June 28, 2020

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

  • 2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a
  • Romans 6:3-4, 8-11
  • Matthew 10:37-42

KIT-HOLY LAND

Reflection Written by: Aaron Walsh, LGBTQ Ministry

The readings this week speak directly of life and death, the core issues surrounding human existence. What, or who, should we live for? What is death, and how can it be overcome? How do we live righteously, and how do we avoid sin? What does it mean to be fully alive?

Throughout history, human beings have always been swept up in frothing currents of births and funerals, war and peace, liberation and slavery, medical progress and new plagues, triumphs and tragedies, life and death. As individuals and communities, we continually face new joys and new heartaches.

Through the courageous advocacy of many, more are coming to understand that modern-day racism denigrates human dignity and threatens the lives of innocent people. It is important to note that for those who have directly experienced racial oppression, this is not a new concept. It is a painfully personal reality. After centuries of systemic racism and oppressive violence, many continue to ask how our community, nation, and world can move toward healing, justice, and peace. How can we heal from the past? How can we change education, law enforcement, housing, employment, banking, health care, and other systems to promote equality and justice? How can we live joyfully while continuing the struggle to build a better world?

The readings today make it clear that life is most fully lived when we die to sin and rise in new life with Jesus Christ. Jesus is God become man. He entered human life out of pure love for us so that we might enter into his divine life and become one family through him.

Fullness of life comes when we live not for ourselves, but for God and others. It is the mystery of Jesus’s death and resurrection that provides us with our greatest hope. St. Paul writes, “If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.” When we unite ourselves with the risen Jesus through faith and service, we learn that permanent death cannot touch us. We still face bitter injustice and agonizing grief. As Christ was crucified, we will also have our time on the cross.

But through our greatest trials, we know that Jesus is risen. Through his grace and resurrection, eternal life already thrums in our hearts and fills us with visions of a better world. Our souls yearn for a Kingdom where there will be no more racism, violence, murder, or death. Even now, we see the future that Jesus promised would one day come to pass, and we are called to build it together day by day.

Life has never been easy or painless, but it is always good. Life is precious. It is our greatest gift, and in our freedom, we are called to share this gift of life with others. Jesus says, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Question for Reflection

  • Is anything holding me back from living selflessly for God and others? Does fear prevent me from speaking up for truth? Does anger make me lash out when I could build peace instead? How can I let go of the things that keep me from being the servant and advocate God made me to be?
  • When I am feeling overwhelmed by injustice or oppression, how can I bring my suffering to God and let him heal me? How can I reject despair and hold onto faith and hope?
  • What is God calling me to do at this moment in history and in my own life? How can I be of service to my family, my community, and my world?

June 21, 2020

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

  • Jeremiah 20:10-13
  • Romans 5:12-15
  • Matthew 10:26-33

Hair on head

Anna Shepherd-Lukasik, St. Joseph LGBTQ Ministry

I do not know about you, but in my household, we have been talking a lot about systemic sin and personal sin. My wife likes to use the phrase, “welcome to the original sin show.” It’s her way to emphasize our state of brokenness and predisposition to sin, as well as our need for redemption. Our societal brokenness and need for redemption is so clear in our world right now. As I watch my black and brown friends’ Facebook feeds, I see their pain, and I know my silence and inaction has been a part of the problem. It is not enough that I am saddened and sorrow over racism and injustice, I must be a part of the solution. I must call it out when I see it, and advocate for change when I can. We all need to examine our hearts and take them to God to help root out our biases, and we as a nation and institutions need to repent and change our ways of doing business and our ways of governing.

As a teenager, I lived in Japan and I went to an evangelical High School. I remember teachers and students using the passage, “Even all the hairs of your head are counted,” to say, everything has a purpose, everything is God’s will. But they believed in predestination, and I always struggled with that belief. In my heart I knew, God doesn’t will sin. God doesn’t predestine some to be rich and others poor, some to be slaves and others free. We have caused this; we have acted against God’s will for centuries and even millennia.

