun violence? Racial bias? Human trafficking?
When the Holy Spirit came, all began to speak different languages. And they all understood! In our community, we also speak different languages. We do that when we don’t see things the same way. We speak different languages in expressing love and affection. Do we understand? Do we seek to understand? Or do we hide, barricaded with only those who speak the same language? Do we believe in the promise of unity among God’s people, brought together by the power of the Spirit?
At home, in our families, at work, at school, in our neighborhoods, in our city, and in our parish, where and when and how is God’s Spirit offering us wisdom to change our perceptions of “the other”? Understanding to curb our denial of racism, sexism, and ageism? Right judgment in the face of bad choices? Courage to do and say what I fear doing and saying? Knowledge to open our minds and hearts to truth? Reverence to help us to love what is pure and beautiful? Awe in God’s presence?
The gifts are in our presence. They are all here. Gifts are intended to be opened! Gifts are meant to keep giving! Let us rejoice in the gifts of the Holy Spirit!
The Lord is Near to the Brokenhearted
This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. “Jesus Christ, having entered the sanctuary of heaven once and for all, intercedes constantly for us as the mediator who assures of the permanent outpouring of the Holy Spirit” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 667). Jesus, no longer confined to one place on earth, can now be near to the brokenhearted everywhere because of his Ascension. We mourn with the community in Uvalde, Texas over the recent heartbreaking loss of innocent human life. Even amidst this tragedy, however, Jesus’ Ascension shines a bright light in the darkness. “Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, precedes us into the Father’s glorious kingdom so that we, the members of his Body, may live in the hope of one day being with him for ever” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 666).
The victims of the shooting in Uvalde are now in the place Jesus has prepared for them in God’s kingdom. May perpetual light shine upon them, and may they rest in peace. And may our mother, Mary, who stood at the cross of her dying son, intercede for all who are grieving and bring them comfort.
Fr. Tony offered this prayer during his homily the day after the shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022.
The tragedy of frequent mass shootings is placing a spotlight on violence in general and school shootings in particular. NFCYM has resources available at https://nfcym.org/resources/topics/resources-on-violence/ to assist in the conversations, reflections, and prayers for the victims of violence in our society.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” Oh, how I need to hear those words Jesus spoke to his disciples! There is so much in this world, in our community, and in my family that troubles my heart. What is troubling yours?
Can you imagine Jesus softly, tenderly saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid?” And then he reassures us: “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” How is the Holy Spirit teaching us these days? How is the Holy Spirit speaking? What reminders do we have of what Jesus would do? How are we witnesses to the teachings of Jesus?
In our weekly listening sessions for the Synod, we pray for the presence of the Holy Spirit among us, to inspire us, and to give us reminders of what Jesus taught us about living as a community of believers. As we listen to the Holy Spirit, we are giving voice to many of the things that trouble our hearts. And we look to the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, to give us the courage to advocate for others.
The following meditation and prayer are attributed in part to Sister Joan Chittister:
The Holy Spirit embodies the life force of the universe, the power of God, the animating energy present in all things and captured by none. On this great feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Spirit of God, we pray:
May the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
bring fire to the earth
so that the presence of God
may be seen
in a new light,
in new places,
in new ways.
May our own hearts
burst into flame
so that no obstacle,
no matter how great,
ever obstructs the message
of the God within each of us.
May we come to trust
the Word of God in our hearts,
to speak it with courage,
to follow it faithfully
and to fan it to flame in others.
Give me, Great God,
a sense of the Breath of Spirit
within me. Amen.
(Adapted from a prayer by Sister Joan Chittister, OSB)
Where Love is Found
The word “glorify” is found five times in this Sunday’s Gospel of John. It’s not a word that I use very often. Perhaps for most of us, it is a “churchy” word—one that lacks meaning or relevance in our lives. Perhaps we think that it is a word to describe only the relationship between Jesus and the Father.
The word “glorify” might be difficult for us. Perhaps it is because we are experiencing so much of its opposite—denigration, making others seem worthless, finding dirt on someone, smearing their reputation, seeing and treating someone as less than human. I don’t know about you, but I never look forward to political campaigns during times of electing new leaders. When do we hear an opposing candidate singing the praises of his or her opponent? Even the word opponent is adversarial! Sometimes we use the word “challenger.”
I have not been to a “Pep Rally” in quite some time, so I don’t know what happens at those. I do remember when we made rules about the “cheers” and the words we used in speaking about the rival team. Do you remember the verbs we used? Eventually the rule—the discipline to keep civility—became this: You can only encourage your own team to do their best. No talk of the obliteration of the other team!
To glorify is to lift up, to think the best of another, to wish the other well! It is an imitation and an obedience to the commandment to love one another. Perhaps honoring our mother’s last week and our father’s in a few weeks reminds us of what it means to “honor” others.
As we approach our Sunday experience of community and as we approach both the hearing of The Word and the table of the Eucharist, let’s focus on where love is found! This our formation in what it means to “glorify” in imitation of the relationship between Jesus and the Father. They’ll truly know that we are Christians by our love!
Listen to a video presentation of Dan Schutte’s musical creation, “Where Love Is Found,” here:
Becoming Good at Shepherding
Voices! So many voices! To which ones do I listen? Jesus is very clear “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” The sheep follow the shepherd because they know his voice. The first voice that most of heard was that of our mother’s, even before we were born. We knew that voice. We had heard it before!
Do we know the voice of Jesus? How can we get to know it better? How can we grow in our relationship with Jesus so that we too hear his voice, recognize his voice, and generously respond or act?
As we fully, consciously, and actively participate in the Eucharistic meal this weekend in the company of so many who make up our St. Francis flock, let’s recognize and hear the voice of Jesus in our singing, in our praying, in our hearing the Word of God, and in the greetings and smiles of all who gather. And may our “going forth” continue the work of the Good Shepherd—caring for, tending, and being good at bringing others closer to God.
Listen to Bob Hurd’s invitations to becoming good at shepherding.
Come, Have Breakfast
I can’t think of a more welcoming invitation than “Come, have breakfast.” That is just the kind of tenderness and care that awakens our spirit, that has us recognize that Jesus is alive among us. He wants us to be that comfortable.
So as we listen to the Gospel this weekend, let’s reflect on the other invitations Jesus offers us: cast your nets, come and eat, tend my lambs, follow me. Imagine that you are responding to these invitations. Our responses to these invitations are all ways that we give nourishment and care to others.
When we share a meal this weekend, when we pray the traditional mealtime prayer, let’s pause and give thanks to God for all the ways that we are called to nourish and be nourished, to give and to receive, to be grateful for all the ways God loves and blesses us. May we say grace and be grace:
Bless us, O Lord, and these your gifts which we are about to receive from your bounty through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
And may our celebration of the Eucharistic meal this weekend acknowledge our great desire to live the Resurrection with Jesus, with him but in the Church, with the sacraments, with the faithful holy people of God.