Living the Gospel
At St. Francis, throughout our synodal process of listening for how the Holy Spirit is nudging and inviting us, we were very observant of what it means to be a member of a parish where hearing the Gospel and reflecting on it, leads us to not just be observers, but also to LIVE the Gospel. We do this in the company of others—sometimes in an SCC (Small Church Community, during a volunteer experience at the Food Bank or Mobile Loaves and Fishes or St. Vincent de Paul, in a family conversation, or in our personal and communal prayer.
This week’s National Catholic Reporter publication included a reflection that speaks volumes to us regarding our call to discipleship—not just hearing about the works of Jesus, but also DOING the work of Jesus. You can read the article here:
To Be His Body
What a great feast we celebrate this weekend! The readings are full of reverences to God’s love and care for each one of us. We are reminded also that part of keeping Jesus present to us impels us to be his body now. Pope Francis in his reflection on this feast in June 2020 asks us: What would Jesus be doing today with his eyes, ears, heart, arms legs, and brain to show his love?
The Lord, offering himself to us in the simplicity of bread, also invites us not to waste our lives in chasing the myriad illusions that we think we cannot do without, yet that leave us empty within. The Eucharist satisfies our hunger for material things and kindles our desire to serve. It raises us from our comfortable and lazy lifestyle and reminds us that we are not only mouths to be fed, but also his hands, to be used to help feed others.
It is especially urgent now to take care of those who hunger for food and for dignity, of those without work and those who struggle to carry on. And this we must do in a real way, as real as the Bread that Jesus gives us. Genuine closeness is needed, as are true bonds of solidarity. In the Eucharist, Jesus draws close to us: let us not turn away from those around us!
On Understanding the Trinity
We believe in a triune God whose very nature is communal and social….God reveals God-self to us as one who is not alone, but rather as one who is relational. We who are made in God’s image share this communal, social nature. We are called to reach out and to build relationships of love and justice.
I could just stop right there. Given the events of the last few weeks, we could say that our work is really cut out for us. We can’t avoid it: racism, mass shootings, gun violence, cult deaths– we know who suffers most. Perhaps we are observing communal acts given to lament, to cry out for mercy and justice. Perhaps we are participating in action for justice. Perhaps we are questioning if love and justice are even possible. Perhaps we can only imagine. Perhaps we are paralyzed by fear.
Beverly Harrison, a feminist ethicist, wrote an article many years ago entitled, “The Power of Anger in the Work of Love.” Many of us fear anger. But at times anger—the kind that says “Enough already” or “I’m not going to take this any longer” is just what propels us into action. It takes a fire in us, a scream of sorts that will not let us be silent. It takes our knowing someone, our being in relationship to someone who is suffering to act. To be in God’s image, that of a triune God, is to be participants in creating, redeeming and inspiring. The Holy Spirit is not passive, but active. The words in the letter to the Corinthians are strong: Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace.
Friends who wish me well have added another dictum—educate yourself! Educate others. So I have been reading voraciously, watching videos, talking to others and listening to podcasts about gun safety issues, the status of public housing, corporate tax abatements that take needed money away from the education of our children. I have written to and spoken to elected officials asking for commitments to change and expecting accountability for their actions.
My prayer now echoes the words of Moses: “O Lord, do come along in our company. This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your own.” Be with us as we work for justice and mercy. May our understanding of the Trinity, of a Triune God be not only about identity as a “concept” to be analyzed and explained, but rather a way of being to be lived. It is about relationships!
The Gift of Pentecost
Pentecost is God looking at us through the gift of the Spirit. I read that this week and it left me curious about what that means. At the Ascension, the disciples were literally told to not just stand there looking up to the sky, but to do something—to go out and make disciples of all nations. The promise of sending the Holy Spirit was to sustain them in their efforts.
When we prepared for Confirmation, most of us learned the gifts of the Holy Spirit: understanding, knowledge, counsel, courage, reverence, and awe in the presence of God. In the Scriptures for this weekend we hear “They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak…”
How are we using the gifts of the Spirit today? Do we engage those gifts in our speaking? Are we speaking in ways that give evidence of those gifts in our lives? Are we speaking in ways that build up and enrich the Body of Christ?
In these days of uncertainty, we are too often barraged by disconcerting, divisive speech. We are witnessing the suffering of so many; perhaps we ourselves are suffering. St. Paul reminds us that where one suffers, we all suffer. As we gather this weekend, at home with our families or elsewhere, let us pray that God infuses each of us with the gifts of the Spirit that we need most. And let us also pray in gratitude for those gifts of the Holy Spirit that we experience in each other, in our families, in our work and in our world. Pentecost is God looking at us through the gift of the Spirit. May it be so.
The Creativity of the Holy Spirit
What if Jesus had not ascended into heaven? What if he never left the disciples? These questions offer me an opportunity to reflect on what we will experience at this weekend’s liturgies of the Mass.
If Jesus had not left, he would have been confined to a geographical area with only those who encountered him physically. But by dying and rising, by spending another 40 days reinforcing his teaching, Jesus made it possible for an encounter with him to continue through his followers. Jesus’ words before he ascended were “go…and make disciples of all nations….I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Through the ages, that commission has endured as has the promise of God’s presence and care for us. I call that Providence!
