Sunday, May 24, 2015

Reflection: John 20:19-23

John 20:19-23 – Pentecost Sunday

This Gospel begins by describing how Jesus’ disciples had locked themselves in a room. They were afraid of the Jews. Imagine this scene! Here are eleven grown men locked in a fairly small room, fearful of what might happen to them. So much for Jesus’ “brave disciples.”

Then Jesus quietly appears in their midst. Did they rub their eyes wondering if something was wrong with their eyesight? Did they think they were going crazy when they saw Jesus? Did they immediately recognize that this apparition was Jesus, their beloved friend and teacher?

Jesus quietly and simply said to his beloved friends and disciples: “Peace be with you.” I suspect that the primary emotion the disciples experienced when they saw this apparition was not “peace.” Rather, I assume that they felt shock, fear, disbelief, astonishment and perhaps hope. Did they ask themselves: How could this be? Is this real? Is Jesus truly here with us?

Then Jesus showed his beloved friends his hands and his side. Did Jesus do this so they would know and believe that Jesus truly was in their midst? I suspect that the disciples needed some proof that this apparition truly was Jesus, their teacher and friend. Yet as they began to absorb the fact that Jesus truly was with them once again, they rejoiced. They were awed and amazed!

Jesus once again said to his disciples: “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Did the disciples experience peace envelop them when Jesus spoke these simple yet powerful words? Jesus then breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit! Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained!”

Take a moment and hear Jesus say to you: “Peace be with you (your name)! Then quietly breathe in Jesus’ gift of peace for 3-4 minutes! Allow Jesus’ peace to envelop you, to fill you! (Do it, don’t just read the sentence and move on!)

What was your experience? Do you feel Jesus’ peace within you? Do you feel less stressed or worried? Jesus gives us the gift of peace every day! However, we have to consciously accept and absorb His peace! If we do this every day, we may find that we are more peaceful, relaxed and joyful!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Reflection: John 21:20-25

John 21:20-25 – 7th Week of Easter

In today’s Gospel Peter turns and sees the disciple whom Jesus loved. I wonder what went on in Peter’s heart? Was he jealous of John’s close friendship with Jesus? At times, did Peter strive to be as contemplative as John was? Or was Peter truly secure in his relationship with Jesus? Did Peter understand that he also had gifts and qualities to share with Jesus?

Human beings have many qualities in common. However, our need and desire to be loved is paramount. Without love, we are bereft and lost. We often see this in children whose parents are abusive or neglectful. Without love and care we truly are alone and often frightened.

Our humanity is a great gift, yet at times it also is a challenge. Our need to be special and to be loved is at the core of who we are as human beings. All of us need to know and believe that we are loved and lovable. Human love is essential for all human beings. However, we also need to know and believe that we are the beloved of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit!

However, at times in our lives, we all have the experience of Peter. Ask yourself: were you ever jealous of someone who seemed to be loved and accepted by everyone? Have you ever desired to have the gifts and talents of one of your siblings or a friend? I assume so! These feelings are natural and normal. However, we need to learn how to manage these emotions or else they will begin to manage us.

Jesus understood Peter’s need. However, Jesus challenges Peter when he asks Jesus a question about John. Jesus quietly yet firmly responds to Peter and says: “What business is this of yours?” This sounds harsh. However, I assume that the tone of Jesus’ voice was kind and yet firm when he spoke these words to Peter. However, I wonder if Peter was able to hear the love and concern in Jesus’ voice or did he only hear the reprimand?

This is the last interaction Jesus has with his disciples in John’s Gospel. John simply concludes his Gospel by saying that he is “the disciple who testifies to these events and has written them.” John also testifies that his testimony is true. There was much more that John could have said, but he ends his gospel by saying: “I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.”

Jesus walked this earth that we also walk on. Jesus is our Lord and our God. And our story, the story of humanity, continues. And Jesus walks with each of us every day and every moment! Perhaps the question for us is: will we choose to walk with Jesus every day?

Friday, May 22, 2015

Reflection: John 21:15-19

John 21:15-19 – 7th Week of Easter

Today Jesus asks Peter a difficult question. He asks Simon Peter if he loves Jesus more than “these.” I wonder how Peter reacted to this question? Was he upset that Jesus asked this question? Did Peter wonder what Jesus was getting at? Was he concerned that Jesus did not trust that Peter loved him?

Regardless of his thoughts or questions, Peter simply answered: “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you!” Jesus then tells Peter: “Feed my lambs.” Then a moment later, Jesus again asks Peter the same question and Peter once again told Jesus that he loved him. Jesus then says to Peter: “Tend my sheep.”

However, then Jesus asked Peter the third time: “Do you love me?” Clearly Peter was deeply disturbed that Jesus once again asked him this question. By asking this question three times, he must have some doubts about Peter’s loyalty to him. Peter’s frustration, pain and dismay had to be clearly evident to Jesus. Finally with great frustration in his voice, Peter says: “Lord, you know all things! Clearly you know that I love you!”

Jesus does not respond directly to Peter’s statement. Rather, He quietly, simply tells Peter: “Feed my sheep.” Jesus also tells Peter that he will be led in a new path, one that is unfamiliar to him. In the future, Peter will not be leading, rather, he will be led. And he will be led to a place where he will not want to go. Peter did not know what to make of Jesus’ statements.

At times we also may not understand what Jesus is saying to us. However, no matter who we are or what positions we hold, we still are not in charge of our life. Nor can we control what our future will be. However, there is one area of control: we can make the decision to walk with Jesus daily and to trust Him with all our hearts.

Jesus loves us and is with us every second of the day. Are we willing to give up our illusion of control and place our hand in Jesus’ hand? Jesus loves us and will walk with us every step of the way. Jesus will guide us and strengthen us when we need help to deal with life.

Jesus’ final statement to Peter was: “Follow me.” Today Jesus speaks those same two words to us! Will we follow him? Jesus longs to walk with us each day! The question is: will we walk with him?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Reflection: John 17:11b-19

John 17:11b-19 – 7th Week of Easter

Jesus continues his prayer for his disciples. Clearly he is concerned about them and their welfare. Jesus had experienced some of the tension and conflict among his disciples. He knew that the path ahead of them would be painful and difficult. If they were divided or “at odds” they would not be able to carry out Jesus’ mission.

Jesus prays not only for his disciples but he also prays for all who will believe in him, no matter what century or nation we live in. Jesus longs for you and I to be “one” with him and with God, just as he longed for his disciples to experience this loving unity. Can you remember a time in your life when you had a deep and loving sense of Jesus being present with you? Take a moment and remember that time. What emotions did you experience: awe, joy, confusion, or perhaps elation?

These moments of intimacy with Jesus are “gift and grace.” We cannot manufacture these experiences. However, we can open ourselves to them and we can ask to be “graced” with such love and peace. Today may we be open and attentive to the ways Jesus may come to us. Keep your mind, eyes and heart open! At times Jesus comes in the most unexpected people or small happenings. Stay alert and watchful!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Reflection: John 17:11b-19

John 17:11b-19 – 7th Week of Easter

Today’s Gospel is a loving and tender passage. Jesus is praying for all the people (including us) whom God has entrusted to his care. Jesus realizes that his time on earth is short. He is concerned about the people whom he soon will be leaving. Jesus prays and asks his Father to keep them “in his name.” Jesus longs for his “flock” to be protected and safe when he is no longer with them. What a caring and loving shepherd we have!

Clearly Jesus dearly loved his disciples. He longed for them to share his joy fully and completely. Jesus knew that he would be leaving them and he longed for them to be safe and secure in God’s love and care for them. Jesus also longed for his disciples to share the depth of joy He experienced in being one with God.

Take a moment and remember a time when you experienced a sense of closeness or oneness with God or Jesus. Do you remember the time or place? What were the emotions you experienced? Joy? Peace? Love? Awe?

Jesus longs to share his peace, his joy and his truth with us today. Are we open to receiving these gifts? If so, I invite you to sit quietly in Jesus’ presence with an open mind, heart and hands. . . .and wait! Jesus will come and gift you! Be patient!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Reflection: John 17:1-11a

John 17:1-11a – 7th Week of Easter

“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me!” Wow! What powerful words and what a wondrous gift Jesus gave to his disciples! Take a moment and think back to your childhood. Who was it that introduced you to God and to Jesus? Was it your parents or through the kindness and generosity of a neighbor or friend? Or was it the priests and sisters at your parish or school? Or was God manifested to you through the beauty of nature? Or perhaps it was “all of the above!”

The question for us may be: how are we making Jesus’ name known to the people in our lives? Think about that for a moment. How do you strive to share Jesus’ love, compassion and generosity to the people in your life? It may be through the simple and repetitive acts of the “daily.” Or it might be through reaching out to someone who is struggling. When we strive to share Jesus’ love and care with others, we are making Jesus known to them through our actions and our concern.

Now ask yourself: who makes Jesus known to you? Today I invite you to be mindful of the small yet wondrous gifts of care and love that the people in your life share with you. Give thanks for the goodness and love. Give thanks for the goodness and love of Jesus!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Reflection: Mark 16:29-33

Mark 16:29-33 – 7th Week of Easter

In the Gospel reading for today Jesus continues his preparation of the disciples for His departure from them and from this world. The disciples believe that they completely understand what Jesus is talking about. However, Jesus says to them: “Do you truly believe?”

Jesus then predicts that the time will come when they will be so afraid that they will scatter and desert him. And despite their protestations, Jesus realizes that ultimately he will end up alone. His disciples do not have a clue about what will happen. They truly believe that they would never desert Jesus. Yet, when the time came and the threat was dire, most all of them scattered!

Jesus knows his disciples well. He does know and believe that they truly do love him. He has no doubt about that. However, he also understands that they are human. And when the threat is serious and possibly lethal, they will be terrified and will flee. The gift is that despite the reality that most of his disciples will leave him, Jesus is at peace. Jesus has “the Father” and Jesus deeply trusts and knows that His Father will never leave him!

Do we believe that God our Father/Mother will never leave us? In the midst of turmoil, do we have some peace and assurance that we will come through this situation, believing as we do that God/Jesus or the Spirit is with us? If we are able to trust this, our belief will strengthen us and thus enable us to truly know and understand that we are never, ever alone!

Jesus wants us to have peace. Peace is a small, six-letter word. Yet the gift of peace is indescribable and invaluable. If we truly desire peace, Jesus will gift us with this special grace! The question is: will we ask for this gift?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Reflection: Mark 17: 11b-19

Mark 17:11b-19 – 7th Sunday of Easter

In today’s Gospel Jesus is concerned about his apostles. Jesus realizes that soon He will be leaving them. He loves his disciples deeply and He wants to do all He can to ensure their safety and protection. Thus Jesus prays to His Father and asks God to keep His loved ones “in your name.” Jesus hopes and prays that the disciples and God “will be one, just as He and God are one.” Jesus also prays for their protection and He asks that they may share His joy.

Jesus asks God to protect the disciples as He protected them. Jesus did not want any of his disciples to be lost. Jesus had been with these men for three years. They had lived closely together, argued with each other, laughed and enjoyed one another and had come to love one another. The disciples truly had become a family and Jesus wanted to be sure that his family would be protected from any harm and from “being lost to the evil one.”

Think about your family for a moment. If you were seriously ill and knew you soon would be leaving them, what would be your hopes and wishes for them? I am sure you would do all you could to protect and prepare them as best you could. What would you say to your loved ones? What are the values and truths that you hope will be your greatest legacy to your family and loved ones? Do you know what the three most important values are for you? Hopefully faith and trust in God is one of those values you hope to pass on to all those you love. We share our most important values every single day. We live them out each and every day in our actions, choices and behaviors. And if we truly live our values, our loved ones and friends already know what is most important to us.

Today may be a good day to ask ourselves: what are the values I strive to live out every day of my life? Take some time today and reflect on this question. And be open to your inner response. You may be surprised by what you find out about yourself!