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SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER — MAY 17, 2020

SAMPLE OF HOME PRAYER FOR SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

 

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Peace be with you.

 

PENTENTIAL RITE to let the Lord prepare our hearts for pure worship

Lord Jesus,  Have mercy, Kyrie eleison
Lord Jesus,  Have mercy, Christe eleison
Lord Jesus,  Have mercy, Kyrie eleison

Let us pray:
In our gathering here today, Lord God almighty, let us celebrate these days of Easter joy eagerly and lovingly for we gladly carry out this time of prayer in honor of the Lord Jesus whom we join in his risen state at your hand. Our prayer with the Church in this memorial is that what we remember your doing in his name be reflected always in the way we live. Through Christ our Lord. Amen

 

Listen to the sacred scriptures:
[Go to the Today’s Readings section below on this webpage.]

A BRIEF COMMENTARY ON TODAY’S READINGS

Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
The Apostles place hands on their heads and they received the Spirit
Philip, one of those seven ministering as deacons, took the word of God north to Samaria as he made his way home to Caesarea. He evidently could not stop talking about Jesus and what God was doing through him. The preaching of the word brought a faith response from his listeners. They were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. The Apostles Peter and John follow this up by ritually bringing them the gift of the Holy Spirit through the sign of extending hands over their heads — not unlike what we do today. The word of God is spreading.

 

Psalm 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20 (1)
Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.

This psalm (and other psalms as well) reveal the ancient faith of the Israelites that God’s plan extends to all mankind, not just the Jews. So it is fitting response to the first reading which tells of the some of the early efforts to evangelize the whole world. What is great about this psalm is its joyful tone. The amazing spread of the faith shows us the magnificence of God’s love for all his creatures. See this as connected with the resurrection of Christ who died for us all.

 

1 Peter 3:15-18
Be ready to give reason to others why your hope is so strong
Underlying the realities of which Peter speaks is the fact that our faith is a shared faith. God made us to live in the world with his other creatures. Our lives are intertwined — the pandemic is bringing this home to us very sharply. When you think of it, God reveals his glory in creating (and saving) us the way he has. So human ways bring us heavenly ways. Thanks be to God.

 

John 14:15-21
I will pray to the Father to send you another Spiritual Advocate

These words of Jesus make us stop and think what Jesus has done for us. He has been a “Spiritual Advocate” during his life here on earth. So whatever Jesus said and did brought us spiritual life, i.e. life beyond the grave. He will continue to do so from his place at the right hand of the Father by praying to the Father to send the Spirit — which he continues to do. Notice in the reading that this gift of Father and Son is the Spirit of truth. The truth is the eternal plan of God for mankind, i.e. the everlasting Covenant of communion with Father, Son and Spirit around his heavenly throne. The Easter Gospels are filled with the gift of the Spirit. That is the word of God. Our Easter faith is to accept it as such.

 

Silent Reflection and/or share comments.

Homily Written for the Web —May it enhance your prayer and worship of God this day.

TOWARD A HOMILY FOR SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

 

One of the things I am afraid we are missing from Mass during these unusual days is the Prayer after Communion. Yes, it is said or sung over the television or Internet. But it certainly does not carry much weight since it is not part of our Communion Rite. These altar prayers are composed to fit right in with the liturgical action — which we are missing without being there.

 

So the Postcommunion Prayer runs something like this (with embellishments for better understanding):

O God you are all-powerful and capable of doing everything. In the resurrection of your Son; you have recreated us for life eternal. Only you could do this and you have done it right here today through our celebration of the Paschal Sacrament. Make sure and increase the gifts of this Eucharist within us. This day give us new strength from this nourishment of Jesus’ Body and Blood for his very presence brings us salvation.

 

These prayers are packed with spiritual teaching. That is why the prayer itself is Jesus’ fulfillment of sending us the Spirit. Giving us this prayer today following his words in the Gospel is the promise–fulfillment so characteristic of him.

First of all, the Church is praying to our God is omnipotent. What took place at Mass today was something only God can do. Divine power is needed. Man is not capable of this on his own. Jesus, the Son of God at this place on high, is our priest. There is no substitute. We do not make the Mass, he does.

Secondly, this is done by the risen Christ. Now we know why he passed through death and was taken on high. If remained on the earth and did just earthly things we would have no hope of life eternal. But if he goes to the Father and shares his glory he can share that glory with us, even in this life. Our human efforts cannot reach that high.

Thirdly, our celebration is a Paschal/Passover celebration. Think of the historical setting of the Passover Meal. It is not just a fancy meal we set on the table. It is a gathering at God’s table and altar to give thanks and to join in his sacred meal, i.e. share the heavenly gifts of God. The meal is not limited to earthly food. It is also spiritual food which we cannot make for ourselves. Those spiritual gifts assure us of a share in the eternal life of the Lord himself.

Fourthly, the gifts do not remain outside us, they are taken in like food and drink and change us interiorly. This is the purpose of the Mass — to receive all the more the Christ who came to dwell in us through faith and baptism. This increase is what we seek and pray for at the altar of the Lord. Christ told us he wants us to have his life and have it in abundance. It is that abundance that we desire.

 

All of this takes place because of the many facets of Jesus’ real presence which we have celebrated at this Eucharist from start to finish. So what are the final words: Go forth on mission to bring Christ to othersIte, missa est. We want to hear those words again — Christ sending us forth (as he did in the early Church). It will happen soon. Thanks be to God.

Blessed be God! Blessed be his Easter people!

