Mercyful Like the Father

04-24-2016Weekly Reflections

This Sunday's "Youth Jubilee" previews July's World Youth Day in Krakow. Its theme from Matthew 5:7, "Blessed are the merciful," echoes Pope Francis' warning that "the practice of mercy is waning in the wider culture." In counter-cultural witness, therefore, "the time has come," says Francis, "for the Church to take up the joyful call to mercy once more. It is time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters." Jesus affirms the same in today's Gospel. "As I have loved you, so you also should love one another" (John 13:34). Francis concludes, "The Church's very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love." Jesus too asserts, "This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). Thus mercy "makes young" the Church, the world, and everyone. "Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope" (Misericordiae Vultus, 10).

—Peter Scagnelli, Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co., Inc.
Papal quotes Copyright © 2015, Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Used with permission.

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Are you actively searching for the Lost Sheep?

04-17-2016Weekly Reflections

This Sunday celebrates Jesus as "the Good Shepherd." When announcing this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis focused on Jesus' "lost sheep" parable in Luke. "[Who] among you," Jesus asks, "having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?" (Luke 15:4). A reasonable answer? "No responsible shepherd who wants to keep the job!" Yet Jesus considers one lost person supremely important and suggests blaming the shepherd. The sheep didn't "go astray," the shepherd "lost" it. Thus, "when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy" (15:5). That tender image of Jesus adorns the simple cross Pope Francis has always worn, the Good Shepherd gently carrying the lost sheep home on his shoulders. During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, may we, who once were lost ourselves but now are found, join Jesus in seeking, finding, and gently carrying home at least one precious lamb.

—Peter Scagnelli, Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co., Inc.
Papal quotes Copyright © 2015, Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Used with permission.

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God's Love is MERCIFUL

04-10-2016Weekly Reflections

How appropriate today's Gospel for this Jubilee Year of Mercy, both because of the "breakfast" Jesus provides ("a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread") and the number of fish in Peter's net ("one hundred fifty-three") (John 21:11–12). Of the fish, Saint Augustine suggests that the roasted fish is the suffering Christ. Saint Gregory the Great adds that Christ lowered himself to swim in the "water" of our humanity; to be caught in the "net" of our death; to be "roasted" in his Passion on the fire of suffering. Saint Jerome claims that "one hundred fifty-three" represents the full number of known species of fish, signifying that the Church's "net" has room for all our widely diverse humanity, securing our unity-in-diversity in the hands of Peter and his successors. Having received God's mercy as "the beating heart of the Gospel," may the Church—we—"pattern our behavior after the Son of God who went out to everyone without exception" (Misericordiae Vultus, 12).

—Peter Scagnelli, Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co., Inc.
Papal quotes Copyright © 2015, Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Used with permission.

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Blessed are the Merciful

04-03-2016Weekly Reflections

Last year on this Sunday, Pope Francis declared this year a Jubilee Year of Mercy. Saint John Paul II named the Second Sunday of Easter "Sunday of Divine Mercy" in response to Saint Faustina Kowalska's Divine Mercy devotion, which offered spiritual comfort to hearts worldwide. But Francis challenges us to make that comfort we receive a gift we gladly share: "We are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us." The clearest expression of merciful love, says Francis, is pardoning others. "At times how hard it seems to forgive!" he acknowledges. "And yet pardon is the instrument placed into our fragile hands to attain serenity of heart" (Misericordiae Vultus, 9). The necessary condition for living joyfully? "To let go of anger, wrath, violence, and revenge." May Divine Mercy Sunday in this Jubilee Year of Mercy remind us that Jesus made mercy our life's ideal and a criterion for our faith's credibility: "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy" (Matthew 5:7).

—Peter Scagnelli, Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co., Inc.

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He is Risen, Alleluia!

03-27-2016Weekly Reflections

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad. Alleluia! Easter is always, but especially in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, the victory of God's gentle but invincible mercy raising up Jesus, "faithful witness, the first-born of the dead" (Rev 1:5), "first-born among many bothers [and sisters]" (Rom 8:29), conquering death in all its forms, in all of us in the human family. In Luke's Vigil Gospel, heavenly messengers send the women forth: "Remember what [Jesus] said to you" (Lk 24:6). In John's Gospel, the empty tomb likewise "sends forth" Mary Magdalene, Peter, and the Beloved Disciple, who believe though they do not fully understand. Finally, Luke's evening "Emmaus" Gospel send us forth, as "missionaries of mercy," assuring us that we will encounter the Risen Lord, today and every day, in "the stranger" we meet along life's journey, in "the Word that makes our hears burn within us," and "in the breaking of bread" (see Lk 24:32, 35).

—Peter Scagnelli, Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co, Inc.

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Today you will be with Me in Paradise

03-20-2016Weekly Reflections

Luke's Gospel presents Jesus as the prophet of God's compassion. This passion is evident even during his passion. It begins at the Last Supper after he predicts that Simon will betray him, but then encourages him: "Once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers" (Luke 22:32). Later, in the garden, when they come to arrest him, one of the disciples cuts off the right ear of the high priest's servant, but Jesus touches the servant, healing him. On the way to Calvary, he stops to comfort women weeping for him, aware of what they and their children will face. Most of all, on the cross Jesus embodies compassion in his prayer to God, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do" (23:24). And then, in a most tender scene, he responds to the thief on his right, who has asked Jesus to remember him, promising "Today you will be with me in Paradise" (23:43). We take up the palm today to greet Jesus as our Savior and Son of God.

How does Jesus' compassion call you to compassion?

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Go and Sin No More

03-13-2016Weekly Reflections

A stone may not feel heavy when you pick it up. But a stone is not a pebble. Many stones can do damage, especially when hurled in self-righteous anger. Perhaps the accusers justified it as an act of the faithful community, standing up together for the Law of Moses, bringing down God's wrath upon an adulteress. Then they took her to Jesus. They had been looking for a way to trap him. He just looked at them, saying nothing. Then he dropped down. You couldn't tell whether he was writing, drawing, or stalling for time to think of something to say. Later, some said Jesus had tricked them. Others were silent. A few thought Jesus was praying. Where else could his words have come from, redirecting their gaze from the woman to themselves, causing hands to drop stones and feet to move off. His words continue to address us, when we are about to cast stones of condemnation at another: "Let the one among you who is without sin…" (John 8:7). But do not forget Jesus' final words to the woman, also meant for us: Go and sin no more.

Where do you find yourself in this story?

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Transform into a 'NEW CREATION' with God

03-06-2016Weekly Reflections

When Israel fled to Egypt, God's chosen people began a journey into being a new creation—changing from a nation of free people, from being under the heel of Pharaoh to being in an intimate covenant with God, from eating manna in the desert to feasting on the fruits of the promised land. This journey took forty years and wasn't easy. When the Prodigal Son finally "came to his senses," he realized he would be better off back home as a hired worker than stealing slop from the pigs. A journey began from being lost to being found, from being "dead" to being a new creation. It did not take forty years, but how do you measure in time a journey that transforms the heart? The path to being a new creation can take forty years, forty days, forty minutes, or forty seconds. Sometimes it is an outer journey; it is always and inner one. Only with God's help is it possible. Jesus walks with us. Eventually we arrive at the celebration where our heavenly Father embraces us, welcoming us home.

What does it mean to you to be a "new creation"?

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Seize THIS DAY to grow closer to GOD

02-28-2016Weekly Reflections

Carpe Diem! (Seize the day!) was a Latin saying I learned in high school. It called us to be open to the opportunities life brings—for doing good, for making the world a better place, for enjoying the day's blessings. Moses heard a voice from a burning bush telling him to go down to Egypt. He was given a brief introduction to God and a call to help free the Hebrew slaves. Moses seized the day, obeying the call to act, now. Jesus calls on his fellow Jews to seize the day by repenting. Life is short. People die tragically, unexpectedly. Look to your own life, Jesus tells them. God has given you these days, so bear fruit, now. Paul calls on the Corinthians to seize the day. Not just our actions but even our desires can mislead us. So don't be complacent. Take care, now. Baptism lays a foundation, but we have to build on it. Baptism gives us the Spirit and the virtues of faith, hope, and love. We renew our baptismal promises in a few weeks. Act now; seize this day to grow closer to God.

What opportunity does this day offer to you?

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Our Citizenship is in Heaven

02-21-2016Weekly Reflections

Every so often life gives you a glimpse of glory—the beauty in a sunset, goodness in a person, truth in words spoken, peace and well-being in a friendship. Sometimes it comes suddenly; other times it's been there but you haven't been paying attention. Still, it is real. This happened to Peter, James, and John. Jesus often went off to pray, to be in the presence of his Father. On this particular occasion, while praying, his glory shone through and his disciples saw it. They also saw Moses and Elijah, speaking with him about his coming death, his passing over into full glory. Jesus will go on to speak to his disciples about his coming suffering and death. But for now, they are given a glimpse of the glory awaiting them at the end of the road. We too need a reminder of our destiny, that "our citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20). Our Savior has promised he will come and "change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body" (3:21). For now, hear the Father's words: "This is my chosen Son; listen to him" (Luke 9:35). Our ultimate glory may depend on it.

Do you think of yourself as destined for glory?

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Who do you trust?

02-14-2016Weekly Reflections

Food, fortune, fame—the temptations sound like categories from TV's Jeopardy. "Feed yourself, you're starving," Satan said. After forty days of daytime heat and nighttime cold, Jesus could not have had much energy. But it wasn't physical strength that was needed; it was strength of spirit. Jesus was not lacking that. The Spirit had come upon him at his baptism, had driven him into the wilderness, and did not abandon him now. First temptation: Use your power to feed yourself. Jesus' answer: God's word is my food. There I find strength. Second temptation: Bend the knee to me in exchange for all the kingdoms of the world. Jesus' answer: Only God deserves worship; the only kingdom worth having is God's. Third temptation: See if God is with you by throwing yourself off the temple. Jesus' answer: You don't test God; you trust God. As Israel was tested in the desert, tempted to turn from God who delivered them from Egypt, so Jesus is tested. But Jesus, the new Israel, the beloved Son, trusts his Father. That Spirit who was with Jesus during his testing is with us today.

Where do you place your trust?

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Fear of the Lord

02-07-2016Weekly Reflections

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10). Being in the presence of God is not always a comfortable experience. Today's readings tell us it makes us aware of our sinfulness. Isaiah has a vision of God on "a high and lofty throne," surrounded by angels, smoke swirling up, and cries out, "Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips" (Isaiah 6:1, 5). When Jesus points out where the fish are to be found, Peter responds, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man" (Luke 5:8). Even Paul, remembering how Jesus appeared to him, writes that he himself is "not fit to be called an apostle" (1 Corinthians 15:9). Do we live in a time when people are more awestruck by rock/movie/TV stars, sports figures and political leaders than by the living God who created, redeemed, and continues to sanctify ("to make holy") us? Many times we hear the words "Do not be afraid" in scripture. But perhaps fear is like cholesterol; there is a healthy and an unhealthy version. One can lead to paralysis before God, the other to joining confidently in God's work.

How does fear play a part in your life? Is it paralyzing or does it have a positive effect on your actions?

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