Look No Further - John 17:20-26
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying:
“Holy Father, I pray not only for them,
but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
so that they may all be one,
as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
that they also may be in us,
that the world may believe that you sent me.
And I have given them the glory you gave me,
so that they may be one, as we are one,
I in them and you in me,
that they may be brought to perfection as one,
that the world may know that you sent me,
and that you loved them even as you loved me.
Father, they are your gift to me.
I wish that where I am they also may be with me,
that they may see my glory that you gave me,
because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Righteous Father, the world also does not know you,
but I know you, and they know that you sent me.
I made known to them your name and I will make it known,
that the love with which you loved me
may be in them and I in them.”
We always hear that Christ should be in us. We pray for that, but what are we really asking for? For the Holy Spirit to fill us and have joy in our hearts all day long, at every turn and peace at every tragedy? That would just be LOVELY, but we live too much on our feelings to be riding high all the time. We are always looking for good behavior. Good behavior from our children, right actions from our neighbors, olive branches from our less desirable fellow man (too harsh to call them enemies). It is amazing how often we need a “what would Jesus do?” in our daily lives. As corny as it sounds, we do need to think about what Jesus what do if he were in our shoes. He has revealed his character to us in his holy word. There is consistency in his nature no matter how supernatural. Jesus is firm in his actions. The high road, the other cheek, the poor, the disadvantaged… we are constantly seeking status and resume fillers. God reveals our purpose through the example of Christ. What other example do we need?
Trust in Me - John 14:23-29
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.
Whoever does not love me does not keep my words;
yet the word you hear is not mine
but that of the Father who sent me.
“I have told you this while I am with you.
The Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything
and remind you of all that I told you.
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.
And now I have told you this before it happens,
so that when it happens you may believe.”
Do you trust me? Have you ever said that to anyone? Have you ever known that you would take care of someone, but they didn’t quite believe you? They wanted additional reassurances. They almost wanted proof. We would all like to see proof, but you can’t really hedge yourself against someone else’s dishonesty. If you did, how terrible of a calculating life would that be? It would mean life as we know it would be full of distrust. It’s hard enough to help a stranded motorist today, much less get invested in their hardships or heartaches. We tend to complicate what the basic human condition implies: Trust in the Lord and look of for others along the way.
Time To Spare - John 21:1-14
At that time, Jesus revealed himself to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.
He revealed himself in this way.
Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus,
Nathanael from Cana in Galilee,
Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples.
Simon Peter said to them, “ am going fishing.”
They said to him, “e also will come with you.”
So they went out and got into the boat,
but that night they caught nothing.
When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore;
but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
They answered him, “No.”
So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat
and you will find something.”
So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in
because of the number of fish.
So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”
When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord,
he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad,
and jumped into the sea.
The other disciples came in the boat,
for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards,
dragging the net with the fish.
When they climbed out on shore,
they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread.
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.”
So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore
full of one hundred fifty-three large fish.
Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.
Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.”
And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?”
because they realized it was the Lord.
Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them,
and in like manner the fish.
This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples
after being raised from the dead.
Being with Jesus after the resurrection must have been amazing. To see him and actually know that Jesus had overcome the grave, now that will boost anyone’s faith. We know that Jesus revealed himself a few times after the resurrection. To see him or feel his presence (their hearts burned within them) must have been the most amazing experience possible in this life. Often we find life too busy to connect with Jesus, but Christ is just as available to us today as he was one year after the resurrection. Why do we assume that Jesus only revealed himself closer to the resurrection and does not reveal himself today? Is Jesus just as available today as he was then? I have to think so. I have to think it is just our agendas that keep God off the schedule. Time alone to simply be still is easier said than done, but we don’t need to be a moving target for God. To come to him. To worship him. To love him. God is good all the time. Unfortunately, time is not always something we are willing to share with the most important relationships of our lives not just today, but forevermore.
Jump The Fence - John 20:19-31
On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But he said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples
that are not written in this book.
But these are written that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that through this belief you may have life in his name.
Blind faith is a tricky concept. It is like driving on fumes. You know that you could run out of gas at any moment, but something tells you that you will make it to the station. Then again, we do see people walking down the highway with a gas can back to their stranded cars. Maybe they needed extra time to think. Maybe they were the ones that doubted. We meet Doubting Thomas in the weeks gospel. Funny how we shake our heads and say “Old Thomas…. why couldn’t you just believe?” kinda like when we say “Old Peter, how could you deny the Lord?” Even like when we say “Old Judas, how could you betray our Lord?” It is easy to play it out perfectly in your head, but life rarely moves in slow motion. It is hard, fast and once the cat is out of the bag, life changes. Humans are rigid. We don’t want to adapt and we certainly need to see things most times before we believe them. I am a doubter. More or less, but a doubter regardless. My son wanted to jump the fence tonight. I didn’t want him to. I wanted him to play in safe, but every little boy needs to know how to scale a fence. It is just a rite of passage. Rather than convince him not to climb the fence, I taught him technique. There is definitely technique to climbing a fence. He is fast asleep with a sense of accomplishment. He didn’t have any doubts. At some point, I followed suit. Doubts out of mind. The fear subsides and faith takes over. We can fear anything. Life has no promises. Christ is the only promise we can trust. He is with us. Trust in the Lord.
A Contrite Heart - John 8:1-11
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area,
and all the people started coming to him,
and he sat down and taught them.
Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman
who had been caught in adultery
and made her stand in the middle.
They said to him,
“Teacher, this woman was caught
in the very act of committing adultery.
Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.
So what do you say?”
They said this to test him,
so that they could have some charge to bring against him.
Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.
But when they continued asking him,
he straightened up and said to them,
“Let the one among you who is without sin
be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.
And in response, they went away one by one,
beginning with the elders.
So he was left alone with the woman before him.
Then Jesus straightened up and said to her,
“Woman, where are they?
Has no one condemned you?”
She replied, “No one, sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.
Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
At the end of a Catholic Confession, the person confessing expresses the act of Contrition, which states: My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In His name, my God, have mercy. Amen. Whether Catholic or not, we can all appreciate having a remorseful heart and hating the sins that seem to find us again and again. In this week’s gospel, Jesus makes a very strong point, but the strongest statement he appears to make at the end of the gospel is when he forgives the woman and allows her to start over again. We all have ugly sins. We all struggle with things that keep us from serving God and the world around. Vanity can grip even the most humble. Whether at confession or at prayer in your closet, we cannot even move towards reconciliation with man until we have reconciliation with God and we can’t even approach God unless we truly are ready to abandon sinful behavior that limits our God given potential. Examine your sins. Understand where you are failing. Sure no one is perfectly righteous enough to toss a stone our way, but, we aren’t comparing ourselves vs. others, we are comparing ourselves again God’s chosen standard of living purity and peace.
Prodigal Son - Luke 15:1-3,11-32
Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,
but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying,
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So to them Jesus addressed this parable:
“A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father,
‘Father give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’
So the father divided the property between them.
After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings
and set off to a distant country
where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.
When he had freely spent everything,
a severe famine struck that country,
and he found himself in dire need.
So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens
who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.
And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed,
but nobody gave him any.
Coming to his senses he thought,
‘How many of my father’s hired workers
have more than enough food to eat,
but here am I, dying from hunger.
I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him,
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I no longer deserve to be called your son;
treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’
So he got up and went back to his father.
While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
His son said to him,
‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you;
I no longer deserve to be called your son.’
But his father ordered his servants,
‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him;
put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Take the fattened calf and slaughter it.
Then let us celebrate with a feast,
because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
he was lost, and has been found.’
Then the celebration began.
Now the older son had been out in the field
and, on his way back, as he neared the house,
he heard the sound of music and dancing.
He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.
The servant said to him,
‘Your brother has returned
and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf
because he has him back safe and sound.’
He became angry,
and when he refused to enter the house,
his father came out and pleaded with him.
He said to his father in reply,
‘Look, all these years I served you
and not once did I disobey your orders;
yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.
But when your son returns
who swallowed up your property with prostitutes,
for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’
He said to him,
‘My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.’”
Often we think of the Prodigal Son and his brother as two people. Have you ever thought of this story as different seasons of your life? Life is full of ups and downs, highs and lows, etc., etc., etc. How often do we drift from the Lord only to bang our heads on the wall up until the point of epiphany and then seek to return? We don’t have to walk to far away from our own reflection before we start to think we are immortal. Rich, poor, happy, sad, no one escapes the human condition. How do we drift? Why do we drift? Do we get comfortable? Too comfortable to understand how this whole life experience is going to play out? Open the paper and you will see a lot of old people dying. Hard to believe they were babies. Little kids, just playing, but their lives picked up pace and life caught up with them. Some go with dignity and grace and others go ill prepared. The only way to go is in full communion with God. To know that God is responsible for your life if you let him lead, can only inspire us to prioritize life as we know it. Time invested in the Kingdom of God is time well spent. Rather than allowing painful life experiences drive us to return to the Lord, maybe we should just stay in the pocket in the first place.
100 Years - Luke 9:28-36
Jesus took Peter, John, and James
and went up the mountain to pray.
While he was praying his face changed in appearance
and his clothing became dazzling white.
And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah,
who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus
that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.
Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep,
but becoming fully awake,
they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.
As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus,
“Master, it is good that we are here;
let us make three tents,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
But he did not know what he was saying.
While he was still speaking,
a cloud came and cast a shadow over them,
and they became frightened when they entered the cloud.
Then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”
After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.
They fell silent and did not at that time
tell anyone what they had seen.
We get busy don’t we? Busy doing anything productive? I swear I think my task are important and honorable in the eyes of God, but then every now and then I wonder if I am doing anything close to what he would want me to do. It will certainly get your attention. To wonder if we are doing God’s will or our will. Certainly my will motivates me to get out of bed. It takes a great deal of persistence in attitude to guide your steps back to God and often the end of the day arrives and God didn’t really get the best we had. We need activity. We feel we need activity. God loves stillness, but being quiet and patient drives us crazy. We will act first and hope God blesses it along the way, especially if we need God to work us out of our own devices. In this week’s gospel Peter, James and John quickly focused on the here and now of what they need to do when God was attempting to tell them to focus on the Tomorrow and Beyond by being present in the relationship with Jesus. What will our daily actions mean in 100 years? Puts it into perspective doesn’t it? Let’s make our actions count not just today, but forever.
Common Failings - Luke 5:1-11
While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening
to the word of God,
he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret.
He saw two boats there alongside the lake;
the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets.
Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon,
he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore.
Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon,
“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”
Simon said in reply,
“Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing,
but at your command I will lower the nets.”
When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish
and their nets were tearing.
They signaled to their partners in the other boat
to come to help them.
They came and filled both boats
so that the boats were in danger of sinking.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said,
“Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him
and all those with him,
and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee,
who were partners of Simon.
Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid;
from now on you will be catching men.”
When they brought their boats to the shore,
they left everything and followed him.
When does our own internal spiritual growth reach the point that it overflows and we then need to turn to share our faith with others? In this week’s gospel Jesus tells his disciples that they are to now become fishers of men. Certainly not an easy task at hand especially when they need to learn so much more themselves. I think we can get caught in a neutral position where we still tell ourselves that we are working on our own problems so we can’t even think about reaching out to others. If we are waiting on a state of perfection, we will be waiting forever because nothing is perfect as we know. I think there is great authenticity when we expose our shortcomings to others all in the name of mutual growth. When we fail, we tend to hide it and lick our wounds. While we often need time for those wounds to heal, we do need to look for opportunities to share our experience with those who are experiencing the pain in the present moment. We need to be able to share our mistakes to encourage others beyond theirs. No one is perfect, but when we take the time to remind those in need that we are indeed not perfect, you will see common ground open the door to ministry.
Prophet Now - Luke 4:21-30
Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying:
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
And all spoke highly of him
and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.
They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?”
He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb,
‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say,
‘Do here in your native place
the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’”
And he said, “Amen, I say to you,
no prophet is accepted in his own native place.
Indeed, I tell you,
there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah
when the sky was closed for three and a half years
and a severe famine spread over the entire land.
It was to none of these that Elijah was sent,
but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon.
Again, there were many lepers in Israel
during the time of Elisha the prophet;
yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
When the people in the synagogue heard this,
they were all filled with fury.
They rose up, drove him out of the town,
and led him to the brow of the hill
on which their town had been built,
to hurl him down headlong.
But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.
Are you bold enough to be a prophet in your own town? A prophet in your own sphere of influence? A prophet in your own home? Especially when we are coming from a history of broken habits and sin, it can be hard to “reinvent” yourself as new thanks be to God, but we are indeed worthy to be saved and worthy to live a new way of life sharing the gospel with others. The funny thing about being a prophet is that we have to live it in a way that is not necessarily for self profit or even self gratification, but rather as a person who simply has a message. A message so powerful that we absolutely must share it. It may take a while for us to embrace the message of hope ourselves, but if we pursue the perfection of faith, we can touch it at times and it only takes a few moments in the sweet spot for us to then be bold enough to share it. There is great hope in the Lord and we must strive to be a prophet for those around us. Who else will bring the message of hope?
Call Upon The Holy Spirit - Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21
Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events
that have been fulfilled among us,
just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning
and ministers of the word have handed them down to us,
I too have decided,
after investigating everything accurately anew,
to write it down in an orderly sequence for you,
most excellent Theophilus,
so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings
you have received.
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit,
and news of him spread throughout the whole region.
He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all.
He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up,
and went according to his custom
into the synagogue on the sabbath day.
He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them,
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Chasing feelings will get you ups and downs on the road of faith. Feelings lead us down many paths, but we can’t deny that we are indeed spiritual beings. Shove it down, move it aside, but if you aren’t embracing an openness to the spirit, then you are on a short journey with an abrupt ending. Certainly very Old Testament. This week’s gospel talks of “The Spirit of the Lord being upon” Jesus. Do you know what the sweet spot of faith feels like? Do you know how to get there again once you touch it for just a moment? Our faith often feels like a moving target, but once in a while, there is no denying that the Holy Spirit is right there in your midst. It can seem a little odd to summon the Holy Spirit, but Jesus wanted us to do just that, literally call upon the Holy Spirit to walk with us, be with us and lead us on the path of righteousness. The sweet spot of faith involves living with the Holy Spirit. While the true connections may seem few and far between, the Holy Spirit is with us and more than willing to be more intimately involved in the direction of our lives. Each step has more opportunities for God’s plan when we allow the Holy Spirit to not only dwell with us, but to live within us. Don’t be afraid to reach out and embrace it.