“Christ is both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant, and the mystery hidden from the ages.
A person should turn his full attention to this throne of mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross, full of faith, hope and charity; devoted, full of wonder and joy, marked with gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation. Then such a man will make with Christ, a pasch, that is, a passing over. Through the branches of the cross, he will pass over the Red Sea, leaving Egypt and entering the desert. There he will taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the sepulcher, as if he were dead to things outside. He will experience as much as is possible for one who is still living, what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ: ‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’”
– From “Journey of the Mind to God” By Saint Bonaventure, Seventh Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans)
“Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.” We see Jesus taking an important step in his ministry in the Galilee. Up to now, it has been just him proclaiming the Good News; just him healing the sick; and those suffering from demons and evil spirits. Now, he was sending his twelve disciples out, to proclaim the glory, the mercy of God; sending them out drive out demons, and heal the sick. In a sense, he was sending them out as his front men, to get the word out to a wider audience, to give hope to more people of the Galilee. I would have loved to know what pairings of the Apostles were. Who was Judas paired with? How did that go? Some ago, a book came out, based on the TV mini-series; “Jesus of Nazareth;” a novelization of the mini-series. In the telling of this story, Peter, the rough, tough fisherman was paired with the Matthew, the tax collector! Not exactly a match made in heaven. The story goes on telling how Matthew worked at keeping Peter out of trouble because of his temper. All of the Apostles fulfilled the mission, given to them by Jesus. The groundwork had been done, that when Jesus went into greater Galilee, thousands of people came to see him, came to hear him, came to be healed by him.
We seemed to have turned the corner on this pandemic we are going through, though this variant has people worried. Our churches are fully opened, people are being invited back; yet, the mainstream press, secular and religious, are reporting a severe drop in the number of people attending church, a drop in the number of people who identify themselves as Catholic, or even Christian. Now, there could be many reasons for this, going to church is no longer a habit, people have found other things to fill their time, people have been put off by the division in the some areas of the Church, they felt alone, scared, and losing hope, and for whatever reason, they feel nobody is reaching out to them.
Now, there are programs and approaches to answer this growing situation , all coming under the umbrella of the “New Evangelization;” but in the light of today’s Gospel, I would suggest that each one of us are called to bearers of the Good News, to be evangelists. Now some may object, “I do not have training!” I would agree, we do need trained evangelists. But we also need people who have strived to live the Gospel, at home, on the job, with family, friends and strangers. Amos was not a trained prophet, he was shepherd, something of a gardener. The Apostles were mostly fisherman, who probably knew just enough Hebrew that they could read, barely, the Torah. Matthew was probably the most educated, he had to know some arithmetic, and enough Latin or Greek to communicate with his Roman overseers. But they were ordinary folks, like you and me, but they were inspired by the Gospel that Jesus preached; they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
We, who strive to live the Gospel, try to put into practice the commandments to love God with all our mind, with all our heart, with all our soul; and love our neighbors as ourselves, with all that it implies; have that same Spirit within us. And people will recognize that, recognize the authenticity of our lives, both with the struggles and joys. And they will be drawn to Christ, drawn to the God who loves us and cares for us.
I would remind us again what Saint Paul said to the Ephesians; “In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit;”. May the Holy Spirit guide us, inspire us to be evangelists for others, by the example of our lives, our lives of faith.
Born in 1271, Elizabeth was a daughter of one of the rulers of the kingdom of Aragon; which would eventually become part of modern Spain. At age 12, she was married to the king of Portugal, who at that time was named, Denis. She would eventually give birth to two children. While her husband was a philanderer, she remained faithful to him, and fulfilled all her royal duties. She was also a woman of faith, attending church regularly, and maintaining a life of prayer and charity.
She was drawn into royal politics and diplomacy, when her husband and her son’s relationship had deteriorated to the degree that civil war threatened the country. Through her efforts, peace was maintained. Much later in her life, she worked to prevent war between the kingdom of Portugal and the Spanish kingdom of Castile. For her efforts, she became known as “the Peacemaker!”
When her husband died, she left the royal court and took up residence in a Poor Clare monastery. She put on the habit of a Third Order Franciscan tertiary, and lived a life of prayer and charity. Still, she was continually called on to come out and apply her diplomatic skills to keep peace on the Iberian Peninsula.
Elizabeth died in 1336; in 1625, she was canonized as a Saint, in the Roman Catholic Church.
All Franciscans are called to be peacemakers; in our families, communities, churches, nations, the whole world. We do this by actively working for peace, speaking out for peace, supporting peacemaking organizations. And ultimately, maintaining peace within ourselves!
“O Lord and Master of my life, grant me not a spirit of sloth, meddling, love of power and idle talk. But give to me, your servant, a spirit of sober-mindedness, humility, patience, and love. Yes, Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brother, since you are blessed to the ages of ages. Amen.”
Saint Ephrem, a Syriac Christian, was born around 306 AD, in ancient Mesopotamia. Baptized as a young man, he also was ordained a Deacon. He acquired fame as teacher of the Faith, and as an author of hymns. His hymns were written again to promote and defend the Christian faith, as well to give praise to God. With his fellow Christians, he was forced to flee his homeland for ancient Edessa. He died in 373. He was proclaimed a “Doctor of the Church” by Pope Benedict XV, in 1920.
Acts 10: 25-26, 34-35, 44-48; 1 John 4: 7-10; John 15: 9-17
We find ourselves in unsettling times, a deadly pandemic is ravaging the world, killing millions of people. We are just now beginning to getting a handle on it in this country, but it is devastating other parts of the world. But in this country, in addition to COVID, we find ourselves in the midst of political strive. We find an unwillingness to cooperate, to even civilly discuss the issues that affect our country. And even within our own Church, there is divisiveness! In opinion columns; through the internet, and even, God help us, from some pulpits, comes a level of argument, disagreement, down right disrespect and vindictiveness, that I never heard of in the past; from both sides! Is there any wonder why some polling services are reporting that the number of people no longer identifying themselves as Catholic has dropped, seriously dropped?
“This I command you: love one another.”
When Jesus Christ issued this command, he does not mean having a “Hallmark” moment! But…look at our Crucified Lord! ”No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Keep in mind, by “friends,” Christ means everyone we encounter, from family members, neighbors, coworkers, strangers, and yes, anyone we may have disagreements with. Because we are all brothers and sisters in Christ! We called to pray for everyone! We are called to welcome all, friend and stranger with love and acceptance. We are called to discuss and debate, with respect for the other, maintaining peace of heart with all. We are called to show charity to all in need.
And we can do this, if we turn to Jesus for help; let the Spirit inspire us, and remember that we are all children of God. Whatever we need in order to fulfill Jesus’s command, the Father will provide. Let us take to heart what Jesus has taught us, let the Holy Spirit inspire us! Let us love one another, today, tomorrow, and always. If we can do this, we can inspire others to do the same, we can help bring peace to our communities, to our state, our nation, to a world that desperately needs it.
“This I command you: love one another!”
On Sunday, April 18, 2021, St. Francis Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order, based in Milton, MA, gathered in a member’s backyard. It was the first time the fraternity has come together since the COVID pandemic was declared. Everyone wore masks and social distancing was observed.
Franciscan friars from St. Anthony’s Shrine in Boston MA, came and celebrated Mass with us. Also with us was a group of Korean Catholics, who were entering formation to become Secular Franciscans. One of the friars was also Korean, and he preached the homily both in English and Korean. One of the Korean’s with us, sang a beautiful Korean hymn during the Mass. it was a very blessed moment for us all!
After a delicious pot luck lunch, there was held a Welcoming ceremony for the Korean Catholics, who hoped to become professed Secular Franciscans after their time in formation. The ceremony was simple but moving. It gives to us “old timers,” hope that the Order will go on and flourish!
It has been a little more than a year since this pandemic grabbed hold of our world! There has been mourning of loved ones lost! Empty town and city streets; empty stores and offices. And empty churches and synagogues! Our fraternities have developed new skills in using programs like Zoom to keep in touch. Newsletters, personal notes of prayers and support have helped some in maintaining contact.
Still the most important thing we can and should do is pray for one another. Pray for fraternity brothers and sisters, locally, regionally, nationally, and throughout the world! It is by prayer, it is by recognizing that in Christ, we are all one, in Christ, we will get through this, and flourish!