Serve One Another through LOVE

06-26-2016Weekly Reflections

Yet again in Ordinary Time, Jesus seems to demand extraordinary commitment. A would-be disciple enthusiastically volunteers to follow Jesus "wherever" (Luke 9:57). Jesus replies that "wherever" means "nowhere to rest his head" (9:58). To other candidates, Jesus brusquely denies reasonable requests to fulfill family obligations (9:59, 61), declaring that discipleship demands total commitment—now! But Jesus also demands that we not judge how others respond. When James and John volunteered to "call down fire from heaven" (9:54) to destroy an unwelcoming town, Jesus "turned and rebuked them" (9:55). All violence of any kind is completely unacceptable among Jesus' disciples, a lesson this Jubilee Year of Mercy is teaching the Christian community once again. Paul's challenge to the Galatians and us reinforces Jesus' decisive command to James and John that they express their commitment to him through compassion for others. We must abandon the violence of "biting and devouring one another" (Galatians 5:15), choosing instead to "serve one another through love" (5:13).
—Peter Scagnelli, Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co., Inc.

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Take up Your Cross Daily, and Bear one Another's Burdens

06-19-2016Weekly Reflections

Today, as he often does, Luke portrays Jesus "praying in solitude" (Luke 9:18). The Jubilee Year of Mercy invites us to rediscover the value of silence as the prayerful setting in which to reflect on the ways in which God's mercy transforms our lives, in order to make mercy the heart of our own lifestyle. But in a line that sounds odd, Jesus "rebuked" his disciples "and directed them not to tell anyone" (9:20–21) after they professed their faith in Jesus as "the Christ of God" (9:20). Jesus challenges us also to profess our faith not by what we say, but by what we do: take up our own cross daily (9:23) and "bear one another's burdens" (Galatians 6:2). Our gratitude for God's mercy toward us should make us instruments of God's mercy toward all. Then, as Zechariah prophesies in today's first reading, the fountain of God's mercy will open to purify the whole world from the sin and selfishness that cause suffering and sorrow to so many (Zechariah 13:1).

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

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Humble Sinners or Judgmental Pharisees?

06-12-2016Weekly Reflections

On today’s Jubilee for Those Sick and Suffering Disabilities, Jesus encounters a woman who is “spiritually ill.” She is thus “disabled” from participating in Israel’s worshiping community or polite society.On today’s Jubilee for Those Sick and Suffering Disabilities, Jesus encounters a woman who is “spiritually ill.” She is thus “disabled” from participating in Israel’s worshiping community or polite society. Bathing Jesus’ feet with tears, drying them with unveiled hair, anointing them (Luke 7:38) risk Jesus’ becoming “unclean.” Yet his mercy welcomes even such inappropriate behavior as her sincere manifestation of love: “Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace” (7:48, 50). Go not just in “peace,” but in shalom, the all-enveloping, life-changing assurance of God’s mercy. She is anonymous, “known in the city” only as “a sinful woman” (7:37). The character with name and religious title, “Simon the Pharisee” (7:36, 40), judges her harshly, but himself not at all, and thus forfeits God’s mercy. This Jubilee Year of Mercy challenges us to self-examination. In which role do we most often cast ourselves, humble sinner or judgmental Pharisee? Jesus declares that only by an unfailing willingness to show mercy to fellow sinners can we hope to obtain mercy ourselves (see Misericordiae Vultus, 9).

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

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Are you doing your part as an Extraordinary Christian?

06-05-2016Weekly Reflections

Half the liturgical year 2016 is completed after six months of extraordinary celebrations. The Incarnation mystery: Jesus' advent, nativity, epiphany. The Paschal mystery: Jesus' passion, death, resurrection, Pentecost's Holy Spirit. The solemnities of Holy Trinity and Jesus' Body and Blood. Today the Church resumes Sundays in Ordinary Time, but with a Gospel of extraordinary mercy: Jesus raises a dead man to life. Yet the one who benefits most from his extraordinary mercy is not the dead son, but his widowed mother. With her husband and only son deceased, this woman's material support, in that patriarchal society, had vanished. So had her emotional support, leaving her helpless, abandoned, on society's "peripheries." One of Pope Francis' hopes in calling this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy is to transform us into more extraordinary Christians, by making our caring outreach to just such vulnerable people, and our practical self-sacrificing love for them, our ordinary, daily, Christian way of life!

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

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Adore Jesus in the Eucharist - Serve Jesus in your Neighbor

05-29-2016Weekly Reflections

In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Lectionary's Year of Luke presents a Gospel in which Jesus, who has welcomed, taught, healed, and shown God's mercy to the multitude, refuses the Twelve's demand to dismiss the crowd before him. Instead, he says, "Give them some food yourselves" (Luke 9:13). In Jesus' hands, what little the Twelve has feeds five thousand ("men," and probably as many women and children), leaving twelve baskets so the Twelve can continue Jesus' ministry of mercy. Pope Francis has asked how we celebrate and live the Eucharist. Do we keep it to ourselves? Or do we "commune" not only with Jesus but with the multitude whom Jesus has given us to cherish? Entrusted to Jesus and shared with others, our limited resources can go a long way. Recognizing Jesus in the Eucharist demands that we recognize Jesus also in the hungry crowd. Adoring Jesus present in the Eucharist requires that we serve Jesus present in our neighbor.

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

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Kind and Merciful Like the Father

05-22-2016Weekly Reflections

The word mercy, Pope Francis declared in his announcement of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, "reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity" (Misericordiae Vultus, 2). For mercy is how God comes to meet us; mercy is the fundamental law helping us recognize everyone as brothers and sisters; mercy is the bridge connecting God and humanity, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness. God's self-revelation as a life-giving, love-sharing Trinity of Persons draws us closer to God in friendship and communion. Both Judaism and Islam consider mercy one of God's most important attributes. Israel unceasingly proclaims God boundless in mercy. Islam addresses the Creator as "Merciful and Kind," believing divine mercy limitless, its doors always open. May this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis prays, open us to more fervent dialogue, deepen our mutual understanding, eliminate all closed-minded disrespect, and drive out every form of violence and discrimination.

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

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The Way, The Truth, and The Life

05-15-2016Weekly Reflections

Announcing the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis challenged us to proclaim God's mercy "to everyone without exception...again and again, with new enthusiasm and renewed pastoral action" (Misericordiae Vultus, 12). Pentecost proclaims that the door locked for fifty days is thrown open at last. No longer closed in on itself, the community speaks to crowds from different backgrounds, distant lands, exotic languages. Everyone hears their native language. The Spirit does not restore Babel's uniformity, but forges unity-in-diversity of language, race, nationality—embracing all without exception. During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pentecost's Spirit summons us afresh from mediocrity and isolation to share God's mercy with the world. "This is our mission!" Francis exclaims. We are "given the gift of the 'tongue' of the Gospel and the 'fire' of the Holy Spirit, so that while we proclaim Jesus risen, living and present in our midst, we may warm the heart of the peoples, drawing near to Him, the way, the truth, and the life" (Regina Coeli address, Pentecost Sunday, May 24, 2015).

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

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Be My Witnesses to the Ends of the Earth

05-08-2016Weekly Reflections

As the liturgical year—and this Jubilee Year of Mercy—unfold, we reflect on what Jesus' Ascension meant for the first disciples and means now for us. Stay in Jerusalem, Jesus had instructed, awaiting "the promise of the Father. In a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:4–5, 8). Despite Jesus' absence, they wait "with great joy...continually in the temple praising God" (Luke 24:52–53). But as we join them, waiting and worshiping, the enduring challenge—theirs and ours—is delivered by "two men in white" (Acts 1:10). In every age, disciples must stop looking at the sky, head down the mountain, and go back into the world, "commissioned," says Pope Francis, "to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel," inviting everyone to find "in our parishes, communities, associations and movements, wherever there are Christians, an oasis of mercy" (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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It is the Decision of the Holy Spirit and of Us

05-01-2016Weekly Reflections

In formal documents, presentations, and homilies outlining the purpose of this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis explains that compassion and understanding for those in difficult situations is not only our individual responsibility, but something the whole Church officially needs to manifest. Today's Acts of the Apostles reading presents a moving example of the early church doing precisely that. Prayerful openness to the Holy Spirit assures the assembly that they have not acted alone in discerning the correct resolution: "It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us." And they have chosen the compassionate response: "not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities" (Acts 15:28). Yet how daringly creative—the Jewish majority sets aside lifelong rituals that establish spiritual identity and express covenant fidelity. How radically trustful—the church affirms universally valid principles while respecting uniquely local and personal situations. Exactly the grace Pope Francis prays this Jubilee Year will renew in today's Church!

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

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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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