Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter

Today’s readings

This would not be the Gospel I would have picked today considering the grief that I’m still working my way through. But the truth is, who of us is not touched by grief? We all have to deal with it at some point in our lives. Indeed, we who are disciples can look forward to a lot of grief in this world, which is what Jesus means when he says:

Amen, amen, I say to you,
you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices;
you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.

The Gospel begins by Jesus pointing out that for a while, the disciples won’t see him, but then a little while later they will see him again, and this would be the cause for their true joy. I think that whenever we grieve much, it is often because we have lost sight of God. Whatever the event that caused our grief, that grief causes us to lose sight of our God. And it hurts a lot because while we weep and mourn, it seems as if all the world is in the throws of joy. We have to grieve, but we must know that by seeing our Jesus again, we will once again experience true joy. The disciple who trusts in God knows this is true. However painful the grief may be, the joy that Jesus provides us will be the greatest joy ever.

My Father

This morning, my father, Patrick Joseph Mulcahy, after a 4 1/2 year long Dad2006battle with cancer, went home to rest with the Lord. We who were blessed to be part of his life will miss his devoted love and dedication to all of us, but we are full of hope and peace because we know that the souls of the just are in the hands of God. Please keep him, and all of us, in your prayers.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

The arrangements for his funeral are as follows:

Wake on Tuesday, May 8, from 3-9pm at Salerno's Rosedale Chapels, 450 W Lake St, Roselle IL 60172.
Funeral on Wednesday, May 9, at 11:00am at St. Matthew Church, 1555 Glen Ellyn Rd., Glendale Hts., IL 60139.
Interment Assumption Cemetery, Winfield IL.
Please, no flowers. Donations can be made to The University of Chicago Cancer Foundation, 5841 South Maryland Avenue, MC 1140, Chicago, IL 60637, or a charity of the donor's choice.

On behalf of my mother, Julia, my sisters Sharon and Peggy, my brother-in-law John, my nieces Julia and Molly, and my nephew Danny, I want to thank you all for your prayers and support.

Monday of the Fifth Week of Easter

Today’s readings

Today’s readings are a reminder that we disciples have to be discerning. It is important for us to discern what the truth is so that we can be led to the one who is Truth itself. The Gentiles, who worshiped idols, didn’t have the context of monotheism – that there is one God – to help them. Paul and Barnabbas did their best to catechize them, but there was much work to be done to overcome something that had been for the Greeks so culturally ingrained. The Gentiles didn’t have a context of God working through human beings, so they naturally mistook Paul and Barnabas for gods.

And in today’s Gospel, Jesus spells out how one can discern who is a true disciple. The true disciple, claiming that he or she loves God, will be one who keeps God’s commandments. If the disciple truly loves God, keeping God’s commandments would be second nature for him or her. But if one were to see someone claiming to love God and be his disciple but not obeying God’s commandments, one could conclude that person is not a true disciple.

Discernment is important for us, because we want authenticity in our worship and in our belief and understanding. Discernment is a gift of the Holy Spirit. When we come to know the One who is Truth itself, then we will be filled with the Holy Spirit and come to know the truth.

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Today’s readings

The One who sat on the throne said,
“Behold, I make all things new.”

That was, as we just heard, the end of today’s second reading. The book of Revelation is all about the persecution of the early Christians, and it looks forward to the day when all that persecution would end. People were dying for the faith, being forced to give it up or be cast out of the synagogues. That left them open to the persecution of the Romans who demanded that they take up the worship of their pagan gods or face death. They were a people looking for newness, healing, and re-creation. Fittingly then, John reports what is heard in his vision: “Behold, I make all things new.”

There is a clamor for newness, I think, in every age and society. We are a people who could use some re-creation even today. Look at the way our own faith is received. The voices of death have such a foothold that they have many faithful Catholics believing that babies can be aborted in favor of personal choice. Sunday family worship takes a further back seat to soccer games, baseball, and other sports and activities. Rudeness and hurtful language are used in every forum, and we call it entitlement. Prayer is not welcome in almost any public location, for fear that someone might be offended by our religiosity. Concern for the poor and needy, and a longing for peace and justice are bracketed in favor of capital gain. We Christians today are persecuted just as surely as the early Christians, even if we don’t pay for it with our lives. We Christians today are in need of hearing those great words: “Behold, I make all things new.”

The good news is that as an Easter people, we can already see the newness that is God’s re-creation of our world. We know the story of our salvation: This world was steeped in sin and we are a people who, though created and blessed by our God, time after time and age after age turned away from our God. Every generation turned away in ways more brazen than the last. We are the heirs of that fickle behavior and we can all attest that our sins have led us down those same paths time after time in our own lives. But God, who would be justified in letting us live in the hell we seemed to prefer, could not live without us. So he sent his only Son into our world. He was born as one of us and walked among us, living the same life as ours in all things but sin. He reached out to us and preached the new life of the Gospel. And in the end, he died our death, the death we so richly deserved for our sins. And not letting that death have the last word in our existence, he rose to a new life that lasts forever. He did all that motivated by the only thing that could ever explain away our fickle sinfulness, and that motivation is love.

I give you a new commandment: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.
This is how all will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.

The love that Jesus is talking about here is not some kind of emotional infatuation that fades as quickly as it grows. It is not a love that says “I will love you if…” You have heard it before, I know: “I will love you if you remain faithful to me.” “I will love you if you are successful in school.” “I will love you if you meet all my own selfish expectations.” “I will love you if you ignore my imperfections.” “I will love you if you become more perfect.” Because the kind of love that says “I will love you if…” is not love at all. If God loved us if… we would be dead in our sins and there would be no reason to gather in this holy place day after day. If God loved us if… we would have nothing to look forward to in the life to come.

No, God does not love us if… God loves us period. As we know, God is love. God is love itself, love in all its perfection. Love cannot be experienced in a vacuum, so God created us to love him and for him to love us. We are the creation of God’s love and God cannot not love us! The kind of love Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel can only be summed up by the two crosses here in our church. First, the love that is poured out on the cross behind me, in which Jesus takes our sinfulness and brokenness upon himself, and stretches out his arms to die the death we had deserved for our unfaithfulness. It wasn’t nails that held him to that cross, it was love, and we are totally undeserving of it. The second cross is over to the left of the sanctuary and portrays Jesus rising from the dead against the backdrop of the cross. The Resurrection means that, because of love, death and sin have lost their sting. They no longer have the last word in our existence, because our God who is love itself has recreated the world in love.

And with this great act of sacrifice that restores us to grace, Jesus also gives those who would be his disciples a commandment: Love one another. And that sounds like an easy thing to do. But the second line of that commandment gives us pause and reminds us that our love can’t just be a nice feeling. He says to us: “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” And we know how he has loved us, don’t we? Whenever we forget, all we have to do is look at the nearest crucifix. Our love must be sacrificial. Our love must be unconditional. Our love cannot be “I will love you if…” but instead, “I love you period.” Our love must be a love that re-creates the world in the image of God’s own love.

We live in a world that is broken and dark and evil at times. But our God has not abandoned us. Taking our death upon himself, he has risen triumphant over it. In spite of our unfaithfulness, he has re-created us all in his love. So now we disciples must continue his work of re-creation and love the world into a new existence.

“Behold, I make all things new.”

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Today’s readings

Well, today’s Gospel reading is an exact repeat of the Gospel we had for the Feast of Sts. Philip and James, which was just two days ago. That’s the kind of coincidence that happens on the church calendar sometimes. So I’m not going to say much about the Gospel today. Instead, I want to pick up on the last line of the first reading. Just to refresh our memories, that line was: “The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.”

That’s an amazing line considering what happened to them earlier in the reading. The Jews showed them violent abuse and completely and vehemently contradicted their testimony to the Gospel. So they turned to the Gentiles who received the Message with great joy, but were later incited by some prominent Jews to expel them from their territory. When we look at that kind of situation, it has to strike us that joy is the last thing these men could possibly be filled with, right?

Yet that’s what happened. They were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. That’s the way joy works. It’s not something conditioned by the external events of a person’s life. Joy is not a feeling. Joy, instead, is a direct result of the disciple’s decision to give their life to Christ and to follow his way. Joy does not mean that the disciple won’t experience sadness or even hard times. I can fully attest to that in these days myself. But joy does mean that the disciple will never give in to the sadness or the hard times because all those things have been made new in Christ.

Christ is the source of our true joy. We disciples must choose to live lives of joy and remain unaffected by the world and the events of our lives. We choose joy because we know the One who is our Salvation.

Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Today’s readings

The last two days, the Gospel has overlapped by one verse, John 14:6. It appeared at the beginning of yesterday’s Gospel reading, and at the beginning of today’s:

“I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.”

To me, this has always been a rather clear and uncompromising statement. How can a person come to the Father? Only through Jesus Christ, who is not just a way, a truth and one possible life, but rather the way, the truth, and the life, without whom no one can come to the reward of knowing God the Father, the one who created us for himself. This statement is Gospel, so we are called to believe in it, but it is one of those Gospel statements that is, well, a little troubling.

Because sometimes we would rather not make waves. Hey, anything you do is okay as long as you’re a good person. And aren’t all religions going for the same thing anyway? Well, that’s not what we’re hearing this morning, is it? St. Paul was pretty clear on this in today’s first reading from Acts, too. Listen to the end of his declaration one more time:

“We ourselves are proclaiming this good news to you
that what God promised our fathers
he has brought to fulfillment for us, their children, by raising up Jesus,
as it is written in the second psalm,
You are my Son; this day I have begotten you.”

Speaking to the Jews at Antioch, Paul makes it clear that Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophets, even if the Jews at Jerusalem had Jesus put to death. Jesus alone is the one of whom prophets and psalmists have spoken, and we are now called upon to accept that truth.

As troubling as this Gospel may be, we have to look at it and come to terms with it, because it is the core of the Gospel faith. If Jesus isn’t the one way to the Father and to eternal life, then we could pick a faith that’s a lot easier. We could stay home and pray to trees and try to be as nice as we can to everyone. But the Gospel demands a lot more than that. It demands that we recognize Jesus as the one truth, and his way – which, let’s face it, is the Way of the Cross – is the one way, and his life of service and love is the only life there is. And if that’s true, we all have to be proclaimers of the Gospel so that this troubled world might be converted.

Feast of Sts. Philip and James, Apostles

Today’s readings

Today is the feast of St. Philip and the man we call “St. James the Lesser” because he is not the St. James that we know as a relative of Jesus and the traditional author of the book of James. Unfortunately, all that we know about this St. James is that Jesus chose him as an apostle. St. Philip we know a bit more about. We hear of him in the Gospel story of the feeding of the multitudes because he is the one who tells Jesus “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.” In today’s Gospel we see him again as an apostle who is slow to believe. “Show us the Father,” he says, “and that will be enough for us.”

What we see in them is that the apostles are human men, complete with human flaws, who are called despite their seemingly obvious lack of talent and strength of character. It would be easy for us to label them, along with St. Thomas and all the rest, as slow to believe and understand. But aren’t we that way sometimes? How often when our faith gets tested do we lose sight of the fact that God is right there with us, in the thick of it all, walking with us as we suffer, never letting us be alone? But how often at those times do we say “God, where are you?” “Show us the Father,” we want to say, because we feel so alone. If the Apostles themselves were so slow to believe, it’s no wonder that we sometimes need a little convincing.

To those Philip and James and all the rest of the Apostles, Jesus said then, “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.” Jesus says that to us today, too, all of us disciples who are slow to believe and understand. “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do.”

Fourth Sunday of Easter: World Day of Prayer for Vocations

Today’s readings

Today’s brief Gospel reading begins with the wonderful line, “My sheep hear my voice.” However, I have two problems with that. First, who wants to be compared to sheep? Sheep are not the brightest of animals, and they must remain in their flock to defend themselves against even the most innocuous of predators. Second, how are the sheep, if that is how we are to be called, to hear the shepherd in this day and age? There are so many things that vie for our attention, that it would be easy to miss the call of the shepherd altogether.

So let’s look at these issues. First, many who raise and nurture sheep would perhaps disagree with my assessment that they aren’t very bright. I have been told that sheep do have the innate ability to hear their master’s voice, which helps them to survive. Add that to the fact that they also innately remain part of the flock, and we can see that sheep seem to know what it takes to survive. And maybe we don’t know that as well as we should. How often do we place a priority on being within earshot of our Master? How willing are we to remain part of the community in good times and in bad? Yet Jesus makes it clear today that this is the only way we can survive, the only way we can come at last to eternal life.

So what will it take to overcome my second objection? What will it take for us sheep to hear our Master’s voice? We who are so nervous about any kind of silence that we cannot enter a room without the television on as at least background noise. Or we who cannot go anywhere without our cell phones and/or iPods implanted firmly in our ears? Or we who cannot bear to enter into prayer without speaking all kinds of words and telling God how we want to live our lives? If even our prayer and worship are cluttered with all kinds of noise, how are we to hear the voice of our Shepherd who longs to gather us in and lead us to the Promise? Yet Jesus makes it clear today that entering into the silence and listening for his voice is the only way we can survive, the only way we can come at last to eternal life.

The real question, though, is this: how are we to hear the Shepherd’s voice if there are no shepherds to make it known? Today is the world day of prayer for vocations. And I want to talk about all vocations today, but in a special way, I want to talk about vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Because it is these vocations, and especially the priesthood, that are called upon to be the voice of Christ in today’s world. This is a special, and difficult challenge, and I know there are young people in this community that are being called to it. We hear in today’s Liturgy of the Word that this task is not always easy because it is not universally accepted, as Paul and Barnabas found out. But it is a task that brings multitudes of every nation, race, people and tongue to the great heavenly worship that is what they have been created for. People today need to hear the voice of the Shepherd, but who will be that voice when I retire? Who will be that voice when there aren’t enough priests in our diocese for every church to have one?

We know that every person has a vocation. Every person is called on by God to do something specific with their life that will bring not only them, but also others around them, to salvation. Parents help to bring their children to salvation by raising them in the faith. Teachers help bring students to salvation by educating them and helping them to develop their God-given talents. Business people bring others to salvation by living lives of integrity and witness to their faith by conducting business fairly and with justice and concern for the needy. The list goes on. Every vocation, every authentic vocation, calls the disciple to do what God created them for, and helps God to bring salvation to the whole world.

Six years ago on this very Sunday, I was struggling with my vocation. I knew that God was calling me to give up my comfortable life and go to seminary to study for the priesthood. But I did not want to go. I was already doing what I wanted to do with my life and thought it was going pretty well. But on some level, I knew that life as a disciple required me to do what God wanted, and not necessarily what I wanted. There was an open house that day at the Diocesan Vocations Office. I wasn’t interested and wasn’t going. And that day, the celebrant preached on vocations and made the point that living as a disciple meant that at some point we have to stop asking the question, “what do I want to do with my life?” and start asking, “what does God want me to do with my life?” And I knew that God wanted me to go to that open house that day, so I did. Four months later, I was in seminary.

What about you? Are you doing what God wants you to do with your life? Maybe your answer won’t require such a radical change as mine did. Maybe it means you renew your commitment to your family, your work, your life as a disciple. But if you’re a young person out there and have only been thinking about what’s going to make you successful and bring in lots of money so you can retire at age 35, maybe God is today asking you to stop thinking only of yourself and put your life’s work at the service of the Gospel. Maybe you’ll be called on to be a teacher, or a police officer, or a health care professional. And maybe, just maybe, God is calling you to enter the priesthood or religious life. On this day of prayer for vocations, I’m just asking you to pray that God would make his plans for your life clear to you, and that you would promise God to do what he asks of you. I can tell you first hand that nothing, absolutely nothing, will make you happier.

And so, let us pray:

Faithful God,
You sent your son, Jesus,
to be our Good Shepherd.
Through our baptism
you blessed us and called us
to follow Jesus who leads us
on the path of life.
Renew in us the desire to remain faithful
to our commitment to serve you and the Church.
Bless all who dedicate their lives to you
through marriage, the single life, the diaconate,
priesthood, and consecrated life.
Give insight to those
who are discerning their vocation.
Send us to proclaim the Good News
of Jesus, our Good Shepherd,
through the power of the Holy Spirit.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Third Sunday of Easter

Today’s readings

A little over three weeks ago, we heard of the Twelve, gathered with Jesus in the upper room, celebrating the Passover for the last time together. Jesus tells them that he must suffer and die, and Peter proclaims on behalf of all of them, that they would suffer and die with him if necessary. But, of course, when the rubber meets the road, they all scatter. Peter himself says not once or twice, but three times that he is not only not one of them, but that he has never heard of the man, this man who had been his friend for three years.

Now the crucifixion is history and Jesus has risen from the dead, and the Eleven have no idea what to do. So they go back to their former way of life. They’ve given up, they are dejected and broken and it seems like their last three years have been wasted. So they take up what they knew best: fishing. Only, that doesn’t go so well for them either. They have caught nothing all night long, these men who grew up knowing how to fish and had made their living on it.

To these men who have completely failed at everything now, Jesus comes and helps them reel in a catch large enough to be a vision of the men and women they will gather in for the Lord in the future. They share a meal and are fortified for the mission ahead. They are healed and lifted up and given strength to do what they’ve been created for. Even Peter gets not just one or two chances, but three chances to proclaim his love for his friend, this man he had denied three times just three weeks ago.

To all of us who have messed up in life, all of us wounded disciples who have been confused and dejected and disillusioned and have even denied our Lord, these Eleven show us great promise. Our Jesus is a Lord of second chances. And even third chances. Our God never gives up on us, even if he has to catch us in a net with 152 other fish.

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