3rd Sunday of Easter

April 30, 2017
Luke 24:13-35


Execution by crucifixion was reserved for the most contemptuous of criminals. The early disciples were disappointed and humiliated by the fact that Jesus was crucified. Last Sunday’s gospel also suggests that they were afraid for their own safety. It should be no surprise that some of the disciples gathered behind the locked doors and still others fled the situation. Emmaus was a Roman Spa, a place of physical comfort.

The two that were on the road to Emmaus might have been any of many pilgrims who had been to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover and were now returning home. But Luke tells us that these two were disciples. There is some reason to suspect that they were husband and wife. Missionary couples like Aguila and Priscilla were known among the early Christian community (Acts 18:2). John’s gospel mentions the wife of Clopas (possibly Cleopas) at the foot of the cross with Jesus’ mother and Mary of Magdala (John 19:25). Another reason to think they were a couple is that their invitation of hospitality toward Jesus, at the end of the text, seems to have been made together.

   When Jesus joined them, he appeared to them to be a fellow pilgrim returning from the Passover celebration. They were surprised by the fact that he seemed to be unaware of Jesus’ crucifixion. The two disciples explained the events of the crucifixion, and of that Sunday morning, as they knew them. They were aware that some of the women had reported the empty tomb, and that an angel told them that Jesus was alive. Others had verified that the tomb was empty, and they did not find Jesus, nor, apparently, did they find the angel who had appeared to the women. The two also revealed that they were among Jesus’ followers, and that they had hoped that he might be the awaited savior. They told all of this to a person who appeared to be a total stranger! At the same time they are heading out of Jerusalem, away of the other disciples to the Roman Spa City of Emmaus.

  From their perspective, this stranger seemed to be able to reinterpret their religious traditions in such a way that the events of Jesus’ death were the fulfillment of their tradition. Even with this new understanding their tradition they were continuing their journey to Emmaus and unware that the person walking with them was the risen Jesus. They will not rediscover their hope and faith in Jesus as the Messiah until Jesus accepts their invitation to joined them and brakes bread with them. The formula of verse 30 is same as that of the Last supper (Luke 22:19), “Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.’”

Reflection Questions:

  1. Have you faced a life situation that was dreadful or out of control? How do you respond?
  2. Have you ever had sense that God was walking with you? Did have that awareness during that period of your life or later?
  3. Have you ever come to awareness that you had been prevented from recognizing God’s presence in your life? What were some of the things that prevented you form recognizing God’s presence?
  4. On the road, the two disciples told Jesus not only what had happened in Jerusalem, but also how these events had impacted them personally. How easy is it for you to share with others your doubts, fears and disappointments?
  5. What do you think is the emotional state of the two disciples who are on the way to Emmaus? Why would Jesus want to come to these two disciples?
  6. The disciples did not recognized Jesus until the breaking of the bread. Has your participation in the Eucharist brought you to a new awareness of your relationship to God, the church or creation?


Reflection questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM.
They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel.

2nd Sunday of Easter – Divine Mercy Sunday

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas By: Hendrick ter Brugghen

April 23, 2017
John 20:19-31



Most Westerners have become accustomed to a world of visible information. Educators know that some people learn best when information is presented visually. Some people take pride in wanting to see for themselves–Missouri is known as the “show me state.” However, in the culture in which Jesus lived, many people did not possess the visual capabilities that we take for granted. In order to maintain some sense of privacy in their culture, deception and secrecy were parts of daily survival. Children were used to spying on neighbors, and locked doors were presumed to be hiding covert activity. In this culture, everyone developed a healthy suspicion and doubt about the truthfulness of others. The way people dealt with discerning the truthfulness of a person’s account was to have numerous and notable witnesses.

Unlike the synoptic gospels, John’s gospel does not contain a Last Supper/Passover account. Instead, John precedes the passion and death of Jesus with a farewell address. As part of this address Jesus says, “My peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I.” (John 14:27-28) Later in that discourse Jesus again addresses the disciples, “you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. On that day you will not question me about anything.” (John 16:22-23a) In the text for this Sunday, John describes how Jesus has fulfilled what he said in that farewell address.

This gospel text is composed of two almost identical appearances of the risen Lord. Both appearances take place on the first day of the week. Both times the disciples are gathered, the doors are locked, Jesus appears in their midst, he greets them with the greeting of peace, and he shows them the wounds of the crucifixion. The repetition of these details draws attention to the ways the two appearances are different. First is the absence of Thomas in the first appearance. When he is told by the others that Jesus has appeared to them, he refuses to accept their word as creditable witnesses of the truth of their testimony. If the others have seen the risen Jesus, he will not believe unless he can not only see but touch the wounds. This leads to the second difference in the two accounts–the fact that Thomas is invited by Jesus to touch the wounds of the crucifixion. Another difference is found in the kind of response the disciples and Thomas have to the presence of the risen Christ before them. In the first visit, they are filled with joy. In the second appearance, Thomas responds with a statement of faith in Jesus as his Lord and his God.  The last difference is in the way the appearance impacts those beyond the event itself. In the first incident, Jesus commissions the disciples to be instruments of God’s forgiveness. In the second appearance, Jesus describes those who believe, without the unique experience of Thomas and these disciples, as blessed.

Thomas’ objection to believing the testimony of the apostles would be familiar to many in the early Church for whom John is writing. John’s gospel was the last to be written. Many of those who were now hearing of Jesus had not had a personal experience of Jesus. In fact, even many of those who were now teaching had probably not experienced the Jesus of history either. How could anyone be expected to believe in Jesus if they had no experience of Jesus or the resurrection? The experience of Thomas is one of the ways John is responding to such questions. Thomas first gives voice to their objection. But when he finally comes to faith, it is not because he has seen or even touched the wounds of Jesus, even though he has now had the opportunity. He is brought to faith by accepting the word of Jesus to him, the invitation, and that Jesus desired to seek him out so that he not remain in ignorance.


Reflection Questions:

  1. Do you presume that most people speak truthfully?
  2. Do you recall an incident when others doubted your truthfulness?
  3. Jesus enters the room where the disciples are gathered and greets them with “Peace be with you.” Who are the people who have brought peace into your life?
  4. Do you bring peace into the life of others?
  5. The gospel text says that Jesus showed the disciples his hands and his side, and that the disciples rejoiced when they saw him. It seems to be implied that they rejoiced to see the signs of his passion. How do you make sense of this?
  6. Are there places in your own life where you find meaning and even joy in what you have suffered?
  7. What are some of the things Thomas might have been thinking when he heard the others tell him of Jesus’ appearance to them?
  8. How do you think the disciples felt when Thomas told them that he not only did not believe them, but that he would never believe unless he touched the wounds of Jesus?
  9. Are you surprised that Thomas was still with them a week later when Jesus returned? What do you think that week was like for Thomas, for Peter, and for the other disciples?
  10. How would the Church have been different if Peter had insisted that Thomas either accept their testimony and believe, or separate himself from the group?
  11. How many times in the gospels do people seek to touch Jesus? How many times does Jesus seek to touch another?
  12. How might the church be different without both of these two stories of Jesus coming to the disciples in the midst of their fears and doubts?


The reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM
They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel

Go to Confession?

Can you picture what it feels like to hold a fresh piece of laundry after it has been washed and dried? You take it, smell it, and feel that rush of satisfaction that comes with clean laundry. It’s almost as if the cleanliness radiates through you and makes your whole body feel clean. This is the same feeling I get after going to confession. There is an overwhelming sense of peace that comes with knowing that God has forgiven your sins and that through the prayer of absolution God “washes us clean.” While not reducing the grace that is received in Confession to what happens in a wash machine what’s important is the feeling one has knowing that God has truly forgiven your sins. But, it’s understandable not everyone will feel this way after going to confession. It’s possible you may even question why it’s even necessary in the first place. This leads us to the question, “Why do Catholics Go to Confession.”

Without going immensely into the history of the sacrament here is the “spark notes” version about the sacrament of confession. Confession is one of our seven sacraments labeled under the category “Sacraments of Healing.” As Catholics we believe that this sacrament actually originated from Jesus himself in Scripture (John 20:23) and has been passed down through apostolic succession. God alone possess the power to forgive sins, and since Jesus was true God and true man Jesus also had this power. Jesus then passed the power to forgive sins on to his apostles who then passed on this power to the bishops of the early church. It is from these early bishops that we continue the power of forgiving sins.

It is very important to remember that although it is the bishop or priest that is present in the sacrament it is actually Jesus who is the one forgiving your sins. The priest or bishop is merely the representative of Jesus (Catholic Faith Handbook, 226). Another important thing to remember about the sacrament of confession is the “effects” we receive from it. Confession all at once restores our relationship with God and others, converts our hearts, gives us power to resist future temptation, and gives us freedom from our past sins (Catholic Faith Handbook, 228).

In the end there are many reasons to go to confession but if you have to remember one remember that inner sense of peace and freedom that comes with knowing that God has truly forgiven. Finally know that confession is available frequently. You can easily check the archdiocesan website to find the closest one to you. They are available multiple times a day and week.



Easter Gospels

April 16, 2017
John 20:1-9 (Easter Morning)


This familiar gospel text may seem a likely choice for Easter, but notice that the Risen Lord is not encountered. Rather the text centers on the empty tomb and the first disciples’ encounter with the absent body of Jesus. However, for John’s community the belief in the resurrection was not based on their firsthand experience of the risen Christ, but on the testimony and faith of the Christian community. The faith journey of each of us is based to some extent on the faith and testimony of those who have come before us.

John begins this text while it is dark. Mary of Magdala, Peter, and the disciples are all in the dark about what has really taken place. When Mary discovers the empty tomb, she presumes that someone has taken the body. The possibility that Jesus has risen is not even a consideration. By suggesting that Mary had first believed that the body was stolen, John is dealing head-on with those who suggested that the Christians’ belief in the resurrection could more accurately be explained by the fact that someone removed the body.

Throughout his gospel, John uses the lack of understanding of those who encountered Jesus as a tool for Jesus to further explain his role. Through their lack of understanding, people come to receive further clarification, and also move toward deeper faith in Jesus. Think of the accounts of the woman at the well, the man born blind, and even Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus. Mary of Magdala’s lack of comprehension is not a problem, because she has faith in Jesus. The understanding will continue to develop within her as it does within the early disciples. The texts that will be used throughout the Easter season will highlight this development. Next Sunday the text will describe the disciples’ first encounter with the risen Lord in the upper room. In a few weeks, the Gospel will describe the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.

Reflection Questions:

  1. John does not need to hide the lack of clear understanding of Mary, Peter, and the beloved disciple at the beginning of the text. How do you feel about the questions or lack of clear understanding you may have at times in your life?
  2. What impact does knowing that other people have grappled with the same question have on your effort to find your answer?
  3. Why do you think John tells his community that Mary of Magdala went to the tomb first?
  4. When you reflect on your relationship with the risen Lord, does it feel more like Mary of Magdala, Peter, or the other disciple in this gospel?
  5. Why do you think Peter and the beloved disciple ran to the tomb? When you think of your relationship with God, are you walking, running, standing still, backing away…?
  6. How do you feel when you stand with other Christians on Sundays to say the creed together? Does it feel different this Easter?
  7. Do you have any experience of God using darkness, uncertainty, or questions to lead you to a deeper understanding of God’s presence in your life?
  8. Do you also have experiences that have been windows into a deeper awareness of how much God is working in your own life and in creation while you have very little or no awareness?
  9. Have you ever talked to God about your own lack of awareness of God’s presence or activity?

The reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM.
They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel.

Easter Vigil Gospels

April 15, 2017
Matthew 28:1-10 (Easter Vigil)


This gospel text is both an empty tomb account and a report of an appearance of the risen Lord. Scripture scholars believe that the first accounts of the resurrection were reports of encounters of the risen Lord, and later, accounts of the empty tomb were added. Neither type was convincing proof of Jesus’ resurrection for the disciples or for people of the day. The gospels are windows into the struggles of the early disciples to believe. The early accounts of the empty tomb, like the accounts of the disciples on the road to Emmaus and Jesus’ appearance to the apostles and then again to Thomas, all reflect the disciples trying to comprehend the risen Christ.

At the same time, this gospel also speaks of the whole of creation being affected by the resurrection. The earth shakes and the heavens are opened, and an angel descends to earth whose appearance is like that of lightning and whose garments are as white as snow. Those who experience these events are filled with fear. The guards and the women both flee the tomb in fear, but these frightened women are given the task of carrying the message of the resurrection to the apostles.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Have there been times when you experienced both fear and joy at the same time?
  2. Can you think of other times in the history of Salvation when God’s presence in human history brought both fear and joy?
  3. What role do both fear and joy play in how God brought you to awareness of God’s presence to you?
  4. Why was Mary Magdalene looking for Jesus at the tomb?
  5. Have there ever been times in your life when you were looking for God, or some sign of God’s presence, but seemed to fail in your efforts?
  6. Do you think it was significant for the women that, despite their fear, they took the message they had received and went to tell the apostles of their experience?
  7. If you were commissioned to write a one-act play describing what happened when these women told their story to the apostles, what would that look like?
  8. Why didn’t God just send angels to everyone whom he wanted to know that Jesus was risen?
  9. Have you ever talked to God about why he did not give us a clearer or more detailed account of the resurrection? Would you like to now?

The reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM.
They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel.

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

April 9, 2017
Matthew 26:14-27:66


The earliest Christian accounts of the death of Jesus are Paul’s simple and direct statements. “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared to Kephas, then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once …” (1 Corinthians 15:3-6) Paul’s statement may seem rather stark compared to Matthew’s passion narrative. Paul’s emphasis is clearly on the resurrection. Crucifixion was reserved for the worst scoundrels and was an embarrassment to the early disciples. It took many years of reflection for the Christian community to make sense of it. Matthew’s community was largely Jewish. They turned to the Hebrew Scriptures that spoke of fulfillment, especially Psalms 22 and 69, and texts from the great prophet Isaiah. (Italics have been added to the gospel text above to highlight those places where Matthew tells his readers that the event fulfills what was written about the Messiah.) Mark’s passion is similar to Matthew’s in focus. Luke and John focus much more on the discourse of Jesus throughout the events. John’s account does not even include a Last Supper narrative, but instead a kind of farewell address that contains instructions for the disciples and a deep, personal prayer.

The manner of Jesus’ death raised difficult questions for the early Christian Community. How could God’s anointed be treated so shamefully? Could God not have done something to prevent this from happening? If God could have done something, why did God not do something to prevent Jesus’ crucifixion? Jesus’ death was a scandal that most Jews could not accept as the way God would chose to act. To seriously consider Jesus as the long-awaited messiah was extremely difficult.

One of the ways Matthew deals with these questions is to make it clear that Jesus, who is the faithful servant of God, had been falsely accused. In the opening verses of today’s text, Jesus’ own disciple, Judas, receives payment to hand Jesus over. Judas next appears accompanied by a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, and he betrays Jesus with a kiss. (Matthew 26:47-50) The third and last time Judas is mentioned, he is back with the chief priests seeking to correct his obvious mistake. When the chief priests refuse to cooperate with his change of heart, Judas hangs himself. Note that the money paid to Judas was blood money, and therefore could not be returned to the temple treasury. (Matthew 27:3-8) The three times that Judas appears in Matthew’s passion highlight the fact that Jesus was falsely accused, showing that there were no valid accusations of any crime, let alone any crime that would merit crucifixion.

Another way that Matthew deals with the questions that arise from Jesus’ crucifixion is to portray him as the one who is completely in control of the situation. Jesus knows what is going to happen beforehand. He predicts that (1) the disciples will go into the crowded city of Jerusalem and find a man who had prepared a room for him and the disciples to celebrate the Passover (Matthew 26:18-19), (2) one of his disciples will betray him (Matthew 26:21), and (3) Peter will deny him (Matthew 26:31). Jesus is also in control of his actions in the way he responds to people in roles of authority and power. Caiaphas, Herod and Pilate all appear to be driven by the situation. At times they even appear to be appealing to Jesus for some insight to make sense of the situation. Matthew also draws on the manly virtue of the day: that of bearing one’s fate in life without complaint. The only hint of complaint comes while Jesus is in prayer in the garden. But, Jesus prays that events unfold according to God’s will and not his own. (Matthew 26:39-42) As the passion narrative unfolds, Matthew reminds his community of references to their sacred tradition that suggest these events are unfolding as they were intended by God.

Matthew’s passion does not portray Jesus’ death as the targeted fate of a naive radical holy man. Rather, Jesus is like every innocent and persecuted Hebrew who has experienced persecution, injustice and misunderstanding. He is one like them. Jesus has taken the very worst treatment upon himself, and he has been totally faithful and completely innocent. The resurrection was a demonstration, once and for all, of the power of God to overcome all evil in the world.

Perhaps the struggle of the Hebrew people to accept Jesus as the Messiah is not so very different from our own. How could a loving God expect his beloved to endure such a painful and humiliating form of death? One problem with this type of question is that it seems to reflect only the perspective of Jesus being a human being. From the perspective of Jesus as God, the question might be asked: what is God revealing to us about his relationship with a world that is composed of people like the disciples, Peter, Judas, Caiaphas, Pilate, and Herod…?

Reflection Questions:

  1. What is your attitude toward suffering and humiliation?
  2. Have you ever taken on suffering or humiliation in order to be true to yourself or to a value you hold deeply?
  3. Have you ever abandoned your values in order to avoid suffering or humiliation? 
  4. When you experience pain or suffering, do you find that your attention and focus turn inward on yourself and your pain? Does it also make you aware of the suffering of others?
  5. In the gospel text, both Judas and Peter betrayed Jesus and regretted their actions later. What is the difference in the way that each of them dealt with their sorrow? 
  6. Have you ever wept because of your awareness of your sinfulness?
  7. When Jesus prays that he be spared of the ordeal before him, what is he revealing to you about the nature of his relationship to the Father, and the Father’s relationship to Jesus?
  8. What is Jesus revealing to us about his relationship to the Father when he cries out on the cross? What is the Father revealing to you about the Father’s relationship to Jesus?
  9. Where is God in these moments?
  10. What role does a spirituality that includes surrender to God’s will have in your life? Do you think you will experience blessings without accepting discipline?
  11. As you reflect on this gospel text, what are some of the parts that stand out for you today? What would you like to say to God about what God seems to be saying to you?

The reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM.
They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel.

Light the Easter Fire?

One of the most beautiful things about the Catholic Church is the use of symbols to communicate meaning. Fire, one of the most frequently used symbols in our faith, communicates a number of different meanings: Holy Spirit, purification, or bring light into darkness. As we approach Easter and the end of Lent we use this symbol of fire in a moving ritual called “The Service of Light” which happens on Holy Saturday night at the Easter Vigil. This leads to the question, “Why do Catholics light the Easter fire?”

The Service of Light happens directly before the beginning of the Easter Vigil, and it starts outside at a designated area to start a fire. As people come into church they are given an unlit candle, and the church itself is completely dark, which gives the impression we gather in darkness still following the death of Jesus on Good Friday. Then before the Mass begins people are invited to come outside to see the lighting of the Easter fire.

Then the Service of Light begins with a greeting of the priest outside, the lighting of the Easter fire, and finally the fire is blessed. Then the Paschal Candle is blessed, marked with the sign of the cross and year, and then finally lit. The Paschal Candle, which is the giant candle that stands near the baptismal font, symbolizes “light of Christ, rising in glory,” scattering the “darkness of our hearts and minds.” “Above all, the Paschal Candle should be a genuine candle, the pre-eminent symbol of the light of Christ.” (usccb.org) Every year a new Paschal Candle is purchased for the Easter Vigil.

After the Paschal Candle is lit then the procession into church begins. The member holding the Paschal enters in first followed by the servers with incense, readers, the priest, and the people outside the church. The following of the light of the Paschal Candle is symbolic of the Israelites who followed the pillar of fire at night as they were leaving Egypt. (Exodus 13: 17-22).

As they enter the only light you can see is the Paschal Candle. Next, they stop at the gathering area in back of church where the priest lights his candle and we all sing a song. Then the procession continues until the Paschal candle reaches the middle of the isle. Then all the candles are lit from the Paschal Candle. Following the people in front the light is passed throughout the church until the church is lit by everyone who is holding a candle. The procession continues until then everyone is in their proper places and the people have found their spots in church.

This ritual inevitably shows how Jesus is the Light of Christ. His resurrection brings light to a world of darkness. That light shines in each individual showing us we have the responsibility to keep that light burning brightly for others to see.

I invite you and your families to come experience this ritual for yourself on Saturday April 15th at the Easter Vigil which takes place at 8:00 PM. Let the symbols speak to you and watch as the Light of Christ is brought into the hearts of all. Hope to see you all there!

Jeremy Maciolek

A new series dedicated to catching up with young adults
who have grown up within our St. Matthias Parish family!
(and who will always be part of our family)

by Patti Pomerenke

Profile:  Jeremy Maciolek

  • 2009 Graduate of St. Matthias School
  • 2013 Graduate of Nathan Hale High School
  • Graduating from University of Wisconsin-Madison in Spring, 2017; degree in Chemical Engineering
  • Immediate family is made up of Jeremy and his Mom, Sheri.
  • Location at Mass: The Macioleks typically sit in the far-right section (by the Tabernacle) / mid-way back.

Talking to Jeremy Maciolek, it’s easy to enjoy Jeremy’s friendly and social nature, as well as immediately notice his energy and drive.

Jeremy speaks fondly of his time at St. Matthias School, and believes that St. Matthias School gave him a strong foundation both in academics and in other development opportunities.  In academics, Jeremy feels that St. Matthias offered him broad areas of interest in math and science and opened his mind to a myriad of concepts.  In addition, Jeremy feels that there were countless activities offered at the school, and Jeremy took advantage of the opportunities and participated in such things as Boy Scouts, Altar Server, Cadet Captain, Eucharistic Minister, which helped to develop him as a person.  He also fondly remembers his favorite teacher, Mrs. Wagner, who taught the 5th grade.

Jeremy states that he always had an engineering mindset, and as a youngster liked to build things with Legos and Duplos.  In High School at Nathan Hale, he took a chemistry class with teacher Ms. Kostich, and realized there that his engineering mindset translated into a knack for chemistry, and he proceeded to take additional science classes in the chemistry and engineering path.  Jeremy entered University of Wisconsin-Madison as a Chemical Engineering major and is on track to graduate in four years, although many Chemical Engineering majors take 4 1/2 or 5 years to graduate.  Initially, Jeremy was convinced that he wanted to work in the pharmaceutical field, but now is open to other industries or opportunities.

One highlight of Jeremy’s college experience has been the opportunity to study abroad in Denmark during the summer of 2016, at the Technical University of Denmark.  He took two courses while there: Systems Biology-based Engineering, and a Nanotechnology lab which provided Jeremy with the opportunity to work directly with professors and graduate students.  Another highlight has been the friends he has made within the Chemical Engineering program.  Since the program is so intense, the close-knit group of students study together almost every night and relies on each other for help and inspiration. 

Jeremy does not have much spare time, but when he does, he likes to read fiction books, practice amateur photography, and occasionally watch TV.  He did say that if he could have dinner with three people, living or dead, he would choose: Aldous Huxley (author), Viola Davis (actor), and Pope Francis.

Jeremy has kept active in his field by interning at Aurora Health Care for two summers, and is actively job-hunting now.  He hopes to stay in the Milwaukee area after graduation, but is open to other options.  Wherever Jeremy ends up, he no doubt will be a great success!  Your St. Matthias family is proud of you, Jeremy!