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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Sixth Sunday of Easter

The Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 21, 2017
Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; Psalm 66; 1 Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21

                 In the Acts of the Apostles, we hear an account of the first battles in spiritual warfare. The Apostle Philip goes into the non-Jewish Samaria to teach the faith and many are surprised by the unfolding events: unclean spirits convulse, the crippled walk again, and many people are cured. Evil in that region was slain by the power of the Holy Spirit because the people accepted the word of God. The Disciples in Jerusalem rejoice greatly and hasten to Samaria to lay hands on the new converts so they could receive the Holy Spirit. In the war between good and evil, love is the power that triumphs.

            What was the secret power for the Apostles? Communal Prayer. Peter and John, upon hearing of Philip’s success, prayed together for the same intention. The Disciples agreed to pray for a common purpose and it yielded positive results. It makes me think about the individualistic way we treat prayer.

            Priests often hear people shout out, “Father, pray for me.” My internal response is, “Well, of course, I’ll pray for you. I always pray for your well being and for goodwill. I do that routinely.” However, it does not tell me how to pray for you. What I would rather hear is, “Father, can we pray together for this particular intention of mine? This is what I am asking for in my prayer?” It allows me to be part of the conversation and it allows me to shape the content of the prayer.

            I may not be praying for what you want. For instance, you may want me to pray that a certain person in your life may stop controlling some aspect of your life, but I may be praying for your courage to speak up to this person so you can set proper boundaries around your personal space. In this instance, we are both praying, but our prayer is not yet unified because we are asking for different things. We need to talk first so that our agreed upon communal prayer can strengthen each other by asking for the same grace.

            Think about Sunday participation. People come in and say their private prayers together. Maybe two hundred people are gathered together in the church, each petitioning God for two hundred different prayers. What if we decided to harness our power by praying for a particular grace in common? What if we unified our particular intentions and made it a common one? If we did, we might experience what Philip, Peter, and John witnessed. Like them, we will be filled with a gentle love that rises from prayer. I think most of us want this.

            To comfort and guide us, God sends us an Advocate to remain with us. This Advocate, the Holy Spirit, abides by us and can never leave our side. God tender care makes us know that we will not ever feel cut off from God. The prayer of Jesus unites us intimately to God that we become one with God. You cannot get any closer than that. We are never alone. The Spirit’s presence is palpable, and with this intimacy, our hearts are guided to make right choices. Discernment is easy when it begins with common prayer because we have an unconditional love as our foundation.

            The Spirit gives us courage to speak about our deepest wants and needs to God. We often keep these needs protected and hidden, even from God. Many of us have something about us that we do not want to share with others because it is a place of shame. Perhaps we need acceptance or healing. Maybe we have been fundamentally hurt in a relationship that cannot be repaired. Maybe we are not as good as we thought we were. This is where the Spirit comes to our aid. The Spirit teaches us to be gentle to ourselves by first receiving the abiding, gentle love of God. Only God’s merciful love makes us feel whole; only God’s mercy heals shame; only God’s gentleness fortifies us to rebuild our fractured lives.

            If we allow the Spirit to heal us, imagine the blessings we give to others to be healed of their incompleteness. It takes courage to do what is right in order to save someone else’s soul. Perhaps a small gesture of gentleness can be a saving grace in someone’s life. For the good of someone’s soul, isn’t it worth trying?

            As we get set to welcome the Spirit, let’s use the best resource we have as Catholics: communal unified prayer. Let’s pray, not as individuals seeking our own needs, but together, in common understanding, in one heart and mind, for the good of others. Let’s experience the bursts of joy and amazement that comes from this power as the Spirit renews the face of the earth. Peter, John, and Philip prayed to same Holy Spirit that is coming to us. This same Spirit is closer than we know, so let’s bind ourselves together in prayer in anticipation and delight in knowing that God will always remain by our side.

Scripture for Daily Mass

First Reading: 
Monday: (Acts 16) Paul and Barnabas set sail for Philippi, a leading city of Macedonia, and a Romany colony. Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, listens to their preaching and opens her heart to them. She is baptized and invites them to stay with her.  
Tuesday: (Acts 16) Paul is brought to the Areopagus in Athens and tells them of the Unknown God he and Barnabas worship.
Wednesday: (Acts 17) At the Areopagus, Paul declares that this unknown God is the same one Christians worship and has brought about salvation, including the resurrection of the dead. This concept unsettles some who find it a difficult teaching to accept.
Thursday: (Acts 15) Paul travels to Corinth and meets the Jews, Aquila and Priscilla, who were forced to leave Rome because of Cladius’ dispersion edict. He learns the tent-making trade and preaches to Jews who reject him. He encounters Titus Justus and Crispus, a synagogue leader, who comes to believe. The entire congregation believes the news of Jesus Christ.
Friday (Acts 18) While in Corinth, Paul receives a vision from the Lord urging him to go on speaking as no harm will come to him. Others are harmed, but Paul escapes injury.
Saturday (Acts 18) Paul travels to Antioch in Syria. Priscilla and Aquila meet Apollos, a Jewish Christian, who is preaching the way of Jesus, but of the baptism by the Holy Spirit he is not informed. They take him aside and teach him the correct doctrine. He then vigorously refutes the Jews in public, establishing from the Scriptures that the Christ is Jesus.

Monday: (John 15) Jesus tells his friends that the Advocate will come and testify to him. Meanwhile, they will be expelled from the synagogues and harmed – even unto death.  
Tuesday: (John 16) The Advocate, the Spirit of truth, will guide his friends to all truth. Jesus confuses them by saying, “a little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while later and you will see me.”
Wednesday (John 16) The Spirit of truth will guide you and will declare to you the things that are coming. The Spirit will glorify. Everything the Father has is mine.
Thursday (John 15) Remaining close to Jesus will allow us to share complete joy with one another.
Friday (John 16) As they debate, he tells them their mourning will become joy – just like a woman who is groaning in labor pains.
Saturday (John 16) As Jesus tells them again that he is part of the Father, he instructs them to ask for anything in his name and God will grant it because Jesus is leaving the world and is going back to the Father. The Father loves them because they have loved him. The Father will reward them for their generosity.

Saints of the Week

May 21: Christopher Magallanes, priest and companions, martyrs (1869-1927) was a Mexican priest who served the indigenous people by forming agrarian communities. He opened seminaries when the ant-Catholic government kept shutting them down. He was arrested and executed with 21 priests and 3 laymen.

May 22: Rita of Cascia, religious (1381-1457), always wanted to become a nun but her family married her off to an abusive man. He was murdered 18 years later. Rita urged forgiveness when her two sons wanted to avenge their father's murder. They soon died too. Rita wanted to enter a convent, but he marital status kept her out. Eventually, the Augustinians in Cascia admitted her. She became a mystic and counselor to lay visitors.

May 24: Our Lady of the Way or in Italian, Madonna della Strada, is a painting enshrined at the Church of the Gesu in Rome, the mother church of the Society of Jesus. The Madonna Della Strada is the patroness of the Society of Jesus. In 1568, Cardinal Farnese erected the Gesu in place of the former church of Santa Maria della Strada. 

May 25: Bede the Venerable, priest and doctor, (673-735), is the only English doctor of the church. As a child, he was sent to a Benedictine monastery where he studied theology and was ordained. He wrote thorough commentaries on scripture and history as well as poetry and biographies. His famous work is the "Ecclesiastical History of the English People," the source for much of Anglo-Saxon history.

May 25: Gregory VII, pope (1020-1085), was a Tuscan who was sent to a monastery to study under John Gratian, who became Gregory VI. He served the next few popes as chaplain, treasurer, chancellor and counselor before he became Gregory VII. He introduced strong reforms over civil authorities that caused much consternation. Eventually, the Romans turned against him when the Normans sacked Rome.

May 25: Mary Magdalene de'Pazzi (1566-1607), a Florentine, chose to become a Carmelite nun instead of getting married. Her biography, written by her confessor, gives accounts of intense bouts of desolation and joy. She is reputed to have gifts of prophecy and healing.

***Please note that the Ascension is celebrated in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Newark, Hartford, and Omaha on Thursday. Most of the world celebrates the feast on Sunday.

May 25: Ascension Thursday is a holy day of obligation. It marks the event in the life of the Resurrected Christ who departed from this temporal earth to return to God. It celebrates Jesus’ visible absence while recognizing his invisible presence to the world. It is the event in the life of Christ when his physical appearances came to an end so he could resume his place at the right hand of the Father in heaven. St. Ignatius was so desirous of learning about the historical Jesus that he traveled to the places in the Holy Lands where Jesus walked and lived. As he was getting kicked out of the Holy Lands, he desired to return to the place of the Ascension to see the direction of Jesus’ feet as he ascended to God. A novena is prayed beginning on this day as we await the arrival of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

May 26: Philip Neri, priest (1515-1595), is known as the "Apostle of Rome." A Florentine who was educated by the Dominicans, he re-evangelized Roe by establishing confraternities of laymen to minister to pilgrims and the sick in hospitals. He founded the Oratorians when he gathered a sufficient following because of his spiritual wisdom.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      May 21, 1925. Pius XI canonizes Peter Canisius, with Teresa of the Child Jesus, Mary Madeleine Postal, Madeleine Sophie Barat, John Vianney, and John Eudes. Canisius is declared a Doctor of the Church.
·      May 22, 1965. Pedro Arrupe was elected the 28th general of the Society of Jesus.
·      May 23, 1873. The death of Peter de Smet, a famous missionary among Native Americans of the great plains and mountains of the United States. He served as a mediator and negotiator of several treaties.
·      May 24, 1834. Don Pedro IV expelled the Society from Brazil.
·      May 25, 1569. At Rome Pope St Pius V installed the Society in the College of Penitentiaries. Priests of various nationalities who were resident in Rome were required to act as confessors in St Peter's.
·      May 26, 1673. Ching Wei‑San (Emmanuel de Sigueira) dies, the first Chinese Jesuit priest.

·      May 27, 1555. The Viceroy of India sent an embassy to Claudius, Emperor of Ethiopia, hoping to win him and his subjects over to Catholic unity. Nothing came of this venture, but Fr. Goncalvo de Silveira, who would become the Society's first martyr on the Africa soil, remained in the country.

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