Nativity of St. John the Baptist – June 24th

Nativity of John the BaptistIsaiah 49: 1-6

Acts 13: 22-26

Luke 1: 57-66, 80

 

 

 

 

 

“In those days, Paul said:

‘John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am?  I am not he.  Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’

‘My brothers, children of the family of Abraham, and those others among you who are God-fearing, to us this word of salvation has been sent.'” (Acts 13)

On this day, Catholics, and Eastern Rite Christians celebrate the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.  We remember the birth of St. John, we remember what his role in salvation history was.  There are theologians who describe him as the bridge between the Old Testament times and the New Testament times.  He is considered the last prophet of the Prophetic Age of Israel.

We do not much of his history; we can suspect that he spent time in the desert, fasting and in prayer.  Some scholars theorize that John may have had contact with the Essenes a Jewish ascetic community.  At some point, the Holy Spirit called him from the desert to the Jordan River, where he began to proclaim the coming of the Messiah, and the Kingdom of God.  He called the people to a life of repentance, symbolized by them receiving baptism in the waters of the river.  It was on the Jordan River, that he encountered the promised Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.  And though he felt unworthy, he baptized Jesus, so that all things would be fulfilled.  After this meeting, John continued preaching and baptizing.  He would call out Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee, about his lifestyle, and especially his marriage to his brother’s former wife, which violated Jewish law.  St. John would pay with his life for being so outspoken.

When we were baptized, we became members of the Body of Christ; as such, we share in his life as priest, prophet, and king.  Focusing on our prophetic role; we are called to proclaim the Good News, either by our words or actions.  As prophets, we are to speak up for the poor, the persecuted, and the refugee; and speak truth to power.  As St. John the Baptist was moved by the Holy Spirit, so we also be open to the promptings of the Spirit, and be true prophets to our world.

Mother’s Day – 2018

My mother, Margaret “Marna” Burke Jones, was born on July 30, 1927.  She passed away on June 8, 2013.  She gave birth to six children, of which I was the first.  She, with my father, Bill, raised us all with love and care; always there for us.

She is buried with my father, in a simple, beautiful cemetery in Peabody, MA.

Mon and Dad's Resting Place

One of my brothers left flowers at the gravesite for Mom, and took this picture!

In her memory; and for all mothers, living or deceased, I offer this prayer I came across on the Web:

A MOTHER’S DAY PRAYER

I said a Mother’s Day Prayer for you, to thank the Lord above for blessing me with a lifetime of your tender-hearted love.  I thank God for the caring you have shown me through the years, for the closeness we have enjoyed, in time of laughter and of tears.

And so, I thank you from the heart, for all you have done for me, and I bless the Lord for giving me the best mother there could ever be!

(Author unknown)

Holy Mother and Child

“I am the Good Shepherd” – Fourth Sunday of Easter

Jesus-Good-Shepherd-05Acts 4: 8-12

1 John 3: 1-2

John 10: 11-18

 

 

 

11″I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14″I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me- 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father-and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.   (John 10: 11-16)

In today’s Gospel, we hear again Jesus describing himself as the “Good Shepherd;” and what being faithful to that description entails.  He is the one who will give up his life to protect his sheep; who will guide his sheep to safe pastures.  In turn, his sheep will recognize his voice, will follow him wherever he leads them.  And other sheep, not of his original flock, will also recognize his voice, and they will be gathered into the same flock.

Jesus, indeed, gave his life for his flock (us); by his death and resurrection, he freed us from the dangers of sin and death.  His words continue to guide us along the right path to the Kingdom of God, if we but listen to them, and act on them.  He continues to feed us with his Body and Blood; giving us the strength needed to follow him along the right paths, no matter how difficult they may be.  His Presence among us, within us; gives us the hope that we will find  a place of repose, in this life and into the next.

We also need to recognize, though, that we are all called to be “shepherds,” by virtue of belonging to the Body of Christ; and caring for each other, both friend and stranger.  We are also “shepherds,” when we, by the example of our daily lives, draw others to come and join with us in the flock; in the community of believers.

 

In Memoriam

On this date, during the running of the 2013 Boston Marathon, two brothers set off two bombs near the finish line. Three persons were killed, and a estimated 264 injured, about sixteen required amputations. The youngest fatal casualty was 8 year Martin Richard. The pictured statue of him was erected on the campus of Bridgewater State University, MA, by his parents who both graduated from BSU.

Five years has passed, but the experience of that day, and the days that followed still stir feelings. I was working at my office, when alerts came in over the internet, and news flashes over the radio. We could not believe that something like that could happen in Boston. Later on, I walked down towards Copley Square, to the barricades set up around Boylston St., near the Finish Line. Flowers, balloons, notes, and running shoes adorned the fences. The area beyond the barricade, which on a normal day would be bustling with pedestrians and cars was deserted. I felt a great of sadness (still do) over the loss of life; for the surviving wounded.

A memorial service was held in the Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Cross. In one of the largest churches in Boston, built by labor and resources of mostly Irish Catholic immigrants, peoples of all races, faiths, and beliefs, came together. Together, they prayed for, and remembered the deceased and the survivors. They came together to unite as a city, a commonwealth, and a nation.

Now five years later, other tragedies continue to afflict this country, and other countries and peoples as well. Like Boston, most communities struggle to continue on, So the Marathon goes on, the runners will be gathering at Hopkinton, under heavy storm clouds to be sure, but they will run.

On a spiritual note, the Marathon reminds me of what St. Paul wrote in his Second Letter to Timothy:

“But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry. For I am already poured like a libation; and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim 4: 5-7)

In moments of hard times, difficult times, tragic times, we need to turn to Jesus Christ. He said he would be with us always. In Christ, we will find guidance, strength, and hope. With him beside us, within us, we will be able continue the race, and win “the crown of righteousness” that awaits us who keep the faith.

The Power of a Nor’easter!

“Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him forever….All you winds, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him forever…Seas and rivers, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever!” (Daniel 3: 57, 65, 78)

I went with my wife to spend Easter Sunday on Cape Code with her mother, some of her siblings and nieces and nephews. Now the Cape, especially the seashore, has been battered by several nor’easter’s. A walk along the beach shows how wind, and waves can effect change on the landscape.

Reflecting on this, I am thinking about how much change God can effect in our lives when we allow the breath of the Holy Spirit to blow into us!

A Happy and Blessed Easter to all!

Servant Church – Diakonia

So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, ‘Do you realize what I have done for you?  You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am.  If I therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.  I given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.  (John 13: 12-15)

In the above Gospel passage, and in many others, Jesus stressed that those who follow him, must be willing to serve both those within the faith community, and those who are outside of it.  Throughout all the Gospels, Jesus showed through his healing ministry, that the Messiah in their midst came as a servant to all.  So his Church was also to be a servant to all, providing aid and support to the poor, serving those both within and without the Church.  The Greek word “diakonia,” meaning “service,” has been applied to describe an aspect of life in the Christian Church.  As related in the Acts of the Apostles, the Apostles appointed seven men to serve the Hellenist Christian widows.  In Christian tradition, they became known as the first Deacons.  As the Church grew, so did the number Deacons, performing works of mercy to the poor.  They became an Order in the early Church, an official sign of Church acting as servant to all.

As Europe moved into medieval times, as Christianity became the dominant religion in Western Europe, as bishops and the Pope inherited secular power, changes began to take hold.  The papacy and the episcopacy began to take on the trappings of the nobility; some adopting the view that they, with the nobility, deserve to be served by the serfs and peasants.  The idea of a servant Church almost disappeared; it was preserved by laypersons who were inspired to serve the poor; by some bishops and priests who established hospitals, homes for orphans, lepersariums.   An active Diaconate also declined, becoming a transactional position that a man would acquire for a period of time before being ordained to the priesthood.

With the Second Vatican Council, the concept of a servant Church was reborn.  The Council, and many encyclicals since then, have stressed that all members of the Catholic Church are called to participate in the ministry of service to the poor, the homeless, and the forgotten.  Fulfilling this call can take many forms: giving financial support to charities; volunteering for food pantries and kitchens, homeless shelters and centers; visiting patients in hospitals and nursing homes.  We need to be open to promptings of the Holy Spirit; and discern an opportunity to serve and show mercy.

The Council turned once again to the Order of Deacons, to be a visible sign of being a Servant Church.  About fifty years ago, Pope Paul VI reestablished the permanent Diaconate in the Roman Catholic Church.  Men, married and single, from many countries, including the United States, have stepped up and been ordained.  They are servants to the Church and the world, through liturgical participation, works of charity, preaching and being religion educators.  In the Archdiocese of Boston newspaper, The Pilot, three Deacons have written an excellent column on the Permanent Diaconate of today.  I invite you to go read it.

In our country, in our world, there are people in need, who feel abandoned and discarded.  In such times the world needs a Servant Church, to bring hope and relief.  A Church who follows Our Lord Jesus command; “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

deacon red stole

 

 

 

“The Time of Fulfillment” – First Sunday of Lent, 2018

Kingdom of God is at hand!Genesis 9: 8-15

1st Peter 3: 18-22

Mark 1: 12-15

 

 

“After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: ‘This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel.'” ( Mark 1: 15)

 

When Jesus Christ made this proclamation, what would have been the reaction of the people of Galilee.  I suspect that many would have gone on with their daily work; some with a tired look on their faces.  They have heard this before; many so-called prophets and messiahs must have gone through the villages, promising a new world, only to wind up dead at the hands of the Romans or Herodians.  But there was something different about this Nazarene, something about his manner, his style.  And he performed miracles of healing and more, acts not seen since the times of the great prophets!  He made them believe that the longed for kingdom of God was just over the horizon.  Then came a dark Friday on the outskirts of Jerusalem, where they saw their expectations, their hopes dashed, as they witnessed their messiah die on a Roman cross.  Many must have went home to hide; crushed and angry.  Others felt compelled to remain in Jerusalem, to mourn in hiding.  Then came Easter morning, and the disciples who stayed, realized that the time of fulfillment had begun!

 

Fast forward to our present time; and when we hear this Gospel passage proclaimed, our reaction might be: “Yeah, right!”  This reaction might be understandable; considering the fact that we all have just witnessed the most tragic mass shooting in a school in our history.  The horror of it all, is that this is just the most recent of many mass shootings in our country, and none of our political leaders seem willing to do anything about it.  We are also seeing a rise of bigotry, some of it born of fear, in the nation.  We are becoming a divided people.  Terrorism, war, threat of nuclear war, ethnic cleansing, hatred; seems to be the new reality in our world.  So we may find ourselves calling up to the Father; “How can this be the time of fulfillment?  How can the kingdom of God be at hand?”

 

And Jesus Christ responds, “Repent, and believe in the gospel.”  “Repent;” we all need to reflect on our own individual lives and ask;  In what ways, large or small, have we added to the pain our world is in?  In what ways, large or small, has our inaction allowed evil and suffering to grow?  And when we have an answer; when we are able to see the realities of our lives, we seek the forgiveness, and that healing that can only come from God.  And in that moment, we experience the reality of the Good News, and we believe in the gospel.  And the Good News that Jesus is revealing to us, is that through God, through living the Gospel, we are transformed.  And with every transformation, the time of fulfillment draws closer.  “The kingdom of God is at hand.”