How are we experiencing the presence of Jesus in our parish and in the lives of our families? It is time to imagine what is new about us and how we choose to dream for our parish. Just one year ago, we completed our synodal listening sessions. We listened to stories of how families are experiencing pressures and concerns in their lives. We heard challenges to us of how we might begin to identify with those who are often not included and not given a voice. We heard and learned that not everyone is doing fine. Perhaps we need to ask and listen; we need to be brave and vulnerable in admitting how we are suffering, how we are not doing fine. Perhaps this is the gift of the Spirit that God is awakening in us.
In the mixing and mingling, in the listening and sharing, we might discover new places in the pews and new neighbors. We will thank God for the ways in which we have learned to value what really matters in our lives, and what we can do without. We can sit sharing a common table, at the altar with Father and at the table in our homes.
We share conversations that express our deepest longings—the prayers of the faithful, at church and at home. We answer the call to make disciples, to be disciples trusting that we are not alone.
We see signs all around us. Newness is among us and within us. Like many of the plants on our beautiful grounds, we are in various stages of growth– full bloom, opening and unfurling, and in some cases just buds. Thank God for the recent rains. All are signs of something new—a dream God has for our parish. Together, at church and at home, we discover that dream for us! We need each other. We need God.
“I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Jesus’ promise to his disciples then and to us today! Let us do more than survive! Let us thrive!
To Untie the Knots
Sometimes we just need some help! Jesus knew that we would need an advocate and he asked for the best—the Holy Spirit. And oh how we need the creative work of the Holy Spirit in our families, in our community and in our world! Anne Osdieck opens our eyes and hearts to the power of the Holy Spirit in this quote from St. John Paul II.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth. … ” According to Pope Francis—quoting St. John Paul II— is the Holy Spirit able to untie the most “knotted” human affairs? Is there some small way you can allow the Holy Spirit to use your creativity to help untie the knots of hunger, gun violence and climate change?
To believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in everyone means realizing that he seeks to penetrate every human situation and all social bonds: ‘The Holy Spirit can be said to possess an infinite creativity, proper to the divine mind, which knows how to loosen the knots of human affairs, even the most complex and inscrutable.’ (from St. John Paul II)
And so we pray for the grace to allow the Holy Spirit into our minds and hearts and to hear the call to untie the knots of hunger, gun violence, climate change and all the knots in our family life and in our workplaces, as well as in our church. Listen here to Holy Spirit, We Are Calling You by Ed Bolduc.
Living as a synodal church! Those are the words on a magnet on the front of our staff refrigerator door. It’s a daily reminder to us that the content of the listening sessions we conducted in our parish were only the beginning of our work.
What is synodality? Synodality means journeying together as the People of God. It indicates a way of listening to each individual person as a member of the Church to understand how God might be speaking to all of us. It’s about both listening and acting!
Our readings for this weekend remind us that we have inherited a tradition of seeing, judging (discerning) and acting from the Scriptures, from the stories recounted in the Acts of the Apostles. Who were the persons being neglected? What was the need, a process of naming and discerning how the community was going to respond to that need? And what would the community do to meet that need; how were they going to change in order to meet that need?
If we live as the early Christian community did, the apostles identified other leaders and anointed them to do what Jesus taught them to do—to attend to the needs of those being neglected, to reach out to them and do something about their situation. They were regular people, lay men and women, called into the service, anointed and blessed and commissioned to do the work. How can we all be in that chosen group, both men and women? How can each of us use our gifts in creative ways to meet the needs in our community? How can our priests and deacons call, delegate and send us into service? This is the call of this weekend’s Gospel—to fill those many rooms, to make room, to welcome all into the kingdom, on earth as it will be in heaven. All are welcome to the comfort of those many rooms!
What happens to you, how do you feel when someone surprisingly calls you by your name? Sometimes we even ask, “How do you know my name?”
In this Sunday’s Gospel, it’s all about the behavior of the sheep AND the shepherd! The shepherd walks ahead of the sheep and the sheep follow because they recognize the voice. The shepherd knows the sheep. And the sheep know the shepherd. The shepherd calls each by name.
Leading and following, knowing each other, calling each by name! When are we shepherds and when are we sheep? And how do we live both roles? How do we come to know each other? How do we learn names?
As we continue to live as a synodal church, listening to each other’s stories and walking, accompanying, companioning one another, we are recognizing what great need we have of shepherds and sheep. We want to belong. We want someone to listen. We don’t want to be alone. We long to hear the gentle voice of the one who knows our name and desires to know all about us. How wonderful it is to be known!
As we listen to each other, we realize that not all is well with us. We come to know how violence of every kind is affecting us and our families. We long for safe space and a community that cares. We yearn for unity in our families, in our city, in our country and in our world. We want healing.
Anne Osdieck says it well when she asks the Good Shepherd to gather us in all the ways we have strayed. “We so need your shepherding now. No more wars, trafficking, no more hunger and school shootings. Never again. Let our hearts follow your healing.”
Let’s listen for the voice of the shepherd and respond to being known and called by name.
And for a musical version of this message, listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPBxYJ7iQ7M
For a woman’s preaching about this Gospel:
Let’s Take A Walk
Some of my earliest memories of formation in convent living, in religious life are the walks we took after evening chores. Everyone would go out in front of the buildings at 515 SW 24th Street—that long block of buildings that make up Our Lady of the Lake Convent and University– for a stroll. We had lots to talk about because most of our day was spent in learning the discipline of silence. We would share joys and sorrows, hopes and dreams and most of all, our great desire to go out and be actively engaged in mission!
Maybe it’s because I am moving to that address, the walk to Emmaus story in this Sunday’s Gospel is particularly meaningful. I know what I am leaving; I am not so sure what Providence will bring to my life as I return to the place of my initial formation. I do know that it will be about walking and talking—sharing new mysteries of life with all who accompany us, the Sisters of Divine Providence, on our continuing faith journey and our living in mission.
Pope Francis reminds us regularly that our mission as Catholics is to accompany, to walk with others. He encourages us to go beyond our fears of persons who are different from us, persons we would call strangers. It is in conversations, in walking side by side, in sitting across the table and talking, seeking understanding, that we recognize that we are all the Body of Christ. Conversations can dispel confusion and grace us with the recognition that Jesus is among us, alive in each person we encounter. Like the apostles, we can come to understand and to want to spend more time in community with others. We can meet others who are on their way, perhaps in ways that we don’t yet understand.
“Jesus himself drew near and walked with them.” Who will I draw near to and walk with this week?
For courage, we pray: Jesus, come walk with us and be with us now! Show us the new life that you are. Open our eyes and make our minds and hearts blaze! For this, let us all work and pray!
Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eExBStKG3kA
Follow with the lyrics here:
“In the Breaking of the Bread” by Michael Philip Ward
1) In the walking on the road, we saw Him.
In the telling of our hopes, we saw Him.
In the burning of our hearts, we saw the Lord.
At the meal He took the bread and then He blessed it, broke it, offered it.
In the breaking of the bread, we saw Him!
Suddenly our eyes were opened, and we knew He was alive!
2) We set out to find His friends to tell them.
We went to Jerusalem to tell them;
and with joy we told them, “We have seen the Lord!”
And as we were speaking there, He stood among us, blessed us, said to us,
“Now my peace I leave with you.” We saw Him!
Suddenly our eyes were opened, and we knew He was alive!
3) But then we became afraid without Him.
In the darkened room we stayed without Him,
waiting for the One He said that He would send.
Then the Spirit of the Lord came down upon us,
filling us, changing us, giving us the strength to say:
We saw Him! Suddenly our eyes were opened, and we knew He was alive!
4) We ran out into the street to tell them,
everyone that we could meet, to tell them,
“God has raised Him up and we have seen the Lord!”
We took bread as He had done and then we blessed it, broke it, offered it.
In the breaking of the bread, we saw Him!
Suddenly our eyes were opened.
There within our midst was Jesus, and we knew He was alive.
In the breaking of the bread, He is here with us again,
and we know He is alive.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
New Life, New Living
We are an Easter people! That means that our “Alleluias” are bold, loud and frequent! We sing for joy! We celebrate Resurrection! That’s Easter Sunday! And then we revisit the Acts of the Apostles and we learn what it means to be followers of Jesus on our own. Communal life–sharing meals, holding all possessions in common, distributing resources according to need, praising God with exultation—these were the actions and ways of being among the Apostles.
These acts of the apostles offer a great challenge to us during this time of re-connecting and re-engaging in parish life. Anne Osdieck offers us this poetic interpretation:
Come right through
our fear of locked doors;
breathe your Holy Spirit into us.
Give us please your peace
that comes from
we want to give it out
to everyone who would believe.
Make us instruments
of the power
To be instruments of the power of Jesus’ resurrection is to live as Jesus taught us. “Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.” What is the awe that we are experiencing? Jesus is alive and well in all the medical personnel—the angels of mercy—who live their vocation to care for the ill and the dying in difficult conditions. Jesus is alive and well in those who feed the hungry, who share rather than hoard possessions. Jesus is alive and well in our being the domestic church, just like in the days of the apostles. Jesus is alive in our commitments to act for justice. Jesus is alive and well in the peace we offer to others.
Many of us are becoming aware of signs and wonders—awed in fact—by the beauty of creation, the signs of new life. Mother Earth is breathing fresh air, mountain tops are visible, bird chirps are louder, and animals are roaming freely. Re-creation is occurring everywhere. We are amazed and filled with awe! We are passionate about sharing this beauty of God’s creation for generations to come!
He is alive! He is among us! There are many, many more stories about Jesus that only you can tell because you are living them today! Praise and thank God for the “wonders and signs” you are experiencing in yourself, your family, and our parish community. Tell about them! We can all be instruments of the power of Jesus’ resurrection! Let us love each other well!
Resurrection is about the change that is happening in each of us, in all of us! Can we see it? Can we name it?