Everyday Stewardship: Pentecost 2015

Posted on May 22, 2015 by - Everyday Stewardship

PentecostLiving a stewardship way of life as a committed disciple of Jesus is not easy. In fact, we are guaranteed to fail. That inevitable failure is called sin. Grace makes it possible for us to continue on the journey.

On that first Pentecost, the first followers of Jesus received the Holy Spirit who would guide them. For over 2000 years, that same Spirit moves in us and guides us

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Our Surging Life Force

Posted on May 19, 2015 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, May 24, 2015, Pentecost Sunday

New life on the grapevine photo by JollyPhoto/Shutterstock.It’s spring in the Northern Hemisphere. New life is surging up all around! Male birds in all their colorful finery are dancing and prancing to attract mates. Turkey tails are fanned. Rich melodies permeate the morning breezes. Farm animals are fat with soon-to-be-borns. Yes, even the maternity wards in our hospitals are full. Life! Life!

Our Jewish brothers and sisters believe that our human life force is in our blood. That really makes sense. When our blood is gone, so is our life. In the film The Passion of the Christ there is a very poignant scene following Jesus’ scourging. Mary, his mother, knelt and gathered the blood of her son so tenderly, so quietly. Was she attempting to gather his life force? That life that was so precious to her? But that blood needed further shedding. Despite her motherly drives, Mary knew she had to let go for an entirely new life to burst forth! Through the fog of her grief and unbelievable pain, the Holy Spirit again moved within this great woman. In an incomprehensible way, Mary was going through a second labor … the labor of birthing the church. This birthing was also accompanied with pain and blood. In her heart, Mary again said, “fiat!” And new life began bursting forth!

Let’s hold that image for a moment and look at another image that has been in our Sunday Gospels lately. The image of the vine and the branches. This too, is a springtime image. Grapevines are sending out their curling tendrils, connecting to supports so they are able to bring forth fruit. Could we think about that life as the strength and force of the Holy Spirit? The poetry of the Pentecost sequence petitions, “Come, source of all our store!” The Spirit is the source of the life within the vine, our store of life! How marvelous!

Right now, I’m sitting in the airport in Newark. Planes are leaving for points all over our world. In all of those places, Shanghai, London, Paris, Delhi, Cape Town, San Francisco, the vine and the branches exist. The church that was birthed through the blood of Jesus, through the repeated consent of Mary, lives today. The disciples have gone forth as commanded by Jesus for over two thousand years, “speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.” The Spirit has strengthened and guided and nourished all disciples, including us, to nurture that life force! How can we help but to say, “Alleluia”? How can we help but be joyful as life surges through us!

Soon, we are celebrating Memorial Day. We remember our dead. Their life blood no longer surges through their bodies. As Catholics we believe that after death, life continues forever. We believe in the Resurrection and life everlasting. The life force of the Holy Spirit continues to flow in the spirits of those who have moved into eternity. As we commemorate the lives of our loved ones, there is that connection … the connection of the Holy Spirit. That Spirit flows through the church militant, the church suffering and the church triumphant. We are all one! This calls for gladness, and banishes sadness!

May God be praised for being our Father, for being the Son, and especially, for being the Holy Spirit, our surging life force!

Patricia DeGroot, OblSB

PRAYER

God of power and mercy,
you destroy war and put down earthly pride.
Banish violence from our midst and wipe away our tears,
that we may all deserve to be called your sons and daughters.
Keep in your mercy those men and women
who have died in the cause of freedom
and bring them safely
into your kingdom of justice and peace.
We ask this though Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

—Prayer for Memorial Day from Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers.

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Everyday Stewardship

Posted on May 17, 2015 by - Everyday Stewardship

When I was around the age of six, my good friend Max moved away. I had known him for fewer than two years, but I was so fond of him that his moving away really hurt. I was living in Northern Virginia and he was moving to Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh might as well have been in another country. I knew it was far and that was the end of this relationship. I woke up in the middle of the night after he had left that day, crying and yelling. My mother’s arms tried to comfort me as well as they could. But this was real pain, even for a six-year-old. It was love.

The First Letter of St. John states, “Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us. This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us.” I do not want to make too bold a statement or reduce John’s words to simple sentiment, but I think the love I felt that night when I was six was pretty close to the perfected love mentioned in the passage. A child, so innocent and still untouched by the cynicism and apathy of an adult world, experienced something so deep and hard to understand that I am certain my mother classified it as immature emotions that would quickly fade away. As adults, we think that all the time. Yet forty years later, I still vividly remember it. I cannot remember Max’s last name or visualize his face, but I can still recall the feelings and emotions of that event.

What if we tried harder to take John’s words to heart and love more people as a child loves a true friend? John tells us that in that love God is present. That night when I was six I may have lost a friend, but I think I found God.

Handling Snakes

Posted on May 13, 2015 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, May 17, 2015, The Ascension of the Lord

may-17 Walking through some grass during a warm spring morning, I stepped on something squishy. My immediate thought was that it was a snake. Waves of revulsion washed over me as I jumped away. Thankfully, it turned out to be only an old discarded length of garden hose. However, it still took a few minutes for my heart to stop racing and my pulse to return to normal.

Fear of snakes is part of our evolutionary heritage, built up in our collective consciousness through many ill-fated encounters with these slimy, poisonous reptiles over the centuries. It is also part of our Judeo-Christian heritage as a symbol of evil and the cunning of the devil from humanity’s first encounter with the snake in the Garden of Eden.

That brings us to the readings for the feast of the Ascension. The Gospel is one of those bizarre passages of Scripture that we are tempted to overlook. Picking up serpents has never made it onto any job description or mission statement for Christian ministry. However, when we consider our natural revulsion of these reptiles and how they represent our ancient foe, the meaning of Jesus’ words come to light.

As Jesus ascends to heaven, he leaves us to continue his struggle against sin and death. He penetrates the heavens to claim the victory he has already won through his death and resurrection. On earth, we are claiming that victory by grappling with the forces that once intimidated and defeated us here below. Handling snakes and drinking poison serve as symbols of sin and death that no longer have power over us. Our instinct will always be to recoil in horror at their sight. However, our fear of being bitten cannot keep us from bringing the good news to the darkest places of our world. In faith, we know that the victory has already been won. So we can go forward in confidence even in the face of great evil and massive opposition because of the “hope that belongs to his call” (Eph 1:18).

Jesus says something else curious: “proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15). While Saint Francis of Assisi took this command literally, we can understand it as a reminder that all of creation will share in Christ’s victory over sin and death. There will be a new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21:1). The Pope’s upcoming encyclical on the environment will remind us that our struggle against evil also requires that we care for this planet, which is the stage on which the drama of salvation unfolds. Along with us, all of creation will be redeemed in Christ … even snakes.

Douglas Sousa, STL

PRAYER

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle;
be our protection
against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do thou, O prince of the heavenly host,
granted by the divine power of God,
cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who wander through the world
seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

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A Message of Love

Posted on May 6, 2015 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, May 10, 2015, 6th Sunday of Easter

May 10

It’s been a brutal couple of weeks.

Baltimore has been burning. Nepal is in ruins, with tens of thousands lost. Israel remains uneasy and on alert. And the city of Tel Aviv was rocked by protests amid charges of police brutality.

At times, it seems we are entering a new Age of Anxiety, with the earth literally shifting below our feet.

And yet, at this very moment, the Gospel cries out a recurring refrain that stands in stark contradiction to the world we know—a message, it seems, of defiance.

It is, in fact, a message of love.

“This is my commandment,” Jesus says in this Sunday’s Gospel: “love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

During these last weeks before we celebrate the Ascension, that theme of love has been heard again and again, echoing in the Scriptures at Sunday Mass. We could almost consider it Christ’s last will and testament: what we need to hear before he leaves the earth and sends the Holy Spirit to continue what he began.

We might find that message of love hard to swallow in our own times, when love seems to be so absent and hatred and fear are so rampant.

But that is precisely why we need to embrace that message so completely—and commit ourselves to living it so fully.

The Gospel is not only countercultural; it is also very often counterintuitive. The dead rise, the blind see, those who would be stoned are set free to start over. This is not the world we know, but it is one we pray to make real and present to others—the kingdom of heaven.

As we pray for our troubled world, and pray for victims of injustice and violence and war, we pray that we may make that kingdom a reality in how we live and, most especially, in how we love.

Dcn. Greg Kandra

PRAYER

Let us ask God
to grant that violence be overcome by the power of love,
that opposition give way to reconciliation
and that the desire to oppress be transformed
into the desire for forgiveness, justice and peace…

May peace be in our hearts
so that they are open to the action of God’s grace…
Amen.
—Pope Benedict XVI, Prayer for Justice, General Audience, December 19, 2007.

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Surprised By God

Posted on May 5, 2015 by - Everyday Stewardship

Pope FrancisSince 2013, Pope Francis has captivated the world with his remarkable display of discipleship.  And just when we think we’ve got him figured out, he surprises us again!  “Let us allow ourselves to be surprised by God,” were his words to the students at Santo Tomàs University in Manila, Philippines during his January pastoral visit – words he clearly lives by.

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Family Time

Posted on May 4, 2015 by - Everyday Stewardship

CampusPeople say your kids are grown up and out of the house before you know it.  Some say it’s like the blink of an eye.  In some ways that is true, although any parent can agree that some years seem longer than others!  (Some of those teen years can seem really long!)

But the point is there is a limited window of opportunity to help God mold and shape your children into the adults they will become.

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