St. Paul reminds us that sin entered the world through one man, Adam, and we continue to fall short of God’s desire for us to live in communion with him and with one another. If we are all affected by sin, let us not forget that we are also affected by grace. Jesus came to restore us to right relationship with God and to one another. If we repent, we are willing to radically change our lives. We are willing to turn our life around and work with the grace of Christ to restore God’s order in the world. An order in which we value the dignity of the human person in which all are created in the image and likeness of God. We can create a society in which we love our brothers and sisters whether they are black, brown or white, because in Jesus all that divides us is striped away and we live in God’s love. In God, there is neither white or black, Jew or Greek, free or slave, male or female, gay or straight because we are all one in Christ. We are all children of God, beloved sons and daughters. Yes, we might sin, but we need to repent, we need to say we are sorry, and we need to work for justice. We need to right our wrong with God’s help and grace.

The gospel tells us that what we say and do in darkness we need to say in the light. We need to expose or shine light on the injustice. We need to expose the inequities in our nation. We need to have the courage to ask God for the help to restore our nation to be a nation with liberty and justice for all, not just the rich and white. I hope that the light of God, the light of love, and of righteousness overcomes the darkness.

Questions for Reflection:

  • I found this Examen on Racial Justice, you might consider taking some time to pray with this Examen. https://image.jesuits.org/UCSPROV/media/LentenExamen1.pdf
  • Are there good things that you are afraid to speak up about? As God for the courage to proclaim truth from the rooftops.
  • Ask God for the light to expose your biases, so that you can work with God to correct them. Please do not live in shame, but accept this as freedom to live more fully in love and union with God and others.

June 14, 2020

The Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ

  • DT 8:2-3, 14b-16a
  • 1 Corinthians 10:16-17
  • John 6:51-58

We are the Body and Blood of Christ – Really?

blm protest

Reflection written by: Janet McDermott, MTS

A large crowd of protesters walked by my apartment building last night (I write this on June 7th).  They were, in an actual visual sense, walking in solidarity – a solid mass of humanity – asking for a major societal shift on behalf of the many who cannot speak for themselves and for those who have spoken out but have not been heard.  Meanwhile, we as a Church have been in isolation from our own communities of faith over a prolonged period of time, reaching out to one another perhaps online, over electronic messaging apps accessible to those who have the electronics available to use them.  (Many do not.)

This Reflection is about the feast of Corpus Christi.  Ordinarily, in the Catholic Church building, the eye of the beholder immediately sees an Altar at the center of the sanctuary.  What happens at that Altar in Catholic ritual is that the people gathered there are uniting their lives with the mystery of Jesus’ life and death by offering bread and wine to God.  What God does there is accept Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf then returns that Gift to be transformed into the lives of those who participate.  So, what happens now, during the experience of the pandemic?  Is that divine Gift no longer ours to receive?  It is true, kind persons are offering Mass online, but many find that a difficult substitute.  Is that divine Gift then no longer being offered on our behalf, and returned in us?

During the past many years, I have been privileged to attend Holy Mass on a daily basis.  For the past three months I have been isolating, for health and age reasons being vulnerable to catching and sharing the Covid-19 virus.  During this social distancing experience I have, along with many others, felt the absence of community and sacramental relationships.  I have learned the impact of these absences, wondering what Jesus meant when he gave us his Body and Blood to offer and to receive.  During the past twenty years or so, dwelling in the recesses of my memories, has been the distressful awareness that not all peoples have access to the sacramental life that I so fervently embrace.  As highlighted in the Amazon Synod of Bishops, there are not enough ministers in our Church to provide the food and drink of Eucharist to many persons the world over.   These are others – my brothers and sisters in faith – remain in community together without regular access to the Eucharist.   The availability of a full and worshipful community has always been there for me – except now.  Perhaps God is telling me something, telling our carefully structured Church something.

thumbrns-faces-jesus-Let’s go back to what’s happening on our streets.  In Baptism we are incorporated into the Body of Christ – that’s what we have learned, what we as the People of God are called to believe.  Perhaps it’s time to become an “actual visual” people “walking in solidarity – a sold mass of humanity” calling for change.  These changes are called for because in our current culture of “white privilege” structures, people are being left out, brutalized, and neglected beyond belief.  Isn’t it true that, if one part of the Body of Christ suffers, we all must be willing to suffer?   Don’t we all have an integral part to play in that?  Perhaps God is giving us the Body and Blood of Christ by handing us His Brothers and Sisters.  How is God asking us to be transformed – to become the heart, the arms and legs of Jesus in our community by challenging our prejudices and fostering inclusion where all are valued?  How can we humbly listen (by bowing our heads to receive the experiences of others?)  How are we asked to go forth and tell the people that Jesus came into the world that the whole world might be saved through him.  (Something to chew upon perhaps.)

