St. Joseph the Worker

St. Joseph the Worker
Acts 13:44-52  +  John 14:7-14
May 1, 2021

“The Father who dwells in Me is doing His works.”

On this feast of Saint Joseph the Worker in this year dedicated to him, the readings from Sacred Scripture help us reflect upon the covenant between the Lord and His People.

It’s fitting that today’s feast falls during the Easter Season, when the First Reading day after day reveals the life and mission of the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles.

This Church is the fruit of the tree of Calvary.  Whereas Adam in the Garden cast man down into the pit of sin by his Original Sin, Christ has raised man up on Calvary.  Yet Christ has done even more than restored fallen man to his original state.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God the Son—by incorporating us into His own Mystical Body—has made each of us a child of God the Father.

In this context of the Church, whose mission began on the day of Pentecost, and upon which mission we are reflecting throughout Eastertide, we honor today the patron of the universal Church:  St. Joseph.  Specifically, we honor him according to the title “St. Joseph the Worker”.  We don’t speak of him as a “Wonder-worker”, as some saints are described.  Joseph didn’t work wonders.  He simply worked, and his simple work reminds us who are God’s adopted children of a basic lesson of the spiritual life.

In this basic lesson, St. Joseph reminds us of the Little Flower.  St. Joseph does little things with great love.  But more importantly, St. Joseph does little things for a great love, and in that, shares in the life of that great love.

Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Acts 13:26-33  +  John 14:1-6
April 30, 2021

“I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Within the Gospel account of St. John, there are two conversations between Jesus and Thomas.  The more famous exchange we hear on the Second Sunday of Easter, where Thomas doubts what his fellow apostles tell him about the Resurrection.  A week later he’s confronted by the Risen Jesus Himself.  But today, on a weekday during the middle of Easter, we hear another form of doubt from Thomas.

Thomas expresses doubt in two ways.  First, he expresses doubt about Jesus as a leader.  A good leader makes sure that his followers know their goal.  So when Thomas claims that “we” do not know where Jesus is going, he’s expressing doubt about Jesus.

The second expression of doubt concerns the way towards the goal.  Thomas’ words hold a certain logic:  it would seem foolish to set out on a journey without knowing the goal.  If the pilgrim doesn’t know his goal, then each and every step is as likely to take him farther away from his goal as it is to take him closer towards it.

However, this second expression of doubt is also a doubt about Jesus as a leader.  If we trust Jesus to lead us, then why do we have to know the goal?  The leader is the way to stay on track:  staying close to Him ensures progress towards the goal.  We pray with St. John Henry Newman:  “Lead Thou me on! / Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see / The distant scene; one step enough for me”.

Easter 4-5

The Fifth Sunday of Easter [B]

The Fifth Sunday of Easter [B]
Acts 9:26-31  +  1 John 3:18-24  +  John 15:1-8

“Whoever remains in Me and I in him will bear much fruit.”

When a person packs his things and moves off to a new place, he expects to meet a lot of new people, and to see a lot of new things.  But at the same time, it’s important for him to keep in touch with the persons and places he loves.  Through technology, it’s relatively simple to keep in touch in our day and age.

God, however, has a more simple method, a more profound way, and a more abiding means to “keep in touch”:  that is, for love to be shared between Him and His People, and among His People.  We hear about that Way in the Scriptures today.  We reflect on that Way throughout this Easter Season.  The Easter Season culminates in a celebration of this Way, which is the Church.

We do ourselves a disservice if we think of the Easter Season as being only fifty days of celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead.  We do God a disservice if we think that the Father would raise Jesus from the dead only for Jesus’ sake.  God the Father raised Jesus from the dead for our sake.  The Easter Season is not only about Jesus’ resurrection.  The Easter Season is also about fallen man’s resurrection.

In other words, we need to think of the Easter Season as having two poles, just as Earth does.  The first pole of the Easter Season is its first day, Easter Sunday, on which the Church gives praise for the Resurrection of Jesus.  But the opposite pole of the Easter Season is its last day, Pentecost Sunday, on which the Church is given the gift that Jesus was given on Easter Sunday morn.

In between the first and last days of the Easter Season, the Risen Lord bestows His grace to many persons through the power of the Comforter.  Today’s Gospel passage continues to describe that bestowal of grace.

We hear one of simplest images in the Gospel:  a vine and its branches.  This image is, obviously, an organic one.  It makes sense to gardeners and farmers.  Such an organic relationship, or set of relationships, is at the heart of the relationship between Christ and His disciples.  Or to use the metaphor that St. Paul favored, the image of a vine and its branches describes the relationship between Christ and the members of His Body.

Jesus is teaching us about the nature of the Body of Christ through this agricultural image.  Christ is the vine, or the head of the Body of Christ.  His disciples are the branches, or the members of the Body.  To describe as organic how Christ’s love is shared between Him and His People, and among His People, is not only to say that these are “living” relationships.  These relationships are bound up with each other.  These relationships bind together the two beams of the Cross:  the vertical beam, which symbolizes man’s vocation to love God, and the horizontal beam, symbolizing man’s vocation to love his neighbor.  The two are one in Jesus, whose life you and I share in through the Power of the Holy Spirit.

St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin & Doctor of the Church

St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin & Doctor of the Church
Acts 13:13-25  +  John 13:16-20
April 29, 2021

“… whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

Why are there days during Eastertide when the Gospel Reading narrates events occurring before the Resurrection of Jesus?  One reason is practical.  Within the four Gospel accounts, the narratives taking place following the Resurrection are relatively few.  Also, they are somewhat repetitive from one Gospel account to another.

There’s also a theological reason for the Church proclaiming “pre-Resurrection” narratives during the Season of Easter.  This reason is clear in the narrative of the disciples on the way to Emmaus.  On that way, Christ runs through all the Scriptures that refer to Him and His suffering, death and Resurrection.  The meaning of the Old Testament, and of Jesus’ life before His Resurrection, are seen in a new light once Christ has risen from the dead.

So it is with today’s Gospel passage.  It takes place before the Last Supper, immediately after Jesus’ washing of the apostles’ feet.  In the light of Jesus’ crucifixion and death, this simple act of foot washing takes on greater meaning.  So do Jesus’ words here:  “no slave is greater than his master”.  What do we learn about our own place as Jesus’ disciples—servants of His Father—if the Master took up for us, and died upon, the cross that we deserved?

Easter 4-4

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Acts 12:24—13:5  +  John 12:44-50
April 28, 2021

“I came into the world as light ….”

When we recite the Creed on Sundays and solemnities, we profess that God the Son is “eternally begotten of the Father.”  This statement is a profession of the divinity of Jesus Christ, which relates to Jesus’ assertion in yesterday’s Gospel passage that “The Father and I are one.”

Meditate on this truth that the Father and the Son are one in light of another phrase from the Creed:  that is, that the Son is “Light from Light” .  How is God light?  This is a metaphor, of course, but a very pregnant one.  Jesus proclaims in today’s Gospel passage, “I came into the world as light….”  He is talking, of course, about His mission in this world having the same effect as light.

Jesus’ earthly mission is continued through time by His Mystical Body, the Church.  Within the Church, your vocation bears—in some way—a share in the meaning of this metaphor:  “that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness.”  We might reflect on today’s Gospel in conjunction with Jesus’ words during the Sermon on the Mount:  “You are the light of the world.”  Our mission as the light of the world leads others, and ourselves, into the light of the Beatific Vision.

Easter 4-3

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Acts 11:19-26  +  John 10:22-30
April 27, 2021

“The Father and I are one.”

Today’s Gospel passage ends with an odd turn “off course”.  As a whole, the passage seems to be about Jesus dispelling the Jews’ suspense by identifying Himself as the Good Shepherd.  He then describes His relationship with His sheep, and the fact that by following His voice, His sheep have eternal life.  So far, we’re in familiar territory, with Jesus’ metaphors echoing imagery from the Old Testament.

But then an important shift occurs.  Jesus speaks about the relationships between Himself, His Father, and His sheep.  The last two sentences of today’s Gospel passage present a challenge.

From speaking about Himself and His Sheep, Jesus moves to speak about Himself and His Father.  “The Father and I are one.”  This is not distraction on Jesus’ part.  This assertion relates to what He has just said about His sheep, and about Himself as the Good  Shepherd.

How is unity one of the most important themes of the Easter Season?  How is the mark of unity—one of the four marks of Christ’s Bride, the Church—a call from Jesus to the love that the Father and the Son have for each other?  How is the Mystical Body of Christ the means by which our human love for our neighbor raises us into the love of the Triune God?

Easter 4-2

Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Acts 11:1-18  +  John 10:1-10
April 26, 2021

“I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

Often when we picture the Good Shepherd, we imagine him carrying a single stray sheep on His shoulders.  That’s consoling when we’re preparing for Confession, or praying at night during our examination of conscience.  But when Jesus the Good Shepherd takes us upon His shoulders, where does He carry us back to?  When Jesus returns us “home” through the gate that He Himself is, what exactly is this “home”?

In fact, the Good Shepherd carries us back into the midst of the flock.  Jesus returns the stray to its flock so that all one hundred can graze and dwell together.  Here we have an image of the Church.  Being a Christian is never just about “me and Jesus”.  As soon as we try to separate love of God from love of neighbor, we will love neither God nor neighbor as He wants, or as He does.  Within the flock of the Church is where God teaches us to mingle love of Him with love of neighbor.

Here we start to see the importance of the gate.  The gate is an entrance into the life of God’s flock, not just into divine life.  The Church as God’s flock is a chief theme of the Easter Season, and our preparation for Pentecost.  That’s why our First Reading throughout Easter is from the Acts of the Apostles:  the book of Acts is all about the life of the early Church.  That is to say, Acts teaches us how the first Christians lived a common life as God’s flock, with the Apostles as their earthly shepherds.  God’s flock on earth is His Church, whose life we experience both within our parish family and at home within the domestic church.

Easter 4-1

Saturday of the Third Week of Easter

Saturday of the Third Week of Easter
Acts 9:31-42  +  John 6:60-69
April 24, 2021

“Do you also want to leave?”

The difference between the divine food of the Bread of Life and any ordinary human food is that human food strengthens the human body only according to the nature of the food:  which is to say, according to whatever vitamins and minerals and so on are within it.  If you eat an apple, it doesn’t matter if you’re a sinner or a saint:  your body will be nourished in just the same way.  Likewise, if you eat a steak, it doesn’t matter if you’re a scoundrel or a nobleman:  your body will be nourished in just the same way.  When you then leave the dinner table, regardless of your moral and spiritual character, you can use the physical strength from that ordinary human food to commit good deeds or bad deeds:  virtuous actions or vicious actions, as you will.

But divine food is different.  Divine food cannot strengthen you to accomplish whatever you wish.  It can only strengthen you to accomplish what God wills, as God designs.  The divine food of the Most Holy Eucharist strengthens Christians for their vocations, so that the grace of the other sacraments might flowers as those sacraments are designed by God.  Baptismal grace strengthens you to conform your life according to the pattern of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection.  The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony conforms spouse’s lives that they might, according to God’s particular will, beget and rear children in the Faith, in additional to themselves—husband and wife—grow in unity as persons.  Likewise, the Sacrament of Holy Orders conforms a man’s life to preach, to offer sacrifice, and to offer the charity of God through the other sacraments.

The divine food of the Most Holy Eucharist, then, only gives you the strength to accomplish what God wants to accomplish through you.  Divine food is for divine purposes.  In a similar way, prayer teaches us what God wants us to do with our lives, not how to get what we’re wanting from God.

Too often in our modern day, we Christians approach God from the perspective of a consumer culture, where God offers us bargains and deals.  We can be tempted to consider His grace to be a cash-back program for participating in the sacraments.  By contrast, John 6 is about Jesus sub-ordinating His whole Self—Flesh and Blood, soul and divinity—to His Spouse, the Church.  That Church includes you as one of her members.  These passages from the Word of God in John 6 become Flesh in the Holy Eucharist.  The strength of that Word made Flesh can helps each of us to nurture the spousal, nuptial bond with Christ.  This bond is unbreakable because the one Who has called us to that union with Him is Himself divine.  Yet we have to share wholeheartedly in it according to our own will.  That’s why each of us has to sacrifice her own will to the Will of God.

Easter 3-6

Friday of the Third Week of Easter

Friday of the Third Week of Easter
Acts 9:1-20  +  John 6:52-59
April 23, 2021

“For my Flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink.”

Jesus, like any good teacher, responds to the ignorance of those to whom he’s speaking.  The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can he give us his flesh to eat?”  Jesus replies not by saying that “eating his flesh” is just a figure of speech.

Instead, Jesus replies by saying, “if you do not eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you. … For my Flesh is true food and my Blood is true drink.”

Jesus, at this point in the Gospel, does not offer this real bread and drink just yet.  He does not speak in the present tense, saying, “The bread I am giving you is my flesh.”  Instead, He speaks of the future:  “The bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.”

Jesus gave His Flesh and Blood for us on the Cross on Good Friday.  But He established the Sacrifice of the Mass on the night before He died.  We know the truth that we must be like Christ to truly live.  But we cannot imitate Christ through sheer will-power.  We must be nourished by God Himself.  Only when He dwells within you can you live your life as He led His:  or more accurately, can He live His life in you.

At the Last Supper, with His apostles, He prepared a banquet for those who would follow Him to the Cross.  We cannot separate the Eucharist and the Cross.  The Eucharist is not for us and our plans.  The Eucharist is to strengthen us for accomplishing God’s holy and providential Will.

Easter 3-5