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Fr. Tom’s Reflections

July 15, 2018: We Are Other Christs

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 2782) we find this marvelous sentence: "We can adore the Father because he has caused us to be reborn to his life by adopting us as his children in his only Son: by Baptism, he incorporates us in the Body of his Christ; through the anointing of his Spirit who flows from the head to the members, he makes us other 'Christs'."

The Catechism gives us the theological meaning of being baptized and confirmed persons. The gospel today gives us a sense of what this looked like for the Twelve apostles and what it looks like for us. Christ gives us authority. We represent him. We are to help bring hope and healing to other people.

When has someone been a Christ to you? When have you realized that you have been another Christ to someone?


July 8, 2018: The Sufficiency of Grace

In today’s Mass, we hear St. Paul telling us about his experience of what he calls “a thorn in the flesh.” He does not tell us exactly what he meant. It leaves us to wonder, was it something physical, psychological, and spiritual? Three times he asks the Lord Jesus to remove it from his life experience. Then he hears the divine message: “My grace is sufficient for you.” In his weakness, Paul becomes more keenly aware of the strong presence of Christ in his life.

There are times we experience such a “thorn.” We might describe it as “a pain in the neck.” It is bothersome and we would like to get rid of it. Like Paul, we need to welcome the strong and saving presence of Christ who is present to us in our weaknesses. Then our emphasis is on Christ’s loving presence and accompaniment with us rather than complaining about our troubles.

When have you sensed Christ saying to you, “my grace is sufficient for you”?

 


July 1, 2018: The Healing Touch of Christ Jesus

Today’s gospel includes two marvelous healing stories – a twelve year old girl whois at the point of death and a woman who has been suffering with hemorrhages for twelve years. The number twelve is significant. It signifies the new people of Israel, the new people of God, the community of believers living today. Through Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, God has the power to bring us healing and to raise us up.

The sense of touch is involved in both healings. Jesus took the girl by the hand and raised her up. The woman reached out and touched the cloak of Jesus. This healing touch of Jesus is part of the celebration of the sacrament of anointing of the sick today. The risen Christ continues to reach out and touch us in a healing and hopeful way.

When have you experienced the presence of Christ reaching out to you? When have you been an instrument of the healing touch of Christ reaching out to other people?

 


June 24, 2018: The Birth of John the Baptist

Today we celebrate the feast of the nativity of St. John the Baptist. The Bible readings for this feast take the place of the regular Sunday readings. Today’s feast occurs near the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere just as the daylight begins to diminish. Six months from now we celebrate the feast of the nativity of Christ near the shortest day of the year just as the daylight begins to increase. This connects with what John the Baptist says in John’s gospel: “[Christ] must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30).

This saying of John must also be our motto as we journey in faith, hope, and love on this earth. Any self-absorption must be replaced with the light of Christ radiating more clearly in our lives and in our world. How do you experience this needed and necessary transformation?

 


June 17, 2018: Mystery Seeds

In today’s gospel Jesus uses the imagery of a tiny mustard seed that grows and matures. The mustard plant is a nuisance weed. It is not planted by humans but mysteriously seems to appear here and there. Jesus uses this parable to help us appreciate the mystery of the Kingdom of God. Irrespective of the efforts and projects of human beings, God seems to sow the beginnings and potential of the reign of God taking root within us and among us.

Sometimes we may be surprised by the beginnings of heavenly and godly things that spring up among us, like an unexpected wave of peace or forgiveness or initiative to repair a relationship. We know that this “seed” comes from God rather than from our careful planning.

When have you noticed these mystery seeds being planted? How do you respond to them?

 


June 10, 2018

In my absence, I have asked one of our lay presiders who leads the weekday Word and Communion Service to offer a reflection on the Sunday readings.

Scripture is filled with references to houses and Sunday’s Gospel is no exception.  These references should come as no surprise, after all Jesus was a carpenter and will speak to what is familiar.  If Jesus were living today, in the era of television, would He have a program on HGTV called Fixer Uppers or even Flip or Flop, shows taking houses ranking from eew to not-so-bad and candidates for improvement prior to becoming an everlasting home?  Jesus, the carpenter, knows the need for a good foundation.  Before any building can continue to be built the foundation has to be set, conditioned and in good shape.  A good carpenter is aware of the need for load bearing walls/posts and other safety factors, before highlighting the must haves of an open concepts, a  kitchen island for all to gather around.  Our homes, our parish community, ourselves are reminded to keep our foundation and all parts of our home in good repair. A house divided against it-self will not last.  In a good faith filled home God is at the center, doors are open and welcoming, food is shared in friendship and service with love for all.  Does your house need a little (or a lot) of fixing up?  Is it in need of a good Carpenter?  If so, we all know One we can personally recommend. 

                                                                                                 Barbara Skierecki, Lay Minister

 


June 3, 2018

In my absence, I have asked one of our lay presiders who leads the weekday Word and Communion Service to offer a reflection on the Sunday readings.

Definition of a sacrament:  An outward sign to give grace.  Today we celebrate the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus, Corpus Christi, a sacrament central to our faith and spiritual lives. We believe that the consecrated bread and wine is the Body and Blood of Christ, not separate, but one. Body/bread which nourishes us and the blood/wine which saves us – separate and yet the same. But are we aware that we have entered into a contract, most importantly a covenant, with God, in this sacrament? A covenant needs two parties:  God and us.  God leads, saves, gives life to us, as witnessed by the sprinkling of blood on the door posts that all within will live in the Hebrew Scriptures; while,   Paul in his letters  and Mark in the Gospel remind us that Jesus, is the Word of God, whose blood was shed as a sign of the Covenant of God with humankind. 

Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, Take it, this is my body.”  Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank of it.  He said to them, This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.

Today’s emphasis on the Body and Blood of Christ reminds us that we, too, have a role to play in the Covenant which was sealed with blood of the Lamb of God. What is our part in the covenant?   What do we do in return?  How do we use our body and blood to honor our part of the covenant? Perhaps, this is something we can pray over when we receive the Body and Blood of Christ?

 


May 27, 2018: The Most Holy Trinity

One of the first prayers we learn as children is the sign of the cross: "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Parents teach their children how to trace the cross on their bodies with this prayer. Our whole body person is involved in this prayer. Today's gospel records the words of Jesus we use at each Baptism: "baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." This Trinitarian formula has been around since at least 80 AD when Matthew wrote his gospel.

The mystery of the Trinity is the central mystery of our faith and our life. All of the other mysteries of our faith flow from this one. All of our Christian living centers around this divine mystery. We experience God as the Creator and Source of all life. We are redeemed by the death of resurrection of Christ. We constantly experience the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When are you most aware of these three "persons" of God?


May 20, 2018: Pentecost Continues

Today we celebrate the glorious feast of Pentecost. The word “Pentecost” means “50th” and concludes the Easter season. On Monday we return to Ordinary Time until next Advent.

We often think about Pentecost as an historical event. This mysterious experience for the early Christians is always related in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. However, there are actually five separate accounts of the dramatic outpouring of the Holy Spirit on believers. (See Acts 2:1-4; 4:28-31; 8:15-17; 10:44; 19:6.) This book of the Bible is often referred to as the “Book of the Holy Spirit” because of these various accounts. All of these experiences lead to deeper faith and witness to the presence and action of the Risen Christ in the midst of believers. These kinds of experiences continue in our day. In the gospel today Jesus relates how the Holy Spirit will come and guide us to all truth.

In what ways have you experienced a kind of outpouring of the Holy Spirit? What positive impact has this had in your life?

 


May 13, 2018 Ascending with Christ

I have read a wonderful book titled Upward: Faith, Church, and the Ascension of Christ by Anthony Kelly (2014). He writes about the "'ascensional' dynamism of Jesus' whole existence." We, along with Christ, are taken up in the upward call of God (see Phil. 3:14).

The ascension of Christ is often taken for granted and often neglected as an essential dimension of the paschal mystery. Kelly describes how our lives and our mission as followers of Christ are taken up in this upward movement, beyond what can be the mundane concerns of our daily existence. It is about paying attention to how God wants to draw us and take us up more and more into God's hope and design for us.

How do you experience this upward call of God? When do you experience being drawn up into godly and Christ-like things?

 

 


May 6, 2018: God is the Source

The earliest descriptions of God the Father, the first Person of the Trinity, are as the Creator, the Source, the Originator. Sometimes the image of a fountain is used. That is why we speak of the baptismal fount, the source of our life in Christ. And in the second Eucharistic prayer we pray, “You are indeed Holy, O Lord, the fount of all holiness.” That is why Jesus says in today’s gospel, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.” Similarly, in the letter of John we hear, “Beloved, let us love one another because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.”

This glorious Easter season helps us to trace our life and all our blessings to our gracious God. How do you experience God as the Source in your life?

 


April 29, 2018: Branches on the Vine That Is Christ

On this fifth Sunday of Easter we hear another “I am” statement of Jesus in John’s gospel: “I am the vine, you are the branches.” As the branches are an integral part of the grapevine, so we are an integral part of the presence of Christ. This intimacy with Christ is described in another way in this gospel: “Whoever remains in me and I in them bear much fruit.” The word “remain” is a favorite word for the evangelist John. It has the sense of an ongoing experience.

As we go deeper into this glorious Easter season we are reminded that God’s plan and hope for us is that we can experience this kind of intimacy with Christ together. It is also God’s hope that we can bear good fruit for the benefit of other people. Pope Francis speaks of this by telling us that we are missionary disciples. We are sent forth to spread the peace and light of Christ by what we say and what we do.

What helps you to remain in Christ? What helps you to bear good fruit?

 


April 22, 2018: How the Shepherd is "Good"

Today we hear one of several “I am” statements by Jesus in John’s gospel: “I am the good shepherd.” The Greek word translated “good” could also be translated “model” or “noble” or “beautiful.” Each of these English words give us a differently nuanced meaning of the phrase. The next sentence gives us a sense of what this means: “A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Substitute the other words to give a richer sense of this statement.

Throughout this Easter season we ponder and celebrate what God has done for us through Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension. This joyous season moves our hearts in gratitude to gives thanks to God. And we ponder how we are to imitate the model Jesus gives us in our daily living.

When are you most aware of what it means that Christ Jesus laid down his life for us? How does it impact your life?

 


April 8, 2018: Doubt - A Doorway to Faith

Each year on the Second Sunday of Easter we hear the gospel story about Thomas, one of the Twelve. He is best known as the "doubting Thomas" because he doubts that the risen Christ has appeared to the others in his absence. But for Thomas, doubt becomes a doorway to deeper faith. He is invited to touch the wounds of the body of the Risen Jesus. And he proclaims the now famous words, "My Lord and my God."

There is a tremendously hopeful lesson from this Easter story for us who live in the 21st century of Christianity. We can easily become fearful or ashamed of our own experiences of doubt. It feels uncomfortable.

The Good News is that doubt can lead to greater faith when we acknowledge its reality and when we acknowledge the reality of the Risen Christ who is always with us. Like Thomas, we might find ourselves being led to a long-lasting deeper level of faith that includes a more intimate sense of Christ's presence.

What and who have helped you in times of doubt? How can you help another "doubting Thomas"  come to greater faith?


April 1, 2018 Easter Sunday

“Happy Easter!” This greeting is heard and spoken many times on this holy day. Some people will acclaim, “Christ is risen!”

There are two dimensions of this great feast for us as followers of the Risen Christ who live in this twenty-first century. The first is the reality of Jesus being raised from the dead. He is given the status of “Lord” as the Risen One. His humanity is completely transformed and glorified in this wonderful mystery. Our Easter faith boldly proclaims this reality. The second part of what we celebrate is indicated in the angel’s message to the women at the empty tomb. They, and we, are to go and tell others about this glorious truth. We, like the early disciples, are witnesses of what Christ has done for us and what he continues to do for as the Risen One.

Pope Francis reminds us that we are missionary disciples. Part of our identity as followers of Christ is that we are called and sent to proclaim the Good News by our words, our actions, and a virtuous way of life. How is this so for you?          

                                                                                                             


3-25-2018: We Enter the Mystery

Today we commemorate the entrance of Christ into Jerusalem to accomplish his paschal mystery for our salvation.  We also hear the Passion Narrative according to Mark.  The jubilant procession and the somber passion are put side by side.  This is reflected in the title for this Sunday—Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord.

We are preparing to celebrate the very heart of our faith. By dying, Christ has destroyed the power of our death, and by rising restored our life.  This Holy Week is the most important time of the liturgical year.

Come to celebrate as many of the Triduum liturgies as you can. Spend some time prayerfully reading Mark’s Passion Narrative  (chapters 14-15).  Notice how you are drawn deeper into this saving mystery.

 


March 11, 2018: Giving and Lifting Up

On this fourth Sunday of Lent the gospel uses two important verbs to describe God's way toward us through Jesus Christ: God "gave" us the only Son and "lifted up" this Christ for us. In typical fashion for the gospel writer John, both of these words have a double meaning.

 God gave us the Son in the sense of the incarnation and in the sense of being given up to death for us. The lifting up refers to Jesus' being lifted up on the cross as well as being raised from the dead and lifted up to heaven as our glorious intercessor. This giving and lifting up on God's part is for us, for our good, for our salvation. God does this so that we might know and appreciate God's love and mercy.

As we move deeper into this Lenten season, spend some time being prayerfully present to this marvelous way of God toward us (see John 3:14-21). How does this mysterious truth move your heart?

 


March 4, 2018: The Path of Life

Most of us can recite the ten commandments from memory. They are as imprinted in our minds as they were first chiseled in stone on the tablets given to Moses. Today we hear them in their Biblical context when the people were freed from the bondage of slavery. These commandments are vital for us today so that we can live our lives freed from the slavery of sin.

The ten commandments provide a path of life for us. They provide instruction and guidance regarding our love of God and neighbor. In the psalm we acclaim them as "words of everlasting life."

As a prayerful Lenten exercise, take your Bible and go to Exodus 20, the source of today's first reading. Read the ten commandments and think about them with this question in mind: How is God calling me to grow in love of God and neighbor?

 


February 25, 2018: A Glimpse of Glory

Each year on the Second Sunday of Lent we hear the gospel story of Jesus’ transfiguration on a mountain top. It is a key Bible passage that portrays the true identity of Jesus. With glorious light surrounding him, he is identified as the beloved Son of God to whom we are called to listen attentively. It provides a glimpse of his status as the Risen One. The transfiguration of Jesus is a way of highlighting the resurrection as an integral part of the mystery of Christ.

This gospel is paired with the story about Abraham whose deep devotion to God is demonstrated by not letting anything come between himself and God, not even his beloved son, Isaac. So our devotion to God must be complete and demonstrated.

How does the truth of Jesus’ resurrection sustain you in your Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving?                                                             

                                                                 


February 18, 2018: The Way of Lent

This season of Lent has a two-fold focus. It helps us to go deeper into the meaning of being baptized persons. It also helps us to experience ongoing conversion and repentance. Both of these Lenten themes appear in the Liturgy today.

Noah's ark prefigures baptism. Being baptized persons puts us in a kind of ark. Because we are baptized into the saving mystery of Jesus' death and resurrection we experience saving effects from the grip of sin and death. The gospel today gives us a synopsis of Jesus' proclamation: "Repent, and believe in the gospel."

As we begin this season of Lent, reflect on these two themes: How is God inviting you to be appreciative of the saving effects of being a baptized person? How will deeper repentance and conversion (turning to God) be part of your Lent this year?

 


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