13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 2, 2017
Matthew 10:37-42

 

Background:

The gospel text for this Sunday is the conclusion of Jesus’ instructions to the twelve before he sends them out to preach to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” In the gospels Jesus often draws on the images of sheep and shepherds to illustrate the kind of relationship the religious leaders should have toward the people. Today’s gospel is part of his instructions to his disciples as he sends them to the lost sheep. He is sharing the mission that he has received with them.

The admonition that a disciple must love Jesus more than one’s family would sound even more shocking to Jesus’ contemporaries than it does to people today. Most of us are raised in a way that will prepare us for the day when we will leave home to start our own families. Many today assume that this may include moving to another city or even a different country. For a person to leave one’s family at the time of Jesus was totally unacceptable, and it would likely result in the death of all but the most resourceful. A person’s worth, esteem, honor, and financial support were all based in their family. Those outside the family were viewed with suspicion.

While Jesus’ instruction reminds the disciples of what they are leaving behind, he also tells them what they will receive in exchange. They will go out as representatives of Jesus himself. They are the first ones who have received a prophet, Jesus himself, and they will receive the prophet’s reward. As the simplest act of courtesy, giving a cup of water (or the use of a bathroom) will reap abundant blessing from God, the gift of their sacrifice to proclaim God’s coming will be blessed in the same way. Jesus’ instruction would have made a shocking impact on the early disciples as they prepared to proclaim the coming of God. He reminds them of the dedication required of them and the great blessing being bestowed on them for their willingness to accept this responsibility.

 

Reflection Questions:

  1. Have there been times in your life when you felt worthy? When were these?
  2. Have there been times in your life when you felt unworthy? When were these?
  3. Do you have any meaningful relationships that are always enjoyable, life-giving, and rewarding?
  4. When it comes to your spiritual life and your relationship with God, is it easier for you to see God’s spirit accompanying you in the good times or in the difficult and painful periods of your life?
  5. Do you know people who have given up “normal” family relationships in order to pursue some opportunity or dream?
  6. How did your parents feel about you moving out of their home? How do you think it compared to the time when they left the home of their parents?
  7. What are some of the things that have come between you and members of your family or friends?
  8. Do you think of yourself as one of Jesus’ disciples who have also been sent? How do you hear this instruction from Jesus?
  9. To whom might Jesus be sending you?
  10. Mary, Francis, Clare, and many other saints and ordinary people have grown to discover a love of God that is so strong that they were willing to sacrifice their relationships with family and friends to pursue their relationship with God. Can you imagine that kind of passion in your relationship with God?
  11. Can you talk with God about how you feel about being sent out as one of His disciples?

 

 

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

 

 

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 25, 2017
Matthew 10:26-33

Background:

Within Matthew’s gospel there are five major discourses. One of these deals with the mission of Jesus and the disciples. (Matt 10:1-42) The first eight verses of that first discourse would have normally been read last week. However, because we celebrated the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, the readings for that feast were used instead. Those eight verses deal with the naming and sending of the twelve. Matthew continues with Jesus telling the disciples how they are to travel. While acknowledging the danger involved in being sent to the towns and villages, he asks them to rely on the Jewish code of hospitality for strangers. Therefore, they are not to take money or provisions for themselves, and they are to stay at only one person’s house for the duration of their visit in any particular town. (Matt 10:9-15) Also they need to be prepared for rejection and persecution. Jesus assures them that even if others reject them, God will still be with them. He concludes by saying that a slave is not greater than the master. This seems to imply that if He, their master, has been sent out by His Father and faced rejection and harsh treatment, they should expect the same mission and possible mistreatment. (Matt 10:16-25)

This leads into our text for this Sunday, where Jesus instructs them not to be afraid. The direct exhortation to fear no one may suggest that, for the faith-filled disciple, fear should be non-existent. However, in verse 28 Jesus seems to acknowledge the fear the disciples might have as they face the difficulties of proclaiming what they have been taught. Jesus does not suggest that they should not be afraid of anything. Rather, he tells them that their real fear should be of God, who has the ability to bring upon them much greater pain than physical pain–the eternal pain of life without God. That would be worse than any physical suffering they might have to endure.

Jesus then uses two images to reassure the disciples of God’s intimate concern for each of them. God’s awareness of each of the numerous sparrows and countless hairs is a reminder to the disciples that even though they may feel abandoned or forgotten by God in difficult times, this is not so. God is acutely aware of each of them. The hairs of one’s head are beyond being counted; yet God knows each of these. Therefore, it would be a serious mistake to give in to one’s doubts and turn from God.

 

Reflection Questions:

  1. When in your life have you experienced fear? How did that affect your relationship with God?
  2. Do you ever whisper when you talk with friends? Can you remember a time when you shouted so that the whole world could hear you? What was the source of both types of experiences?
  3. What has your relationship with God taught you about God that you would like to proclaim from the housetops?
  4. Can you imagine a God who knows every hair on your head? What image would you use to express God’s closeness or awareness of you?
  5. Do you have aspects about your private life that you deliberately do not speak about to anyone?
  6. Can you talk openly with God about those areas of your life?
  7. Can you take time now to talk to God openly about the things that you fear most?

 

 

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

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)

June 18, 2017
John 6:51-58

Background:

In the opening verse, Jesus identifies himself as the bread from heaven. In the next verse, he states that whoever eats his flesh and drinks his blood has life eternal. The fact that the Jews quarreled among themselves at this statement should not be a surprise. The word that Jesus used, translated as “eats” here, would carry a sense of gnawing, as a dog with a bone. Drinking blood was prohibited within the Jewish community. It should not be surprising that some of the Jews who were hearing this questioned his teaching. Questions in John’s gospel usually present an opportunity for Jesus to further explain his teaching.

Jesus explains, “…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” (John 6:51) In case they missed the point, Jesus restates this point three more times (verses 53, 54, and 55). The expression “flesh and blood” was to describe a human person. For those Jesus is addressing, the term “flesh and blood” would also call to mind the animals that were ritually slaughtered as offerings to God–including offerings made throughout the year, but especially those made as part of the Passover observance.  Jesus is describing himself as the lamb that was killed and had its blood drained so that it could be used as a sacrificial offering.  This same connection will be made later in John’s gospel when he places the hour of Jesus’ death at about the time when the lambs were being killed for the Passover observance.

For John’s community, Jesus is their food and drink. Because John’s gospel is the last of the four gospels to be written, those in the community have had more time to reflect on the significance of the Jewish tradition in Jesus’ life and teaching. The experience of God feeding the Jews in the desert is a springboard to help them understand God’s new revelation in Jesus. It is not enough to believe in Jesus, or even to ritually participate in the new customs of the Christian community. They are seeking to understand how God is continuing to nourish with God’s real presence on this new journey.

Departing from Matthew, Mark and Luke, John’s gospel does not have a Last Supper account before his passion and death. Therefore, Jesus’ instruction here about being the Body and Blood that gives eternal life is not tied as directly to Eucharist. It is a much broader and pervasive reality than just Eucharist.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What is your thinking of bread, what memories come to mind when you think of bread?
  2. What memories do you have of wine?
  3. What images come to mind when you think of flesh? What images come to mind when you think of blood?
  4. Have you ever had periods when you did not get enough to eat? How far back would you have to go in your family to note a generation that truly worried about not having enough to eat? How do you think that experience affected them?
  5. Have there been times in your life when you felt a hunger or a thirst that was not about food or drink?
  6. Why would John take the time to note that the Jews quarreled among themselves over Jesus’s teaching?
  7. Are their aspects of God’s relationship with us that you have quarreled about?
  8. What are the things that nourish your soul, and your spirit?
  9. What does this say to you about God’s desire for you?
  10. Can you take some time now or later today to speak to God about what this text is saying to you at this time of your life?

 

 

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

The Holy Trinity

June 11, 2017
John 3:16-18

Background:

The first verse (Jn 3:16) of the gospel is among the most familiar texts in the Christian Scriptures. One scripture scholar says that it is “a succinct summary of the whole Gospel…” (Reginald H. Fuller http://www.liturgy.slu.edu/TrinityA061117/theword_indepth.html)

John’s gospel was written much later than the other gospels. Many in John’s community would have been familiar with those gospels. Therefore, John’s gospel could begin with John the Baptist testifying to the greatness of Jesus and then move directly to Jesus’ call of the first disciples without describing any of Jesus’ early teaching or healing ministry. The second chapter of John’s gospel describes the wedding feast at Cana and Jesus expelling from the Temple those selling items to pilgrims desiring to offer a sacrifice. Both of these events would have disturbed the peoples’ understanding of their relationship to God.

The third chapter of John’s gospel begins with Nicodemus, a leading Pharisee of the day, coming to Jesus at night to gain a clearer understanding of Jesus and his teaching. Nicodemus asks Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him. “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” (John 3:2-3) Jesus’ response to Nicodemus uses a word that means both again and above, so that when Jesus tells him that one must be born “again” in order to enter the Kingdom of God, Nicodemus is not sure what he means. It is in the context of this conversation with Nicodemus that the present text appears in John’s gospel.

The text states that God gave his only Son to the world so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life. In John’s gospel “the world” is sometimes cast in a positive light, but more often it is cast in a negative light. The early Christians’ experience of the world changed drastically in those years when the texts that became the New Testament were being written. In the years right after the resurrection, the early Christians were part of the Jewish community. They were convinced that Jesus was the long-awaited messiah. They lived by that conviction, and they argued with their contemporaries, but they maintained their status in the community. Gentile conversion to Christianity, some Jewish Christians’ rejection of their new faith, Jews becoming resentful, and eventually excommunication from their synagogues led to a more hostile attitude toward the world. This shift in attitude is also reflected in the New Testament and elsewhere in John’s Gospel.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Complete this sentence. My parents so loved me that they gave me ….
  2. Or if you are a parent yourself, complete this. I so loved my child that I gave her/him …
  3. Can you contemplate what it might have been like for the Father to send the Son to be born into the world?
  4. What comes to mind when you reflect on God’s desire for sending his Son to be born into the world?
  5. Do you see the world primarily as something good, created by God, and a place that reveals the presence of God to you?
  6. What has been your primary experience of the world and society?
  7. Have there been periods in your life when it has been difficult to believe in the goodness of the world, creation, and the people around you? What happens to you when you choose to live out of that attitude?
  8. How is your life different when you live out of a basic reverence, trust, and sense of goodness in others?
  9. God so loved that world that … (How many times could you fill in this sentence?)
  10. The text seems to invite us to contemplate and enter the heart of God. Do you ever pray to know how God feels about you?
  11. What do you think it would be like to see yourself through the eyes and heart of God?

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

Beckie Jaeckels

A 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

  • 2012 graduate of St. Matthias School
  • 2016 Graduate of Nathan Hale High School
  • Currently attending University of Missouri-Columbia (Mizzou).
    • Immediate family includes :
           Parents Steve and Kathy Jaeckels
           Sister Jessica
    • Location at Mass: The Jaeckels family typically sits on the right side of Church (baptism font side), second section in.

Beckie Jaeckels has completed her first year of college at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and has found college to be everything she dreamed of and more! Columbia, MO, where Mizzou is located,  is in the middle of the state, and it’s a smaller, artsy town. Beckie knew Mizzou would be an interesting place,  but she did not fully anticipate the huge amount of diversity among the student body of almost 30,000 students.  Beckie knows that this diverse community offers a lot of opportunities for learning and growth, and she loves being a part of it!

Beckie values the education she received at St. Matthias grade school.  She states that she learned her strong academic habits from her teachers at St. Matthias, and learned valuable lessons such as how to prioritize to get her work done on time.  Beckie appreciates that her formative years were spent at St. Matthias, where she cultivated her first friendships, many of which are still valuable friendships today.

Beckie has always had a love for writing, and found many ways to keep using her skills.  At Nathan Hale High School, she was a writer for the school paper, and became the Editor for her Junior and Senior years. She loved being a part of the paper and began to think of what practical applications there could be for writing as a career. Beckie decided to pursue Journalism in college, and chose Mizzou, which offers opportunities for undergraduate research, and working directly with Journalism professors.  Beckie is currently working with a Journalism professor on a project archiving and writing pieces pertaining to historical photos. 

In addition to a Journalism major, Beckie is pursuing English and Sociology minors, and will be taking classes at MATC this summer to complete additional credits.   Beckie  has served as an Honors Ambassador at school, planning activities on campus for honors students (or any students!).   This Fall, Beckie will be working on campus as a peer advisor, which is similar to a Resident Assistant (RA), and she will also be teaching a class this Fall.

As much as Beckie loves her college experience, she is happy to be back in the Milwaukee area for the summer, as she misses her family, friends, and  the familiarity of her hometown. She will work through the summer at Rupena’s, which is a job she has held for quite some time. She looks forward to seeing some of the regular customers stop in and having a chance to chat with them.

Beckie is close to her family, and credits her Mom and Dad with, among other things,  teaching her to stick to what she believes in and to follow her own path.  She is looking forward to what the future brings and feels that college has so far been an eye-opening experience, as she has learned a lot about herself and the world.   When asked what three people (living or dead) she would most like to go to dinner with, she said Stephen Hawking, Toni Morrison, and Robin Williams.

Beckie is keeping her options open for the future regarding her journalism path, but whatever she does, I am sure it will be a great success!  Thanks, Beckie, for updating us on your journey!  Hope to see you at St. Matthias this summer!

2017 Parish Festival

Like the Parish Festival on facebook!
Search for “St Matthias Parish Festival”
on facebook or use the link below!

While we have been waiting for Spring (and now, Summer) to arrive, the 11 members of the St. Matthias Festival Committee have been busy preparing for the 2017 Parish festival, to be held on August 25, 26, and 27, 2017.  In talking with Beckie Biskupski, the festival chairperson, you really feel the excitement of the upcoming festival! 

  • The bands are booked! You’ll be able to enjoy: Rhythm Method, Bella Cain, Almighty Vinyl, the Now, Clove, Party Anthem, Rebel Grace, Eddie Butts Band, Bobby Way and the Way Outs, and a new band to St. Matthias Festival: Cold Sweat and Brew City Horns!
  • The food vendors are booked: Saz’s for the Friday Fish Fry and Rupena’s for the Sunday Chicken dinner! Of course, there will be food offered by St. Matthias, too.
  • The Alpine Amusements ride vendor and other vendors within the festival are all set!

Beckie is excited about a new schedule item this year, where Past Midnight (Classic Rock/Pop) will begin playing music at 4 pm on Friday, to coincide with festival-goers arriving for the Fish Fry, and to start the festival atmosphere a bit earlier than past years.  Beckie would love it if everyone attended the Festival all of the days, but she did mention that Sunday is an especially great day to spend at the Festival-you can hear good bands all day long, and still be home by 8 pm that evening to get ready for the work week!

As many people know, St. Matthias used to hold Parish Festivals, but stopped doing them about 22 years ago. Eight years ago,  the 11 volunteers created the Festival Committee to look at reviving the Festival.  They planned for two years, and then put on the first “new generation” St. Matthias festival in 2012, and it has been a great success and major fundraiser for St. Matthias each year.  Of course, the Committee relies on the work of volunteers to help in all aspects of the Parish Festival. They also collaborate with other Parishes in the area (such as Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Roman’s, St. Gregory the Great) to share knowledge, and to borrow equipment from one another in order to keep costs down.

According to Beckie, most of the planning work for the 2017 Festival is complete, with two outstanding items:

  • First, Beckie mentioned that even though the Festival is up- and- running, we still need volunteers in all areas:
    • Especially needed are adults to help run the kids’ game area–to oversee games, schedule volunteers, etc.
    • Please consider volunteering to help with clean up from 8-10 pm on Sunday August 27, 2017 (or any amount of time you can offer) when many hands are needed to take items down and carry them to storage.
    • The Festival Committee would also welcome new members, for those wanting a leadership role. If you are interested in this, please contact Beckie at rbiskupski@wi.rr.com.
    • You can access the volunteer sign up form here: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/4090c4aaca822a02-stmatthias2, or can find it within the Parish website. 
    • If you’d prefer to contact Beckie directly, her email is rbiskupski@wi.rr.com.
  • Second, the Festival needs sponsorships. If you own a business, or know someone who does, or even if you want to help on a personal basis, sponsorships are needed at all levels. Sponsors’ names will be advertised throughout the Festival, and donations of $500.00  or more will get your business name displayed on a billboard along I-94!  Some area festivals are securing $40,000 to $60,000 in sponsorships, and St. Matthias has been at about $20,000.00.  Please consider sponsoring the St. Matthias Festival and getting effective advertising for your business. It’s a win-win!

The Festival Committee is looking forward to a great Festival in 2017!  Please plan on coming out to enjoy the St. Matthias Community, and of course, the great music, food, and events. Please also volunteer for whatever you can do–many hands make light work!

Find us on facebook:
  https://www.facebook.com/St-Matthias-Parish-Festival-323834121018182/

Parish website: stmatthias-milw.org/committees/festival/

Sign up genius to sign up for volunteering:  http://www.signupgenius.com/go/4090c4aaca822a02-stmatthias2

Email for Beckie Biskupski: rbiskupski@wi.rr.com

 

The St. Matthias Festival Committee:
Mike Benzinger
Joe Janusz
Mark Bajurny
Larry Gallitz
Don Vaclav
Gary Fochs
Sarah Bieschke
Mike Bieschke
Linda Wisniewski
Beckie Biskupski

Pentecost

June 4, 2017
Vigil: John 7:37-39
Day: John 20:19-23

Vigil: John 7:37-39

Background:

This reading is especially appropriate because Pentecost is the last day of the Easter Season. In the early church, this was the day when those who could not be baptized during the Easter Vigil were baptized. Baptisms were not celebrated throughout the year because the importance of joining a community was an essential part of the early Christian understanding of baptism. 

This Gospel text is very short. The feast that is referred to in the first verse is the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths. It was the third and the most favored festival that Jewish men were compelled to attend during the year. During the feast, simple structures were built that reminded the people of their dwellings during their shogun in the desert. The roof was typically covered with branches that would block the sun during the day but could be removed so that one could see the stars at night. The feast was celebrated when most of the harvest had been gathered. Each night the people gathered around an altar waving palm branches, and the priest poured water that was brought from the pool of Siloam, thanking God for the rain that produced the harvest and the water that flowed from the rock into the desert. It was on the last day of this festival that Jesus stood and declared that he was the living water, and invited all to come to him.

Reflection Questions:

  1. How does creation and the events of nature influence your understanding of how God is present to you? Can you point to a particular recent experience?
  2. Have there been times during this Easter Season when you felt connected to the God who has been unfolding and revealing God’s self throughout time?
  3. What is your experience of coming to the last day of a great celebration?
  4. What is your experience of coming to the last day of the Easter Season? Is it any different this year than in other years?
  5. What hopes do you bring to this day?
  6. How is Jesus standing up before you and the assembly saying, “Let anyone who thirsts, come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says; ‘Rivers of living water will flow from him’”?

What would you like to say to God about the living water flowing from you?

 

Day: John 20:19-23

Background:

The second Gospel text for Pentecost is also from John’s Gospel. The text presents a different kind of experience of the Holy Spirit coming upon the disciples than is found in the Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11 (the first reading for Masses during the day). Here in the Gospel, even through the disciples have gathered in fear, they are sent out just as the Father sent Jesus himself. They have real reason to be afraid that those who arrested Jesus, and crucified him, may be plotting to move against them, too. However, the presence of the risen Lord is not impeded by the physical restraint of a locked door, or their fears. The crucified Jesus stands in their midst and greets them with peace. This greeting of peace is also a prayer for health, prosperity, and all good that comes with the end times. Jesus breathes on them the Holy Spirit–an action that mirrors God breathing life into Adam in Genesis. The disciples receive the power to both bind and forgive sins, an expression that names the two extremes but is intended to communicate the full range of power between the two extremes. In John’s Gospel, sin is defined as the refusal to accept Jesus and his teaching. By asking the disciples to be agents of forgiveness, Jesus is commissioning them to be agents to reach out those who have rejected Jesus and his teachings. The text seems to use the energy that is present when two opposites are brought together to describe the new energy that is released by God upon the disciples.

The modern reader may associate the forgiving of sins with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. However, in the early Church, forgiveness of sin was associated with Baptism. The Reconciliation that Jesus is commissioning the disciples to be about is much larger than the personal forgiveness of individual sins. It would seem to be about the kind of reconciliations that Jesus brought to the ten lepers when he told them to go show themselves to the priest so that they could be reinstated in the community, or when he spoke to the woman at the well and the whole community was transformed by her testimony. Forgiving in this sense seems to be about restoring the fullness of the relationship.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Do you lock doors? Do you check to make sure they are locked at night or when you leave?
  2. Are there parts of your life that you keep locked away?
  3. Have you or someone you know well had the experience of being refused forgiveness by a parent or by someone they loved?
  4. Where do you encounter your own fears? Which of your fears are you grateful for? Which of your fears would you like to be free of?  Do you fear God?
  5. In the text, the disciples thought that they had gathered in safety behind locked doors, and they discovered that they were leaving empowered by God to act, even though to do so made them more vulnerable. Has God ever worked that way in your life?
  6. When have you been aware of the Jesus who was standing in your midst? How would you recognize him?
  7. How do you experience the presence of the Holy Spirit in your own life? Have there been times when the Holy Spirit seemed to be present in a dramatic way, and times when the Spirit has been gently present to you… as gently as your own breath?
  8. In the gospel, Jesus breathed on the disciples the breath of life, and told them they had the power to forgive and to bind sins. Can you take some time to talk to God about God’s desire to give this power to his disciples, and 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.

Feast of the Ascension

May 28, 2017
Matthew 28:16-20

[Most Dioceses in the Unites States have moved the celebration of The Ascension of the Lord to the Seventh Sunday of Easter. Therefore the gospel text here is for that feast.]

Background:

By separating the resurrection from the ascension, the Church gives us the opportunity to pray and reflect on two aspects of a single event, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. For several centuries, the church did not treat the ascension as a separate event that took place 40 days after Jesus’ resurrection. The notion of the ascension as a historical event, where Jesus rose from the grave but waited for some time to be with the disciples and teach them a few last things before returning to the Father, is not supported by the scripture texts like the gospel for this feast. Here Jesus says, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Verse 19) This kind of proclamation would not occur if Jesus is still in some state of transition between death and full communion with the Father and Holy Spirit.

In Matthew’s gospel, both Mary and Mary Magdalene come to the tomb as dawn arrives on the first day of the week. They witness an earthquake and an angel rolling back the stone of the cave. The angel instructs them to go to the disciples and tell them, “He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.” (Matthew 28:7) The two Marys leave the tomb fearful yet overjoyed, and run to the disciples. On their way they encounter Jesus, and Jesus himself tells them, “Do not be afraid, go tell my brothers to go to Galilee and there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:10)

The gospel text for today demonstrates that the two Marys were faithful to what they were commissioned to do, “Go tell the disciples.” Despite being caught in the two emotions of joy and fear, they acted. The first verse of the text also describes the disciples being faithful to what Jesus asked of them. They were instructed to go to Galilee to meet Jesus. On seeing Jesus, they too were caught between two emotions: doubt and worship. They were commissioned “to make disciples of all the nations.” (Matthew 28:19) Jesus’ earlier instruction to the disciples, not to enter a pagan or Samaritan area, is set aside. (Matthew 10:5) With the resurrection, all cultural and ethnic distinctions and boundaries have been breached or dissolved. They are to “baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit.” This is not the full expression of a developed Trinitarian theology of God, but it is the beginning. The fact that we, and people of every race, language, orientation, and way of life, are gathering to celebrate this feast is evidence that they, too, and generations after them, have been faithful to what Jesus commissioned all of us to do.

Reflection Questions

  1. Who are some of the people you have had to say good-bye to in recent years?
  2. How did you try to prepare for their departure?
  3. Have you found any unexpected blessings from their leaving?
  4. How do you think the disciples felt about the women telling them that they should go to Galilee? What might Galilee have symbolized for them?
  5. The text says that when the disciples saw Jesus, they worshiped and doubted. How you understand them both worshiping and doubting? What does the fact that they worshiped and doubted say about how God is present in your life?
  6. Who were the significant people who taught you about your relationship with God and God’s desire to be in relationship with you? What do you remember about those people? What does that suggest to you about how you are teaching others?
  7. Why do you think Jesus in this text is sending the disciples out to all the nations?
  8. Is there a difference between a community who feels that it is essential that they share the gospel with others and a community that does not take that responsibility seriously?
  9. How do you hear Jesus’ statement at the end of the text: “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age?”
  10. As you hear this gospel, what in this text most strikes you? Can you take time to talk to God about whatever that is?

 

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

6th Sunday of Easter

St Peter’s Basilica, Holy Spirit window, ca 1660

May 21, 2017
John 14:15-21

Background:

This gospel passage follows on the text that was read last Sunday. It, too, comes from the last discourse of Jesus. This short text contains many important themes that would be worthy of reflection.

The connection between love and keeping God’s commandments is presented in both the first and last verse of the text. Obedience is not love. The eldest brother of the prodigal son was obedient. When one loves, they do what pleases the one they love. The second part of verse 19 speaks of the presence of God to those who love.

Throughout the text, John presents some insights into the relationship of God as Trinity. The intimate relationship of the Father and Jesus is expressed especially in verses 16, 20, and 21. At the same time there is a sense in the text that the Father and Jesus are distinct from one another. The text also includes a reference to the Spirit in verses 16 and 17. While this suggests a relationship between the Father, Jesus, and the Spirit, it is not clearly defined. They are connected in how they are present in the world, but they are also distinct one from the other.

As was stated last week, it seems to be unclear whether Jesus is preparing the disciples for his departure in death or for his departure from earth in the Ascension. Jesus’ departure will leave the disciples with a sense of loss. He reassures them that he will not leave them orphaned. They will find His presence not by looking outside of themselves, but within.

Lastly, it may be helpful to be aware that John’s gospel reflects a culture where society was viewed as being separated into two groups: one’s extended family, and everyone else. All those outside of the family were presumed to be a possible threat. Hence the text casts the world as distinctly different and separate from the favored loved members of the community.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Where do you experience your most loving relationships? Where you experience your most loyal relationships? Are they the same?
  2. Do you think of obedience more in terms of being obedient to a code of conduct, or being obedient to people, oneself, or God?
  3. Do you know people who seem to live in the Spirit of truth? How does this affect your relationship with them?
  4. Have you ever felt abandoned by God? How did you respond?
  5. Jesus says that he is in the Father and He and the Father are in you as a disciple. How do you experience this?
  6. Jesus also talks about the world as being incapable of accepting or recognizing the presence of Holy Spirit. How do you understand what Jesus is saying about the world?
  7. Last Sunday, Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father, and that would be enough for them. Where does this text suggest that Philip should look for the presence of the Father?
  8. As you hear the text today, what do you hear God saying to you? What do you want to say to God in response?

 

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

Light Candles

Jesus said that he was the Light of the World and that He came to shine a light for a dark and sin-filled world. His Light was Truth exposing the sin that hid in the blackness.

Catholics light candles during official church services (called liturgy, such as the Mass) to indicate the special solemnity of the occasion.

Catholics light votive candles or “vigil lights” to pray about something particular, either for themselves or on behalf of someone else. When we light a candle with a prayer intention, we are not only praying, but also our prayers actually become smaller symbols of the One Light of Christ. When we burn prayer candles, our prayers rise up to Heaven day and night.

Early Christians associated light with the sacred presence of Our Lord in their midst, assured by Him: “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I shall be in their midst” (Mt.8:20). Thus, during their evening gatherings, as the candles or lamps were being lit, the Christians symbolically (mystically) welcomed the Eternal Light, Jesus, into their midst.

When we light our prayer candles, we remember and truly live the words of Our Lord to become light in the darkness.