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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

I’m Here. You are Safe. The Fourth Sunday of Easter 2020

   I’m Here. You are Safe.
The Fourth Sunday of Easter 2020
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May 3, 2020
Acts 2:14, 36-41; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:20-25; John 10:1-10

Jesus is portrayed in these readings as the shepherd and guardian of our souls, the one who promises us goodness and kindness all the days of our lives, and we are asked to hear his voice and believe in him. Psalm 23 is a great comfort to many in times of trial and distress and it is often sung at funerals. It reminds me of a conversation I had with a  friend who remarked about her grandmother, who passed away this week of COVID-19. She said, “I always thought that she had an unquestioning, immature faith, simply following the church teachings without much reflection, but it grew upon me that is was something more profound, it was a deep surrender that I came to hold up in wonder. Though the church was not sacramentally present to her, she did not die alone.”

Another friend, a nurse who lives alone, relayed to me, in tears, her terrible ordeal with the virus. She said that her illness debilitated her so much that she could only sip water due to feeling nauseous and it felt like she was floating from the fever. Her body strained so much with aches, imbalances, and shallow breathing. Her concerned siblings checked on her each day. On that ninth day, when her condition worsened, she finally realized she’d have to go to the hospital, to the place where she contracted the virus. That night, she thought she was going to die, and then her father came into her bedroom, held her in his arms, stroked her head, and clear as day, said, “I’m here. You are safe.” She calmed down and made it through the night, and her fever left her the next day. Her father who came to her in her time of need died this past Christmas.

My friend’s father acted much like Jesus, the Good Shepherd. He is the one who will take away our fears and he will be with us, even if others cannot. He will be with us to say, “I’m here. You are safe. You are mine. I care for you and love you.” He is the one who takes away our fears so that we can live in hope once again. His presence in our life gives us purpose. Our life, even though it can be under assault, has a purpose, and perhaps something in our world needs to be transformed.

Because we are a people of prayer, we can hear the voice of Jesus, and he hears our voices. In prayer, it is good if we learn to listen more, and talk less. Trust me. You’ll like what he has to say. Let him contemplate you. He wants to tell you that he appreciates the time you give him, that he is so pleased with who you are and who you are becoming, that he just wants to sit and waste time with you, that you belong to him and that you are precious in his eyes, and there is no other way that he would prefer to spend his time – just sitting comfortably with you.

We bring other voices into prayer, the voices of those who are important to us, the voices of those who control us or have power over us, or have hurt us or have been mean to us, and many other voices. These voices need discernment. Even many voices who are telling us the right way forward are often opinion-makers and not news sources. We need to return to the one voice we can always trust, the voice we hear in our conscience, the voice that is stuck in our gut, the voice that we hear in the middle of the night when we are ready to give up. We return to the voice of the shepherd. This is the voice of hope, and when we have hope, we have all we need to guide us forward, to go on living, to embrace the new day with courage and energy.

The Lord is my shepherd, and I lack for nothing. He gives me rest and refreshes my hope. He helps me to discern, and he replaces my fear with faith and trust, and he gives me courage. He says, “I’m here. You are safe.” He gives me everything I need and his goodness and kindness will be with me forever, for we will live forever together.

Scripture for Daily Mass

First Reading:
Monday: (Acts 11) The Apostles include the Gentiles into the community after solemn deliberation. Peter lifts the Jewish dietary laws for them declaring that, “God granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles too.”

Tuesday: (Acts 11) Those who had been dispersed since the persecution that followed Stephen’s stoning began proclaiming the story of Jesus Christ to their new communities. The number of converts increased dramatically. 

Wednesday: (Acts 12) The word of God continued to spread and the number of disciples grew. At Antioch during prayer, the Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

Thursday: (Acts 13) In Perga in Pamphylia, Paul stood up and told the story of God’s deliverance of the chosen people from bondage and slavery. God’s work continued in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

Friday (Acts 13) The whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord, but strict Jews opposed Paul and Barnabas and claimed they told the wrong story.

Saturday (Acts 13) The Gentiles were delighted when Paul and Barnabas opened scripture for them and those them of their inclusion as God’s elect. Salvation was accessible to them too.

Monday: (John 10) The Good Shepherd tales continues as Jesus describes to his friends the characteristics of a self-interested person who pretends to be a shepherd. The sheep know and trust the voice of the good shepherd.

Tuesday: (John 10) During the feast of the Dedication, Jesus declares he is the good shepherd and that he and the Father are one.

Wednesday (John 10) Jesus cries out, “Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me.” Jesus speaks and acts of behalf of the Father.

Thursday (John 13) Jesus makes “I am” statements and he shows he does the work of the Father when after he washes the feet of the disciples, he says, “I am.”

Friday (John 14) In his farewell discourse, Jesus consoles his friends. He tells them that the is going away but will soon return to take away their fear.

Saturday (John 14) He reassures that that since they know the mind and heart of Jesus, they also know the mind and heart of the Father.  

Saints of the Week

May 3: Philip and James, Apostles (first century), were present to Jesus throughout his entire ministry. Philip was named as being explicitly called. James is called the Lesser to distinguish him from James of Zebedee. Little is known of these founders of our faith.

May 4: Joseph Mary Rubio, S.J., priest (1864-1929), is a Jesuit known as the Apostle of Madrid. He worked with the poor bringing them the Spiritual Exercises and spiritual direction and he established local trade schools.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      May 3, 1945. American troops take over Innsbruck, Austria. Theology studies at the Canisianum resume a few months later.
·      May 4, 1902. The death of Charles Sommervogel, historian of the Society and editor of the bibliography of all publications of the Jesuits from the beginnings of the Society onward.
·      May 5, 1782. At Coimbra, Sebastian Carvahlo, Marquis de Pombal, a cruel persecutor of the Society in Portugal, died in disgrace and exile. His body remained unburied fifty years, till Father Philip Delvaux performed the last rites in 1832.
·      May 6, 1816. Letter of John Adams to Thomas Jefferson mentioning the Jesuits. "If any congregation of men could merit eternal perdition on earth and in hell, it is the company of Loyola."
·      May 7, 1547. Letter of St. Ignatius to the scholastics at Coimbra on Religious Perfection.
·      May 8, 1853. The death of Jan Roothan, the 21st general of the Society, who promoted the central role of the Spiritual Exercises in the work of the Society after the restoration.
·      May 9, 1758. The 19th General Congregation opened, the last of the Old Society. It elected Lorenzo Ricci as general.

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