The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord ~ You are my beloved Son / You are my beloved Daughter

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord 

Sunday, January 9, 2022

This feast is part of the epiphany cycle of feasts ….

It reveals a bit more of the meaning of the Incarnation of the Son of God, that is, our God entering our world and becoming flesh and blood like you and me.

By way of introduction, our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay offers a short commentary on Matthew’s gospel about the Baptism of Jesus –though today’s is taken from Luke’s Gospel . . . .

For thirty years Jesus waited patiently for the moment to embark on his mission. He waited for the hour to strike. And when John emerged, Jesus knew it was time.

Barclay asks why should this be so? For one very simple reason.

The Jews knew and used baptism only for proselytes who came from another faith. It was natural for the sin-stained proselyte to be baptized but no Jew ever conceived of a member of the chosen people, a son of Abraham, assured of God’s salvation, should ever need baptism. Baptism was for sinners, and no Jew ever conceived of himself as a sinner shut off from God. Now for the first time in their national history the Jews realized their own sin and their own pressing need for God. Never before had there been a unique national movement of penitence and search for God. This was the very moment for which Jesus was waiting and he slipped into the line of pilgrims waiting to be baptized by John. The others there were conscious of their sin and conscious of their need for God as never before.  In Jesus’ baptism, though not not for the purpose of repentance, he identified himself with the people he came to save.

When he approached John, he objected, saying, “I should be baptized by you” But Jesus replied, “Allow it for now for it is to fulfill all righteousness.”

(Barclay Gospel of Matthew – Vol. I pp.59-60.)

Pope Benedict XVI also has an interesting commentary on this feast . . . .

The Baptism of Jesus was held in great importance by the apostolic community, in that circumstance, for the first time in history there was the manifestation of the Trinitarian Mystery (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) in a clear and complete way, but also because that event began the public ministry of Jesus on the roads of Palestine. The Baptism of Jesus at the Jordan is the anticipation of his baptism of blood on the cross and it is the symbol of the entire sacramental activity by which the Redeemer will bring about the salvation of humanity.

This is why the early Church Fathers have dedicated such great interest in this feast, which is the most ancient after Easter:

“Christ is baptized and the whole world is made holy,” sings today’s liturgy,“he wipes out the debt of our sins; we will all be purified by water and the Holy Spirit.”     (Antiphon to the Benedictus) 

There is a strict relationship between the Baptism of Christ and our baptism. At the Jordan the heavens opened to indicate the Savior has opened the way of salvation and we can travel it thanks to our own new birth of water and Spirit (John 3:5) accomplished in baptism. The commitment that springs from baptism is therefore to “listen” to Jesus: to believe in him and gently follow him, doing his will. 

Thus, God sent his only Son to become one with us.

What better way to do this than to show acceptance of the human condition by being baptized for the forgiveness of sin.

Jesus has no personal sin.  Yet he got in line with hundreds of pilgrims to be baptized by the prophet John by the River Jordan.

In this we see Jesus’ humility.  He is willing to accept ALL of the human condition.  He willingly presents himself for baptism.

Imagine this scene . . . .

There he is:  John at the edge of the desert, wading out into the waters of the Jordan River.

A crowd has gathered on the banks.  Jesus is among them.  He’s unknown at this time because he’s yet to begin his ministry.  He has chosen this meeting with the Prophet to inaugurate his own mission.

Jesus waits patiently amidst the crowd.  There’s a line of people eagerly waiting to meet individually with John. Jesus is to receive his baptism of repentance ~ not because there’s sin in him, but in order to model for us the authentic way to approach the Father.

He goes to the Baptist as a beggar because the Mystery is mercy.  Jesus surrenders to mercy by submitting himself to baptism in order to invite us to share in his relationship with the Father.

The Lord Jesus lowers himself in his baptism and, as Nothingness, acknowledges his Father so that we will never hesitate to do the same. 

(As recorded in the “Meditation of the Day” in the Magnificat liturgical magazine January 2019 issue, p.179.)

An astonishing thing happened; the two of them were privileged to a vision.  The sky opened up and John saw the Spirit of God descend on Jesus like a dove and hover over him.