 

CREED: I believe in God the Father almighty…

 

We conclude with this prayer together:

Let us pray
for all those eagerly awaiting the time when they can go to Mass again.
for the Church of Cincinnati, that the mercy and holiness of Christ shine forth for all to see
for those who have died in recent weeks, that Jesus the Truth bring to fulfillment their hope,
for our government officials, both elected and appointed, that they be close to God
for those being tested for the virus have good results
for those in the work force be safe and sound

for those out of work hear good news about their future

for family and friends that these days be spiritually rich for them all

In Jesus’ name we pray for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Our Father, who art in heaven…

 

Renewal of the Covenant Prayer aka Prayer of those unable to participate in Mass in person

 Through your gift of Covenant love, O Lord, you have opened our hearts to welcome your Son to dwell within us by being baptized into his Church community and enlivened and strengthen by his Holy Spirit as to what you have made us so that we can better answer your call to gather for the Eucharist. Unable to join the body of Christ at this time to celebrate the redemption of your people, we beseech your merciful love to enlarge our hearts so to welcome your presence all the more and that of your Son and the Holy Spirit so that we may give you thanks always and everywhere as befits your name. Open our ears, O Lord, to your word, both spoken and lived. Through your Holy Spirit make our daily lives more in the image of your Son who is the perfect example of your eternal Covenant so that we may soon join his body, the Church, to burst forth in praise of you at the Table of the Lord, sharing his Body and Blood, and to advance with all your faithful people toward your kingdom of heaven, bound together with you and your holy ones in your one family. Make firm that unity of your Church in answer to your Son’s prayer that we be one so that the world come to know your presence here and know that you are always with us. Through Christ our risen Lord. Amen.

 

[See this and the explanation of it on the Blog Archives under the name New Prayer of Saint Alphonsus]

 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

 

SATURDAY OF THE FIFTH WEEK OF EASTER — MAY 16, 2020

 

The unusual times we live in should not surprise us by the changes demanded of us to be faithful to Christ under these different circumstances.

According to Archdiocesan regulations Masses may resume on Monday, May 25th, with certain cautionary steps taken to provide for the health and safety of Mass participants. To abide by recommended distancing it will require limiting gatherings in church to smaller groups, which in turn led Archbishop Schnurr and the other Bishops of Ohio to suspend for a time the Church practice of directing us all to Sunday Mass attendance and instead extend the days of fulfilling our Mass obligation to all the seven days of the week. In this way by spreading our Eucharistic gatherings over several days smaller groups (50-70 at the most at Saint Gabriel’s) could be accommodated more safely in our church buildings and everyone would have the opportunity to worship God at the Table of the Lord once a week. For example, as part of the precautions the church needs to be sanitized after each Mass and thus reduces the number of Masses that can be scheduled on a daily basis.

This will mean for most of us a shifting of our habitual Mass participation to a different day of the week out of loving concern for others.

Our Mass schedule at Saint Gabriel’s is being finalized and will be published shortly.

 

Lessons Learned in the Early Days about Unity in Worship

 

Before we leave our reflections on what is called The Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 let us take a second look at the way the Holy Spirit guided the early Church to preserve unity in the body of Christ for which Jesus prayed at the Last Supper.

 

The Church was heading toward a split into two groups — the Church in Jerusalem and the Church in Antioch. The Church in Jerusalem was made up mostly of Christians of Jewish origin; the Church at Antioch was a mixture of Christians of both Jewish origin and Greek speaking origin. The two cities had different cultures. In Jerusalem the milieu was mostly Jewish traditions, including the food in the shops was in our terms kosher; in Antioch the Greek (or pagan) practices were prevalent, e.g. some meat in the shops had come from pagan temple worship. So some Christians in Jerusalem ask why aren’t they like us and strictly follow Jewish law, e.g. eating “clean” foods and ritual circumcision. In Antioch and the north Peter and the other bringers of Good News ran into a different response to God’s activity, especially word and Spirit. The famous example was Peter’s encounter with God in the house of the Roman Centurion Cornelius (Acts 10). These people accepted the Gospel without going through what the Jewish Christians had experienced. Peter even remarked I see the same Holy Spirit in these people as in us (i.e.in us who were circumcised). How then could I refuse to baptize them — which he did. So the Christian community, even in Antioch, was breaking up into two groups and the antagonism was increasing. To solve the question a delegation was sent from Antioch to Jerusalem to meet with the Church there (considered the Mother Church).

In this meeting we have the spirit-filled leadership of the Apostles Peter and James as recorded in Acts 15. Peter recounts the situation mentioned above and out of it states something central to our belief — God works by inner faith in the name of Jesus Christ, not by certain rituals. Cornelius had the faith before he was baptized. The rituals express externally what is first within the person. Peter’s exact words were: God purified their hearts by faith [in response to the word of God]… we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they. Note it is the “Lord” Jesus. For him that is the risen Christ.

James uses the chronological approach. The Bible attributes the religious practice of circumcision to Abraham. Prior to Abraham we are told of Noah who disembarked from the Ark and God said: ‘I am now establishing my covenant with you and with your descendants to come, and with every living creature that was with you: birds, cattle and every wild animal with you; everything that came out of the ark, every living thing on earth. God sent his Son and raised him from the dead for the salvation of all mankind. God can choose whatever way he wishes to unite his creatures to his plan of salvation, even apart from certain Jewish practices. Along with Peter and James we see this happening through his gift of the Spirit.

The psalms (perhaps even composed before the editing and inclusion in the Bible of the Noah accounts) frequently sing of God saving the whole world. The Church chose such responsorial to follow the reading of Acts 15, e.g. Psalm 57 I will sing your praises among the nations; Psalm 100 Let all the earth cry out to God with joy. The Jews clearly saw themselves as blessed by God and so be instruments of salvation for the rest of mankind.

