When asked about his authority, Jesus counters with a question that reveals the limits of the conversation. This insight can help us be more aware and sensitive to the spiritual questions we face with the people in our lives.
Pastoral Note: The 3rd, 4th, and 5th Sundays of Lent provide an option for using the “Year A” readings at Mass for the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) process. At the Cathedral this year, we will be using Year A during these weeks for this very reason, and the reflection is offered below for all who will be hearing these readings in solidarity with those in RCIA who are joining the Church this year.
Study: Reflect on a time when you were given a second chance. How did you feel? How did you respond?
Pray: Is there something in your past that has held you back from growing? Ask the Lord for the grace to begin again.
Serve: Is there someone you know who could use a second chance? How can you help them to start over?
Fr. Andrew’s Homily Podcast (from Lent 2014)
Anyone who plays games knows about second chances. They happen in board games when we get to “roll again”, and they happen in sporting events when one team gets a break through a change in the action. They are part of the game, and they usually bring plenty of excitement and interest.
A second chance usually gives the player new opportunities and hope. When a second chance is offered, it provides for the possibility to correct past mistakes. Second chances can revitalize a player’s efforts. Simply put, they can breathe new life into the game.
In the Gospel today we hear how Jesus calls Lazarus back from the dead. Lazarus, who had been in the tomb four days, was loved by family and friends alike. This love is witnessed in Jesus, whose tears reveal the depth of his concern.
I have always wondered how the story of Lazarus continued after this miracle. What did people say every time they saw him? Did people point to him as an example of the power of Jesus? Did he wake up each day thanking God for another opportunity to love the people around him?
This miracle shows us a fundamental truth about God: the Lord grants us second chances. Through the miracle of Jesus, Lazarus has been given back the gift of life. This miracle provides the possibility for him to look back on the past and make a break with it. In other words, his new life is an opportunity to begin again.
The story of Lazarus inspires us with hope. God gives us second chances, too! There are times when we may reflect on our lives, and we know that there is something that needs to change. We need to let it “die” so that God can call us back to life.
Perhaps we have acted or spoken in a way that has been harmful to another. Perhaps we have abused our bodies or put ourselves or others at risk through unwise choices. Or maybe an event or decision in the past has kept us from living our lives in the present.
Whatever it is, God gives us a second chance. Through his journey from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, Jesus makes it possible for us to break from sin and live in the light of God’s grace. We can start again, living with the faith, hope, and love that can only come from Jesus Christ.
Study: What decisions am I facing right now? What resources can I turn to for guidance and direction?
Pray: How does my faith in Jesus Christ help direct my choices? Ask the Lord for insight!
Serve: Can I help someone right now who is facing a difficult choice?
Do you remember the old game show Let’s Make a Deal? The host was Monty Hall, a smooth talking guy who would present possible options to contestants. Those lucky few who were selected could take a certain gift in front of them, or they could choose from behind door number 1, 2, or 3 for an unknown prize.
The catch was that no one knew what was behind the door. Sometimes it was a bogus prize, worthless and unusual. Sometimes it was a fabulous gift, many times more valuable than the first prize they could have had.
I use to “play” the game with my grandmother. She and I would pretend that we were contestants. We would decide whether we would have stayed with what we knew, or would have risked it on something unknown. (And just for the record: Grandma almost always won…..)
The principle of the game was simple. Do you stay with what you have or do you risk it in the hope of winning much, much more? When is it enough? When are we satisfied? What is it that we really want?
Here are three points that often surface:
* Risk – What’s it worth to us?
* Priorities – What’s important to us?
* Satisfaction – When is it enough for us?
The game show’s appeal was strong because it was grounded in the same issues we face everyday. Life is filled with uncertainty and new challenges; we are routinely confronted with choices which require us to make decisions that can have great and small consequences on our lives. We have to explore a variety of questions, and in the process we learn a great deal about who we really are.
In the Scriptures today these choices are highlighted in the selection of Solomon and the Pearl of great price. Confronted by choices, the people in the readings determine risk, priority, and satisfaction before making their decision.
The same is true for us. God gives us opportunities everyday to make choices that reveal the content of our hearts. Through our actions and decisions we discover what we value. As we examine our lives this day, may we seek God first as we look to the Lord for guidance and wisdom to make good decisions.
Study: Reflect on the last time you received Holy Communion. Were you attentive to the great gift of Jesus Christ – body & blood, soul & divinity – that you received?
Pray: The next time you are at Mass, take a moment to prepare yourself to receive the Lord with an open heart.
Serve: Communion gives us strength to do the Lord’s work; who in my life could use a helping hand today?
I love pasta. I love to cook it; I love to eat it; and I can spend hours talking with family members and friends in order to learn more about how different sauces and seasonings affect flavor and taste.
