Monthly Archives: May 2014

Feast of the Ascension

Ascension

Study:  Name some of the most powerful life transitions (school, work, relationships, death).  What life lessons did you learn from these experiences?

Pray:  Ask the Lord to send the Holy Spirit into your heart for the wisdom and strength to face new transitions.

Serve:  Who in your life is facing a difficult time of transition right now?  How can you be a source of support?

Feast of the Ascension Readings

Fr. Andrew’s Homily

Her name was Miss Toft.  She was the magical kindergarten teacher who introduced me to the wonders of school.  From the very first day of class she seamlessly wove learning and fun together.  She was kind, funny, and dedicated to the kids in her class.

As the school year came to an end all of us were excited about summer, but several (myself included) did not want to leave.  We had gotten familiar with the routine, we knew what to do, we enjoyed our class, and we loved our teacher – besides the older kids were BIGGER and there was the great unknown of elementary school looming ahead.

“I don’t want to leave kindergarten!” I said.

She said, “But Andrew, if you don’t leave kindergarten, you will never discover all the great things in school.  Every grade has new things to learn and I know that you will like it.”

Then I got to the real point. “But I don’t want to leave you!” I cried.

She gave me a hug and said with a teary smile, “Even if I’m not your teacher I will be just down the hall.  You can say hi to me any time you want, and I will always be here for you.”

Looking back that moment was the first of many experiences of a simple truth: sometimes we have to say farewell in order to grow.

Throughout life there are numerous moments when we face a transition – we say farewell to a place, a person, or an experience in order to begin a new chapter in life.  The very process of letting go provides space in our hearts to experience new opportunities and thus grow and stretch in order that we can become more.

The disciples had been with Jesus for three years.  They had journeyed with him throughout his ministry.  They had witnessed the miracles, the healings and the teachings.  They were at the Last Supper, the Garden of Gethsemane, and from a distance they saw the agony of the Cross.  Then for a few glorious weeks, they encountered the Lord in all his resurrection glory – and just when things seemed to be incredibly wonderful he leaves them in the Ascension.

Why?  So they could grow in a new way.

It was time for them to take his teaching and example to the world.  Filled with the Holy Spirit (which we celebrate next week at Pentecost) those simple men will transform cultures and civilizations with the Good News of Jesus.  They will do more then they ever dreamed possible – because Jesus said farewell to them so that they could grow.  The Feast of the Ascension articulates the reality that sometimes the only way we can become more is when others step out of our lives and allow us (or obligate us!) to continue on our own.  The transition is not easy, but it does create new opportunities.

Jesus walks with us through our transitions as well.  Even when letting go and saying farewell seem impossible to do, the Lord guides us and teaches us that through this process we discover new insights and strengths to grow as his disciples.

What transition am I experiencing right now?  Do I view it as a painful obstacle or as an opportunity to discover new insights?  Perhaps the best thing we can do in a transition is to look for the lesson the Lord might be trying to teach, and then figure out how we can put it into practice.


6th Sunday of Easter – Transformed by Love

Love tasks

Study:  Recall the people in life have loved us unconditionally.  How did their love help you change and grow?

Pray:  Ask the Lord for the grace to recognize the people in our midst we are called to love.

Serve:  Love takes many forms.  What can I do today for another person out of love?

6th Sunday of Easter Readings

Fr. Andrew’s Homily Podcast

For the last few months the eyes of the world have directed to the words and actions of Pope Francis.  It has been a time of extensive media coverage on the Church and its message of hope to a new generation.

During this time many people have experienced the rich treasure of Roman Catholicism.  The history, symbolism, and global significance have helped provide a deeper understanding of the internal structure of the Church.

Many people have responded to the Pope’s teaching and example.  It is an exciting time to participate in the Church, and I personally am renewed and energized in my desire to grow in my  vocation to the priesthood – even in the midst of transition and change.

Change is a part of life.  Through our experiences and encounters we develop and discover new perspectives and resources within our lives.  Change happens when we open our hearts to those around us and put into action our new insights.

In the Gospel Jesus states that to love him means to keep his commandments.  There are two:
1.  Love God
2.  Love one another.

It is important to note that these commands are not just about being busy.  To love means to be in relationship with others; love invites us to grow in our awareness and understanding for one another.  This knowledge leads to greater respect and value for all life.

In the Gospel love is a verb.  It must be acted upon, practiced, and carried out in all parts of life.  To love means to work at a relationship – and thus be open to spend the time and effort necessary.

Yet when we open our hearts to love we are changed.  As we experience love, as we work at it, we discover that our hearts get stretched.  We become challenged to grow, to make room so that we can love more deeply, more completely.

Jesus promises that we will have help.  As we open our lives to the power of love, the Spirit will come to help us and guide us.  Transformed by love, we trust that God will continue to direct us, until the cycle of love and change brings us one day to the Kingdom of Heaven.


5th Sunday of Easter – Living Stones

Stones

Study:  Reflect on a challenging time in your life.  How did you give and/or receive strength from others?

Pray:  For what particular strength do you need to ask the Lord?  Come to the “Living Stone” who is Jesus and seek the strength you need!

Serve:  Where can you cooperate with others right now?  How can your strength help others ?

5th Sunday of Easter Readings     Fr. Andrew’s Homily Podcast

Imagine a piece of construction brick or stone.  At a distance the pieces look the same, with similarities in color, texture, shape, and size.  Yet on closer examination we perceive that every piece of brick or stone is different; when seen clearly each stone is unique.

We use stones all the time in our building and construction.  We use them in walls, fireplaces, foundations, and paving.  Stones possess an inherent toughness – they are the bones of the earth – which makes them useful and vital in life.

In the second reading we hear how the Scriptures use the image of a stone in our life of faith.  Peter writes that all people should come to Jesus, a living stone, so that we might be built into a spiritual house.  Following the example of Jesus, we become “living stones” that all might see God’s kingdom here on earth.

Stones remind us of two important points.  First, stones are strong, and we are called to live our faith with the same durability and toughness.  Life is not easy, and there are times when we recognize our weakness and failures.  Yet through our relationship with Christ we gain strength and power that we do not have by ourselves.  Through Christ our talents and gifts become strong resources to be used by God.

Second, in construction stones are used in cooperation with others, and this same cooperation is part of our human experience.  Take a stone or brick out of a wall and it becomes weaker; take a person out of a community and a change is felt.  Simply put, just as a stone adds strength to those around it, so to our lives make a profound difference on those around us.

As living stones we offer our God-given strengths and abilities to build up God’s people here on earth.  Sharing our lives, we become a powerful tool through which Jesus Christ continues to be revealed to all people through time.

Stones teach us about strength and cooperation.  These insights are part of every human experience and are used throughout our lives.  As God’s living stones we discover that our faith gives us power when we work together with those around us.  May that power help us to build God’s kingdom, leading others to Christ.


4th Sunday of Easter – The Gate of the Shepherd

sheep gate

Study:  When have I heard the Lord calling me?  How have I responded?

Pray:  Take time to ask Jesus for guidance and strength.

Serve:  How can I support someone who is searching for meaning, purpose, and answers in life?

4th Sunday of Easter Readings        Fr. Andrew’s Homily Podcast

During my travels in Israel, I had the opportunity to visit with some of the Palestinian people who raised sheep in the rocky countryside.  On one of my trips I met a young boy named Ali who was twelve years old.  He was very shy until I asked him if he would show me his sheep.  With a huge smile he took me by the hand and led me out into a small enclosure.

As we approached the sheep Ali began to call them by name – “Ahmed, Azim, Abram” – and so on.  When the animals heard their names, they came one by one to be fed with some grain Ali had brought.  I marveled at how the sheep trusted this little boy, for without fear or worry they came immediately at the sound of his voice.

After a few minutes I asked if I could feed the sheep.  Ali gave me a grin and said, “You can try.”  He handed me some grain and I tried calling the sheep.

“Azim!  Here Azim!”  I kept calling the sheep but they merely looked at me and moved away.  When I realized that the sheep would not come to me I looked at Ali.  His chest swelled with pride and he said, “They only come to me, because they know me!”

A shepherd’s life is not easy.  The sheep must be constantly guarded from wild animals that prey upon them.  Shepherds endure long, lonely hours exposed to the cold and the elements, ensuring that the sheep will always be under constant care.  Because they are together so much, the shepherd knows each sheep, and they respond when called.

In the Gospel today the Lord tells us that he our shepherd and gate.  The image reminds us that we too are cared for and loved by one who is always near, always listening to our needs and seeking our protection.  Our Lord not only loves us, but knows us intimately – better than we know ourselves.

Yet just as the Ali’s sheep made the choice to listen to the shepherd and not to a stranger, so we too make choices in our response to the many voices in our world.  We know that their are many elements in our world that if we heed would only lead to temptation and sin.

The Shepherd invites us each day to follow his call.  Let us hear his words and respond, thus being guided by the one who knows us out of love.