Monthly Archives: April 2014

3rd Sunday of Easter – In the Breaking of the Bread

Pita Break

Study:  Recall profound moments of Holy Communion in your life – your First Communion; Communion at a major event; Communion when you faced a particular need.

Pray:  The next time you receive the Body of Christ, open your heart to the grace and power of the Lord.

Serve:  Perhaps you know someone who is not able to get to Mass; consider ways to bring Communion, have a visit, or arrange a way to get to Mass.

3rd Sunday of Easter Readings

They were two disciples.  They had followed Jesus, believed in Jesus, and now were on the road to Emmaus after the death of the Lord.  While we do not know what they were saying to each other, I can only imagine their doubt, fear, and confusion.  They had placed their hope in Jesus, and he had died.

They meet a stranger.  We know he is Jesus, but we are told that “their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.”  The stranger begins talking with them, listening to them, and then he begins to teach and explain.

On the road we learn that the stranger shows all the prophecies and messages within the Scriptures.  He tells them that it was necessary that the messiah would suffer death and then enter into glory.  He talked for most of the seven mile walk about Moses and all the prophets, and when they reached Emmaus he looked like he was going farther.

Still they did not recognize him.  Yet he spoke with such fire and insight the disciples begged him to stay with them.  At the meal he:

  • took bread,
  • said the blessing,
  • broke it,
  • and gave it to them.  (Luke 24:30)

And their “eyes were opened” and they knew that it was the Lord.  In the breaking of the bread the disciples recognized Jesus in their midst.  He had taught them through the Scriptures, and he was revealed to them through the meal.

This is what we do at every Mass.  First, we open our hearts to the Scriptures, that like the disciples we might hear how God continues to speak to us today.  Then we put into practice the command of Jesus to take bread and wine which we:

  • Take
  • Bless
  • Break
  • Give

in his name that we might receive the Body and Blood of Jesus himself (this is in Mt. 26:26-29; Mk. 14:22-25; Lk. 22:19-20;  Jn. 6:51-58; 1 Cor. 11:23-24).

This weekend we welcome our 2nd grade children at the Cathedral to join us as we follow the command of Jesus Christ.  We pray that these children and their families will continue to grow closer to the Lord through their communion.  And we pray that all of us will continue to recognize the Lord in our midst, through the breaking of the bread.


2nd Sunday of Easter – Peace be with You

Jesus shows his wounds to Thomas - by William Hol

Study:  Reflect on a time in life when you experience a profound sense of peace.  Where did it come from in your life?

Pray:  Ask the Lord for the gift of his peace, and pray for the guidance to cultivate a peaceful heart.

Serve:  How can you bring the Lord’s peace to another right now?

2nd Sunday of Easter Readings        Fr. Andrew’s Homily Podcast

Every year we hear this Gospel reading from John on the Sunday after Easter.  The Church, in its wisdom, has found that these verses continue to speak to our hearts in a way that moves and teaches us.

In the past I have reflected on Thomas; I can identify with his questions and sarcasm!  I can easily understand how someone who can see and touch the risen Christ might still harbor doubts that he has been raised from the dead.  In the past I have reflected on his doubt, largely because I could comprehend his words and actions.

Yet this year I am struck by something different.  In this short passage Jesus says three different times, “Peace be with you” to his disciples.  Why?

Imagine the feelings and emotions of the disciples.  They had followed Jesus for three years.  They heard the teaching and preaching.  They saw the miracles and witnessed the healings.  And they stood at a distance (having run for their lives) when the mob came and the soldiers crucified Jesus.

In those last few days before his crucifixion, they had experienced the entire spectrum of human emotion, and until the truth of the resurrection sunk in, they were adrift in their grief and loss.

So what are the first words of Jesus to them?  What introduction is used to begin the new era of hope and power marked by the resurrection?  Just four little words:

Peace be with you.

How desperately we need to hear these words!  Peace – in our hearts, our homes, our country, and our world!  The risen Christ fills our hearts not only with faith, hope, and love – but with a peace, a serenity that cannot come from anything else.

With this phrase Jesus calms their fears and soothes their concern.  He gently and lovingly meets the disciples where they are, and he urges them (remember Thomas!) to grow in faith.

How do we take these words to heart today?  In our desire to cultivate a peaceful heart, it is important to always remember the WHAT and the HOW.

“What” refers to the object of our desire.  We seek peace: in the solitude of our heart; in our relationships with others; in the values and purpose of our lives.  “What” we seek  is the goal that orients the direction of our lives and provides a guide to keep us on track.

“How” refers to the manner we go about it.  Do our thoughts, words, and actions consistently reflect our desire for peace?  “How” we live is equally crucial, for it demonstrates the unified manner of our lives – nourishing and strengthening us by the constant reinforcement of our (peaceful) behavior.

“Peace be with you” becomes both the goal and practice of each moment: we strive for peace even as we diligently work to cultivate peace in our hearts.  Jesus himself gives us the strength for both: he teaches us to value peace, and he sustains us to grow in peace when we are challenged by the discord and stress of life.

As the Lord’s followers, these words are our heritage.  Peace begins in us, and as the disciples of the Prince of Peace, we are called to work for and build his Kingdom of Peace here on earth.  Fear is left behind as we focus on Christ and dwell – in peace!


Easter Day

Easter Lily

Study:  When have you experienced a profound moment of change and growth?  What brought it about?

Pray:  Open your heart to Jesus Christ.  Let the joy of the resurrection transform your life.

Serve:  Claim your faith!  Let your love for the Lord direct your thoughts, words, and actions – in whatever you face today.

Easter Day Readings        Fr. Andrew’s Homily Podcast

In the early hours of that first Easter Day we celebrate an incredible hope as word spread through the city of Jerusalem – Jesus is alive.

His followers had been crushed by the agony of the Cross.  Lost – beyond all sense of pain, sorrow, and grief – from the darkness of their fear and despair they passed on the message: we have seen him, we have touched him, we have eaten with him – the Lord has been raised!

I have always been struck by the transformational effect the resurrection of Jesus had upon his disciples:

  • Fear to Faith
  • Helplessness to Hope
  • Lament to Love
  • Cowardice to Courage

The same disciples who once fled for their lives will now go out into the world to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.  They will face persecution, suffering, and martyrdom in order to testify to the truth of Easter Day: the Resurrection of Christ.  What’s more, they will do this with an overwhelming sense of conviction and strength.

No one can ignore the power of this effect.  The encounter with the Risen Lord changes everything.  What is there to be afraid of?  Jesus has broken the chains of sin and death – we can face anything in this world with confidence.  Jesus has triumphed, and in the light of Easter Day we now draw on his strength to face our battles with joy.

The death of Jesus on the Cross was for our sins; the resurrection of Jesus was for our lives.  The power of Easter Day directs our attention to the sacred and precious gift of life.  Life is worth fighting for, worth dying for, and worth living for – in this world and the next.  The resurrection reveals God’s love for our lives; we are worth the sacrifice of the Cross and empowered to live with faith, hope, and love.

How will we live this great promise of faith?  How will we allow the power of Easter to transform us?  For remember: the moment we acknowledge the truth of the resurrection our lives fundamentally change.  Directed by the saving work of Christ we now engage the world on new terms: we witness through word and action the love of Jesus each and every day.  With our eyes fixed on heaven we boldly walk this earth as his disciples.  We live our lives with real truth and power.  We live our lives as God’s sons and daughters.

The authentic witness of our faith is THE WAY that people truly discover Jesus.  It was true for the disciples on that first Easter Day, and it is true for disciples today.

Perhaps today is the day that our faith takes on a deeper meaning and purpose in our lives – placing Jesus first in all that we say and do.  May this Easter Day fill our hearts with grace and power to live in the light of Christ.  May we let the Lord into our hearts and allow our lives to be transformed by his love.

Christ is alive!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!


Easter Vigil

Candlelight

Study:  How did you learn your Christian faith?  When did it become something you claimed for your own?

Pray:  This is a good time to count our blessings and draw near to the Lord in gratitude for the gift of life.

Serve:  Perhaps there is someone to whom you might want to say, “I love you.”  Perhaps this is a good time right now…

Easter Vigil Readings

This holy night finds the Church celebrating the profound mystery of Christ’s saving work.  The Easter Vigil recalls the great moments of salvation history, rejoices with those who enter into full communion with the sacramental life of the Church, and is nourished by Eucharist.  Here are the four key components:

  • The Liturgy of Light
  • The Liturgy of the Word
  • The Liturgy of Initiation
  • The Liturgy of the Eucharist

The Liturgy of Light (or Lucernarium) begins the Easter Vigil.  In the darkness the image of light is used to proclaim our hope in Christ.  Several things happen:

  • A new fire is blessed and from its flames the light of the paschal (Easter) candle is lit
  • This candle is processed into church where the faithful light their own candles from it.
  • By this sea of candlelight the great Easter proclamation of Christ our Light – the Exsultet – is offered.

The Liturgy of the Word recounts the epic story of salvation history through several Old Testament Scriptures:

  • Creation – Genesis 1:1-2.2 and Psalm 104 or 33
  • Abraham’s Sacrifice – Genesis 22:1-18 and Psalm 16
  • Passage through the Red Sea – Exodus 14: 15-15:1 and its Canticle (Exodus 15)
  • The New Jerusalem – Isaiah 54:5-14 and Psalm 30
  • Salvation Offered Freely to All – Isaiah 55:1-11 its Canticle (Isaiah 12)
  • The Fountain of Wisdom – Baruch 3:9-15 and Psalm 19
  • A New Heart and a New Spirit – Ezechiel 36:16-28 and Psalm 42-43

We then move from the Old t0 the New Testament:

  • The Gloria is sung
  • A reading from  Romans 6:3-11 – Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more!
  • The Alleluia is sung
  • The Gospel is read – Mt 28:1-10; Mk 16:1-7, Lk 24:1-12 (depending on the year)

The Liturgy of Initiation then follows where those who have been preparing to enter the Church now receive their sacraments.

  • The Litany of the Saints is sung
  • The Baptismal Font is blessed
  • The Sacrament of Baptism is celebrated
  • The Assembly renews their Baptismal Promises
  • The Sacrament of Confirmation is celebrated

Finally, the Liturgy of the Eucharist allows the entire community to draw near to the altar to receive Jesus Christ in the sacrament of his Body and Blood.  The newly baptized receive Holy Communion for the first time in the company of their fellow Catholics.  Like every Mass:

  • Bread and Wine are brought to the altar
  • The Priest prays the Eucharistic Prayer
  • The Lord’s Prayer is said, followed by the Sign of Peace
  • We receive the Lord Jesus in Holy Communion

The great promise of faith, founded upon God’s saving work through time in the history of salvation, is proclaimed on this holy night.  May Christians around the world renew their faith in Jesus Christ – sharing his love and light with one another.

Christ our Light!


Good Friday – What Wondrous Love Is This

Good Friday

Study:  Consider a time in life when all hope seemed lost.  Where did strength come from?

Pray:  Offer a prayer of acceptance for the love and saving work of Jesus.  Gaze upon a crucifix and reflect on his sacrifice.

Serve:  Acts of love, kindness, and sacrifice come in all shapes and sizes; where might you offer your life today for another?

Good Friday Readings

Have you ever had a bad day?

Let me be brutally clear:  have you ever had a day so bad that it seemed as if the earth had swallowed you up and you were trapped under a crushing weight of pain, sorrow, agony, loss, humiliation, abandonment, or confusion – utterly devoid of all direction, purpose, and meaning?  A place where reality overflows with suffering?

Welcome to the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Nothing on this “Good Friday” looks good at first glance:

  • Betrayal from friends
  • Unjust accusations
  • Corrupt justice
  • Ego and political power trips
  • Cruel humiliation
  • Timid frailty and cowardice
  • Brutal physical punishment
  • Powerlessness
  • Mockery
  • Death

Why?  Why!  Why would God allow this?  What could such horrible suffering teach us about ourselves or God?

Answer: What wondrous love.

Jesus Christ endured this day out of love for a wounded and broken humanity.  He died in this wretched way for our sinful weakness because we could not be healed on our own.  He carried his Cross because of our worst days – the days that we regret over the thoughts, words, and actions that we cannot take back.

The Cross reveals the depth of God’s love: a love without limit or boundary.  There is nothing, NOTHING, that can keep us from the wondrous love of Christ.  Jesus embraces our human faults, sins, and weaknesses – and meets us there with the Cross that should have been our own.  His Cross bridges the gap caused by our sins and restores us to a life of grace.

God’s love shines with a strength that humbles us.  God comes to us in our most fragile and unlovable moments to heal and bless.  This love – freely given and bestowed, provided by the Lord’s grace alone – requires only one thing:

Our acceptance.

We are invited today to look into the eyes of Jesus and recognize the one who knows us completely and loves us entirely.  We have the chance today to accept this love and walk in his light.  Perhaps sometime today we will have the opportunity to get down on our knees and recommit our lives to Christ – who offers this Wondrous Love for our salvation.


Holy Thursday – Sacrament & Service

Holy Thursday - 1

Study:  Where do you find strength in your spiritual life?

Pray:  Ask the Lord for guidance and wisdom to recognize his face in the poor, the suffering, and those in need.

Serve:  Are you being drawn to help another right now?  How can you serve those God has placed in your life today?

Holy Thursday Readings

Growing up in rural northern Wisconsin, I had the opportunity to work on several dairy farms.  The work was hard, but we were always well fed.  Many times I recall hearing the words, “Eat up, we’ve got work to do.”

It’s a simple message really.  There is work to be done; it will be demanding and require a lot of energy.  If you don’t have the necessary strength you won’t be able to follow through.

The same holds true for the spiritual life.  Life makes many demands upon us, and as we serve and love others we, too, require sustenance for the work before us.

The Lord knew this.  He left us the Sacrament of his Body and Blood – food that nourishes our souls and gives us the grace and strength of Jesus himself.  Receiving Holy Communion, as the apostles did at the Lord’s Supper, is the primary way that we are fed spiritually.

But this grace has a purpose.  At the Lord’s Supper, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and gave them an example of service to direct their actions toward one another.  As modern day disciples, we witness our faith every time we genuinely serve others with sincerity and respect.

Consider this:

  • We receive the Body of Christ (Holy Communion) to become the Body of Christ (the Church).
  • As the Body of Christ is transformed (at the altar) we are transformed (in the world).
  • As the Body of Christ is broken (in shared communion) we are broken (sharing our lives in service for others).
  • As the Body of Christ nourishes us (in communion) we nourish others (in action that brings help, strength, and comfort).

In other words, receiving Holy Communion – instituted at the Lord’s Supper – strengthens us for the Lord’s work as his disciples.  May our next reception of the Lord’s Body and Blood give us the grace we need to recognize the face of Jesus and respond with loving service.

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Holy Week

Holy Week

Study:  Recall a time in your life when you experienced death and new life.  Where did you find the strength?  Who helped you through this time?

Pray:  Spend some time reflecting on the death and resurrection of Jesus this week.  Read Mark 14-16; Matthew 26-28; Luke 22-24; and John 18-21.  Take in as many prayer opportunities as possible in your parish.

Serve:  Who in your life is dealing with life and death issues right now?  How might you be present to them to offer help, comfort, or strength?

Holy Week audio retreats from the US Bishops

We enter into the heart of the Christian mystery: Holy Week offers us a time to pause, reflect, and pray as the Church ponders on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This mystery, often called the Paschal Mystery, recalls us to the saving work of the Lord.  His death frees of from the burdens of sin and death, and his resurrection opens for us the path to eternal life.  This mystery is profoundly experienced over the Triduum – the 3 Great Days:

  • Holy Thursday – the Mass of the Lord’s Supper
  • Good Friday – the Passion of the Christ
  • Easter (Vigil/Day) – the Resurrection of the Lord

On Holy Thursday we find ourselves in Jerusalem, eating with the disciples at the Lord’s Supper and feeling awkward as he washes their feet – wondering how we would react if he did that for us.  We might identify with Peter or Judas – especially when we consider the times we have willingly betrayed or turned our back on the Lord.

On Good Friday we experience the physical pain, emotional abandonment, and personal humiliation on the path to Calvary (also called Golgotha or Skull Place) and look on with horror at the cruel death of Jesus.  We might also consider the times we have helped others – as Simon did when he was forced to carry the Cross of Christ.    And then we stand in profound sorrow with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, helpless as the innocent suffer injustice.

On Easter we wait in vigil and rise early in the morning with Mary Magdalen, only to find to our wonder and joy that the tomb is empty:  Christ is alive!  Our world, like that of the apostles, is changed forever as we experience new hope and life.

A word to the wise – we get out of Holy Week what we put into it.  Here are some simple ways for an incredible experience.

  • Make church services a top priority – Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter (Vigil or Day).
  • Take time to read and reflect on the scriptures (see at the top under “Pray”).
  • Make Holy Thursday an opportunity to offer a special act of service or kindness to another.
  • Make Good Friday fasting extra special with a gift to a particular charity that helps the poor.
  • Make Easter a time of gratitude – take a quiet moment to count our blessings and thank the Lord.
  • Find some time throughout this week to tell the people in our lives how much we love them.

May this be a time for all of us to grow closer to the Lord and one another.