 

Now the final solution to the original question which the Council of Jerusalem presented is not one sided. There is something for the Christians of Jewish background and something for those of “Greek” culture. Both sides must practice mutual respect for unity sake — same for us today. The messenger dispatched from Jerusalem to Antioch carry a double message: 1) respect God’s gift of the Spirit in those who have not been circumcised because they too share in salvation; 2) respect ancient Jewish faith that puts the Father of Jesus first in everything — there is no other god, life comes from God and is sacred, the marital union symbolizes the covenant union between God and his people and is sacred as well. This is what is meant by believing in Father, Son and Spirit and accepting that gift of Christian faith according to our baptism.

 

United as Church we say: There is one Body, one Spirit, just as one hope is the goal of your calling by God. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, over all, through all and within all (Ephesians 4:4-6).

 

Great lesson from the past. Same for today.

 

FRIDAY OF THE FIFTH WEEK OF EASTER — MAY 15, 2020

Easter and the Council of Jerusalem – Part III

The Apostles from Jerusalem send delegates and a letter responding to their question about the necessity of following all the prescriptions in the Mosaic Law.

They based their decision on what the resurrection of Jesus means for the New Covenant as shown by the presence of the Holy Spirit. 

Each group (the Christians of Jewish origin and the Christians of Gentile origin) should love one another 1) by not demanding some Jewish traditions for all and 2) respecting the ancient faith of the Jews regarding the primacy of God (Yahweh) over pagan practices in their city — food sacrificed to idols, eating of lifeblood of animals, faithfulness in marriage.

This was to preserve the unity in the Christian community as Christ wants in the light of his resurrection. They all were proud to be called Christians

 

More to come

 

THURSDAY OF THE FIFTH WEEK OF EASTER — MAY 14, 2020

Feast of Saint Matthias, Apostle

 

EASTER AND THE COUNCIL OF JERUSALEM, PART II

 

Early in the life of the Church the faith grew and the understanding of God’s way became better understood following the resurrection of the Christ. God’s plan from the start was to gather all peoples into his Covenant of salvation. Disagreements and discussion ensued as to whether newly converted “Gentiles” were required by God to follow every detail of the Law of Moses. The Church met in Jerusalem. Here are “the minutes” of their meeting leading up to their decision and handling of the problem. This was a real turning point for the fledgling Church and a deeper understanding of the faith.

[Today’s Feast of Saint Matthias has it special scripture readings. As a result this passage was skipped over in the Mass readings. You find it here and can find the whole Chapter 15 by going to the readings for today (just below this on the home page) and navigating to yesterday Wednesday and click on the link at the top of the first reading on the right and it will take you to whole chapter. I have split the chapter into three sections — the second of the three is presented here.]

 

After much debate had taken place, Peter got up and said to them, “My brothers, you are well aware that from early days God made his choice among you that through my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness by granting them the holy Spirit just as he did us. He made no distinction between us and them, for by faith he purified their hearts. Why, then, are you now putting God to the test by placing on the shoulders of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they.”

The whole assembly fell silent, and they listened while Paul and Barnabas described the signs and wonders God had worked among the Gentiles through them.

After they had fallen silent, James responded, “My brothers, listen to me. Symeon has described how God first concerned himself with acquiring from among the Gentiles a people for his name. The words of the prophets agree with this, as is written:

After this I shall return and rebuild the fallen hut of David; from its ruins I shall rebuild it and raise it up again, so that the rest of humanity may seek out the Lord, even all the Gentiles on whom my name is invoked. Thus says the Lord who accomplishes these things, known from of old.’

 It is my judgment, therefore, that we ought to stop troubling the Gentiles who turn to God, but tell them by letter to avoid pollution from idols, unlawful marriage, the meat of strangled animals, and blood. For Moses, for generations now, has had those who proclaim him in every town, as he has been read in the synagogues every sabbath.”

Acts 15:7-21

The words of Peter and James carried the day. Let’s see why.

 

Peter came to the meeting and told of his own experience concerning the faith of some Greek speaking converts. The one household we have already heard about is that of the Roman Centurion Cornelius. To refresh your memory — they got together because they had simultaneous visions and Peter answered Cornelius’ invitation. When he arrived in Caesarea and entered the house of Cornelius he spoke God’s word to them — the good news that Jesus was sent by God into this world as Savior. Upon hearing the word Cornelius believed. Peter remarked at the time: Now I know that God does not play favorites; but anyone of any nation who lives uprightly and reverences God is acceptable to the Lord. The household received the Holy Spirit — the same Spirit Peter had brought with him. It was not necessary for circumcision to intervene. In the scripture above Peter states: God purified their hearts by faith [in response to the word of God]… we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they. This is the fundamental meaning of the Gospel that all men are invited to share in the saving Covenant by faith generated by response to the word of God preached to them.

James comes to the same conclusion by another route. He cites Old Testament prophet Amos who says that God would gather the Gentiles into the restored house of David. He, too, points to the fact that God is the one who is doing this. It is up to him to work the way he wants. We ought not attempt to stop him and block his way with our human precepts. James goes on to cite what the Gentiles rather need to do: avoid insulting God by eating pagan sacrificial meat dedicated to false gods; avoid marital relationships which defile the divine purpose of marriage and the procreation of life; avoid eating blood because lifeblood is sacred as it represents God’s life in his creatures and must not be an occasion for disrespect of the God whose life is within us.

Both James and Peter support the primacy of God in all that we do — including what God has done in raising Jesus from the dead. Man is not first, God is. Could not have a better standard to go by. Their faith is a great lesson to us.

