Monthly Archives: April 2013

6th Sunday of Easter – Peace I Leave With You

Icon of Christ

Study:  Think of someone you know who has faced a terrible fear.  Where did they find their peace and strength?

Pray:  Is there something that makes you afraid?  Bring it to your prayer and ask God to give you the grace to face it.

Serve:  How might you support someone in their fear right now?  Is there something you can do to offer comfort, assistance, or aid?  Perhaps it simply means being present to others to remind them that they are not alone.

6th Sunday of Easter Readings:

The phrase “do not be afraid” appears twenty-one times in the New Testament and over fifty times in the Old Testament.  These words are spoken by angels, prophets, and the Lord.  The repetition of this message in the Scriptures is for a simple reason – we often live in fear.

It is truly humbling to step back and reflect on the things in this life that keep us afraid:  aging, sickness, loss of ability, finances, relationships, war, terrorism, violence, self esteem………it goes on and on.  These fears are part of the world in which we live, and their power is often great in the human heart.

Fear has power because it preys on what we value, filling us with worry while we fret over what will happen if something we cherish is taken away.  That is why fear is a universal temptation; all of us have values, and when we fear the loss of something dear to us our anxiety can waste our time and energy.

We see this pattern of fear when people get stuck in a rut of thinking that leads them to wallow in a mental swamp, endlessly churning worry after worry without any positive, constructive, or helpful action.  It is a truly useless process.

Yet as people of faith we are told that fear is not the motivation of our lives.  There is something greater, something more powerful, that overcomes fear and worry, anxiety and doubt – Jesus Christ.  In the Lord we have a hope that is greater than all fear.

Through the death and resurrection of the Lord sin and death have been destroyed.  Christ is victorious and we follow the path that he has laid down for us.  This does not mean that the journey will be easy; rather it means that we can face the difficulties and struggles of life with the knowledge that we will be given what we need.

In our moments of fear (and trust me, there will be moments) we hear what the Lord provides for us – PEACE.  Peace in our hearts gives us the calming strength to face a difficult situation.  Peace in our lives allows us to look upon the world and gain a true perspective.  Peace in our soul allows us to see our fear and still act in a manner that is worthy of hope.

The Lord gives us peace.  When fear threatens to choke our hearts we turn to the one who gives us strength.  Only in the peace of Christ can we find the hope that sustains us to understand and overcome our fear, transforming our lives and our hearts.

5th Sunday of Easter – Love One Another


Study:  Consider the people in your life who are powerful examples of love.  What practical things do they do to live God’s commandment?

Pray:  Some people are hard to love.  Ask God for the grace to love, following the example of Jesus.

Serve:  Sometimes we say “I love you” through our actions.  Where might an act of kindness be appropriate, especially with someone who is hard to talk to?

5th Sunday of Easter Readings:

The commandment of Jesus today in the gospel reading is familiar to us all.  We have heard these words countless times, and their meaning remains essential to our faith.  When everything is said and done, there is one measure of our discipleship that counts above all others:  LOVE.

The beauty of this commandment is that Christ himself is our model.  Jesus lived the command of love perfectly; his thoughts, words, and actions are a template for us to follow in our everyday practice.  In our moments of weakness and struggle, we can recall the life of the Lord to remind us that love is possible even in times of difficulty.

Why are their situations when it is so hard to love others as Jesus did?  Here are a few thoughts:

1.  Love is a CHOICE.  Love cannot be forced from us, only freely given.  Only through a sincere desire can love be true and genuine.  And if we are not honestly intentional in our love, then it appears cheap and fake.

2.  Love can be rejected.  Once I freely choose to love another, there is no guarantee that it will be freely returned.  My outstretched hand may be slapped; the olive branch of goodwill may be rejected.  Since love requires a free will, then there is no way that I can force another to accept my love.  (This is one reason why love is so powerful – a sincere love occurs when two persons freely choose each other…)

3.  Love requires a risk.  Much is at stake when we step out and love – our sense of identity, self-worth, integrity, and value are all placed in a sensitive spot as we entrust our hopes to another.  Of course, sometimes we are afraid to risk – pulling back from others in order to protect ourselves from being hurt.

4.  Love demands honesty.  We cannot give what we do not have.  To love with sincerity requires that we are in touch with our own hearts.  We have to know ourselves (warts and all) to be sure that we are not using love as a cloak to cover our own fears and insecurities.  In this regard love asks us to grow in knowledge of ourselves, so that we might confront our own limitations and shortcomings.

And yet God commands us to love!  Indeed, this is the commandment by which everything else is measured.  Our life, our faith, and all our behaviors are measured by this defining guide:  the law of love.

4th Sunday of Easter – Joy, Hard Work, and Conviction

Fr. Ed

Msgr. Ed Meulemans – my friend and mentor

Study:  Who are your role models?  Who are the people in your life who work hard, live by their values, and are loyal in the face of difficulty?

Pray:  What do you need to ask God for strength for this week?  What is going on in your life that requires direction, guidance, and grace?

Serve:  Who is struggling in your life right now?  Can you help them or perhaps direct them to the assistance they need?

4th Sunday of Easter Readings:

Lit with the fire of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles Paul and Barnabas boldly proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ in the first reading today.  They travel to the city of Antioch and their story follows a pattern that occurred frequently in their ministry:
1.  They speak about Christ
2.  Some heard their message and followed
3.  Some DID NOT
4.  Pressure mounted against them, forcing them to leave

We know that Paul had success as a preacher; yet it is easy to take for granted his efforts.  Each city was a challenge – telling the story of Jesus, setting an example of faith, working to provide enough money to live on, and dealing with opposition – and he endured this situation for years!

