The Ascension of the Lord, 2022: Art, Column on Luke: 24:46-53

Dear Believers in the Risen Christ,

In today’s gospel, Luke 24:46-53, Jesus describes his mission on earth. He suffered and rose from the dead. Repentance and forgiveness of sins are preached in his name. Then he tells his disciples, “You are witnesses of these things.”

We too, from the depths of our faith and the glorious love Jesus has for us, are witnesses to his life on earth and to his passion, death, and resurrection. This has been handed down to us. We are partakers of such miracles. We have inherited such wisdom from those who first peered into an empty tomb. We hold in our hearts the Holy Spirit who guides us, loves us, and protects us from harm.

On this Feast of the Ascension, we celebrate Jesus leaving the earth and preparing the world for the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Risen Christ had to physically leave the earth so the gift of the Holy Spirit could be given to the entire world. We are not alone. We are not abandoned. We are not separate from God. The gifts of God’s love, healing, and hope are made visible in our hearts and in every believer. 

Today, we examine our role as witnesses to Christ. We explore the wonder of Jesus Christ in the very fabric of our existence, in the miracle of being alive on earth. In the complexity of the world, we must believe we are part of a plan to do our part to heal, to forgive, and to work for justice. Each of us holds in our hearts a piece of glory, a treasure of heavenly hope because we belong to Jesus Christ from our baptism. Each week we process down the aisle of the church to receive the Eucharist, to taste for our own lives the incredible beauty and life of the Risen Christ. 

While we are on earth, we hold in our lives the very mission of Jesus Christ. We are to work for the common good, for peace among family, and among all our relationships. We are to seek the love God has for us, to know the wisdom of our ancestors deep within our hearts. We are witnesses to love here on earth. We must never forget our place in the love of God. We must take to heart this responsibility and call to flood the world with the beauty of Jesus’ presence because we belong to such a vision and mission.

Before Jesus parted, he raised his hand and blessed the disciples. We rest our lives under the hand of his blessing. We belong to such a moment when he left the earth and relied on his followers to carry on his mission. Don’t ever forget your call to put love into practice. Don’t let others tell you that you are not good enough for this task. Don’t forget your heart that aches for such beauty and compassion in the Master who healed the sick, forgave the sinner, and opened new paths for the lost. We all belong in him, in the wonder of our Messiah who left the earth so we could carry on his presence in every aspect of the world. All is holy, all is love. You are witnesses of these things.

As he blessed them, he parted from them and was taken up to heaven

God give you peace,

Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor

Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 22, 2022: Art, Column on John 14:23-29

Dear Followers of the Risen Christ,

In John 14:23-29, the gospel prepares us for the feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost. Jesus tells his disciples that he will leave them and that he will eventually come back. Jesus prepares us for the gift of the Holy Spirit, who will teach us everything. The Holy Spirit will remind us of everything we learned from Jesus. 

Jesus also offers us again the primary gift of the Resurrection, an enduring and lasting peace. Peace is the first word proclaimed after he rose from the dead. Peace is revealed by the Holy Spirit and flows into our hearts and lives if we remain in him. Peace is a gift not yet realized in most human hearts and certainly not in our world. Our ancestors in faith, especially the mystics and saints, offer us stories time and again about how they struggled in life and yet maintained the gift of peace because they trusted in the power of God’s love and in the realization of Jesus’ dying and rising. We may not be saints, but our hearts are also restless. It is our life journey to be instruments of peace in the center of our suffering, our misfortunes, and even on our death beds. Peace is hard to come by, because we must grow into our hearts of faith and that growth takes us an entire lifetime. 

Once again in the Easter season, Jesus also tells us to not let our hearts be troubled. He invites us not to be afraid. This is his message of peace once again. We struggle with faith because we think faith will change us, that God will tell us to live beyond our gifts, wants, and talents. Instead, God is invested in our lives as they are. God uses our gifts and talents for good. The difference is that we understand our lives are in him, for him, and because of him. This is a lifetime of peace. When we can surrender to such beauty and love of God, we become the followers God desires us to be, people who love even in fear, people who imagine even in our stubbornness, and people who believe even in our suffering. 

This Easter season continues to offer us Jesus Christ in images of consolation and wonder. He is the giver of peace. He is the consolation of love even in fear. The Easter season reveals in his resurrection the power of God’s commitment to us. This commitment is in the depths of our baptism. We die to self and live in Christ. We are born again. Easter lives in the connection of our lives as Christians. 

