Sunday, April 12, 2015

Second (Divine Mercy) Sunday of Easter – Peace Be With you … Again & Again

“Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you.’” – Jn 20:26

The image of Jesus going through locked doors is a most consoling image of faith for me. Twice in today’s Gospel, the disciples were presented as confined within closed doors, locked in because of fear. Twice Jesus is seen as coming through locked doors and standing in the midst of that frightened and depressed group, breathing peace into them. During the first time, Jesus repeats the greeting again, “Peace be with you.” He must have sensed that they needed extra help to let his “shalom” greeting sink in.

There have been countless times in my life when I have been confined, even locked in because of fear. Fears that arise from the lack of self-confidence, from inability to accept personal failures, from apprehension that I can never be freed from childhood traumas, from feeling alone, from being misunderstood, from resentment, from uncertainty, etc. Other times, I’ve been huddled with others, sealed in by fear of unjust treatment, abuse of power, retribution by authorities, betrayal of vision, or a general sense of helplessness and powerlessness. And yet, the Risen One has again and again entered these experiences of personal and collective prisons and breathed out the peace of the Holy Spirit.

This is the greatest expression of divine mercy: There is no hell, no communal injustice, no private hell of wound, depression, fear, sickness or even bitterness that God's love cannot and will not descend into, breathing in consolation, drawing out peace. It’s consoling that Easter is a season of 50 days until Pentecost. There are more than 40 days for the promise of “peace be with you” to take root in our lives, again and again, especially when we offer this peace to one another as Mass and beyond.

Lord Jesus, breathe peace into the places of fear in my life and help me to be your healing, merciful love.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Saturday in the Octave of Easter

"Observing the boldness of Peter and John and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men, the leaders, elders, and scribes were amazed...." - Acts 4:13
"When they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe." - Mark 16:11
"They returned and told the others; but they did not believe them either." - Mark 16: 13

Today's readings strike the part of me that struggles with disbelief. In this Easter season, the time after Lent, I find myself quickly leaving behind what God was slowly revealing to me during Lent. As crazy as it may seem, Lent is probably my favorite season. I know what to expect during Lent. I have a forcing function to stay disciplined and in many ways find myself more open to God because it is the time period when "things are supposed" to happen. But during the rest of the year, including now, I struggle to keep my discipline, my focus and attentiveness towards God. I find myself acting like the elders and the disciples in today's readings. 

The elders were amazed and became fearful after observing the boldness of Peter and John. I find that boldness either inspires me or makes me fearful. Causes me to expand myself or causes me to shrink. Imagining myself in the crowd, I think that the boldness of Peter and John would cause me to grow, to risk, to believe. But there are so many instances where I act like the elders - I shrink in response to boldness. Is this because it is beyond anything I expected and this change is unwelcome? Is it because it causes me to feel like I am not good enough, that what I thought was true, was right, was worthwhile isn't the whole picture and therefore causes me to question everything? 

The disciples found themselves in a state of mourning after Jesus' crucifixion. I can imagine being in their shoes and thinking "what do we do now"? In times such as these I find it very easy to become self focused on our loss, our pain, our unknown future just as they seem to have been. In doing so we can become blind to healing that surrounds us, to new hope that surfaces in many forms. Was the disciples' disbelief caused by their inward focused perspective? Was it caused by the sheer misalignment with what they knew and what they expected? 

All of these questions bring me to reflect on my own belief and my own willingness to expand in the face of boldness, to believe in the face of unexpected occurrences, and to be attentive to those things outside of myself. Am I open to this? Am I blind to God's presence and action in my life? 

Just as Jesus continually appears to the disciples, perhaps God is continually calling us, revealing himself to us, inspiring us if only we soften our hearts enough to hear him, see him, feel him.

Lord help us to refocus our attention to be open to your call at all times and in all forms, even when we least expect it.

Reflected by Joan Ervin

Friday, April 10, 2015

Friday in the Octave of Easter

R. The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.
R. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let those who fear the LORD say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
R. The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.
R. Alleluia.
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
R. The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.
R. Alleluia.
O LORD, grant salvation!
O LORD, grant prosperity!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD;
we bless you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God, and he has given us light.
R. The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.
R. Alleluia.
The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone. This is an astonishing statement, the center of the Christian story. Jesus, Son of God, rejected and put to death, defeated death itself and became the anchor upon which all future generations might rest their hope. It’s a motif that’s echoed in the lives of other biblical characters, not to mention the canonized, and, of course, can also be found in the sequences of our own lives.

