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Pentecost Sunday ~ Let God’s Spirit empower you and give you many gifts!

The Great and Glorious Feast of Pentecost 

Sunday May 20, 2018   

In our last blog, we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension.

After Jesus left the disciples and ascended into heaven, they were cowering behind locked doors,

despondent, worried, fearful, bewildered, devastated.

“[Then] suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind,

and it filled the entire house in which they were. 

Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire which parted

and came to rest on each one of them. 

And they were all filled with the holy Spirit

and began to speak in different tongues, 

as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim (Acts 2:1-21.)

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters.”

“When the day of Pentecost came it found the brethren gathered in one place.  Suddenly from up in the sky there was a noise like a strong driving wind.”

The Holy Spirit is associated with that wind.  The wind that blows where it wills. The wind that stirs things up and gets them moving.

The word for “wind” in Hebrew is “Ruah” — the same as the word for “breath.”

Often at night as Im sitting in my chair I just pay attention to my breathing for a while. I imagine that the Holy Spirit is the breath entering me, and when I exhale, I’m breathing out the Holy Spirit as well.

What a wonderful image is breath.  Breath is life itself.  No breath, no life in the body.

The mighty wind of Pentecost stirred things up and the church was born.  The apostles and the others who were part of their company, including the women, were given enthusiasm.  No longer afraid, they courageously preached the message that Jesus established a new order for people’s lives. They began gathering the church.  The Acts of the Apostles is in effect the gospel of the Holy Spirit.

In the beginning of scripture, there is a story about the tower of Babel, a story that tries to explain why there are so many different languages on the earth  that we cannot understand each other, so much discord,  so much disharmony.

The story has God confusing the languages of people at Babel  (Gen. 11: 1-9) and from that day onward they were scattered.

On the day of Pentecost the opposite happened.  People were gathered together.   Parthians and Medes and Elamites; people from Cappodacia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia and Egypt  — all heard the apostles speaking to them in their own languages.

On the day of my ordination, I was filled with enthusiasm.  It was day before Pentecost, May 24, 1969.

I was reminded of this prophecy of Joel:

I will pour out my spirit upon all humankind.

Your sons and daughters shall prophesy,

your old men shall dream dreams,

your young men shall see visions.

Even upon the servants and handmaids,

in those days, I will pour out my spirit.” Joel 2:28, 29)

Those were the days immediately following the Second Vatican Council.  There was a lot of enthusiasm all over the Church.  Those of us who were young, had wonderful opportunities to serve.

The enthusiasm that poured onto me and into me  lasted the first full three years of my priesthood.  The Spirit really touched my ministry, as he did with another priest who was ordained the same day as me.

Nine years later, the opposite happened.  My life crashed in upon me. And I was reminded of still another scripture about the Spirit — the prophecy of the dry bones.

“Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord:  “See I will bring spirit into you that you may come to life again.   Breathe into these slain, O Spirit, that they may come to life.” (Ezekiel 37: 1)

That’s what Pope Francis is trying to do. Breathe new life into the Church that the Holy Spirit will draw the church together in a new way.

There is still something else to note from the Pentecost story.  A tongue of fire rested individually on the heads of each person.  The Spirit of God has a special relationship with each of us, just as the Father and the Son do.  The Spirit will enliven us according to the gifts and talents of each one of us.

So this Holy Spirit does wondrous things for us!

The Spirit is the source of inspiration for all who would design and create.

“There are different gifts but the same Spirit; there are different ministries, but the same Lord;  there are different works but the same God who accomplishes all of them in every one.  To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

The body is one and has many members, many though they are, are one body;  and so it is with Christ.  It was in one Spirit that all of us, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, were baptized into the one body.   All  of us have been given to drink of the one Spirit.”     I Cor. 12

In the seminary I learned to pray for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit before each class.  And for me it was a powerful devotion.  I realized that the work I produced was more than the sum of its parts.  I realize that is still true some 49 years later.  If we seek and cooperate with God’s grace, wonderful things can and will happen that are so far beyond what we ever imagine!

But I must realize that there were also times in my priesthood when I experienced a great deal of powerlessness.  I felt like Samson who had lost his strength.  My soul had become like the valley of dry bones. I didn’t like my own mediocrity.

It is clear that I needed to bring the Holy Spirit to the foreground of my life again and again.  I would like to have a vibrant and vital relationship with the Holy Spirit from moment to moment.  In each moment of my life I hope that I will discern and follow the Spirit’s lead.

