The Courage to Get Up and Go
Today we have the celebration of the Feast of the Visitation on the Church calendar combined with the American celebration of Memorial Day. I think we often overlook how difficult a journey it was for Mary to travel from Nazareth all the way to Jerusalem and on the the “hill country” town of Ein Karem, the home of Elizabeth. We see Mary respond so easily. She goes “with haste” even. She is a woman of virtue who sees a need and just goes. On this Memorial Day, the story of the visitation reminds me of this same kind of spirit in those who have given their lives in service of our country. When there was an urgent need, people in trouble, the world threatened, how many American soldiers volunteered and went “with haste” to do their duty, many giving their lives in this service. We are grateful today for this spirit of sacrifice that has bought us the gift of freedom. May each of us have this spirit as we look out for our brothers and sisters in need and go “with haste” to help them.
A Communion of Love
The Trinity is a complicated thing. Today’s homily tells how even the great St. Augustine was reminded that he would never be able to fully understand this mystery. How can God be 3 persons in 1 God? The things we can say about each person of the Trinity we learn from sacred scripture. Perhaps the most obvious thing about the Trinity…and the easiest to understand…is often the most overlooked. God is not an isolated individual, but is rather a communion of persons. You could say that our God is a family of persons.
To say that “God is love” is often hard to grasp. To love, you need someone to love. You can’t love in isolation. It is not surprising then that God would not be alone, but would be a communion. The Trinity is a communion of love. Perhaps the easiest way to understand the meaning of this is to look at our families. They are supposed to be communions of love. Let us look to the Trinity today as our example. Let us be willing to lay down our life in love for others. We just might find the Trinity a little more understandable.
Being a Good Priest
We are all familiar with the ordained priesthood, but did you know that everyone who is baptized is a priest? The job of a priest is to offer sacrifice and we see the ordained priest offering the sacrifice of Jesus at the altar. However, all of the baptizied should come to Mass with something to offer. We “offer up” all the struggles and difficutlies of our day in union with the sacrifice of Christ. So be a good priest and come to Mass with an intention next time and offer it up to God.
Come Follow Me
The story of the “rich young man” in today’s Gospel is a challenge to all of us. This young man received the great call of Jesus to come and follow Jesus but was unable to answer the call. He had been living a good life and following the commandments, but he is ultimately not able to follow Jesus. His material possessions get in the way and he goes away sad.
What gets in the way of you saying yes to Jesus? Let’s not be afraid to leave anything behind in order to follow Jesus more closely. If we do so, not only will we avoid going away sad through this life, but we will have the great joy of a life in Christ.
Preparing for a Birthday
Today’s feast of Pentecost is often called the “birthday” of the Church. It was on this day that the Holy Spirit came upon Mary and the Apostles gathered in the upper room and the Church was then made very visible as they spilled out into the streets proclaiming the good news. Although we can rightfully see this as a sort of “birthday,” it would be incorrect to think that the Church began on this day.
When a baby is born, we celebrate that we can see the baby now visibly in the world, but no one would claim that somehow the baby only came into existence at the moment of its birth. For the previous nine months the baby was being formed in his or her mother’s womb. In a similar way the Church was being formed for 9 days following the Ascension in quiet and expectant prayer in the upper room. Although Jesus had given the Church it’s mission at his ascension, he did not send them off on their own at that point. Rather he told them to wait in Jerusalem for coming of the Spirit. Only when they had received the Spirit were they ready to go out.
There is an important message here for all of us. We can’t be the Church by each of us going off and doing our own thing. The first reading tells us plainly that “they were all together” when the day of Pentecost came. We need to gather together in prayer to receive the Holy Spirit. We gather today in the “upper room” of our church, around the altar of the Eucharist, with the Apostles and Mary and we pray. Come Holy Spirit. It is the birthday of the Church once again.
Peace Amidst the Troubles of the World
Perhaps our natural response to opposition and setbacks is to assume that we have done something wrong. In today’s gospel, Jesus says quite the opposite. Jesus tells us to expect trouble from the world when we follow after him. Indeed, we can even see trouble and opposition as a sign that we are fact doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing. Jesus promises us peace amidst the troubles of the world. He promises us the Holy Spirit to be our comforter and encourager. Let us strive to know the Holy Spirit better and trust in Jesus promise, “Have courage. I have overcome the world.”
