Using the Time We Have

Posted on November 15, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Connect! Sunday Reflection: Using the Time We HaveFor Sunday, November 19, 2017
33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31
1 Thessalonians 5:1-6
Matthew 25:14-30

What is the purpose of the Christian life? Or, to ask the question in a simpler way, what’s the point of all this?

As the Church Year comes to an end, this essential question is brought into sharp focus. The answer is as simple as it might be unpopular: we’re waiting for the fulfillment of time and of hope-filled promises of an untold future. We are awaiting the return of Christ. I would go so far as to say that if we’re not watching and waiting in hopeful expectation, then something vital is missing from our individual faith.

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Obedience Based on Relationship

Posted on September 27, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Connect! Sunday Reflection: Obedience Based on RelationshipFor Sunday, October 1, 2017
26th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Ezekiel 18:25-28
Philippians 2:1-11 or 2:1-5
Matthew 21:28-32

Graham Greene was a British novelist who has come to be regarded as one of the greatest English-language writers of the last century. Greene (who passed away in 1991) wrote more than two dozen novels as well as several plays, screenplays, and collections of short stories. Woven throughout his writings are religious themes, especially about the themes of forgiveness and redemption. Anyone who has read the story of the nameless “Whiskey Priest” in The Power and the Glory, of the adulterous Sarah in The End of the Affair, or of the Cervantes-inspired Monsignor Quixote knows Greene, who was also Roman Catholic, artfully weaves together questions of God and faith with the complexities—and darkness—of life and love.

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“You Feed Them!”

Posted on June 14, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Midweek Reflection: “You Feed Them!”For Sunday, June 18, 2017
The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

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

Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.
John 6:57

In 1928, Myles Connolly published a small novel entitled Mr. Blue, which tells the story of a young man who decides to live out the Christian faith in a serious, transforming way. The book was intended to serve as a Christian response to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic work, The Great Gatsby. Blue lives a life of extremes, we might even say of excess, but it is a far cry from the extravagance of the Roaring Twenties.

Mr. Blue has much to say to us about how faith in Christ can shape a life, transforming a person’s very existence into an act of eucharistia—an act of thanksgiving—that by its very nature draws others into communion. (more…)

Knowing the Good Shepherd

Posted on May 2, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Midweek Reflection: Knowing the Good ShepherdFor Sunday, May 07, 2017,
4th Sunday of Easter

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

Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.”
John 10:27-28

In 2013 in his message for the 50th World Day of Prayer for Vocations (which is celebrated each year on the Fourth Sunday of Easter), Pope Benedict XVI observed, “Hope is the expectation of something positive in the future, yet at the same time it must sustain our present existence, which is often marked by dissatisfaction and failures… To have hope, therefore, is the equivalent of trusting in God who is faithful, who keeps the promises of the covenant.”

This sense of hope is at the heart of this Sunday’s Gospel, which places before us one of the greatest biblical images of God’s faithful care and mercy: the Good Shepherd. The Evangelist John uses the image of the Good Shepherd (cf. chapter 10) to illustrate the intimate way Christ knows each of us—the flock entrusted to his care—and how, like a faithful shepherd, he constantly watches over us and lifts us up. (more…)

The Purpose of Lent

Posted on March 14, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection


For Sunday, March 19, 2017, 3rd Sunday of Lent

Exodus 17:3-7
Romans 5:1-2, 5-8
John 4:5-42 or 5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42

As Ash Wednesday approaches each year, one of the first questions we Catholics ask is, “What should I give up for Lent?” And it’s a fair question because, as we know, penance is a traditional part of our Lenten observance.

So, how do you or your family and friends answer this question? Do you give up social media? Television? Chocolate or another favorite food? Soft drinks, coffee, or alcohol? While it’s true that taking a break from any of those can be good for us, we also have to ask ourselves if these sacrifices are really helping us to grow in our lives as Christians.

