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I will not leave you orphans!

THE SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER ~ May 21, 2017

Ordinarily we human beings try to make some provisions for those we will leave behind when we die; Jesus, who became fully human and fully immersed in all that we are and do, was no exception.

Some of us are concerned with anticipating and attending to the economic needs of loved ones and, to that end, we pass on to them whatever monetary wealth we’ve accumulated through the years. Sensitive to the emotional well-being of our dear ones, we may leave behind assuring and loving messages not only a last testament but a note, a letter or even a personal journal or a videotape. Admittedly, none of these efforts, can negate the stark reality of death, but all can, in some small way, diminish its pain.

Before he departed from his disciples in death, Jesus also attempted to ease the burden of those whom he would leave behind, not by providing for their economic, emotional or psychological needs but by seeing to their spiritual well-being. Indeed, Jesus left behind his very self so that his presence would continue to embrace, enable and empower his followers. Three weeks ago on Easter’s Third Sunday, the risen Jesus as recorded in Luke’s gospel, explained that his abiding presence could be known and experienced in the breaking of the bread of the scriptural word and in the breaking of the bread of the Eucharist. Upon realizing his presence among them, the disciples burned with love and affection in their hearts.

Six weeks ago, on Easter’s second Sunday, the risen Jesus as recorded in the gospel of John breathed upon his own and indicated that from then on they would be inspired and impelled by his abiding presence to bring peace and forgiveness to a needy world.

In today’s gospel, John tells us that the abiding Spirit of Jesus within every believer sets him/her at odds with the world. It is a Spirit of truth whom the world does not recognize or accept. Nevertheless, and despite all odds, that Spirit has been promised us; that the Spirit will remain with us as Jesus’ living legacy until he returns.  Jesus will not leave us orphans!

That Spirit was described by Jesus as another Advocate.  Thus, the Holy Spirit as our advocate is one who represents our interests, like a defense attorney who is sincerely concerned with our well-being. As our Advocates, the Son and the Spirit will support us in all our efforts, strengthen us against every adversary, and sustain us through every trial. It is the Holy Spirit who will assure the permanence and the power of the community’s faith in the risen Jesus. For Jesus solemnly promises that he will not leave us orphans.

From the 1850’s through the 1920’s, “Orphan Trains” carried almost 400,000 children from New York City to adoptive families in the Midwest. These children, often given up by newly arrived and desperate immigrants or found living in the streets, were resettled with families who could feed and clothe them and who welcomed their presence on the still underpopulated frontier of a growing nation. The pathos of the trains’ departures was repeated at stops along the way, when children would be taken off and displayed for prospective adoptive parents.

Jesus promised his disciples that he would not leave them orphans. We have been chosen! And like an older brother, Jesus is going ahead to prepare a home for us. And an unbelievable gift is about to be given us! What Christ has by nature, we are granted as gift—a share in the divine life – in the interior life of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit! Their love surrounds, supports us, nourishes us and sustains us. When the Father sees us, hears our prayers, God sees and hears the divine Son. We are not orphans; we are God’s beloved children, and our train is bound for glory! Pentecost is in two weeks.

Jesus, we’re moving to the close of our Easter season now.  

We feel the excitement in the air ~ and some sadness too.  

You spoke these words to your disciples at the Last Supper;

they would not have understood at the time what you were saying or what you meant.  

You also said,

    “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.                                              And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and  reveal myself to him.(14:21).”  

Help us to observe your commandments, Jesus.  They are simple: “Love one another as I have loved you.”  

And allow us to know you and the Father.

To you and the Father and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate, be all honor and glory, now and forever. 

Amen.

And now before you go, here’s a fun music video for you, “This Train is Bound for Glory.”  Click here.

Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.  

And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here. 

With love, 

Bob Traupman 

Contemplative Writer

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I am the Way and the Truth and the Life ~ for You!

THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER ~May 14, 2017

Today’s Gospel is part of Jesus’ intimate talk with his disciples at the Last Supper as recorded by John

Jesus said to his disciples:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith also in me.”

I rely much of this commentary on Scripture scholar William Barclay. He says that in a very short time life for the disciples was going to fall apart. Their world was going to collapse in chaos around the. And Jesus here was comforting them.

The Psalmist says, “My eyes are toward you, O God; in You I seek refuge” (Psalm 141:8). There comes a time when we have to believe what we cannot prove and to accept what we cannot understand. Note that he says ask  not only believe in God, but believe in him.

Jesus goes on to say . . .

“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.
If there were not,
would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back again and take you to myself,
so that where I am you also may be.”

In preparing a place for us he was going ahead of us. Barclay notes that one of the great words used to describe Jesus is prodomos and the Authorized Version and the Revised Standard translate it as forerunner. Jesus blazed the way to heaven and to God that we might follow in his steps.

And then he says he will come again, telling of the ultimate triumph of Jesus. The curious thing about the Second Coming, Barclay suggests, is Christians seem to disregard it entirely or to think of nothing else. It is true we cannot know when it will happen or what will happen, but one thing is certain—history is going somewhere!

And then Jesus said . . .

“Where I am going you know the way.”
Thomas said to him,
“Master, we do not know where you are going;
how can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Again and again, Jesus had told his disciples where he was going, but somehow they just didn’t get it.

