Let this Easter set your Heart on Fire

04-30-2017Weekly ReflectionsWe Celebrate Worship Resource, Vol. 42, No. 2

Words of fire can ignite hearts grown weary—and fiery words of faith can renew hearts grown cold. First we hear Peter, whose words had not long before denied knowing Jesus, now boldly proclaiming, “God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses” (Acts 2:32). Cowardice had been transformed into courage. Then we listen to two disciples—some say a married couple—who meet a stranger, appearing downcast when they first speak to him. After telling him about this Jesus who had been crucified, they conclude with obvious disappointment, “We were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). But it is the very words of Jesus as he accompanies them, explaining the scriptures, that lead them to exclaim, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures?” (24:32). The joy of Easter faith can be renewed and deepened in us as we listen to God’s word over the fifty days of Easter, attending to the witnesses in Acts, the voice of the first Letter of Saint Peter, and the Gospels of the Easter season.

Ask for the fire of Easter faith to burn within you. Is your heart open to being inflamed?

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Peace be with you

04-23-2017Weekly ReflectionsWe Celebrate Worship Resource, Vol. 42, No. 2

Easter creates the Christian community. Christian community means membership in a group that helps you become the person God has called you to be. Acts holds up the first community of believers as one in which its members shared certain values that helped them witness to Christ in the world. These values included devotion to the teaching of the apostles, a life of possessions shared in common, communal celebration of the Eucharist, and prayer. This portrait in Acts still holds today, brought about by the "new birth" in Baptism through Christ's resurrection, proclaimed in the first Letter of Saint Peter. Our Gospel portrays this new birth occurring with the first appearance of the risen Lord. He comes bearing resurrection gifts of peace and joy. Jesus bestows these gifts by breathing the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. With these Easter gifts by breathing the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. With these Easter gifts comes a commission: Proclaim God's forgiveness to the world. Thomas stands for all who struggle to believe, but who finally make the leap of faith and proclaim to Jesus, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28).

How does your community help you come to faith?

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Alleluia! Praise God! He has Risen!

04-16-2017Weekly ReflectionsWe Celebrate Worship Resource, Vol. 42, No. 2

John's account of the Resurrection has the least amount of drama in it. No large stone rolled back, no angels appearing with the message of Jesus being raised, and especially no appearance of Jesus, which happens in Matthew's Gospel, read at the Easter Vigil this year. But John's account may have more in common with our own experience of the risen Lord because it remains true to its unique approach of presenting Jesus through a series of signs. Here the sign of resurrection is the reference to the burial cloths, which had been wrapped around the body of Jesus and laid across his face. They signal to us that he is no longer in the tomb; indeed, he has been raised. All beloved disciples (including you and me) are invited to read this sign as the proclamation of the Easter message: He has risen!

How do you reflect Easter joy in your life, allowing the risen Christ to shine through you and your actions in everyday life? How can your life shout out "Alleluia! Praise God! He has risen!" to the world?

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Hosanna to the Son of David

04-09-2017Weekly ReflectionsWe Celebrate Worship Resource, Vol. 42, No. 2

Palm Sunday is our entry into the most sacred week of the year, when the Church celebrates the Paschal Mystery. Today we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his joyful greeting by the crowd as the Messiah. “Hosanna to the son of David,” they cry out. We pick up blessed palms today and may even participate in a procession. We are not playacting what happened almost two thousand years ago, but making a personal commitment, acclaiming Jesus today as the One who came and who comes in the name of the Lord to bring us new life in God, winning for us salvation once and for all by his suffering and death. The procession signifies our ascent with him and our willing participation in the act of his self-sacrifice on the cross. Today we remember the suffering and death of the Lord as recorded in the Gospel of Saint Matthew, which presents Jesus as the new Moses who brings about a new covenant.

What does is mean to be the people of the New Covenant in our world today? How do we imitate Jesus Christ, who became the servant of all, giving life for all?

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I am the Resurrection and the Life

04-02-2017Weekly ReflectionsWe Celebrate Worship Resource, Vol. 42, No. 1

The third and final personal encounter of Jesus this Lent takes place near the tomb of Lazarus, one of Jesus’ closest friends, with the deceased man’s sister, Martha. As in his meetings with the Samaritan woman and the man born blind, Jesus calls Martha (and us) to a deeper level of faith in him. Martha comes to Jesus as a grieving sister who scolds him for not coming sooner to prevent her brother’s death. This leads to one of the most memorable exchanges in John’s Gospel, concluding in Jesus’ proclamation: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if [he or she] dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26). Then Jesus asks, “Do you believe this? (11:26). Our faith in Jesus promises resurrection to us, based on the dwelling of the Spirit, who raised Jesus, dwelling now in us, as Paul writes today. While Ezekiel promises Israel a resurrection from the living death of captivity in Babylon, Jesus’ promise prepares believers for eternal life.

Are you ready to answer his question to Martha by professing your faith in him at the Easter renewal of baptismal promises?

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Live as Children of Light

03-26-2017Weekly Reflections

The second encounter from John’s Gospel this Lent is with a man born blind. As with the Samaritan woman last week, we too are invited to know Jesus in an intimate way, this time as bestowing the sight to recognize him as the One sent by God. Our first reading foreshadows today’s Gospel by presenting the experience of the prophet Samuel, who comes to “see” David, the youngest son of Jesse, as the one God has chosen to replace King Saul, rather than the eldest son, Eliab, whom Samuel assumed would be God’s choice. Eliab, like Saul, is tall. “Don’t judge by appearances,” God chides. In the Gospel, we see once again a person’s gradual coming into the light that is Jesus, finally recognizing him as more than a prophet, as the Son of Man who is the Lord. For those of us who are baptized, seeing goes even further than recognizing Jesus as the Light of the world. As Ephesians proclaims, we who “were once darkness…

now...are light in the Lord” (5:8) and should lead lives of goodness, righteousness, and truth.

Are you a child of the light?

—We Celebrate Worship Resource, Vol. 42, No. 1

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Jesus brings us to the Well of Salvation

03-19-2017Weekly Reflections

In calling us to return to the Lord with all our heart, our readings put before us in the coming weeks three personal encounters with Jesus. In each one, Jesus reveals who he is and the impact he continues to have on the lives of those who open their hearts to him. Today we reflect on Jesus as the one who satisfies our thirst for God. He is the living water God has sent, just as God provided water for Israel in the desert by having Moses strike a rock. In the encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus confronts a hardened heart, and by his loving care and concern for her, leads her to drink from the well of salvation. We see her gradual transformations from a person suspicious of a stranger to one who brings her fellow villagers to him, resulting in their recognition of Jesus as “truly the savior of the world” (John 4:42). Paul reminds us today that the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit at the waters of Baptism.

How do you bring others to Jesus by witnessing to your faith in him?

—We Celebrate Worship Resource, Vol. 42, No. 1

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Do Not Be Afraid

03-12-2017Weekly Reflections

The Second Sunday of Lent takes us in a different direction than last week, both geographically and spiritually. Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up a mountain to pray. Arriving there, they—and we—get a glimpse of the glory that Jesus set aside when becoming one of us. More importantly, they—and we—hear God speak to us about who Jesus is and who we are to be. Jesus is the Beloved Son who lives in intimate relationship with the Father; we must listen to him. This glimpse of glory encourages us as we enter more deeply into the season of Lent, a time to turn toward God, to open our hearts, so that God can enter our lives more completely and make us more fully a people of the covenant that began when God called on Abram to leave e everything. Because he trusted in God's promises, Abram became the father of a great nation. We are to trust in the promises God makes to us through Jesus by listening and obeying his words, thereby becoming beloved sons and daughters.

"Do not be afraid," Jesus tells us. Are you?

—We Celebrate Worship Resource, Vol. 42, No. 1

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The Choice is Basic, Follow God's Will or Our Own

03-05-2017Weekly Reflections

Saint Paul quotes a hymn in his letter to the Philippians: "Though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave" (2:6-7). This hymn presents a truth: If Jesus chose to be a slave, then we must be willing to serve. Serving involves self-emptying, which is played out in the story of the temptations Jesus faced in the desert and throughout his ministry. In contrast with Adam and Eve, Jesus chose to serve God and not to use his power, whether to feed himself (stones into bread), to test God (throw himself off the Temple), or to submit to anyone other than God. Because of his obedience to the will of the Father, Jesus won salvation for all who believe in him and follow him in service. Temptations came for Jesus and come for all who follow him. The basic choice concerns seeking God's will or our own.

How are you being tested at this time of your life? Do you turn to God's word for strength?

—We Celebrate Worship Resource, Vol. 42, No. 1

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