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Brief Audio Reflection "In Our Midst" Luke 24:13-35; The Third Sunday of Easter, Year A.
They weren’t looking for Jesus. They were sure he was lost forever. And then he was there with them… walking and talking, explaining scripture, opening doors to spirituality. He moved with them so easily, so unobtrusively that they did not recognize the risen Savior until he revealed himself in the breaking of the bread.
Could this week’s gospel be any clearer? The risen Christ is with us always… all through the day, in every one we meet. But too often, he goes unrecognized. He is only a Sunday presence at best… here for the breaking of the bread and then ignored in our self-absorption. That’s not God’s plan. We are meant to live in the risen Christ… continually, not spasmodically… actively, not abstractly.
What are we doing today to look for him, to see him, to recognize him… to welcome him? For many, these are the questions that define our lives. They are built reflexively into our day. For others they are unfamiliar, awkward, uncomfortable. But for all of us, there is one simple constant: Jesus is in our midst. What are we going to do about it? True to the Father and true to the promises he has made, we need only to look for him. We need only engage. He is in our midst… in love, in peace, in power… only a prayer away.
Brief Audio Reflection "The Passion Play" (Matthew 26:14-27:66), Liturgy of the Passion; Palm Sunday: Year A
This week’s gospel is a drama played out in multiple acts of betrayal against one grand, overarching act of love. It is a tragedy transformed into triumph by the greatest curtain call that ever was or ever will be. It is Matthew’s epic account of the Passion of Jesus in which we are not just spectators, but participants and beneficiaries of the greatest story ever told.
Thank you, Jesus. By your life, death and Resurrection, you have set us free.
A Special Thanksgiving Day Message from Fr. Sellery:
"Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." -- Ephesians 5:20
Over the years each of our holidays has assumed its own distinct color scheme in our memories and in our expectations -- both graphically and emotionally. Christmas is a frenzied explosion of red and green. Easter is a blinding white light of resurrection. July fourth is flag waving red, white and blue. Halloween is a sharp contrast of orange and black, jack-o-lanterns and witches...
Thanksgiving is much tougher to pigeonhole.
Perched between a cruel sea and a hostile shore, the Pilgrims paused in their struggle to survive to set aside a special day of thanks. In these uncertain times, let's follow that example of nourishing, sustaining faith. Let's make a special effort to acknowledge God's gifts, both great and small --giving thanks for his blessings and placing our confidence in his everlasting goodness.
May you and your family have a warm and blessed Thanksgiving -- filled with the wonderful tastes, smells and colors of the season -- as we gather together joyfully with family, friends and God.
Brief Audio Reflection "The Great Hunger" (John 6:51-58): The Feast of Corpus Christi , Year A
To be human is to live with hunger. While it may not be gnawing at you right now, give it a little time. Miss a few meals. Soon it will become the focus of every thought and action. Miss a few more meals and it will become real easy to forget that appetites are a gift from God. They enable our survival as individuals and as a species. They are reflections of “the great hunger”… our fear of mortality, our yearning for life’s meaning, our longing to fill the vast hole in our souls.
The great good news of this week’s gospel is that Jesus invites us to come to the table. God’s bounty is laid out for us 24/7. He wants us to feast on faith… to find meaning in life, to transcend mortality and find eternal happiness with him. In this gospel we are invited to do much more than encounter Christ. We are called to complete communion with the living God. We are called to: Eat my flesh and drink my blood. This side of heaven, you can’t get closer than that.
In faith if we truly share the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation, how could we ever go away hungry? We are literally one with Christ and one with millions of Christians who come to his altar this Sunday. There is one bread and we are all one body. We share one cup. We are Corpus Christi… the Body of Christ… nourished by him, living in him and he in us. We have purpose and direction… his purpose, his direction...
Brief Audio Reflection "Receive the Holy Spirit": (Acts 2:1-21, Pentecost Sunday.
This Sunday most of the action is in the Acts of the Apostles. So with due reverence to John’s gospel, let’s break precedent and focus on this week’s First Reading from Acts. But first, let’s borrow a thought from John’s gospel account of the risen Christ appearing in the upper-room. After greeting the apostles with the customary “Shalom,” Jesus charges them: ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit…’
In this Lenten-Easter cycle we learned once again that we are saved. Every sin that ever was or ever will be was nailed to that cross. In the risen Christ we know that eternal life is ours. We know that it is God’s gift outright. We need only believe and, as a sign of our belief, that we be baptized into the family of believers. We know too that believing is not a spectator sport. We can’t plump down on life’s proverbial couch and wait for Dominos to deliver eternal life. Our faith must be active, not passive. Only in an active faith can we generate the hope and the love that are the legacy of our redemption.
Sadly, like the apostles, we are slow learners and fast forgetters. That’s why the Holy Spirit comes to us as it did to them, not as a visitor, but as the abiding presence of God. You can ignore him, but not if you value salvation. He’s with us now. He’s why you are reading God’s word, today. He answers every prayer. If we take nothing else from these past ninety days… be awake, be alert to God’s presence in your life. Receive the Holy Spirit.
Brief Audio Reflection "The Other Miracle" on Luke 24:44-53; The Ascension of the Lord: Year A
Can you imagine what a spectacular sight it was? Exactly as promised, Jesus ascended into heaven. The scriptures were fulfilled. The Redeemer returned to the Father in a final climactic miracle.
But there is another often overlooked miracle tucked into this gospel that deserves our attention. Just before the Ascension, Luke tells us: Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. In these few words Luke describes one of the truly transformative events in human history. Suddenly it all made sense. Jesus had told them over and over that he had not come to overthrow God’s covenant but to fulfill it. He was the answer to the prophet’s prayers. He was literally the embodiment of God’s love.
How many times had he taught this to these unschooled manual laborers? How many times had they struggled to understand? Now they knew the answer. They knew Jesus as they had never known him before. Now they had the wisdom and in a few days they would have the will… when Jesus would send down the Holy Spirit… to multiply their new found knowledge and put it to work… to send them out into the world to carry on his work of redemption… to change the world...
Brief Audio Reflection "Beyond Belief" on John 20:19-31; The Second Sunday after Easter, Year A.
Thomas wants proof. And who can blame him. Things had been going so well. Just a short while ago Jesus had triumphantly entered Jerusalem. Thomas found himself in the entourage of a super-star. Then suddenly his whole world collapsed. Jesus was arrested and stuck up on a cross. Scared out of their minds, the disciples were on the run. Thomas was certain that he and his friends would be next on the hit list. So he’s hardly in the mood for all this happy talk about Jesus returning from the dead. Unless he gets rock solid evidence that he can see and feel, he’s not going to get swept up in some fantasy. And then the risen Jesus delivers proof beyond all doubt.
For us the Resurrection cannot be some abstraction, only peripheral to our real lives. As Christians, the Resurrection gives us meaning and direction. It necessarily shapes our thoughts and actions. Thomas Merton captured this centrality when he wrote that Christianity gives us the power to confidently face the inevitability of suffering and death “… because the Resurrection of Jesus has robbed them of meaning.” In the risen Christ, death is not a destination. It is a passage. Beyond belief in the Resurrection lies actively living and sharing the joy of the Resurrection… both now and in eternity. And that’s as good as life ever gets. Alleluia!
Brief Audio Reflection "The Biggest One of All": (Matthew 28:16-20), Trinity Sunday, Year A
Our faith is replete with mysteries and wonders. This week we reflect on the biggest one of all. Five brief verses, that’s all we get. It’s a tiny gospel for such a big message… the very nature of God… the Blessed Trinity. We have no MRI images or DNA analysis of the Divinity. So, short of heaven, the word of Jesus is the only clear window we have into the heart of God. It tests our faith and doubtless it was meant to. But Jesus precisely packs so much into every word that it is more than enough for the faithful.
The core of this gospel is a passage that has come to be called The Great Commission. In his final charge to the disciples, Jesus bids them: Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son; and of the Holy Spirit. Note the significance of the singular. Jesus empowers them in the “name” of God… not in the plural “names” of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That’s because they are one. God is one… three, yet one.
The mutual love of Father, Son and Holy Spirit clearly transcends time and stands as testament to our Triune God. Three in One… One in Three… Creator, Redeemer, Abider… through the prism of faith the beauty is sublime; the symmetry is exquisite. In faith the toughest question becomes our greatest comfort. In faith our response to the biggest mystery is not bewilderment. It is adoration.
Brief Audio Reflection "That We May be One" (John 17:1-11): 7th Sunday of Easter, Year A.
Some call this Sunday: “Waiting Sunday.” That’s because, sandwiched as it is between The Ascension and Pentecost, it might easily be overlooked and dismissed as a time-filling intermission. But that would be a sad loss. We would miss one of the truly great gospels. We would lose the opportunity to hear Christ’s final report to the Father. We would not hear Jesus explain how all the pieces of the divine plan fit together. So let’s pause and give Christ’s brief but powerful monologue the reverent attention it deserves. It’s worth the “Waiting.”
On the very rare chance that you missed the message in the other twenty chapters of his gospel, John is again making the case for Christ’s divinity. Jesus calls on the Father, again revealing himself as the manifestation of God’s love made flesh for our redemption. He’s obviously much more than God’s goodwill ambassador or the prince of the prophets. Jesus speaks to the Father reverently. But he also speaks as God, the Son of God. John’s gospel began by establishing the fact that: In the beginning was the Word. Lest we miss or forget the point, Jesus repeats that he was with the Father before the world began and not as an honored guest. He was, is and always will be one with the Father.
Buried deep in the cosmic sweep of this gospel is another message that should not be overlooked. Jesus asks the Father: That they be made one, as you and I are one.
Brief Audio Reflection "Truth and Beauty" - John 14:15-21; The Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A
Easter is always a beginning, never an end. Ahead of us lies Christ’s Ascension into heaven and the Descent of the Holy Spirit. Ahead of the apostles and generations of the Christians lie centuries of working and waiting… faithfully building the kingdom of God, ‘til Christ comes to carry us home. The wait may be long. But it will not be lonely. Jesus tells us: I will not leave you orphaned.
There are no little lessons in this gospel. It begins and ends on a grand scale with very specific instructions on exactly how our loving God wants us to live our lives. Jesus tells us: If you love me, you will keep my commandments. What a surprising, fresh, endearing way for almighty God to instruct his creation. No pillars of fire. No stone tablets. No ringing “shall” and “shall not.” The syntax of this one sentence illustrates a new relationship with God. Jesus frames the thought in a conditional premise: If you love me. Then he pays it off with a concise statement of the inevitable results of that love: You will keep my commandments. Jesus invites us. He does not order us. He gives no imperative that we must keep his commandments. He states an obvious cause and effect: Fill your heart with love and there will be no room for hate. Fill your day with love and there will be no time for mischief.
In this gospel, form follows function. If your purpose and your practice are the beauty of Christ’s love, you will reject the ugliness of sin. If you are guided by the Spirit of Truth, you will not be false. Truth and beauty: they are gifts of the risen Christ. Cherish them. Rejoice in them. Share them today with someone you love. Alleluia!
Brief Audio Reflection "Big Deal" on John 11: 1-45: The Fifth Sunday in Lent; Year A
From the perspective of two millennia, the fact that some guy named Lazarus gets to walk around Bethany an extra twenty or thirty years is no big deal. But the fact that Jesus has conquered death for all eternity is a very big deal… the biggest deal that ever was or ever will be.
Jesus is telling us: You want signs that I’m the Messiah? How about the blind see; the deaf hear; lepers are cleansed and devils are cast out? But I’m saving the best for last. Jesus doesn’t rush to Lazarus’ bedside to cure him. He waits until Lazarus is four days in the tomb to call him forth. He could have saved Martha and Mary a lot of grief with a quick, pop-in cure. But, as always, Jesus has a bigger point to make. And it doesn’t get bigger than: I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Brief Audio Reflection "The Way Home" on John 14:1-14; Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A.
Cowboys “drive” cattle. But shepherds “lead” sheep. It’s hardly a subtle distinction. The Good Shepherd does not stampede us towards salvation. He calls his flock. We know his voice. We follow him knowing that his way is the right way. It is God’s way and it leads to redemption, resurrection and eternal life.
The Good Shepherd has earned our trust. He went to the cross for us. And in the glory of Easter, in the rebirth of spring, he’s back among us. The gentle Jesus is risen triumphant over sin and death. Look around you through the eyes of faith. He is in our midst… comforting, encouraging, protecting… leading us home.
And what is our answer to Christ’s love call? “Sorry I’m busy.” “I gave at the office.” “I’d like to help, but not right now.” There’s an encyclopedia of excuses. I’ve heard them all. And I’ve used a lot of them. Chances are you have too. But the Good Shepherd does not give up on us. He is relentless. Listen for him. Follow him. That may not mean a mission to the third-world. It may mean just more quiet time with Jesus… or reaching out to a neighbor who’s struggling… overlooking a slight… forgiving a hurt. But what better way to spend the Easter season than listening for the voice of the risen Savior? What better way than answering the Good Shepherd’s call?
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