It’s important to remember that our word “Lent” comes from the Old English word for “springtime.” This gives us a wonderful insight into what the days between Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday are all about: a season when faith and the virtues of the Christian life grow and flower within our hearts and souls. (more…)

Rejoicing and Repentance

Posted on December 6, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, December 11, 2016, 3rd Sunday of Advent

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.
Indeed, the Lord is near.
Philippians 4:4-5 (Entrance antiphon for the Third Sunday of Advent)

On this Third Sunday of Advent, the Church gives us a very specific mandate: rejoice! And, during these pre-Christmas days, it seems that there is joy all around us. Actually, there has been for a while. Businesses, public spaces, and homes are filled with the sights and sounds of Christmas and the dark hues and somber tones of Advent seem to be largely confined to our churches and chapels. (more…)

Humility to Serve

Posted on October 18, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, October 23, 2016, 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Several days ago I had the privilege of presenting a series of workshops for the diocesan congress of the Diocese of Fresno. This annual event brings together clergy and religious, professional and volunteer ministers, and young adults from around that diocese for a time of formation, catechesis, and renewal. It was a wonderful event and one that I hope more dioceses will plan in the coming years, especially because it gave the participants an opportunity to engage new ideas and develop new skills for ministry. (more…)

No Low-Cost Christianity

Posted on August 30, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, September 4, 2016, 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

As we look back at the story of our faith, we recognize graced moments in which women, men, and even children, have made decisions about the course or orientation of their lives that have changed history itself. Like that “shot heard ’round the world” of April 19, 1775, marking the first military action of the American Revolution, certain acts have opened up new pathways and modes of faith that have forever shaped the lives of countless believers through the ages.

Some of these might seem quite simple (perhaps because we know the stories so well): Mary’s fiat, Saint Peter’s decision to get out of his boat to follow the wandering Rabbi, and Saint Matthew leaving his tax collecting post. Others seem, somehow, far away and remote to us: Saint Lawrence presenting the poor, the Church’s true treasure, to an emperor who would kill him; Saint Patrick’s decision to return to Ireland after escaping slavery; Saint Francis stripping off his clothes and family ties to stand naked in the square of Assisi; Saint Angela Merici bringing together a group of women in order to teach girls outside of the walls of a cloister; Saint Aloysius Gonzaga renouncing his titles and princely rank in order to become a Jesuit; or Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton’s decision to enter the Catholic Church, despite society’s objections, and establish a new community of sisters, laying the foundation for Catholic education in America.

Even contemporary figures—our modern “saints”—had moments in which they made a decision that marked a moment of conversion: the newly canonized Saint Teresa of Kolkata asking permission from her religious superiors to begin working with the poor on her own; Dorothy Day’s recognition of the good work being done on behalf of the poor by the Catholic Church and her desire to unite herself to that work; Saint Maximilian Kolbe volunteering to take the place of a husband and father chosen to be executed by the Nazis; Thomas Merton’s decision to attend a Mass at Corpus Christi Church in Manhattan that marked a turning point on his journey to Catholicism and life as a Trappist monk; Martin Luther King’s trip to India in 1959 to learn about non-violent resistance; and Blessed Oscar Romero’s decision to seek justice for his slain priest friend and all the poor of El Salvador.

Regardless of when they lived or their title or state of life, these individuals demonstrated a willingness to make the Gospel the primary focus of their lives. Knowing the cost of discipleship, they willingly took on the burden of faith and set out on a new way, taking the words of Christ at face value: “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:26-27).

In these tense days, as people around the world struggle to make sense of the terror and violence that have become such a part of daily life, we are reminded that “there is no such thing as low-cost Christianity. Following Jesus means swimming against the tide, renouncing evil and selfishness” (Pope Francis via Twitter, September 5, 2013). We are being invited to trust in providence and to focus our attention on the common good and search for peace, asking for the grace of wisdom and discretion: “Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the LORD intends? For the deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans … who ever knew your counsel, except you had given wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high? And thus were the paths of those on earth made straight” (Wis 9:13, 17-18b).

The Church’s liturgy this Sunday remind us that, if we are to be true followers of Jesus, we must be willing to accept the responsibility that comes with discipleship, and part of that responsibility is a commitment to peace and justice, a dedication to building God’s kingdom here and now. And so, we pray, we fast, and we give to the poor. Any one of those acts is good and noble. But the question before each one of us is, “Where is my heart? To whom, or to what, does it belong?” If we continue to hold back, any words we speak or pray, the acts of penance we perform, and the gifts we share will always fall short and will never be what they might be, unless we act out of love for God and a spirit of gratitude for all that God has done for us.