WEDNESDAY OF THE FIFTH WEEK OF EASTER — MAY 13, 2020

We have received word that Archbishop Schnurr and the Bishops of Ohio have set Monday, May 25th  as the day to resume parish Masses. Weekday Masses will begin first, — the Sunday obligation is suspended for a while and we shall work toward eventually all coming together on the Lord’s Day. By spreading attendance at Mass over the whole week we will be in a better position to observe the “distancing” required, rather than trying to squeeze everyone into the church on Sunday. This will mean some effort on your part for you own safety.

We have preparations to make for the arrangement of Masses and the church setting. At this time I am asking you for suggestions of Mass times (temporary schedule), during the week and on Sunday. A possible arrangement: Monday, Wednesday, Fridays Mass at Noon; Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday Mass at 8:00 am. This would give better opportunity for all ages to participate in Mass — early risers and lunch hour. After a few days of the first week we should be more able to estimate attendance on each day, including Sundays. We may have to change the Sunday schedule to give us time to sanitize between Masses. By the way May 25th is Memorial Day. Let me know. Thank you.

WHAT IS GOD UP TO?

Paul and Barnabas, as the word of God relates today (First part of Acts 15), kept announcing the “Good News” wherever they went. Their message was that God was doing something new. He was distributing his graces among the outsiders as well as to visible members of his chosen people. This new action on God’s part calls us to respond with a new faith — not brand new but new and deeper amazement at his wonderful works.

The pandemic has done much the same for us. Our Easter faith has taken a new turn — not entirely new but new to us in his emphasizing that our faith is a shared faith. He has done this by taking away from us for a time our ability to share as we had previously done, especially at the Eucharist. We are not a Church unto ourselves. Our world of faith is personal and individual but not exclusively ours. God is not blessing just me. He does not keep his blessings for me alone. The generous Lord loves others as well and blesses them with remarkable gifts. Not being able to gather together at the Table of the Lord and praise God by sharing together in the mysteries of Christ, his Son, has awaken us to the fact that we are not completely in control of our lives. The Lord above is in charge of my life but also the others whom he blesses.

So we look forward to coming together again at Mass to offer thanksgiving in the midst of the assembly. What a delight that will be! Right now we ask ourselves how we shall do this with greater faith and love. This is where Paul and Barnabas and the whole Church of their time provide some guidance. Watch how they solve the problem of discerning whether circumcision was a necessary requirement of pleasing the God of the Covenant and joining together for worship. They do not try to solve the question with just their human ways but they look to God to reveal to them his wishes — not our human wishes.

We had already heard how, as the number of believers increased, there was a need of ministering to them in such a way that unity was maintained and strengthened. With this question of full observance of all the specific parts of the Mosaic Law God revealed what was more important —what was essential to live the Covenant. The disciples then gathered in Jerusalem. Here unity in God’s ways was the prime concern.

The chose Jerusalem as their meeting place because it was the home of God’s dwelling, the Temple, and it was chosen by him through Jesus to be the place of the perfection of the Covenant through the death and resurrection of the Christ. The Church in Jerusalem was the Mother Church. The answer to the discussion would come forth from the God himself in the historical setting of the Holy City. The Lord is the authority. So the answer will be found in what God is doing rather than in man’s endeavors. This the disciples did. A great step in the faith will result — a shared faith, unity in faith and worship. The pandemic of our time can result in the same.

Next we will hear, through the mouths of the Apostles James and Peter, an authoritative interpretation of what God was doing for our salvation.

 

TUESDAY OF THE FIFTH WEEK OF EASTER — MAY 12, 2020

We have received word that Archbishop Schnurr and the Bishops of Ohio have set Monday, May 25th  as the day to resume parish Masses. Weekday Masses will begin first, — the Sunday obligation is suspended for a while and we shall work toward eventually all coming together on the Lord’s Day. By spreading attendance at Mass over the whole week we will be in a better position to observe the “distancing” required, rather than trying to squeeze everyone into the church on Sunday. This will mean some effort on your part for you own safety.

We have preparations to make for the arrangement of Masses and the church setting. At this time I am asking you for suggestions of Mass times (temporary schedule), during the week and on Sunday. A possible arrangement: Monday, Wednesday, Fridays Mass at Noon; Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday Mass at 8:00 am. This would give better opportunity for all ages to participate in Mass — early risers and lunch hour. After a few days of the first week we should be more able to estimate attendance on each day, including Sundays. We may have to change the Sunday schedule to give us time to sanitize between Masses. By the way May 25th is Memorial Day. Let me know. Thank you.

 

 

Prayer by those not able to go to Mass in person

 

Saint Alphonsus di Liguori (1696-1787) lived at time when many came to identify Mass with just going to Communion. So at that time he composed a widely circulated prayer of Spiritual Communion for those who, for one reason or another, could not go to Communion. This prayer has been suggested to be used today in our present crisis. However, God has done a lot for us in the intervening years regarding our cherished celebration of the Eucharist. In our time the Lord has given us a deeper and wider understanding of the great Mystery of the Eucharist which he handed on to his Church for all ages for our spiritual growth. We need to take advantage of these heavenly gifts in the way we pray — the Church has experienced this in the revision of the Mass in our life time.