There was one among them who could never say he could understand what he really did not comprehend, and that was Thomas. He was far too honest and far to earnest to be satisfied with any pious expressions. Thomas had to be sure. So he expressed his doubts and his failure to understand and the wonderful thing is that it was the question of a doubting man that provoked one of the greatest things Jesus ever said. No one need ever be ashamed of his doubts; for it is amazingly and blessedly true that he who seeks will in the end find.

Jesus said to Thomas: “ I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life.” That is a great saying for us, but it would be still greater for a Jew hearing it for the first time.

The Jews talked much about the ways of God. “You shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God has commanded you (Dt. 5:32).

And Jesus said: “I am the Way.” What did he mean? Suppose you are a stranger in town and ask for directions. You’re told “Take a right five blocks down, then go right four blocks; take a left. Pass the Presbyterian Church on your right. Turn left again; and go five more blocks and your destination will be on your left. Chances you’ll be lost before you get halfway there.

But suppose the person says, “Come, I’ll take you there.” That’s what Jesus does in saying, “I am the Way.” He doesn’t tell us about the way; he is the Way!

Jesus said “I am the Truth.” The Psalmist said, “ Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may know your truth” (Psalm 86). Many have told us the truth but few have embodied it. Moral truth cannot be conveyed by words.; it can only be conveyed by example. Moral perfection finds its realization in Jesus.

Jesus said, “I am the Life.” “You show me the path to life, the fullness of joy in your presence (Psalm 16). And there is only one way of putting all this. “No one,” said Jesus, “comes to the Father, except through me.” In him alone do we see what God is like; and in he alone can lead men into God’s presence without fear and without shame.

And then . . .

Philip said to him,
Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time
and you still do not know me, Philip?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.
The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.
Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me,
or else, believe because of the works themselves.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes in me will do the works that I do,
and will do greater ones than these,
because I am going to the Father.”

The Jews would never have dared to think that they could ever see God. But Jesus is saying that as they see him, they see the Father! Barclay says that a Lucan scholar said that Luke had “domesticated God.” Jesus is portrayed is so many scenes of ordinary life.

In Jesus, God once and for all sanctified human birth, sanctified the humble human home of ordinary folk and sanctified all childhood.

God was not ashamed of to do man’s work. Jesus was the carpenter of Nazareth. We can never fully realize the wonder of the fact that God understands or day’s work. He knows the difficulty of making ends meet. He knows the difficulty of the ill-mannered customer and the client who will not pay his bills. According to the Old Testament, work is a curse. But according to the New Testament, work is tinged with glory.

In Jesus, we also see that God knows what it is to be tempted. In Jesus, we see, not the serenity but the struggle of God. God is not like a commander who leads from behind the lines; he too knows the firing line of life.

In Jesus, we see God loving. The moment love enters into life, pain enters in. If we could be absolutely detached, if we could so arrange life that nothing and nobody mattered to us, then there would be no such thing as sorrow and pain and anxiety. But in Jesus we see God caring intensely, feeling poignantly for them, loving them until he bore the wounds of love upon his heart.

In Jesus, we see God upon the Cross. There is nothing so incredible as this in the whole word. No one would ever dreamed of a God who chose to obtain our salvation.

“He who has seen me has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus is the revelation of God and that revelation leaves the mind of man staggered and amazed!

Jesus, O how wonderful, you are to me, to us!

You have guided me on my way through many a dark wood.

You show me the way to your Truth; You are the One I seek.

You make known to me the path of life and fill me with joy in your presence,

May I learn to love you and more and more.

And through your love, to be a person of love.

And on this Mother’s Day,

please bless all our mothers and grandmothers, living and deceased,

you who were so devoted to your own mother,

please bless them all today in a special way!

And now before you go, here’s a faith-filled musical response for us. Click here.

And here are all of today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here. 

With love, Bob Traupman,

contemplative writer

William Barclay / The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of John- Volume 2 /Revised Edition                                                        The Westminster Press Philadelphia 1975 – pp. 152-158.

 

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Shepherd me, O God!

windowslivewriter6ab411fbef2a-7c76image0-thumb21The Fourth Sunday of Easter ~ May 7, 2017

Good Shepherd Sunday

Have you ever thought about how shepherds handle their sheep? They follow their shepherd, who walks in front of them. They are not goaded like cattle. Cowboys herd cattle from behind, pushing them forward. Not so with sheep.

If we are to look at Jesus as the Good Shepherd, that’s a nice image – Jesus walking ahead of us along the way. He shows us the way. He’s been there ahead of us. In Mark 10:32, we are told that the disciples were going up to Jerusalem “and Jesus was leading the way.” And of course, along the way, he was teaching and forming them.

Apparently, it is the voice of the shepherd that controls the sheep. “My sheep hear my voice,” says Jesus. The sheep distinguish the voice of their one only shepherd from that of others. They only follow the one whose voice they recognize.

In another place Jesus distinguishes between true and false shepherds. The false ones are hired hands that won’t go out of their way to help the sheep. The good shepherd is the one dedicated to his sheep and their care.

