Pastoral Sharings: "Seventh Sunday of Easter"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father James Gilhooley
Seventh Sunday of Easter
June 1, 2014 

Seventh Sunday of Easter – A Cycle – John 17:1-11

Abraham Lincoln won over more people to his cause by
his death than he would have had there been no 
assassination. Begin with Edwin Stanton, his Secretary of 
War. Early in his administration, Stanton had sneeringly referred to him as “that giraffe.” But immediately after the president’s murder, Stanton blubbered tearfully, “There lies the greatest ruler…the world has ever seen.”
Your personal radar should be warning you that today you are walking into awesome country. For this is the only Gospel where the Teacher names Himself “Jesus Christ.”
Jesus has eaten sparingly. Still He reluctantly pushes away from the table in that famous Upper Room that Thursday eve. You would be reluctant too if you knew what the next day was offering. The Last Supper is history. Surrounded by His well-fed guests, He walks out into the air. The clever John sets the scene by telling us the Master raises His eyes to the heavens. Then, under the starry, starry night, He begins what has come to be known in history as the priestly prayer. As you listen to Him speak to His Father, you fear that you are listening to a conversation that was meant to be private.
In the first five verses, He prays for Himself. And, in the balance of today’s Gospel, He prays for His colleagues. They are shuffling restlessly about Him and thinking only of an after-dinner cognac, a Havana cigar, and a good night’s sleep.
At this point, Jesus is the King who must die. Yet, He says, “Father…glorify your Son that your Son may glorify you.” What is this all about? How could He be so upbeat?
It is one of the strange paradoxes of history that death is often the entrance into glory. (William Barclay) As it was with Lincoln, so too it is with Christ. Matthew 27:54 tells us that the Centurion on Calvary was overwhelmed by the majesty of the death he had just witnessed. And there burst out of him that eternal one-liner, “Clearly this was the Son of God!” And, as it was for the nameless Centurion, so it remains for you and me almost 2000 years after the fact. “In hoc signo, vinces.”
Erase Good Friday and you would have to put the glory of Easter Sunday in the back of the file cabinet. Yet some in each century insist on removing the cross from Christianity. But what do they end up with? A la carte choosings from the message of Jesus: a sample of this and a sample of that. Many Christians are not able to see the redemptive value in suffering. In time of difficulties, they are deprived of a model to emulate. God is neglected and a false god embraced for one’s own fulfillment and kicks. Stripping Christianity of the cross prompts the question, “Where’s the beef?”
“I have…finished the work that you gave me to do.” Once Christ had finished that celebrated supper, He could have rolled up His sleeping bag and retreated north on a long fishing holiday to the Sea of Galilee. Not even the Father would have gotten in His way to ask, “Quo vadis?” Yet, had He listened to His fears and exited the programmed crucifixion, you and I would never have known just how much God was willing to expend for us. The Son freely walked into a horrendous murder. Cannot even the dullest among us guess at the love God has for everyone of us? And, as the Christ stayed the course, so also must we.
“Eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God.” To know the only true God means much, much more than knowing Him with one’s brainpan. It is to know Him with heart and the spirit. Sigmund Freud wrote, “In small matters trust the mind but in the large ones the heart.” Thanks to Christ, we know that God is not playing the recluse on us. Quite the contrary! He is very definitely within our reach and touch. Is it possible that the Teacher could have been more graphic and blunt in His language? I think not.
I attended a grammar school concert. The man next to me told me his son was singing in the choir. “Wait till you hear him.” The concert began. The choir was made up of eighty boys and girls. The father asked, “Doesn’t he sing beautifully?” I of course could not hear the boy, but I was certain his father could. God is the same with ourselves. Though we are all part of a huge chorus that makes up the six billion plus people in the world, He is able to hear each of us as though we were singing solo.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
June 1, 2014

The Ascension of Our Lord, Year A—June 1, 2014
Gospel (Read Mt 28:16-20)

Today’s Gospel records the end of Jesus’ forty days of post-Resurrection appearances and teaching. The account of what actually happened during those days is quite spare. We know that although Jesus appeared to His friends, His relationship with them was not as it had been before. He appeared and disappeared. He was often not immediately recognizable. Things had changed. As we work our way through today’s readings, we see that an even bigger change was about to take place.

Homily for the Seventh Sunday in Easter
Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, my reward with me.

Jesus, who this past Thursday Ascended into Heaven, is coming soon back to us. On Pentecost Sunday He will come into the hearts of the disciples in the Upper Room, bringing them “His reward”, the Holy Spirit, with Him.