Br. Silas S. Henderson, SDS

PRAYER

O God, by whom we are redeemed and receive adoption,
look graciously upon your beloved sons and daughters,
that those who believe in Christ
may receive true freedom
and an everlasting inheritance.
Through our Lord Jesus, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

—Collect, 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. Excerpt from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 2010, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Laborers for the Harvest

Posted on June 28, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, July 3, 2016, 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Workers harvesting grapes from rows of vines in a vineyard.

In workshops, retreats, and classes I’ve offered over the years to parish and diocesan groups around the country, I’m consistently struck by the tension that many people feel between spirituality (which they often think of as something private) and action (which is, of course, more public). People can be hesitant to talk about how they pray. It’s much easier to talk about what we do—how we minister and the ways we serve.

But, as the Letter to the Galatians has been reminding us over the course of the past several weeks, we risk losing something essential if we focus too much of our energy on actions (i.e., observing “the law”) and neglect the deeper and more important spiritual realities that should be the foundation for everything we do in life, including our works of mercy and justice.

So, how can we begin to bring together our personal spirituality and our more public works? I think this Sunday’s Gospel provides us an important insight: the quality of our relationships.

This might seem like an odd answer, given the emphasis on mission and vocation in this Sunday’s Gospel passage, but let’s consider what Jesus instructs his disciples to do. He sends them out in pairs to “every town and place he intended to visit.” These disciples were to let the local communities know that Jesus and the Apostles were on their way. They were being asked to evangelize—to announce the good news that Jesus was coming. (Remember that our word “evangelize” comes from the Greek word evangelion, which originally meant a joyful announcement that a king was coming to visit or that a military battle had been won.) And the message, the evangelion, that Jesus had instructed the disciples to proclaim was simple: “The kingdom of God is at hand for you.” Here. Now.

The disciples’ journey and their announcement of the coming of the kingdom—and of the King himself—was the action. But what was bubbling beneath the surface, within the hearts and souls of those early evangelizers? It was their own faith in and relationship with Jesus and with one another.

When Jesus sent out the disciples as “laborers for his harvest,” he wanted them to work together, to share their faith, support and encourage one another when the journey was difficult, and to witness to the fact that to be a disciple of Jesus calls for collaboration and community. But Jesus also instructed them to pay attention to the response of the people they were visiting. They weren’t to just ride into town like gunslingers in a cowboy movie. They were to share their message about the coming of the kingdom but also to watch and listen—to be in relationship with the people they visited. As one commentator observed, “Whether accepted or rejected, disciples ‘harvest the ‘kingdom of God’ by their very presence, by their very proclamation of Jesus’ name, by their very fidelity to Jesus’ mission” (from Living Liturgy 2016).

Their mission was to proclaim the faith they held within their hearts and invite others—all others—to join them in building up God’s kingdom as faithful disciples. Faith and action came together in relationships—the communion and community of the kingdom of God.

As we reflect on the quality of our own relationships, we can certainly also think about the community of our nation as we look forward to our Independence Day celebrations on the Fourth of July. The Founding Fathers and first parents of this country envisioned the United States as a nation where all people were equal (cf. the Declaration of Independence) and where essential rights and freedoms were available to all people without fear of retribution or retaliation. America was built upon a belief in the necessity of right relationships and the responsible practice of freedom for the good of all our people.

As Christians—disciples proclaiming our interior faith through our public works of mercy and justice—we are being invited to reflect on how we are helping build God’s kingdom within our families, parishes, communities, and country. How are we building relationships with others? How does our faith form and inform our relationships? Who are we inviting? Who might we be excluding?

Silas S. Henderson, MTS

PRAYER

God of justice, Father of truth,
who guide creation in wisdom and goodness
to fulfillment in Christ your Son,
open our hearts to the truth of his Gospel,
that your peace may rule in our hearts
and your justice guide our lives.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Collect from the Mass for Independence Day from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 2010, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

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