Thursday, April 30, 2020

Sunday Gospel Reflection, May 3, 2020: You had all gone astray like sheep...

Are you willing to be led by the shepherd?

  A flock of sheep can be startled and scatter without thinking about the consequences; when they are isolated, they freeze in place.  The sheep then need a shepherd to bring them back – the shepherd’s voice refocuses them, bringing their attention back to what is important.  In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter calls upon the house of Israel to repent, to change direction, to turn back to God, to focus on what God is revealing to them.  To repent is to allow themselves to be led by the Lord as their shepherd following the model of Psalm 23beside restful waters he leads me.  The psalmist David, who is himself priest-king and shepherd of his people, lets the Lord his shepherd guide him in right paths; he takes comfort in knowing that the Lord is always at his side.

  David’s is a lesson the Pharisees of Jesus’ time seem to have forgotten.  In John's Gospel, although they are supposed to be the shepherds of the people, they have led their flock astray; their sheep will not follow them because sheep do not recognize the voice of strangers, but rather only the voice of the true shepherd, Jesus himself.  In a related image, Jesus likens himself to the gate:  whoever enters through me will be saved, will have life and have it more abundantly.  The Pharisees are not willing to enter through Jesus; they refuse to see in him the shepherd come to guide them to God.

  As the First Letter of Peter reminds us, we all tend to wander from those right paths described in Psalm 23:  you go astray like sheep, he says.  But Christ asks that we follow in his footsteps.  Jesus taught us through his death what love demands of us; so long as we allow Christ’s path to guide us, so long as we turn back to him and respond always from a place of love, we can return to the shepherd and guardian of our souls, dwelling where the Lord is, in love itself.  Only then can we have life more abundantly, joyful, fully aware that life is a gift, and rejoicing in that gift that is love.

This post is based on Fr. Pat’s Scripture class.
Image source:

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

They have become Christ-bearers (Henri Nouwen)

  When the two disciples recognized Jesus as he broke the bread for them in their house in Emmaus, he vanished from their sight (Luke 24:31).  The recognition and the disappearance of Jesus are one and the same event. Why?  Because the disciples recognized that their Lord Jesus, the Christ, now lives in them… that they have become Christ-bearers.  Therefore, Jesus no longer sits across the table from them as the stranger, the guest, the friend with whom they can speak and from who they can receive good counsel. He has become one with them.  He has given them his own Spirit of Love.  Their companion on the journey has become the companion of their souls.  They are alive, yet it is no longer them, but Christ living in them (see Galatians 2:20).
--Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey

Image source:  Henry Ossawa Tanner, And He Disappeared Out of Their Sight (1898).  Tanner depicts the moment when Jesus, having sat down to dinner with two disciples, and broken and blessed the bread, disappears, leaving only a shadow to represent his ever-present Spirit.  See the following website:

Birthday Blessings, Fr. Pat!

  Fr. Pat, you bring to our parish extraordinary gifts, an open heart, and a willingness both to teach and to learn from our life in community.  In this time of crisis, when we cannot be with you in person, know that we are with you in spirit and in prayer on this day.

  May you also know the depths of our appreciation 
for all you do 
and for all you are.  
Much love from your flock 
on your birthday!

Image source: (J. Bacon), 

Monday, April 27, 2020

In the sacrament Christ the Word becomes our life (Alexander Schmemann)

  [I]n the liturgical and spiritual tradition of the Church, the Church’s essence as the incarnation of the Word, as the fulfillment in time and space of the divine incarnation, is realized precisely in the unbreakable link between the word and the sacrament.  Thus the book of Acts can say of the Church:  the word… grew and multiplied (Acts 12:24). In the sacrament we partake of Him who comes and abides with us in the word, and the mission of the Church consists precisely in announcing this good news.  The word presupposes the sacrament as its fulfillment, for in the sacrament Christ the Word becomes our life.

--Alexander Schmemann, The Eucharist:  Sacrament of the Kingdom

Image source:  Maximino Cerezo Barredo (1932-), Emmaus (2002).  For this and many other striking contemporary images of the supper at Emmaus, visit the following site:

Sunday, April 26, 2020

I enter this day with praise (John Birch)

I enter this day with joy
knowing that you are with me
every step of the way,
knowing there is a purpose
to each breath that I take,
knowing there is hope
toward which I walk.
I enter this day with faith
knowing you are the strength
which I depend on,
knowing you are the love
that is all embracing
knowing it is your peace
which calms my soul.
I enter this day with praise
knowing that I worship
with service as with voice,
hoping that my words
might reveal your truth,
hoping that your grace
might touch another heart.

--John Birch, Faith and Worship                 

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Scripture brought me to the gate of paradise (St. Ephrem)

Scripture brought me 
to the Gate of Paradise, 
and the mind stood in wonder 
as it entered.

--St. Ephrem the Syrian       

Image source:  Baptistery, Florence, Italy,

Friday, April 24, 2020

Many rays of hope (Henri Nouwen)

  The Easter season is a time of hope.  There is still fear, there still is painful awareness of sinfulness, but there is also light breaking through.  Something new is happening, something that goes beyond the changing moods of our life.  We can be joyful or sad, optimistic or pessimistic, tranquil or angry, but the solid stream of God’s presence moves deeper than the small waves of our minds and hearts.  Easter brings the awareness that God is present even when his presence is not directly noticed.  Easter brings the good news that, although things seem to get worse in the world, the Evil One has already been overcome.  Easter allows us to affirm that, although God seems very distant and although we remain preoccupied with many little things, our Lord walks with us on the road and keeps explaining the Scriptures to us.  Thus, there are many rays of hope casting their light on our way through life.
--Henri Nouwen         

Quotation source

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Sunday Gospel Reflection, April 26, 2020: Were not our hearts burning within us?

What do we gain when we sojourn with the Lord?

  We need to hear the Word of God.  When, in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus appears to two disciples walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, they at first believe that he is unaware of the things that have taken place in Jerusalem in recent days.  But Jesus quickly points out that the problem lies in their own shortsightedness:  O how foolish you are, he tells them, How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!  As he sojourns with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus breaks opens the scriptures for them, one after another, demonstrating how each one points to how Jesus himself came to save them.  And, once he has broken open the scriptures, he also breaks bread with them, proclaiming God’s Word in such a way that they can hear it with their hearts.  And then he disappears.

  In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter embraces the task of proclaiming the Word of God, the good news of salvation, so that all can understand:  Let this be known to you, and listen to my words, he tells everyone staying in Jerusalem.  Peter cites scripture (Psalm 16) – you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld, nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption to remind his listeners that God sent Jesus to die and rise for us. The First Letter of Peter further clarifies the reasons for this gift:  to ransom us from our futile conduct.  Jesus is the ransom; Jesus redeemed Israel, paying the debt of sin then and continually on to the present day. Which means that each of us must be of value to God – for, would you pay a ransom for something that has no value? But we must be open to that redemption, open to the salvific love of God, open to sojourning with the Lord.

  When we let the Word of God enter our heart through scriptures and the breaking of the bread, when we allow the Lord to come and enter into us so that he can dwell in us and journey with us, we are sojourning with him.  Our sojourn is our life as journey, a pilgrimage to eternal life. If we focus on growing in the love of God, if we focus on what God is doing in us, on God walking with us, then the sojourn will have accomplished its goal:  that we might learn, through scriptures and through bread, just who God is and what God is doing in us every day.

This post is based on Fr. Pat’s Scripture Class.
Image source:

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Teach me how to see Creation as you made it (Brother Isaiah)

Renewal entails recovering and respecting the natural rhythms 
inscribed into nature by the hand of the Creator.
--Jorge Mario Bergolio

Harmony humility
I take it back, I take it back to where we started
I take it back, I take it back to the Garden
I take it back, I take it back to where we started
I take it back, I take it back to where the heart is
Harmony humility

Making humble, making humble, beating heart
Teach me wisdom and teach me in the secret part
Teach me rhythm, teach me soul, teach me mercy
Teach me how to love this world and You firstly
Teach me how to see Creation as you made it
With that childlike wonder untainted
‘Cause in Your designs I find my delight
In Your designs I find my delight


Laudato si, laudato si, mi signori
Praise be to you, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth
Who sustains and governs us, producing varied fruit
With colored flowers and herbs.

  In the words of this beautiful canticle, St. Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life, and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.  This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will.  The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she groans in travail.  We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth, our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.

  Creation is harmed where we ourselves have the final word, where everything is simply our property and we use it for ourselves alone.  The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any higher instance than ourselves, when we nothing else but ourselves.

  Francis of Assisi invites us to something more:  to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness.  Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.

--Jorge Mario Bergolio, Pope Francis, Laudato Si

Happy Earth Day, Everyone!

To hear Brother Isaiah perform Harmony Humility, click on the video below.  To purchase Poco a poco (which includes the quotes from Pope Francis), click here.

Image source:  Sue Betanzos, St. Francis of Assisi,