The Sixth Sunday of Easter ~ Intimacy with God

THE SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER ~ MAY 26, 2019

Today’s gospel reading is another section of Jesus’ Last Discourse at the Last Supper, as recorded in John’s Gospel.  And, as Jesus was talking with his own disciples, it helps us to think about our own relationship with the Lord.

Are we close to him? Do we allow him to get close to us? Or do we keep him at arm’s length?

Some of us don’t want to deal with the Lord as a friend. For some, he is more of an impersonal “boss,” a Ruler who compels us to impersonally obey – “from a distance,” as Bette Midler once sang.

For others of us, he is our “best friend,” our dear brother,” “our shepherd.”

I’d like to invite you, right now, to think about your relationship with the Lord.

In the church before the Second Vatican Council, our Lord seemed to be distant from us, unapproachable. He was someone to be feared. He seemed to be someone who would send us to hell if we ate more than a quarter of a hotdog on Friday or had bad thoughts. And so we returned the favor; we kept Jesus outside of us, not close enough for us to invite him into our souls. Many of us kept him out of sight and out of mind. And in the old church, some folks would put off dealing with Christ or the Church until their deathbed.

After Vatican II for a while there were some renewal movements that brought people close to Jesus.   I made a Cursillo (Little course in Christianity) back in 1971, just two years after my ordination. It had a very significant impact on my life in that it helped me bring others to Christ.

Four years later, I encountered the Lord up close and personal in a meditation I experienced on a retreat. That moment changed my life. From that day in February 1976, Jesus has been close to me, even though I have not always been close to him.

Jesus is now my best friend. I let him into my soul. I don’t exclude him from areas of my soul that are still in disarray. I let him “listen in” on my thoughts that he would not quite approve of. I am not afraid to let him know me – as I am, for I know he accepts me as I am. I don’t have to hide things from him. I feel his love, a love that embraces all of me – just as I am ~ warts and all. When we allow ourselves to get close to Jesus, we get to know ourselves better too. We don’t hide things from ourselves so much.

Some people, on the other hand, keep Jesus on the periphery of their lives because they know that if they let him in close, they’ll have to change and they’re not ready to change, so they keep the Lord at bay. Sometimes Jesus comes knocking at the door of our soul and we turn him away. What indignities we put the Lord through!

What I’ve found, however, that Jesus will be for us, as he was for the woman caught in adultery. He accepted the woman as she was and allowed her to change because she realized his love.

To know the personal love of the Lord is a wonderful, exhilarating experience. It’s an experience that you too can have – perhaps on your own with the Spirit’s help, or with the help of a friend and guide.

Then you’ll want to live your whole life in friendship with the Lord. You don’t have to wait until you die to live fully reconciled with Christ. You don’t have to wait until you die to experience holiness and wholeness. Jesus offers his very own life and love to you right here, right now!

Now let us take a close look at today’s gospel. There are three sections that are appropriate for our discussion. As I said, it’s still part of the Last Supper discourse.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and make our dwelling with him.

Our own soul becomes the dwelling place for God and God will abide with us forever.

St. Thomas Aquinas says that three things are necessary for a person who wants to see God: we must take a step to draw near to God; and we must lift our eyes in order to see God; and we must take time to look, for spiritual things cannot be seen if we are absorbed by earthly things. Where do you look? In the Scriptures. In nature. In your own family. In the people you meet every day. In the slightest little thing. In the present moment.

Accepting the reality of God’s dwelling with us and within us is the heart of the gospel.

It’s an invitation we should not decline lightly.

And 2)

I have told you this while I am with you.
The Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything
and remind you of all that I told you.

The Spirit consoles us in our sadness over our past sins. He leads us to the Son. He makes us sharers in divine wisdom and knowers of the truth. In a hidden way he aids our remembrance because, being love, he excites us.  He teaches us the hidden ways of God. He inspires us. He is the source of all creativity and the bestower of manifold gifts.

Even more intimate than Jesus’ abiding with us is the Holy Spirit who is as close to us as our own breath. Let us prepare ourselves to celebrate once again the feast of Pentecost in which we celebrate the Spirit’s work in us and among us.

And 3)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.

Not as the world gives do I give it to you

Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.

A true and abiding relationship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit brings an abiding peace. Even though all the issues of our life may not be totally resolved, we will be at peace with ourselves, we will be at peace with God. In the Bible the word for peace, shalom, never means simply the absence of trouble. It means everything that makes for our highest good. The peace Jesus offers us is the peace of conquest. No experience of life can take it from us and no sorrow, no danger, no suffering can make it less.

In another Easter gospel, Jesus says,

I am the Vine and we are the branches.

Live on in me, as I do in you.

No more than a branch can bear fruit

of itself apart from the vine,

can you bear fruit apart from me.

I am the vine, you are the branches,

The one who lives in me and in him

Will produce abundantly,

For apart from me you can do nothing.

There you have it. We are called to a real intimacy with Jesus. He can be a part of us and we, a part of him.

Let him into your life.

Talk to him about matters of your heart.

Let him in on your most secret thoughts.

Let Jesus be your friend – all the days of your life.

To bring others to Jesus and to bring Jesus to others has been at the heart of my priestly ministry, celebrating the fifty years since my ordination this past week. There has been no greater work for me than this.

Jesus,

I pray as you prayed that night with your friends. 

I thank you for your love and friendship all these years;

 I pray for all the people I’ve served through the years,

bless them, Lord, wherever they are.  

And I thank you for wonderful inspiration of the Holy Spirit                                                                      that has informed my life in so many ways.  

I ask you, Jesus, to draw someone who’s reading this blog to yourself.  

Let them know your love; touch them and draw them to yourself.

And send down your Spirit upon us once again; renew your Church,

and splash the Spirit all over our country, for we surely need a good dose of it as on the first Pentecost!

To You, Jesus, be all Glory and Honor and Praise! Amen. 

Now, before you go, here’s a beautiful song  with a slide show to accompany our theme of Intimacy with God. Click here, Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full-screen.

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

And remember this weekend is also Memorial Day weekend. So lest we forget, when you go to Church please remember in your prayers those who died in the service of our country. And now here’s a tribute to our fallen heroes of all our wars. And let us pray we are not about to get into another one! Click here.

Acknowledgment: Magnificat Liturgical Magazine / May 2016 / Lectio Divina notes for the Sixth Sunday of Easter / p. 21. 

With love, 

Bob Traupman 

contemplative writer

 

The Fourth Sunday of Easter ~ Shepherd me, O God ~ And Happy Mother’s Day

The Fourth Sunday of Easter ~ May 12, 2019

Good Shepherd Sunday ~ Mother’s Day

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

If you think about Jesus as the Good Shepherd, you’ll find him walking ahead of us along the way. He shows us the way. He’s been there ahead of us. In Mark 10:32, we are told that the disciples were going up to Jerusalem “and Jesus was leading the way.” And of course, along the way, he was teaching and forming them.

Apparently, it is the voice of the shepherd that controls the sheep. “My sheep hear my voice,” says Jesus. The sheep distinguish the voice of their one only shepherd from that of others. They only follow the one whose voice they recognize. I know that’s true of my little dog Shoney.  He listens to my voice and responds to my directions (except he’s on a leash and can’t wander too far.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As I have always insisted, a deep, abiding personal relationship with Jesus is possible for each one of us! It is possible for you, simply for the asking! Reach out to Jesus today. He is your Lord, yes! But he wants to be your friend! Don’t be afraid! Just reach out to him. He is very near you. He already knows you through and through.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Sunday we also celebrate Mother’s Day. Certainly mothers are shepherds, aren’t they? They’re constantly shepherding their child or children to the bathroom or to school. So we honor all our mothers and grandmothers and aunts and everyone who cares for children this weekend! We offer our prayers them for the hard work they must do and in thanks for the greatness of their love and service. 

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

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

Christ is Risen!

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

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

William Barclay / the Daily Study Bible Series – revised edition / the Gospel of John: Volume 2 / The Westminster Press Philadelphia – 1975 / pp. 55-60; 72-75.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Third Sunday of Easter ~ Lord, You know that I Love You

rhpas0822The Third Sunday of Easter ~ May 5, 2019

This is the third Resurrection appearance in the Gospel of John and it’s a charming story.

The guys had been fishing all night and had caught nothing. Heard this story before? This is a replay of their very first meeting in Galilee. Jesus suggests they cast their nets to the starboard side. (They don’t recognize him quite yet.) When they do as he says, they haul in a great number of fish.

And John says, “The disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’”

Then good ol’ impetuous Peter hastily throws on a tunic and jumps into the water dragging the net full of fish.

John, who uses symbolism all through his writing, notes that there were 153 large fish and the net was not broken. (We’ll discuss this a bit later.)

Then John writes, “Jesus said, ‘Come and have some breakfast.’ And he took bread and gave it to them, and gave them fish in the same way.” And he adds, “ This was the third time Jesus showed himself to the disciples after he had been raised from the dead.

Barclay notes that the catch is not described as a miracle as it frequently happens on a lake.  A person standing on the shore can often see a shoal of fish more clearly than those in the water. And it may have been because of the grey dark that they didn’t recognize him. But the eyes of the youngest disciple John were sharp.

Now to the meaning of the 153 fishes. In the Fourth Gospel, everything has meaning. Barclay gives lists of “many ingenious suggestions for this symbolism.” But I will choose only the one that makes the most sense as given by St. Jerome.

He said that in the sea there were 153 kinds of different fishes; and the catch is one which includes one of every kind of fish; and therefore the number suggests that some day all men of all nations will be gathered together in Jesus Christ.

We may note further that all these fish were gathered in this net and it wasn’t broken. The net stands for the Church; and there is room for all people of all nations in the Church.

Here John is telling us in his own vivid yet subtle way  of the universality of the Church. There is no kind of exclusivity in her, no kind of color bar or selectiveness. The Church is as universal as the love of God in Jesus Christ.

But there is more.

“ When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
Jesus said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

First, we must note the question Jesus asked Peter, “Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me more than these?”   As far as the language goes, it could mean two things equally well.

It may be that Jesus swept his hand around the boat and its nets and equipment and the catch of fishes and said to Peter, “Simon, do you love me more than these?”

Are you prepared to give up a steady job and reasonable comfort in order to give yourself forever to my people and my work? This may have been a final decision to give all his life to the preaching of the gospel and the caring for Christ’s folk.

Or it may be that Jesus looked at the rest of the little group of the disciples and said to Peter, “Simon, do you love me more than your fellow disciples do? It may be that Jesus was looking back to the night when Peter said, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” It may be that he was reminding Peter how once he thought he alone could be true and how his courage had failed. It is more likely that the second meaning is right, because Peter does not make comparisons anymore; he is content to say, “You know that I love you.

Jesus asks the question three times—as Peter denied the Lord three times.

Jesus is gracious in his forgiveness. He gave Peter the chance to affirm his love and to wipe out the memory of the threefold denial by a threefold declaration of love.

Thus, we must note what love brought Peter.

~ It brought him a task. “If you love me,” Jesus said, ”then give your life to shepherding the sheep and lambs of my flock.”

We can prove that we love Jesus only by loving others. Love is the greatest privilege in the world, but it brings great responsibility.

~ It brought Peter the cross. Jesus said to him . . . .

Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.
And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

The day came when, in Rome, when Peter did give his life for his Lord; he, too, was nailed to the Cross, and he asked to be nailed head downward, for he said he was not worthy to die as his Lord had died.

Love brought Peter a task, and it brought him the cross.

Love always involves responsibility, and it always involves sacrifice. We don’t really love Christ unless we are prepared to face the task he has prepared for us and the Cross he has given us.

Lord Jesus, you know that I love You.

As your priest, I have tried to feed the people I’ve served as best I could.

Sometimes, I have failed, as Peter did.

You have given me crosses to carry throughout my life.

Sometimes, I was petulant and not carried them graciously.

I have tried to love, Lord.

Increase my capacity to love and to serve, even as I grow older.

This evening, Lord—as always, Lord Jesus,

I just want you to know that I love You.

Please be with those who do not know Your love.  

And now, before you go, here’s the beloved Latin American song about the  Jesus on the seashore ~ Pescadores de Hobres.  Click here.

Or “Worthy is the Lamb” from Revelations taken from today’s second reading that truly honors our Risen Lord. Click here.

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

William Barclay /The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of John / Volume 2 revised edition / The Westminster Press / Philadelphia / 1975 -pp. 284-6.

With love, 

Bob Traupman 

contemplative writer

 

 

Shepherd me, O God!

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

Good Shepherd Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christ is Risen!

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

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

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

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

You will know him in the breaking of the bread

IMG_1770

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER ~ April 30, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was victory in their hearts!

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

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

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

(Eucharist is a verb and a noun!)

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

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

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

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

Whom do you so nour­ish?  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes appreciate this great and wonderful gift.

May we never take it for granted.

Lord Jesus,

We praise you and thank you for sharing with us

in every place and for all time

the gift of your sacred body and blood.  

May we always cherish such a wonderful gift

and never take it for granted.  

To You be all glory and honor

with the Father and the Spirit,  

now and forever. Amen. Alleluia! 

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

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

Ruah! Breathe in the Holy Spirit!

Penticost4The Great and Glorious Feast of Pentecost

Sunday, May 15, 2016

In our last blog, we talked about the Feast of the Ascension.

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

despondent, worried, fearful, bewildered, devastated.

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

and it filled the entire house in which they were. 

Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire which parted

and came to rest on each one of them. 

And they were all filled with the holy Spirit

and began to speak in different tongues, 

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

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

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

The Holy Spirit is associated with that wind.  The wind that blows where it wills. The wind that whirred around that Jerusalem square that Pentecost morning, stirred things up and got the disciples moving.

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

One night as I was sitting in my chair and just paid attention to my breathing as I often do.

I imagined that the Holy Spirit was breath entering me, and when I exhaled, I was breathing out the Holy Spirit as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was reminded of this prophecy of Joel:

I will pour out my spirit upon all humankind.

Your sons and daughters shall prophesy,

your old men shall dream dreams,

your young men shall see visions.

Even upon the servants and handmaids,

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

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

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

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

“Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord:”  See I will bring spirit into you that you may come to life again.  

Breathe into these slain, O Spirit that they may come to life.” (Ezekiel 37: 1)

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

~ ~ ~ ~

There is still another thing to note from the Pentecost story.  A tongue of fire rested individually on the heads of each person.  The Spirit of God has a special relationship with each of us.  The Spirit will enliven us according to the gifts and talents of each one.

So this Holy Spirit does wondrous things!

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

“There are different gifts but the same Spirit; there are different ministries, but the same Lord; 

there are different works but the same God who accomplishes all of them in every one. 

To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

The body is one and has many members, many though they are, are one body;  and so it is with Christ. 

It was in one Spirit that all of us, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, were baptized into the one body.  

All  of us have been given to drink of the one Spirit.”     (I Cor. 12)  

In the Gospel today from John (there are two choices; this is the second option), Jesus says to his disciples:

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always.  (John 14: 15-16)  

Jesus did not leave us to struggle with the Christian life alone.  He would send us another Helper. According to our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay the Greek word is parakletos.

 (When I was first taught that word in catechism class and my Mom asked me what I learnt that day, I said, “The Holy Spirit was a parakeet.”)  

The Authorized Version, renders it Comforter,  but it really means someone who is called in to give witness in a court of law in one’s favor  ~ an Advocate.  Always a paracletos is someone called in to help in time of trouble or need. Comforter was once a good translation; the word comes from the Latin fortis  which means brave,  and a comforter was someone who enabled some dispirited person to be brave. These days comfort mostly has to do with sympathizing with someone with us when we are sad. So what Jesus is saying is: ” I am setting you a hard task, and I am send you out on a very difficult engagement.  But I am going to send you someone, the parakletos, who will guide you as to what to do and to enable you to do it.” (Barclay / Gospel of John / vol 2 / p. 166.)

The Spirit of God is as close to us as our own breath.  I have trained myself to become conscious of my breathing often each day.  So too can we train ourselves to be conscious of the Holy Spirit from moment to moment.

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

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

and enkindle in them the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.

and You shall renew the face of the earth.

May it be so.  May it be so.

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

Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end.
Amen. Alleluia.

And before you go, here is the haunting chant melody “Veni Creator Spiritus” and the English “Come Holy Ghost.”  Click here.    Be sure to enter full screen.  There are many images of Pentecost in art displayed there.

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

Acknowledgment:William Barclay / The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of John – Volume 2 – Revised Edition / The Westminster Press: Philadelphia 1975  (pp. 166-7.)

With love, 

Bob Traupman,

Contemplative Writer

 

YOU WILL BE MY WITNESSES to the ends of the earth!

IMG_0119THE FEAST OF THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD ~ May 8, 2016 

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. What good news this is!

Then there is the Ascension in which Jesus is taken up into heaven to sit at the Father’s right hand. This too is good news.

And finally, Pentecost in which God pours forth his Spirit upon the church and all humankind. Thus, the church was born and has continued to proclaim the good news for 2000 years.

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

Let us look at today’s feast—the Ascension.

The beginning of the Acts of the Apostle (first reading), written by the same author as Luke’s gospel, describes the experience. First he talks about the resurrection, that Jesus presented himself alive to the disciples after his crucifixion, and appeared to them during forty days and spoke to them about the kingdom of God.

He enjoined them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father.” “John baptized with water,” he said, but “in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” He, of course, was referring to Pentecost.

The disciples asked, “Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now?   Jesus told them that was not for them to know – only the Father, but 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.

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.”

Thus, the feast of Ascension is about heaven and about earth.

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

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.” (1:23)

Thus, there is a cosmic dimension to Christology.   That, in a way, is what the feast of Ascension celebrates.   The great mystic and theologian Father Teilhard de Chardin talked about “Christogenesis.” He saw the entire universe evolving by the power of Christ’s all-embracing love toward an Omega Point—toward Christ himself.

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” as if the whole planet was the body of Christ.

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

Thus, the feast of Ascension is also about earth. The angels ask the disciples:

“Why are you standing there looking up in the sky?” You 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 their own senses, and sheltered in their own mind and heart, what their account of the truth is.

I consider myself a witness to the resurrection. I have had enough experiences of risen life, of Jesus, 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 at times immersed in the mystery of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I know Christ’s resurrection and ascension also because Jesus has allowed me the privilege to share his life with others. I’m aware that others have deepened and enriched their faith as the Holy Spirit worked through me.

And if you think about it, I am sure you will find that others have come to Jesus through your word and example. You, too, are witnesses of the Resurrection.

And here is a mystery—the suffering, death and resurrection and ascension of Jesus—a mystery   about how the faith is shared with us that has its origin in God—a wonderful mystery that I call you to participate in. And if you know that mystery already, then I call us to rejoice in it on this feast day.

So Jesus, gone to heaven, gives authority to his apostles and disciples on earth. And WE are his witnesses!

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.

Let us pray that the Holy Spirit be poured out on each of us, upon our nation, and on all humankind.

Now, before you go, here’s the great psalm for the day “God mounts his throne with shouts of Joy” with a slide show. Click here.

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

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

Intimacy with God

IMG_1770THE SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER ~ MAY 1, 2016

Today’s gospel reading is another section of Jesus’ Last Discourse at the Last Supper, as recorded in John’s Gospel.  And, as Jesus was talking with his own disciples, it helps us to think about our own relationship with the Lord.

Are we close to him? Do we allow him to get close to us? Or do we keep him at arm’s length?

Some of us do not want to deal with the Lord as a friend. For some, he is more of an impersonal “boss,” a Ruler who compels us to impersonally obey – from a distance as Bette Midler once sang.

For others of us, he is our “best friend,” our dear brother,” “our shepherd.”

I’d like to invite you, right now, to think about your relationship with the Lord.

In the church before the Second Vatican Council, our Lord seemed to be distant from us, unapproachable. And so we returned the favor; we kept Jesus outside of us, not close enough for us to invite him into our souls. Many of us kept him out of sight and out of mind. And in the old church, some folks would put off  dealing with Christ or the Church until their deathbed.

After Vatican II for a while there were some renewal movements that brought people close to Jesus.   I made a Cursillo (Little course in Christianity) back in 1971, just two years after my ordination. It had a very significant impact on my life in that it helped me bring others to Christ.

Four years later, I encountered the Lord up close and personal in a meditation I experienced on a retreat. That moment changed my life. From that day in February 1976, Jesus has been close to me, even though I have not always been close to him.

Jesus is now my best friend. I let him into my soul. I don’t exclude him from areas of my soul that are still in disarray. I let him “listen in” on my thoughts that I know he would not quite approve of. I am not afraid to let him know me – as I am, for I know he accepts me as I am I don’t have to hide things from him. Or for that matter, from myself. I feel his love, a love that embraces all of me – just as I am ~ warts and all.

Some people, on the other hand, keep Jesus on the periphery of their lives because they know that if they let him in close, they’ll have to change and they’re not ready to change, so they keep the Lord at bay. Sometimes Jesus comes knocking at the door of our soul and we turn him away. What indignities we put the Lord through!

What I’ve found, however, that Jesus will be for us, as he was for the woman caught in adultery. He accepted the woman as she was and allowed her to change because she realized his love.

To know the personal love of the Lord is a wonderful, exhilarating experience. It’s an experience that you can have – perhaps on your own doing, or with the help of a friend and guide.

Then you’ll want to live your whole life in friendship with the Lord. You don’t have to wait until you die to live fully reconciled with Christ. You don’t have to wait until you die to experience holiness and wholeness. Jesus offers his very own life and love to you right here, right now!

Now let us take a close look at today’s gospel. There are three sections that are appropriate for our discussion.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and make our dwelling with him.

Our own soul becomes the dwelling place for God and God will abide with us forever.

St. Thomas Aquinas says that three things are necessary for a person who wants to see God: one draw near to God; and one must lift his eyes in order to see God; and one must take time to look, for spiritual things cannot be seen if one is absorbed by earthly things.

Accepting the reality of God’s dwelling with us is the heart of the gospel.

It’s an invitation we should not decline lightly.

And 2)

I have told you this while I am with you.
The Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything
and remind you of all that I told you.

The Spirit consoles us in our sadness over our past sins. He leads us to the Son. He makes us sharers in divine wisdom and knowers of the truth. In a hidden way he aids our remembrance because, being love, he excites us.

Even more intimate than Jesus’ abiding with us is the Holy Spirit who is as close to us as our own breath. Let us prepare ourselves to celebrate once again the feast of Pentecost in which we celebrate the Spirit’s work in us and among us.

And 3)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.

Not as the world gives do I give it to you

Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.

A true and abiding relationship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit brings an abiding peace. Even though all the issues of our life may not be totally resolved, we will be at peace with ourselves, we will be at peace with God.

In another Easter gospel, Jesus says,

I am the Vine and we are the branches.

Live on in me, as I do in you.

No more than a branch can bear fruit

of itself apart from the vine,

can you bear fruit apart from me.

I am the vine, you are the branches,

The one who lives in me and in him

Will produce abundantly,

For apart from me you can do nothing.

There you have it. We are called to a real intimacy with Jesus. He can be a part of us and we, a part of him..

Let him into your life.

Talk to him about matters of the heart.

Let him in on your most secret thoughts.

Let Jesus be your friend – all the days of your life.

To bring others to Jesus and to bring Jesus to others has been at the heart of my priestly ministry. There has been no greater work for me than this.

Jesus,

I pray as you prayed that night with your friends. 

I thank you for your love and friendship all these years;

 I pray for all the people I’ve served through the years,

bless them, Lord, wherever they are.  

And I thank you for wonderful inspiration of the Holy Spirit                                                                                                                                                    that has informed my life in so many ways.  

I ask you, Jesus, to draw someone who’s reading this blog to yourself.  

Let them know your love; touch them and draw them to yourself.

And send down your Spirit upon us once again; renew your Church,

and splash the Spirit all over our country, for we surely need a good dose of it as on the first Pentecost!

To You, Jesus, be all Glory and Honor and Praise! Amen. 

Now, before you go, here’s a beautiful song  with a slide show to accompany our theme of Intimacy with God. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full-screen.

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

Acknowledgment: Magnificat Liturgical Magazine / May 2016 / Lectio Divina notes for the Sixth Sunday of Easter / p. 21. 

With love, 

Bob Traupman 

contemplative writer

 

Shepherd me, O God!

windowslivewriter6ab411fbef2a-7c76image0-thumb21The Fourth Sunday of Easter ~ April 17, 2016

Good Shepherd Sunday

Chances are each time we hear about the Good Shepherd, our minds conjure up a picture of Jesus in long flowing robes, carrying a staff and walking ahead of some sheep.

I have always been fascinated about the way sheep are herded. They follow their shepherd, who walks in front of them. They are not goaded like cattle. Cowboys herd cattle from behind, pushing them forward. Not so with sheep.

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

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

In another place Jesus distinguishes between true and false shepherds. The false ones are 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

While we love the image of the Good Shepherd, most of us lack firsthand acquaintance with either a shepherd or with sheep.

So let’s look at a comparison, one that is much more familiar to us. While we’re not likely to be greeted by a flock of sheep when we open the door, many of us have been greeted by – a Dog!

Anyone who has ever shared a home with a dog as I do will see the parallel immediately. For in this case, you are the good shepherd, the one who cares totally for another.

Just as we are completely dependent on God for everything, so, too, your dog is totally dependent on you. A relationship is established that is truly unique. The bond is impossible to describe, but also impossible to deny.

Magnify that many times over and listen again to the opening words of today’s gospel: “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. There is instantaneous, constant communication as we seek to become one with this Good Shepherd. The closer, the more intimate that relationship, the better we will comprehend the words of our Shepherd: “No one can take them out of my hand.”

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

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

Our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay has this to add about this passage. . . .

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

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

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

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

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

Look again, though, at the relationship between you and your faithful canine companion. If you have not experienced this personally, you have heard many true stories of the mutuality of affection. Your dog gives you, unconditional love, loyalty that cannot be broken, unequaled devotion. You are the center of your dog’s universe; everything revolves around you; you can do no wrong. Your dog’s will is perfectly conformed to yours. (except when he wants to go in a different direction than you want to.) That happens with my dog Shoney when there’s a female nearby!

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

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

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

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

Christ is Risen!

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

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

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

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Lord, You know that I Love You

rhpas0822Third Sunday of Easter ~ April 10, 2016

I’ll rely on our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay for a commentary on today’s Gospel. It’s the third Resurrection appearance in the Gospel of John and it’s a charming story. Jesus fixes breakfast beside the seashore for his disciples at dawn. Lovely, don’t you think?

The guys had been fishing all night and hadn’t caught anything. Heard this story before? This is a replay of their very first meeting. Jesus suggests they cast their nets to the starboard side. (They don’t recognize him quite yet.) When they do as he says, they haul in a great number of fish.

And John says, “The disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’”

Then good ol’ impetuous Peter hastily throws on a tunic and jumps into the water dragging the net full of fish.

John, who uses symbolism all through his writing, notes that there were 153 large fish and the net was not broken. (We’ll discuss this a bit later.)

Then John writes, “Jesus said, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ And he took bread and gave it to them, and gave them fish in the same way.” And he adds, “ This was the third time Jesus showed himself to the disciples after he had been raised from the dead.

Barclay notes that the catch is not described as a miracle as it frequently happens on a lake.  A person standing on the shore can often see a shoal of fish more clearly than those in the water. And it may have been because of the grey dark that they didn’t recognize him. But the eyes of the youngest disciple John were sharp.

Now to the meaning of the 153 fishes. In the Fourth Gospel, everything has meaning. Barclay gives lists of “many ingenious suggestions for this symbolism.” But I will choose only the one that makes the most sense as given by St. Jerome.

He said that in the sea there were 153 kinds of different fishes; and the catch is one which includes one of every kind of fish; and therefore the number suggests that some day all men of all nations will be gathered together in Jesus Christ.

We may note further that all these fish were gathered in this net and it wasn’t broken. The net stands for the Church; and there is room for all people of all nations in the Church.

Here John is telling us in his own vivid yet subtle wall of the universality of the Church. There is no kind of exclusivity in her, no kind of color bar or selectiveness. The Church is as universal as the love of God in Jesus Christ.

But there is more.

“ When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
Jesus said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

First, we must note the question Jesus asked Peter, “Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me more than these?”   As far as the language goes, it could mean two things equally well.

 It may be that Jesus swept his hand around the boat and its nets and equipment and the catch of fishes and said to Peter, “Simon, do you love me more than these?”

Are you prepared to give up a steady job and reasonable comfort in order to give yourself forever to my people and my work? This may have been a final decision to give all his life to the preaching of the gospel and the caring for Christ’s folk.

Or it may be that Jesus looked at the rest of the little group of the disciples and said to Peter, “Simon, do you love me more than your fellow disciples do? It may be that Jesus was looking back to the night when Peter said, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” It may be that he was reminding Peter how once he thought he alone could be true and how his courage had failed. It is more likely that the second meaning is right, because Peter does not make comparisons anymore; he is content to say, “You know that I love you.

Jesus asks the question three times—as Peter denied the Lord three times.

Jesus is gracious in his forgiveness. He gave Peter the chance to affirm his love and to wipe out the memory of the threefold denial by a threefold declaration of love.

Thus, we must note what love brought Peter.

~ It brought him a task. “If you love me,” Jesus said, ”then give your life to shepherding the sheep and lambs of my flock.”

We can prove that we love Jesus only by loving others. Love is the greatest privilege in the world, but it brings great responsibility.

~ It brought Peter the cross. Jesus said to him . . . .

Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.
And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

The day came when, in Rome, when Peter did die for his Lord; he, too, was nailed to the Cross, and he asked to be nailed head downward, for he said he was not worthy to die as his Lord had died.

Love brought Peter a task, and it brought him the cross.

Love always involves responsibility, and it always involves sacrifice. We don’t really love Christ unless we are prepared to face the task he has prepared for us and the Cross he has given us.                  (Barclay/ Gospel of John / Vol. 2 pp. 284-6))

Lord Jesus, you know that I love You.

As your priest, I have tried to feed the people I’ve served as best I could.

Sometimes, I have failed, as Peter did.

You have given me crosses to carry throughout my life.

Sometimes, I was petulant and not carried them graciously.

I have tried to love, Lord.

Increase my capacity to love and to serve, even as I grow older.

This evening, Lord—as always, Lord Jesus,

I just want you to know that I love You.

Please be with those who do not know Your love.  

And now, before you go, here’s the beloved Latin American song about the  Jesus on the seashore ~ Pescadores de Hobres.  Click here. 

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

William Barclay /The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of John / Volume 2 revised edition / The Westminster Press / Philadelphia / 1975

With love, 

Bob Traupman 

contemplative writer