It is always interesting to see the connections between the readings of the Mass on any given day. On August 24th, the first reading is from Rev 21: 9b – 14 where John has a vision of the New Jerusalem from an angel where he sees the glorious beauty of the city based on a foundation representing the 12 Apostles.
The Psalm reading (145: 11-13 and 17-18) talks about “Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your kingdom.” The friends, meaning his Apostles who spread the Word of His teaching. And, in the Gospel, Jn 1: 45-51. I always get a chuckle when Nathaniel first hears about whom”Moses wrote in the law” and then makes the pithy comment “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Despite this remark, it is Nathanael who was in for a surprise, since he ends up being the first disciple of Jesus!
I am always fascinated with the ways people come to Jesus and it always seems to be in a different way each time. I was listening to a convert to the faith who was talking about his initial experience. He was in his twenties at the time and had just completed his tour in the Marine Corp. He had been to a few Masses earlier in his life. On a whim, he decided to attend a local Mass and was following along quietly until the priest raised the Host high and said “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world“….. That struck him like a bolt out of the blue! This time he really HEARD what that meant and that started his journey to the faith.
Another time, I was listening to a woman talking about her journey in faith. She was telling the interviewer that she was explaining to a priest many years ago that she realized that she wanted to do “something more for God. Anything really but I don’t want to become a nun“. The surprise here was that this woman was standing before the interviewer dressed in the full habit of a Religious congregation of Sisters! So, you never know where your journey may take you.
Word Among Us wrote a fine meditation on the reading with Nathanael and it is included below.
DAILY MEDITATION: JOHN 1:45-51
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him. (John 1:47)
Today we commemorate St. Bartholomew, also known as Nathanael, the central character in today’s Gospel. The story tells us a lot about conversion. Even more, it can show us that every day presents an opportunity for a new encounter with Jesus.
First, Nathanael is introduced to Jesus by his friend Philip. Philip knew Nathanael was hoping for the Messiah and was excited to introduce him to Jesus. And so it often happens for us. We encounter Jesus through another person, someone who has been touched by Jesus, who is excited about their faith, whose fervor might even call us to stretch our own way of looking at things.
Second, Nathanael’s expectations were jolted when he met Jesus. He had been pondering the Scriptures—a traditional interpretation of sitting “under the fig tree” (John 1:48)—and was convinced that the Messiah would not come from Nazareth. But after he spoke with Jesus, he was willing to consider that something good might in fact come from that small village. For us, encountering Jesus can shed light on a way of thinking or acting that needs to change. Maybe we don’t pay enough attention to caring for the poor or we feel too busy to listen to people who don’t agree with us. Jesus asks us to be open to rethink our ideas.
Third, Nathanael responded. He didn’t just say, “What a nice experience” and continue on his way as before. He professed Jesus as “the Son of God, . . . the King of Israel” and began to follow him (John 1:49).
You might experience a singular, spectacular conversion moment like Nathanael. But it’s more likely that the response Jesus wants from you is to turn your life over to him more, to say yes to him a bit more completely.
Expect to meet Jesus today. Be on the lookout for someone through whom Jesus might be reaching out to you. How might he want to upend your expectations or call you to take the next step in following him? Today is an opportunity to encounter him. Make the most of it!
“Lord, help me to meet you today. Shake up my expectations and help me to follow you more fully.”
I’ve gone back and forth, and back and forth about publishing this post. Because, let’s be honest, a lady’s not supposed to talk about politics, religion or money. But then, when have I ever followed the rules when it comes to that. But my final push to publish this post came when I was having…
Today’s readings are very cohesive in their message. Many times over the centuries, and in modern times as well, faith has been manipulated as a tool to divide people for political ends. This has never been the message of Jesus. The Daily Meditation by Word Among Us is a fitting description of God’s teaching spanning both the Old and New Testaments.
DAILY MEDITATION: ISAIAH 56:1, 6-7
My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. (Isaiah 56:7)
All of today’s readings tell us that God’s salvation is meant for everyone. The prophet Isaiah speaks of foreigners who will join themselves to the Lord (56:6). The psalmist declares, “May the peoples praise you, O God” (Psalm 67:6). Jesus praises a Canaanite woman’s faith (Matthew 15:28). And Paul, apostle to the Gentiles, proclaims that God wants to “have mercy upon all” (Romans 11:32).
For the Jewish people in today’s first reading, this must have been difficult to accept. They had just returned from exile to discover foreigners living in their holy city, Jerusalem. Their covenant told them that they were set apart as a holy people chosen by God. So how could “impure” Gentiles be living on their land? They forgot that God had chosen them by his grace, not just for their own sake, but to bring his light to every nation.
This call became increasingly clear in the early Church. Initially, all of Jesus’ followers were Jewish. But as Gentiles came to believe in the Lord, the Jewish Christians began to understand that God’s plan of salvation was far bigger than they had expected. Learning to live and work and pray alongside Gentiles could not have been easy. But they, like us, had to allow God’s grace to help them love each other. The result? The diverse, beautiful, sometimes messy Church we know today.
Jesus wants his Church to be a house of prayer for all nations so that every person can belong to his family. He sees people who are searching for hope, meaning, and a place to meet God, and he is asking us to draw them in, to be the loving, welcoming face of the Church. May we always be open to everyone who is seeking the Lord, and through us, may God’s grace flow out to the entire world!
“Jesus, help me to show everyone the love that you have given me.”
Psalm 67:2-3, 5-6, 8 Romans 11:13-15, 29-32 Matthew 15:21-28
The daily reading on Tuesday of this week includes one of Jesus’ most astounding and difficult teachings. In Matthew 5: 43-48, He tells us it is not enough to love our neighbors. Jesus tells us that we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us! And not only that but that we must be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect! People who are perfect!? How can this be? Just read a history book or even just the news lately. Perfect? We are only human hence my question as the title of this piece. Below is the meditation from Word Among Us ( June 16th) which actually addresses this question beautifully.
DAILY MEDITATION: MATTHEW 5:43-48
Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
According to the dictionary, “perfect” means “entirely without flaw or defect, meeting supreme standards of excellence, satisfying all requirements.” To which many of us would respond, “Really, Lord? I’m struggling just to hold my life together! Now you want me to be perfect? That’s impossible.”
One reason that perfection can seem so unattainable is that it sounds like an either-or proposition: you’re either perfect or you’re not. But as Scripture scholars point out, the Greek word translated as “perfect” in Matthew 5:48 carries a more dynamic meaning. It indicates something you are always growing into—a process of becoming whole and complete. From this perspective, we can imagine Jesus saying, “Don’t stop! Keep working on becoming the person I created you to be. Don’t settle for anything less than the holiness that comes from wholeness!” The more you become the unique person God made you to be, the more you will resemble Jesus, the perfect One.
So how do you grow into this perfection? Self-improvement programs won’t produce the right kind of change, and neither will piling on acts of self-denial and spiritual calisthenics. It comes as you work on using your talents and gifts in a way that glorifies the Lord and lifts up the people around you. It comes as you focus on one or two roadblocks in your life and ask for Jesus’ grace to help you resolve them: a lingering resentment, an unhealthy habit, or a skewed way of thinking about life.
Today, ask Jesus how he wants you to grow into the perfection he has set aside for you. Let him shine the light of his love on your heart. Let him show you both the person you’re meant to be and the person you are right now. Then come up with one or two things you can do to help bridge the gap between these two visions.
Blessed John Henry Newman once said, “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.” As you seek to hear and follow Jesus, may you change—and often—day after blessed day!
“Jesus, I trust that you are leading me to wholeness and holiness!”
1 Kings 21:17-29
Psalm 51:3-6, 11, 16
My own comment is to remind you of the importance of receiving the graces of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist to help you in your journey. – John
Last week during prayer time, I was reading the Daily reading from the 2nd Letter of Paul to Timothy. The situation here is that Paul is in prison in Rome and he knows that his execution is not far off. He cares deeply for Timothy who he taught in Corinth when he was preaching there and is now writing to him to encourage him in preaching the Gospel.
As I was reading, this statement really struck a chord with me:
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather of power and love and self-control. 2 Tm 1: 3.
If ever there was a time when we needed to be the best version of ourselves, this is one of those times given the difficulties of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in our country and , most recently, dealing with the terrible death of George Floyd while in the custody of the police in Minneapolis. We will certainly need to rely on the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the short term in order to get through these difficulties and to help our brothers and sisters to do the same. And rely on the Spirit again to build a healthier and safer society for everyone in the long term. With God’s help, we can do this!
The excellent Meditation from the Word Among Us that was issued that day (June 3rd) is included below:
TODAY’S MEDITATION: 2 TIMOTHY 1:1-3, 6-12
A spirit . . . of power and love and self-control . . . (2 Timothy 1:7)
Do you ever feel a little anxious when you look at the state of the world? That’s probably how Paul’s young friend, Timothy, felt. It appears he was naturally reserved, since Paul advised the Corinthians to “see that he is without fear in your company” if Timothy came to visit (1 Corinthians 16:10). It looks like he might have been a worrier too since Paul counsels him to drink a little wine for his stomach ailments (1 Timothy 5:23).
But Paul’s best advice comes in today’s reading. He encourages Timothy to “stir into flame” the gift of the Holy Spirit that he received at his baptism (2 Timothy 1:6). That’s the same Holy Spirit that you received at your baptism. It’s the same Spirit who gave you the same gifts of power and love and self-control when you were confirmed. What do these gifts look like?
Paul reminds Timothy that this power comes from God. It’s not dependent on “our works but according to . . . the grace bestowed on us in Christ” (2 Timothy 1:9). And because it comes from God, this power can make us brave and unashamed: brave enough to offer to pray with a friend who is hurting. Brave enough to share our faith with a family member who is struggling. Brave enough to turn away from gossip and to change the tone of a negative conversation.
The Spirit also helps us to love. He helps us to lift up each child of God, not just the ones we find attractive, but also the ones who try our patience or who rub us the wrong way. That’s because the Spirit has poured the unconditional love of God into our hearts (Romans 5:5). As we believe in and experience that love, we let go of divisive thoughts, and we become more free to care for the people around us.
Finally, the self-control that comes from the Holy Spirit enables us to rise above our fears and to harness our inner drives. It helps us turn aside from harmful thoughts and overcome old habits that threaten to trip us up.
Power, love, and self-control. These are gifts from the Spirit to you. This is your heritage. Step out in faith and try them out!
“Jesus, thank you for the generous gifts you have given me through your Holy Spirit!”
It may not feel like it but Easter is with us still even though Easter Sunday (April 12th) was over five weeks ago! Even in spite of pandemics and whatever. The Ascension of our Lord will be observed on May 21st and Pentecost Sunday on May 31st a full 50 days after the Resurrection. This period of time being Eastertide. Although the weeks after Easter Sunday seem to be a very quiet time in the life of the Church, it is anything but.
This is the time period when the Apostles are transformed from a frightened group of disciples who abandoned Jesus as He awaited trial into a group of bold, passionate missionaries who defy the same religious authorities that killed Jesus and proclaim Christ as Messiah to all! Look at what they experience after Mary Of Magdala first reports the empty tomb to them (Jn 20: 1-10) and Peter and John run to see for themselves. Imagine the shock and confusion that confronts them when they see that Jesus’ body is not there!
After Peter and John leave, Jesus appears to Mary while she is still weeping (Jn 20: 11-18). Christ appears to two men as they travel to Emmaus (Lk 24: 13-35). The risen Christ then appears to the disciples behind locked doors (Lk 36-49 and Jn 20: 19-21A). A week later, Christ appears again to the disciples, this time showing His wounds to Doubting Thomas (Jn 20: 24-29).
Later on, Christ appears to the disciples on the shore of Galilee while they are fishing one morning. He offers them some breakfast that He is cooking on the shore of which they partake (Jn 21: 1-14). Afterwards, He questions Peter three times if Peter loves Him (Jn 21: 15-19) . At another time, Jesus arranges to meet them on a mountain in Galilee where He instructs them to make disciples of all men (Mt 28: 16-20). Jesus speaks with them over a forty day period telling them to stay in Jerusalem until they are baptized by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1: 4-5).
When they had gathered together again, He told them “ …you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1: 8). With that He ascended into heaven before them. Finally, a few days later when Pentecost came, they were all gathered in one room when the noise of a strong, driving wind filled the room and there appeared like tongues of fire which appeared over each one of them. They were filled with the holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues to all those around them so that each could understand them in their own language (Acts 2: 1-11).
No, the Easter season was not a quiet time. It was an explosion of spiritual transformation for humanity! Resurrection from the dead! Appearing to hundreds of people….loving everyone, even your enemies!! No, this isn’t a quiet time, business as usual. From that first Eastertide, life has never been the same.
Every morning I read the Daily Readings for Mass that day and for the past several weeks since Easter Sunday, I read passage after passage taken from the Acts of the Apostles which covers the time period immediately after Pentecost detailing the dramatic shift in the hearts and souls of the Apostles. In Acts 3, Peter cures a beggar crippled from birth at the Beautiful Gate of the temple. Afterwards, he speaks boldly about Christ to the crowd who were amazed by this miracle.
The captain of the temple guard and Sadducees came and arrested them for curing the crippled man and preaching about Jesus. The next day they are brought before the Sanhedrin and asked in whose name have you done this? Peter’s response “….it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed.” Not sure what to do since the crowd there saw the healing, they ordered the Apostles not to speak or preach in the name of Jesus and released them.
The Apostles continue their preaching and healing and bringing many people into their community of believers. In Acts 5, they are again arrested and thrown into jail by the religious authorities. That night an angel of the Lord opened the cell telling them to return to preaching in the temple which they do. In the morning when the Sanhedrin convenes for their trial, the captain of the guard cannot find the Apostles in prison. They then hear from someone that they are back in the temple preaching again! The temple guard brings them back to the court and the high priest questions, “We gave you strict orders to stop preaching in that name….”. Peter (the man who denied even knowing Jesus before his trial) and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree…” Needless to say, the Sanhedrin is infuriated by this and want to put them to death!
At this point, a respected teacher of the law in the Sanhedrin, Gamaliel, stands up and orders the men to be put outside for a short time. He then warns the members of the Sanhedrin to be careful about how they deal with these men. He reminds them of two other false leaders with large followings who were killed and their followers disbanded and came to nothing. Gamaliel tells them to have nothing to do with these men and let them go. If the activity of these apostles is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them and you will find yourself fighting against God!! The Sanhedrin hears his words and are persuaded. The Sanhedrin have the apostles flogged, order them not to preach in the name of Jesus and then release them. They went home rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer for His name.
Outright persecution begins in Jerusalem against the Jewish Christian community which has been growing. In Acts 6, St Stephen is stoned to death as he forgives his killers. Acts 10 shows Peter wrestling with the idea of allowing Gentiles to be part of the Christian community. This is resolved when Peter receives a vision that tells him that God does not withhold divine favor from other people outside of Israel. This persecution actually increases the spreading of Christianity as those scattered by the persecution now carry the word to Antioch where another large community of believers is established.
With chapter 9 of Acts, comes a major surprise that does not involve the original Apostles and that man is Saul. Saul happens to be the most ferocious and zealous persecutor of believers in the Way. He was involved with the stoning of St Stephen and now is obtaining letters from the high priest to bring back in chains any men or women who belong to the Way in Damascus. On the way to Damascus, a brilliant light flashed knocking Saul off of his horse and blinding him! A voice heard by everyone there says:”Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?” When Saul asks who is this, a reply comes:”I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.” There in Damascus he becomes a disciple, his sight returns and he becomes one of the prominent evangelizers of Jews and Gentiles! Now known as Paul, his writings make up most of the New Testament (about 93 pages). The rest of the chapters in Acts from 10 thru 28 concern Paul’s preaching in Jerusalem, Asia Minor, Greece, Europe and Rome. The change from ferocious persecutor to a zealous preacher of Christ is as dramatic as Peter’s change from one who denied even knowing Christ to a zealous preacher himself. All of Christianity descends from the evangelizing action of these twelve men with God’s grace active in them!
No! As we can see, this is not a quiet time historically for the infant Church! Unfortuntely, all this action and activity are not part of the Sunday readings but a part of the daily Mass readings each day during Eastertide. This is not to minimize or make light of the readings in the Sunday Masses which have major significant meaning for our relationship with God. It is just that these readings do not highlight the dramatic and enormous changes in the Apostles because of the astounding experiences they had with Jesus and God’s graces. This also shows the importance for a follower of Jesus to be reading Scripture outside of what is heard at Sunday Mass. The appreciation of the effects and drama of Christ’s Coming cannot be fully realized without it.
The Acts of the Apostles, in its entirety, is only about 38 pages long. Not a lot of material to read. One could do it in an evening. You will spend a lot more time pondering on what it says and what it means for the rest of your life but it isn’t a long read. I urge you to do so. When you think of it, the entire New Testament is only about 298 pages. How many books have you read that were longer than this? The entire Old Testament is about 1100 pages. When you spend regular time learning more about your faith (Bible study, retreats, books, lectures) than only attending Sunday Mass, you will become a happier and more joyous person and will come to know what Jesus meant when he said “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”.