There are so many ways to unpack this, but given the light of this Octave week following the world-breaking events of Resurrection Sunday, I want to focus on the abundance of the Resurrection itself, an abundance we often don’t expect and even more often can’t predict. The other readings accompanying this Psalm today speak of a Christ who had returned from the dead only to surprise his devastated disciples one after the next—not just in the fact of his revealing that he was alive in the flesh, but in fish overflowing the nets, in healings, in the sweep of the Holy Spirit conquering souls and leading them to new and whole life. Out of the deepest depths, deepest darkness, final death and utter agony, there is One who is greater still. Who lives to make intercession on our behalf and redeem each part of our lives, and loves, that dwell in shadow, disorder or fear.

There is hope, eternal and imminent hope. One who died has been risen. So, too, will be the final whistle on our journeys.

Reflected by Anne Snyder

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Thursday in the Octave of Easter: A Receptive Heart

Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have … You are witnesses of these things. – Lk 24:39, 48

At the very core of our faith is a love story. It is an ongoing narrative of God’s deep and abiding love for each of us. He only asks for our openness and receptivity to freely experience His encounters with us on a day-to-day basis. In today’s gospel, Jesus exemplifies how He approaches us ‘as we are’ with our ups and downs, suffusing us with genuine care, concerns, forgiveness, and love beyond measure.

As this Lenten journey comes to an end, I come to realize that God is inviting me to integrate a lifestyle nurtured by the last few weeks into my everyday life - one that creates more intentional time and space to be with Him. It reminds me of a quote I learned a few weeks ago by Flannery O’Connor, “I do not know you God because I am in the way. Please help me to push myself aside.” This thought illustrates one of the basic principles of every single art form, which has not to do with what is there, but with what is not. In visual arts, this is called negative space, the blank space. The negative space allows us to see the non-negative space in all its hues, shadows, color, mystery, and light. What is not there gives what is there meaning.

What if cultivating time for reflection and awareness is our negative space to experience a living, breathing encounter with God in our daily interactions? What if we allowed God to exist in simple words of compassion others offer to us? What if faith is the way it feels to lay our hand on a loved one’s shoulder? What if the greatest beauty of the day is the shaft of morning light? God is everywhere. By seeing with our eyes, listening with our ears, and receiving with an open heart, there becomes a simplification and familiarity with God. Our response is created entirely by our grit and grace. It belongs to us. Let it be our guide in the way we encounter all those around us.

What gets in the way of receptivity in my life?
How do I make room within myself for God’s being and works?

Reflected by Tam Lontok

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Wednesday in the Octave of Easter: Stay on the Road to Emmaus

“Did not our hearts burn within us…” Lk. 24:32

Every generation of Christians must fight its own demons, struggle with its own sadness. Today, in terms of feelings, we live in that particular sadness between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. We are walking on the road to Emmaus. The God, the church, and the dreams we had as children have died and we are trying to console each other for our crucified dreams.

Yet the old words, the old creeds, the ancient alleluias, still burn holes in us and when we hear the words of Jesus, as we gather for Eucharist, it is still easy enough to sing: “Are not our hearts burning within us?”

We need to remain on the road to Emmaus. The resurrected Christ is there to be met. In his company we need to spill out our sadness, mourn our disappointments, and stir our old hopes. At some moment our eyes will open and we will recognize the crucified Lord in the Risen Christ who is actually walking with us now. Our dreams will explode anew, like a flower bursting into bloom after a long winter, and we will fill with a new innocence as Easter Sunday happens again.

Lord, may I walk faithfully this road as You walk with me.

Adapted from Ronald Rolheiser

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter

Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping...
...Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?”
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
“Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,”
which means Teacher. (JN 20:11-18)

We are now in the Easter Season, Jesus has risen, and yet just today, my spirit was jarred and stressed a bit over my to-do list for the day and the unexpected changes I had to make to my schedule. What gives? I had felt elation and joy on Easter Sunday. Now, as my "regular" schedule begins again, how do I allow that "new life" spirit to continue living into what seems like another week of my "old life."

I place myself in Mary Magdalene's shoes in the beginning of today's Gospel reading. The Lord has risen, but I am behaving like I don't yet fully realize it. And in my distress over the pressures of the day, I struggle to see and recognize Jesus in my life and what He is inviting me to live out. I have just spent 40 days in the desert for Lent and now we are on the other side of the story so to speak. I can hear Him gently saying,

There's a difference, Love. Can you see it?

The elation and joy that I felt on Easter Sunday was real and true. I can hear Him even more,

Rediscover that day. Examen it. Tell me about it.