And so, an important role of the Holy  Spirit is to encourage gifts. To invite risk. To reach out beyond safe boundaries, as Pope Francis is encouraging his priests to do. To make connections. To unite. To celebrate diversity. The story of Pentecost states that the Spirit of God is uncontrollable – by us. It comes as a “strong driving wind’ and “tongues [on] fire! Or in “Trekkie” language, to go “where no one has gone before.”

The greatest saints did just that! Catherine of Siena (a woman religious!) chastised the pope. Francis Xavier undauntedly stepped off the boat in Japan into a culture very foreign to him. A peasant girl named Joan rallied the French army to victory and was burned at the stake because of it. Katharine Drexel stepped beyond boundaries to treat Blacks and Native Americans as persons. And a supposed “care-taker pope” John XXIII shocked everyone by calling a solemn Council of the Church.

They improvised! They pushed the boundaries of the established ways of doing things! They were not afraid to do things differently. They were bold and convicted in the confidence they received from the Spirit of God – just like at Pentecost. They were the innovators, the Reformers. The ones who led and changed the Church. They listened to the Holy Spirit who prompted /disturbed / prodded / led them/ inspired them / and who became their “Defense Attorney” or Advocate, i.e. “Paraclete.” They simply learned to trust that they were tuned into God from moment to moment who would guide them in what to say and do at the appropriate time.

Our world, our our country desperately needs people with that kind of enthusiasm and conviction today. I pray that as I enter my fiftieth year of holy priesthood this week, I may still have some of that enthusiasm and joy and conviction to serve God’s holy people! Please pray for that for me!

And may we celebrate today the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives, in the Church, in our world and in, indeed, all of creation!

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful,

and enkindle in them the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.

and You shall renew the face of the earth.

May it be so.  May it be so.

Now, here’s the ancient Sequence for the Feast ~ or if you will, a poem that occurs within the Mass . . .

Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end.
Amen. Alleluia.

And before you go, here is the Australian group Hilsong singing Come Holy Spirit. It’s a young people’s group filled with love of the Lord. (A little different than “Come Holy Ghost” for a change.) Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. Click here.

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

With love, 

Bob Traupman,

Contemplative Writer

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The Feast of the Ascension of the Lord ~ You are my witnesses to the ends of the earth!

The Feast of the Ascension of the Lord ~ May 13, 2018

The feast of the Ascension of our Lord is part of the Easter mystery.  First is the resurrection in which Jesus conquers death for us and reveals that life for us will never end.

Then there is the ascension in which Jesus is taken up into heaven to sit at the Father’s right hand.

And finally Pentecost in which God pours forth his Spirit upon the church and all humankind.

All three experiences are intertwined; they reveal different aspects or facets of the same reality.  The Scriptures separate them over 50 days to afford us the opportunity to reflect on each aspect of the one Easter mystery.

Now, let’s look at today’s feast, the Ascension.

At the very beginning of the Acts of the Apostle (the first reading ~ Acts 1:1-11), written by the same author as Luke’s gospel, describes the experience . . . .

Then Jesus told them not to depart from Jerusalem but to “wait for the promise of the Father of which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water but in a few days you  will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 

He, of course, was referring to Pentecost.

. . . Then he said,

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you

AND YOU WILL BE MY WITNESSES in Jerusalem, and to the ends of the earth.”

Then Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.

They stood there, awestruck, spellbound .

Then two men dressed in white garments stood beside them and said,

“Men of Galilee, why are standing there looking at the sky? 

This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

This feast is about heaven, but also about earth.

Jesus is taken into heaven; that is, he returns to his Father where sits at the Father’s right hand.

And the second reading from Ephesians states that. . . .

God the Father “put all things beneath Christ’s feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.”                            (Ephesians 1:23)

Thus, there is a cosmic dimension to Christology.  The great mystic and theologian Father Teilhard de Chardin  talked about “Christogenesis” – the entire universe evolving by the power of Christ’s all-embracing love.  When Chardin was far away from bread or wine and could not celebrate Mass, he talked fervently and passionately about the  “Mass on the world” – that the whole planet was the body of Christ.

So we think about Jesus as Lord of the Universe,  and we pray that people on earth would somehow find ways to stop the violence and inhumanity toward each other.

And so the feast of Ascension is also about earth.

The angels ask the disciples — Why are you standing there looking up in the sky?  You and I have work to do!

YOU MUST BE MY WITNESSES in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.

A witness is one who knows with one’s own eyes and ears what has taken place.

A witness is one who has filtered through one’s own senses what their account of the truth is.

I consider myself a witness to the resurrection.  I have had enough experiences of risen life, even of mystical experience that I am convinced that Jesus is real, that he lives and reigns, that he empowers us through his Spirit. Throughout my life I have found myself immersed in the mystery of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I know this also, because Jesus has allowed me the ability to share his life with others, and they with me.  Many others have deepened and enriched their faith as the Holy Spirit worked through me.

Let’s look at today’s gospel, which is from St. Mark. Barclay tells us that another writer appended a second ending to Mark’s gospel that included mention of the ascension. It has a different writing style than the rest of the text. Its great interest is the picture of the duty of the church it gives to us.

The church has a preaching task—and therefore the duty of every Christian to tell the story of Jesus Christ to those who have never heard it, Barclay suggests.

The church has a healing task. Jesus wished to bring health to the body and the soul and so the church has an interest in healing.

The church is never left alone to do its work. Christ always works with it and in it and through it. And so the gospels end with the message that the Christian life is lived in the presence and the power of him who was crucified and rose again!

So Jesus, gone to heaven, gives authority to his apostles and disciples on earth.

Brothers and sisters, we have work to do.  We are put on notice in the scriptures of today’s feast.

Next Sunday we will attend to the third aspect of the Easter mystery ~ Pentecost ~ the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit upon all humankind.

During the coming week may we pray that the Holy Spirit would renew each of us individually, the whole Church of God and indeed the whole world.

But before we go, I have a couple of notes for you. First, Bishop Robert Barron reminds us in the Magnificat liturgical magazine that we tend to be misled by the metaphors in the poetic images we use for heaven such as clouds and sky and cute pink cherubs flying around that are meant to signal how heaven transcends our world.  But heaven isn’t a geographical place or space far away.  The Risen and ascended Jesus acts as Lord of the church.

And secondly, I would be entirely remiss If I failed to remind us that today (Sunday May 13th) is Mother’s Day.

And so today we honor our mothers.

Our godmothers and grandmothers. And foster mothers

We honor expectant mothers and those who would like to be mothers.

We honor mothers who have lost a child.

And as we honor Mary, the mother of us all.

we pray that God bless each and every one.

Christ is Risen!

Now, before you go, here’s the beautiful hymn especially for this feast day, “Alleluia Sing to Jesus.”  I invite you to pray along with the lyrics; they’re truly beautiful and thrilling.  And be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. Click here

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

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

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The Sixth Sunday of Easter ~ No Greater Love

The Sixth Sunday of Easter ~ 2018

The selection from the gospel of St. John today is taken from the wonderful Last Discourse of  Jesus as he is reflecting with his disciples in the Upper Room at the Last Supper in the final hours before his Passion.

“As the Father loves me, so I also love you, remain in my love.” (15:9)

We can take it that each day we ought to reaffirm our choice to abide in our love of Jesus, rather than in our own ideas, ambitions, and preconceptions or our own self-reliance. Father Cornelius a Lapide, S.J. (+1637) tells us in this regard, Jesus says, “Show me your modicum of love, and you shall experience my greater love for you.”

Then Jesus goes on to say, “I have told you this so that my joy will be in you and your joy may be complete.” (15:11)

We are chosen for joy. However hard the Christian life is for any of us, it is, both in the day by day plodding and in the goal, as Pope Francis is fond of reminding us it’s all a way of joy! There is always joy in doing the right thing. It is true that we are sinners, but we are redeemed sinners, and in that, there is joy.

“This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.” (15:12)

We are chosen for love. We are sent into the world to love one another. On the contrary we sometimes live as if we were out to compete with one another or to dispute with one another or even to quarrel with one another.

“No greater love is there than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”(15:13-14) 

This assurance was clearly and firmly given in Jesus’ gift of himself on the cross. Throughout his public ministry, Jesus had made countless overtures of love—curing a paralytic, giving sight to a man born blind, forgiving a woman caught in adultery, reaching out to people everywhere, not just to the Jews, calling little children to himself, raising to a widow’s son to life, teaching the crowds, touching the lepers.

All these and so many other loving overtures reached a climactic crescendo on the cross. Thereupon, Jesus accomplished the ultimate act of love by forgiving and healing and making whole all who were and are wounded and broken.

“I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father (15:15).

William Barclay points out that the word doulos (slave) as a servant of God was no title of shame, but one of highest honor. Moses was the doulos of God, as was Joshua and David. Paul loved to attribute the word to himself. And Jesus is saying“I have something greater for you yet, you are no longer slaves, but friends.” Christ offers an intimacy with God that not even the greatest men knew before he came into the world.

“It was not you who chose me but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in my name he will give you (15:16).

This reminds us of God’s command in the Garden of Eden: “Be fruitful.” What does it mean? Jean Vanier offers an answer: “To bear fruit is to bring people to life. Not to judge, not to condemn, but to forgive. It is to remove our neighbor’s burden.”

“This is I command you: love one another (15:17).  

My own personal relationship with Christ was not very strong in the early days of my priesthood. My faith was more intellectual back then; it was on the outside of me ~until I made a retreat in my third year.  And then I hit a rocky patch for many years of  lukewarm faith.  Until I read Father Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain  and I found myself in copious tears and suddenly a renewed and deeper relationship with Christ.

One of the major themes of this blog is The Jesus I know and Love. There really is nothing I desire from my writings more than to share my deep love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with you,my readers and somehow have you share in, and delight in,  Jesus’ love for you.

Now here’s my prayer inspired by Jesus’ awesome words to us today . . . .

Dear Jesus,

I praise and thank you for your love for me, for each of us.

You say you call us your friends.

What an awesome thing to behold, dear Lord!

Please allow me, to allow us, the grace to remain faithful to you always.

You ask that my life be fruitful in loving.

I’m getting up in years now, Jesus,

and I’m not sure how fruitful my life has been,

but I offer what I can, a little bit of writing,

my daily prayer ~ that’s about all ~ these days.

All I know is I love you.  I am forever grateful for yours. 

And I ask your blessing upon my readers today, Jesus.   

Allow them to know the intimacy of your friendship too;

draw them close and keep them safe,

and answer whatever prayers they raise up to you today. 

Thank you, dearest Lord!

CHRIST IS RISEN!

 

And now, before you go, here’s lovely music video for you. Click here.

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

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

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The Fifth Sunday of Easter ~ Life-Surge ~ Stay connected

The Fifth Sunday of Easter ~ April 29, 2018

Jesus is so cool in the images he uses to communicate.

In the gospel passage today (John 15:1-8), Jesus says, I am the vine, you are the branches.” (You can read the entire passage below.)

Our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay tells us that Jesus often uses images that are familiar to the people of his day that are part of their religious heritage.  Time and time again, Israel is pictured as the vine or the vineyard of God. “The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel” Isaiah 5:1-7).  “Yet I planted you a choice vine,” says Jeremiah to Israel (Jeremiah 2:21).  Ezekiel, in turn, likens Israel to a vine in Chapter 15 and in 19:10.  “Israel is a luxuriant vine: said Hosea in 10:1.  “Thou didst bring a vine out of Egypt,” they sang in Psalm 80 as they remembered their deliverance from Egypt.

One of the glories of the temple was the great golden vine in front of the Holy Place.  It was considered a great honor if you were rich enough to give gold to mould a new bunch of grapes or even a single grape to that vine.

Then Barclay gives us a bit of interesting exegesis.  Jesus calls himself the true vine.  The point of that word alethinos, true, real, genuine is this, he says:  “It is a curious fact that the symbol of the vine is never used in the Old Testament apart from the idea of degeneration.  The point of Isaiah’s picture is that vineyard has run wild. Jeremiah complains that the nation has turned into ‘degenerate and become a wild vine.’  It is as if Jesus said: ‘You think that because you belong to the nation of Israel that you are a branch of the true vine of God. But the nation it is; a degenerate vine, as the prophets saw.  It is I that am the true vine.” (Barclay / The Gospel of John, Volume 2, p. 173)

Now here are my own thoughts on today’s gospel.

Take a look at the image  above.  Every part of the vine, every grape, receives its life by being connected to the source of its life.

So, too, with us.  I have some readers who are not professed Christians.  But if you think about it, the message is the same:  If we stay connected to the Source of life, whatever that is for you, then our lives will flourish and bear fruit.

But some of us are like withered branches.  We have cut ourselves off from the source of life and we do not bring fruitfulness into our lives.

The following commentary I excerpted from the Magnificat liturgical magazine . . . .

He [Jesus’ Father] takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. (15:2)

In pruning, the vines were cut back so severely that they gave the appearance of lifeless stalks. When have you felt like that in your life? Did God ever generate new life from what seemed lifeless?

St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that if we are bent on “diverse and trifling things,” our power is weakened and rendered less effective in doing good. And thus, God, to make us productive to do good often sends us trials and temptations, which if we overcome, we become stronger in doing good.

You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. (15:3)

Think of how you were changed and made better by a word someone spoke to you: a word of forgiveness, of correction, of insight, of encouragement, of love

Here’s Aquinas again: “The Word of God by its power moves our hearts, weighed down by earthly things, and sets them on fire.

Another medieval Scholar, Cornelius a Lapide, says: “Christ pruned the Apostles of their ignorance, a certain vain confidence, an over-reliance on sensible (physical) presence of Christ, and from faint-heartedness, which made them almost despair of their own salvation now that Christ was departing.”

Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me. (15:4)

Of all the things our Lord could ask the night before he dies, he commands only this, “Remain in me”—the simplest thing of all.

            ~ Magnificat liturgical magazine / April 2018 ~ pp. 411-2

Take a few moments to consider the fruitfulness of your relationships.  Are the people in your life growing because they know you and are in your life?  Or are they withering up?

Stay connected.  Stay connected with your family, your friends, the people you love and the people who love and care about you.

We want to be connected to the Internet, on Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and other social media.  But those connections are most often superficial.

What about connections of the heart?  The ones that really matter.

What about your connection with the earth and the environment and with the creatures who share this world with you?  Or does the world revolve only around you?

What about your connection with God and his desire that the whole church, indeed the whole world be connected in love.

Now here’s my prayer . . . .

Jesus, you use simple images to help us understand

what life for us can be like when we stay connected to You.

Wonderful life-surging energy flows through You as the Vine.

Let that same life-surging energy which is Your Holy Spirit

surge through us as well

and renew the face of the earth!

To You be glory now and forever! 

CHRIST IS RISEN!

Jesus said to His disciples: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does He prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in Me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in Me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without Me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in Me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become My disciples.” (John 15:1-8)

And now, before you go, here’s a song for your reflection on your relationship with Jesus. Click here.

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

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer  

William Barclay / The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of John – Volume 2 Revised Edition  / Westminster Press Philadelphia 1975 p. 173.

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The Fourth Sunday of Easter ~ Being known and loved anyway

The Fourth Sunday of Easter ~ 2018

Dear Friends,

The Fourth Sunday of Easter has my favorite story of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.  It’s my also my favorite image of Jesus. It’s the perfect image for us today.

Jesus says, I am the good shepherd.  A good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” 

Jesus says “I am” 45 times in the gospel of John. Some of the outstanding ones are: I am the bread of life. (Jn 6:35)  I am the light of the world (Jn 8:12) I am the resurrection and the life (Jn 11: 25 and I am the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6).

In Jesus’ time some looked down on shepherds as outcasts;  they were not usually welcome in the towns. Their work was demanding and perilous.  They were sometimes responsible for herds numbering in the thousands.  They contested with hyenas, jackals, wolves, bears, human enemies, the burning heat of the day, and bitter cold of night.  If something happened to a sheep, he had to produce prove it was not his fault.  The law laid it down: If torn by beasts, let him produce the evidence.” (Exodus 22:13)

It took me a long time to realize that shepherds walked down the road ahead of their flock.  And the sheep simply followed.  They just responded to his voice.

In Mark 10:32, we’re 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.

Jesus distinguishes between true and false shepherds. The false ones are mere hired hands that don’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.”

These words 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

What a wonderful model for leadership of any kind.  Someone who is not coercing.  Not goading.  Not threatening. Not saying “If you don’t follow, you’re outa here!”

Jesus just wants to lead the way.  He wants to BE the way because he walked the path ahead of us.  He knows what human life is about.

And more than that, he says “I know mine and mine know me.”

He’s talking about knowing us personally for who we are inside, who we really are.  He delights in those under his care. He rejoices in us.  He wants to be very close to us.

And he wants us to know him personally and intimately, too.

That’s enough.  For those of us  who know, who realize, that God loves us, lifts us up, supports us, wants us to be who we are, that is just enough.

This is the Jesus I know and love.  Jesus has invited me into a personal relationship with him and that makes all the difference in the way I live and love.

I, too, have always wanted to shepherd like that. To be an example to others.  To lead and to know and care for those in my life.

This gospel says there’s a difference between a Good Shepherd and a hired hand who abandons the flock when things get rough.  The Good Shepherd will leave the flock and search for the lost sheep and bring them home.

Earlier in this passage he says, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” What greater blessing could there be than this: The shepherd knows my voice and I know his.  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 is not only the shepherd, he is the sheepgate. The sheep go in and out of the pasture and are safe.

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

Those who dabble in mystical experience such as LSD and guided meditations of one sort or another are not protected in the spiritual word. Jesus is the only protected Door or Gate to the spiritual world.

Jesus says it was the Father who gave the sheep to him. And that Jesus received his confidence from the Father. He was secure, not in his own power, but in God’s.

The picture seems a bit one-sided. The Good Shepherd is 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, must be unconditional, our loyalty without compromise, our thoughts, words and deeds in accord with the will of God.

Now 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 model my leadership style on Jesus as the Good Shepherd?

I love this image of Jesus.   He’s my model of what a priest should be like — or a parent or a teacher or a coach, or even a good statesman.  I just hope that I can continue to be a good shepherd.

Pope Francis has challenged his priests  to go out among their flocks and “be shepherds with the smell of your sheep.”

And now my prayer . . . .

Jesus,

many of us have the role of shepherding others,

whether we be priests or religious or parents, teachers, coaches,

public servants or even the Leader of a Nation.

May we rejoice in that sacred honor and privilege

and do it well, not for profit but for love.

May we never betray that trust.

May we always delight in also being cared for by You.

To You be honor and glory and praise! 

CHRIST IS RISEN!

 

Now before you go, enjoy this version of Psalm 23. Be sure to enter full screen. Click here.

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

Have a great day as we continue to celebrate our joyous Easter season.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

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The Second Sunday of Easter “Peace be with You!”

The Second Sunday of Easter ~ 2018 ~ “Peace be with You!”

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 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 about 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’s 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’s 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.

I found this article in the Magnificat liturgical magazine .  .  ,   ,

The quest for interior peace is much more than the search for peace of mind. It’s really about something else: opening ourselves to God’s actions. It’s important to understand a simple but spiritually important truth: the more we reach toward peace, the more the grace of God is capable of acting in our lives. Like a tranquil lake perfectly reflects the sun, so a peaceful heart is receptive to the action and movement of the Spirit. Only a peaceful heart is capable of truly loving.

Remaining calm in the face of trouble, uneasiness, and interior disturbances is necessary for God to act in our lives.

And the only time we have good discernment is when we are at peace. When we are preoccupied by worry, disturbed by events in our lives, our emotions can get the best of us and we don’t have an objective grasp on reality—we are tempted to see everything in black and white and question everything in our life. On the other hand, when we are at peace we see life clearly.

We should adopt the following rule of conduct: when a problem has robbed us of our peace, the most important thing is not to solve the problem in the hope regaining our peace, but to regain a minimum of peacefulness , and then to see what we can do to face the problem. 

~ Father Jacques Philippe / A French Priest, and a renowned spiritual director

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

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.

 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. That’s why it is so important to be at peace.”

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.

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!

At this point, Thomas is overwhelmed.. a week earlier he had said he would not believe. The truth of it all came home to him, this man so full of mystery, so different from other men—he is the same one they used to be together with, who was put to death a short time ago. And Thomas surrendered. “You are my Lord and my God!” Thomas believed.

But then Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?

Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

These words are really extraordinary, according to Bread and Wine author Romano Guardini. Thomas believed because he had been allowed to “see.,” to see the hands and the side and to touch the blessed wounds, yet he wasn’t blessed.

“Blessed indeed are those who have not seen, and have yet learned to believe!” Those who ask for no miracles, demand nothing out of the ordinary, but find God’s message in every day life. Those who require no compelling proofs , but must remain in a certain ultimate suspense, so that faith may never cease to require daring.

And those are called blessed who make the effort to remain open-hearted. Who seek to cleanse their hearts of all self-righteousness, obstinacy, presumption, and inclination to “know better-than-others.”. Who are quick to listen, and are humble and free-spirited. Who are able to find God’s message in the gospel of he day, or even from the sermons of preachers with no message in particular, or in phrases from the Law they’ve heard a thousand times, phrases with no charismatic power about them, or in the happenings of every day life that always end up the same was: work and rest, anxiety—and then again some kind of success, some joy, and an encounter, and a sorrow.

Blessed are those who can see the Lord in all those things!

~ Romano Guardini / Bread and Wine Believing is Seeing” pp.. 119- 123,

 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

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. Jesus associated with this devotion.

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

Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen, and there’s another great song just behind it.

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

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer