Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Feast of Saint Mathias: Called to Go Forth

According to the Acts of the Apostles, Matthias, a witness of the Lord’s ministry and resurrection, was chosen by the apostles to take the place of Judas Iscariot (cf. Acts 1:15-26). Saint Matthias received the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and he is said to have preached the Gospel in Judea. Later traditions link him to the churches in Cappadocia and Ethiopia. Honored as a martyr, his relics were translated from Jerusalem to Rome by the Empress Saint Helena.

Saint Matthias from the workshop
of Simone Martini
It is fitting that we celebrate the feast day of an Apostle on this final day before Pentecost. The witness of Saint Matthias and the other Apostles and early Church leaders who left behind home and family to preach and teach about Jesus is an important lesson for us today: Each of us has received the same Holy Spirit that inspired their ministry and service and we too are called to go out from our homes into our parishes and communities to invite others to follow Jesus.

Take time today to reflect on how the Holy Spirit is at work within your heart and soul. How do you feel God calling you to “go forth”? What does it mean for you that you have been chosen by God and entrusted with a unique vocation for the building up of the Kingdom of God?

Prayer +
O God, who assigned Saint Matthias
a place in the college of Apostles,
grant us, through his intercession,
that, rejoicing at how your love has been allotted to us,
we may merit to be numbered among the elect.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal)

This reflection was originally written for www.aleteia.org and published on their website on May 14, 2016.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Our Lady of Fatima: Honoring Mary in Prayer

On the 13th day of May, we celebrate the Virgin Mary who appeared to three shepherd children at Fatima, Portugal, six times between May 13 and October 13, 1917. In these encounters, Mary identified herself as “Our Lady of the Rosary” and urged the practice of penance, daily recitation of the Rosary, and devotion to the Immaculate Heart for the conversion of sinners and of Russia. 


On May 13, 2000, Pope Saint John Paul II beatified Jacinta and Francisco Marto, two of the visionaries. The commemoration of Our Lady of Fatima was extended to the Universal Church in 2002.

Although there are many who focus on the signs and wonders associated with the apparitions at Fatima, Mary’s message to the children—and to us—is very simple: Pray! And our commitment to prayer—for the Church, for those entrusted to our care, for the poor and forgotten—are the greatest acts of devotion we can show to the Mother of God.

Take time today to pray the rosary for those who have no one to pray for them or who have drifted away from the practice of their faith. Ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to be a mother for them, guiding them to her Son. Pray, too, that God will abundantly bless Pope Francis and Church and leaders with the gifts of the Holy Spirit as they continue to proclaim the Good News of God’s Mercy in the world today. 

 
Prayer +
O God, who chose the Mother of your Son to be our Mother also,
grant us that, persevering in penance and prayer
for the salvation of the world,
we may further more effectively each day the reign of Christ.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal)

This post was originally written for www.Aleteia.org and published on their website on May 13, 2016.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Ascension: Jesus is Lord of All Times and Peoples

As they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you 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.”—Acts 1:9-11
In her novel Gilead, Marilyn Robinson shares the story of Reverend John Ames who, looking back on a life of pastoral service, love, loss, faith, and hope, tells his young son:
Sometimes the visionary aspect of any particular day comes to you in the memory of it, or it opens to you over time. For example, whenever I take a child into my arms to be baptized, I am, so to speak, comprehended in the experience more fully, having seen more of life, knowing better what it means to affirm the sacredness of the human creature. I believe there are visions that come to us only in memory, in retrospect.
The New Testament is the story of the expanding vision of the early Church and shows us that the process of discovery and discernment didn’t take place in a vacuum — it was within the lived experience of the Church that answers to these fundamental questions began to take shape.


An understanding of Jesus’ return to the Father, of his ascension into heaven, was one of those visions “that come to us only in memory, in retrospect,” just like the experience of Jesus’ resurrection could only be understood after the disciples lived their Easter faith through years of praying, preaching, communion, fidelity, and suffering.

In his book Living Jesus, Luke Timothy Johnson reflected that “the withdrawal of Jesus is not so much an absence as it is a presence in a new and more powerful mode: when Jesus is not among them as another specific body, he is accessible to all as life-giving spirit.” Although, for many believers, the Ascension of Jesus seems to focus on his departure, the truth of the Ascension is that Jesus is still alive in our midst, but in a new way.

The Solemnity of the Ascension is a celebration of two promises. First, Jesus has promised that he will send us the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, to guide and sustain the growth of the Church. Beyond this, the Ascension also contains a promise about what is now made possible for us in Christ:
May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,
that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call,
What are the riches of glory
in his inheritance among the holy ones,
and what is the surpassing greatness of his power
for us who believe,
in accord with the exercise of his great might (Ephesians 1:18-19).

The challenge for us is to live in this promise.

It is so easy for us to become weighed down by our day-to-day responsibilities and the legion of distractions and diversions that are such a part of our contemporary culture that the hazy promise of some future reality (however glorious) can’t really compete. And yet as Christians, this is who we are: “Why do we on earth not strive to find rest with him in heaven even now, through the faith, hope and love that unites us to him? While in heaven he is also with us; and we while on earth are with him. He is here with us by his divinity, his power and his love. We cannot be in heaven, as he is on earth, by divinity, but in him, we can be there by love” (St. Augustine of Hippo in Sermo de Ascensione Domini).

The Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord is time to celebrate the certainty of Christ’s presence among us with joy. Jesus disappears from the disciples’ physical sight so that he might become more present to the eyes of their hearts.

We are called to foster the same spirit of discernment that the apostles and the first generations of Christian practiced as they gradually came to understand who Jesus was and could be for them. The vision of the glorified Lord, a promise of future glory, is something to be realized and lived here and now.

What does the Solemnity of the Ascension mean to you? How does it challenge you to expand your understanding of who Jesus is?

How does the apostles’ ongoing discernment and search for the Lord inspire you to see Christ at work in the world today?

How does this celebration strengthen your hope and trust in God’s presence and action in your life?

Words of Wisdom: “Jesus frees himself from the limits of space and time to become present to the people of every time and place, and to offer everyone the gift of salvation.”—Pope St. John Paul II, Homily of May 23, 1998

This post was originally written for Aleteia.org and published on their website on May 7, 2016.