And as I walk through once again that day, now removed from living through it in real time, I find that I can slow down moments and savor the graces even more. I can recall the smiles and laughter of each person I ran with during our Easter Morning 10k run. I can relish once again being able to cook with my sisters and family in my older sister's new home. I can sit with sitting down with my boyfriend, Kevin, seeing his smile and hearing his laugh, in spite of being on call during a trying work weekend. I can re-read the loving text messages with friends. The list begins to flow and continue. 

And the common theme I see is connection. Savoring the graces of that day means honoring the people and connections in my life. Perhaps that is why I enjoy the ending of today's Gospel so much. Jesus tells Mary to stop holding onto him and sends her off to meet with others. 

I don't know that we were meant to keep the joy of Easter to ourselves. When I look back to the desert, it felt at times, so isolating and alone. But here, on the other side, living out the spirit of "new life" perhaps means living out the spirit of a "shared life" with Jesus and others.

The external circumstances of my life may not have changed when the seasons changed this past Sunday. Work is still work. Training is still training. My schedule is still… insane. But the key to the difference can be found in unlocking over and over again, the graces of Easter that can only be deepened when rediscovered.

Jesus, please help us to remember the graces of Easter. Help them to take root, deepen, and grow stronger each day of this new season. Help us to live this new life, shared in communion, with you.

Reflected by Rae Visita

Monday, April 6, 2015

Monday in the Octave of Easter

"You will show me the path to life, fullness of joys in your presence." (Ps. 16:11)
"Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed" (Mt. 28:8)

Joy is captivating! 

I think joy is very often found in the presence of the beloved. We find comfort, peace, and joy when we are with the people we love. We can be going through difficult or stressful times and still be joyful when we know that we are unconditionally loved. What I think is so beautiful about Easter is that the Risen Christ is present with us. Our earthly sufferings may not magically disappear overnight; but, the fact that He is with us gives us joy that will carry us through. 

Reflecting on today's gospel, it is interesting how the disciples were unprepared for Christ's resurrection as they were for His death. The empty tomb made them "fearful yet overjoyed" at the same time. In moments when we feel unprepared for what is to come or what is present, may we remember that we can bask in His presence and His friendship... where there is fullness of joy and the path to life will be ours.

Reflected by Gabriella Karina

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Holy Saturday: Last Day in the Desert

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth,
God said: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…"
GN 1:1, 26-31A

Sometimes I forget who I am, who I belong to, who created me. In my most connected and confident moments I can loudly declare that I am a Beloved; That God is my loving Father and Jesus is my number one Companion. However, I've just spent the past 39 days in the desert. The wind has blown sandstorms. My vision has been blurred. I've had to close my eyes at times. The horizon has been filled with countless dunes that all look the same. 

"Haven't I been here before?" I've found myself asking this out loud. "Is there a reason why I am here again? Lord, please show me something to help me understand, to discover something new, to heal more deeply, to show me perspective."

I've fumbled and stumbled my way forward. Or at least that is the direction I think I've moved in. And in the midst of all this disorientation, at times I have forgotten who I am. Not on purpose, but as a consequence of being attentive to this journey in what can be such a desolate place. Perhaps this is all by Greater Design.

But today's reading, the creation story, re-centers and grounds me. 

Do you know who you are?

A question lovingly asked of me during this Lenten Season during a particularly blinding day in the desert. It caused me to halt. I am God's Beloved. So loved that He sent His only Son to reside with us, guide us, teach us, and LOVE us. To die on a cross for us. And tomorrow, to rise and show His fidelity to us; That not even death, whether literal or the figurative deaths and darkness we can succumb to while in the desert, not even death can separate us. Death and darkness do not have dominion over us. Death and darkness cannot break our Communion with God.

Do you know who you are?

I am a Beloved. Even in the desert. And I was lovingly made in the likeness of God.

Lord, please help me to spend one more day being attentive to the desert; To the darkness and deaths in my life, so that I may prepare to partake in new life and light with Jesus tomorrow.

Reflected by Rae Visita

Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday: Sacrificial Love

Today we remember how Jesus showed us his love, God’s love, by laying down his life for us, by suffering for us on the cross. Whenever I sit (or kneel – or stand) in front of a crucifix, I feel gratitude for this gift of love, and I am also aware of an invitation to lay down my life with sacrificial love, showing my solidarity with Jesus by loving even my enemies. But for us it’s usually not some supreme act of sacrifice to which we are called, but many small acts of sacrifice and love. As a new mother I gave up my sleep to attend to the needs of my child. I stop what I am doing to listen to the needs of a despairing friend.  I pray for my enemies. I wonder, however, how often I have failed to do these things for selfish reasons, and I ask for forgiveness because I know that I have missed the mark too many times.

