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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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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