27 May 2017

THE MISSION 2: CONTINUING THE WORK OF THE MASTER

ASCENSION SUNDAY
acts 1:1-11; ephesians 1:17-23; matthew 28:16-20

leonardo da vinci was working on a large canvas in his studio… with his inimitable genius: he chose the subject, sketched the outline, applied the colours. then he stopped, summoned one of his students, and invited him to complete the work. the horrified student protested that he was unworthy and unable to complete the work which his master had begun. but da vinci silenced him: «will not what i have done inspire you to do your best?» 


our master began his work of proclaiming the good news by what he said and did, and by his passion, death and resurrection. then he stopped and summoned his disciples to complete the work. 
will his life not inspire us to do our best? this is the thrust of the ascension. jesus gives his disciples a program (witness to him) and a promise (the holy spirit). 

in the gospel, jesus commissions his disciples to teach all nations and to make disciples of them. he promises to be with them «always, until the end of the age.»
in the first reading, the program and the promise is similar. jesus calls his disciples to be his «witnesses in jerusalem, throughout judea and samaria, and to the ends of the earth» and promises them the power of the spirit.

there are three aspects about christian witness.
- in a court of law, a witness cannot give hearsay evidence; it must be his/her personal experience. a christian testifies to a personal experience of GOD. 
- witness is not of words but of deeds. 
- the greek word for witness and for martyr is the same: «martus». to be a witness means to live the mission of christ no matter what the cost.

christian witness sounds a tough task. and it is… if we attempt it alone. that’s why jesus promises his presence and the spirit to strengthen us. 
like da vinci’s disciple we think we are unworthy and unable to complete the work. the life and the work of our master ought to inspire us.
how will i witness to jesus and carry on his mission? will i live the program and rely on the promise?

20 May 2017

NOT ALONE!

VI SUNDAY OF EASTER
acts 8:5-8, 14-17; 1 peter 3:15-18; john 14:15-21

home alone. the real life experience, not the movie, of several people. here’s just one story: 
i am sixteen. a year ago, i lost the most important person in my life, my grandmother. she was my world, and suddenly she was gone. i was alone. i cried for days, cursing GOD, her, and even myself for her death. i had no idea how to get through my freshman year of high school, but somehow i did. now i remember her and do what i know she would want me to do… help people.


alone. on their own. that’s perhaps the way the apostles felt during the last supper.
jesus, the most important person in their lives, has repeatedly told them about his death. the apostles cannot understand this talk of death and going away. 
jesus promises them his spirit to comfort and lead them: «the father... will give you another advocate to be with you always... i will not leave you orphans.»
and he reminds them: «if you love me, you will keep my commandments… whoever loves me will be loved by my father, and i will love him and reveal myself to him.»
a promise and a reminder! the promise of the eternal comforting, abiding, and advocating presence of the spirit. the reminder that they will experience the full presence of the spirit when they love… because the spirit is love.

we see the promise and the reminder unfold in the first reading: with the power of the spirit and with love, the disciples go out to proclaim christ to the people of samaria. like the sixteen year-old, when they reach out, they are alone no longer.

we, too, have been given this gift of the spirit. why do we still feel lonely and troubled? perhaps because we have forgotten the reminder. 
am i open to the comforting and guiding presence of the spirit? do i keep the commandment of love? then… i will not be alone. i will not feel «orphaned».

13 May 2017

FEAR BUSTERS

V SUNDAY OF EASTER
acts 6:1-7; 1 peter 2:4-9; john 14:1-12

a little boy was scared to sleep alone. he called out to his dad:  «i’m scared. couldn’t you stay in here with me?»
dad said: «son, nothing will happen to you. mom and i are in the next room.»
«i know, daddy. but i’m scared.»
«there’s no reason to be scared. GOD is here with you.»
«i know that, also, daddy. but i want someone with skin on.»


the little boy’s fear is similar to the disciples’ fear. jesus—their master, for whom they left everything—is leaving them. they are afraid to face the world alone; they fear staying in their «room» alone. 

jesus assures them that there is no need to be afraid, and gives them three fear busters.
faith in GOD and his son is the first fear buster: «you believe in GOD, believe also in me.» 
jesus tells philip: «whoever has seen me has seen the father… i am in the father and the father is in me.» the second fear buster: in and through his son, GOD is with us, is present with skin on, is deeply involved in the events and crises of our world.
jesus says: «i am going to prepare a place for you.» GOD has a special place for each one of us in the church and in the world. we need to find that place/mission/role. finding our mission and place in life is the third fear buster.

this does not mean there won’t be problems. the first reading describes the problems the fledgling church has in the food distribution system! 
the fear busters help the church overcome this problem: faith in GOD and jesus keep the apostles from getting overwhelmed. they find their place and role in the church: the apostles focus on preaching; they appoint deacons to look after the administration… and the church grew.

the little boy’s fear is similar to our own. problems assail us, the darkness of our nights frighten us… and we need someone—with skin on—by our side. 
do i have faith in GOD? do i believe that he is with me in his son and in people? what am i doing to find my place in life?

06 May 2017

DO I STILL HEAR THE SHEPHERD?

IV SUNDAY OF EASTER
acts 2:14a, 36-41; 1 peter 2:20b-25; john 10:1-10

a native american and his friend were walking in midtown new york. decibel levels were deafeningly high… people chatting, vehicles moving, and horns honking.
suddenly, the native american said: «i hear a cricket.» his friend said: «what! you’re crazy. you couldn’t possibly hear a cricket in all this noise!» 
the native american insisted that he had heard a cricket. he listened carefully, walked across the street to a big plant, looked under the branches and… found a cricket. 
his friend was stunned: «that’s incredible! you must have superhuman ears!» the native american said: «my ears aren’t different from yours. it depends on what you’re listening for. my ears are attuned to natural sounds. let me demonstrate.»
he pulled out a few coins from his pocket, and dropped them on the sidewalk. every head within twenty feet turned to see if the money that had tinkled on the pavement was theirs!
«see what i mean!» said the native american. «it depends on what’s important to you.»

today’s liturgy highlights the importance of having ears attuned to GOD and his word.
the gospel has two parables. in the first, the imagery is of a sheepfold into which the shepherd and a prowler seek to enter. the second parable concerns the relationship between the sheep and the shepherd, and between the sheep and a stranger. 
the first parable is a challenge to israel’s religious authorities: will they listen to and heed jesus’ message? jesus can offer no external credentials for his authority; in the second parable, a small group respond in faith to his message because they hear in it the authentic voice of GOD. 
both parables make the same point: jesus provides his people his word and sacraments, and gives them abundant life… provided they listen to him.


the first reading portrays the second parable! the people listen to peter’s admonishment. «they were cut to the heart», and ask what they must do. they again heed peter’s voice: they repent and are saved.

if jesus and his word are important for us, we will hear him above the bustle of our lives, above the noise of consumerism and materialism. if our ears are attuned to power, prestige and pleasure, we will hear those. 
the quality of our life indicates to what our ears are attuned! if we do not live «abundantly», we are listening to and following not the shepherd but a stranger. 
whom do i follow? to whom/what do i listen? do i still hear the shepherd?