The concept of the Messiah as the Good Shepherd appeared frequently in the Old Testament, notably in the prophet Ezekiel. All of Chapter 34 is dedicated to the Good Shepherd. Ezekiel warns of the peril of following false shepherds who lead their flocks astray. Seek the Good Shepherd who says, “The Lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal. . . . Thus shall they know that I the Lord, am their God, and they are my people.”  And, of course David was the Shepherd King of Israel, having written our beloved Psalm 23 ~ “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”

The words  of Ezekiel were as familiar to the Jews in the time of Jesus as they are to us. They, too, recognized the difference between a good shepherd and a hireling, who was more interested in his pay than the welfare of the flock

While we love the image of the Good Shepherd, most of us lack firsthand acquaintance with either a shepherd or with sheep. But picture this  as shown to us by William Barclay. . .

The life of a shepherd in Palestine was very hard. He was never off duty. The sheep were bound to wander, and had to be constantly watched.  On the narrow plateau the ground dipped sharply down to the craggy deserts and the sheep were liable to stray away and get lost. The shepherd’s task was not only constant but dangerous, for he not only had to guard the flock but to protect them from wild animals and thieves and robbers. He was out there with them in all kinds of weather, day and night.

As Barclay writes, quoting Sir George Adam Smith, who travelled in Palestine, “On some high moor, across which some at night hyenas howl, when you meet him, sleepless, far-sighted, weather-beaten, leaning on his staff, and looking over his scattered sheep, everyone of them on his heart, you understand why the shepherd of Judaea sprang to the front in his people’s history; why they gave his name to their king, and made him the symbol of providence; why Christ took him as the type of self-sacrifice.”  Constant vigilance, fearless, courage, patient love for his flock, were the necessary characteristics of the shepherd.

And so listen for the Voice of your Shepherd. What greater blessing could there be than this: The shepherd knows my voice and I know his. There is instantaneous, constant communication as we seek to become one with this Good Shepherd. The closer, the more intimate that relationship, the better we will comprehend the words of our Shepherd: “No one can take them out of my hand.”

Jesus says he is not only the shepherd, but he is the sheepgate. The sheep go in and out of the pasture and are safe.  

When the sheep came into the enclosure, the shepherd would lie down at the entrance, thus, literally becoming the Gate, or the Door!

Jesus is the Gate to the spiritual world. Because he claims us as his own, we are safe.

William Barclay has this to add about this passage. . . .

~ Jesus promised eternal life. If someone became a member of his flock, all the littleness of life would be gone and they would know the splendor and magnificence of the life with God.

~ He promised a life that would know no end. Death would not be the end but the beginning; they would know the glory of the indestructible life.

~ He promised a life that was secure. Nothing could snatch them from his hand. Not that it would save them from sorrow or suffering. Even in a world crashing to disaster they would know the serenity of God.

Jesus says it was the Father who gave the sheep to him. And thus Jesus received his confidence from the Father. He was secure, not in his own power, but in God’s. And the Gospel passage ends with the words, “The Father and I are one,” which calls to mind his intense prayer at the end of the Last Supper, according to John, “Holy Father, keep them in your name which you have given me that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:11)

There’s another meaning here, too, I think. A lot of people experiment with other matters in the spiritual world that are not so safe. Like hallucinogenic drugs or seances and tarot cards  or fortune-telling, or calling on the spirits.  These are not protected and can be very dangerous.

But let’s look at another side of this. The Good Shepherd seems to be doing all the giving, all the caring, all the protecting. The sheep just receive.

Now isn’t that the relationship we strive for with our God? We have received everything from God; should we not give all in return? Our love, too, should be unconditional, our loyalty without compromise, our thoughts, words and deeds in accord with the will of God

And then ask yourself this question: Am I, in turn, a Good Shepherd?

If you have children or others under your care, ask yourself: Do I shepherd well those who are under my care? Do I shepherd by leading? Or by goading? How can I adapt my leadership style to Jesus as the Good Shepherd.

Then, and only then, will we be able to say, “I know my Shepherd, and my Shepherd knows me.”

Christ is Risen!

Now, before you go, here’s a version of our beloved Psalm 23, “Shepherd Me, O God,” that has the flavor of Jesuit spirituality as well. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.

William Barclay / the Daily Study Bible Series – revised edition / the Gospel of John: Volume 2 / The Westminster Press Philadelphia – 1975 / pp. 55-60.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

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You will know him in the breaking of the bread

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THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER ~ April 30, 2017

I would like to offer a reflection on my favorite resurrection story. I will reflect on the story, the fruit of my own imagination; but you need to engage your own.  

(Please note: When I use the actual words from Scrip­ture, they appear in bold type; the narrative appears in regular type and when I offer comments about the story, these appear in italics.)

“That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus’ disciples, one by the name of Cleopas, were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus.”

They were sad and downcast, as they were discussing the events in Jerusalem over the previous three days.

Think about how all of Jesus’ disciples must have felt during the interim between Good Friday afternoon and whenever they were able to fully grasp that Jesus had risen. Think of a time when you felt distraught and discouraged, even terrified that the Jewish authorities would hunt them down next!

Then Jesus invited himself along and they began to converse with him as they walked. Note that they were walking side by side, so they were not looking at him directly.

They do not recognize him, and began telling Jesus about Jesus. “. . . a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him.”

(Why don’t they recognize him? Are they just ruminating over depressing events?) They told him, “We were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel.”

(Feel the depth of their disappointment and an­guish ~ and fear; they must have been heartsick; the brother whom they loved had died. What kept them from a sense of hope?)

They knew that women in their company had gone to the tomb early that morning and found the tomb empty, but had seen a “vision of angels who an­nounced that he was alive.”

Then Jesus interjected, “Oh how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the proph­ets spoke!’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.” 

(What did he tell them that enabled them to see and act differently? What change was taking place in them?)

When they reached their village, they pressed him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”

(How do you think the disciples were feeling at this point? Had a change or transformation occurred in them?)

“So he went in to stay with them. And it hap­pened that, while he was at table. . .”

. . .Now they could see him directly, not alongside of them, but across from them. . . 

“. . .He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and THEY RECOGNIZED HIM, but he vanished from their sight.

A veil had covered their eyes, but now their eyes were opened and they recognized him—in the breaking of bread.”

And then they returned to the Eleven in the Upper Room and “recounted what had taken place along the way and how [Jesus] was made known to them in the breaking of bread.”

There was victory in their hearts!

Now for a couple of  observations ~ especially for those of you who are Catholics or who appreciate the Holy Eucharist . . . .

Love of the holy Eucharist: Down through the centuries the church has recognized the Lord—has rec­ognized itself—in the breaking of bread. This prompts a deep and abiding love for participating in the holy Eucharist. 

(What kinds of varied feelings do you have when you celebrate the Eucharist? What could deepen your love of the gathering, listening, sharing, singing that is the holy Eucharist?

(Eucharist is a verb and a noun!)

And then this: The disciples realized “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”

Cleopas and his friend came very, very close to Je­sus in their conversation on the way. It was an intimate moment they would always remember.

I can remember a good number of holy (that is, open and honest) conversations that changed my life and have given me the nourishment to grow and move on.

(Who are the people in your life who nourish and encourage you in conversation?)

Whom do you so nour­ish?  

And here’s a bit of a commentary . . . .

What a joy and a privilege it would be to share an evening meal with Jesus as the two disciples did after the memorable walk to Emmaus!  How blessed it would be to listen and learn as Jesus began with Moses and all the prophets to interpret every passage of scripture that referred to him.  What a gift to watch him take the bread, bless it, break it, share it. What a joy to feel our hearts burning within and our eyes open wide to recognize him in the breaking of the bread.

As we look back over the gospels, particularly that of the Lucan evangelist, we are reminded that Jesus afforded his contemporaries many such nourishing, enlightening and transforming experiences within the context of shared meals.  Indeed, throughout the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, meal sharing was a profoundly important event, one that sealed friendships, affirmed marital and family relationships, solidified political alliances and confirmed and celebrated one’s faith and worship (as in the Passover meal.)

Israel’s wisdom literature is lavish in its banquet imagery.  Recall Wisdom’s invitation as recorded in Proverbs:  “Wisdom has built herself a house…she has prepared her table…Come eat of my bread, drink of the wine I have prepared for you.”  

Gradually the Israelite community who came before us in the faith began to envision the experience of salvation in terms of a great banquet prepared by God for all of humankind.  Amazingly we saw a foretaste of that, I think, with the 2 billion people across the planet who shared in the St. John Paul’s funeral Eucharist by satellite television.

Also realized and clearly in evidence at those meals of old was the universal and welcoming love of God for all, especially sinners.

Jesus’ contemporaries would have shunned sitting down at someone’s dining room table with sinners; these they regarded as off the playing field of salvation.  Jesus deliberately associated with outcasts, however, welcoming them and agreeing to be welcomed by them.  Indeed, he made it quite clear that some of these outcasts would come into the kingdom before the established religious leaders.  Recall Jesus’ willingness to be a guest in the homes of Levi and Zacchaeus, both of whom were hated tax collectors.  These would never have been welcomed into a respectable Jewish home.  Yet it was to these very people to whom Jesus extended the privilege and blessings of table fellowship.  It would be like Jesus going to the home of a homosexual or Muslim couple today and eating and drinking with their friends..

Then recall that when Jesus hosted the multitudes and fed the 5000 in the deserted place, he did not first determine who was worthy of his food or his presence.  He fed them all, first with the nourishment of his teaching and then with bread and fish.  Given the enormity of the number who ate to their satisfaction, surely there were some in the crowd who fell short of the law’s standard, who sinned against their neighbors, who were remiss in some aspect of their lives.  Nevertheless, without hesitation or discrimination, Jesus welcomed and fed them all.

Now we come to this wonderful story of the breaking of the bread, this beloved resurrection appearance of Jesus.  As in most of the resurrection appearances, the risen Jesus was not immediately recognized by his own.  Recognition came gradually and only with the insights afforded by faith. Though Jesus had been transformed by his resurrection and was not initially recognized, he was, nevertheless, the same Jesus who had walked with them, talked with them, and shared their lives while he was  among them before he was crucified.  He was the same Jesus who took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to feed the multitudes.

 He was the same Jesus who allowed himself to be taken and broken on the cross and who gave his life so that sinners may be blessed with forgiveness, freedom from sin, salvation.

Many of us, this Sunday will have our own Emmaus walk. We will approach the altar; the bread will be broken, the wine will be blessed, and Christ will be present there just as truly as he was at Emmaus.  Like those travelers, we come to know Christ in the scriptures, and in the breaking of the bread.  We enter into this miracle, not once, but every time we come together to celebrate our faith that Christ has died, was buried, and rose again.  As we receive the body and blood of Christ, once more, an ancient promise is fulfilled:  “I am with you!”

I am a priest 47 years now.  I never grow tired of the holy Eucharist.  I always come back to celebrate after a couple of days if I am absent from it.

In fact, I am certain that I could not live happily without the Eucharist.  Maybe I couldn’t live at all without the Eucharist – at least sanely.

Appreciate this great and wonderful experience, dear friends, that Jesus shares with us in his person even now, two thousand years after the Last (or the First) Supper.

What a beautiful experience it is to share in the breaking of the bread – whether there is a glorious celebration with trumpets and gorgeous music or with just one other person present.

Yes appreciate this great and wonderful gift.

May we never take it for granted.

Lord Jesus,

We praise you and thank you for sharing with us

in every place and for all time

the gift of your sacred body and blood.  

May we always cherish such a wonderful gift

and never take it for granted.  

To You be all glory and honor

with the Father and the Spirit,  

now and forever. Amen. Alleluia! 

And now to complete your experience for today, here’s the song One Bread, One Body together with a moving video. Click here. Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers.  

And here  all of today’s Mass readings. Click here.

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The Second Sunday of Easter ~ Peace Be with You!

SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER ~ April 23, 2017

 (Divine Mercy Sunday)

When Jesus appeared to the apostles after the resurrection, he would greet them with the words, “Peace be with you.”

They were very distressed and fearful, huddled together in the Upper Room behind locked doors. They were very sad and distraught that the One they had come to love had been murdered. They were afraid that the religious leaders would crucify them as well. William Barclay, the Scripture scholar says that “they met in something like terror. They knew the envenomed bitterness of the Jewish leaders who had plotted his execution and feared they would be next.

They very much needed some peace.  So the first thing Jesus says when he appears to them is “Peace be with you.”

Thus, peace is an Easter gift. It’s a gift that we can claim and pray for.

I’m not talking about peace between Israelis and Palestinians or Republicans and Democrats.

We usually think coming to peace with others. But we have to seek peace within ourselves first.

The question is: How do we come to peace within ourselves? If our mind is racing, if we cannot sit still for a few minutes, then we’re not at peace.   Something may be askew in our environment that is causing us to be unsettled and anxious. Something in our life may be causing us to not enjoy our own company.

But the real problem for many is that we may not LIKE ourselves! We may choose to avoid our own company by watching TV or drinking or going out to a bar or a club to avoid being alone.

Yes, peace is a gift that every one of us needs. Peace within ourselves.

Being able to be calm and peaceful is a good indicator of our soul’s health. We should be at peace. And if we’re not, then we have our agenda laid out for us ~ to find out what is causing the lack of peace.   Usually lack of peace is caused by something going on the spiritual level.   We learn to deal with our lack of peace by making deliberate efforts to be alone and to enjoy our own company.

Today’s gospel teaches us that peace is a gift of the risen Lord. We ought to pray for that gift.

We can value it, beginning today on this second Sunday of Easter. And then we can be assured that it will come to us sooner or later.

I have known both peace and anxiety; I have known a terrible fear that would give me no peace, even though I desperately sought it.

1) In 1982, I was hospitalized and the medication they on made me want to crawl out of my skin. I couldn’t settle my limbs for more than a couple of seconds. But then, finally, something happened inside my soul — a religious experience I had in a dream — that calmed me as if a terrible storm had abated. From that moment on, I knew what peace is like.

The experience of peace is soul-embracing. You feel free, you feel content and settled. You feel connected with your loved ones, your environment, with God, indeed with the whole universe.

And you feel worthwhile. You feel that your own connectedness helps form the connection with others, with the whole world.

2).  Two of my friends had a horrible rift that I felt I was asked to try to reconcile . I chose to make a small effort at bringing the two together, but saw that was impossible without heavy sessions between them. My peace had been unsettled by their lack of peace. So, we see that not practicing peacefulness has a ripple effect. More and more people get caught up in the unrest, the lack of peace.

them too. Peter had not yet emerged as their leader, so they were floundering and confused. They were without hope.

That is why it is so important to be at peace.

3.) I now seek an abiding peace, a peace that stays with me. And I take steps to deepen and enrich my feeling of peacefulness.

In my remaining years, I have been given the tools to really enjoy my peace of mind and peace of soul. I can sit for a time at night in the dark, in silence, just simply “being.” In these hours, I realize that I am valuable, even though I am “doing nothing.” I just “be.”

Whenever I used to at preach at funerals, I often asked the question — Would you be content to feel the way you feel at this moment for all eternity? Would you be at peace if God called you to himself in the next moment?

I could sometimes  answer my own question and answer: Yes, I would be content to feel as I feel at the present moment for all eternity.

4.) The Apostles were very disturbed after the crucifixion. Their life with Jesus ~ their hopes and dreams for the future ~ seemed to be totally shattered. They were afraid that the leaders would come for them and crucify them as well.

These issues were so strong in them that they could not bring themselves to believe the message that the Women brought them that Jesus had been raised. They were not at peace.

. . . . Until Jesus appeared to them. They no longer had to rely on faith, which was lacking for all of them, not just Thomas. They had to experience the Risen One for themselves.

Then enter Thomas. He is not at peace. He says that unless he puts his finger in the nail-marks and his hand into his side, he will not believe.”

Thomas is honest.

Thomas needed to be convinced. He absolutely refused to say that he understood what he did not understand or to say he believed what he did not believe. There was an uncompromising honesty about him, says our scripture scholar friend William Barclay.

But when he was sure, he went all the way, My Lord and My God,” he proclaimed!

And Jesus responded by saying, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Many more of us doubt significant things in our life. Specifically, we doubt our own self-worth.

We doubt matters of faith. We take our faith far more seriously by questioning and pursuing our questions than by relegating our faith to some closet in our mind. Some of us have had their faith shaken some personal crisis or a scandal in the church.  Pursue your questions, though they may be painful. The questions can lead to a deeper faith. The turmoil, the risk of the Quest is better than stagnation.

Life for me today makes sense. I am at peace.   I consider myself a Witness to the Resurrection. I KNOW Jesus lives. He is not just a historical figure who lived in the past. He lives and reigns in the universe today. I KNOW his love for me in the present moment.

I praise and thank God and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord for the gift of his peace

One final thought: We cannot share peace if we do not have peace. If we want there to be peace in our homes, and our world, we have to have peace within ourselves. Then we can share it.

THE PEACE OF THE LORD BE WITH YOU!

And now before you go, a couple of things, first, today is also known as Divine Mercy Sunday. 

Divine Mercy Sunday is celebrated on the Sunday after Easter. It is originally based on the Devotion to the Divine Mercy that Saint Faustina Kowalska reported as part of her encounter with Jesus, and is associated with special promises from Jesus and indulgences issued by the Church. The image above is the lovely image of Jesus associated with this devotion.

And now, here is a powerful song to pull all of this together ~ , Click here.

And, finally here are the Mass readings for today. Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

 

 

 

 

 

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Go tell it! Jesus is Risen!

EASTER SUNDAY OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE LORD ~ April 16, 2017

First day of the week now come

The dawn, now dawning

Women rushing with their spices

Quaking earth trembling, trembled

An angel dazzling, dazzled

Rolling back the stone

Do not be afraid! he said,

He has been raised!

Go quickly!!

Tell it!

Jesus is risen!

 

What did he say?

Do not be afraid?

Does that apply to us?

To people struggling to pay their rent?

To old people wasting away in nursing homes?

Immigrants afraid of being deported?

Syrian children in bombed-out rubble?

Do not be afraid! he said,

He has been raised!

Go quickly!

Tell it!

To your neighbors, to America, and all the world!

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

JESUS IS RISEN!

 by bob traupman

Now here is the text of the gospel of the Easter Vigil Mass ~Matthew 28: 1- 10 on which this poem is based. Click here.

Before you go, here’s the Australian young people’s group Hillsong singing “Worthy is the Lamb” Click Here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and be sure to enter full screen

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What wondrous love is this?

calvaryHoly Thursday / Good Friday 2017

Dear Friends,

I share with you one of my finest homilies given to the people of St. Bartholomew’s Parish, Miramar, Florida on Good Friday 1992. . . .

(Though this is a long text, it deals with the issue of how to deal with personal pain as well as our faith, so you may find it worth your attention.) 

The Heart of Jesus
(Jesus the Tremendous Lover)

Like a sapling he grew in front of us,
Like a root in arid ground…
a thing despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering ….
And yet ours were the sufferings he bore,
ours the sorrows he carried.
But we thought of him as someone punished,
struck by God, and brought low.
Yet he was pierced through for our faults,
crushed for our sins.
On him lies a punishment that brings in peace
and through his wound we were healed
–excerpts from Isaiah 53.

“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul?
What wondrous love is this, O my soul?

Jesus is the one who is our tremendous Lover.
He came to live among us to reveal to us, his sisters and brothers, that we have a Father/God who loves us with a Love that is once a passionate, unconditional love and yet gentle, always inviting, never coercing.  Jesus came among us to be our Love, to show the human race how to use the supreme power which God could give us:  the intimate, infinite Love which is ours, if only we would claim it and model our lives after Jesus, who is Love itself.

Jesus was to be for us the model of Love because he was willing to experience in his heart the depths of human emotion.  He risked time and again to embrace the sorrow, the agony, the unfreedom, the need of those who came  to him to be healed.  He risked being burdened by the needs of others.  He risked being disheartened by those who would take from him and not even say thanks.  He risked being misunderstood and rejected  by the authorities of the day and even his neighbors in his hometown.  He risked the pain of realizing that even his closest disciples and friends had narrow vision and missed the main point of his message.

He risked all, and realized that, in spite of the pain and sorrow, in his heart, the soft Voice of the Father within him was asking him to keep going, to risk even more.  To go deeper into his heart and to carve out still more and more places for those he would touch and heal, until one day there would be room in his heart for the whole world.

I doubt that Jesus ever forgot a single individual that he encountered, not even those who oppressed him.  He kept them all in his great heart, remembering them, praying for them, hoping that they would open their hearts to the One who Loved them with a passionate Love — the Father/God of all.  He must have realized how important it was to see and feel the tragedy of the corruption he witnessed among the religious and political leaders of the day, to keep even these things in his heart.   As painful as it was, he hoped that by keeping them there some of the great evil he saw would be disarmed and tamed.

That’s all he could do, after all — absorb the tragedy, the struggle, the sin, the failures in Love of the human race in his great, great heart.  Yes, he healed a few sick and gave the gift of sight to some, but most of all he Loved:  He let people into his heart (that’s the definition of Love, after all:  to let someone into one’s heart)  there to be comforted, if just for a moment. For one brief moment in the heart of the Lord Jesus is enough for any of us.

He had room for young John and impetuous Peter.  And for Judas.  He had room for the outcasts of his day, Zacchaeus and Matthew and Mary Magdalen.  And he brought the outcasts in and seated them at his table  He had room for beggars and lepers and blind people.  And he had room for the Pharisees who broke his heart by their refusal to see and understand.

We remember that he was capable of deep emotion.  He wept profoundly when he saw in prophecy what would happen to Jerusalem because of the hardness of the people’s hearts.  And yet, even the gift of his tears and the greatness of his Love would not stop the destruction that would come because of Israel’s hardness of heart and lack of vigilance.

In the end, he wept in the garden.  I like to believe that his agony was not focused on the trauma he personally was about to endure but because the Father permitted him, in that moment, to experience to the depths the reality of evil and tragedy in the world.  He must have experienced some of the pain and loss that many of us feel when we encounter hardness of heart and misunderstanding.

Jesus embodied the compassion of God — the mercy, the tenderness, the Hesed of God  (to use the wonderful Hebrew word).  God wanted to be known as the Merciful One.  And we, likewise, are instructed to “Be compassionate as our heavenly Father is compassionate.”

Jesus became for us the “Man of Sorrows”, familiar with suffering” the suffering Servant of Yahweh.  He bore the weight of the world’s refusal to Love and even worse its refusal to be Loved  by the God of Love.  He allowed that evil, that senseless tragedy of the human race, to be absorbed, and thereby redeemed and purified, with his own blood.  In his own bloodstream the cosmic battle between the forces of Love and Hate was waged.  And “his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.”  In him the great cosmic battle was focused.  Our great compassionate God sent his Son to bear within his soul the brunt of that cosmic storm.

We are filled with awe at such overwhelming Love.  And so we honor this evening great, great heart.  But most importantly we should realize that he has become for us Love itself so that we will also might become Love.

The one essential ingredient of the Christian religion is to Love as Jesus has Loved us.  We are to become compassionate as Jesus is compassionate.  We, like Jesus, are called not to be afraid to embrace the suffering, the tragedy, the sin of the world, so that in Love we will join our hearts to his and, as St. Paul says, “to make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.”

Perhaps we can say, therefore, that there are two kinds of people in the world — those who are willing to accept their own share of suffering in the world (and a bit more for Jesus’ sake) and those who cannot or will not bear even the suffering caused by their own failures and sins.  The compassionate ones do what they do out of Love, a seemingly foolish Love.  Some Love because they have been opened up to a mystical awareness that they, like Jesus, are making their own soul and body available as an arena for the cosmic drama of interaction between the forces of light and the forces of darkness.

I do not pity those who suffer.  I rather pity those who are afraid to suffer.  Out of suffering comes understanding — a larger perspective of the world and with it a practical wisdom that tempers Law and Life with Mercy.  Out of suffering comes the ability to see the face of Christ in even a hardened criminal or a seemingly pitiful alcoholic.

The ability to see, to understand, the inner workings of people’s lives is a gift far greater than the suffering one must endure to attain it.  To-suffer-unto-understanding (a definition of compassion) is to be able to look upon the world as Jesus does as he invites us to do in the Beatitudes. (Of course, a person can suffer without  understanding — especially when we are angry about  and refuse to accept our lot of suffering.  But if we pray faithfully while we suffer, God will most assuredly gift us with  his own very special kind of understanding.)

Understanding is the goal of suffering for those who have eyes to see.  Understanding which sees through the eyes of Jesus.  Understanding allows us the courage to be with Jesus hanging on the Cross and to see what he saw from that perspective.  Understanding allows us the courage to go with Jesus into the bowels of the earth and descend into hell and to see what Jesus saw.  Then, too, understanding allows us to feel what Jesus felt when he was lifted from the grave.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have always had an inner sense that the fastest, most efficient way to handle a crisis was to face it head on — not to avoid it.  And so, I invite you to “go with” the suffering.  Explore it.  Allow yourself to experience the feelings, as painful and confused and frightening as they may be.  The more you fight it, the more you will suffer.  Ask Jesus the Light to lead you through the darkness.  Then have faith and confidence that he will.  (After all, the worst you will experience is what Jesus experienced, as long as you follow the will of God.  (Other persons have suffered more cruel deaths than crucifixion.)  And if you truly want  to follow the will of God and are praying daily, then be assured that God is  leading you.  Take his hand in the darkness and follow ~ even if you can barely see the ground in front of you!

The pain may feel unbearable , and the temptation is to avoid it as long as we can, and, of course, to worry about it.  (I have always found worry most bothersome, like walking around with a pebble in my shoe.  Far easier to bend down and take it out than to walk around with it for years!)  So, too, with suffering.  Even in one of my earlier bouts with emotional and mental suffering, I somehow found myself diving into it to seek its cause.

From what I can see there is always a cause of suffering.  Discovering the cause can often lead to alleviating the suffering.  In fact, the pain oftentimes will be transformed the moment the cause is recognized and diagnosed, so it is to the person’s advantage to stay with it and find out who or what the “bugger” is.  (Perhaps there is an analogy to the oyster who “suffers” an irritation that will eventually through which it may become a pearl of great price.)  If we see the larger picture of reality, seen through the eyes of Christ, some joy and satisfaction and relief will enter our soul.  We will thus be on our way to recovery and new life.

The easiest way through suffering is to stretch out our arms and allow ourselves to be nailed to our cross.  Don’t fight it.  Surrender to the will of God. 

Jesus in his agony on Thursday night saw through the nails in his hands and the crown of thorns on his head to the Resurrection.  He didn’t ignore the Cross; he saw it and the horizon beyond it.

Jesus didn’t focus on the pain.  The pain of the Cross was only a brief moment (which he knew he had the strength to endure) in the history of his lordship presiding over the business of the universe.  So you, too, should not focus on the painful aspects of our life.  Look instead for the cause of the pain.  Look for the reality — the truth!  And remember that Jesus said “the truth shall make you free!”   See as Jesus sees; that is, see and accept the truth.  And leap from your cross as a butterfly leaps from the cocoon and as Jesus leapt from the grave.

“Impossible!” you may say, especially if you have been suffering for years.

“Not so!” says Jesus and the whole company of prophets and martyrs and confessors and virgins.

Ask for strength and you will receive strength.

Ask for guidance and you will be led through the darkness to a point you will recognize.

Ask to understand and Jesus will let you see yourself through his eyes.

But remember! Don’t focus on the pain.  All those gory pictures of Jesus in agony and bloody crucifixes of the past generation, hopefully, are, hopefully, gone for good.

The Cross is the focal point in that we realize the great Love which Jesus has for us and what he personally has done for us.  But one must not forget to look at the horizon beyond the Cross.  The sky on that first Good Friday afternoon undoubtedly was an awesome sight to behold.  The cross, the pain that is our lot in life to endure, is there only to be transformed and transcended.  The cross is but a moment.

Suffering in life is only a means to greater life.   It is not our final lot.  Resurrection is! Glory is!  Triumph is!

Though the paradox is that we must accept our cross totally to be through with it.  We are invited to surrender to our Father in complete abandonment as Jesus did, as if we were to leap off a cliff and know that we will land in the Loving arms of our great God.

A further delusion of spirituality of the past generation is that our reward will not come until the next life.  What is delusional about that is that we fail to realize the kingdom is already inaugurated by Jesus in history by his triumph on the Cross.  Our lives are already illumined  by the light of the resurrection.  And there is no reason that we cannot triumph here and now — if we accept our cross.  And, in fact, I am convinced that it will be Christians bold enough to take up in their hand and in their minds the Cross of Jesus who will lead us in XXI and XXII Centuries, just as this has been true in every age of the Church.

And so, the question that we ponder this holy night is, once again:
“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul?
What wondrous love is this, O my soul?

And the answer is:  “The great, great Love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who Loved us so much that he stretched out his arms in the most loving, indeed, the most-nonviolent act, the world has ever seen.  He stretched out his arms in the face of his enemies and said from his Cross:  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Before I conclude, I’d like to add something I just read this evening by a favorite writer Brennan Manning.  He says this in an article entitled The Signature of Jesus . . . .

Over a hundred years ago in the Deep South a phrase commonplace in our Christian culture was seldom used ~ “Born again.”  Rather, the words used to describe the breakthrough into personal relationship with Jesus Christ were, I was seized by the power of great affection.”  It was a profoundly moving way to indicate both the initiative of almighty God and the explosion within the human heart when Jesus becomes Lord. Seized by the power of great affection was the visceral description of the phenomenon of Pentecost, authentic conversion, and the release of the Holy Spirit.  

Jesus came as the revealer of love. What was cloaked in mystery was revealed in Jesus ~ that God is love. No man or woman has ever loved like Jesus Christ. Therein lies his divinity for me.  

Jesus was seized by the power of great affection and experienced the love of his Father in a way that burst all boundaries of understanding. And it is this Jesus, the wounded Jesus, who provides the final revelation of God’s love. The crucified Christ is not an abstraction but the ultimate answer to how far love will go.

And so I say to you,dear friends and readers . . . .

Come, then adore the Lord who wants to be for us all our Beloved.  Come, then, adore the Lord, the tremendous Lover.  Renew your Love for him and know even more than ever before that it is by the holy Cross that we have been redeemed ~ and thus be seized by the power of great affection ~ the Love of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

What wondrous love is this, O my soul?
What wondrous love is this?

Now, before you go, here’s Steve Green singing the wonderful Irish melody What Wondrous Love is this? Click Here. Turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

With Love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer