Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Daily Readings, Daily Bread

Reading the scriptures daily and on Sundays in the lectionary and the Liturgy of the Hours is one of the great reforms begun by the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council. It’s part of an effort to seek renewal through the Word of God. Yet, after 60 or so years, we’re still getting used to it.

For one thing, reflection on the scripture readings is a new way to reflect on our faith.  The scriptures are old and we live in a new world. As we search for “the face of God” in scripture we have to “trust” we will find it there.

“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”The daily scriptures are daily bread, but they may not be easy to digest. We go from Matthew, preoccupied with the tensions of his church with Pharisaic Judaism,  to Luke preoccupied with an outreach to the gentiles, to the other New Testament writings, each with its own purpose.

Then there are the various readings of the Old Testament. They can be hard to understand, but the church wisely keeps them side by side with the New Testament. They hold a treasure all their own. We need to understand them better.

We need help to appreciate this daily bread, this varied diet served up. We need people like those hostssss on the cooking shows on television who not only  tell you what to eat but make those strange dishes appetizing and appealing. We need good homilists and good catechists.

We need a “lamp, shining in a dark place.” So we ask: Come, Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with your light.”

Lamp for a Dark Place

Spring Lake even

The sky over the boardwalk at Spring Lake, New Jersey, is sometimes swept with colors before nightfall. Then, a lamp becomes the only light till dawn.


“I came into the world as light,” Jesus says in today’s gospel” so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness.( John 12:44-50)


The sun will rise again and the great Sun will also rise again, Augustine says in one of his sermons. Then  “lamps will no longer be needed. When that day is at hand, the prophet will not be read to us, the book of the Apostle will not be opened, we shall not require the testimony of John, we shall have no need of the Gospel itself. Therefore all Scriptures will be taken away from us, those Scriptures which in the night of this world burned like lamps so that we might not remain in darkness.”

Darkness is temporary; we are meant for light.

“I implore you to love with me and, by believing, to run with me; let us long for our heavenly country, let us sigh for our heavenly home, let us truly feel that here we are strangers. What shall we then see? Let the gospel tell us: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. You will come to the fountain, with whose dew you have already been sprinkled.

“Instead of the ray of light which was sent through slanting and winding ways into the heart of your darkness, you will see the light itself in all its purity and brightness. It is to see and experience this light that you are now being cleansed. Dearly beloved, John himself says, we are the sons of God, and it has not yet been disclosed what we shall be; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

“I feel that your spirits are being raised up with mine to the heavens above; but the body which is corruptible weighs down the soul, and this earthly tent burdens the thoughtful mind. I am about to lay aside this book, and you are soon going away, each to his own business. It has been good for us to share the common light, good to have enjoyed ourselves, good to have been glad together. When we part from one another, let us not depart from him.”

Saints Philip and James

Saints Philip and James. Duccio

We celebrate a feast of the apostles each month. Why? Every family wants to find out how it began. Our church began with the apostles. Today, May 3rd, we remember two apostles together, Philip and James.

They’re celebrated together because their relics were placed side by side in the Church of the Twelve Apostles when it was built in Rome in the 6th century. Philip was called by Jesus to follow him the day after he called Andrew and Peter. (John 1:43-45)

James, who is also called James the Less to distinguish him from James, the brother of John, was the son of Alpheus and a cousin of Jesus. He  later became head of the church in Jerusalem. His mother Mary, stood with Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalen beneath the cross of Jesus. (John 19: 25)  He was martyred in Jerusalem in the year 62.

On a feast of an apostle you expect to hear one or more of his heroic acts or wise sayings, but in today’s reading from St. John’s gospel  we hear instead an apostle’s clumsy question. During his Farewell Discourse, Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father.”

“Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Philip says to Jesus, who responds:

“Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.”

Can we hear exasperation in Jesus’s words? Some commentators think so.  Jesus’ apostles are slow to understand him, uncertain, fearful–even ready to betray him. Philip isn’t the only one who can’t fathom Jesus and his message. 

Called by Jesus, they’re human. Their humanness and slowness makes us realize where our power comes from. “Not to us, O Lord, not to us be the glory!” The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ.

But before we dismiss Philip, let’s remember he pointed Jesus out to Nathaniel at the Jordan River and he brought Greek visitors to Jerusalem to Jesus as he was entering the city to die on a cross. ( John 12: 20-23) He never stopped pointing to the One whom he tried to understand. It was an apostle’s gift.

The apostles make us realize the patience of Jesus, which is the patience of God. They  reveal the different gifts and weaknesses found in the followers of Jesus.

The Bread of Life

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All four gospels say that Jesus fed a great crowd near the Sea of Galilee by multiplying a few loaves of bread and some fish. It’s an important miracle.

John’s account (John 6), read at Mass on weekdays from the Friday of the 2nd week of Easter until Saturday of the 3rd week of Easter, indicates the miracle takes place during the feast of Passover. Like the Passover feast, the miracle and the teaching that follows occur over a number of days.

The Passover feast commemorated the Manna God sent from heaven to sustain the Jews on their journey to the promised land. Jesus claims to be the “true bread,” the “living bread” that comes down from heaven.

Jesus is a commanding presence during the miracle and the days that follow in John’s account. “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” he asks Philip as crowds come to him. He then directs the crowd to sit down, feeds them with the bread and fish, and says what should be done with the fragments left over. Unlike the other gospel accounts that give the disciples a active role in the miracle John’s account gives them a small role. Philip and the other disciples are tested during the miracle and the teaching that follows it.

As they embark on the Sea of Galilee to return to Capernaum after the miracle, a sudden storm occurs and Jesus’ rebukes the wind and the sea, the forces of nature, so that the disciples reach the other shore. All four gospels have some version of Jesus’s power over the sea and therefore the natural world. He has divine power.

The crowds to whom Jesus speaks at Capernaum after the miracle are also tested as well as his disciples. They want to make him king after a plentiful meal and only look for a steady hand out instead of “the true bread come down from heaven.” Their faith is limited and imperfect after the miracle. They miss the meaning of the sign.

The disciples also are tested; some walk with him no more.

The miracle of the loaves and the fish remind us that Jesus is Lord and we are people of limited faith. We only see so far. The Risen Lord leads us to the other shore. He is the Bread of Life. “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life,” Peter says to Jesus at the end of John’s account. And so do we.

Friday, 5th Week of Lent

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Readings

In St.John’s gospel, read these final days of Lent and into Easter, Jesus goes regularly to Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish feasts. In John’s gospel, the Jewish feasts are signs that say who Jesus is and what he does.

In Jerusalem on a Sabbath feast, for example, Jesus heals a paralyzed man at the pool at Bethsaida. (Chapter 5); The Son does not rest from giving life as the Father never rests from giving life. At a Passover Feast (Chapter 6), Jesus calls himself the true Bread from heaven, the manna that feeds multitudes. On the Feast of Tabernacles (chapter 7-9) he reveals himself as the light of the world and living water. On the Feast of the Dedication (Chapter 10) which celebrates the rededication of the temple after its desecration, Jesus claims to be the true temple, dwelling among us and making God’s glory known. The Feast of Passover is introduced in Chapter 11 with Lazarus raised from the dead.

The feasts are signs that what Jesus says and does are from God. “The Father is in me and I am in the Father,” he claims on all these feasts. 

For the most part, his listeners are blind to the signs and accuse him of blasphemy, John’s Gospel says. They try to stone him and have him arrested. Instead of accepting him, Jerusalem rejects him. In today’s gospel, Jesus leaves Jerusalem and goes to a place across the Jordan where John baptized. 

He will come back as a new sign. First, He raises Lazarus from the dead; he bring life to the world, not death. The Jesus will be a sign himself, God will give a new sign, One who is lifted up on a cross. John’s gospel, more than the others, finds many glorious signs in the sufferings of Jesus.

The soldiers arresting Jesus in the garden fall to the ground before him. Pilate shrinks before him on the judgment seat, Jesus speaks calmly, majestically from the cross. Realists that we are, we find it hard to find suffering revealing God’s glory and power. It’s hard to see glory in someone suffering and dying on a cross..

We find it hard to see anything but absurdity in the pandemic we’re experiencing now and the constant wars that afflict our world. That’s why John’s Gospel may be an important guide today. “Look for the signs,” it says.  If we believe God is with us, there are signs of glory and a promise of resurrection, even in suffering and death.

The world is caught in a storm, like the disciples caught in their boat at sea. We need to know God is not asleep.   

Lead me on, O Lord,

through your holy signs, especially the sign of your Cross.

Through the One lifted up, show me the glory I don’t see. 

Morning and evening prayer here

Prayers for Children here..

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Monday, 5th Week of Lent

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Readings
Jesus meets a woman accused of adultery in the temple area during the Feast of the Tabernacles, according to John’s Gospel. He claims to be the light of the world and living water. His enemies, fiercely disputing his claims, likely brought the woman before him to discredit him. He said, “As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just…” (John 5:30) Here was a test.

Moses, the woman’s accusers say, commanded she be stoned. What is your judgment?

Adultery, though, is not the greatest issue here. Gender injustice is also on the table. Jewish religious law said if a woman were caught in the act of adultery and two men witnessed it, she could be stoned to death or strangled. The system obviously led to abuse; two witnesses paid by a vengeful husband might give false testimony and have her stoned to death. The woman becomes a victim and the man avoids blame.

Jesus, who brings a lens of justice and mercy to every age, brought life and light to the woman in the temple that day. Her accusers met his judgment.

The story of Suzanna from the Book of Daniel, like the gospel story, is also about injustice and  abuse of power. Two old men, judges with lots of power, think they can do anything they want. Abuse of power, combined with lust, is still behind many of our sexual crimes today. It’s found in the workplace, in politics, in the celebrity and sports world, and also unfortunately in the world of religion. 

Suzannah refuses to give in to their advances, and she finds a champion in Daniel who faces up to the powerful men. Her story calls for standing up for truth and fighting against abuse of power wherever we find it.  

Lord,
let me judge others fairly with your eyes, your heart and your mind.
Help me work for a world that is right and just.
Give me the grace to know myself.

Saturday, 4th Week of Lent

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Readings
The lenten readings from John’s gospel for today and the next week of lent (chapters 7-10) describe Jesus‘ activity in Jerusalem during the eight- day Feast of Tabernacles, the popular autumn feast that brought many visitors to the city to celebrate the grape harvest and pray for rain. Water was brought into the temple courtyard from the Pool of Siloam and lighted torches were ablaze during the celebration.

Arriving late for the feast, Jesus taught in the temple area and revealed who he was, using the images of water and light. His cure of the blind man, in the 9th chapter of the gospel, is a sign of the light he bestows on a blind world.

Yet, some don’t see. Those hearing him are divided; some want him arrested, some believe, some question his Galilean origins and his upbringing as a carpenter’s son. How can he be the Messiah, a teacher in Israel?

We’re surprised at unbelief before the Word of God on his way from Nazareth to Jerusalem. Why didn’t all see and believe? People doubted him then, and they  doubt him now. Even his disciples are slow to believe. “How slow you are to believe…”Jesus says to the two on the way to Emmaus.

But the Word continues to teach in our world and to instruct disciples weak in faith. His mission is not ended. Saints like Paul of the Cross knew that. However fierce the opposition, the Word of God, Jesus Christ, brings light and life.

“All the works of God are now attacked by the devil, now by human beings. I now have both at once. Don’t be dismayed when contrary factions and rejections arise, no matter how great they are. Be encouraged by the example of St. Teresa who said that the more she was involved in enterprises for the glory of God, the more difficulties she experienced.” (Letter 1180)

The Lord is my light and my salvation,
Whom should I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life,
Of whom should I be afraid?

Friday, 4th Week of Lent

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Readings
Jesus went from Galilee up to Jerusalem for the feast of the Tabernacles where “the Jews were trying to kill him” . (John 7, 1-39) It was a popular Autumn feast drawing crowds of visitors to the city. The “inhabitants of the city” notice him. Who are they?

They’re not the leaders who will later put him to death. They’re the ordinary people who watch the leaders, who know what’s happening in the city, who follow the trends and pass the gossip. They watch Jesus with curiosity as he enters the temple area and begins to teach.

“Do our leaders now believe he’s the Messiah?” “How can he be, because he’s from Galilee and no one will know where the Messiah is from?” They go back and forth– they’re the undecided who wait to see who wins before they take sides.

Jesus cried out against them, because they think they know what’s going on but know nothing. They are a far cry from the crowds in Capernaum that lined up around the door of Peter’s house when Jesus began his ministry. They’re blind to the Word in their midst.

When we think about those responsible for the death of Jesus, we shouldn’t leave out “the inhabitants of the city.” Terrible things happen because  the undecided choose to stay on the sidelines and become uninvolved.

The reading from the Book of Wisdom for today talks about people like that–the people who wait and see. “Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him.” (Wisdom 2,12-24)

Prayer helps us to see what is real, the spiritual masters teach. To see what is real we have to put aside the ordinary ways we see and judge and act. The way we think often blinds us to the truth. Then, we have to act. Whether we’re learned theologians, practiced priests, informed church-goers, or “inhabitants of Jerusalem” we need to humble ourselves before God.

We are the inhabitants of the city,

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Monday, 4th Week of Lent

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Readings
From now to Easter our gospel readings are mostly from the Gospel of John. The story of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday and many of the readings in Easter time as we celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection, are also from John’s Gospel.

In John’s Gospel Jesus reveals himself as God’s Son in what he says and does. “Your son will live,” Jesus tells the government official from Capernaum, who in today’s reading comes to Cana in Galilee where Jesus is staying to plead for his son near death.

“Your son will live” Jesus tells him and the official returns to Capernaum “believing” until his servants meet him on the way announcing his son’s cure. “Your son will live,” Jesus tells him and the deadly fever leaves his son. But the official does not see it at once, he must believe till he sees it himself.

God is not heartless before the mystery of death, we learn from our story. He’s not less loving than the official from Galilee, the father who pleads for his son. God is not less loving towards his Only Son, whom he brings to life after his death on the cross. The Father of Jesus, our Father, never wavers; he brings life to the world through his own Son.

But God’s mercy doesn’t appear immediately, our story reminds us. The official leaves Jesus “believing” not seeing. He has to wait. We see this also in the Lazarus story read towards Holy Week. “If you had been here, my brother would not have died,” Martha says to Jesus. She too has to wait, believing.

O God, let me rest in you
even now, before my earthly journey’s done.
For you bring me life even in death.
May I live believing
through the merits of Jesus Christ, your Son. Amen.

Try our new website for everyday prayer. www.praydaybyday.org . Morning and Evening Prayers, Week 4

Monday, 3rd Week of Lent

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Readings

Luke’s Gospel begins the ministry of Jesus with his rejection in his hometown of Nazareth. Rejection is an important part of the mystery of his death and resurrection.  Jesus lived most of his life in Nazareth among “his own.” (Luke 4,24-30) Yet, as he begins his ministry he is rejected by ” his own”  in their synagogue, a rejection Jesus must have carried with him;  how could he forget it?

Crowds welcoming  him to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday call him “the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee,”  but not many from Nazareth accompanied him there.  Some women from Galilee, most importantly his mother Mary, stand by his cross as he dies. Still, Jesus didn’t find much acceptance in Nazareth.. “He came to his own and his own received him not.”

The Cross on Calvary draws attention to the physical sufferings of Jesus in his passion–the scourging, the thorns, the crucifixion. But let’s not forget his interior sufferings, especially rejection from “his own,” who knew him from the beginning. Only a few followed him to Jerusalem.

The lenten gospels tell us rejection doesn’t stop God’s mercy and love. On Calvary Jesus shows God’s love in his outstretched arms.

We share in the great mystery of his death and resurrection. We may never be nailed to a cross as he was, but there are other ways to bear a cross. Rejection by “our own,” perhaps someone close to us, may be one way we share in the sufferings of Jesus.

Lord, help me  face the slights the come from those close by, from my Nazareth, from “my own.” The mystery of your Cross is not played out on Calvary alone, It’s played out in places and people close by, where we live now. Give me the grace to live in my Nazareth as you did in yours.