On this great Feast of Corpus Christi, we are being offered a real, sensible, tangible taste of the Body and Blood of Christ.  Let us, then, join together – wherever we may be – and lift up to the Father the bread and wine of this historical moment, asking that it be transformed into the living Christ in our midst.  That, I believe, is what we are privileged to do when we join in the online Masses and, when we are able, we walk the streets in solidarity, all advocating for positive change: Christ acting  (not re-acting) among us.  That is what it means to eat the Body of Christ and drink the Blood of his sacrifice for us.

Questions for Reflection:

  • What is the meaning of the Eucharist in my life? Can I learn from the current historical moment?
  • Jesus came to bring salvation to the whole world. Can I learn to respectfully receive others who might appear to be different from myself.
  • How can I attune myself to thoughtful listening, finding ways to foster positive change?

June 7, 2020

Trinity Sunday

  • Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9
  • 2 Corinthians 13:11-13
  • John 3:16-18

Trinity sunday 2

Reflection Written by, Theresa Shepherd-Lukasik

“For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son
not to condemn the world but to save it…”

This Trinity Sunday, I am drawn to look at the world through the eyes of the Trinity.
St. Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises asks us to imagine the Triune God moments before the Incarnation. In doing this we see the world as God sees it, and despite all the sin and corruption God still desires to save us. I invite us to look at our world through the eyes and heart of the trinity. Imagine the trinity “looking upon our world: men and women being born and being laid to rest, some getting married and others getting divorced, the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the happy and the sad, so many people aimless, despairing, hateful, and killing, so many undernourished, sick, and dying, so many struggling with life and blind to any meaning. With God, I can hear people laughing and crying, some shouting and screaming, some praying, others cursing.” (David L. Fleming, SJ, Draw Me Into Your Friendship: A Literal Translation and a Contemporary Reading of the Spiritual Exercises)

I can also imagine the Trinity looking down on us now. I can see thousands who have perished from this pandemic, the family members who mourn them, and those who died with no one by their side. I can see the anguish of health care workers, counselors, parents trying to take care of their kids, the unemployed, clergy of all religions, and politicians throughout this world as we scramble to know what to do. I can see the violence of racism, the division among the peoples, the senseless killing of black, brown, and queer people. I see starvation, sex trafficking, children still locked in cages at our boarders, and much more hardships and injustice.

Yet among this evil there is still light. There are people working to build up the kingdom on earth. Even in the pain experienced by those on the front lines, they are still fighting for the dignity and life of their patients. Teachers are still teaching and caring for our youth. Parishioners are still continuing to charities and doing the work of advocacy. People are still doing their part to help stop climate change. People are still cooking meals for the homeless. There is a lot of good. I see it in the people who surround me with love, and I know others experience this love in their circles. I see thousands who have come out to peacefully protest and to join in solidarity with their brothers and sisters. Love triumphs over hate, it will and we have reason for our hope that it will.

Moses when receiving the law from God, he intercedes on our behalf and says, “this is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your own.” Are we not a stiff-necked people? Is it not hard for us to change and listen to the law of love? Yet, we know that God loves us so much, that he came into our world to be with us, to know us, to heal us and to save us. God looks at us with love, mercy and compassion, and Jesus continues to send us his Holy Spirit so that we can continue this work of redemption. We are the body of Christ continuing the work of Jesus in the world, let us do our part in this redemptive love. Let us not loose hope that God’s light will triumph over the darkness.

St. Paul reminds us, “Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.

Questions for Reflection:

  • Reflect on how much God loves our world, and think of how much God must love you and forgives you.
  • Think about a time when your heart was softened. What helped your heart to soften? How might we extend that grace to others?
  • When have you felt the peace of the Lord in your heart? Do you have that peace now?
  • Lastly, let us continue to pray for peace in our world and in every human heart. May our nation be healed, and may we continue to create laws and systems that support the dignity of all human life.

May 31, 2020

Pentecost 

  • Acts 2:1-11
  • 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13
  • John 20:19-23

Come Holy Spirit and renew the face of the earth.

Penticost

Reflection written by: Gayle Sommerfeld

Following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, Jesus’ followers were hiding in a room behind locked doors. Hopes and dreams were smashed, and they felt discouragement, grief, confusion, fear, and despair. They saw him die.

Having professed their faith in Jesus as the Christ, the disciples now find themselves at odds with the chief priests and elders of their own community. Their own friends and family have become the other. And not knowing what that “other” might do, they have locked their doors, and are not going to let anybody in.

So too, even before COVID 19, it seems that we often close ourselves into our own lives and homes just as surely as if we had locked the doors or rolled shut the stone of an empty tomb. That evening, Jesus did not have to enter the disciples’ locked house. There were plenty of others he could have sent to spread his message, to proclaim the forgiveness of sins, to offer the promise of new life in his name. The women had believed. Peter had at least begun to figure things out. Jesus could have gone straight to Galilee and made his appearance there. He could have reprimanded these disciples, given them a good talking to for not figuring things out on their own. For hiding when they should have been sharing the good news. For getting what he had taught them so wrong.

Jesus did not do any of that. He took the time to notice his disciples. Even after every one of them had denied and deserted him. Jesus took the time to reach out to every one of them and offer peace. Jesus did not break open the lock on the door or force them into the world they were afraid of. He simply joined them where they were, greeted them, and stood with them in that locked upper room. And Jesus stands with us, wherever we are, in the middle of whatever fears or hurts may be consuming us.  He comes and stands with us, even in our lowest moments when we have misjudged another person or allowed fear or mistrust to get in the way. Jesus stands with us.

Jesus breathes on us.  Jesus’ breath, Christ’s breath, is one of life. It is the breath of the Holy Spirit that hovered over the waters at creation, the same breath that we call upon in the holy waters of baptism. When we enact Christ’s promise of bringing life out of death, new life into our fears and prejudices, our moments of death and dying. It is the same breath that Christ breathes on us, enabling us to move beyond whatever is dead or dying in our lives and experience new life in us.

What a difference a day can make.  When they were at their lowest in a locked room, the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and other followers gathered, bringing the new law in the Spirit, one now written on hearts rather than on the stone tablets at Mt. Sinai. God was and still is changing His people, which throughout their history has never been easy. It took forty years of wandering around in the wilderness before they came into the promised land. Maybe in our time, it takes COVID 19.

In Acts 2:1-11, St. Paul explains that it is by the power of the Holy Spirit that we recognize Jesus as Lord.  The Holy Spirit gives each baptized believer “spiritual gifts” for serving the Lord and building up His body, the Church. The homeless, immigrants, the fearful and broken hearted – we are them and they are us.  God will be with us, even in our locked rooms.  When it seems God is most absent, He is most present and loving all of us.  Maybe now most especially in this time of pandemic.  We can make the world better, even in the smallest of ways. I am reminded of the lyrics of a song, Theresa’s Prayer by John Michael Talbot:

“Christ has no body now but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which He looks with compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good.
Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world.”

 

Questions For Reflection:

  • How are the fruits of the Spirit (love, peace, joy, patience, etc.) growing in your life
  • How might you be the eyes, hands, and feet of Christ in this world? Ask God that you may receive what He most wants to give you.
  • Are there places in your life where you have locked the doors out of fear or frustration? Consider sharing these with Jesus.

 

May 24, 2020

The Ascension

  • Acts 1:1-11
  • Ephesians 1:17-23
  • Matthew 28:16-20

“And Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age”

Ascension

Reflection written by Vince Herberholt, Member Faith Justice Commission

I would be the first person to admit that I am not a very good theologian and when it comes to belief, some of the stories in the Bible are a mystery to me.  Implausible! Impossible!   Unbelievable!  That is unless I look at them metaphorically and how they affect me inside.  I would say that the Ascension falls in that category.  I remember when I was at Seattle University in 2007, in class we were talking about the resurrection of the body?  I asked my professor, Mike Raschko, if it was important to believe that my dead body comes back to life when Christ returns?  His response, Vince don’t you believe one of the fundamental truths of the Church.  I am sure the Ascension falls in that category as a fundamental truth.  In fact, it is right there in the Creed.  I am afraid for some that will mark me as unbeliever.