 

We know better now that the entire Mass from start to finish involves the many real presences of Christ, and in particular his real presence within the people of his holy assembly. So I have composed this prayer, which I prefer to call Prayer When I Cannot Participate in Mass in Person aka The Prayer for Renewing the Covenant (instead of Spiritual Communion for the reason just stated) is based on the reality of faith that the Lord’s Covenant love is behind everything he has done for us — our better knowledge of scripture has provided us with a better grasp of our faith. He gave us his Son, born into this world, who followed his Father’s will in everything and thus was sinless. Jesus so loved us that he wishes to recreate us in his image day by day so that we come to perfection in him and so enjoy the fullness of life. To this end he left us the Eucharistic memorial in its totality which we have grown to love in the midst of his faithful people. So we pray that every celebration of the Eucharistic mysteries deepen his life within us and within the whole Church, bringing together the many real presences of Christ in our lives.

 

I offer this prayer during these “desert days” of contemplation so that our return to these sacred mysteries will find us more deeply committed to the Covenant love of Christ, for which he gave his life, and to the increase of his life within us until we reach the fullness and abundance he has in store for us. That is the purpose of the Mass for which we long.

 

Through your gift of Covenant love, O Lord, you have opened our hearts to welcome your Son to dwell within us by being baptized into his Church community and enlivened and strengthen by his Holy Spirit as to what you have made us so that we can better answer your call to gather for the Eucharist. Unable to join the body of Christ at this time to celebrate the redemption of your people, we beseech your merciful love to enlarge our hearts to welcome your presence all the more and that of your Son and the Holy Spirit so that we may give you thanks always and everywhere as befits your name. Open our ears, O Lord, to your word, both spoken and lived. Through your Holy Spirit make our daily lives more in the image of your Son who is the perfect example of your eternal Covenant so that we may soon join his body, the Church, to burst forth in praise of you at the Table of the Lord, sharing his Body and Blood, and to advance with all your faithful people toward your kingdom of heaven, bound together with you and your holy ones in your one family. Make firm that unity of your Church in answer to your Son’s prayer that we be one so that the world come to know your presence here and know that you are always with us. Through Christ our risen Lord. Amen.

 

Saint Alphonsus approved this message because his appreciation for the Eucharistic Christ has reached perfection now in the company of saints and offers the prayer above, too, from his heavenly perspective.

MONDAY OF THE FIFTH WEEK OF EASTER — MAY 11, 2020

 

We have received word that Archbishop Schnurr and the Bishops of Ohio have set Monday, May 25th  as the day to resume parish Masses. Weekday Masses will begin first, — the Sunday obligation is suspended for a while and we shall work toward eventually all coming together on the Lord’s Day. By spreading attendance at Mass over the whole week we will be in a better position to observe the “distancing” required, rather than trying to squeeze everyone into the church on Sunday. This will mean some effort on your part for you own safety.

We have preparations to make for the arrangement of Masses and the church setting. At this time I am asking you for suggestions of Mass times (temporary schedule), during the week and on Sunday. A possible arrangement: Monday, Wednesday, Fridays Mass at Noon; Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday Mass at 8:00 am. This would give better opportunity for all ages to participate in Mass — early risers and lunch hour. After a few days of the first week we should be more able to estimate attendance on each day, including Sundays. We may have to change the Sunday schedule to give us time to sanitize between Masses. By the way May 25th is Memorial Day. Let me know. Thank you.

 

EXTENDED SCRIPTURE COMMENTARY FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

Acts 6:1-7

The early Church had its struggles — but they were good ones. It was not so bad with 70-100 disciples. The Twelve could take care of that. When the numbers increased into the thousands the Holy Spirit, which had descended upon them, inspired the Apostles to choose others as Jesus had chosen them. It was a choice by faith, probably learning a lesson from the gifts which they themselves had received — Holy Spirit, faith and wisdom from above. So it was a “spiritual” selection. Remember that Peter himself was filled with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and spoke to the people. What was the problem they had to address? It was a language and culture problem. There were two easily distinguished groups among the Jews: those who spoke Aramaic and those who spoke Greek and the accompanying cultural backgrounds, e.g. the type of food that they ate or did not eat. What is it that brought them together in the first place? Their faith and worship of the God of the Covenant. You can imagine how the divisions affected their worship gatherings. This happens today sometimes when ethnic groups sit in church in adjacent pews. So the Apostles in consultation with the whole Church chose seven men, with Greek names, to minister the distribution of food to fellows of similar origin. The Apostles prayed over them, imposing hands upon them (much like Mass) invoking the Father to send his Holy Spirit upon them to minister to his people. In this whole passage it is worth noting the priority the Apostles placed upon the ministry of the word — an essential vocation of our clergy today. Luke, as the sacred author, tells clearly that it was the ministry of the word which accounted for the spread of the faith and increase in the numbers of followers. The ministry of the word holds the same position of priority in the Church in our time. Then and now it will be the source of unity among God’s people whatever their language and culture because the one and same Holy Spirit of the risen Christ is at work.

Psalm 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19 (22)
Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.

Those who selected this psalm in response to the first reading did not have a hard time finding a psalm to fit the occasion. An observant Jew grew up reverencing and celebrating the word of God. Here in the verses we have today the psalmist (and those who sing this psalm) speak of God’s greatness and give thanks to him for the word of Yahweh and his works. Then the psalm ties the “word” with the faithful covenant love of the Lord to the extent that his word and his faithful love is all over the world in everything that God has made. God speaking to mankind (his word) is a very loving action on God’s part. It is a loving action on the part of the religious person who relies on that word and covenant love to reply to what God is doing living that faith to the fullest and singing his praises before all mankind. The psalms (and the whole Bible) are the word of God which becomes a living word in the lives of God’s faithful people. Just as at the time of the Apostles in those early years the listening (and taking it into our hearts) to the same word of God, e.g. at Mass, unites us at the Table of the Lord through the gift of the same Holy Spirit. It happens today.

 

Exult, you just, in the LORD;
praise from the upright is fitting.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises.

 Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.

 See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.

 

Collect/Gathering Prayer

May you always bring to perfection in us these Paschal Mysteries, O Lord almighty and eternal God, so that those you have found worthy to renew by holy baptism may under your protective care produce a multitude of good deeds and according to your graciousness will reach the joys of eternal life.

 

The Church’s tradition of a lengthy Easter Season stems from the faith expressed in this prayer. That faith is that following the risen Lord we are called to mature in the faith. The Easter Mystery unfolds before us and our life in Christ as well. Easter is not like a snapshot which remains the same forever. It is moving higher and higher, closer to the God’s intended goal for us — the fullness of life in his heavenly presence. So as Church we call out to God during this liturgy to bring what he has begun in us — that is the reason for remembering baptism — to the perfection which the Lord Jesus won for us through his death and resurrection. So we join the Church asking for three things: 1) that God preserve and protect what he has already done for us in the initial faith; 2) that he turn our first steps in the faith into a very productive life in Christ; 3) that we come to share the abundance and fullness of Christ’s life in us in the heavenly realm. It is our whole life.

 

1 Peter 2:4-9

Let us jump ahead a bit now to our Gospel of today because Peter, the writer of this letter, was involved in all that Jesus said and did there. In the passage we hear today Peter’s name is not mentioned but from his past experience we know that he took it all in and took it very personal, e.g. Jesus, I will never deny you. We have to give Peter credit for the wonderful depths of his faith and his gift of seeing God’s ways for what they really are. He reveals once again in this passage a profound grasp of the scriptures (Old Testament). Keep in mind that from his time accompanying Christ he realizes that Jesus had chosen him for a special role among the Apostles. Here he tells his listeners/readers that they too have been chosen. In this way they are like Christ chosen by God. Stay close to him, he says, that you may living stones in God’s spiritual house and join the Lord Jesus in offering spiritual sacrifices pleasing to God. Christ Jesus showed himself as the priest by his offering on the cross — the Church’s Easter prayers, e.g. the prefaces at Mass, state this explicitly. So Peter teaches that in union with Christ and his Church we are a chosen race, a kingdom of priests, a holy people, God’s personal possession to sing the praises of God. There is your reason for gathering together to worship God in the Eucharist. That is why we come to church. That is how we mature in the faith and a holy life in Christ.

 

John 14:1-12

These words of Jesus in the hours that preceded his death have come to mean so much for us as we mature in the faith. Just as the Apostles so gladly followed Christ at his call so we have consciously and lovingly recognized the good in our attachment to him and done so willingly. But with our acceptance of Christ Jesus comes the fear that we shall lose him. The Apostles were troubled because Jesus increasingly spoke of his death and departure. When he spoke of dying and being raised they got the first part but did not really understand the second part, the resurrection and what that would mean for them. So we find ourselves confronted with much the same. Jesus’ resurrection is still a mystery to us in many respects. The Church gives us this Easter Season to make progress is understanding what has happened to us by Jesus’ dying and rising.

In this Gospel passage Jesus explains to us what his resurrection means in our lives. He explains it this way. First, I am going to the Father, it is better that I go. Secondly, I will see to it that we will always be together— you shall be with me where I am. Thirdly, you shall see the Father, even more clearly than you see him in me now. Fourthly, just as we have walked together these last couple of years we will continue to walk together for I am the way — our journey is headed in the same direction. During those hours together at the Last Supper this still did not sink in but now by the time of the preaching and writing of the Gospel they knew clearly that Jesus was true to his word. We find ourselves in their position of Easter faith. We, too, keep walking with the Lord, who now is at the right hand of the Father ceaselessly interceding for us. In him we shall not fail.

 

FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER — MAY 10, 2020

A Blessed and Happy Mother’s Day!

 

We have just received word that Archbishop Schnurr and the Bishops of Ohio have set Monday, May 25th as the day to resume parish Masses. Weekday Masses will begin first, — the Sunday obligation is suspended for a while and we shall work toward eventually all coming together on the Lord’s Day. We have preparations to make for the arrangement of Masses and the church setting. At this time I am asking you for suggestions of Mass times (temporary schedule), during the week and on Sunday. A possible arrangement: Monday, Wednesday, Fridays Mass at Noon; Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday Mass at 8:00 am.  After a few days of the first week we will know better what we can expect on Sundays. Let me know. Thank you.

 

SAMPLE OF HOME PRAYER FOR FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

 

INTRODUCTION

[Before entering into the sample Sunday prayers, you may wish to familiarize yourself with the scripture commentary which is provided on this homepage in the Blog, just beneath this opening Tweet, on the right.
Today’s homily is a quasi homily because the ideal homily takes much of its meaning from its actual setting in a “live” liturgy in which the Holy Spirit is at work uniting the body of Christ. This communion together is part of the reality of a homily within the action of the liturgy itself. It is offered here to bind together your small group of prayer on this Lord’s Day. The scripture commentary is meant to give some background to what God is saying and doing at this particular time.]

 

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Peace be with you.

 

PENTENTIAL RITE to let the Lord prepare our hearts for pure worship

Lord Jesus, You walked the Way of the Cross for us — Have mercy
Lord Jesus, You gave your life to uphold the truth of the Covenant— Have mercy
Lord Jesus, You make sure we can live your life forever — Have mercy

 

Let us pray:
May you always bring to perfection in us these Paschal Mysteries, O Lord almighty and eternal God, so that those you have found worthy to renew by holy baptism may under your protective care produce a multitude of good deeds and according to your graciousness reach the joys of eternal life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen

Listen to the sacred scriptures:
[Go to the Today’s Readings section below on this webpage.]