(St. Paul, incidentally, calls the Holy Spirit the “down payment” of that reward given to all who follow Jesus in this life. On judgment day, Jesus will “pay in full” each person according to his or her deeds.)

Ascension – What’s in it for Me?
The celebration of the Ascension used to leave me a bit flat.  It was clear what Good Friday did for me.  And Easter Sunday’s benefits were indisputable.  But as for the Ascension, what’s in it for me?

Christianity is about a kind of love we call agape or charity.  It is love that looks away from itself to another and gives itself away for another.  The Divine Word did not become man or endure the cross because something was in it for Him.

Solemnity of the Ascension: Loneliness and the Presence
There were only eleven of them, eleven disciples.  Judas had betrayed the Lord. Matthias had not yet been chosen.  So just eleven men went to Galilee following the message Jesus had given to them on Easter Sunday through  Mary Magdalen.  They were told to meet Jesus on the mountain in Galilee.   What were they thinking when they climbed that mountain?  Were they thinking about Moses who climbed Mt. Sinai to receive God’s covenant of the Ten Commandments? Perhaps they were thinking about Elijah who climbed that same mountain, only called Horeb.

Christ’s Resurrection Unites Us,Pope Proclaims at Ecumenical Celebration
JERUSALEM — At an ecumenical celebration in Jerusalem during his visit to the region, Pope Francis told interdenominational Christians that the risen Christ unites them all in a message of hope for the world.

“Each of us, everyone baptized in Christ, has spiritually risen from this tomb, for in baptism, all of us truly became members of the body of the One who is the firstborn of all creation,” Pope Francis said. 

5 Ways the Eucharist Erases the Original Sin
In that seemingly dismal specter that was Golgotha, the Church has always seen hints of the Garden of Eden.

Just as the entire human race sinned and died in Adam, so also all were redeemed and restored to new life, St. Paul writes (Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15). Taking its cue from St. Paul, the Church has drawn further parallels. Just as Christ was a second Adam, so also Mary was a second Eve. And just as a tree was once the scene of so much sin, a tree (the cross) became the source of so much grace. Each figure or element from the Genesis account is annulled by a greater reality in the gospels, so the thinking goes.

The Ascension: To Be Continued
A good story will typically end nicely, bringing everything to a neat conclusion—perhaps with the words “And they lived happily ever after.” So it would make sense for the Gospel — the greatest story ever told — to end the same way: Christ returns home to His Father and “They live happily ever after.”

Following the Footsteps of the Fisherman
Pope Francis’ visit to the Holy Land carries enormous significance as the heir of St. Peter. In a real sense, the successor of St. Peter is returning to his roots with this visit to the Holy Land. He is going back to where it all began, and he will be the first successor of St. Peter to offer the Eucharist in the Cenacle, the upper room where the Apostles celebrated the Last Supper with Jesus and where they gathered to pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit until Pentecost.

Our Journey Back to God
Three Jehovah Witnesses visited our seminary a few days ago. In the course of our discussion, they offered me a complementary (but unsolicited) copy of their magazine. The front page had a picture of a happy looking family, with the sun shining brightly in the background, a beautiful water fall behind them, some animals in the background, beautiful well-kept green lawns and many children praying and laughing. One of them said to me, “This is what paradise will be like.” I mentioned that I never heard of a paradise here on earth. He told me that after the Resurrection, only the faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses will be saved from eternal annihilation and reside forever on Paradise earth.

Spiritual Combat: A Call to Arms
Perhaps one of the greatest temptations in the Catholic life is that of complacency. We go through the motions, attending Mass on Sunday and maybe going to a parish program or two, but the Faith never really penetrates deep into our souls. It remains a superficial reality; just another thing to do in our comfortable, civilized lives.
We love to complain about the problems in the Church—rending our garments over this bad bishop or this corrupt priest. We ask: Where are the saints of the modern Church? Where are the holy men and women who can be shining lights in this dark world? We lament the state of things, never realizing that it is us that God has called to be saints. It is we who must strive for sanctity as if our life depended on it—because it does.

How to Deal with Past Sins
We all know that Peter was the first pope. What we often forget is that Peter was also a terrible sinner. I can think of at least five times in the Gospels where Peter messed up, but the time that he denied Jesus was the absolute worst.

The Battle of Prayer
Prayer is a powerful source of grace and the mother of all virtue but the Catechism acknowledges that prayer is a battle. The Gospel is the story of spousal love and prayer is a means of communicating that love. Love is a necessary catalyst for persevering in prayer.

I Was An Atheist Without Hope in Life. Then I Tried Praying
From the darkness of panic attacks, depression, and disordered anxieties, God brought me healing and faith through the Catholic Church.

Life-long Christians have trouble understanding what it must be like to be an atheist. And life-long atheists are similarly puzzled by how anyone could be gullible enough to believe in Jesus. I’ve seen both sides and got to tell my story on The Journey Home.

Pope Francis’s Third Way
“You’re between a rock and a hard place!” one says when faced with a seemingly unsolvable dilemma. This weekend Pope Francis was not so much stuck between a rock and a hard place, as stuck between one wall and another.

The Saints & Overcoming Boredom
It is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.  Romans 13:11

One of the most important conversions in the history of the Church occurred partially as the result of a problem that most of us have faced: boredom. It’s the story of the founder of the Jesuits: St. Ignatius of Loyola.

What Is Truth? Part I
There is truth and there is the truth.

First a little story. A man is a first time passenger on a great ocean liner of infamy. After some loud noises, the massive ship begins to drastically list. Fear begins to enter into the heart of the man, who is concerned for his family and all the other souls on board. He spies a presumably knowledgeable ranking officer on the deck and puts the question to him. “Sir, the ship is listing badly. Are we all going to drown?” With indifference, the officer says truthfully “I assure you, we will ALL not drown.” So the man thanks the officer and runs off to tend to his family. Within a few hours, the man and his family are dead in the freezing ocean. Being dead, it is difficult to ascertain whether the man is comforted by the fact that the Ship’s officer technically told him the truth.

Preserving the ‘vital sources of our humanity’
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput
A week after arriving in Philadelphia in 2011, I got an email from a very persuasive student inviting me to speak at his school – the University of Pennsylvania. I said yes, and I’m glad I did. It was my first taste of our city’s many excellent universities and colleges, from Villanova and St. Joe’s, to Neumann, La Salle, Holy Family, Immaculata and others.

Why It’s Okay to be Against Heresy and for Imposing One’s Will on Others
Recently, two prominent Catholic women—Kathleen Sebelius in an address to the graduates of Georgetown University’s public policy school, and Maureen Dowd in a column published in the New York Times—delivered strong statements about the Church’s role in civil society. Dowd’s column was more or less a screed, while Sebelius’s address was relatively measured in tone. Yet both were marked by some pretty fundamental misunderstandings, which have, sadly, become widespread.

Why Holy Water?
Q: A Protestant friend came with me to Mass last Sunday and asked about the Holy Water fonts and why we make the sign of the cross with it when we enter and leave the Church. What answer would you give to her?

Do Catholics Worship Statues?
When I was a Protestant I wondered why Catholics had so many statues of saints in their churches. There were two problems. First, I had been raised to believe that carved images were wrong because they broke the commandment “you shall not make to yourself any graven image.” Second, I was told that Catholics worshipped the saints, and sure enough, when I went into a Catholic church I saw people kneeling down and praying in front of the statues.

Stories of Success
My seven year old son hung his head low as he walked off of the baseball diamond after his game.  I asked him what was wrong, and he said, “this is our third game, and I still haven’t gotten on base.” My immediate reaction was sympathy, followed quickly by a sense of failure as a dad.  If I had been out practicing hitting more with my son, he would be better.  If I had limited his time with video games, he would be more athletic.  If I had been more focused, he would be more focused.  If I would have pushed, he would have succeeded.

What Makes A Perfect Priest?
What are the qualities that make a good priest, and how can the Catholic community find the young men who possess these qualities? The experience of recent decades shows that the opinions of psychologists and even clergy have not always proven the best guide. Why not go to the source: the perceptions of the parents themselves?

Protestantism is Subjective, Catholicism is Objective
Please note: When I address the differences between Catholics and Protestants, I am addressing doctrinal issues; I am not judging anyone’s personal holiness or love for Christ.

Once upon a time, five hundred years ago, a group of Christians broke away from the Catholic Church in protest, declaring that the Bible was a Christian’s only legitimate authority. Without an authoritative Church, each protesting (i.e., Protestant) Christian was now able to interpret the Bible himself, as Protestants believe God intended.

However, this new paradigm of each Christian interpreting Scripture for himself means that there are as many interpretations of Scripture as there are Protestants. As you can imagine, this leads to a host of problems for a religion that exists to proclaim Truth.

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