Third Sunday of Easter: Bulletin cover art and column

May 5, 2019 Bulletin Cover

Dear Believers in the Risen Christ,

In our liturgy today in this Easter season we listen to John 21:1-19. Jesus reveals his very self at the seashore amid the meal that is shared. We are back with the disciples who are fishing and trying to make a living. Jesus is among them and invites them to cast a net from the other side of the boat. They catch one hundred fifty-three fish in their large net. They share breakfast. And then even more things are revealed.

Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” Of course Peter says that he does. Jesus does not stop with one asking. Not twice, but three times he says, “Do you love me?” Peter is getting a little annoyed because he knows that he denied Jesus three times. Now is his opportunity to be healed by Jesus.

However, the questions do not stop with only admitting love. Jesus then commands him, “Feed my lambs.” Peter is to invite the love he has for Jesus into reality. He is to live what he professes. Peter must be the model of service and fidelity. Peter must reveal within the lost, the forgotten and the lonely that the love of Jesus is real and inviting.

Jesus is calling Peter in a new depth of love and commitment. Jesus tells Peter that when he was young he used to dress and go where he pleased. Now, something new is happening. He must stretch out this hand and be lead by grace, by his call into service, justice and living the message of love for all people. He is now a servant. His discipleship must mature.

This gospel invites us into such a maturity of being a follower of Jesus. First of all, the meal is the place where we are not only fed, but where we learn how to receive the love of Jesus. For our meal today is his Real Presence. The Mass is our invitation to learn how to be loved and how to love. In this meal of Christ’s Body and Blood, we learn how to feed the sheep of Jesus and how to reach out to our fragile, our poor and our broken. We are to become what we eat, the Body of Christ in our world. Here is the depth of our commitments. This depth is seldom explored because we are reluctant to accept such a command from Jesus, “Do you love me? Then feed my sheep.”

Food brings us together. Food creates community. In fact, Aristotle said that friends should share a bag of salt together. This means that real friends should spend many meals together. The Mass is the same. God feeds us and we become Christ’s mission in the world precisely because Jesus is our friend. In this meal, we take to our hearts the very mission of feeding others because we are fed and nourished with love and tenderness.

As we continue this Easter season, let us take to heart that we are challenged by Jesus to be led and to lead. We listen with grace and tenderness to his words:

“Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

Blessings,

Fr. Ron

Second Sunday of Easter: Bulletin cover art and column

April 28, 2019 Bulletin Cover

Dear Followers of Jesus,

On this Second Sunday of Easter, we hear the sacred liturgy of John 20:19-31. This gospel is proclaimed in all three liturgical cycles on the Second Sunday of Easter, also know as Divine Mercy Sunday. The gospel invites us into a scene of fear and uncertainty as the disciples are locked in a room after Jesus’ death.

Within their visible fear, Jesus appears in their midst. He offers them peace. This text is rich and profound for our own spiritual lives. Even when fear corrupts our hearts, when it shrouds our perspectives about life and damages our relationships, Jesus comes to us today. The resurrection opens new doors, releases fear and brings peace. We literally stand with the disciples to discover Jesus’ peace.

Jesus then commissions them to go out into the world and offer the forgiveness of his life and resurrection. I can’t imagine how confused the disciples must have been. After all they had been through, Jesus comes to them out of the blue and tells them to get moving beyond their fear and beyond the walls of their locked door.

Thomas was not in the room with them when they experienced such a miracle. A week later, Thomas stands in the presence of Jesus. Thomas takes his finger and places it in the wounds of his hands and places his hand into Jesus’ side. In other words, Thomas probes the mystery of the wounded and redeemed Christ. This is key for us to find the resurrected Christ in our own day. We, too, must probe the mystery of the wounded and redeemed Body of Christ. We do so within the broken, the marginalized, the ill and suffering, the lonely and forgotten.

“My Lord and my God,” proclaims Thomas. His surrender to Jesus’ love and presence is felt well beyond the page where these words are written. This proclamation is felt deep within our souls, especially when we have the courage to seek the Body of Christ in the poor and the abandoned. We know who the resurrected Christ is in this story and we know who we are called to become for we are commissioned as well to be peacemakers, to be people who help others makes sense out of their suffering. All suffering can be redeemed in Christ Jesus, if we have the faith to touch it, to reach out to those who most need love, peace and forgiveness.

The Congregation of Holy Cross celebrates priesthood ordinations on the Saturday after Easter. So our priests preach on this gospel as they celebrate Mass for the first time. I first preached on this gospel 36 years ago. This is my favorite text. I have spent my priesthood probing the mystery of the wounded and redeemed Body of Christ in our world. When I see and touch the pain of others and even within my own life, I find the peace, love and forgiveness of the Resurrection. This is not just a pious notion. This is the reality of not only priesthood but also what we are all called to seek, the resurrection of Christ Jesus. May mercy open doors for us and may we touch the miracles of new life.

Blessings,

Fr. Ron

Easter Sunday: Bulletin art and column

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Easter Sunday: Painting by Ronald Raab, CSC

READ FULL bulletin here

Dear Believers in the Christ,

On this Easter morning, I am delighted and grateful for your presence at Sacred Heart Church, Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Holy Rosary Chapel. I extend to you a heartfelt Easter blessing as we break through death and into the new life of Christ Jesus.

We proclaim John 20:1-19 this morning. Jesus’ resurrection rings through to our souls. This gospel helps us enter into the scene of the unexpected. Mary Magdalene, Peter and John find the tomb of Jesus empty. Imagine them going to the tomb and not finding Jesus. They must have felt helpless and afraid.

The emptiness of the tomb requires much spiritual reflection. Mary Magdalene peered into emptiness. We can all imagine how fearful she was at that moment. Emptiness is where she realized that something new was happening. Emptiness still shocks us in our daily reality.

Ponder emptiness for a moment. A person who is ill or who has disabilities is often seen as not being whole. There is “emptiness” in our perspective that the person does not live up to being a complete or whole person. When a person is jobless, we may think of the person as not being fully present in our society. Even when we have unscheduled time, we may fear the emptiness and not know what to do, so we fill our lives with many things that do not matter.

Emptiness for Mary Magdalene is really the place where new insights and strengths were revealed. She found her life and voice emptied out by people’s perception of her. She was female, a person with no formal or cultural power. She had little credibility since she was healed of seven demons. She was always socially scarred. She testified to emptiness. Imagine what people must have thought of her testimony, yet in the end people believed her.

I think emptiness still baffles us. We tend to fill a void when we are faced with emptiness in our personal lives, in our prayer and in our spiritual journey. Emptiness is often a place of fear. Interestingly, emptiness is also a place of conversion, new life and freedom. When we surrender to emptiness within our hearts, within our spiritual desire for love, God will fill us up as He did on Easter day. Mary found a deep spiritual wonder and hope from God when the physical tomb presented her with emptiness.

Jesus’ Resurrection means that a new imagination is possible when emptiness happens in our lives. Easter reveals a new imagination in how we live. If Christianity is to survive in our culture, then we are to reimage how we pray and how we work for justice. Christianity cannot be complacent or lethargic. Following Jesus is more than a strict adherence to rules or to be obsessed about the past. A new imagination means we are to rely on the Holy Spirit in the nitty-gritty issues of our lives. We are to take to heart the love of God and live in creative and beautiful ways. Lent has emptied out our perspectives in order to view the beauty of new life at Easter.

I want to continue to create our communities in such imagination. I am grateful for our restored Sacred Heart Church. This is our first Easter back into our renovated building. I see the resurrection in the beauty of our renovation, how we serve one another and all the ways in which we break the mold in our churches. I pray that we can continue what we have started; trusting in the One who began this all.

Easter Blessings,

Fr. Ron