a little prayer

Standard

Its no secret, to those who have their eyes and ears open, that the spirit of this season is awaiting “the Spirit.” From Ascension to Pentecost is a prayer for that Advocate Jesus Christ promised He would send. The readings from the Acts of the Apostles are full of examples that those disciples truly received that Holy Spirit. It is evident in their actions, their speech, and what they ae able to accomplish. Tests they had failed prior to the Passion, they now pass with ease. They find themselves in situations similar those Jesus Himself was in, but now there is no denial of their Savior, they behave as He did. They become images of Christ. Paul, today, finds himself facing those that accused Jesus. Those accusers challenge his preaching Christ, just as they filed charges against the LORD Himself.

King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea
on a visit to Festus.
Since they spent several days there,
Festus referred Paul’s case to the king, saying,
“There is a man here left in custody by Felix.
When I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and the elders of the Jews
brought charges against him and demanded his condemnation.
I answered them that it was not Roman practice
to hand over an accused person before he has faced his accusers
and had the opportunity to defend himself against their charge.

The words recorded of these accusations are nearly identical to those cast against Jesus. Paul certainly knows the potential outcome of such charges as he was once one who levied those accusations against others. He was the one who orchestrated the stoning of Saint Stephen. He knew with certainty the treatment Christians received. Discrimination, persecution, and death. To be accused as Christ was to be executed as Christ was. They knew that. There was no doubt. But they preached the good news of Jesus Christ. They preached with the full knowledge that they would be put to death. They preached with the full knowledge that they would be executed as He was. They knew that their preaching placed them on the path towards crucifixion, and many of them faced that fate. But they continued. They continued because they knew that the way of Christ was a way towards life. A contradiction, but not to them. They knew the difference. They received the Holy Spirit promised, and their Acts are certain proof. That is the Spirit we pray for now. Come Holy Spirit.

To receive that Spirit requires that one be open to, to be aware of it. It requires a desire, passion. Passion is a word used in scripture, and the Passion of our LORD begins with a prayer in the garden. That prayer is the one between Father and Son where He pleads that the cup of suffering be taken from him, and where He pleads that “thine will be done.” A cry for strength, a prayer. The passion continues on the cross with the words “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit.” The same Spirit Christians call upon today. To receive it though we must be passionate about it. We must desire it, and call out to it. That is prayer. Come Holy Spirit.

Acts 25:13b-21

Jn 21:15-19

Ramble a little on the Easter season…

Standard

How shall I approach the conclusion of this years Easter celebrations? I think it will be by reflecting on the whole season. It will be by viewing its conclusion by looking at its beginning. Both ends mirror each others, they are bookends that contain a season. The beginning of the season begins with fire. It begins with the bonfire built outside Church at the vigil Mass. In Pentecost tongues of fire descend on the Apostles. We in the modern era have lost the significance of fire, and we no longer appreciate its beauty. For us it is something obtained by turning a valve or spinning a wheel, or striking a match. Taken for granted, and thoughtless in its creation. Look at that bonfire, and think. How was it ignited, did a parishioner reach for a lighter or strike a match? The proper way, from what I have read, is to begin with flint stone and the dried plant of flax. Laborious, uncertain, and certainly with prayer. The stone is struck until the fiber ignites. Then it is coddled and guarded, and protected until it takes hold.. Does that explain the Acts of the Apostles? Faith the size of a mustard seed grows into the mightiest of trees, Jesus preached that. Let me add one quick side note regarding fire. Here in North America many are familiar with the fire lit outside the church on the Easter vigil. It is the fire that lights the Easter candle, and then every candle every parishioner holds.Significant, in showing Christ as the light of the world, but here in America that is the only reference to fire throughout the season. In parts of Europe though large bonfires are lit throughout the countryside celebrating the risen Lord. The bonfire celebrates Jesus Christ as the light of the world but lets not forget the care in nurturing a spark into a mighty fire.

Bookends, lets look at another event. This is at the tomb after the passion. The women come to the tomb and an Angel says, Women why do you look for Him in a tomb. He is not there. The  beginning of the Easter season, now look ate the end. Look at the Ascension. The angel says to the men, to the men: Why are you looking at the sky, He is not there but has ascended into heaven. The season begins with an apperance of an angel to the women and ends with that angel approaching the men. Coincidence, I think not. I am amused by the medieval depictions of men staring at feet rising into the sky. Funny how Jesus Christ’s descent to earth was first revealed to a woman, revealed to Mary at the Annunciation. On Pentecost Mary and the disciples will be in the upper room to receive the Holy Spirit. Both men and women receive that Spirit, and both have a role in allowing it to grow. Why was it that the women ran to the tomb, and men stared up at the sky? A mystery, faith is full of them.

I will ramble on I promise, but these are a few thoughts I wanted to quick jot down. Now I begin to turn my thoughts to prayer , the prayer at the last supper, at the stoning of Saint Stephen, and those of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. But that ramble is not quite ready…

 

 

Fishing on the third Sunday of Easter.

Standard

First statement and first thought. It is the Easter season, please remember that! The one most important point of this season is Jesus has risen from the grave, the other important point is that the apostles and disciples are witness to the event. That is not to say that other events are not occurring. Events of the world continue both then and now. This is not a vacuum. Armies march, emperors build, politician’s babble and scream. People profit and people loose. Complex world, isn’t it? Think about today, can anyone miss the soap boxes? Can any hear the opinions? The anger pulling from every direction. There is not just one podium, the theatre is full of them and each is calling out for a crowd. They all clamor for attention, they all seek their audience. It is Easter, but the world does not stand still though it should. Not everyone notices, and to others it is an annoyance. In the midst of this is the Sanhedrin, the authority, and they scream the loudest? Authorities exert authority, they apply pressure. There stands Peter, the disciples, and me. That Sanhedrin Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41 wants the Apostles to change their position, to alter their tone, and preach something different. One point of view, and then another. Interesting ho in this confrontation Peter stands up, he does not cower to their might. He sees the merit of Christ’s message with an astonishing clarity and gone is the disciple’s vagueness so evident when Christ was condemned prior to the crucifixion. A cock crowed three times, marking Peter’s denial. Now, he sees clearly. Listen to then politicians and their crowds clamor today, is that our standing before our present day Sanhedrin? An authority by popularity, or by authority, or both. Can we scream “we must obey God rather than men?” Peter with a renewed authority, or is it a Peter of repentance. Did he learn his lesson? Did he gain the courage to correct a mistake? Jesus did preach forgiveness of sins, a contrite heart the Lord will not spurn. It’s Easter, and Peter has not lost sight of his Lord. It’s Easter, when the crowd screams, what do I shout back. How is my sight, and where is my focus? Can I see the Lord guiding me? Is it obedience, or do I deny a risen Lord?

After the crucifixion the world did not stand still, though perhaps it should have. Still and on its knees, but it did not. Peter and the Apostles had to return to life as normal. To normal, what is that? To their expected cadence, to a predictable and expected movement? Peter, a fisherman, went back to his trade and picked up where he left off. Back on a boat and dragging a net.Jn 21:1-19 The routine, really? After his journeys on those seas weeks ago, could his vision of that corner of the world remain the same? Can he return to normal, and more importantly can he resume normal as expected to? Expectations. Hopes crushed, by the expectations of others. Hopes crushed by the demands of others. Peter on the sea after the events of Good Friday is an emotional experience. Peter is human, emotion and hope and fear and question are all within his domain. Hopes dashed, lives crushed, and now a return to #$@*$$% normal? You gotta be kidding! Picking up the pieces of a shattered hope. Grudge on he must, but then a voice. “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” Crowds scream, each calling for attention, each saying “follow me.” Peter us trying to pick up the pieces, but which piece will he gather and what will he toss away. A voice called out, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” They tossed their net and picked up the pieces. It was an abundant harvest, and their suffering turned to a feast. This time Peter knew what to pick up, what to cherish, and what to throw away.

The stories of the resurrection always amaze me. They amaze me in how the apostles and disciples see the risen Lord. They amaze me in how Jesus appears to them. In the first reading it is through a conflict with the world. A conflict with authority. Here they see the value of Christ’s message, and through that vision they gain a strength. Granted they do not receive a physical vision of the Lord, but they do not lose sight of him either. A Vision none the less, even if it is through mind and heart. They don’t simply see Christ, they become Christ like. They grow in wisdom and understanding.

On the sea their vision changes in a very visible world. Sights and sounds and events charged with emotion. Not intellect, but emotion. Do I doubt that those fisherman spoke to Christ on the shore? No, I do not. The location confirms my belief, they went precisely where Jesus told them to go. At that precise location it would have been easier to cast their gaze away from the world than to be blind to the presence of the Lord. On that sea their eyes were wide open, a clarity of vision tuned through their experience. It is how they looked at the world, as an artist stares into a canvas. Visual acuity, observant to those around them. How could they not see the Lord? To the contrary, they might have done everything in their power to look another way. In fact, this gives hint for the reason of Christmas. Its the why of Christ entering into the lives of the disciples at a place they were intimately familiar with. He entered their lives in their world, their planet, their earth. The reason? Simply so that they would see him and not be able to turn away. Once Jesus entered their lives, He entered for an eternity. A vision that would never pass.  The problem with their being blind to Christ,  is that the power of Christ far exceeded theirs, and He is the one that taught them to see. Not in a classroom, but on Galilee. Jesus healed the blind, the disciples could see.Easter.

Easter, the joy of Jesus Christ spotted on he shores of Galilee. The joy of Christ alive on the shore, and not the death left on the hilltop outside Jerusalem. A vision of the resurrected Lord, not in a temple by a priest but in the world by His disciples. Never hidden again. Not as witnessed by another, but by themselves.

Merci beaucoup, on a Sunday.

Standard

Merci beaucoup, as the French would say. Divine mercy Sunday, doubting Thomas Sunday; a Sunday with two names.

Let’s start with Thomas’s doubts, his question’s, his refusal to believe. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Was that for his lack of faith in Christ, or was it because of the immense amount of faith he had placed in the Lord? Per opinion I suspect it was the latter. I can also venture a guess that he refused to diminish Christ’s legacy, so strong was his hope in Christ’s promise. He could not rely on hearsay. His doubt was a demand for truth , it also could be considered a defense. A legal court argument, so it seems to me. A refusal to face the realities of the crucifixion. Is that possible, might it be human? Thomas is a real person, with human emotions. Thomas is not that different from any man today. An emotional reaction? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed Some also say that Thomas’s doubt was precisely for our benefit. Some say Jesus revealed Himself while Thomas was absent so that he would express a human response and demand a proof of the resurrected Christ. Blessed are those that do not see yet believe, Thomas’s argument helps us do exactly that.

Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”

Think a little deeper about the doubt of Thomas, think of it in terms of Christ’s mercy. Divine mercy. If Thomas has doubt , look at it from another point of view. Look at his doubt from the viewpoint of someone who was scourged, and mocked, and tortured for someone like Thomas. Look at Thomas from the viewpoint of a person who was shown no mercy. Did mankind show Christ mercy? Did mankind respond to Christ with mercy, did Christ respond with the same brutality he received? Christ’s response to Thomas is in virtuous understanding, He wishes that Thomas believes. Jesus Christ gives Thomas the benefit of the doubt. Forgiveness? Jesus sees Thomas as good. Think to the story of creation please. He extends His wounds as a merciful response to Thomas’s doubt. That mercy is extended after three days in the grave. That mercy is extended after descending into the depths of hell. One can ask how much more God must do beyond hanging on a tree to prove His love and mercy for man? The answer is He extends his wounds mercifully so that we might believe . That is mercy, endless mercy, divine mercy. God extends his mercy even before receiving a merci beaucoup, a thank you. Gods mercy is not dependent on our actions, it is freely extended despite our doubt, shortcomings and human frailties. It is endless and selfless, it is eternal. That is divine mercy. Merci

a baptismal epiphany

Standard

Its another Epiphany. How many can there be? The answer to that question is three, and the second is commemorated today according to the new liturgical calendar. While the feast of the Epiphany had historically been on 6January, more recently that has changed. Todays epiphany is the baptism of the Lord. It is his baptism by John, it is when the heavens open up, it is when a dove becomes visible, and it is the voice of God that says “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” With those actions , not only is Jesus’s divinity revealed as the Son of God, but the vision of that dove reveals the Trinity. An Epiphany.

This epiphany is about the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, and that baptism speaks to our own. Our baptism brings us into the fold. Jesus baptism marks the beginning of His public ministry, ours marks the beginning of our journey as disciples. Baptisms and water are an important part of this day. Traditionally the Feast of the Epiphany (6Jan) is commemorated by the blessing of the Epiphany Water. A Holy Water. Baptisms begin with holy water , and often begin with the reciting of the prayers blessing that water. It is an exorcism of the water, and of the person. Many are familiar with the pouring of water from a shell onto an infants head, some are familiar with the baptism of an adult, some are familiar with a baptismal pool. All baptisms involve both death and life, it is a death to sin and a resurrection in Jesus the Christ. Death and resurrection. There actually are three types of baptism; water, fire, and desire.

After all the people had been baptized
and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying,
heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him
in bodily form like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven,
“You are my beloved Son;
with you I am well pleased.”

Johns baptism was one of repentance, and that is the reason did not need to be baptized by John. Jesus was free from all sin, and through His baptism He sanctified that water for humanity. His baptism prepares the waters for us so we might follow him. So often Jesus first words to the apostles were “follow me.” What were John the Baptists baptism like? They took place in the Jordan river and carried a message of repentance. It has been said when a person was baptized by John, when their head left the water that person either saw salvation or damnation. Think of that Baptist, who was a fiery preacher and a man of strength. Visualize John grasping a persons head and plunging it into the river. A second, a minute? One minute or two, how long can a person hold their breath? I imagine John knew how long to submerge someone. I can also imagine that person grasping for their breath like a newborn infant. Death to sin and resurrected in Christ. Three minutes with a head submerged, and three days in a tomb. In those three days Christ descended into hell to reclaim those lives trapped there. Death and resurrection. Water is powerful, as proved by the flood. It also is essential to life. It kills, and it restores. Holy Water. Todays Epiphany commemorates the Baptism of the Lord, it also calls us to ponder our own. This epiphany takes place around water, and in the next that water will be turned into wine.