Jesus issued the call to discipleship as servants to others, not only to His personal followers but to those of us who would follow in His footsteps in the future. This message is preached to us as Christians so often, the meaning of it can lose its significance. In fact, Jesus lost disciples who were seeking to follow a king, not a servant. Jesus offers true disciples a more personal opportunity for service than simply being part of a military or political entourage. Would any ruler in this world wash anyone else’s feet himself?! Washing the feet of all His disciples the night before He died was symbolic for Jesus in embracing His role as the Messiah. Now we are called to take up the servant role as we follow the path set by our Master. By accepting this role, we express our humility.
Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.
All our gifts, talents and abilities were bestowed on us by God. There is nothing we can do except through the power of Jesus Christ. As we move forward on our life’s journey, we should consider our place in the world differently, even in the slightest circumstances. We should be kind to our brothers and sisters every chance we have. Let someone merge in front of us in traffic; let a coworker have the last donut in the break room; put your loose change in the tip jar at your favorite coffee shop. These small acts of kindness not only bring us closer to our fellow humans but also to the One who commissioned us to be kind in imitation of His unfailing kindness. Since Jesus no longer walks among us in the flesh, God’s hands must truly be our own.
Their message goes out through all the earth – Psalm 19
If we have a familiarity with the Gospels, we are familiar with stories of Jesus healing people. We know his healing of the blind man, telling the paralyzed man to pick up his mat and walk, and his raising of Lazarus from the dead (Jn 9; Mt 9; Jn 11). But how familiar are we with current stories of Catholics healing in Jesus’ name? Have we seen someone be healed? Do we even expect Jesus to heal people now? Have we ever thought to pray for healing for someone in person, in Jesus’ name? This is where my own spirit of skepticism likes to make its entrance (and I have a feeling I’m not alone in this)… ‘Those things don’t really happen now…’ ‘Well, Jesus only heals through certain people who have that gift and I don’t think I do…’ ‘I definitely believe Jesus can do those things, but…’
Are these thoughts in line with what we are learning from Scripture during this most wonderful season of Easter? Actually, not at all. In today’s Gospel, Jesus says:
“[w]hoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these because I am going to the Father.”
Wait a minute… Did Jesus say only certain Christians with certain spiritual gifts will do the works that He does? No! He says, whoever believes in Him. So wait…. that includes me? Yes! I definitely believe in Christ, and if you believe in our Lord and Savior, this includes you! Wow. This is really exciting and can also seem kind of scary. And I can imagine the first apostles didn’t feel much differently than you or I.
Today’s feast celebrates two apostles, St. Philip and St. James. The apostles were not exempt from that same spirit of skepticism. In the Gospel, after Jesus has just told them that if they know Him they also know the Father, James responds that it will be enough if they can just see the Father (Jn 14:7-8). Many, if not all, of us can identify with James. Truly, it is only through God’s grace that our skepticism can be healed and we can receive greater faith in its place. In the book of Acts, God reveals to us His mission for His Church: That as the Father has sent the Son, so now the Son will return to the Father and send the Holy Spirit to believers, that WE may perpetuate and carry to completion Christ’s earthly mission – the restoration of the Kingdom (Jn 20:21, Acts 1:6-8). What characterized His earthly mission? Teaching and preaching the good news, accompanied by signs & wonders — healings. As Christ promised, the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles at Pentecost — the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead. And this is the same spirit each of us have received through the grace of our baptisms. It is through the Holy Spirit of God that Christ can do His work in and through us, just as he did through the first disciples of the early church. These are Jesus’ words that we read today:
“And whatever you ask in my name, I will do,
so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
In His name, He has promised to work great signs and wonders through us for the glory of God. The rest of Acts is an exciting account of how the first disciples of the Lord lived out this mission of the Church. The Church is still called to this mission today.
In the past couple of years, the Lord has worked to transform my skeptical heart. He has taken me to places I never could have imagined by inviting me to partake in healing ministry. He has drawn me in to witness His healing firsthand and, in His grace, He has built up my faith, inspired me, and ignited me. I have seen the glory of our God through miracles of a woman’s cancer healed, people’s chronic pain be healed, my own husband’s injured wrists be healed, and felt my own body and uneven shoulders be restored to even-ness through prayers of healing, among other countless miracles, all for the glory of God. As I have witnessed these incredible physical healings, I’ve seen and experienced personally the greatest miracle – how God uses His signs and wonders to bring inner healing, convert our hearts, and set us free. Our God is alive and at work through his church worldwide. He only asks us to have faith and not be afraid to step out in faith in His name, and this is how we partake in and perpetuate Christ’s mission.
Today, may we ask our Lord for the gift of holy boldness in our faith, through the intercession of Sts. Philip and James. Let’s ask this for ourselves and for every Christian. That as we approach Pentecost, the fire of the Holy Spirit would reignite our hearts and enflame us with the all-consuming love of God.
Holy Spirit, come, fill our hearts with the fire of your Love. Lord Jesus, thank you for inviting us into your earthly mission. Father, thank you for drawing us in to your divine plan of salvation for the whole world. Lord God, ignite our hearts anew with holy boldness. Heal our hearts of skepticism, we surrender our skepticism to you and ask for greater faith. Help us to know who you are more fully. Fill us with your charity, your burning love, your endless mercy and compassion, and inspire us through your most Holy Spirit to live out the mission you have given us. We pray all of these things through the intercession of St. Philip and St. James, and in the most Holy name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
For more info, I highly recommend: The Spiritual Gifts Handbook: Using Your Gifts to Build the Kingdom by Randy Clark and Dr. Mary Healy
He does not ration His gift of the Spirit. ~ Jn 3:34
The Apostles who fled from the Crucifixion are now filled with the Holy Spirit as they boldly proclaim before all the Sanhedrin that they are witnesses to Jesus’ Resurrection. Peter, now become the Rock of the Church, is living in the fullness of his identity, knowing that it is God Who “is above all” (Jn 3:31)…. “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
And just as God so lavishly poured out His Spirit upon the Apostles for them to testify to what they had seen and heard, so too does He pour out the Holy Spirit upon us! “He does not ration His gift of the Spirit” (Jn 3:34). Our God is not to be outdone in generosity. We sooner tire of asking and receiving than He ever is of giving. We only have to think of the Israelites wandering in the desert for forty years and their ceaseless daily feast of manna given to them by God (Ex 16:21), or Jesus multiplying the loaves for thousands with wicker baskets of food still left over (Jn 6:3-14). When one drop of His Precious Blood would have sufficed to save the whole world, our Lord gave us every drop that was within His Body.
The depth of the truth of God’s love for each one of you, my brothers and sisters, is unfathomable, unending. The Father has given us His Son so that we may have eternal life with Him! We are witnesses of this! It can feel much easier to mortify our way through Lent for 40 days than it is to celebrate our way through Easter for 50, but in this time leading up to Pentecost, let us prepare ourselves with as much fervor and true joy as we can. Go to Mass as often as you are able during the week. Through the readings, we journey with the Apostles at the explosive start of our Church and we continue to receive the Supernatural Grace and strength we need for our own journey from the Lord Himself in the Holy Eucharist. Continue to rejoice! Spread that Easter light to all you meet, and celebrate in small ways with friends and family—every Sunday is Easter Sunday! And remain steadfast in prayer. The Lord desires to give us His Spirit anew every day to face our battles. Keep asking for the outpouring of gifts, fruits and graces needed for yourself and your loved ones.
The Lord is good and we never stop proclaiming with the Apostles–in the face of struggles, persecutions, dryness and worries–that Christ is risen! He is truly risen!
They said it would come. It did.
They said it would leave. I’m waiting.
As the radar predicts at least two more weeks, the permacloud lingers over South Bend. There are stretches when it is conceivable to forget the sun exists as the grey backdrop cloaks the town in this seeming soul sucking reality. However, just because I do not see the sun it does not mean that the sun fails to exist.
Even when He seems silent and far, He is near. What do you believe when all feels lost? What do you see when all appears grey? How do you respond to the clouds and the rain? Even in the darkness, we can shine a light.
I’ll preface this reflection the same way I nearly always (need to) do: I am not a theologian, and all heresy is purely accidental. One of my favorite ways to reflect on Scripture is to follow various thought experiments and “what ifs” to try and tease out God’s intentions and motivations; as a cradle Catholic, most Bible stories were familiar and therefore fraught with foregone conclusions and a sense of heavenly fatalism. “Of course Moses parted the Red Sea, that’s how this story goes!” or “Jesus’ Resurrection is the happy ending that this story needs!”. So often I forget at just how radically shocking and unexpected the mind of God truly is. While the Passion might seem like a familiar, expected story to me, to the Jews of Jesus’ time, how devastating must it have been that their Messiah, their Deliverer, wound up being captured and crucified in a publicly humiliating execution?
The LORD’s ways are not our ways, and no mistake about that. So my mind likes to try rewriting the chapters to find more meaning in the story God wrote.
Today’s readings from Acts and the Gospel of Luke immediately stood out to me in one of their shared theme: The power of the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit he gave us
After all, what did the Resurrection that we celebrate so joyously accomplish? Jesus’ Passion, death, and resurrection accomplished our salvation, yes, but if salvation was the only goal, why did the LORD not bring us up to Heaven with Jesus when he ascended? Why are we left here below?
Let’s look at John 14 for some clues:
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, 1the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.nJohn 14:16-20
While I can’t give a great answer to the question, Christ gives us some food for thought here. While the world no longer sees Jesus, He lives, and we live. He is in the Father, and we are in Him. In short, he is as near to us our own being; perhaps even nearer still. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit was sent by Christ so that we were not left as orphans.
Perhaps there is a simple reason that there will be a Second Coming (i.e. that Jesus Incarnation was not the final judgment): There were still more to save! Not only were we left with the Advocate, we were left with a mission:
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.Matthew 28:19-20
In today’s readings, we see the radically transformative power of Jesus and the Holy Spirit’s indwelling in us. The travelers to Emmaus’ hearts were set ablaze with a zeal for Christ, and a crippled man was miraculously healed by Peter in the name of Jesus. In both stories, all who were touched by the LORD left changed, wanting only to proclaim the goodness of God. Witnesses were left astonished.
How often do we believe the lie that things about our world, lives, family, etc. cannot be changed? This Easter season, let us take courage in the triumphant power of our savior’s Resurrection and call upon the Spirit to change these parts of our lives that we’ve sealed off in an effort to protect ourselves. The Spirit of the living God wants to renew your mind, your soul, your relationships, your work, your family, and your heart.
Maybe today, you can try a little thought experiment, a “what if”:
What if the power of Jesus can change our lives, here and now?