A BRIEF COMMENTARY ON TODAY’S READINGS

Acts 6:1-7
The Church chose seven men filled with the Holy Spirit.

The expansion of the Church in the early days caused a problem. Upon consultation with the body of the Church the apostles chose seven men and assigned a new ministry to them. What was the problem? The need to maintain unity. So how to maintain unity? It was the Holy Spirit, the gift of the risen Lord, residing in the chosen members of the Church at work. The Seven are described as filled with the Spirit and wisdom. That same Spirit was being given to new members to bring them to the faith.

 

Psalm 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19 (22)
Lord of the Covenant, let your merciful love be upon us
as we place our hope in you
.

The immediate problem for which the Holy Spirit was given (in the first reading) was serving the Greek speaking widows at table. This psalm is a thanksgiving and petition of God to pour out his Covenant love, i.e. mercy here translated as kindness, upon his Church so that the believers would be united in worship. The singing or reciting this psalm together is proof that God has accepted their praise and made them one through the gift of the Spirit.

1 Peter 2:4-9
You re a chosen race, a kingdom of priests.

The Easter gift of the Holy Spirit has made it possible for the Church’s worship to reach its highest level in the form of spiritual sacrifices. This comes about because the risen Christ is now at the right hand of the Father and joins us to himself in thanksgiving to his Father. This is the eternal spiritual sacrifice. So Peter in this letter uses an Old Testament phrase to teach us that as people of the risen Lord we have been chosen by God who, in Christ, has formed us as a priestly Church in his kingdom. This same Spirit has placed a deep longing in our hearts to join his Church at Mass.

John 14:1-12
I am the Way, the Truth and the Life

Jesus takes into account that his disciples are experiencing anxiety as he tells them the time of his death is near — he is going to the Father. To reassure them he speaks plainly the truth of God’s plan that he is to be with them even following his death. It is the will of God that we be united to Christ forever. Jesus describes this as have a dwelling in God’s house — so that where I am you also may be. Jesus the risen Lord is “the way” to his Father’s house. He is “the truth” of the divine Covenant plan. He is “the life” that last forever.

Silent Reflection and/or share comments.

Homily Written for the Web —May it enhance your prayer and worship of God this day.

TOWARD OF HOMILY FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

 

We somewhat glibly say Jesus will take care of you and take care of us. We know the words. But let us ask the deeper question: Does he really do it? Have we really experienced it?

Today’s Gospel is meant to show how Jesus takes care of us. Just hours before his death the disciples are gathered at a Passover meal which is generally was a time of great joy and fellowship. The disciples are sad and worried because Jesus keeps bringing up the fact that he will suffer and die and consequently be taken from them. Jesus senses the anxiety. The regular delight of celebrating this special traditional feast is not there. Jesus himself actually says: I will not be with you much longer…I go to the Father. So the disciples ask some questions trying to put their minds at ease. What’s this “way” you are talking about? Let us see the Father and everything will be OK. To put their minds and hearts at ease Jesus does not deny what is coming up but tries to reassure them by saying he is going away to do something for them — prepare a place in his Father’s house for them. He tells Philip and the others: You have already seen the Father in me. Not much seems to have sunk in. They still scattered at the arrest of Jesus.

However, they were not embarrassed enough to keep their anxiety secret after the resurrection. That is how it got into John’s Gospel. They had good memories so they did not forget what Jesus said at the Last Supper. Added to that they saw the risen Christ and it all came together for them. Jesus’ words now make sense. So they have handed on to us their faith journey.

What about us? These are anxious days for us. Does Jesus care? Does he know what we are going through? After hearing today’s Gospel passage we know he does. And he gives us the answer to our worries. Are we ready to accept it? Are we resolved to answer his call to go deeper into the faith he has given us? Do we have an indications right now that there is more to life in Christ than the way we lived six months ago?

So during this pandemic Jesus speaks to us through John’s Gospel. We need to thank him for that and praise him for such love that he has and will take care of us in our present situation.

What more must I do? Follow the example of the disciples. Be sure to hold in memory the words and deeds of Jesus. Make a greater effort to recall what scriptures we hear at Mass that day. Keep asking did Jesus tell me today. How is he answering our questions as the risen Lord at the right hand of the Father for all eternity? Jesus’ answer in the Gospel is that his risen glory, referred to as making ready a room for us in his Father’s house, reassures us and gives us the hope of life hereafter. That makes what I do today here in this world of tremendous value in the light that we are called to be with God in his heavenly home.

So by taking the Eucharist away from us for these couple of months and letting us resume our Masses celebrating his presence should make us forever grateful that he does care for us both now and in the future. It’s a promise. Jesus keeps his promises. We believe. We are glad with the joy of Easter.

