May 20th, 2022

The Gospel according to John (15:12-17)

Jesus said to his disciples: “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another.”

Reflection: When a game is organized between two teams, kids will often line up and wait to be chosen.  Each child hopes to be chosen first.  It is affirming to be wanted for the team.  When a child is chosen last this can be difficult and sometimes hurtful.

This reveals the desire within each of us to belong and to be wanted.  The good news is that God does choose each one of us.  He wants us as a member of His family and He wants us to belong to Him.  This is essential to understand and, when it is understood, it is very affirming.

It is a good spiritual practice to regularly reflect upon the fact that God chose us even before we were born.  He knew us from all eternity and set His eyes upon us, longing to bring us into His fold.  We need to understand this, accept it and believe it.  We do belong.

God not only chooses us to belong to Him, He also chooses us for His mission.  He wants to use us to go and bear fruit for His Kingdom.  He wants to use us for a sacred purpose and a divine calling.  Being a member of His “team” means that our lives have purpose and meaning.  No matter how “unqualified” we may feel at times to make a difference, we must remember that God does not see us that way.  Rather, He sees the infinite potential within each of us and chooses to use that potential for the building up of His Kingdom.

Action: Reflect, this day, on two short phrases:  “I have chosen you” and “Go and bear fruit.”  Accepting your call from God will change your life and will also change the lives of those whom you are called to serve.

Audio Reflection:

May 19th, 2022

The Gospel according to John (15:9-11)

Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.”

Reflection: What does Jesus mean when says “…your joy might be complete”? Does He want us to be happy? Like most kids, I wanted a bicycle. I dreamed about a banana seat Stingray with a sissy bar in the back. I could see myself cruising around the neighborhood and I would be happy. I never did get the Stingray. What I got was my brother’s hand me down that I eventually striped, painted, put back together. I rode the “you know what” out of that bike, and yes, I was happy until the next stage in my life. Then, I thought a new minitruck with a matching camper shell and custom paint job would do the trick. That did not happen. But I did get to drive my dad’s 63 Plymouth station wagon that would go from 0 to 60 in half an hour. Was I happy? Yes, but only for a while and occasionally.

We spend most of our waking hours in pursuit of what we believe will make us happy. Money, a cute girlfriend or boyfriend, a cool place to live, the latest sneakers (yes, I am old because I still say sneakers), cell phone, or gadget. Have you ever seen a dog chase its tail? That is us chasing an elusive and fleeting happiness that is not the same as what Jesus offers us. I am not saying material things, success or relationships are bad. And yes, they can bring us happiness. But joy goes way beyond the temporary feelings of happiness.

Have you ever felt peace in the midst of a tragedy, trial, or struggle? Something deep inside of you that despite the pain and suffering kept you anchored and would not let you completely drown in your despair? That is the joy of knowing Jesus is there, with you, holding you tight. It is the awareness and acceptance that you are so loved that if you were the only person who ever existed Jesus would still have come to live, suffer, die, and rise again so you could have eternal, wait for it…JOY!!

We can’t earn this joy. All we have to do is keep His commandments and we will remain in His love. Before we start going down that road of the do nots, shall nots, will nots, let’s remember the GREATEST commandment. Love God and your neighbor as yourself. And if we aren’t sure that Jesus meant what he said he added, “The whole law and all of the prophets depend on these two commandments.” True joy is knowing we are loved no matter what! In good times and in bad. Go and pursue the dreams that will fulfill your temporal needs. But, never let them get in the way of the joy that will outlast and outshine our wildest dreams.

Action of the Day: Pick a moment or a few throughout today and give thanks to the Lord for what you are doing, expereincing or enjoying. This too shall pass. The good times and the bad don’t last forever. Our lives here are oh so short. Keep His commandments and let that joy burst out in appreciation of others. Things are to be used, people are to be loved. Go and be the Good News.

Audio Reflection:

May 18th, 2022

The Gospel According to John 15:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire, and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want, and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

Reflection: St. John has a brilliant way a taking Jesus’ words and making them very simple to understand and always to the point. In that time of world there were not many occupations, the majority were either farmers or fishermen. So, it makes sense that he would use these types of analogies to explain Jesus’ words.

I have worked with many knowledgeable people in the business of knowing how to successfully grow and maintain different varieties of plants. Like us humans, plants need plenty of water, food, sunlight, and care. One of the hardest things to teach is that for a fruit bearing plant to continue to grow and produce hardy crops is that it must be pruned on a regular basis. Pruning a plant causes it to “want” to grow to survive, it is an instinct that God put in every plant when He created them in the beginning. In nature, that is untouched by man, trees naturally shed branches that are weak or dying which allows them to continually grow.

Jesus is the strong plant that helps us through the food of the Eucharist and the words of the Father to help us to grow and mature. He gives us the light which helps us to produce healthy and strong branches. God wants us to survive so He gives us these simple ‘Laws of Nature’ to help us survive. It is our responsibility, as stewards of the earth, to continue to make sure that we take care of our environment so that all life on our fragile planet continues to grow and bear fruit. 

It is also our responsibility that we help as many of our brothers and sisters to also be fed by the words of the Gospels and the light of our Savior so that they too will grow and bear fruit.

Action of the Day: Our actions are meant to bring the light and the life of Jesus to the world and His mission to the world. We all have gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit. What is your gift of fruit that you bring to the world? And how will you use it to make the world a better place?

Audio Reflection:

Photo by Ryan Baker on Pexels.com

May 17th, 2022

The Gospel according to John (14:27-31a) 

Jesus said to his disciples:
“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.
I will no longer speak much with you,
for the ruler of the world is coming.
He has no power over me,
but the world must know that I love the Father
and that I do just as the Father has commanded me.”

Reflection:

The part of today’s Gospel that I’d like to focus on for a minute is the first words that we hear from Jesus: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give it to you.”  It set me to thinking what do we mean when we say that we need “peace and quiet” to solve some problem, or figure something out in our lives?  What did Jesus mean when He said that He was giving the Apostles “peace”?

It made me think of a Star Trek novel I read when I was in college.  One of the characters, a Vulcan commander (Vulcans, if you don’t know Star Trek, are governed by logic only, not emotion).  In a particular scene, Captain Kirk, the main character, is working with a group of Vulcans to try to find their missing Captain.  Kirk says to the Vulcan Commander, “I only wish I could give you peace and quiet, so you could find your Captain.”  The Vulcan responds, “External peace is not necessary, and the quiet we need already exists inside ourselves, so no external quiet is needed, either.”  In essence, the Vulcan Commander was saying that she already had “peace”.

Today’s Gospel continues the story of the night of the Last Supper (the night before Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion).  His Apostles were being told that Jesus was going to leave them, and they were understandably afraid.  Jesus was reminding them, though, that His peace would be with them, and even though it did not mean that they would not feel concern or sadness or fear, it did mean that, through Jesus’ Holy Spirit that He promised, they would know that they were not alone.

That’s really the main lesson to pick up on in today’s Gospel.  We are walking in Easter joy, and we have that peace that Jesus promised us that night of the Last Supper.  But, we have to realize that the peace we have is inside us, not necessarily outside us.  If that peace is inside, we can know for certain that the Holy Spirit is there, guiding us to love as Jesus loved.  We just have to cooperate with that Holy Spirit and then, take a step in faith and live in that peace!

Action for the Day:

If you’re reading or hearing this early in the morning, take a minute now and look for that peace that Jesus promised.  Sense it and let it fill you up!  Then, through the day today, look for how you can be a blessing and bring that peace to someone else today.

If you would like to hear this reflection, click the link below! 

May 16th, 2022

The Gospel according to John (14:21-26)

Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” Judas, not the Iscariot, said to him, “Master, then what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus answered and said to him, “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 — he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”

Reflection: John wrote in this Scripture; “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name — he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”

A few weeks ago, while dealing with COVID I was forced to sit around. I decided to re-watch a movie series called the “Hobbit”. In the last movie of the series called “The Battle of the Five Armies” there was a female elf and a male dwarf that fell in Love. It was unheard of and unacceptable from both cultures, but their love was stronger no matter what challenges were presented in front of them. Additionally, the elves were inherently born without emotion therefore they didn’t get to experience “Love”, but this one elf did feel it. The end of the movie (series), there was this great battle where the men, elves and the dwarfs united to fight against evil which was the Orcs. At the end of the battle, good defeated evil but the dwarf was killed, and the elf cried over him. And she made this profound statement, “What is the thing called Love because it hurts, and I don’t want it”.

That deep and thoughtful statement is exactly true, Love does hurt but there are many, many beautiful blessings that happen to you when you love God, one another, and you love yourself. Love isn’t easy especially when you have to say goodbye to someone. All those memories hurt and make you weep. But have you ever thought of what your life would be like if you didn’t love someone therefore you had no memories? It even wasn’t easy for Jesus to love while here on earth, but He never gave up. It’s easier to have hope and unify together as one team to embrace each other and not judge. Why should we judge because we know that none of us is perfect! We all have flaws and make mistakes but it’s our mission to continue to love. 

There are so many types of love and many ways to show it. When you “Love”, we must suffer through to something higher, something more unified, more conscious. Hope must be born repeatedly, for where there is love, there is always hope. To “Love”, sometimes we must hurt in order to know, fall in order to grow, lose in order to gain, because most of life’s greatest lessons are learned through pain.

Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, defined love this way. “Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything”.

Action of the Day: It’s a simple request but sometimes not so easy to do. Contact 3 people in your life that you don’t see that often and tell them that you love them. Send it via text, email, by phone, or face to face. 

Audio Reflection: