The readings for this Sunday, April 29, show us that sometimes our past can follow us. Paul, who had been Saul the oppressor of Christians, needed to show the disciples in Jerusalem that he had changed. His past scared them, and the proof of his change was the way he lived his life. He now spoke boldly for Jesus, and modeled his life after Jesus’. The second reading backs up the experience of the early Christian community–it says that words aren’t enough–we need to live in our words and our deeds. And our deeds should be loving. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us that to be part of him is like belonging to a vine. The main body of the vine is where the strength is, where the nutrients come from; where the life comes from. Branches grow out from there and grow fruit.
The readings for this Sunday, April 8, tell the story of the early Christian community. They were of one mind, all having received the Holy Spirit, are allowing themselves to be led by it. Their priorities were right; everyone who needed anything got what they needed because everyone was willing to share what they had without reservation. In John’s letter, we’re reminded that to love Jesus is to keep his commandments, which were to love God with your whole self and loving your neighbor the same way. The early Christians did just that. Jesus alone gives us the ability to do that, and if we open ourselves to him, we can do it, too. Then, when Thomas was out, Jesus appeared to the other Apostles, gave them the Holy Spirit, and told them to accept their mission of being “sent out” (that’s what “apostle” means). Thomas didn’t get any of that, so when they told him about it, how could he have understood it? They didn’t without that divine assistance. But, when Thomas is given the same as everyone else, he’s ready to run with it, too. We’re given a challenge–to accept Jesus’ help without being able to see him the way the Apostles did. Can you do it?
In the readings for this Sunday, March 25, we move from offering Jesus with a hero’s welcome to yelling, “Crucify him!” and putting him in a tomb. Jesus shows us what God is made of with his compassion, love and complete self-giving. We take everything he offers us gladly. And then, when things get tricky, we turn on him. The Apostles did their best to stand by him, but they couldn’t understand that what was happening to Jesus was in God’s hands. It can be very hard for any of us to remember that, no matter how bad things get, God is on our side. It’s hard to remember that, God only wants good for us. And it’s especially hard to remember that God will never let evil win. Our readings today can be a help for us in times when we might be tempted to second-guess God.
The Chrism Mass is when the bishop of each diocese comes together with all of the priests in the diocese to bless the holy oils that will be used throughout the coming year for sacramental celebrations. The oils of the Sick, Catechumens and Chrism are blessed and distributed for parish use. It’s an important event, and if you can swing getting there, totally worth it.
In the readings for this Sunday, March 18, God fleshes out for us what he intended his covenant with us to be. To be God’s people is to live God’s law, and to live God’s law is to put love above all other things. Jesus did this for us, even when he was afraid and stressed out, and we’re called to do it for one another. Throughout our history, all of God’s actions on earth were meant to draw us closer to him. Even now, God is calling to us, dreaming of a time when we will respond to that call together and bring peace to this broken world.
In the readings for this Sunday, March 11, the theme of God’s mercy continues. The Israelites were in exile in Babylon when God used King Cyrus of Persia to send them home to rebuild God’s nation. They had been victims of war with a superpower, but now were experiencing a peace they couldn’t have seen coming. The second reading shows us God’s boundless mercy — that he didn’t wait for us to be worthy of saving, or make us have to earn salvation, but offered it as a free gift to anyone who wanted to believe in it. The Gospel today is a famous one — God so loved the world that he sent his only Son. If that’s not a mercy, I don’t know what is. Jesus tells Nicodemus that, even when the light is right in front of them (Jesus is that light), they still turn away and prefer the darkness. But, that didn’t stop Jesus from keeping his light shining. Even when we continue to choose the darkness of sin, Jesus shines his light to guide us back to him when we’re ready.
Though it’s not his preference, it’s Jack’s job to live by the sword. He’s a Samurai, but he tries to complete his mission with as little violence as possible. Jack’s goal: to prevent Aku from destroying everything good in the world and save his family’s empire. However, he gives every monster and villain he faces an opportunity to repent, even letting them walk away unharmed if they do so.
It’s with this attitude that he faces Ashi, one of the Daughters of Aku who are trained as assassins to kill Jack. He treats her with compassion when she is used to a life devoid of love or kindness. She has been treated as an indistinguishable cog in a fighting machine; not cared for, not recognized for her gifts, just an agent of death used to accomplish her father’s evil plan.
The latest installment of Marvel Comic movies, “Black Panther,” is timely, beautiful and an important commentary on our responsibility toward one another — particularly those who aren’t directly related to us. Go see it. Bring your teens. Bring your youth group.
The question of “what is my responsibility to my brother?” is a constant companion in this movie, each main character struggling with it in their own way. It challenges our use of the resources that we control, and how protecting our own freedom and stability to the exclusion and detriment of others is faulty policy; both morally and practically. Women and people of color are depicted in relationships of equality, respect and dignity that could serve as a model for us any day. If you’re looking for a way to introduce Catholic social teaching to young people, I strongly recommend using this movie as a catalyst for conversation.
In the readings for this Sunday, March 4, we see God’s unbalanced mercy (unbalanced in our favor) as we’re given the Ten Commandments. Only people who care about you will give instruction and boundaries for relationship; and the Ten Commandments are just that. Three are how to relate to God, seven are how to relate to one another. All of them together are how we live out our gratitude to God for all that we’ve been given, and to show respect to God and all the things God loves.
When we step out of those boundaries, we step into sin — sin that makes us forget who we are. Jesus, when he visited the temple, came face to face with people who forgot they were in service to God and God’s people, and forgot the purpose of the temple. They forgot to put their relationship with God first, and made a mockery of God’s invitation to relationship. Jesus, rightly angry, made a point to correct them so that they could change their ways and return to God. Jesus also foreshadowed that an event was coming that would make the Jerusalem Temple obsolete — that Jesus would become the place of sacrifice once and for all.
In the readings for this Sunday, Feb. 25, we move from the desert to high places. The ancient people would always go up to the mountains to find God. Today we travel with Abraham, when his relationship with God was still pretty new, up to the mountain to sacrifice his son. This is where God reveals that human sacrifice isn’t cool. Then we go with Jesus who is revealed to Peter, James and John, by the Father as having God’s authority. Naturally, they don’t understand what they see and hear, but that’s okay — it wasn’t time yet. It was enough that Peter realized that what he was witnessing was important and that it was an honor to be there. Paul reminds us that we have God on our side — a loving father who is willing to do anything for us, even give us his only Son.