Holy Obligation

The first reading for today opens by stating, “to keep the law is a great oblation, and he who observes the commandments sacrifices a peace offering.” Sir 35:1. This reading seems fitting in light of my diocese’s proclamation that after the feast of Pentecost, the holy obligation to attend Mass in person will be reinstated. This decree may require a sacrifice for some. Accepting this obligation once more means that we as a community of God must reunite again. As people throughout this nation and this world prepare to come together again, there is no doubt great joy, but there may also be great fear.

With more people entering their churches, there are more chances to subject ourselves to unknown dangers. With this fear of the unknown and the sacrifice in confronting it are many blessings. Jesus Himself said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age.” Mark 10:29. It seems appropriate that on Pentecost this decree of returning to Mass in person is reinstated. Over the past year, people came together agreeing to keep separate to protect each other, but now it is time to unite under a new belief, the belief and trust that Jesus truly is our Savior and He wants us to engage in the struggles of this world together, not apart.

The coming of the Holy Spirit promises protection and salvation. Sacrifice brings companionship with our Lord. God created us to be unified and not divided. There is a miraculous strength when the church is filled with people praising Him. As we all return to holy Mass, we are returning home. Under the protection of our Savior, there is nothing that cannot be overcome.

How Can I Keep From Singing?

“I am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead.”

Acts 23:6

Have you heard the saying “talk is cheap.” You can’t just talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. But what if you are not able to walk? Should we completely despair? Those that make your talk cheap? No. Prayer is powerful. We must pray without ceasing not only turn to it as a last resort. Both and And, that is our identity and our calling. Jesus taught us to pray. Jesus prayed for his disciples for us, “I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me.” (John 17:24). Jesus also modeled, charity, faith and hope. He showed his disciples through his life, how to live.

Our whole lives we are on trial. What is this trial? What is this test?  The test of faith in Him who came to give us life, so that we may have life abundantly. “I am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead.” (Acts 23:6). The hope in the resurrection, this mystery of our faith, must lead us to live a Christian life where we can model hope in a time of despair, joy in a time of suffering and faith where the rope seem so weak it might tear.

Blessed Pier Giorgio reminds us to remain in good spirits throughout the trials of life. “You ask me whether I am in good spirits. How could I not be, so long as my trust in God gives me strength…the purpose for which we have been created shows us the path along which we should go, perhaps strewn with many thorns, but not a sad path. Even in the midst of intense suffering, it is one of joy.” How incredibly blessed and privileged to walk through life, with its thorns and roses, its rain and radiant sun, its blossoming flowers and dying flowers, its blue skies and gray skies.  Live the Christian life, pray and put the love of the father in action. A hymn that I always enjoy praying goes, “No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that refuge clinging, since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?” Indeed, how can we?

Today say a prayer for a friend, for a family member for anyone who may need it AND live out your abundant life, the way Jesus did, in service of others.  

O God; you are my hope.

You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,

Psalm 16: 1, 11

Yours, Mine, and Ours

“Now they know that everything you gave me is from you, because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me.” John 17: 7-8

When first read, Jesus sounds as though He is talking in circles in this passage. However, He is actually creating connections and drawing His people to those connections with His Father through Himself. When God sent His Son into this world, He made a new and final covenant with His people. Thanks to the work of Jesus in our world, we no longer have to fear being separated from God. Everything God had in mind for us when we were first created was given to us through Jesus. If we hear the word of God and simply believe in it, we are guaranteed all the wonders of the kingdom of heaven.

Paul is a perfect example of taking the words of Jesus to heart and living by them. He handed over his entire life to God because he understood that life was never his. God gave him life, and he returned that life to God. “I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish the course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24

We are not all called to live life like Paul, but we are called to give our lives to God. God asks us to be saints, and what do saints do? They answer God’s call and willingly surrender to whatever the Father asks of them. This may sound like sacrifice, but if we completely trust God, we can be sure that true happiness does not come from living for ourselves, but from living for others, according to God’s divine plan.

Honey and Vinegar

There is an old proverb that states “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” In other words, you are more likely to get what you want by being polite rather than rude. Over the years, this proverb has proved itself to be true. However, we often forget about it. Customer service jobs are some of the most grueling because they require dealing with people under stress. People don’t often handle difficult problems well and along with the stress these problems create comes fear. In that fear, our age old enemy thrives. He is ready to feed us lies and make us regard others as opponents rather than allies.

Jesus promised His disciples before He left this world that He would send the Advocate, meaning the Holy Spirit, who comes to conquer because “the ruler of this world has been condemned.” John 16:11. We live in a fallen world governed by sin. The ongoing battle is to reject the ruler of the world and return to the teachings of Jesus, acting through the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

The first reading today is the story of Paul and Silas remaining in their cell in jail even after an earthquake opens the gates of the jail, allowing them to escape. The timing of this earthquake would have been sufficient to make the point that the Lord is always in charge and will protect His followers. It would have been easy to say that He sent the earthquake to free His people who were imprisoned unjustly. Instead, the Lord makes the story more powerful and thus saves more people through the actions of Paul and Silas. By remaining in their cell, they show consideration for the jailer. They acted according to the Spirit and not in the way of the world. Because of this action, the jailer’s eyes were opened and he was baptized.

“They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to everyone in his house. He took them in at that hour of the night and bathed their wounds; then he and all his family were baptized at once. He brought them up into his house and provided a meal and with his household rejoiced at having come to faith in God.” Acts 16:33-34

In a world filled with fear and stress, it is easy to forget or lose sight of the relationship we are called to have with other people, especially when they confront us with hostility. This is why Jesus sent us the Advocate, so we can persevere against this aggression and evangelize through simple acts of kindness.

The Life of Faith

A priest once said that the Church is at its best when its views do not align with the majority of people in the world. Jesus Himself never said the path of sainthood would be easy, yet He calls us all to be saints. Saints are called to share their faith with the world and that faith is not easy to accept! The first disciples and martyrs that followed Jesus were stoned, ridiculed, and put to death for their faith and for daring to proclaim it.

“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.” John 14: 30-31

Jesus faced oppression throughout His entire ministry, and to a greater extent, His entire life, beginning with Herod’s attempt to have Him killed as a baby. When we embraced our faith, we accepted the responsibility to uphold the mission of Jesus. We do not choose a life of ease and simplicity, and at times it is possible to mourn the loss of that kind of life. No doubt Peter and Paul entertained similar feelings; Peter looked at other fishermen going out on their boats everyday, knowing exactly what their day would entail. Paul, who was wealthy, had “lorded over” many before his dramatic call from the Lord. These men willingly left their former lives to suffer for Jesus Christ.

Jesus was right about the ruler of this world. Satan has come into his own and will stop at nothing to lure us away from our faith and choose to believe in an earthly lifestyle. He has done a marvelous job of making this earthly life appear greater (and so much easier) than a life of faith.

“It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22

Jesus asks us to follow a life path similar to His, which can be a hard request to accept, but when we do, our reward waits for us in Heaven. This reward is so great it is beyond anything we can possibly imagine on earth.