As we approach the Ascension of Jesus and then Pentecost, here are some questions to ask:

How is Jesus inviting you into a greater peace within your own life?

How is Jesus inviting you into a life of less fear, self-hatred, and violence?

How has the Easter season changed your perspective on Jesus Christ and your commitment to him and your commitment within the Church?

Jesus said to his disciples, “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…”

God give you peace,

Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor

Monsignor James Telthorst and Dr. Fred Moleck: Rest in Peace

I learned yesterday that Jim Telthorst, a priest from Saint Louis died in March. Fred Moleck, (right) also died in 2021.

These two men were champions of Vatican II. I first met them when I was in graduate school at Notre Dame.

Jim lived at Saint Joseph Church in South Bend for five summers while studying liturgy at Notre Dame. He was one of the most profound preachers I have ever heard. When he preached on Sunday, I would sit in the back pew of the church and take notes. However, my heart could not capture his love for God and his enthusiasm for the Church in the era of the Second Vatican Council. He loved people. He loved the gospel. He loved our search for the wisdom of God’s love for us. He was a great mentor.

Fred was an incredible personality. He earned a doctorate in music. The church organ was his home. Our paths crossed many times in our careers. After I left Saint Joseph Church in 1984, he served there as Director of Music. We also lived in Chicago at the same time. His personality was bigger than life. His spontaneous humor, his love for community building through music, earned him much respect by so many people. His was a champion for liturgical music as a vehicle for justice, community formation, and searching for God. His leadership was contagious. I have never laughed so hard as I did in his presence through the years.

I took this photo at the National Association of Pastoral Musicians Convocation in Saint Louis in the summer of 2014. The three of us had lunch that day. It was the last time we sat together. I will miss them.

These are just two of the people I have met through the years that instilled enthusiasm for church life and what the church means in the world. I also grieve the loss of such joy and meaning in the church today. We have lost our edge. We have lost our joy in believing the purpose of the church is for people. I don’t think it was just my youthful enthusiasm that caught their friendship. I believe it was the grace of God aching to show us all that life is worth it and that faith is the only way home.

Monsignor James Telthorst, rest in peace.

Dr. Fred Moleck, rest in peace.

Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 15, 2022: Column on John 13:31-33, Art

Dear Followers of the Risen Christ,

On this Fifth Sunday of Easter, we listen to John 13:31-33a. In this simple passage, Jesus offers a deep and passionate invitation to love one another. This command harkens back to the Last Supper, when Jesus surrounded himself with his disciples, washed their feet, and offered them his Real Presence in bread and wine— a new covenant, a new way of life, a new purpose on this side of the grave. He offers a new way of seeing the world, a new way to respect the dignity of people and reveal hope to those most in need. Love never fades. 

A new commandment: Love one another. I am always heartened in the Easter season that the images of Jesus are ones of consolation, healing, tenderness, and abundance. He offered his invitation of peace when he first met his disciples after the resurrection. There was an abundance of fish and new life as he met Peter and others at the seashore. The image of “shepherd” is one of great consolation, since we know he chases down sinners and embraces the lost. A new commandment is offered this week, a reflection of what his life on earth and his risen life amid the disciples means to us. I believe with my entire being that he still wants the best for us. He still views his life as a source of love for sinners and for us, who are so slow to listen to his voice and discover his love.

This new covenant is also about what Jesus left us, the Eucharist. His Real Presence is true food, true love, and true forgiveness. There is love in the food and hope for those who share it. We gather, not in private devotion, but in community that aches for such life and love. We feast on his Real Presence in bread and wine. His Body and Blood become a source of eternal life for us who follow his ways. We still gather, after all these centuries, to find the source of love around a table of love. We belong to him. He is our way of life, our commitment toward justice, our way of hope even in sorrow and loss. 

As we approach the Eucharist today, may we realize that love is in our food. In receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, may we respond with intention and vigor. Allow our “Amen” to echo across the church building, creating a space under our roof where we know justice can flourish and hope will have a home. How will you find joy and freedom in the Eucharist this day? 

Today, we also welcome our children to the Table of the Lord who will receive the Eucharist for the first time at Sacred Heart. I am deeply heartened by our young ones who have studied, prayed, and prepared to welcome Jesus into their lives and actions in a deeper way. I appreciate the parents who have prepared their children for this sacrament. Please know of my prayer for all receiving Eucharist for the first time and their families in these beautiful days of the Easter season.  

Today, our children make an incredible commitment. I pray they may always be hungry for God. I pray they may rely on the gift of love no matter what happens in their lives in the future. I pray they may connect their prayer and their service to the weak and suffering. On this day, our children are preparing for their future, and I pray they may always feel welcomed in the church, no matter the events of their lives. 

The Eucharist creates integrity in our search for God. We approach the Altar knowing the source of our lives, Jesus Christ. In his love and mission, we find ourselves open to harmony and hope. We find our place in the heart of Jesus Christ. 

“This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

God give you peace,

Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor

Fourth Sunday of Easter, May 8, 2022: Column on John 10:27-30, Art

Dear Followers of the Good Shepherd,

On this Fourth Sunday of Easter, we listen to and pray with this short passage, John 10: 27-30. This Fourth Sunday of Easter is traditionally called, “Good Shepherd Sunday.” This is one of my favorite images of Jesus Christ. He cares for us. He recognizes us. We are known. We are his. We listen in love. We come to know and hear his voice. 

This short gospel starts off with a bold statement from the mouth of Jesus. “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” I suspect this might be all we ever need to hear from him. In this Easter season, we take these words seriously. We have spent the Lenten season sorting through the pain of life to find Jesus at our core. He is our identity. Nothing else takes the place of such love. In his resurrection, new life abounds in us. We need to take time for such prayer, to quiet our lives to hear the voice of the Shepherd. He is our guide if we first get out of our own way. Then we can open our ears and hearts to the sound of his voice. In baptism, we belong to such love. Easter reveals to us that our commitment in baptism offers us the desire to hear his voice, to strengthen our following, and to assure us of our purpose on earth. So, at Easter, we listen carefully and with love. 

This scripture invites us into a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. The Easter event is our door to new life, to new possibilities, to new healing and forgiveness. We rest in the assurance that Jesus cares for us no matter what, no matter how we shun his love or turn our backs on his invitation. Over the course of time, we learn to follow him. I believe this may take us an entire lifetime to explore and to follow. 

In this short passage, we also hear that Jesus and the Father are one. In many daily gospels in the Lenten season, they revealed such unity to us. Over again, the connection to Jesus and the Father was revealed in our liturgies. Without this connection to the Divine, Jesus would never become the Messiah, the one who brings us life eternal. Easter reveals the reasons then why this unity is so important. Jesus does not act on his own to bring us forgiveness, truth, and beauty in our lives and in our world. 

What does it mean for us to pray with the image of the Good Shepherd? How in your life do you need to be found? How in your life do you need to know God will not abandon you? These are important and vital questions for us to consider in the Easter season. I believe the Shepherd chases us down. He embraces us when we want to squirm our way out of his arms. He forgives us when we believe we must do all the forgiving on our own. He loves us when we are unlovable. He speaks when we don’t speak well of others. He claims us when we feel abandoned and lost. He also offers us eternal life when we feel our suffering is the only thing we cling to. 

I don’t know about you, but I want to be chased down by the Shepherd we call, “Good.” Easter is the time for such prayer and surrender to such good. 

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me…”

God give you peace,

Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor

Third Sunday of Easter, May 1, 2022. Column on John 21:1-19, Art

Dear Followers of the Risen Lord,

John 21:1-19 is proclaimed on this Third Sunday of Easter. The Risen Christ is revealed at the seashore, in the disappointment of a day of fishing where the disciples had caught nothing. The disciples are going about their usual day. The sun was hot; the nets were empty; their livelihood was at risk. I suspect their hearts were also still grieving because they had anticipated following Jesus, bringing them security and strength. Here on the seashore, everything seems lost, everything.

So, Jesus appears to them. Their hearts do not recognize him at first. He invites Peter and the others to cast the net one more time into the sea, this time on the right side of the boat. Out of desperation, they do what he has asked. Then, their net becomes full of fish, one hundred fifty-three of them. Peter jumps into the water and claims the presence of Jesus. He is full of belief; he is full of love; he is once again, full of hope.

Then they have breakfast. There is something else that needs healing. Peter, who had denied Jesus three times before Jesus died, is offered a moment of new life. Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” He asks three times. It is an opportunity to unwind his denial. Peter is given a new opportunity to respond to the one who will bring him new life. After Peter affirms his love for Jesus, then Jesus reveals a deeper command. Jesus says to him, “Feed my lambs.” These simple words become a mission statement for Peter. These words become an incredible command of Jesus to make sure the weary, the lost, the unforgiven, and the hopeless all know that they are part of the flock of Jesus Christ. This call to service echoes Jesus’ command to wash feet, to serve beyond measure, to cast a net further, deeper, and more often into the sea of humanity. Peter is being asked to leave everything behind yet one more time, to serve in ways he least expects.

We too live in the center of such conflict and awareness. On many days, we cast our hearts into life and experience nothing. We may work on our own and nothing comes of it. We may even deny our faith in the miracle of Jesus’ love. We may ignore our own call to share our gifts and offer substance to those around us. We may come to the end of our day completely empty.

In this Easter season, the scriptures invite us deeper into our commitment to follow Jesus. The miracles and desires we hope for may very well be in front of us. In the Resurrection, we are to open our hearts and experience a deeper, more abundant love from the person of Jesus Christ. We are also being called to serve him in ways that seem impossible. We cannot ignore our call or hide from his invitation to love, feed, and serve.

We are not alone in realizing the Resurrected Christ. Our Church depends on us to dive into the deep end of our commitments and learn how to love. The Easter season opens doors, offers us abundance, and helps us get over our fear of offering even our burdens and sins into his loving care. The disciples pulled the full net to shore. I pray that every day, we may experience the abundance God has for our lives of prayer, dedication, and service. The disciples were slow to recognize Jesus. How are we doing in the Easter season? Do we truly see him? Are we willing to follow him?

Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”

God give you peace,

Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor

Second Sunday of Easter, April 24, 2022, Cover Art, Reflection on John 20:19-31

Dear Followers of the Christ,

In John 20:19-31, we follow the disciples into a closed room. The locked doors and the closed windows reveal the fear of those who were left behind after Jesus’ death. I can’t blame them for being hunched over in pain. They witnessed the tragedy of Jesus’ cross. They thought he was the one to follow. They put all their hope in this man who suffered severely and died in front of them. They had no idea what to do next or where to go for healing.

In this dingy room, we can smell the sweat of fear on the disciples. We can hear their silence. We feel the tinge of regret and the overwhelming fear of death. In their locked cage, the future seemed dim and uncertain. Can you imagine this moment? The disciples were afraid because they believed that they would also die. They believed that because they followed Jesus, the authorities would also come after them. I am not sure we can comprehend the severity of such fear and overwhelming darkness. 

However, even in their great fear, Jesus stood in their midst. Jesus appeared to them in great love. On his body, he bore the scars of his death. On his hands and feet, the deep wounds of the nail marks revealed his identity. These wounds were his sign of authority. He indeed had risen from the dead. The nail marks told the story of what had happened in the prior days. The nail marks assured the disciples that it was truly him, not an impostor. 

Then, they heard him speak. The first words of Jesus Christ after rising from the dead were these, “Peace be with you.” Wow. These few words are not only to ease the fear of those huddled together, but these words also span across the generations and into our lives as well. In the face of tragedy and even death, Jesus offers the peace of his presence. These words should be tattooed on the hearts of every believer. These words should be the foundation of our lives together. These words herald a new era in history and a new way of living even in our day. He rose from the dead. He brings peace eternally. 

We need these words more than ever in our world. We are not only called to hear them, but we are also called and challenged to live them. Peace is not an abstraction; it is a way of life. Peace is not about a left-wing conspiracy or a right-wing ideal. Peace flows from the mouth of Jesus Christ as his first offering to his disciples after the grave. Imagine that. If this is the case, then it must become the central teaching of our faith, our relationship with Christ, and of the Church. 

Thomas was not with the disciples at the first encounter with the Christ. Jesus appeared to Thomas later. He was stunned by Christ’s presence. He could not believe such a reality. He wanted to touch his wounds and put his hand into his side. He wanted to find out for himself that Jesus had risen. I do not blame Thomas for his inquisitive nature. Thomas believed in Jesus and wanted to find again the intimacy of his touch. “My Lord and my God,” exclaimed Thomas as he touched the beauty of the nail marks. I want to touch Jesus’ body and find out for myself that he is risen, that he is the source of life for all eternity. Thomas models deep faith for me, not the doubt of his reputation. 

This gospel text is a source of much love within my heart. It is this text upon which I preached the day after I was ordained a priest 39 years ago. The Congregation of Holy Cross ordains our men on the Saturday after Easter each year. So, we preach on the Second Sunday of Easter for the first time as priests. In all three liturgical years, this text is proclaimed. This means that all our priests preach on this gospel the first day of priesthood. 

The disciples were privileged to discover the Risen Christ. They reached out from their fear in the dark room to encounter the love, the light, and the integrity of Jesus, Risen in Glory. His redeemed wounds give us courage and vitality to serve and love in our world. 

God give you peace,

Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor