During Holy Week, a number of priests discussed the power of Reconciliation and mentioned the Grace they receive from “hearing” Reconciliation. It seems that writing reflections has that same result for those of us blessed to be involved. I feel the Grace every time I’m reflecting on the Word and the particular readings always have a special meaning directed at me. Today would have been my Dad’s 93rd birthday. So I write this as a gift to him and although he has been dead nearly 43 years, his memory lives on.
The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles begins with a familiar theme, one that filled our Holy Week especially Good Friday – persecution. When thinking about Good Friday and the early persecution of the Christians, I have often wondered, what would I have done? I remember even as a young teen reading The Robe and Quo Vadis, wondering would I have been brave enough? Would I have stood by my faith and belief with my entire being? It is clear in the second part of this reading that those who believe are, indeed, rewarded. I recently received an email that is circulating with a modern version of the challenge to our faith. Into a crowded church, armed men come and challenge the congregation, asking who will stay and take a bullet for Christ. Needless to say, the crowd diminishes significantly with about twenty left – the “armed” men take off their masks and declare to the clergy, “the hypocrites are gone, here are the believers.” I am not at all suggesting that this is a method to prove our faith, yet it once again gave me pause to think and question. Would I have run from the church with the masses? Thankfully most of us will never face choices as overt as that, however, we do face choices everyday. I must ask myself; do I run from or with the masses on many issues that challenge my faith? Do I take a public stand and defend what I believe? Challenges for me and living my faith.
Our next reading fills us with the promises of being Easter people. How blessed we are to cry out with joy. We rejoice in the miracles and sing praise. As spring is finally making its appearance here in the Midwest, there are miracles to be seen every day! Those brave first flowers of spring are pushing through winter-worn earth and making their presence known – just the tips of green right now but with promises of more to come. I find that each year, the arrival of the first green and daily progress as the flowers brave the variable weather fill me with the promise of more to come. Like the woman requesting to be buried with her fork, we know the best is yet to come.
The gospel continues that theme of promise. Jesus promises the crowd (and us) that when we come to Him we will never hunger or thirst. Our beings will be filled not with the earthly nourishment that is transient and needs constant renewal. We will find eternal fulfillment. It is a hard road to trudge at times with challenges and temptations consistently along the way. Yet as we bask in the glory of the risen Christ, we can recognize that we have every thing we need for the journey regardless of the trek. I have thought a great deal this week about the sacrifices and suffering that was done on our behalf, on my behalf as unworthy as I am. Any little obstacle I have to face diminishes as I imagine carrying a cross, barefooted across rocks and rough gravel, uphill, thirsty, hungry, and beaten. I can immediately put it into perspective. I feel remorse for my contribution to that suffering and want to change those behaviors and actions that continue to contribute. I can take great comfort in knowing the promises that await us all if we believe. The last line of the gospel is so very powerful and full of hope:
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