• St. Peter the Fisherman

June 7, 2020

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

John 3:16-18

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Opening Prayer: Father, I turn to you in my need and my weakness: Please grant me your grace this day, so that I can continue to grow in faith, hope, and love. Jesus, I turn to you as my friend and companion: Please keep me aware of your presence in my life today, of your smile and your eagerness to walk with me. Holy Spirit, I turn to you as my guide and protector: Pour out your gifts upon my mind and my heart, so that I can be docile to all your inspirations.

Encountering Christ:

1. The Truth about God: The first verse of today’s Gospel passage is perhaps one of the most famous verses in the whole Bible: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” In many ways, it is a summary of the entire Christian message. Within this single verse, we find, in capsule form, the truth about God, about the world, and about ourselves. The truth about God has to do with his deepest identity, which is love (“God is love” [1 John 4:8]), and which was the motivation for Jesus’s incarnation (“God so loved the world…”). But for God’s deepest identity to be love, his deepest identity must also be personal and relational. After all, love always involves the generous acceptance of another person, as well as the generous giving of oneself to that person. And so we discover our first glimpse of the greatest mystery of the universe, the mystery the Church celebrates today in a special way: that God is a Trinity, and that from all eternity God is one divine nature and three divine persons, truly one God, but at the same time Triune in his divinity. We can never fully fathom the depths of this mystery. How can God be at the same time one and three? We cannot comprehend it fully. But we can contemplate it. And we can delight in knowing that God is not just some kind of a vague, impersonal force, as many New Age spiritualities claim; that eternity is not populated by hundreds, or thousands, or even millions of conflicting deities, as some pagan religious claim; and that God is not only all-knowing and all-powerful, not a grim and demanding taskmaster, but also all good. God is love! What idea of God dominates my mind, my attitude, my reactions to the ups and downs of life, when I pray?

2. The Truth about the World: The truth about the world around us is also hinted at in this verse when it tells us that life here has two possible endpoints: we can either “perish,” or we can enter into “eternal life.” This world is an arena in which each one of us, exercising the gift of our spiritual freedom, works out our everlasting destiny. This world is a war zone, and each one of our hearts is a battleground. God comes to our aid in Christ, and if we believe in him–in other words, if we accept the offer of his friendship and follow where he leads–all that is good and true and beautiful will triumph in us and we will make our way to greater and greater wisdom, peace, and joy in this life and forever in heaven. If we stubbornly resist the advances of God–his whispers in our conscience, his invitations to our hearts, his providential signs and encounters–we may be able to entertain ourselves for a while with the pleasures and delights of this world, but in the end God will respect our decision to separate ourselves from his friendship. And when our lives come to an end, we will suffer the everlasting frustration that comes from such a separation: We will “perish.” This world is not our true home or final resting place. This world is a place of journeying, fighting, and–we hope–growing to spiritual maturity.

3. The Truth about Ourselves: This verse also reveals the truth about ourselves. We are loved; we are loveable; we are known; we are pursued; we are chosen; we are wanted; we matter. Many experiences we have in this fallen world, this battleground world, seem to contradict that. As children, adolescents, and even adults, the people around us often don’t treat us according to the dignity we possess in our very selves by having been created by God in his own image and likeness. And so, we find ourselves often belittled and abused, abandoned and ignored, objectified and neglected. These experiences cause us pain, and to deal with that pain we begin to believe lies about ourselves—that we are not worthy of being loved, that we don’t need to be loved, that our desires for fulfillment and connection are unreasonable and unfulfillable. Jesus came to shatter the darkness of those lies, to release us from the spiritual and emotional chains they forge, and to heal us of the wounds beneath them. This is what it means when St. John explains the meaning of John 3:16 in the following verse, John 3:17, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” To save the world, to repair what is broken and redeem what is lost—that is why Jesus came. That is why Jesus continues to come, every day, through the working of the Holy Spirit, through the holy sacrifice of the Mass and Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, through the governance of all things by the Father’s providential wisdom. The Blessed Trinity is continuously unfolding a tapestry of salvation that includes the full restoration of our own broken and divided human nature. And that is why we can say, with today’s responsorial psalm: “Blessed are your, O Lord, the God of our fathers, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever” (Daniel 3:52).

Conversing with Christ: O God, thank you for revealing to me the truth about yourself, about the world, and about me. I believe in all you have revealed. I believe with all my heart in Jesus, your Son, whom you sent into the world to be our Savior and Redeemer. I want to believe in him more fully and vibrantly every day, so as to spread in my own heart and in the hearts of those around me the everlasting life you have promised to everyone who accepts your offer of friendship. I am so easily distracted by the hustle and bustle of life, and I lose sight of the truth of things. Teach me to live more firmly and consistently in the light of your truth. Teach me to discover and delight in the evidence of your love as it is hidden beneath the surface of all things.

Resolution: Lord, today, by your grace, I will truly pray every time I make the Sign of the Cross (at Mass, before meals, in my own prayers, as I go to bed), turning that gesture into a heartfelt act of adoration and praise, a renewal of my commitment to follow Christ no matter the cost, and a petition for supernatural help in the struggles I face as your beloved child and disciple.

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  • St. Peter the Fisherman

June 6, 2020

Saturday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Mark 12:38-44

In the course of his teaching Jesus said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.” He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

Opening Prayer: Lord, I know you are with me now, watching over me, glad that I am turning my attention to you in prayer. I offer this time to you, simply because you deserve my praise, and because I need your grace. Enlighten me, Lord, so that your Kingdom can grow in me and through me.

Encountering Christ:

1. Jesus Cares: In the Temple area the Jewish faithful could find large receptacles available to receive their monetary offerings to the Lord. Jesus “sat down opposite” these receptacles and “observed how the crowd put money into the treasury.” Jesus is truly interested in our lives, just as he shows his interest in these people who are coming to make their offerings to God in the Temple. Our lives matter to him. Our choices matter to him. He always has his eyes on us, not like a judge at the Olympics, looking for all the flaws in performance, but like a father and a brother and a friend. His eyes, as he watches us, are filled with the light and warmth of love, with the eagerness of someone who believes in us and hopes that we will live our lives well. As we make our way through each day, as ordinary and mundane as each day may seem on the outside, Jesus is with us, attentively accompanying us and deeply caring about every encounter, every decision, every challenge, every triumph.

2. Jesus Sees the Heart: Jesus looks into our hearts, hoping to find there what he found in this widow’s heart: unlimited trust in God. She “from her poverty, has contributed all she had.” This woman had no income of her own, had no livelihood. We can easily imagine her concern and preoccupation at being in such a precarious situation—women in Israel at the time of Jesus didn’t have a lot of employment options. We can imagine the uncertainty with which she had to face each new day, simply not knowing how she was going to survive, not knowing where the next meal was going to come from. How did she deal with this weight of worry and concern? She went to the Lord, and she put what little she had into his hands, trusting that he would faithfully care for her, that he would not abandon her. She radically and literally lived out the injunction from the Psalms: “Cast your care upon the Lord, who will give you support” (Psalms 55: 23). The hardships of life had brought this widow into a deeper relationship with God, a deeper understanding of the basic truth that we so often forget: without God, we can do nothing (cf. John 15:5). The wealthier people who came to make their offerings to the Lord actually contributed less than the widow who only gave a couple of pennies, because “they have all contributed from their surplus wealth.” Jesus longs for us to lean on him, to let him be Our Lord. Anything–including wealth, success, and popularity–that inhibits us from doing that is a danger to our souls.

3. St. Paul’s Warning and Advice: In today’s first reading, St. Paul exhorts Timothy to beware of just that kind of self-sufficiency. He points out how “the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth…” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). It’s so easy to be led astray by the tinsel and tinkling of this world’s attractions, whatever form they take. It’s so easy for us to prefer immediate satisfaction and distracting titillation to the long and often trying journey of faith. God must be first in our lives. The truth of Christ must be the compass that guides our hearts, minds, and decisions in all the ups and downs of mission as Christ’s disciples and ambassadors in this darkened, needy world. That is the only sure path to the deep interior peace and lasting fruitfulness we yearn for. And so, St . Paul’s encouragement to Timothy can also serve as his encouragement to us: “But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).

Conversing with Christ: When you sit and observe my daily life, Lord, what do you see? Is there anything that makes you sad? What makes you glad? You know that I want to follow you closely, to lean on you, and find all my contentment and fulfillment in your friendship, your will, your presence. Am I trying to make my own happiness and giving you the leftovers, like the wealthy visitors to the Temple in today’s Gospel? Am I “casting all my cares” on you, like the widow? I want to become more like this widow. I want to give you all that I have, all that I am, all that I do. Touch my heart again with your grace, Lord, so that I can burn with the courageous fire of your love.

Resolution: Lord, today, by your grace, I will pay special attention to the situations or moments when I feel frustrated, fearful, insecure, or worried. As soon as I detect any of those feelings, I will pause and turn my attention to God, recalling his promise to take care of those who depend on him. Then I will try to let his goodness calm my soul by making an act of trust in him, even if it is as simple as the prayer the Lord taught St. Faustina: “Jesus, I trust in you.”

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  • St. Peter the Fisherman

June 5, 2020

Memorial of St. Boniface, Bishop, Martyr

Mark 12:35-37

As Jesus was teaching in the temple area he said, “How do the scribes claim that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said: ‘The Lord said to my lord, “Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies under your feet.”’ David himself calls him ‘lord’; so how is he his son?” The great crowd heard this with delight.

Opening Prayer: As I once again turn my attention to you and your living Word, Lord, I humbly ask you to send your Holy Spirit upon me to open my mind and heart to your grace. I am so easily distracted, so easily distraught, so easily discouraged. I turn to you now knowing that I need your grace to continue forward on my journey of faith. I join my own personal prayer to the prayer of the whole Church today (from the Collect for today’s Mass): “May I firmly hold the faith St. Boniface taught with his lips and sealed in his blood and confidently profess it by my deeds.”

Encountering Christ:

1. Reduced to Silence: In the Gospel passages of the last few days, we have seen Jesus responding to clever verbal attacks and subtly deceptive arguments by which some of his adversaries were trying to discredit him. But after losing every clash, his enemies have been reduced to silence. Now Jesus takes the initiative to explain to the crowds how their expectations for the Messiah have been too low. He interprets a passage from the Psalms–a prophetic passage about himself–so as to elevate their expectations. The Lord, the promised Messiah, is not just another earthly king, as King David had been. The Messiah is Lord, superior even to the greatest of Israelite kings. St. Mark tells us that “the great crowd heard this with delight.” They were delighted because Jesus was opening their hearts and minds to the glories of his grace, and although they may not have understood all the theological implications, they could at least sense the redeeming and enlightening power of his teaching. Jesus still wants to do that with us today. Our expectations about life in Christ are, certainly, too low. Our own sins and wounds tend to obscure our vision of who Jesus is and all he wants for us. We need to be enlightened afresh every single day by the power of God’s Word. As St. Paul explains to Timothy in the First Reading: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” What expectations do I have that Jesus needs to correct or purify? What am I expecting from God in my life, in the life of the Church? What should I be expecting? What does God want to give me?

2. Sacred Spaces: St. Mark tells us that Jesus “was teaching in the temple area.” Rabbis at the time of Jesus often taught in the temple courtyards in Jerusalem. People would gather to be instructed, to debate and discuss the Scriptures and the events of the day. The temple was a sacred place, a place of worship, and a place of fellowship and spiritual growth. We need places like that. God knows we need them. In fact, he built it into our human nature to need sacred spaces. Every religion in the history of the world has utilized sacred spaces for their spiritual activities. What sacred spaces are there in my life? Every parish church, in a sense, is like the ancient temple of Jerusalem. It is a place where God himself dwells, through the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the Tabernacle, and where God’s people gather for instruction, fellowship, and spiritual nourishment. Of course, no sacred space here on earth–and so no parish church–wil l be perfect in every way. But even with its imperfections, it is meant to be a place of encountering God and nourishing my soul. Is that what it is for me? Each Christian home is meant to be a “domestic church,” according to Catholic tradition and doctrine. Is there a sacred space in my home? A prayer corner, a prayer room, a place with holy images, maybe a candle burning by a picture of the Sacred Heart? God dwells in our hearts as individuals, and he also sanctifies our homes, both through the Sacrament of Marriage from which every home springs, and also through his promise to be present wherever two or more of his disciples gather in his name. Am I hearing his voice teaching me in the “temple area” of my home? What can I do to create more sacred space in my life, so that the Lord can instruct my heart more easily and I can “hear this with delight”?

3. A New Church: St. Boniface, whose memorial we celebrate today, was familiar with the power of sacred spaces. He entered a monastery in England in the seventh century and learned the spiritual life in the cloister. From there he was sent as a missionary to what is now modern Germany, and even today he is known as the Apostle of Germany. He spent his life spreading the Christian faith among the pagan peoples in northern Europe, reforming corrupt Christians and converting nonbelievers from pagan practices like human sacrifice. He also strengthened the Church through building bridges between the papacy and the secular rulers of northern Europe. One of the most famous encounters throughout his decades of missionary activity had to do with transforming a pagan sacred space into a Christian one. A massive, ancient oak tree on Mt. Gudenberg, known as Donar’s Oak, was a revered object of pagan devotion for the entire region. Even some baptized Christians couldn&rs quo;t completely break away from the idol-worship associated with that place. St. Boniface was determined to rid his beloved people of the doubts and superstitions surrounding this tree and its supposedly sacred precinct. And so, he announced that he would chop it down on a particular day. When the day arrived, a huge crowd gathered, Christians and pagans alike, fearfully eager to see if the pagan gods would punish this Christian missionary who challenged the ancient power of Donar’s Oak. After a brief homily reiterating the Christian message of there being only one, true God, St. Boniface began his work, and after just a few swings of the ax the giant tree thundered to the ground, breaking into four immense parts. No lightning struck him down; the earth didn’t open beneath; in fact, nothing at all happened in the aftermath of the contest to give any credence to the old pagan beliefs. And to complete the transformation of that place, St. Boniface constructed a Christian chapel out of the wood from the sacred oak. He made a truly sacred space out of what had been a lair of idol-worship and superstition. He did similar work throughout northern Europe until he was martyred in the year 754, at more than 80 years of age.

Conversing with Christ: Dear Lord, come now into the temple of my heart, teach me there, topple and transform anything in my soul that is not fully devoted to you and to your Kingdom. You know how hard it is for me to live the kind of life you want me to live, the kind of Christian life I really want to live. Like many of St. Boniface’s disciples, I often seem to go back to my self-centered ways even after receiving your grace and your truth. But you have been faithful to your saints and your Church through the centuries, and I know you will be faithful to me. Please teach me to “remain faithful to what I have learned and believed” (2 Timothy 3:14, today’s first reading), even though I know that “all who want to live religiously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Grant me, O Lord, the great peace that comes from loving your law (today’s psalm).

Resolution: Lord, today, by your grace, I will create some kind space in my home dedicated to God, meant to be a place of prayer and reflection or at least a place to remind me that my home is a sacred space because I and my loved ones are Christians, temples of the Holy Spirit, bearers of grace and truth to this world.

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