Clearly this ministry was difficult.  It required a lot of hard work.  Paul exerted enormous effort in his time and personal energy.  He was tested in body, mind and soul.  There were times when he felt alone and abandoned; there were times when he wondered if he was getting through to anyone.

We know, however, that Paul had a fire inside of him that could not be extinguished.  He had been transformed by the Lord on the road to Damascus.  He had been healed of his blindness, and he had experienced the witness of other disciples whose lives had been reshaped by the resurrection of Jesus.

Yet through all this hard work and conviction, many people did not accept the message of Christ.  They listened and walked away.  Some insulted Paul, others mocked him, and still others followed for a time and then went back to their old lifestyle.  Each time must have cost something to Paul; to work so hard and have to let people go….

What sustained him?  What gave him strength in his times of need?  We are told that the disciples were filled with joy; the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit blessed them.

Like Paul, we are called to follow the Lord.  It is not always easy.  There are times when hard work appears to show no results.  At these moments we look to the example of the Apostles, who persevered with conviction and joy.  After all, the Good News needs to be proclaimed – yet each one of us must decide if we will listen and follow Christ.

3rd Sunday of Easter – Do You Love Me?

Jesus Loves Me

Study: Think back on a time when you made a big mistake and instead of harshness you encountered mercy.

Pray: Ask the Lord to help you love – especially people you find challenging. Pray for strength and grace to love.

Serve: Is there someone in your life that would benefit from an act of kindness, mercy, or love? Who is in your life right now that the Lord is leading you to love?

3rd Sunday of Easter Readings:

When you think of the backdrop of today’s Gospel reading, you might consider what Peter was thinking about. He had betrayed Jesus. Three times. He was told he would, he boasted he would die for the Lord, and when it came to the test he failed – utterly.

Then beyond all hope and wonder Jesus stands before Peter in resurrection glory. He’s alive! Death and sin have been conquered once for all, and we have hope in eternal life.

What would Peter say to Jesus?

Was he afraid that the Lord would be upset or disappointed? Was he worried that his friend and Lord would reject him or cast him aside? Was he ashamed, or perhaps overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and inadequacy?

Yet Jesus does not respond in a negative way at all. Three times he asks one little question: Do you love me? Three times Peter will answer yes, and in the end he will admit that Jesus knows him completely – including all his failings and limitations. The point is simple. Jesus met Peter in his weakness and invited him to live a life of love.

This encounter between Jesus and Peter should give us all hope. We all make mistakes: we’ve failed, messed up, caused harm and disappointment. Yet when we turn back to the Lord we discover the mercy and forgiveness of Jesus who asks us the same simple question: Do you love me?

What will be our answer? We have the opportunity to let go of our past sins and return once again to the Lord who loves us and invites us to love in return. Rather than be shackled to sin, fear, and death – we may embrace new life with joy and hope. Jesus Christ comes with power to free us with his healing grace.

Like Peter, we stand before the Lord in our weakness. Like Peter, we will all be asked the same question. May our answer be YES to the Lord’s love.

2nd Sunday of Easter – Doubting Thomas


Study:  Reflect back on a time when you experience real doubt and disbelief; was it about good or bad news?  How did you work through your doubt to grow in trust and hope?

Pray:  Take time this week to pray for faith and trust, especially about situations in your life or in the lives of others that confront doubt.

Serve:  Reach out with comfort and support to those who struggle with doubt, particularly in regards to their faith in God.  Perhaps you may be the instrument through whom the Holy Spirit will draw others nearer to Jesus Christ.

2nd Sunday of Easter Readings:

I am often fascinated by the ways that people handle good news.  In particular, I am amazed at those moments when individuals are informed or confronted by a situation that is truly delightful.

Some folks begin to stammer and stutter; others cannot speak at all.  Some giggle; others cry; and still others start to babble in sounds that have never been formulated before on this planet.

Yet while some people embrace their good news, others react differently.  These are the skeptics; they are looking for the “real side” of the story.  They do not trust the situation, but are trying to find out what is really behind all the smoke and mirrors.  They refuse to accept what they have seen.

The response is natural and often happens.  Confronted by good news, there are times when people hesitate to believe.  Experience or cynicism has left them with doubt – closing them from the possibility that fortune has blessed them.

This scenario is found in the Gospel today.  Thomas, who is not present when Jesus first appears to the disciples, scoffs at their claim that they have seen the Lord.  He makes his well known statement:

“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

His doubt is strong:  until he SEES and TOUCHES the Lord, he will not accept the news about Jesus.  He will not believe.

Yet Jesus comes back a second time, inviting Thomas to see and touch and believe.  The Lord’s appearance moves Thomas to make his claim of faith calling Jesus both Lord and God.  While he is no longer doubtful, Jesus gently chides him that he needed sight to confirm his belief.

We journey through this life with the good news of Jesus Christ, whose resurrection gives us all the hope of eternal life.  Yet there are times when we can become like Thomas, doubting the truth of our faith and asking for signs of God’s presence.

May we see in Thomas an example of the Lord’s unrelenting love.  Just as Jesus responded to his doubt, may we come to the Lord in our weakness and seek hope and faith in our need.  May we trust that the Lord will renew us with the faith of Thomas.

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