MEMORIAL DAY ~ Monday, May 29, 2017
A Memorial Day Prayer
“Most eternal God, as Americans, We want to thank you for this great country. We are not proud, but humbled, that in your divine sovereignty we were born or naturalized in such a nation as this.
Thank you for those serving and who have served in the military that protect this country of ours. Thank you for those men and women in our military services who were willing to give their lives and who gave their lives to fight to keep this country free … “
This was the start of one of my memorial day prayers while stationed on Okinawa, Japan (1999-2002). I felt extremely pastoral on this day of many days. This was my opportunity to speak to God for our people and offer our thanks for those who laid down their lives for their friends.
Memorial Day has special significance for all of us, and it has significant meaning for me as a former military chaplain serving in the United States Navy with sailors and Marines. Our freedom has been protected by people who have served in the military; many gave the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives.
Often, for many of our military who died in action, a chaplain is the last person in charge of their soul. In harm’s way, these faithful servants of God do not just stand beside the men and women in various branches of the service, we wear the uniform.
A chaplain’s work continues much farther than the base chapel. We labor in jungles, deserts, mountains, on ship at sea and in the air; wherever our people are stationed, the chaplain is there.
Our congregation is much different from a neighborhood church. It is primarily younger men and women, and these congregations can change, through transfers and deployments, every two to three years. They also come from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, some from the city, and some from the country.
We live, work, and play together; we cry, laugh and bemoan together; we hurt, feel loneliness and anger together; celebrate, rejoice and glorify together. When conducting services on deployments overseas we do not get into our cars and drive to our homes away from our membership and not see them until the next service. We walk to the chow hall or the barracks or even to the brig to do ministry and sometimes that ministry is just of presence.
Memorial Day for military members is a somber day. It is a day to reflect on friends lost, comrades who gave the last measure for the cause of freedom. We reflect on how God has guided us through battles, storms and driving wind. How God has allowed some us to remain to proclaim the honor of our fallen friends, wounded nonetheless but still here.
Our country is still occupied in war; not only are military men and women in constant danger, but their loved ones have many concerned trepidations.
When you pray on Memorial Day you should pray with the intent of remembrance and thankfulness. Before you go out and barbeque or hit the beach I want you to offer a prayer for our fallen military heroes and their loved ones. The following is a beautiful Memorial Day prayer by a colleague in ministry Austin Fleming.
Shall we pray?
In the quiet sanctuaries of our own hearts,
let each of us name and call on the One whose power over us
is great and gentle, firm and forgiving, holy and healing …
You who created us,
who sustain us,
who call us to live in peace,
hear our prayer this day.
Hear our prayer for all who have died,
whose hearts and hopes are known to you alone …
Hear our prayer for those who put the welfare of others
ahead of their own
and give us hearts as generous as theirs …
Hear our prayer for those who gave their lives
in the service of others,
and accept the gift of their sacrifice …
Help us to shape and make a world
where we will lay down the arms of war
and turn our swords into ploughshares
for a harvest of justice and peace …
Comfort those who grieve the loss of their loved ones
and let your healing be the hope in our hearts…
Hear our prayer this day
and in your mercy answer us
in the name of all that is holy.
Amen. The peace of God be with you.
The Feast of the Ascension ~ May 28, 2017
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 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 us look at today’s feast, the Ascension.
At the very beginning of the Acts of the Apostle (first reading ~ Acts 1:1-11), written by the same author as Luke’s gospel, describes the experience.
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 was, of course, 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, a cloud took him from their sight.
(However, in today’s Gospel from Matthew, the “lifting” is not mentioned, just the commissioning.)
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 experiences 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.
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.
Christ is Risen!
Now, before you go, here’s a rousing version of the wonderful hymn, Crown Him with many Crowns. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.
THE SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER ~ May 21, 2017
Ordinarily we human beings try to make some provisions for those we will leave behind when we die; Jesus, who became fully human and fully immersed in all that we are and do, was no exception.
Some of us are concerned with anticipating and attending to the economic needs of loved ones and, to that end, we pass on to them whatever monetary wealth we’ve accumulated through the years. Sensitive to the emotional well-being of our dear ones, we may leave behind assuring and loving messages not only a last testament but a note, a letter or even a personal journal or a videotape. Admittedly, none of these efforts, can negate the stark reality of death, but all can, in some small way, diminish its pain.
Before he departed from his disciples in death, Jesus also attempted to ease the burden of those whom he would leave behind, not by providing for their economic, emotional or psychological needs but by seeing to their spiritual well-being. Indeed, Jesus left behind his very self so that his presence would continue to embrace, enable and empower his followers. Three weeks ago on Easter’s Third Sunday, the risen Jesus as recorded in Luke’s gospel, explained that his abiding presence could be known and experienced in the breaking of the bread of the scriptural word and in the breaking of the bread of the Eucharist. Upon realizing his presence among them, the disciples burned with love and affection in their hearts.
Six weeks ago, on Easter’s second Sunday, the risen Jesus as recorded in the gospel of John breathed upon his own and indicated that from then on they would be inspired and impelled by his abiding presence to bring peace and forgiveness to a needy world.
In today’s gospel, John tells us that the abiding Spirit of Jesus within every believer sets him/her at odds with the world. It is a Spirit of truth whom the world does not recognize or accept. Nevertheless, and despite all odds, that Spirit has been promised us; that the Spirit will remain with us as Jesus’ living legacy until he returns. Jesus will not leave us orphans!
That Spirit was described by Jesus as another Advocate. Thus, the Holy Spirit as our advocate is one who represents our interests, like a defense attorney who is sincerely concerned with our well-being. As our Advocates, the Son and the Spirit will support us in all our efforts, strengthen us against every adversary, and sustain us through every trial. It is the Holy Spirit who will assure the permanence and the power of the community’s faith in the risen Jesus. For Jesus solemnly promises that he will not leave us orphans.
From the 1850’s through the 1920’s, “Orphan Trains” carried almost 400,000 children from New York City to adoptive families in the Midwest. These children, often given up by newly arrived and desperate immigrants or found living in the streets, were resettled with families who could feed and clothe them and who welcomed their presence on the still underpopulated frontier of a growing nation. The pathos of the trains’ departures was repeated at stops along the way, when children would be taken off and displayed for prospective adoptive parents.
Jesus promised his disciples that he would not leave them orphans. We have been chosen! And like an older brother, Jesus is going ahead to prepare a home for us. And an unbelievable gift is about to be given us! What Christ has by nature, we are granted as gift—a share in the divine life – in the interior life of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit! Their love surrounds, supports us, nourishes us and sustains us. When the Father sees us, hears our prayers, God sees and hears the divine Son. We are not orphans; we are God’s beloved children, and our train is bound for glory! Pentecost is in two weeks.
Jesus, we’re moving to the close of our Easter season now.
We feel the excitement in the air ~ and some sadness too.
You spoke these words to your disciples at the Last Supper;
they would not have understood at the time what you were saying or what you meant.
You also said,
“Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.(14:21).”
Help us to observe your commandments, Jesus. They are simple: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
And allow us to know you and the Father.
To you and the Father and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate, be all honor and glory, now and forever.
And now before you go, here’s a fun music video for you, “This Train is Bound for Glory.” Click here.
Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER ~May 14, 2017
Today’s Gospel is part of Jesus’ intimate talk with his disciples at the Last Supper as recorded by John
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith also in me.”
I rely much of this commentary on Scripture scholar William Barclay. He says that in a very short time life for the disciples was going to fall apart. Their world was going to collapse in chaos around the. And Jesus here was comforting them.
The Psalmist says, “My eyes are toward you, O God; in You I seek refuge” (Psalm 141:8). There comes a time when we have to believe what we cannot prove and to accept what we cannot understand. Note that he says ask not only believe in God, but believe in him.
Jesus goes on to say . . .
“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.
If there were not,
would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back again and take you to myself,
so that where I am you also may be.”
In preparing a place for us he was going ahead of us. Barclay notes that one of the great words used to describe Jesus is prodomos and the Authorized Version and the Revised Standard translate it as forerunner. Jesus blazed the way to heaven and to God that we might follow in his steps.
And then he says he will come again, telling of the ultimate triumph of Jesus. The curious thing about the Second Coming, Barclay suggests, is Christians seem to disregard it entirely or to think of nothing else. It is true we cannot know when it will happen or what will happen, but one thing is certain—history is going somewhere!
And then Jesus said . . .
“Where I am going you know the way.”
Thomas said to him,
“Master, we do not know where you are going;
how can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Again and again, Jesus had told his disciples where he was going, but somehow they just didn’t get it.
There was one among them who could never say he could understand what he really did not comprehend, and that was Thomas. He was far too honest and far to earnest to be satisfied with any pious expressions. Thomas had to be sure. So he expressed his doubts and his failure to understand and the wonderful thing is that it was the question of a doubting man that provoked one of the greatest things Jesus ever said. No one need ever be ashamed of his doubts; for it is amazingly and blessedly true that he who seeks will in the end find.
Jesus said to Thomas: “ I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life.” That is a great saying for us, but it would be still greater for a Jew hearing it for the first time.
The Jews talked much about the ways of God. “You shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God has commanded you (Dt. 5:32).
And Jesus said: “I am the Way.” What did he mean? Suppose you are a stranger in town and ask for directions. You’re told “Take a right five blocks down, then go right four blocks; take a left. Pass the Presbyterian Church on your right. Turn left again; and go five more blocks and your destination will be on your left. Chances you’ll be lost before you get halfway there.
But suppose the person says, “Come, I’ll take you there.” That’s what Jesus does in saying, “I am the Way.” He doesn’t tell us about the way; he is the Way!
Jesus said “I am the Truth.” The Psalmist said, “ Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may know your truth” (Psalm 86). Many have told us the truth but few have embodied it. Moral truth cannot be conveyed by words.; it can only be conveyed by example. Moral perfection finds its realization in Jesus.
Jesus said, “I am the Life.” “You show me the path to life, the fullness of joy in your presence (Psalm 16). And there is only one way of putting all this. “No one,” said Jesus, “comes to the Father, except through me.” In him alone do we see what God is like; and in he alone can lead men into God’s presence without fear and without shame.
And then . . .
Philip said to him,
“Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time
and you still do not know me, Philip?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.
The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.
Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me,
or else, believe because of the works themselves.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes in me will do the works that I do,
and will do greater ones than these,
because I am going to the Father.”
The Jews would never have dared to think that they could ever see God. But Jesus is saying that as they see him, they see the Father! Barclay says that a Lucan scholar said that Luke had “domesticated God.” Jesus is portrayed is so many scenes of ordinary life.
In Jesus, God once and for all sanctified human birth, sanctified the humble human home of ordinary folk and sanctified all childhood.
God was not ashamed of to do man’s work. Jesus was the carpenter of Nazareth. We can never fully realize the wonder of the fact that God understands or day’s work. He knows the difficulty of making ends meet. He knows the difficulty of the ill-mannered customer and the client who will not pay his bills. According to the Old Testament, work is a curse. But according to the New Testament, work is tinged with glory.
In Jesus, we also see that God knows what it is to be tempted. In Jesus, we see, not the serenity but the struggle of God. God is not like a commander who leads from behind the lines; he too knows the firing line of life.
In Jesus, we see God loving. The moment love enters into life, pain enters in. If we could be absolutely detached, if we could so arrange life that nothing and nobody mattered to us, then there would be no such thing as sorrow and pain and anxiety. But in Jesus we see God caring intensely, feeling poignantly for them, loving them until he bore the wounds of love upon his heart.
In Jesus, we see God upon the Cross. There is nothing so incredible as this in the whole word. No one would ever dreamed of a God who chose to obtain our salvation.
“He who has seen me has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus is the revelation of God and that revelation leaves the mind of man staggered and amazed!
Jesus, O how wonderful, you are to me, to us!
You have guided me on my way through many a dark wood.
You show me the way to your Truth; You are the One I seek.
You make known to me the path of life and fill me with joy in your presence,
May I learn to love you and more and more.
And through your love, to be a person of love.
And on this Mother’s Day,
please bless all our mothers and grandmothers, living and deceased,
you who were so devoted to your own mother,
please bless them all today in a special way!
And now before you go, here’s a faith-filled musical response for us. Click here.
And here are all of today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
With love, Bob Traupman,
William Barclay / The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of John- Volume 2 /Revised Edition The Westminster Press Philadelphia 1975 – pp. 152-158.