A reason for
hope.

Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.

Today, we hear St. Peter advising the members of the early Church to bear up under persecution. But that isn’t the starting point. He isn’t recommending that we sit around, awaiting persecution, before we show the strength of our faith. He recommends that our starting point is always to offer hope to every and anyone who asks us for a reason for our hope.

Always being ready to offer hope is our calling as Christians. The world is so full of hopelessness, loss, and the seemingly unfillable gap between where we are and where we want to be.

Our call is to show that the gap isn’t the end, you get there and fall into nothingness. Rather, we must tell the world that one never has to face that chasm anymore – for Jesus Christ, risen and alive – has filled it. He has bridged the gap. He is our hope and our gift – to offer in gentleness and reverence, with clear conscience.

People around us must deal with the hopelessness that we used to face – part and parcel of the sinful human condition. As followers of Christ we have already recognized that hopelessness has been overcome. The depth of death is no more. Darkness has been crushed and light is ours. We have taken hold of the Savior and His tools that overcome hopelessness. We can point every and anyone we meet to Him and use His tools to share the promise of true hope.

According to a recent Pew Forum study, there is persecution of Christians in 131 of the 193 countries in the world. That’s almost 70%. The people Peter wrote to were similarly being slandered and threatened. Their witness to Christ’s hope made them the constant targets of those who served the empire and hailed nation as lord. They had a choice. Leave hope behind and again face the gap, the deep pit of despair, or stand firm in the Holy Spirit, the promises of Jesus Christ they held.

Peter reminds us that to this very day, regardless of the world’s resistance, irrespective of persecution, the promise of Jesus Christ is hope-filled. Jesus’ execution by the world was not the end. It was the beginning of hope.

From a merely human point of view, death is the end, the gap cannot be filled, and the chasm cannot be crossed. But thanks be to God, death is ended, the bridge is in place, and we can take the hand of every and anyone and offer them a reason for hope.

Mom’s construction
job.

For it says in Scripture: Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame. Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, and A stone that will make people stumble, and a rock that will make them fall. They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny. You are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

So how can I possibly tie together the themes from this Sunday’s scripture with Mother’s Day?

In the gospel, Jesus is beginning His disciple’s preparation for His passion. The words of our gospel are then from the beginning of Jesus’ pre-Passion discourses meant to help envision a horizon that extends beyond Easter to life in the community of faith after Jesus is no longer visibly present with his followers.

The Acts narrative speaks of the appointment of the first deacons (a scripture that has always been very dear to my heart).

St. Peter reflects on scripture that seems to have more to do with God as builder. He talks about cornerstones and stumbling blocks and how the two are in One.

For some of us older folks, it is hard to imagine mom in a construction vest and hard hat laying down a line of mortar with a trowel. How would that beehive fit under the hard hat?
What we may have failed to perceive is that our moms were our first encounter with construction workers.

The good moms in our lives (this could have been a grandmother, aunt, other woman) did all they could to build us up into God’s solid people.

The key thing they did was to help us understand the place Jesus wants in our lives. He wants us to see Him as our cornerstone, He is the One we build upon, we develop from Him. With Him as our cornerstone, we do not stumble, we do not fall. He is our Rock – the stable place we can always go to.

The good women in our lives follow the model of Mary who points to Jesus, who holds Him out to us as our foundation. They don’t put themselves first, but rather the craftswomen who make us fully human – into buildings that will stand forever. Without their work, their building, we stumble and fall. Without them our destiny is one of limited potential, limited effect, people whose destiny is brokenness – like crumbling and decaying buildings soon to fall to the ground.

With our lives built on the true Cornerstone we are thankful for their craftsmanship.

The giving
door.

“I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

This one used to confuse me. I get Jesus being the Good shepherd. I can envision Him leading us, providing for us, protecting us, and rescuing us when we get lost. I also get Jesus being the perfect sacrificial lamb – the Lamb of God who by His sacrificial death took away our sins and freed us. But, what did Jesus mean when He said ‘I AM the door?’

I AM the door” is the third of seven “I AM” declarations of Jesus recorded only in John’s Gospel. These “I AM” proclamations point to Jesus’ Divinity for He was calling Himself by the same name as God did when Moses asked God His Name. In this statement, Jesus further clarifies that He is the exclusive way to salvation by saying that He is ‘the door,’ not ‘a door.’

As we know, sheep are completely helpless animals. Sheep graze and wander while doing so. They never look up. They get lost. Further, sheep have no homing instinct. They cannot find their way home, even if it is right in front of them. By nature, sheep are followers and they will follow each other right off a cliff. As such, sheep are totally dependent on their shepherd. Shepherds are the providers, guides, protectors, and constant companions of sheep. The relationship between the flock and shepherd was so close that a shepherd easily knows his own sheep, even if his flock gets mingled with others. This bond is so close, that each sheep recognizes its shepherds’ voice and will follow it.

At nightfall, or when the shepherd had to go do business, he would lead his sheep into the protection of a sheepfold.

There were two kinds of sheepfolds. One was a public pen found in the cities and villages. It held several flocks of sheep. There was a doorkeeper, whose duty it was to guard the door to the sheep pen and to only admit known shepherds who would call out their flocks. This is a warning to pastors – for the Lord will only allow those He recognizes.

The second kind of sheep pen was in the countryside and was built by shepherds. It was a rough rock wall with a small open space to enter. There was no gate – rather – the shepherd would protect the sheep by lying across the opening. He literally became the door or gate to the sheep.

When Jesus says, “I am the gate,” He not only reiterating His constant care and His sacrificial love, but His total dedication to complete care for us, His daily provision, His strength giving us full and abundant life.

we commend ourselves in every way: by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God

This month our Holy Church holds its Seventeenth Annual Mission and Evangelism conference. This coincides with the words above from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Church at Corinth. How do we commend ourselves to others? How do we show forth what a genuine life in Jesus means? Being truly genuine in our walk with Jesus is at once a difficult task and a great reward. In May we look to Mary as a perfect example of someone who genuinely walked with her Son. Let us focus on what it means to be genuine, authentic – or as some would say – being real. Let us commend ourselves to others as Jesus’ authentic followers with confession, repentance, fellowship, obedience, genuineness, and truthful speech. By doing so, the power of God will show through us. We, like Mary, will glow with His real and genuine love. We will be real!

Join us continuing our celebration of Easter joy and in celebrating mom and our heavenly mother this May. There is so much going on in May and we are actively getting ready for our many summer activities. Check out all this and more, plus read up on how we are called to baptize our culture in this month’s newsletter.

You may view and download a copy of our May 2017 Newsletter right here.

I get
it!

Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” So they set out at once

I have a confession to make: I am one of those people who often doesn’t get it or is slow to get things.

I get E-mails about various subjects and the people sending them probably suspect that I understand what they are saying. I can hear them saying: ‘Remember, you used to do this job.’ They expect I will understand and comprehend what they are saying, or what they need me to do. I’ll then call a meeting – the first words after, ‘How are you doing’ are usually akin to, ‘please explain this to me.’ They often look a little sad. I can hear them thinking: ‘He doesn’t get it.’

It is much the same with movies, books, conversations, even jokes at times. My mind tends to mull over the content, and probably ten minutes after everyone else it finally clicks. The ah-ha moment, realization, the lightbulb clicks on. I often must say, slightly out of embarrassment, ‘Now I get it.’

The poor disciples on the road to Emmaus were in the same boat. They didn’t get it. But there was also something very different. They were being drawn, in an inexplicable and mystical way, into the realization that Jesus was with them. “Were not our hearts burning within us” It wasn’t just mental practice; their entire body and soul was being bombarded by the reality they weren’t getting. All the signs pointed to Jesus, the words, the teaching, His very presence.

This illustration is at once lovely – walking with Jesus, desiring that He stay with them, learning, Jesus immense patience with them, and finally having that light go on – and at the same time cautionary. They should have gotten it.

We all experience those moments – those times both in the silence and in the noise when we feel “Did not my heart burn within me.” Something within us is stirred by Jesus’ obvious presence. It is up to us to recognize those moments, to tune ourselves to that channel where Jesus is talking to us. We can train ourselves through the Scriptures we read and hear, we can enter the mystical moment of exchange in our Eucharistic celebration. In each we clearly hear Jesus speaking to us, teaching us, lifting us up, liberating us. He has a message designed for us. If we listen and recognize it, then our minds and hearts will recognize: “Man, there’s something here. I didn’t know or hear it before, but God is revealing this to me, He is stirring me.”

It is Easter. Christ is risen! Truly risen! He is living and active. We must recognize that He is no longer in the tomb. He is speaking to us each day and calling us to get it and to go forward to help others get it.

In or out of
the cave?

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you

Imagine living our lives in a cave. We can see nothing but images projected on wall in front of us. We are prevented from knowing their true nature. To us, these shadows are our reality. We may name and define the shadows. We may create and entire understanding based on these shadows. But what, if suddenly, we were able to break free from this perceived reality to see things as they really are?

On this Low Sunday let us return to the cave where Jesus had been buried.

In all the encounters in and around that cave, from the burial of Jesus to just after his resurrection, we find people deciding how they would live.

The Jewish leaders had asked for a guard for the tomb. They knew Jesus’ claims. They asked Pilate for soldiers. “You have a guard,” Pilate said. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

The guards who had been there the morning of the resurrection ran off to Jerusalem to report what had happened. A meeting with the elders was called, and they decided to give the soldiers a large bribe. They told the soldiers, “You must say, ‘Jesus’ disciples came during the night while we were sleeping, and they stole his body.’ If the governor hears about it, we’ll stand up for you so you won’t get in trouble.” So the guards accepted the bribe and said what they were told to say.

The elders and the guards decided they would live in the cave, to stay there in a world of shadows, refusing to acknowledge the truth.

Peter and John went into the tomb, as did the women who arrived first. They saw the reality. Perhaps not understanding it fully, they still accepted and witnessed by leaving the cave behind.

St. Peter praises God today for a new birth to a living hope. He recognizes the fact that the tomb – Jesus’ tomb and in fact his and our tombs, those caves, are to be left behind. We have reality, understanding – and best of all an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us.

Jesus works to lift us up out of our caves. When we are stubborn like St. Thomas was, He will confront us. He will ask us to see reality and to hope – not just a hope of desire, or of wanting things to be a certain way – but hope that is evident. Let us set forth into the sunlight of Jesus, leaving caves behind.

A whole
year.

Then the angel said to the women in reply, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.”

Raised just as he said. Suddenly all else Jesus said, the full impact of His words, was realized. This came home to me as I prepared the foods for our Easter basket.

I had filled the salt shaker to the top and sealed it, only to realize I hadn’t placed a piece of saran wrap over the top to prevent spillage. As I unscrewed the top to apply the wrap, well there it all went. Salt all over the floor.

The immediate import of the Lord’s words came to me: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” This salt was indeed under my feet and was being trampled into the linoleum. It was useless.

Look at this beautiful drawing completed by our youth (and a few adults). It is various styles of homes. We have square, rectangular, and round homes. We have monochrome and multicolor homes. We have traditional style homes and very contemporary style homes.

If you look very closely at the very first home on the block, there is a sign in the window. Traviss placed a sign in his window that shows a wisdom beyond that of any philosopher or theologian. His house proclaims, “Easter Year.”

That is what this day is all about. This is the sudden and remarkable change this day brings to us. Today gives us Easter forever.

The world offers all sorts of alleged salt and light; none of it lasting. Its salt loses its flavor quickly and is never truly satisfying. Its light is a momentary flash quickly returning us to darkness.

On this most sacred of days it all changed. We went from living day-to-day, grasping after the limited and unfulfilling, and became people of eternal salt and light. We received the power of His eternal promise. Just as He said.

The Lord, in His rising, gives us the opportunity to not only live a year of Easter, but a lifetime of Easter. The wonder of this Easter Sunday is that it made every Sunday this Sunday. Every Sunday throughout the years, decades, and centuries are Easter. We own the perpetual Easter just as Jesus said – days filled with God ordained hope, the perpetual renewal and re-flavoring of our lives.

The sudden and remarkable begun this day has changed us. This day gives us the grace to be the real salt that never loses flavor, that never becomes worthless. The full reality of all Jesus said is real, ours, every day Easter – a sign for our homes – a sign to live by.

Acceptance today.
The gift of glory.

But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit.

We walked through Lent and have reflected on God’s conviction from all sorts of angles.

We started by reflecting on the necessity of choosing differently. Confronted by our conviction, we recognize that the natural outcome of our choices is a judgment of guilty and certain death. Yet, if we chose differently, with Jesus as our model, we are acquitted and receive the abundance of grace and the gift of justification.

We learned that our acceptance of conviction leads to moving from the conviction of guilt to conviction in righteousness. That acceptance and the righteousness that comes from it, allows us to move mountains, change the world, bear much fruit, and be truly victorious.

We know that God waits to meet us. That encounter offers the opportunity to accept our conviction – something that is never compulsory. If we accept our conviction we obtain immediate salvation and begin bearing the fruits that come from that acceptance. We witness and draw many to Jesus.

We found that in Jesus, wherever we come from or whatever we have done is of no account once we accept conviction. We move from who we were to being His children of light. The only reality that matters.

We realized that encounter and conviction, if accepted, provides a gift of faith so deep and powerful that not even death can diminish it. Not death, not disappointment, nothing! We develop a powerful ‘even now’ faith that actively trusts.

This Lenten journey and exploration begins its ending today. As we reflect on the road to the cross and grave we see many seeming to work contrary to God. We see a parade of human sinfulness and its apparent consequences. Those who failed to accept conviction held onto their alleged power. Judas, holding onto the purse, betrays Jesus. The disciples holding onto their perceptions of love and faithfulness, run away because their opinions do not stand up to challenge. The religious leaders hang onto external acts of religion over deep internal change. Pilate and the Roman soldiers hold unto political power, a power that only lasts for a time. The crowds hold unto whatever opinion is popular now. Jesus alone – the one who could never be convicted – accepts conviction.

Jesus submitted to the Father’s will, took up the cross, and staggered through a parade of non-acceptance powerfully displaying total acceptance. He fulfills His mission, opens the door for our ability to accept, and our entry into the powerful and glorious future we live today.

That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus.

We begin April in Passiontide and end up on the road with the Risen Lord. Isn’t that the way life often goes? We live unfulfilling passions, both attractive and sad, until we find the joy and fulfillment of Jesus. As time passes, old and new passions emerge and sometimes we forget our resurrection joy. We find ourselves in passiontides. This month we rediscover the amazing news of the resurrected Lord. Easter is here. More than just a day in April, it is a present continuous moment. We are called to continuously remove the passiontide veil, see Jesus among us, and live on Jesus’ amazing, eternal, and glorious road. His present Easter!

Join us in completing our Lenten walk with Jesus and join us in rejoicing in His resurrection. Check out our Passiontide, Holy Week, and Easter events, participate in directed giving, reflect during these days, and then commit to doing great things throughout the fifty days of Easter.

You may view and download a copy of our April 2017 Newsletter right here.

Even now
I trust.

Martha went to meet Him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”

As we enter Passiontide we continue our focus on conviction and the kind of faith that shows we have not just accepted conviction but have been changed to people of deep faith.

Remember Jesus’ earlier encounter with Martha and Mary. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, listening to Him teaching, filled with faith. Martha was busy in the kitchen and was annoyed – her sister wasn’t helping. Martha complained to Jesus and Jesus told her straight out that Mary had chosen the better part. Mary saw the opportunity of God’s presence while Martha was convicted for busing herself with less important things.

Now Martha’s brother is dead. He’s been placed in the tomb and the tomb is sealed. They had sent word to Jesus while he was still alive, but He didn’t show up. Now Jesus is approaching.
The woman who busied herself in the kitchen, who missed Jesus’ teachings, who chose the lesser part, comes running out …but Mary sat in the house. What happened?

What happened is that Martha got something deeper from that earlier encounter and conviction. She received a gift of faith so deep and powerful that not even death could diminish it. Not death, not disappointment, nothing!

In running out to Jesus and in speaking with Him Martha proclaims the depth of that faith gift. Listen carefully: “Lord, even now I know…”

Even now… Despite, nevertheless, notwithstanding. No matter what has happened, even now I know You are Lord.

The key is that Martha recognized there was nothing more powerful than God. Faith demanded that she lay aside all mistrust. While Mary listened to Jesus, what did she take away from that listening? Was her trust increased? How was her faith at her brother’s tomb?

Martha believed Jesus could have healed her brother – same as Mary. Yet her faith differed. She exercised a much more powerful ‘even now’ faith. She saw more deeply because she knew Jesus could see her heart. She trusted Jesus completely because He revealed what her true concern should be – not in the kitchen, but in faith. She accepted the gift and made faith active.

If we look closely, Martha did not think Jesus would raise her brother. She knew he was dead She even told Jesus – look, he’s dead, he’s rotting already. And that is the power of her even now faith. She is our example. Everything hasn’t worked out, yet even now I trust in You, Lord.