Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sending and Receiving

First Reading: Acts 13:13-25
Responsorial Psalm: 89:2-3, 21-22, 25, 27 -- For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
Gospel: John 13:16-20
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. - John 13:20
Today, we hear Jesus' words just after washing the feet of the Apostles. It is a beautiful moment, where Our Lord is describing the order of authority; those sending and those sent. He emphasizes that those who receive his messengers are in fact, receiving Him.

When one is sent, they are always sent to something or someone. In the Apostles case, they are being sent to speak to the people of the world. In fact, this is the reason that they were given the name Apostles: from the Greek Apostolos - one who is sent on a mission. Note that Jesus does not put any qualifiers on this proclamation. It does not apply to the Apostles only. As the Church, we believe that the mission of the Apostles continues; we are still being sent to teach the message of Christ. We are also instructed to receive those messengers, so that we may receive Christ. And in receiving Christ, we will receive and come to know the One who sent Him.

Finally, it is important to note the context again. Jesus is telling his disciples this just after a very pronounced act of humility. The ones being sent are not of authority on their own, nor are they powerful men in worldly understanding. We are to understand two things: first, that they (and those that come after them) are messengers only, and their authority comes from Christ. They do not have the ability to change His message. Second, that their spreading of the message must always be an act of humility, of self-giving. We do not spread the Gospel for fame or power or any other earthly thing. We must teach it as a servant to those in need, gently washing their sins and former life away because of love for them.

Heavenly Father, we thank You and praise You for Your glory. Thank you for leading us in the example of humility, for teaching us to love as You love. Lord, grant that in all our efforts to spread your word, we do not lose the message of Your great love for all. Let that love flow through those You have sent to those who receive them, that all might be healed and glorify Your name. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Callling and Sending

First Reading: Acts 12:24—13:5a
Psalm: 67:2-3, 5, 6 and 8 -- O God, let all the nations praise you!
Gospel: Jn 12:44-50
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off. - Acts 13:2-3
In today's reading, we hear the beginning of Paul's first missionary journey. There are three things that jump out with this reading: prayer, the call and the sending.

It is very important to note how this mission begins, with prayer. And not only prayer, but with fasting as well. These two actions go together and are of vital importance when one is seeking to know God's will. The question often comes up why fasting is necessary, why not just prayer? Simply, it is because in fasting from something that we draw away from the world and closer to Christ. Jesus Himself prayed and fasted in the desert before beginning His ministry. Later, He tells his disciples "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me" (Matthew 16:24).

Within prayer and fasting comes the calling. These must come first, because it is only in the stillness of prayer and the emptying of ourselves through fasting that we can hear that call. It is always there and may poke and prod at us at other times too, but we do not hear it clearly. It becomes a faint tugging at our minds and hearts during the normal hum-drum of the day.

Finally comes the sending. It is tempting to put this step first; to get a start as soon as possible. Yet it is necessary that we wait until the sending, that we may have good direction. Even once called, it is still up to us to act. Prayer has strengthened us for the journey and the calling has directed us what to do. Our mission is clear and has been approved by the authority over us. However, it still remains our choice as to whether we will begin. May the Lord grant us the courage to take that step (and all subsequent ones) on the ministry to which we are called.

Heavenly Father, we give joyful thanks for the gift of this day. Thank you for sending powerful teachers to your servants on Earth. Lord, we offer a prayer for discernment, that we might discover Your will for us. Fill us with the graces necessary to pray, fast and listen for Your Word in our heart, and the humility and courage to follow where You lead. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

E Pluribus Unum

First Reading: Acts 11:19-26
Psalm: 87 -- All you nations, praise the Lord.
Gospel: Jn 10:22-30
I tell of Egypt and Babylon among those who know the LORD;
Of Philistia, Tyre, Ethiopia: “This man was born there.”
And of Zion they shall say: “One and all were born in her;
And he who has established her is the Most High LORD.”
They shall note, when the peoples are enrolled: “This man was born there.”
And all shall sing, in their festive dance: “My home is within you.” - Psalm 87:4-7
There were some Cypriots and Cyrenians among them, however, who came to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks as well, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. - Acts 11:20-21
My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. - John 10:27
One of the greatest things about Christianity is that it is for everyone. You need not be born into a certain ethnicity or a selected country. You need not belong to this or that social or economic circle. We are united by something greater than any earthly institution.

All three of the readings today highlight this Christian inclusiveness. The psalm mentions five nations whom the Israelites have had contact with, most of it not friendly. The Egyptians had enslaved them; the Babylonians and citizens of Tyre were pagans; the Philistines had (recently for the psalmist) fought with the Israelites for years over control of Judea. Yet, the psalmist prophesies that those born there will know the Lord. Even more, he says that they will recognize their true home as Zion, the Lord's mountain.

In Acts, we hear of the very first instance of the gentiles hearing the Word of God. In fact, it was this very instance that began the ministries of Paul and Barnabas. This was so revolutionary that they now needed a new word to describe the community. They couldn't be seen only as a sect of Judaism any longer. A new standard was needed under which all the followers of Jesus could be identified. Thus, it was in Antioch that they first came to be known as Christians.

Finally, in the gospel, we have a reiteration from Sunday's reading with Jesus' statement that He knows his sheep and they will follow Him. Just before this reading, we hear another wonderful verse: "I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd" (John 10:16). We are united in one faith, by one Lord. It is in Christ that the many become one, where the diverse people of the world become the Universal Church.

Heavenly Father, we thank You for giving us another day to glorify Your name. Thank you for giving us a home, a family where we are always welcome and none are turned away. Lord, heal Your Church of all divisions; Holy Spirit, guide us in overcoming our differences; Jesus, gather Your flock and lead us home. We ask this through the same Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.

Monday, April 26, 2010


First Reading: Acts 11:1-18
Psalm: Ps 42:2-3; 43:3-4 -- Athirst is my soul for the living God.
Gospel: Jn 10:1-10

“If then God gave them the same gift he gave to us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to be able to hinder God?”
When they heard this, they stopped objecting and glorified God, saying, “God has then granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles too.” - Acts 11:17-18
Have you ever been in a situation where not everyone wanted you to be there? Perhaps at a party, overhearing someone whisper, "How did they get in?" Or maybe working at a job, "I can't believe that they hired him." Perhaps we've even said something like this ourselves. What spurs these comments? Is it not that they (or we) feel a touch of pride at being invited ourselves, and having others there lessens it?

Today's readings are a beautiful continuation from Sunday's readings, with Paul preaching to the Gentiles, who rejoice, while the Jews throw him out because of jealousy. It is a great reminder that we are called to be Christians by God and led by Jesus, the Good Shepherd. We have no reason to be prideful, because it is not we who are leading. We have no cause to boast about being called to follow; all have received the invitation. We must be careful not to squabble about whether someone is worthy to attend. If we do, we may find that the host of the banquet hears our complaint and He will say to us, "My friend, did you not know? I invited them myself, to be my honored guest."

For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. - Galatians 3:26-28
Heavenly Father, we thank You for the great gift of this day. We celebrate the generosity through which we have been called to follow Jesus. Lord, guard our hearts, that we might not become prideful of our calling. Rather, grant that we become more like You, ready to accept all who call on Your name. Fill us with the desire that all will come to Your sacred heart and join in the eternal banquet of everlasting life. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

New Signs Coming Soon

My, time flies when you're having fun. And when you're preparing for your first child too!

I have not abandoned Signs on the Narrow Way, but it is waiting for an appropriate time to return.

Expect new Signs after Easter.

May the Lord richly bless you and grant you His peace.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A birth and an announcement

First Reading: Mi 5:1-4a or Rom 8:28-30
Psalm: 13:6 -- With delight I rejoice in the Lord
Gospel: Mt 1:1-16, 18-23 or 1:18-23

Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary


In reading the long version of the gospel today, I couldn't help but smile every time I read the words 'father' or 'mother'. The words seem to have new meaning today. I am blessed to announce today, on the birthday of our Blessed Mother, that my wife and I are expecting our first child!

I encourage everyone to read today's scriptures, but will not comment on them today. Instead, we offer this prayer:

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of death. Amen.

Hail, holy Queen, mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope.
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Rejoice with us, as we celebrate the blessings our Lord has bestowed on us. Let us together sing of His goodness!

Heavenly Father, we thank you and praise you for this day, and all of its blessings. We ask that you guide us as we begin our new lives as parents. Let the example of your Blessed Mother and St. Joseph stand ever before us and shine in our lives. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord. Amen.