But, I am not.  I believe in Jesus, he came to life among us, experienced every human act, emotion, and thought that is part of our lives.  He showed us through his example what was important, how to be completely human and divine at the same time and what to offer God and our Neighbor – Love!   And he went on to be killed, buried and resurrected.  As I said in a recent post back on April 5th, I did not see his death and resurrection as atonement for our sins as much as I saw it as accompaniment in our human condition so that we would know that Jesus was with us, understood us, loved us and would be with us always.

So what does Christ’s leaving and the Ascension story mean to me given that I believe he will always be with us.  I know there was a hope going on at the time of Christ’s living that a Messiah would come in power to liberate the Israelites from the oppression of the Roman occupation.  In the first reading, even the Disciples, asked, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel?”  If Jesus replied yes and started to march toward Jerusalem, their messianic vision would have been fulfilled.  Instead he said no.   It’s not your business to know what’s going on with that piece of history but I am going to give you the power of the Holy Spirit and turn the job of liberation and kingdom building over to you – with my help of course.  “Go, Therefore and make disciples of all nations….”  And poof he was lifted up into the clouds, while reminding them in the Gospel, “…I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Imagine if he had stayed, would there be any motivation for us to act?  Would we be like a child waiting for our parent to tell us what to do?  Would we take our discipleship seriously?  Wouldn’t it be too easy to let Christ the King take the lead, slay the Romans, and restore the Kingdom of Israel?  There would be no need for conversion, no movement to a new covenant, no incentive to take in Christ’s way of being in the world and no Spirit to refresh us.  This brings to mind a line in John 14:12 – Amen, amen I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.  Jesus ascends so we can find his life within us and become his witness to love and mercy in the world.  I am still not sure about the poof.

Questions for Reflection

  1. What does the Ascension mean to you?  What are your feelings when Christ leave’s the world?  Abandonment?  A call to witness?
  2. In the First Reading, the disciples asked Jesus if he is going to restore the kingdom to Israel.  Do you prayers sometime resemble that?  What are you asking for?
  3. Jesus says to the disciples and to us that we will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.  Think of an example in your life where that happened.  How did it feel?
  4. In the first reading, Jesus tells the disciples that they will be his witnesses.  In the Gospel, Jesus is more direct and explicit telling them to go make disciples, baptize, and teach.  Have you felt this kind of calling?  How did it feel and what did you do?
  5. Do you think that Jesus needs to leave to create space for us to act?  To be responsible?

 

 

May 17, 2020

Sixth Sunday of Easter

  • Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
  • 1 Peter 3:15-18
  • John 14:15-21

“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”

our-advocate-the-holy-spirit-sermon

Reflection written by Theresa Shepherd-Lukasik, Director of Adult Faith Formation

In times of uncertainty, loss and suffering it can be easy to lose faith. Yet in St. Peter’s Letter, he addresses a community that was undergoing various trials and great suffering. He exhorts them to “Always be ready to give a reason for their hope.”

Where does Peter’s hope come from? I believe his hope comes from Jesus’ farewell discourse and from his encounters with the risen Lord. His faith and hope come from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in his life. He trusts that God will not leave us orphans because Jesus promised he would send us the Advocate to be with us always. 

Not only does Jesus promise to send of the Holy spirit to guide us, we also see in our first reading, the Holy Spirit being poured out on individuals through baptism and what we now call Confirmation. The apostles Peter and John laid hands on the Samarians and they received the Holy Spirit.

God loves us so much that he came and lived and dwelt among us. God loves us so much that he wants to be intimately united to us. He wants to continue his work in us. Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” What are his commandments? “That you love another as I have loved you.” This love is more than feelings, it is love in action. It is a love that sacrifices one’s self for the good of others. It is a love that seeks justice and cares for the widows, the poor and orphans. It is a love that extends beyond the bounds of natural affection, it goes the extra mile and seeks the good of even those who do not love us. How do we learn to love like this? Jesus sends us the Holy Spirit, the spirit of truth, that we may know God’s love.