 At the Foot of the Cross
Here I am at the foot of the cross,
a cross I imagine rough and heavy
with suffering; dark
and streaked with pain.
It was an instrument of torture
and a gift of love.
But I am here, open-eyed;
I am here, all of me;
here with all my wounds and blessings,
with all my failures and triumphs,
with all my faults and virtues,
my memories of helpless rage
and my memories of love.
Here I am at the foot of the cross,
looking into the face of outrageous,  foolish love.
Here, today, all of me,
I say Yes,
I will let myself be loved
with this irresistible,
terrible, magnificent love;
even though I know it means
I must learn to love this way.
Here, today,
at the foot of the cross,
nothing is impossible.

Coincidentally, this year Good Friday falls on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a leader in the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S.  Dr. King protested nonviolently against laws in the southern United States which segregated the races and which made it impossible for African-Americans to vote.  Dr. King also knew the power of sacrificial love. I would like to include here an excerpt from one of his sermons in which he speaks of this power of sacrificial love:

“To our most bitter opponents we say: ‘We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force.  Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.  Throw us in jail and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you.  But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.’”

Where have I seen the power of sacrificial love in my life?  Where am I being invited to love like this?

Poem and reflection by Sharon Sullivan

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Holy Thursday: Radiating Love

Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” – 1 Corinthians 11:23-24

“If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” – JN 13:14-15

The Last Supper is a feast of companionship and summarizes the life of Jesus, a call to lay down one’s life for others. At the time of surrendering his life, Jesus washes the feet of his friends and shows us through action how to live and give life. He models an expression of sacredness that could be found in the ordinary acts we do and in the care we put into our daily activities, loved ones, and community. We are invited to emulate Jesus by living in love and service to others.

Today, Jesus calls us to apply ourselves in directions with no accurate measurement by loving freely and deeply. He reminds us that love is the best thing we have to give and the most valuable thing we can receive. Without it, life has little meaning. He encourages us to a whole way of living that radiates more charity than self-centeredness, more joy than sorrow, more peace than disharmony, and more willingness to sacrifice than the natural sway of our emotions. It gives the fabric of our life unique character and more teeth. By walking towards a place of deeper intimacy, communion, and belonging to each other, we live out what it means to be chosen, blessed, broken, and given.

Reflecting upon my relationships, the ones who have nurtured my growth are those who are willing to share his or her life with me. In these moments, I come to greater realization that our brokenness has the capacity to lead us into a more meaningful and deeper way of sharing our lives and offering hope to one another. We cultivate a true community of love when we offer our time, patience, compassion, forgiveness, friendship, and trust to each other. In doing so, we become bread and nourishment for each other as well as the world.

Who do I feel called to extend my love and care towards today?
What could foot washing look like in my everyday life?

Reflected by Tam Lontok

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Wednesday of Holy Week: Compassion through Restraint

“The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.” Is 50:4

“Lord, in your great love, answer me.” Ps 69:8

As I read these two verses it touched the core of my soul as scenes and glimpses of the past triggered memories of an untrained tongue causing injuries to others – words that I can never take back.  Have you read something with an open heart and the words leaps forward to awaken your conscience and tickle your heart? My heart was opened to realize that often the words that slip through the cracks of my lips have been one of remorse and painful disdain. Sometimes I can lack compassion and say hurtful things like “I told you so,” or “You knew it would happen but it was your choice”.  I say these things full of pride thinking that I am speaking the truth they needed to hear.  I say those things perhaps due to my lack of understanding, compassion, or past hurts.  I often thought to myself, “If only I had a well-trained tongue and think before I speak, I wouldn’t regret what I said to others.”  

Recently, a friend called me in tears due to her troubled marriage and difficult financial situations. Today’s reading reminded me to train my tongue not be quick to conjure solutions or compare circumstances but to simply sit in silence and listen with a compassionate heart. Just simply listening to her sorrows and reminding her of the promises that the Lord have given us.  That God loves us and He will not forsake us as long as we have faith, trust, and hope in His infinite love.  I reminded her to pray earnestly even when it is difficult to pray and no words would form.  Rebuke the lies of the enemies who want to engrain in us that we are unworthy because he is jealous of God’s love for us.  I reminded her that the Lord can hear her suffering and yearning to be held by His embrace.

In moments like this when the Lord allows us the opportunity to be in the presence of the weary may we pray, “Lord, in your great love, answer me…to have a well-trained tongue full of wisdom that we might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.”  May we remember to invoke the Holy Spirit to give us the wisdom to speak through us uplifting words of hope, peace, faith, and love to help them overcome the obstacles they are encountering.

Lord, help us to know when our presence in sacred silence and hearts lifted up to you unites us in solidarity with those who are weary. 

Reflected by Tuyet Nguyen