With that, a voice from the heavens said,

You are my beloved Son;  with you I am well pleased.”

In our immersion into the waters of baptism, we are consecrated, set apart and made holy.  In Jesus’ immersion in the baptismal waters of the Jordan, the opposite becomes true.  Jesus consecrates, sets apart and makes holy the waters of baptism.  Jesus as Man consecrates the movement of divine grace that flows just as rivers flow.

Sometimes the river has abundant waters that give life to all living things that share its banks.  But sometimes the waters dry up and become like a desert.

So, too, with grace.  Grace flows like a river bringing wonderful fruit to all who drink and are immersed in it.  But sometimes grace  seemingly dries up and we live in a desert for a while.  But the river is still there, unseen; it just moves below the surface.

So we have to be willing to be immersed.  To be immersed in divine grace.  To be immersed in God.  To be immersed in love.

But that precisely is the problem.  We are scared of being immersed in love We are scared of being immersed in God.  We prefer to stand on the banks of the river and watch the waters of grace flow by, without having direct contact with it.

So this feast day is about us as well.  Don’t be afraid to be immersed in God.  Don’t be afraid to be immersed in love.

If we are immersed in God, in love, we will hear the voice of God say to us . . . .

“You are my beloved son.  You are my beloved daughter.  

Now, before you go, here’s Burl Ives singing the traditional spiritual “Shall we Gather at the River.” Click here   

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

With Love, 

Bob Traupman 

Contemplative Writer

 

 

 

WATCH OUT! Be care-ful! Stand erect!

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THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT ~ November 28, 2021

Jesus said to his disciples:

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of Man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads                                                                                                        because your redemption is at hand.

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.”

     (Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36)

It’s kinda funny. We begin our liturgical year by thinking about The End ~the end of history. Our Gospel today isn’t very comforting; in fact it’s pretty scary ~he’s putting all that stuff before you!

Our Scripture scholar friend William Barclay, whom I’ve referenced from time to time, points out that there are two main points for us to take away from today’s lesson:

First, this Gospel’s talking about the second coming of Jesus Christ.

The Stoics regarded history as circular. They held that every 3,000 years or so the world was consumed by a great conflagration , then it started all over again. That meant that history was going nowhere.

There are a lot of folks out there who want to tell us when that’s gonna happen. And even where to show up. You’ve seen the billboards and the TV preachers stomping out their predictions. But . . .

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father (Mk 3:32).  Not even Jesus. Think about that. Jesus himself doesn’t know when it’s going to happen–only the Father.

So, when it will be and what it will be like are not ours to know. The major lesson of this first Sunday of Advent is that history is going somewhere. History has a goal and that goal is Jesus Christ who will be the Lord of all.

Second, today’s Gospel stresses the need to be on the watch. But we are not only to be vigilant for our bodily safety but, as Barclay points out, we must live our lives in ‘a permanent state of expectation’.

I’d like to note here that today’s Gospel passage is the last one in Luke before the account of the Passion of the Lord (Luke 21:25-28, 34-36).

THE LITURGICAL YEAR has three cycles. This year we’re in Cycle C and we’ll be proclaiming and listening to the Gospel of Luke all year. (We just finished listening to the Gospel of Mark in Cycle B.)

Here are some notes about the Gospel of Luke from William Barclay that I found rewarding for my own use.

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE has been called the loveliest book in the world. It would not be far wrong to say that the third gospel was the best life of Christ ever written.

Luke was a Gentile—the only New Testament writer who was not a Jew. He was a doctor by profession and that fact may have given him the “wide sympathy he possessed.”

As a trusted companion of St. Paul he must have known all the great figures of the early Church and you can be sure that he had them tell their stories to him. For two years he was Paul’s companion in imprisonment in Caesarea where he had a great opportunity for study and research.

The book was written to a man called Theophilus. He is called most excellent Theophilus.—the normal title for a high official in the Roman government. Luke wrote it to tell an earnest inquirer about Jesus.

A Gospel for the Gentiles

Theophilus was a Gentile as was Luke himself. Unlike Matthew, he is not interested in the life of Jesus as the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy. He seldom quotes the Old Testament at all. He never uses the term Rabbi of Jesus but always a Greek word meaning Master.

Because of this, Barclay suggests, Luke is the easiest of all the gospels to read. He was writing, not for Jews, but for people very much like ourselves. (pp.1-2)

The Gospel of Prayer

At all the great moments of his life, Luke shows Jesus at prayer. He prayed at his baptism (3:21); before he chose the Twelve (6:12); before his first prediction of his death (9:18); at the transfiguration (9:28); and upon the Cross (23:46). Only Luke tells us that Jesus prayed for Peter in his hour of testing (22:32). Only he tells us the prayer parables of the friend at midnight (11: 5-13) and the unjust judge (18:1-6).

To Luke, again according Barclay, “the unclosed door of prayer was one of the most precious in all the world. (p.4)

The Gospel of Women

In Palestine the place of women was low. In the Jewish morning prayer, a man thanks God that he was not made “a Gentile, a slave or a woman.”

But Luke elevates the place of women in his narrative. The story of Jesus’ birth is told from Mary’s point of view. In Luke, we read of Elizabeth, of Anna, of the widow of Nain, of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet in the house of Simon the Pharisee. It is Luke who splashes lavish strokes upon his portrait canvases of Martha and Mary and Mary Magdalene. (pp. 4-5)

The Gospel of Praise

In Luke the phrase praising God occurs more often than all the New Testament put together. This praise reaches it peak in the three great hymns that the Church has sung throughout all her generations—the Magnificat (146:55), the Benedictus (1:68-79) and the Nunc Dimittis (2:29-32.)

Again friend Barclay waxes eloquently, “there’s a radiance in Luke’s gospel which is a lovely thing, as if a sheen of heaven had touched the things of earth. (p.5.)

The Universal Gospel

All the barriers are down: For Luke, Jesus Christ is for all people without distinction.

(This is the same message, by the way, as our present Pope who repeats over and over again.) 

(1) The kingdom of heaven is not shut for Samaritans. Luke alone tells the story of the Good Samaritan (10:30-7). The one grateful leper is a Samaritan. (17:11-19) John can record that the Jews have not dealings with Samaritans but Luke refuses to shut the door on anyone. (p.5)

(How does that play against the background on the American agenda today?)

(2) Luke shows Jesus speaking of approval of Gentiles whom orthodox Jews would consider unclean. He shows Jesus citing the widow of Zarepeth and Naaman the Syrian as shining examples (4:25:-7). The Roman centurion is praised for the greatness of his faith (7:9) And these great words of Jesus:

People will come from east and west, north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. (13:29).   (p.6)

(3) Luke demonstrates a great interest in the poor. He alone tells the story of the rich man and the poor man (16:19-31). In Matthew (5:3), the saying of Jesus is “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” But Luke simply states, “Blessed are you who are poor” (6:20).

Barclay here: “Luke’s gospel has been called ‘the gospel of the underdog’. His heart runs out to everyone for whom life is an unequal struggle.

Perhaps Senators Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren would care to read our friend St. Luke and I’m certain President Joe Biden has.

(4) Most of all, Luke shows Jesus as a friend of outcasts and sinners. He alone tells of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfumed oil and bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair in the house of Simon the Pharisee. (7:36-50); of Zachaeus, the despised tax collector (19:1-10); and he alone has the immortal story of the prodigal son and the loving father (15: 11-32).

All four gospel writers quote from Isaiah 40 when they give the message of John the Baptist, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God’; but only Luke continues the quotation to its triumphant conclusion . . . .

‘And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. (Isaiah 40 3-5) (Luke 3:4,6).

Luke of all the gospel writers sees no limits to the love of God.

As I’ve prepared this commentary, I look forward to studying and praying over the texts of Luke, and proclaiming his Gospel as the Lord allows me during the coming year, in a way that I’ve never done before. Will you join me? 

Before you go,here is a section of Handel’s Messiah that fits this theme, “And who will abide the day of His coming?” Click here.

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

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Acknowledgment:   William Barclay/ The New Daily Study Bible /The Gospel of Luke / Westminster / John Knox Press/ Louisville, KY / 1975, 2001

The Triumph of the Cross of Jesus ~ and our crosses too!

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross ~ September 14, 2021

 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John12:24.)

Jesus had said this to his disciples shortly after his entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. I’m thinking about the issue of Dying to Self these September days because we’re celebrating a favorite feast day of mine because I have had a along association with the Cistercian  (Trappist) Abbey of the Holy Cross in Berryville, Virginia, nestled on the Western side of the first ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the shore of the Shenandoah River. I’m also thinking of the issue of Dying to Self these September days as I prepare to return to my Diocese of Orlando and do more priestly work again.

Before the pandemic many of us would have shuddered and quaked in our sneakers at the thought of Dying to Self, but then it was forced on us, wasn’t it?

It goes against everything our American culture tells us we should do—Look Out For No. 1.  A psychologist some time ago did a study that showed that there has been a distinct rise in more individualistic words such as “choose,” “get,” “feel,” “unique,” “individual” and “self” and a decrease in community-focused words such as “obliged,” “give,” “act,” “obedience,” “authority,” “pray” and “belong.” No sign of Dying to Self here, it seems. Let alone the Cross.

If you name the trauma(s) that have altered your life over the years  or just over the duration of this pandemic. . . how did you deal with them? How did they affect you? What about Dying to Self?  Can you ~ do you ~ do that?

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John12:24.)

In another place, Jesus says to his disciples . . .

If any wants to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? (Luke 9:24-26 ~ NRSV)

Obviously, this is not the wisdom of the world with its emphasis on Power Prestige and Possessions. A priest-friend sent me a Christmas card a couple of years ago that I framed and placed on my dining room table —a quote of St. Paul’s:

My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection. And so I willingly boast of my weaknesses instead, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For when I am powerless, then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10). Can you get it?

Now here you have three koans to mull over, dear friends, and to try to grasp:

I / Unless a grain of wheat dies, it will not bear fruit.

II / Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. I

II / When I am powerless, then I am strong.

What is a koan, you might ask? A koan is a Zen saying often used by Buddhist monks to teach their novices: “To meditate on a koan is to engage in an active process, like that we engage in when we try to solve a mathematical problem. As in mathematics, the solution is supposed to come suddenly.”

So, rather than giving all your energy to the three P’s of the world, why not write these three Christian Scriptures on index cards and pull them out when you’re idle waiting for something else to happen? Try it! You just might be enlightened, as I somehow receive the gift of some in wisdom, as I have from time to time when I have been attentive to my prayer-life.

Jesus, of course, shows us the way.  Let’s look at the famous “Kenosis” passage of Philippians Chapter 2:6-11 “Kenosis”—meaning here Jesus’ self-emptying . . .

Though he was in the form of God, [Jesus] did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.

There it is, dear friends! Jesus gave his life for us. The movement was downward. Earthward. Earth-bound. Into the muck. Humility comes from the word humus, meaning muck. So, that’s what Dying to Self involves—getting down into the nitty-gritty of our lives and those of our loved ones and those we are called to serve. Being obedient to what life demands of us.  And beckons us to, whether we might like it not. Real Life elicits from our inner depths our best resources. Then . . .

Then . . . God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

And so, too, with us! We will be lifted up! I have experienced this several times. My longtime readers know that I’ve struggled with manic-depressive (bipolar) illness, and other issues with it, and later Parkinson’s disease, from which I received some sort of a miraculous release, according to my neurologist and very often financial struggles,like many of you.

But Jesus is faithful! Dying and rising is a continual process in nature and in our lives as well. We are taken down in some burden or crisis but, through faith, we are lifted up again! This is the Paschal Mystery. The Pasch ~ Passover ~ Passage ~Transition ~Transformation ~ Change. The Dying and Rising of Jesus in our lives is celebrated for us Catholics throughout the liturgical year and in every Mass.

Think about how you have experienced—and continue to experience the Paschal Mystery ~ this dying and rising ~ in your own life. And so, dear friends, I will bring this missive to a close by returning to the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and conclude with the wonderful words of the hymn Lift High the Cross. I remember when I first heard it. Trumpets and timpani sent shivers down my spine and goose bumps all over!

Lift high the cross The love of Christ proclaim,

Till all the world Adore His sacred name

Led on their way By this triumphant sign,

The hosts of God In conquering ranks combine. Refrain:

Each newborn servant Of the Crucified

Bears on the brow The seal of Him who died. Refrain

O Lord, once lifted On the glorious tree,

As Thou hast promised Draw the world to Thee. Refrain.

So shall our song Of triumph ever be:

Praise to the Crucified For victory. Refrain:

Now here is the hymn for your listening pleasure. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers.

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

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus ~ What wondrous love is this?

THE FEAST OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS ~ Friday, June 11, 2021

The church tells us “the term ‘Sacred Heart of Jesus denotes the entire mystery of Christ, the totality of his being and his person. . . . Devotion to the Sacred Heart calls for a fundamental conversion and reparation, of love and gratitude, apostolic commitment and dedication to Christ and his saving work.”

Reflecting on the Love that flows continually from the heart of Jesus has been a devotion of mine since childhood.

I wrote the article below in 1981 at a difficult time in my life and then preached it as a Good Friday homily in 1992.

I hope you enjoy it; I think it can have some practical value for you in managing the suffering in your own life ~ and in America and our whole world today.

* * * * * *

The Heart of Jesus

(Jesus the Tremendous Lover)

“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 home town.  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 his 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 and as he invites us to do in the Beatitudes.3 (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 for a while, 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 feast day 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.”

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.

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

And now, before you go, here’s that wonderful hymn, What w.ondrous love is this? Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

And here are the Mass readings for tomorrow’s feast. Click here

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Feast of Corpus Christi ~ Bread-broken and Blood-poured out for you and me!

The Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christ)

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Dear Friends,

This Sunday is our Roman Catholic Feast of Corpus Christi in which we pause to appreciate and give thanks for the wonderful gift of the holy Eucharist.

I’d like to reflect for a moment on what we Catholics believe this wonderful sacrament.

We believe in the Real Presence of Jesus –that the bread and wine are transformed into his Body and Blood. Thus, for us communion is a sharing in divine life, not just as a symbol.

It is stumbling block for many – not only for many Protestants but many a Catholic who never really gets it because they don’t let it transform their life into common-union or a deeper union with Christ.

And, unfortunately, I know some priests who don’t get it or live it either.

I’d like to rely on men who have taught me a lot to help us here. The first is Bishop Robert Barron whom you may have seen quote from time to time.  I enjoyed his article in the Magnificat Liturgical magazine that I use for my daily prayer  (in 2017). . . .

“How strange and wonderful is the Catholic faith! The Buddha offers wise teaching to his followers. Muhammad presents to his devotees a revelation that was once given to him. Confucius passes on to his adepts in an intricate moral system that he has developed. Moses comes down the mountain bearing a Law he received from on high.

But Jesus presents, offers, bears, and passes on . . . his very self. On the night before he suffered at the Passover table, he gathered with his Twelve Apostles. Taking bread in his hands, he said, This is my body, and lifting up the cup, said, This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.

He gave them, not a teaching, a discipline, or a spiritual insight, but his substance—his very own flesh and blood. And this is why the Christian Faith is not a matter of learning or walking a religious path, but of eating and drinking Jesus’ Body and Blood.

From this Eucharistic fact, the Church Fathers derived the splendid teaching of theiosos or deification. We disciples do not just follow Jesus, we become Jesus; we become adopted sons and daughters of the Father in the Son.  And this is the object of our bedazzled contemplation on the Feast of the Lord’s Body and Blood.

And now to William Barclay’s commentary on the holy Gospel according to St. Mark today, that of course is a description of what took place at the Last Supper, which is the gospel reading for today’s Mass. Barclay provides a detailed description for all of the preparation for a Jewish Passover meal at the time and what would have probably preceded the actual words we now know as the holy Eucharist.

He begins by saying that more than once the prophets of Israel resorted to symbolic, dramatic actions when they felt that words were not enough. That’s what Ahijah did when he rent his robe into twelve pieces and gave it to Jeroboam in token that ten tribes would make him king. (1 Kings 11: 28-32) That’s what Jeremiah did when he made bonds and yokes and wore them in token of the coming servitude. (Jeremiah 7).

That is what Jesus did.  And he allied this dramatic action with the ancient Passover feast of his people so that it would be the more imprinted on the minds of his men. He said, “Look! Just as this bread is broken my body is broken for you! Just as this cup of red wine is poured out my blood is shed for you.”

What did he mean when he said that the cup stood for a new covenant? The word covenant is a common word in the Jewish religion. The basis of that religion was that God had entered into a covenant with Israel. The word means something like an arrangement, a bargain, a relationship. The acceptance of the old covenant is set in Exodus 24:3-8; and the passage it is noted that the covenant was entirely dependent on Israel keeping the Law. If the Law was broken, the covenant was shattered. It was a relationship entirely based on law and obedience to law. God was judge. And since no man can keep the law, the people were ever in default.

But Jesus says, “I am introducing and ratifying a New Covenant—a new relationship between God and humankind. And it is not dependent on law, it is dependent solely on love. In other words Jesus says, I am doing what I am doing to show you how much God loves you.” People are no longer under the law of God. Because of what Jesus did, they are forever within the love of God. And today at Mass and wherever there are Processions of the Blessed Sacrament throughout the world, we have an opportunity to express our Eucharistic affection and give thanks for so great a sacrament in our lives!

But Barclay notes one thing more, In the last sentence of the gospel, we note two things we have so often seen– two things Jesus was sure of: He knew he was going to die, and he knew his Kingdom would come. He was certain of the Cross, but just as certain of the glory. And the reason was that was he was just as certain of the love of God as he was of the sin of humankind; and he knew that love would conquer that sin.

For me, the Eucharistic words have sustained me as I experienced my sinfulness, my woundedness, my brokenness and also profound joy, and  also at times, a deep affection for my Jesus.

When I receive our Lord in holy communion I  like to pray:

Lord Jesus, You became — You are still — bread-broken

and blood-poured out for the sake of the world.

As I receive the precious gift of the Eucharist

may I become Your body

and Your body become mine.

May Your blood course through my own blood stream.

I want to be transformed by my communion with you, Lord.

Transformed from my self-centered lusts and angers and petty jealousies

into common-union.

Let me become Your Body-broken

and Your Blood-poured-out

into a world that needs You

now more than ever.

To You, Jesus, be honor and glory and praise

this day and forever!

So be it!  Amen!

Now, before you go, here’s a hymn to go with it for your reflection. It is the custom to have a procession with the Blessed Sacrament (at least in Catholic countries after Mass on Corpus Christi Sunday. That’s what you’ll witness in this video along with the wonderful chant melody composed by St. Thomas Aquinas “Adoro Te Devote”  Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings  Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

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 16. 2021

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 he 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–as this weekend we think about and pray about the endless strife between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

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–and I am deeply humbled by that.

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,  Bishop Robert Barron reminded us  a while back 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 is present in the sacraments and as sacred writer Father Richard Rohr has pointed out–in Every Thing!

Christ is Risen!

Now, before you go, here’s the beautiful hymn Psalm 47 “God mounts his throne” sung by the Maranatha Singers.  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

William Barclay / The Daily Study Bible Series / The Gospel of Mark-Revised Edition / Westminster Press Philadelphia 1975     / Bishop Robert Barron / The Magnificat Liturgical Magazine / May 2018.

 

The Sixth Sunday of Easter ~ No Greater Love

The Sixth Sunday of Easter ~ May 9th, 2021

First of all, I’d like to wish all of our Mothers, Grandmothers, Great grandmothers and mothers-to-be a very happy Mother’s Day. I will offer my Sunday Mass for all of you, your special needs and your intentions. GOD BLESS YOU ALL!

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

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

The Fifth Sunday of Easter ~ May 2, 2021

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!

Now here;s the entire text of today’s Gospel . . . .

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.

The Fourth Sunday of Easter ~ Being known and loved anyway

The Fourth Sunday of Easter  Good Shepherd Sunday

April 25, 2021

Dear Friends,

The Fourth Sunday of Easter has my favorite Gospel 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).

Our scripture scholar-friend William Barclay points out that there are two Greek words for ‘good’. One is  agathos that simply means the moral quality of the person; the other is kalos that means that in the goodness there’s a winsomeness that makes it lovely. When Jesus is described as the Good Shepherd, the word is kalos. There is loveliness in him. And yet we know that being a shepherd was (and is)a demanding task, a demanding vocation.

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.

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  and death 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 and those for whom I write.

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. Thus, you see, Jesus  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, needs to 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 — he’s a model of what a parent or a teacher or a coach, or even a good statesman should be.  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

The Second Sunday of Easter ~ Peace be with You!

The Second Sunday of Easter ~ April 11th, 2021~ “Peace be with You!”

Here we are continuing to celebrate the fifty days of the Easter Season as most of us are still locked down similarly to the way the apostles were on that first Easter. let’ see if we can learn from their experience today as we continue to cope with this ongoing coronavirus that’s invading and infecting all our lives.

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. How have your hopes and dreams been averted in the past year?

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

They were distressed and fearful, huddled together in the Upper Room behind locked doors. They were depressed and distraught that the One they had come to love had been murdered. They were afraid that the religious leaders would come after 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 really 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 too.

I’m not talking about peace between Israelis and Palestinians or Republicans and Democrats. It means more than “May you be saved from times of trouble or conflict.” It means much more than that. It means, “May God give you every good thing.”

Jesus said when he appeared to them in the locked room, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you.”

There’s a parallel between the sending out of the Church by Jesus and his being sent by the Father. John’s Gospel makes clear that the relationship between Jesus and God shows Jesus’ perfect obedience and perfect love. Jesus could be God’s messenger only because he rendered to God that perfect obedience and perfect love. It follows that the Church is fit to be a messenger and an instrument of Christ only when it perfectly loves him and perfectly obeys him. The Church must never be out to propagate man-made policies. The Church fails whenever it tries to solve some problems in its own wisdom and strength and leaves out of account the guidance of Christ.

“And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit . . . .”

Barclay suggests that when John spoke in this way, he was thinking back to the story of the creation of humankind. “And the Lord God formed man out of dust from the soil and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

And we can compare this to the story of the valley of the dry bones in Ezekiel when he heard God say to the wind, “ Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain that they may live.”

The coming of the Holy Spirit is like the awakening of life from the dead.

 . . . . 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.

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: 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 was not blessed.

Blessed indeed are those whose who 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 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 openhearted. Who seek to cleanse their hearts of self-righteousness, obstinacy, presumption, and the 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 way: 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,

There’s a message for us in what Father Guardini  says here for all of us as we ” stay in place” bored perhaps, day-in- day-out, not knowing when our lives will return to normal, or if there will be a “normal.” A message of patience and love.

As for me, I consider myself a Witness to the Resurrection. I KNOW my Redeemer lives.  I KNOW his love for me in the present moment. He is sometimes as close to me as my very own heartbeat. Not that I’m always aware of him. No, I am a sinful man who has made many mistakes in the fifty -two years of my priesthood. But I know that I love him and I know at the bottom of my heart that Jesus loves me. And, with all my heart and soul, I want you, my dear readers, to know in the bottom of your own hearts the deep, deep love and affection that Jesus has for YOU, too!

I praise and thank God and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord for the gift the peace he has given me.

AND MAY THE PEACE OF THE LORD BE WITH YOU AS WELL!

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. A simple prayer associated with this devotion is “Jesus, I trust in you.” A simple act of abandonment is enough to overcome the barriers of darkness and sorrow  and desperation. The rays of God’s divine mercy will restore hope. Hope to those who feel overwhelmed by any burden, especially the burden of sin.

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 song just behind it.

And here are the Mass readings, if you’d care to reflect on them. Click here.

William Barclay The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of John – Volume 2                                Revised Edition / Westminster Press – Philadelphia – 1975/ pp. 272-4.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer