How can I be more present to others modeling the way Mary was so present to her cousin Elizabeth?


Visitation

During the month of May we give thanks to Mary and honor her for all her blessings upon us.  On this final day of May we wrap up a month during which we celebrated in thanksgiving for our mothers on Mother’s Day, and feel Mary’s encouraging presence reminding us to be ever open to God’s love.
What a gift today to take time to pray with the story from Luke of Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth when they were both expecting their sons, Jesus and John.  Visitation means “visit.” The Archangel Gabriel told the Blessed Virgin Mary that her cousin Elizabeth was going to have a baby boy in her old age. Mary loved Elizabeth and knew she could use some help. So she set out at once on the journey.

Mary too was expecting a baby, the baby Jesus. The trip into the hill country where Elizabeth lived was long, dangerous and uncomfortable. But that would not stop Mary and she rode there on a donkey, as that was the best way to travel in the hill country.

Mary reached her cousin’s house and greeted Elizabeth. At that moment, the Holy Spirit revealed to Elizabeth that Mary had become the mother of God our savior.

Elizabeth asked joyfully, “How have I deserved that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?” Mary was not boastful or proud of this great honor, but remained humble and quickly gave all the credit to God. He had blessed her so richly.

Today I am overwhelmed by Mary’s amazing witness to God’s love.  She tells Elizabeth:  “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.  My spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.”   She goes on to tell Elizabeth:  “He has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent away empty.”

I am struck by the calm confidence Mary has in God’s steadfast love.  She took enormous risk to accept the invitation of that love, but she trusted.  I hear Mary calling me to be open and available to God’s love of me.  I too am God’s lowly servant who is hungry for the goodness of the Lord.  Mary wants me to celebrate the gift of God’s love with her rather than passively praying about her life.  She assures me God loves me as he loves her.

Now I feel inspired by Mary to bear witness to God’s love.  This inspiration brings more questions than answers:  How can I be aware of the signs of God’s presence within me?  How can I be more present to others modeling the way Mary was so present to her cousin Elizabeth?  In the hectic pace of life, how can I slow down so I can make the best choices with the gifts I have been given by God?  Where do I need to be brave and be more explicit about my faith?  How can I bring that faith to action for the greater glory of God?

What’s standing in the way of your healing? Are you too proud to admit you need help?


Mark 10v51

Bartimaeus, a blind man, could not see as most of us can. But even without sight, he was able to identify Jesus, not only as the Son of David, but also as one who could change his life.

What did he do? He called out again and again as Jesus was passing until he had the Lord’s attention.

What did he ask? “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”

This is what we need to do in our times of need: call to Jesus and ask for His mercy. If we do, He will help us!

Because of our sins, we are in some way spiritually blind. By grace, we may begin “to call out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have pity on’ ” us! Then many things inside pressure us to be quiet. What if Jesus did have mercy on us? What if He opened our eyes? We would see our sinfulness, our lives, and even reality. Then what would we do? We would need to repent. So it’s best to keep quiet and to keep blind.

It’s hard to admit weakness, sin, or even sickness. The blindness of pride often prevents us from being healed of other kinds of blindness. After Bartimaeus began calling out, “many people were scolding him to make him keep quiet, but he shouted all the louder” (Mk 10:48). After we humble ourselves, the next obstacle to healing is often worrying about what other people think of us. Often, to receive healing; it is necessary to look like a fool in the eyes of the world.

“Then Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him over’ “. Bartimaeus “threw aside his cloak, jumped up and came to Jesus”. His jump was a great leap of faith. Blind people don’t make sudden movements. If they jump up, they don’t know what might happen since they don’t know what’s above them. Jesus said to Bartimaeus: ” ‘Be on your way. Your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and started to follow Him up the road”.

What’s standing in the way of your healing? Are you too proud to admit you need help? Are you too proud to confess your sins? Are you too “cool” to be healed? Are you paralyzed by the thought of being laughed at? Are you unwilling to become a fool for Christ? If you jump up or down, do you believe Jesus will catch you? Don’t let anything or anyone prevent you from receiving your healing and your Healer, Jesus.

“What a friend we have in Jesus!” When He’s our Friend, we have the Way to true friendship with others.


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Today we discover, or, perhaps, rediscover, some rather applicable wisdom from Sirach regarding friendship, which is delivered and received in the wise ways of a faithful friend.

Sirach writes, “Let your acquaintances be many, but one in a thousand your confidant.” 

Committed relationships are the essence of Christianity. The Father “so loved the world that He gave His only Son”. Jesus is our Blood-brother, Who sealed His covenant with us by His blood shed on Calvary. The Spirit is committed to us in that He lives within us as His temple. We respond to God’s love by committing ourselves to Jesus as Lord, Savior, and God. Through Jesus we commit ourselves to the Father, and live no longer for ourselves but for Him.

In our human world, the word “friend” is used liberally to refer to the many acquaintances we keep in our day-to-day living; people with whom we talk and share with, at least superficially, on a wide range of topics and experiences.  As social media applications become more and more integrated into everyday interactions, we now live in a world where “social networks” and quantifiable lists of “Friends,” “Contacts,” and/or “Followers” simultaneously measure the vastness of our social linkages.  While these networks and personal connections have value and enrich our human experience, today’s reading cautions us of the all too often self-invested purposes of these friendships, and addresses the characteristics of a “faithful friend.”

Sirach goes on to write, “A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure.”  So, while counting a multitude of friends seems essential, we learn that some people will not be our faithful friends.

It’s a rough life; we’re in the middle of a war; it’s storming outside. A faithful friend is a shelter, a treasure beyond price. “Were one to offer all he owns to purchase love, he would be roundly mocked”. “A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy, such as he who fears God finds”.

Since friends are such a rich blessing, we need to know how to have as many true friends as possible. First, we must fear God, that is, have a right relationship to God. The way to do this, to have friends, or do anything is to do everything in Jesus, “the Way, and the Truth, and the Life”.

“What a friend we have in Jesus!” When He’s our Friend, we have the Way to true friendship with others. With true friendship, we have the support and encouragement, the protection and shelter, to live a life faithful to the Lord, our spouses, families, and brothers and sisters in the Lord.

“A true friend will fight with you against the foe, against your enemies he will be your shield-bearer” (Sir 37:5). Thank Jesus for true friends!

Come, Holy Spirit. Fill the hearts of your faithful . . . and You shall renew the face of the earth!


PENTECOST

On the first Pentecost the disciples had an experience of the action of the Holy Spirit-but it wasn’t only for that day. It would continue all the days of their lives, just as it does for us. The experience of Pentecost was a community experience for the early disciples and so too it is for us.

This Spirit’s coming brings about great changes in the lives of those early “inspired” Jews. The ability to speak and understand different languages is only the first. They were enabled to understand and speak to the differences within the human community. As they were gathered together to give thanks to God for the abundance of the fields, these men and their followers were to spread the news “of the mighty acts of God.”  Through the Acts of the Apostles, we read of these “mighty acts of God” which present a new sense of Pentecost.

Let us think about some of our many experiences of community: family, parish, prayer group, voluntary group, friends, and the list goes on. When we do this thinking/praying we become aware of how our communal experiences are Pentecost moments. We notice how we are uplifted and consoled by such moments. We may do this reflecting quite naturally with people in our various communities or when alone we speak of them with the Lord.

Today we live again the experience of that first Pentecost when the Upper Room in Jerusalem shook with hurricane force as the wind of God’s Spirit and the fire of His love descended on twelve apostles, changing them forever. As thousands more were baptized that day, the Church was born in the presence of Christ’s own mother and countless other witnesses. Today, through the Eucharist that we celebrate, the Holy Spirit comes again to give a “booster shot” to innumerable modern-day Christians who have been born of water and the Holy Spirit.

Again, we are consecrated in the Truth that God is love and lives in us as in a fleshly Temple. In this annual renewal of our lifetime commitment, our faith is rekindled so that our light and our love will more effectively destroy the indifference and violence of the world around us. Only our fears can prevent the Holy Spirit from empowering us, for He is our “Advocate,” our silent supporter. He will help us to work together with our bishops and priests, our religious and fellow laypeople to renew the church through the Spirit’s gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Following the example of Paul, may we use our own times of confinement in life to witness to our Christian faith.


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These readings—from the end of the Acts of the Apostles and from the end of the Gospel of John—were chosen for this Saturday before Pentecost because they wrap up the series of readings from Acts and John that we have been following during the weekdays all these seven weeks of the Easter season. Because that last page of Acts often gets overlooked, let’s make that our focus.

We find St. Paul under house arrest for a period of two years, during which time he witnesses to the truth of Jesus Christ to Jewish and Gentile visitors.

St. Paul made valuable use of his time, proclaiming the Gospel, teaching, and shepherding his people, even though confined to a temporary home under guard.

Following the example of Paul, may we use our own times of confinement in life to witness to our Christian faith. If sick at home or hospitalized, we can pray, or if too sick to pray, we can offer our suffering in union with the crucified One, an act which might be more powerful and spiritually efficacious than preaching to thousands. Perhaps we have experienced rejection and feel isolated from others. We may be experiencing a time of depression, or a time of grief from the loss of a loved one.

By letting the truth of the Holy Spirit speak through us, times of confinement can become opportunities to proclaim Jesus Christ, the risen Lord, following the example of St. Paul — even, in the tradition of St. Francis, if we don’t use words.

How we handle illness, harsh treatment or adversity can speak volumes in witnessing to Christ our Lord. Let none of us claim that our situation doesn’t allow us share our faith with a similar zeal.

We are always in danger but protected as we live in Christ and do not compromise with the world, for “there is One greater” in us “than there is in the world”.


Jn17.15

We Christians don’t belong to the world any more than Jesus belonged to the world. This is why the world hates us. Nonetheless, Jesus did not ask His Father to take us out of the world but to guard us from the evil one. Thus, we live “behind enemy lines.” We are always in danger but protected as we live in Christ and do not compromise with the world, for “there is One greater” in us “than there is in the world”.

Christ didn’t pray that we might be kept free from sin, strengthened for our duty, and brought safely to heaven. He didn’t pray that we should be removed from the world in order that we might escape its rage, since we have great work to do for the glory of God and the benefit of humankind. He prayed that the Father would keep us from evil, from being corrupted by the world and from the power and craft of the devil, so that we might pass through the world as through an enemy’s country, just as He did. Christ prayed for us, so that we might not only be kept from the devil, but turned into good and faithful citizens of this world, in which we live.

Jesus promised that we would conquer the world. This promise is fulfilled by our life in the Spirit, for the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, proves “the world wrong about sin, about justice, about condemnation”. The Spirit will take us to the cross where we will be crucified to the world and the world to us. If we are baptized, that is, immersed in the Spirit, we will not be set on the things of the world. Rather, we will “have no love for the world, nor the things that the world affords”.

It is a call for action that means we are made holy and happy, through the work we do in the Name of Christ. We must pray for His sanctifying grace, so that we may be set apart for Christ and for His service.

As Christians, this is our privilege and the source of our joy. God has been so good to us! He has seen to it that we have everything we need, and more. He calls us by His own Name and makes us one with Him for all eternity. God blesses us as more than Sons and Daughters, but as small examples of His Presence here on Earth.

Jesus’ departure and ascension was both an end and a beginning for his disciples.


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Today is the Feast of the Ascension. Matthew, Mark, and Luke, in their Gospels, all tell us that after the Resurrection and various appearances, Jesus was taken up into the heavens. No hint of when. But if we had no other information, it could have been as early as Easter evening. John’s Gospel concludes with a post-resurrection appearance in Galilee, and Paul cites a tradition of several appearances. But more concretely, the Acts of the Apostles mentions that these appearances occurred over a period of 40 days – which is why the Church has chosen to celebrate the Ascension when we do, exactly 40 days after Easter.

Forty is a significant number in the scriptures. Moses went to the mountain to seek the face of God for forty days in prayer and fasting. The people of Israel were in the wilderness for forty years in preparation for their entry into the promised land. Elijah fasted for forty days as he journeyed in the wilderness to the mountain of God. For forty days after his resurrection Jesus appeared numerous times to his disciples to assure them that he had risen indeed and to prepare them for the task of carrying on the work which he began during his earthy ministry.

Jesus’ departure and ascension was both an end and a beginning for his disciples. While it was the end of Jesus’ physical presence with his beloved disciples, it marked the beginning of Jesus’ presence with them in a new way. Jesus promised that he would be with them always to the end of time. Now as the glorified and risen Lord and Savior, ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven, Jesus promised to send them the Holy Spirit who would anoint them with power on the Feast of Pentecost, just as Jesus was anointed for his ministry at the River Jordan. When the Lord Jesus departed physically from the apostles, they were not left in sorrow or grief. Instead, they were filled with joy and with great anticipation for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

All the preparation that Jesus used with His disciples about His true mission, His human fate, and His goal seems in scripture to have missed its mark. As He is about to be raised up to Heaven, they still ask, “Lord are you at this time going to restore the Kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6)

What they wanted was not what they would get; what they got was what God knew they needed.

Isn’t that a lesson for us for our prayers?

Jesus is in Heaven so the Holy Spirit could care for us and give us knowledge, understanding, counsel, wisdom, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord. All we need is to praise God and to do His work.

Thank you, Lord, for calling us to do Your will and to show us the way!