In addition, I enjoy the numerous shapes and styles of pasta. Spaghetti is a timeless classic, but there is also vermicelli, cappelini, fettuccine, conchiglie, tagliarini, cappelletti, tortellini, ravioli, rigatoni, ziti, m0staccioli, farfalle, cannelloni, campanelle, lasagna, penne rigate…….!
The list goes on and on in an immense and diverse variety of forms. Different sauces work better with particular shapes, and cooking styles differ from one pasta to another.
And yet with all of this variety, pasta is still a very simple food. While it has a place of honor in Italian cooking (did I mention I am Italian?), it can be found in most cultures – each sporting unique ways to prepare this basic form.
Food is an essential need in all life. We need food to survive physically, yet food is more than just sustenance. When people gather to eat, food often becomes the means to draw others into conversation, companionship, and celebration. Thus, food can nourish the body and the soul.
Jesus knew this simple fact. He fed people when they were hungry (Mt 14:13-21, Mk 6:30-44, Lk 9:10-17, Jn 6:1-15, Mt 15:32-39, Mk 8:1-10). The Lord met this basic need repeatedly, helping people to be physically sustained by giving them bread to eat.
Yet Jesus makes an astonishing claim. He says that he is the living bread (Jn 6:51). Thus, Jesus not only gives the people food, but he tells them that he is the food they need for eternal life. This claim is underscored in the Gospel today, and it is supported by the words of Jesus at the Last Supper (Mt 26:17-29, Mk 14:12-25, Lk 22:7-20, and 1 Cor 11:17-34).
Every time we gather for Mass we follow the Lord’s command to take bread and wine and in His name receive His Body and Blood. The Lord becomes food for us that we might have life in this world and in the next. As we receive Communion may we recognize that the Lord Jesus is near, offering us his very self that we might have the food of eternal life.
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?
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!
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…
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 (or Lucernarium) begins the Easter Vigil. In the darkness the image of light is used to proclaim our hope in Christ. Several things happen:
The Liturgy of the Word recounts the epic story of salvation history through several Old Testament Scriptures:
We then move from the Old t0 the New Testament:
The Liturgy of Initiation then follows where those who have been preparing to enter the Church now receive their sacraments.
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:
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!
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?
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:
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:
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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:
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.
May this be a time for all of us to grow closer to the Lord and one another.
Study: Reflect on a time you experienced weakness and suffering. Where did you find the strength to continue?
Pray: Gaze upon a crucifix and offer to Christ any struggles you are facing right now. Bring the needs of your loved ones to the foot of the Cross as well.
Serve: Is there someone in your life who is carrying a heavy cross right now? How can you offer comfort and assistance?
Palm Sunday Readings (with Year A reading for the Procession with Palms)
How many times throughout our lives have we made the sign of the Cross? Stop and think: at Mass; meal prayers; morning & evening prayers; special gatherings; and moments of blessing and grace. This simple action, which we teach to children at an early age, invokes a connection with the passion of Jesus.
We adorn our homes with the Cross. A crucifix is a common gift to a new home; crosses are placed in bedrooms and common areas as a reminder that Jesus is the source of our help and strength.
We adorn ourselves with the Cross as well: a crucifix on a chain; a cross in our pocket; earrings; rings; bracelets; and all the extra cards, bookmarks, figurines, and miscellaneous items that remind us that Jesus died on a Cross.
The passion we read every year on this day focuses our attention on the central mystery of our faith. Out of love for us God sent His Son, Jesus, who gave his life on the Cross that we might have eternal life. Through his suffering and death, we recognize that God has made a pathway possible that we might all journey through this life to the gates of Heaven.
The Cross teaches us many lessons:
At the core of our teaching the Cross stands as the testament of God’s love for us. Yet the Cross appears to be an embarrassment – after all, why would God (all powerful, all knowing, supreme) choose to be humiliated? Does that not mean that God is weak? Why could God not take away our sins in a way that showed majesty and splendor?
In reality, the weakness revealed in the Cross uncovers our frailty, not God’s. Jesus endured the Cross because of our broken, wounded nature. He carried the Cross because we were unable to – as St. Paul writes “The wages of sin is death” in Romans 6:23 – and he bore the suffering, pain, and grief that are the natural result of our sinfulness. God is not weak, rather God takes on our weakness so that we can be made whole.
The Cross proclaims the truth that God meets us where we are in life. In our weakness, in our humiliation, in our low moments of doubt and sin God comes to us. Jesus, like us in every way but sin, understands our pain because through his Cross he shares in the suffering of the world. He knows us, loves us, and saves us through his Cross.
Every time we make the sign of the Cross may we recall what the Lord endured for us. Through the Cross we discover our strength as we trust in God’s love and seek to follow that love as we journey through this life toward the world to come.
We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you. Because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world!