Christ is risen – Alleluia!

Photo by Ian Beckley

Easter morning is full of images -- the empty tomb, the voice of angels, Mary's encounter with Jesus -- so rich, so full, and so basic to who we are as Christians.

Jesus is risen. Death could not hold him. And if it couldn't hold him, it can't hold us.

All that Jesus said about life and death wasn't really understood by his disciples, until it was made real in that empty tomb and encounter in the garden.

And every Easter, we get to share in it.

We share in the promises made to the Children of Israel and to the entire world through the Prophets. We share in the promises made to the disciples and to all who listened to Jesus as he walked towards his death upon a cross.

What is this Easter? It's God's promise of a new day. It's God's promise of a new life. It's God's promise of a new world coming to pass in our midst.

Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

This is an excerpt of a reflection written by Sister Therese Ann Rich in 2011.

What's your choice?

Written by Sister Therese Ann Rich in 2014

Photo by Irene Lasus

Get a powerful person angry and you often pay a penalty.

Martin I became the last pope-martyr for accepting his election without waiting for the emperor’s approval. That “mistake” was followed quickly by another: Martin condemned a notion the emperor favored.

Folks like the emperor preferred to think of Christ’s humanity as dissolving “like a drop of honey in the sea” of his divinity — rendering Christ’s free choice to save us as no choice at all.

This Easter Monday, remember that goodness must always be chosen, which makes us truly human and not puppets — as emperors then and now would like us to be.

All Are Welcome!

Written by Sister Therese Ann Rich in 2014

Our Chapel

The church is built on community.

Together, the People of God welcome new members in Baptism, come together to be fed in the Eucharist, and witness faith proclaimed at Confirmation.

Such community nurtures, supports, and affirms the universality and unity of church. When gathering around the table to celebrate, give thanks and worship, it’s helpful to look and see those around us.

Who isn’t present? Who isn’t being served at the table? Who have I shut out? Our call, especially this Holy Saturday, is to spread the Good News . . . and sometimes the greatest news is that all are welcome!


Written by Sister Therese Ann Rich in 2014

Photo by Amy Pointer

Why is a story of betrayal central to our Holy Week experience?

Was it really necessary? Is Judas the villain of the story, or perhaps simply a convenient scapegoat?

Truth be told, we’re all “the betrayer” in one way or another, in that even having heard the Good News, we forget it, neglect it, ignore it, overlook it… more often that we care to admit.

Oh well. That’s why we indeed need a savior. And though it may seem our betrayals kill him, the story of salvation has a different ending.

Stay tuned this week.

The Triduum Begins

Written by Sister Therese Ann Rich in 2014

Our Chapel, ready for Holy Thursday Mass

The Triduum, beginning with the liturgy on the evening of Holy Thursday and ending with evening prayer on Easter Sunday, is the church’s most sacred trifecta — after the Trinity, of course!

These moments are part of the one paschal celebration in which we, along with all of creation, journey with Christ through passion, death, burial and resurrection.

As you move from the joyous beginning of Holy Thursday into the quiet stillness of evening, take time to gather your own joys and struggles — and those of the rest of the world — and walk closely with Christ.

An Ash Wednesday reflection

By Vicki Vicars, Mission, Equity & Resilience Dir.

The Gospel reading for Ash Wednesday reminds us to give alms without blowing a trumpet, pray in the privacy of our rooms so that we don’t stand out before others, and fast without looking gloomy. 

This gospel message reminds us that the work that we do, the prayers that we offer, and the fasting that we commit to is really meant for God. These three spiritual practices are meant to deepen our union with the God who created us.

That’s the goal I believe we’re called to seek on this Lenten journey — union with God over accolades from others. Perhaps this gives us insight into what St. Angela Merici may have been thinking when she said, “Reflect that in reality you have a greater need to serve the poor than they have of your service.”  She knew what God calls us to in this gospel reading. 

The Ursuline charism of respect gently challenges us to uphold the dignity of those we work with and walk with. When we’re grounded in the message of the gospel, St. Angela Merici, and the Ursuline charism, we clearly can become a witness to God’s kingdom of mercy, goodness, and justice.  

For nearly 150 years the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown and all those involved in their many ministries have been faithfully giving alms, praying, and fasting to serve God and His people. May our work as staff, employees and Associates continue to do the same.

God bless your Lenten journey. 

Love Your Enemies

In teaching my nephew the concept of sharing, we used a classic device.

When children are called upon to share something, have one divide it and the other choose which half is hers/his. This can happen with a cookie, pizza or other items as well.

Rarely does one child say to the other, “You can have it all.” The purpose of the exercise is to share something in an equitable manner. Not only can this teach children a lesson, it can work for adults, too!

The advice Jesus gives in the Love Your Enemies story, found in Luke’s Gospel, couldn’t be more different. He’s calling us to a higher standard. It’s as though we’re asked to divvy up the treat and instead we say, “You can have it all.”

Even more, the sharing of a cookie between children might show they’re friendly. But Jesus speaks here of “enemies ” This is an entirely different category. Jesus assumes his ancient listeners have enemies, and that is something that transcends culture and time. Enemies are not limited to the ancient world!

Christians are to love their enemies, blessing them and praying for them. The Christian standard is one higher than what we could expect from the world with its transactional view of relationships. As Jesus himself notes, it’s fairly easy to love those who love us, and to do good to those who do good to us. But it’s another thing entirely to love those who are our enemies, to pray for them and to bless them. [Living Liturgy 2019]

We’re called to be this way because God is this way. God is “kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.” Should we be any different? We’re to be merciful as the Father is merciful. And here we see in our own time the example of mercy given to us by Pope Francis. It’s said that the word “mercy” is the hermeneutical key to his papacy. It is the way to understand and make sense of his actions. Pope Francis chose mercy because mercy is of God, and adopting mercy demonstrates we’re followers of his son, Jesus.

When faced with the extraordinary demands of the gospel outlined in this reading, one person said, “How can I do that? I’d end up with nothing?” Then we look to the example of Jesus who enfleshed the words he preached. Jesus himself loved his enemies and prayed for those who persecuted him.

In the Gospel of Luke we will hear Jesus from the cross pray for their forgiveness. What did he end up with? Nothing: he died on a cross. But of course we know the rest of the story. God raised him from the dead. Only by Jesus giving himself completely and without reservation to the point of death is he ultimately raised up to glory with the Father.

The words that form the conclusion of this gospel are especially apropos. “Forgive and you will be forgiven. . .For the measure with which you measure / will in return be measured out to you.”

We forgive others not so much for their sake but for our own.

Adapted from Renew International

Blessed Are You

My nephew was about to “graduate” from kindergarten. He put on his paper mortarboard and marched with his class to the stage. As he received his “diploma”, Jason shook hands with his teacher.  After the ceremony, we each said “Congratulations.”  Jason looked at us and asked, “What does that mean?” His mom and dad answered, “Good job!”

That answer worked for a five year old!

While this may be sufficient for a five year old, sometimes something deeper is intended.  If we look at the Latin – “congratulations” means “to be pleased with” or “graced with.” When we offer our congratulations, we are saying we rejoice with the other and it expresses a relationship.

The Beatitudes in our Gospel today announce God’s pleasure in and relationship to the poor, to those who are excluded and hated. With the Beatitudes, Luke highlights God’s generosity.

Luke seems to be exalting the downtrodden simply because they are downtrodden, and “cursing” the comfortable simply because they are comfortable. What really is at the heart of this Gospel is the manner of  life that makes present God’s reign of love. Jesus asks of us today to become people willing to feel our needs and to depend on God. Then we will also be open to our neighbor, to receive and to give. It is our relationship with God that motivates us to live the blessings that are given to us. And it is our relationship with God that motivates us to reach out to others. The model for this type of relationship is Jesus himself.

Adapted Renew Internationa lyear C

Go Deeper! Are You Serious Jesus?

As a child growing up around Lake Erie, there were many occasions to set out early in the morning on one of the many fishing boats. And as may be there were times when we sat out all morning with nothing to show for our efforts. Professionals we were not. And as we came to shore we were exhausted for our efforts. None of us would even think about going out again that day!

In our Gospel today, we find Jesus sitting in Simon Peter’s boat after the crowds have gone. Jesus knows that Peter is exhausted from his own efforts at fishing all night. He knows that he has caught nothing, but even still he turns to Peter and invites him to do something. “Go out into the deep water,” he says, “and there let down your nets.” It sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? But is it really? What is Jesus really asking here?

Jesus  is asking Simon Peter to trust him. To trust him so much that Peter would be willing to leave the shallow places in his life and in his work and begin to explore the depths. To go to the limits of what he thinks is possible, not only for him but for those all around him. “Go out into the deep water,” says Jesus, “trust me and see what happens.” [Living Liturgy 2019]

Peter becomes a model for discipleship. It happens in the moment when Peter responds to Jesus’ call and says, “but, if you say so.” Then off he goes—perhaps reluctantly—out into the deep water and there he finds abundance like he has never imagined.

Jesus doesn’t call Peter to be anything other than who he is. He doesn’t call Peter to be a rabbi like him, or even to a career in carpentry. Jesus calls Peter to live in the depths of his own life, not to try to live out Jesus’ life. Peter remains at heart a fisherman who has a heart for Jesus and for the humanity that Jesus serves.

For most of us, Jesus does not come in dramatic ways.  Rather, he comes in the ordinary events of the day. Our ordinary daily living can be a radical response to Jesus. The Good News is that God calls us as precisely we are and works through our humanity.

Adapted Renew International Year C

What’s In A Word?

There’s an old story about a couple that was walking out of church one Sunday: The wife asked the husband, “Did you see the strange hat Mrs. O’Brien was wearing?”

“No, I didn’t,” replied the husband.

“Bill Smith badly needs a hair cut, doesn’t he?” commented the wife.

“Sorry, but I didn’t notice,” her husband said.

“You know, John,” said the wife impatiently,” sometimes I wonder if
you get anything at all out of going to church.”

People get different things out of going to church, depending, it would seem, on what they expect to get when they go there. 

Today’s Gospel reading begins by telling us that when Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, that he went up to Nazareth – his home town – and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. 

What an interesting statement. He went into the synagogue, on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. 

Jesus grew up attended the synagogue in his home town it was his habit, his practice, his custom, to worship there on the Sabbath day and here he is, after his baptism and anointing with the Holy Spirit, here he is, after already having demonstrated his power and his righteousness, here he is, after showing through healings and teachings his connectedness to God attending weekly worship in the synagogue in his home town. [Living :Liturgy 2019]

Why? What did he expect to find there in that experience? Surely he knew it all already? What did he get out of it? Why did he go? 

I think that there are several reasons. 

The first and most basic of these is that Jesus attended the worship held each Sabbath day because it is part of what it means to keep the Sabbath Day – because it is part of what God commands us to do in the ten commandments. 

Second, I believe that Jesus went to the synagogue to hear the Word of God to be reminded of the Word of God and to be recreated by the Word of God this even though he was the Word of God made flesh! 

I believe that is because Jesus knew that the Word gives life no matter what container pours it out – just as water from a chipped and dented mug is as good as water from the finest crystal. 

Which brings me to another reason: the Word feeds us. The people of Israel in our first reading, and Jesus by his example today in the gospel reading, call us today to pay attention to the God who addresses us -it really means the difference between a life of exile or a life of, meaning and community; it means the difference between being fed and not being fed. 

Jesus went up to Nazareth – and on the Sabbath day, he entered the synagogue – as was his custom. 

I think he did this for many reasons – he did it so he might have fellowship with God; he did it to keep the commandments of God; he did it so he might be fed – so that he might be instructed and counseled. 

He did it too because it made him a part of God’s people, a people who were not only defined by the name they took and the law they obeyed but by the fact that they gathered together to hear and to pray to the one who named them. The one who said that they would be his people and that he would be their God, 

Today the scripture is fulfilled in our hearing as well. 

Our ministry? Transpose Jesus’ teachings from words on a page to a way of living. Who are the poor, the captives, the sightless in our midst? Who needs the glad tidings of God’s mercy and presence preached to them? Do our lives bear out our certainty of the Word enfleshed in us? 

Christian living is none other than taking God’s Word and making it concrete by the way we live. Our daily living is the Word made flesh among us.

Adapted from Renew International

A Wedding Feast

Among the many messages I received this Christmas was that of my sister’s son’s engagement. I wondered, “What do I get Jason and his fiancee?” 

Unlike earlier generations, this couple has no need for dishes or kitchenware; they have a starter house and it’s furnished.  And the least imaginative way to shop is the computerized gift registry! So I have a few months to shop!

In our Gospel today, Jesus and his mother have been invited to a wedding. And no one knows what gift he brought to this feast. However, this wedding is quite different.

Why does St. John begin his Gospel with a wedding story?  John uses the wedding story as a metaphor to show us that there is new wine among us and that the marriage is really a marriage between heaven and earth, God and us. [Living Liturgy Year c]

At this wedding, Jesus performs the first of signs that reveal his glory. The revelation of Jesus’ glory is a sign of the persistence of God’s overtures of love to us — God’s espousal love for us.

Our encounters with Jesus — in prayer, through others, in struggling with daily dying — are truly revelations of God’s glory that invites us to respond with belief.  These signs come in many ways — through others in a cry for help, in a lonely person’s plea for companionship, in spontaneous laughter, in the beauty of nature.

The challenge for us is to see ourselves as the good wine, emptied out for others to be filled with the goodness of God’s glory.

The Baptism of the Lord

Any parent of an adolescent knows that tension is an every day household word. The adolescent experiences tension within themselves as they grow toward adulthood and they begin to assert their independence! And as they grow toward adulthood, their behavior frustrates and angers parents. The tensions have a good side, though. For the adolescent, it means they are growing up. For the parents, it means they have a real opportunity to instill wholesome values and attitudes in their children.

In our Gospel today, there is a tension between John and Jesus. But this tension is between lesser and greater, sinner and one without sin.

Jesus comes to John for baptism. John judges the situation from his narrow perspective of how he felt he should be in relation to Jesus-he was the one needing baptism, not Jesus. By listening to Jesus and befriending the tension, John opened himself up to a broader vision of his relationship with Jesus.

How often do we experience tension between ourselves and what Jesus is asking us to do?

This gospel calls us to open ourselves and seek Christ’s coming into our lives.

God’s Surprises

This gospel from Luke is so very familiar to us. In fact, we just heard it a couple of weeks ago on December 8, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. On that day we interpreted the gospel within the context of the feast day, and focused on Mary’s holiness as announced by Gabriel’s greeting of her: “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”

"Mother of Life" Nellie Edwards, used with permission
“Mother of Life” Nellie Edwards, used with permission

Now, on the Fourth Sunday of Advent when we hear this gospel proclaimed again, we are drawn particularly to Gabriel’s annunciation that Mary would, by the power of the Holy Spirit, “conceive in [her] womb and bear a son.” Conception to birth: a time of waiting and anticipation, nurturing life and protecting it, preparing and hoping. Can we not imagine Mary and Joseph quietly sitting together during these wonderful months of pregnancy, wondering about this great mystery, putting their hands on Mary’s body and feeling “the child to be born” stirring in her womb? Each kick that a mother (and father) feels in the womb is an annunciation of life. Each movement is an annunciation of life eagerly bursting to come forth. In Mary’s womb, the Life stirring is the author of life and salvation, the very “Son of God,” announcing that a new in-breaking of God is happening. [Living Liturgy 2014]

God’s whole plan of salvation is a perpetual annunciation. In this gospel, there are numerous “annunciations” beyond Gabriel’s revealing to Mary that she would conceive “the Son of God.” Gabriel makes known that Mary is holy; that the child shall be named Jesus; that the kingdom of this Child would have no end; that this Child is “holy, the Son of God”; that Elizabeth has conceived; that “nothing will be impossible for God”; and that Mary is God’s faithful and obedient handmaid. Indeed, perpetual annunciation is God’s pattern of relating to us. How do we, then, relate to God? We do so by responding with a yes to God’s annunciations in our own lives. God chooses to be known to us, names us holy, and desires that we be filled with God’s Life. Our response, like Mary’s, must be one of openness and full-throated yes to whatever God asks of us.

God’s annunciations of saving Presence can come to us in so many ways. Yes, God speaks to us during times of prayer. But God also speaks to us through the everyday persons and events of our lives, in cries for help and forgiveness or in the jubilation of success and growth. God’s annunciations of salvation might be mediated by our struggle to make a just decision or our choice to walk away from a group engaging in negative gossip. Yes is not simply a word.

Deepening our relationship with God and others happens when our yes becomes a way of living.

We have only a few days left before we celebrate Christmas, the mystery of God becoming human. Now is the time to rehearse our own yes to God by imitating Mary’s faithfulness and obedience to God’s annunciations. Perhaps we could consciously think of our holiday greeting to others as a way to make generosity and joy concrete. Perhaps we could take a few minutes out of our busy days to listen for God’s word to us, say yes, and then put God’s annunciation into action, “enflesh” God’s Presence in the goodness of our own lives. God’s annunciations are perpetual and beg from us a yes response. Will this Christmas be a time to renew our own commitment to say yes to God and God’s offer of salvation?

Adapted from Renew International Prayer Time Year C

What Should We Do?


In terms of our everyday lives, most of us are too over-scheduled even to think about asking a question such as, “What should we do?” We rush from one thing to the next, just barely squeaking by. Choices seem nonexistent. We just want to get through our day being on time for work, getting the kids to soccer, getting something to eat for ourselves and our family, finding time to get the homework finished, answering emails, checking up on our social media sites, texting a few messages. We fall into bed, sleep a few hours, then get up the next day and start the hectic routine all over again. “What should we do?” Ah, to even have the luxury of time to ask the question! At this midpoint in Advent, the gospel calls us to stop, examine our lives and relationships, and perhaps prioritize in a different way how we spend our time.

If we ask, “What should we do?” we must be prepared for an answer that challenges us. Are we willing even to ask the question? Are we willing to reorganize our lives so that Christ is truly at the center, so that the magnanimity of our hearts is measured by something other than getting through another hectic day? Just like John, our lives are about others. Like John, we are to give our all—yes, our very lives—so that others can live better and love more deeply. By taking the time to ask the right questions, we define ourselves not in terms of what we do but who we are in relation to Other and others. The relationship to others is the key, not what we or they do.

Adapted from Renew International Cycle B

Advent Week Two: Finding Hope

In any journey of length, there will come times when questions arise. A question such as, “Are we there yet?” is only one possibility. Other questions such as, “Should we turn around?” or “Do we really want to make this journey?” or even “Are we making progress?” may occur. Questions about who made the decision, why we are going, and what’s this all about anyway are all a part of the journey—the desert part, the questioning part, the part where people wonder if there is a point to continuing. Maybe we have lost sight of the destination, or maybe we have gotten lost in the unfamiliar world through which we travel, and our sense of security is telling us to go back to what we know rather than ahead to what might be.

Our Gospel text, on the surface, doesn’t help us with this existential angst about the world we travel through. John the Baptist shows up from the desert, ranting and raving about the wrath to come. With his name-calling and talk of axes and fire, he seems more of a threat than a reassurance. Even the acknowledgement that his harsh words are for the “bad guys” of the story, the Pharisees and Sadducees, doesn’t help us feel better, especially since Matthew seems to imply they weren’t there to gawk or heckle, but to be baptized. This causes us to consider whether our motives are pure—not just for baptism, but for anything faith-related. Do we do what we do because of the call, or because we’re hedging our bets? Are we faithful because we want to follow the one we love, or because we want to be seen as faithful? [Living Liturgy 2019]

John’s call is to turn around, repent, think again. John’s call is to think differently about ourselves and our place in the world, about the one who comes, about how we will follow, and about how we are following. He tells the Pharisees to rely not on their pedigree. He asks them what they have done lately. He asks how they have lived lately. Advent brings a challenge, says John. But Advent also brings a reminder of the destination—of the world promised. The challenge is to measure ourselves by that vision and promise.

No one articulates the vision better than Isaiah. That is why we come back here year after year—to sit at the feet of the one who can tell a story like no one else. In a dog-eat-dog world, we need to hear of lambs and the wolves, of leopards and kids, we need to hear of the calf and the lion and the fatling parading along after that little child, like Simba and Timon and Pumbaa singing “Hakuna Matata” through the jungle. Beyond the vision of the “peaceable kingdom” that radiates from this text, what do the Hebrew Scriptures tell us about the journey?

That it is possible. That is it in a nutshell. This whole wild and crazy promise, the vision of a world at peace, the living out of the implications of justice and mercy—that it is possible.

“If I say this, what will happen?” Indeed, what will happen? That’s the perfect Advent question. The perfect “are we there yet” question. What will happen if we proclaim the possibility of the reign of God? What will happen if we decide we’re going to go with the confidence that we are heading somewhere? What will happen? The first thing that will happen, when we really believe in the possibility of grace and faith, peace and joy, is that we will live it now. Peace will infuse our lives; grace will emanate from our living; hope will abound in our conversation; love will dominate our listening. When we claim the hope that God will keep the promises made, the first thing that happens is that we change. And in that change, we become the sign of the presence of God in the world. We become the evidence that this is all possible. We who gather together for worship in order to find hope for living, become hope for those who still travel the desert of this life. We are the hope we seek.

Adapted Renew Internationl, PrayerTime Cycle C

Be Vigilant


HAPPY NEW YEAR to everybody! Perhaps you think I am getting confused. This is not January 1 nor is it the lunar new year or the beginning of the Muslim year. Yet it is the beginning of a new year, the beginning of another Church year.

Last week we celebrated the Feast of Christ the King and the last Sunday of the outgoing Church year. Today is the First Sunday in Advent and the beginning of a new Church year. It is also the beginning of a new cycle of prayers and Scripture readings, Cycle C. So, “Happy New Year to you all!”

Why are these four weeks before Christmas called “Advent”? The term comes from a Latin word (adventus) meaning ‘coming, arrival’. We immediately think it refers to the coming of Jesus at Christmastime and that is correct. But it is not the whole story. In fact, we can speak of three comings of the Lord and all are referred to in the Scripture readings today.

The First Reading from the prophet Jeremiah refers prophetically to the coming of Jesus, our King and Saviour: “I will make a virtuous Branch grow for David, who shall practise honesty and integrity in the land.” That is the coming of the Child Jesus in Bethlehem, which we anticipate and prepare for in these four weeks. That is what we may call the First Coming.

The Gospel speaks in ominous terms of the end of the world and what we refer to as the Second Coming of Jesus at the end of time. “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” [Living Liturgy 2018]

However, there is still a third coming which forms an important and indispensable link between the First and Second Comings. That is what is spoken about in the Second Reading. It is the welcoming of Jesus into our lives in the here and now. This is something which takes place every day. By it we both acknowledge the First Coming of Jesus in Bethlehem and prepare for the Second Coming at an unknown future date.

It may seem strange to start the beginning of the Church year by speaking about the end of the world. Should we not rather be speaking about creation? Or at least about the beginnings of Christianity and the moment of Incarnation?

Our life in this world is a kind of journey or pilgrimage. In the Scripture and in life generally the beginnings and the past in one sense are not so important. These are happenings which have already taken place and there is nothing we can do to change them now. However, they have an importance in that they deeply influence what we are now – in both good and less good ways.

What is more important is that we should know where we are going and where our destination is. Why is that? Baseball immortal Yogi Berra put it rather well when he said: “You got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.” When we decide where we want to go, it will influence what we do and it will guide our choices. If I decide I want to be an engineer or an architect, then I have to take certain steps and make certain decisions. If, on the other hand, I decide to be a monk or a hermit, then I will have to make quite different decisions and choices. I will not be looking back at where I came from but forward to where I am going.

The readings for today urge us to face the realities of life. Many people want to enjoy their life but either of two things happens. Either they spend years of toil and energy trying to set up a situation where they can ‘enjoy’ but never actually reach their goal, or they ‘enjoy’ by actually escaping from the day to day realities through indulging in alcohol, gambling, drugs, material indulgence or any combination of these, and inadvertently, ending up in Miami rehabs. People, as the Gospel says, are coarsened “with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life”. Many of these cares are, if they could only realize it, of their own making.

One sign of the Son of Man’s redeeming Presence is that we are growing in love. Despite appearances to the contrary (violence, disaster and destruction generated both by natural forces and human choices), God’s plan and purpose are directed toward redemption and life. We need to read the right signs—new life in the midst of seeming destruction, the glory of the Son of Man coming into the darkness, the love of Christ growing in our hearts. We need to be attentive to holy love. The vigilance to which Jesus calls is possible when we embrace his Presence with holy love.

Vigilance for the many ways Christ is present to us involves self-emptying for the sake of the other. This means that our focus is not on our own wants and needs, but on the Christ who chooses to be intimately present to us. It means that we are able to see the Christ who dwells in the other. Holy love is the giv­ing of self that brings us to “stand erect.” We stand tall and confident because we know that we are choosing to be in right relationship with others. We stand tall because Christ is present to help us grow in the holy love he came to reveal. We stand tall because we know our “redemption is at hand.” Love abounds! It is a beautiful thing!

Adapted from Renew International Year C

Feast of Christ The King of the Universe

When we were young, we had the time to indulge our imagination. We pretended to be famous, wealthy, powerful. Of course we grew up, but sometimes not out of those fantasies. In fact, multi-billion dollar industries are dedicated to making those dreams come true. But only for a while. And always for a price. Let’s take the ultimate indulgence. cccc a few moments and step into the shoes of Jesus. How would you answer the charge you were a king of all?

What does it mean to be a king? Is it the old model of absolute power? Or is it Christ’s leadership of service? These questions are the essence of Pilate’s and Jesus’ dialogue.

Jesus responds with a speech about his arena (i.e., “his kingdom”). Jesus’ arena is not that of popular culture or politics; if it was there would be a bloody revolution.

Pilate still presses the point: “You are a king, aren’t you?” Jesus gives in on a semantic point (“You’re the one who says so, Pilate”) but finally gives Pilate a direct witness: Jesus speaks the truth. [Living Liturgy 2018]

How does the truth Jesus speaks and the truth the “world” speaks different? The truth of the world is transient in nature; it changes with the season and the political landscape. It speaks to ambition and power, to possessions and pleasure. The truth of the world is, at best, shallow.

But the truth Jesus speaks is one of the heart. The truth of Jesus is more than facts; it is one of fidelity. God is “true” to us; that means, he is faithful. He shows us his fidelity through his Son and the power of his Spirit. When we are true to God in return, we “live in truth” (that is, in relationship). Since God is eternally faithful, God’s truth goes beyond the transient nature of politics, fad, and fashion.

How does your relationship with God touch you in ways the world cannot match? How has the truth of world failed you? How has God’s faithfulness sustained you?

A theologian once said that all revelation is invitation. In other words, all that God reveals to us invites us to live with him. This is the reality of Jesus’ kingship. Jesus is Lord, so we might live near him in love. He is King of the World, not over us but for us and with us.

Adapted from Larry Broding

The Ultimate Victory Over Darkness

The other day, I was planning four faith-sharing sessions for Advent. A  “job hazard” for the liturgist is always living in the future — always planning for the next liturgical season.

For others, living in the future means hoping to buy some new gadget, receive a promotion, achieve some accomplishment and on and on. At the same time, too much “future living” can be dangerous because we can miss all the goodness that is already at hand, right before our eyes.

As we near the end of this liturgical season of Ordinary Time, we always hear Gospels about the end times that call for us to look into the future. These Gospels paint a dark and dreary picture of calamity and doom and we often dismiss them.

The imagery in our Gospel this week is no exception. We are tempted to ask, “When, Lord?” When Jesus answers, “No one knows”, this is our call to pay attention to the present. Now is the time for the in-breaking of Christ. Now is what counts.

There is inevitable darkness in our lives. Jesus teaches us to find in this darkness his in-breaking presence — here and now. We can come to hope in Jesus’ abiding presence through very human ways.

Often, when we face difficulties, it is others who come to us with a word of comfort or insight, helping us to see more clearly, giving us strength to make changes in our lives through their presence and compassion.

We don’t find Jesus in the clouds but here on earth; we don’t await victory over darkness only at the end of time, but here and now. Jesus has given us all we need. We need to live like he did, with compassion and understanding, wisdom and care, love and hope. The future holds no fear for us.

Adapted Renew International Year B

Calculating The Cost

In this Sunday’s gospel Jesus is observing how people of his time were making donations to the treasury. The score is clear—scribes: 0; widow: 1! But another layer of interpretation might be opened up besides considering who wins or who loses, who is miserly or who is generous, who is hypocritical or who is hon­est. This gospel is really a metaphor for true discipleship, a central theme in the Gospel of Mark. What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? Jesus tells us when he contrasts the behavior of the self-important and insincere scribes with the action of a poor and seemingly insignificant widow.

Jesus teaches the crowds to beware of the hypocrisy of the scribes who know God’s word and law, yet seek places of honor and hurt those whom the law demands they protect—the widows. Jesus condemns them severely. “Calling his disciples to him­self,” he teaches them that they are not to do like the scribes. They are instead to do like the widow in the temple who gives all she has. True disciples give all they have, their whole livelihood—not goods, but themselves. The amount of what we have and give is really not important at all in the long run. What is important is how we regard and care for oth­ers; how we fulfill our responsibilities in the community; how we embrace the unlimited possibilities of deeper rela­tionships, new riches, everlasting Life. [Living Liturgy 2018]

Without calculating the cost to herself, the widow gave “all she had,” not out of her surplus. Disciples, too, give all they have without counting the cost, calculating self-gain, or seeking attention. The amazing thing about faithful discipleship is that God provides us with astonishing surplus: protection, talents, blessings. The “whole livelihood” dis­ciples give is their very selves; disciples give of what God has already given them. Ultimately, discipleship is about good stewardship of who we are.

We learn how to be good disciples from others who follow Jesus faithfully, who contribute to the good of all out of the surplus with which God has blessed them. The gospel holds up the poor widow as a model for the total self-giving of the true disciple. We need but look around us to find strong models for true discipleship. Now we are Jesus’ disciples, we are the new “scribes” called to authentically transmit and teach what Jesus reveals and fulfills. We are to live Gospel values. This is the primary way we teach. We teach, for example, when our loving is self-giving; when we care for the downtrodden; when we persist in reaching out to anyone in need even when we seemingly have little to give. Instead of serving self, we give self—our all. So, are we true disciples?

Adapted from Renew International Year B

Love God and Love Your Neighbor

Just before this encounter with the scribe, Jesus had to endure the hair-splitting narrow-mindedness of those who used the Law to abuse others, Jesus included. Now with the scribe he experiences a completely different attitude: a mind and heart open to the mystery of the divine that is beyond human comprehension.

The scribe asks what is the most important commandment and Jesus answers with two commandments which he treats as one, revealing an important aspect of our faith: we often have to hold together disparate things which, to our minds, may even seem contradictory. For Jesus, it is not love of God or love of neighbor. The two are intrinsically linked and inseparable. Loving God means loving in community, which reflects the God who is One and Three, Trinity. How do we get our minds around that? Or how Jesus is both human and divine, or how he is present in the Eucharist under the form of bread and wine? To begin to live from such mystery we need open, generous minds and hearts.

Adapted Renew international Year B 2021

The other religious leaders had tried to trap Jesus in their narrow minded interpretations of the Law, but this scribe came with an open mind and a generous heart and was able to respond to the wisdom Jesus offered. In fact, we see him taking it even further with his understanding of sacrifice and love. How loving this man must have already been in his life. Jesus was delighted. Together they were able to show expansiveness in their understanding of God and of each other. In the face of such magnanimity of spirit, no wonder the others around were reduced to silence. Their petty questions shown for what they truly were: base meanness.

What a change! For once someone from the professional religious classes, a scribe, asks a genuine question: he really wants to know what Jesus thinks. And for once Jesus doesn’t answer a question with a question as he usually does with these religious ‘authorities’. He answers simply using the Schema, the daily prayer of the pious Jew based on Dt 6:3, and an edited quote from Lev 19:18. You can tell how delighted this scribe is with Jesus’ answer as he repeats it back, almost word for word, savouring the wisdom – then he adds his own wisdom which in turn delights Jesus.

Talk about heart speaking to heart. This man shares Jesus’ understanding of Law and religious tradition. These are not intended to be used to attack others, to put people down or to make one feel morally self-righteous. They are a form of discipline for body, soul and spirit that prepares a person to lead a life of worship of God and love of neighbor. People offer ‘sacrifice’ so that they can give generously in love. People conform their lives to all the ‘Thou shalt not’s of the commandments so that they can face the destructive forces of sin that undermine their desire to live rich and full lives in the love of God. Law, morality, Church practice and discipline do not exist to make us feel like failures or to make life difficult. Rather they exist to help us acquire the wisdom to live and love with the dignity of the children of God. [Living Liturgy 2015]

That I Might See

Jesus heals a blind man

From a very young age we learn to see through the eyes of others. We learn to desire what we see. We desire what other people desire.
We learn to look from our parents, friends and culture. Through our parents we learn shame and approval, what is dirty or clean, what is beautiful, and what is profane. We see the objects they identify; we laugh when they laugh. We respond to their attention.

If you’re worried about what your kids are watching, first take the step of watching their shows. They will learn to see how you see things, simply because you are there. Simply sharing the act of watching is a powerful way to influence and be influenced.

Our peers heighten the objects of desire. Through them we learn to like and dislike musical genres, judge other groups, and test who we want to be. We learn to pay attention to what they pay attention to. It is obvious of us in high school, but it is equally true of us as adults, depending on our associations and communities.

Most people think that the way they see the world is the way the world is. Such a view may be generally right. The danger is thinking that our way of seeing the world is the only way the world works.

In today’s gospel we have blind Bartimaeus, who cannot see. At least, he doesn’t see the same way the crowd does.

Bartimaeus is one person among many. The many see Bartimaeus as bearing the punishment for someone’s sin. Their God is not particularly merciful. They probably do quite well within that system of thinking: the parents do something wrong, or someone does something wrong, and God punishes them. That’s how the many see things. It might be just in the abstract, but cruel in the particular event of the blind man’s life.

The blind man is different. He cannot see what they see. They witness to a punishing God of power and glory and grandeur – they expect a tyrant, although perhaps a sympathetic and just one. But instead, the blind man announces Jesus characteristic, his person, his act, as “mercy.”

Jesus then says, “your faith” has made you well. Not the blind man’s brother Bobby’s faith. Not the faith of the many; not even Jesus’ faith. Not the faith once delivered. Not the government’s faith. Bartemeus’ faith.

His faith allowed him to see something that the many could not see: that the Lord is a lord of mercy. [Living Liturgy 2015]

Sometimes I wonder if he could always see — but he just didn’t know how. He got the colors, the outlines, the general dimensions, but he couldn’t organize these images in the same way. The many knew how to look in their own way. Surrounded by violence and oppression, they would think that God was the sort that administered punishment through violence the average way tyrants do. The single man just didn’t know how to look.

But there is plenty in Hebrew scripture that alludes to a merciful God. The “blind” man knew it, but the crowd just didn’t see it. So he takes his risk, and cries “mercy.”

The healing was the common language that both the blind man and the many understood. Healing, however, was not the crucial point. The blind man sees God anew because Jesus heard the blind man’s voice.

Crowds, the many, our friends, and peers, have an immense power over how we see. Our role is to imitate desires that build peace than disguise violence, calling out the truth instead of succumbing to conventional wisdom. We do this by revealing the truth; remembering and reminding others how we mirror each other’s desires, and can redeem them through peace, truth and honesty. And we learn to hear the single voice, the one that claims mercy, that is easily silenced in the din of the shouting crowd.

The blind man’s faith is grounded in God’s peace. The many can encourage violence against the innocent. The blind man, whether innocent or guilty, merely knew that God is a God of mercy. The blind man announced a truth. If you want to address mass hysteria, make sure that the truth gets told. The hardest challenge, of course, is to learn to look differently, to look comprehensively, to see the world as God does: with empathy and mercy for his creation. This is a risk — it seems entirely possible that the blind man could have been lynched were it not for the impressive nature of Jesus’ healing.

The story is not meant to make the world seem easy. In his blindness, his social location, he could still call, “Lord, have mercy.” He may not have known all the facts about his condition; he may not have held all the correct and conventional opinions; and he may have truly deserved his plight. But in recognizing the true nature of God, in calling out and being heard, perhaps he discovered he had always been able to see.

Adapted Renew International Year B

Living Mission

A Follow-Up To Our Oct. 17th Reflection

Here’s an intriguing take on a familiar commission: Thankful people become missionaries. “To be ‘in a state of mission’ is a reflection of gratitude,” Pope Francis declares on this World Mission Sunday. Yet this “state of mission” belongs to the whole church, not just to those brave souls who pack up and go off to foreign lands. Jesus commissions his friends to take the Good News wherever we go. Grateful folks do this cheerfully. How can we keep from singing, when a song’s been placed in our hearts? Live the mission of gratitude.

We gathered as a community for our Fall meeting. As we do each time we gather, our meetings begin with communal prayer and faith-sharing. The reflection for our faith-sharing centered on our call to our mission. This short video expresses our call to mission living.

Anthony J. Gittins, C.S.Sp., taught theology and anthropology at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago from 1984 until 2011 and is now emeritus professor of theology and culture. He continues to do consultancy work and offer workshops, seminars, short courses, and retreats in more than thirty-five countries from Africa to the Pacific. He is the author of fourteen books on theological and anthropological topics, on mission, and on spirituality.

Whenever Father Gittens speaks of Spiritan living, think Ursuline missional living.

You Don’t Know What You’re Asking!

Glory is so attractive! Who doesn’t want to be wealthy and famous? Who doesn’t want a shelf lined with trophies and awards? The attraction of glory spurs us to greater achievement. This is especially true of our baptismal life in the risen Christ. What glory attracts us? What do we aspire to achieve to share in this glory?
“Do whatever we ask of you,” James and John demand of Jesus. But they have it backwards. They should have said, “Lord, what do you ask of us?”

Are we willing to ask Jesus this question? If so, it will mean redefining our understanding of glory. It will mean shaping our life around choosing to serve others rather than be served. It will mean drinking the cup of suffering and undergoing the baptism of Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection. Can we do this?
What spurs us to faithful baptismal, Gospel living is the attraction of sharing in Jesus’ glory. Increasing this attraction increases our willingness to drink Jesus’ cup of suffering through serving others. We do this, for example, when we live a joy-filled life in face of prolonged illness; see the good in others despite their hurtful actions; take time to reach out to the lonely, the outcast, the needy.

Being the servant of all isn’t always something extra or big; most of the time it is simply doing our everyday tasks generously and with integrity while keeping in mind that others are the Body of Christ and to serve them is to serve Christ.
Can we do this? Will we do this?

Adapted from Renew International Year B

What Possessed You?

‘Just what possessed you?’ Each of us has heard that question in some form when we have done something that undermined our health, our happiness or our relationships. We have probably asked ourselves that question often. Our best desires go in one direction, our actions undermine them. What possessed the rich man was love of his wealth and all that it brought with it: prestige, influence, power. This undermined his desire for the Kingdom of God, the greatest true wealth.  

Each of us has something that ‘possesses’ us and undermines our desire to be true followers of Jesus. It is not necessarily wealth. It can be the desire for comfort, for pleasure, for attention. It could be sensuality or just sheer laziness.We can only truly discover what is undermining us by sitting in the gaze of Jesus’ love and asking, ‘What does God desire of me? For what have I been created?’ 

 In hearing his answer, we will realise what we have to give up – and it will be personal to each – and it will probably appear to be something good. It is dangerous for us because it tempts us to rely on our own resources and not on the love of God for our self-fulfilment.  

Dealing with it will not be easy. In fact, we cannot do it. This is the crack in our heart, the flaw in our nature, the weakness over which we have no control. But it is also the crack that lets God’s grace in, the flaw that opens us to the divine nature, the weakness that draws down the compassionate love of God. 

 Adapted Pray As You Can

In My Name

Read the Gospel: Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

Gospel Summary

The struggles in our Gospel today is about power. Bishop Barron says, if you want power be holy .. The real power is in its holiness. Bishop Barron cites Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Saint Therese as examples. They were powerful women.

,Jesus taught his disciples two different things in today’s gospel. First, when John came to him saying that someone, not one of them, was exorcizing demons in Jesus’ name, Jesus explained that anyone who was not against them was with them. If the person acted in Jesus’ name, he would not be capable of speaking out against him. The second teaching involved the way a person should respond to temptation. Not that Jesus proposed that people inflict wounds on themselves, but to make his point clearly, he suggested ridding ourselves of the parts of our bodies that lead us to sinfulness. Rather than commit sinful acts using our hands, eyes, feet, or ears, it would be better to enter heaven without those body parts than to use them sinfully and live in eternal damnation.


Love is one of those things that grows in itself. The more you give, the more it grows. There probably is no scientific way to measure why love works that way, but we just know it does. The same is true with acts of kindness—which in a way are the same thing as love. Like the person exorcizing demons in Jesus’ name, the more the better. That’s how Jesus saw it, even though the disciples in their human jealousy and desire for ownership thought the person was an intruder. Parents see this in their own lives and try to pass it on to our children. It’s hard to be mean to someone who just said, “I love you,” or gave you a hug, or climbed up on your lap. As we try to get along with each other and teach each other to get along with siblings, friends, and classmates, we will make significant progress by acting and reacting in kindness and love.

Bringing the Gospel into Your Family

Share your ideas with one another about who some of the people are in our society that give of themselves and their resources to further God’s Kingdom. It will probably be easy to come up with wealthy people who give large sums of money to charities, but what about the people who give other resources like time, energy, talent? Ask yourselves if there is more you can do as a family to bring kindness into someone else’s life.

In My Name


Magnets attract. The stronger the magnet, the stronger the attraction. Some large magnets are so powerful that it takes a great deal of muscle power to pull the magnet off the metal. Like attracts like. The more the convergences of ideas, values, and interests, the stronger the attraction. Jesus was a strong magnet who attracted disciples to him, disciples who acted in “his name,” who assumed his values.

We act in another’s name in many different circumstances, for example, as ambassadors, those with power of attorney, parents until a child is of legal age. When we act in another’s name, we are not acting as ourselves, but as the other. We are not serving our own needs or interests, but the other’s. So it is with those who act in Jesus’ name.

What does it mean to act in Jesus’ name? What is done in his name, even by those who seemingly are not disciples, continues his saving mission. Jesus is not concerned about who “belong” or not, but rather about whether what they do is consistent with his saving mission. Whoever places serving Jesus and his saving mission above serving their own needs and interests is a true disciple.

Faithfully acting in Jesus’ name requires radical choices on our part. For example, choosing to be a full, conscious, active participant in liturgy; choosing to follow Gospel values rather than merely follow the crowd; choosing to follow God’s call to ordained ministry or religious life. While these and many other radical choices are never easy, when we remain focused on Jesus and his saving mission, we cooperate with him in bringing about the kingdom of God. These choices are life-giving for us and others .Faithful service is expressed in making our own the values and mission that attract us to Jesus in the first place.

Adapted Renew International

Who Do You Say I Am?


I often say things, the implications of which only become clear as time passes. I might promise to help someone move to a new home, only later to find out how much stuff they have, how much packing still needs to be done, how much more time-consuming my offer is than I originally thought. I might say that I will stick by a friend no matter what, only later to discover that to do so might entail jeopardizing my values. When Peter in today’s gospel said to Jesus that he is “The Christ of God,” did Peter really understand the implications of what he was saying?
The exchange between Jesus and his disciples took place within a very significant context: “Jesus was praying in solitude.” It was out of this prayer that he asked his disciples, “who do you say that I am?” and revealed that his very identity entailed suffering, rejection, death, and resurrection. Our own prayer is to lead us to clearer understanding of who we are, and to the revelation that our very identity as disciples entails denying self, taking up our daily cross, and losing our life for the sake of others. Dare we pray? Dare we ask Jesus, “who do you say that I am?” Dare we accept the identity. Jesus offers us and the implications of being faithful to that identity? [Living Liturgy, 2013]
In honest prayer we stand before God, stripped of false self-images and misleading life goals. In prayer we come to know who we are as Jesus’ disciples and accept the demands of following him faithfully. In prayer we encounter the God who never forsakes us, who
strengthens us to face our daily crosses, and who encourages us to be faithful. Dare we pray? How can we not? Dare we ask Jesus, “who do you say that I am?” Why would we not?

Adapted Renew International