Hope for Those Just Passing Through
Today’s homily tells the story of a man who came to realize that we really don’t have a lasting home in this world; in truth we are all “just passing through.” The Solemnity of the Ascension which we celebrate today also reminds of us this fact. We should live our lives with our eyes fixed on heaven as the apostles eyes were fixed on Jesus as he ascended. As we sing in the liturgy today, “Where he has gone, we hope to follow.”
One would think that heaven would be an obvious goal for our lives, but do we really hope for heaven? Do we tend to think of heaven as simply the events of this world continuing on forever? Perhaps we wish for a place with only the good things in life and none of the bad. But still, if heaven is just more of this life stretched on forever, this seems more like a curse than a blessing. Heaven has got to be something radically different from the life we experience here.
Pope Benedict offers a cure for this thinking. He suggests that we see heaven not so much as “a place to go” but rather as a “person.” Heaven is not just some generic place of happiness. The joy of heaven comes precisely from being with Jesus. If we long to be with Jesus and live our lives set on this goal, then we will have our wish. We will experience the joy of being forever with the one we love. That indeed is something to look forward to with great hope.
Yet we need not wait until our death or Jesus’ return in glory to begin living this way. We’ve got to form this intimate relationship with Jesus right now in this life. In that respect, heaven really isn’t so radically different than this life. If our life is based on a relationship with Jesus, then we will find great joy in this life and will find ourselves very much at home when we get to heaven. This is the great hope held out for us today in the feast of the Ascension.
Roses for Our Mother
May is the month in which we traditionally honor Mary and often crown her statues with wreaths of flowers. While this is a special event for May, we can actually “crown” Mary with our prayers any time. The tradition of praying the rosary developed from this idea. The prayers we say on each bead of the rosary are meant be like beautiful roses that we offer to Mary. The rosary is even designed in a circle, like a crown of roses.
I have read in the lives of the saints that sometimes while praying the rosary they would actually smell the scent of roses. This was seen as a great miracle from Our Lady to show her happiness with the prayer. I once had a similar experience…but you’ll have to listen to the recording to get the whole story.
The rosary is a beautiful way to meditate on the life of Jesus. As we reflect on the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious mysteries, we do so through the eyes of Mary. In all the important events in the life of Jesus, we find Mary close by his side. On this Mothers’ Day, we are also mindful that our own mother’s have often been right by our side too for all the important events in our life. Like Jesus, as we too go through joys and sorrows, our moms are there with us.
The circular nature of the rosary also points toward another truth of our faith. As we “go around” the life of Jesus again and again through the mysteries, we keep bumping into the cross. The otherwise perfect circle of the rosary has this rather interesting attachment of the cross to cause us to stop. In all the events in life we will find the cross popping up. Yet Jesus tells us not to let our hearts be troubled. He says that he leaves us peace. Jesus is on that cross clanking around on our rosaries, and he is with us through the crosses in our life.
So, whether you find your life in a joyful, illuminated, sorrowful, or glorious state right now, you will find the cross, and you will find Jesus there. Where you find Jesus, Mary is sure to be close by. May God bless all our mothers today and may our heavenly mother help bring us to Jesus.
Following the Spirit
In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we see how Paul changes his plans several times because, as he says, “The Spirit prevented me.” Can we say in our own lives that we are listening well enough to the voice of the Spirit that we recognize Him directing us? If not, perhaps we need to spend more time in quiet prayer and learn to listen. Another reason why we may not always hear the Spirit is that the spirit of the age, the evil spirit, may be choking out the voice of the good Spirit.
Often we follow the spirit of the age without even thinking about it. We just go with the flow. Jesus promises us that if we follow after him, the world will hate us. If we’re getting along too comfortably in this life, it’s a good sign that we are probably following the wrong spirit. Likewise, if we are often persecuted and don’t fit in for following the path that Jesus seems to demand, that’s a good sign that we’re on the right track and following the lead of the Holy Spirit. Let’s be sure to take time for prayer so that we hear and follow the right Spirit.