Just as Jesus reveals who God is to us, in word and deed; the holy spirit reveals to us who Jesus is and reminds us of his love. How do we continue to do all the works that Jesus did? It is only through our spirit co-operating with the grace and gift of the Holy Spirit. Just as the Holy Spirit anointed Jesus proclaim the good news to the poor, to set the captive free, and to bring sight to the blind, we are anointed to do the same.

The Holy Spirit gives himself to us and his many gifts; faith, hope and love, wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, healing, discernment of spirits…. You can discern it is the Holy Spirit when it is rooted in the truth of Christ’s life and it is accompanied by the fruits of the spirit, love, joy, peace,patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

I believe that Jesus tells us time and time again to not be afraid or let not your hearts be troubled, because fear stifles the Holy Spirit. We are afraid to be charitable because what if I fall on hard times and I need that… we are afraid to act boldly and speak up against injustice because it might cost us our job or friends…. Be not afraid of who God has called you to be. Cast out fear so that you can hear how the spirit of God is moving in you…

In the first reading we hear of Philip healing people and doing all sorts of miracles, and we long to see them today. But I see ordinary miracles on a daily basis. I am blessed to see the Holy Spirit working in the lives of our parishioners. I see it in our children making hygiene kits for the homeless, I see a spirit of love and compassion in our parishioners bringing groceries to other parishioners who are home bond. I see the holy spirit moving in our parishioners who are nurses at Harborview and working in nursing homes. I see the Holy Spirit in the teachers passing on knowledge and wisdom. I see the Holy Spirit in the parents and spouses who are tirelessly and thanklessly, growing in patience and understanding, love and forgiveness. While I miss communion, while I miss seeing you in person and I miss putting my arms around many of you, I know that we are still the church. I know that we are the Body of Christ continuing to do the work of God in the world. I know that the Holy Spirit unites us and that as Jesus is in you and me, and that means in some way we are present to each other in the communion of saints. Jesus has not left us orphans, the Holy Spirit is with you, let that be reason for your hope.

Questions for Reflection:

  • Have you ever felt alone or wondered where God was in all of this? How has God consoled you?
  • Have you noticed the movement of the Holy Spirit in your life? How did you know know it was the Holy Spirit?
  • Who or what has been the presence of God to you?

 

May 10, 2020

Fifth Sunday of Easter

  • Acts 6:1-7
  • 1 Peter 2:4-9
  • John 14:1-12

Do Not Let Your Hearts be troubled

Reflection and Art written by: Katy Huston, Catechist on the RCIA Team

Do not let your hearts be troubled.

I think I have spent my whole life fighting off fear. I grew up in a chaotic household where there was love, but where there was also anger and much fear passed down from the adults in my life. As a student I lived in fear that I would not do well enough, or be good enough to have friends. As a young adult in college I was always fearful that I would not have enough money to get by. Even after I married a wonderful strong, loving and kind man (though, come on, not perfect!) I was fearful he would “find out about the real me” and go find someone else to be with.

It was that husband who gave me the Prayer of St. Teresa of Avila and I have said it many times when my fears grabbed me around the ankles and threatened to throw me off balance.

Let nothing disturb you
Let nothing upset you
Everything changes
God alone is unchanging
Patient endurance attains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing
God alone is enough.

We are living in unusual and fearful times. So, I took myself on a little Ignatian imagination trip back to that room full of frightened and troubled disciples. I stood among them when Jesus appeared and began quietly, soothingly, to tell us not to let our hearts be troubled. As I heard him tell us that he was going to prepare a place for us, my fear began to subside. I had a deep knowing that all would be well.

I came back to today and did a little Googling about fear. If you don’t know about our physiological flight or fight response to fearful situations, I urge you to do a little research, or ask around to gain an understanding of the science behind this common phenomenon, and how to cope with it. Many of us are experiencing this response daily when we listen to the news and hear commentators tell us, often in gloomy voices, of all the scary things that are happening in the world with the spread of this pandemic. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse seem to be riding right down our street! Plague, war, famine and death we have always had with us, but right now they seem even more threatening.

And yet, Jesus stands in our midst and reminds us again, “Do not let your hearts be troubled”. And more than that, “whoever believes in me will do the works that I do.” Cast your minds back five years to the Year of Mercy. I kept a list of the Works of Mercy in the notes on my phone. I began making it a part of my spiritual practice to check that list several times a week and keep track of my “works”. Here they are, in case they have slipped your mind: To feed the hungry; to give drink to the thirsty; to clothe the naked; to harbor the harborless; to visit the sick; to ransom the captive; to bury the dead.

During this time of isolation, we can each do something that demonstrates our belief in God through the works that we do. We can consider how to use our time, talent and treasure to be supportive of those who are lonely and frightened.  Fear is contagious. And so is love and gratitude.

Questions for Reflection

  • How can we use our time, talent, and treasure to support those who are lonely and frightened? If you need suggestions, St. Joseph is doing food drives and hygiene drives. Take time to consider what God is asking you to do to support the community.
  • What voices or fears are pulling on you, bringing you to desolation, ask God for the grace to silence and still those fears and doubts. Ask God for the grace of hope, ask God for the grace to see the blessings around us.

May 3, 2020

Fourth Sunday of Easter

  • Acts 2:14a, 36-41
  • 1 Peter 2:20b-25
  • John 10:1-10

Good Shepherd claires

Image credit: The Good Shepherd by Kelly Latimore.
Commissioned for The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Athens, Ohio.

Reflection written by Claire Hansen, Director of Youth Faith Formation

About six weeks ago, a friend of mine posted a gorgeous piece by Ann Voskamp:

I can say it certain now: All is grace.
I see through the woods of the world: God is always good, and I am always loved. God is always good, and I am always loved.
Everything is eucharisteo.
Because eucharisteo is how Jesus, at the Last Supper, showed us to transfigure all things – take the pain that is given, give thanks for it, and transform it into a joy that fulfills all emptiness.
I have glimpsed it: This, the hard eucharisteo.
The hard discipline to lean into the ugly and whisper thanks to transfigure it into beauty. The hard discipline to give thanks for all things at all times because [God] is all good.

Over and over in the last six weeks I have returned to this piece to pray, to seek calm, to breathe, to ground myself. Especially this line: “God is always good, and I am always loved.” I find I am repeating that line over and over in my walks, and in my morning prayers. It has become a mantra for me and it reminds of the basic truth from which I am called to view the world: No matter what crisis, what challenges, what graces, whatever I am experiencing – God is always good and I am always loved.

This line also reminds me of the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. This Sunday is the Fourth Sunday of Easter and known as Good Shepherd Sunday because of the passage we will hear from John’s Gospel. We will listen and be reminded that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. This was the first image of Jesus that I learned as a child. It is one that reminds me of Jesus’ personal love for me. He seeks me out, even when I would rather stay lost. He lifts me up on his shoulders when I am wounded. He embraces me when I am struggling with anxiety or frustration. He whispers to me that “God is always good, and I am always loved.”

If Jesus is my shepherd, then I need to embrace my role as one of the sheep. This sounds funny to me, until I realize that there are times when I am not called to be the leader, but to follow along, and listen for God’s voice. Jesus teaches that his sheep will recognize his voice, follow it, and walk with him. The sheep hear his voice, are called by name. He will walk ahead of us and we will follow because we recognize his voice. 

We will not follow a stranger’s voice, although I would add that I have been tempted to in this pandemic. I am aware that there are many voices competing for my attention right now. There are voices of negativity, self-destruction, greed, anxiety, and grief. St. Ignatius would tell us that these are the voices of desolation or of the evil spirit. These voices urge me to close in on myself; they seek to isolate me and keep me feeling sad. These voices would lead me away from Jesus.

But the Good Shepherd still comes to search me out, calling me by name, and welcoming me back. Jesus voice is full of resonance; I have felt his call deep within. It is a voice that reminds me “God is always good, and I am always loved. God is always good, and I am always loved.”  Against that voice, others fall away. I am called by that voice to enter the sheep gate, to dwell in the embrace of my shepherd.

Questions for Reflection

  • Are you a person who is easily led, or do you resist when someone else leads the way? How does this impact your relationship with God?
  • Has there been a time in your life when you strayed from God’s path? How did you find your way back?
  • How is God currently shepherding you? Where is God currently leading you?

April 26, 2020

Third Sunday of Easter

  • Acts 2:14, 22-33
  • 1 Peter 1:17-21
  • Luke 24:13-35

“You have made known to me the paths of life; You will fill me with joy in your Presence” (quote by Peter in Acts)

Road+to+Emmaus

Reflection written by: Janet McDermott, MTS

The scriptures selected for this Sunday seem an extraordinary fit for these times of pandemic.  Today, in Acts, we hear Peter telling the Jews about “Jesus the Nazarene”.  The Jews, remember, lived their lives under the shadow and the inspiration of considering themselves God’s own people.  This nation had a long history of wandering from God who continued to call them back through faithful prophets who promised great things from God, a promise that fed their sense of being special.  Special they were.  So when Jesus came into their midst as the Promised One, the One who would lead them to that greatness, as exemplified by miracles and teachings, imagine their disappointment: the man Jesus had been accused, found guilty, and executed by their religious leaders in cooperation with the ruling government. Now Peter was asking them to hear the “great news” that Jesus, the one promised in their very own historical books, had overcome death. This was how God fulfilled the promise of greatness?

“This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God,
you killed, using lawless men to crucify him.
But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death,
because it was impossible for him to be held by it.”

Why focus on this part of today’s Scripture?  Because we too are God’s special people, people whose lives rely upon God’s promise as shown to us by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  Yet to some, perhaps to most of us, these current days of isolation, fear, loss, and death can challenge our sense of God-With-Us, God who has the power to release us from the throes of death.  And if we stop here, questioning today’s work of God at face value, we risk the temptation to forget that this promise of release from death was first experienced by Jesus himself – on the path to the cross.  Like Jesus before us and now us, we too are asked to believe in the loving Fatherhood of God who governs all of creation who will “release” us “from the throes of death” towards a new life (the blessings of Resurrection).  What that new life will be, in many instances, is in our hands – as our willingness, abilities and calling dictate – but, ultimately, in God’s loving care.  We also may find ourselves asking, “Is this – what is going on today – how God fulfills that promise?”

And so, this Third Sunday after Easter, we read on… Today’s gospel is the familiar story of the disillusioned pair who left town heading home to Emmaus from the recent Passover Feast in Jerusalem.  They were among those who knew that Jesus had died.  Now some in the community say that he has risen from his grave!  I love this story because it represents so well for me what it means to be a part of a community of faith.  These two travelers, these two who struggle to understand what they had recently experienced, represent those many, many conversations that have taken place in my own life.  These one-on-one deep sharings unwrap life’s events in ways that would never be possible if pondered alone.  There the disappointments and fears, the discoveries and the hoped-for’s receive compassion and mutual affirmation.  People of faith don’t need to judge each other but rather support and enlighten.  In my community of the faith-filled – both within the Catholic tradition and those who have recognized God’s call through other forms of belief – I am deeply blessed.  And, as a further gift, I have been told I am a blessing for them.

I believe that, like the couple walking toward Emmaus, we are joined in our conversations by Jesus who helps us understand the journey and why “it had to happen this way”.

In this year 2020, we are gifted with the call to believe in God’s presence in the sorrows and fears of many.  We need our God to nourish our understanding of the Resurrection in light of fear, loss, and death.  One important way to nurture our own faith is to proclaim to others God’s Presence in it all.  To walk with one another – in whatever way God opens before us – seems be our life’s primary purpose especially during these difficult times.  Then we too can proclaim to God: “You have made known to me the paths of life; [knowing that] You will fill me with joy in your Presence.”

Thoughts for consideration:

  • What does the Resurrection of Jesus mean for me? Is it the good news proclaimed by Peter?
  • In what ways are the “throes of death” overcome because of my faith in Jesus?
  • Do I have a desire and/or habit of recognizing Jesus acting within my relationships?