 

CREED: I believe in God the Father almighty…

 

We conclude with this prayer together:

Let us pray
for our mothers on this their day that God’s promises to them be fulfilled here and hereafter.
for the Church of Cincinnati, that these days of contemplation be sacred and lead to a greater faith
for those who have died in recent weeks, that Jesus the Way complete their journey to the heavenly kingdom,
for those in leadership roles within our society receive and accept the Spirit and wisdom from above,
for those being tested for the virus have good results
for those in the work force be safe and sound
for those out of work hear good news about their future
for family and friends that the peace and joy of Christ be theirs

In Jesus’ name we pray for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Our Father, who art in heaven…

 

Renewal of the Covenant Prayer aka Prayer of those unable to participate in Mass in person

 

Through your gift of Covenant love, O Lord, you have opened our hearts to welcome your Son to dwell within us by being baptized into his Church community and enlivened and strengthen by his Holy Spirit as to what you have made us so that we can better answer your call to gather for the Eucharist. Unable to join the body of Christ at this time to celebrate the redemption of your people, we beseech your merciful love to enlarge our hearts so to welcome your presence all the more and that of your Son and the Holy Spirit so that we may give you thanks always and everywhere as befits your name. Open our ears, O Lord, to your word, both spoken and lived. Through your Holy Spirit make our daily lives more in the image of your Son who is the perfect example of your eternal Covenant so that we may soon join his body, the Church, to burst forth in praise of you at the Table of the Lord, sharing his Body and Blood, and to advance with all your faithful people toward your kingdom of heaven, bound together with you and your holy ones in your one family. Make firm that unity of your Church in answer to your Son’s prayer that we be one so that the world come to know your presence here and know that you are always with us. Through Christ our risen Lord. Amen.

 

[See this and the explanation of it on the Blog Archives under the name New Prayer of Saint Alphonsus]

 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

 

[See the ARCHIVES at the bottom of the BLOG page]

 

SATURDAY OF THE FOURTH WEEK OF EASTER — MAY 9, 2020


We have just received word that Archbishop Schnurr and the Bishops of Ohio have set Monday, May 25th as the day to resume parish Masses. Weekday Masses will begin first, — the Sunday obligation is suspended for a while and we shall work toward eventually all coming together on the Lord’s Day. We have preparations to make for the arrangement of Masses and the church setting. At this time I am asking you for suggestions of Mass times (temporary schedule), during the week and on Sunday. A possible arrangement: Monday, Wednesday, Fridays Mass at Noon; Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday Mass at 8:00 am.  After a few days of the first week we will know better what we can expect on Sundays. Let me know. Thank you.


The Saint Alphonsus of 1776
and
The Saint Alphonsus of 2020

 

Saint Alphonsus di Liguori (1696-1787) lived at time when many came to identify Mass with just going to Communion. So at that time he composed a widely circulated prayer of Spiritual Communion for those who, for one reason or another, could not go to Communion. This prayer has been suggested to be used today in our present crisis. However, God has done a lot for us in the intervening years regarding our cherished celebration of the Eucharist. In our time the Lord has given us a deeper and wider understanding of the great Mystery of the Eucharist which he handed on to his Church for all ages for our spiritual growth. We need to take advantage of these heavenly gifts in the way we pray — the Church has experienced this in the revision of the Mass in our life time.

 

We know better now that the entire Mass from start to finish involves the many real presences of Christ, and in particular his real presence within the people of his holy assembly. So I have composed this prayer, which I prefer to call Prayer When I Cannot Participate in Mass in Person aka The Prayer for Renewing the Covenant (instead of Spiritual Communion for the reason just stated) is based on the reality of faith that the Lord’s Covenant love is behind everything he has done for us — our better knowledge of scripture has provided us with a better grasp of our faith. He gave us his Son, born into this world, who followed his Father’s will in everything and thus was sinless. Jesus so loved us that he wishes to recreate us in his image day by day so that we come to perfection in him and so enjoy the fullness of life. To this end he left us the Eucharistic memorial in its totality which we have grown to love in the midst of his faithful people. So we pray that every celebration of the Eucharistic mysteries deepen his life within us and within the whole Church, bringing together the many real presences of Christ in our lives.

 

I offer this prayer during these “desert days” of contemplation so that our return to these sacred mysteries will find us more deeply committed to the Covenant love of Christ, for which he gave his life, and to the increase of his life within us until we reach the fullness and abundance he has in store for us. That is the purpose of the Mass for which we long.

 

Through your gift of Covenant love, O Lord, you have opened our hearts to welcome your Son to dwell within us by being baptized into his Church community and enlivened and strengthen by his Holy Spirit as to what you have made us so that we can better answer your call to gather for the Eucharist. Unable to join the body of Christ at this time to celebrate the redemption of your people, we beseech your merciful love to enlarge our hearts to welcome your presence all the more and that of your Son and the Holy Spirit so that we may give you thanks always and everywhere as befits your name. Open our ears, O Lord, to your word, both spoken and lived. Through your Holy Spirit make our daily lives more in the image of your Son who is the perfect example of your eternal Covenant so that we may soon join his body, the Church, to burst forth in praise of you at the Table of the Lord, sharing his Body and Blood, and to advance with all your faithful people toward your kingdom of heaven, bound together with you and your holy ones in your one family. Make firm that unity of your Church in answer to your Son’s prayer that we be one so that the world come to know your presence here and know that you are always with us. Through Christ our risen Lord. Amen.

 

Saint Alphonsus approved this message because his appreciation for the Eucharistic Christ has reached perfection now in the company of saints and offers the prayer above, too, from his heavenly perspective.

 

 

 

FRIDAY OF THE FOURTH WEEK OF EASTER — MAY 8, 2020

God is love

John the Apostle
describes the resurrection of the Christ
as the ultimate expression of God’s love for us.

 

John’s long life in Christ brought him the gift of thinking long range, not just to the future but long range in the past, going back to the very beginning. You know well how his Gospel begins: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God… His First Letter has the same range: What was from the beginning, what we have heard and seen… His Book of Revelation is about now and the world to come. He ends up: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end…Come, Lord Jesus. So how does he summarize and tie everything together with the resurrection of Christ. He does it by saying: God is love.

 

To show his point he first says:

For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: we should love one another (1 John 3:11)

His beginning is the story of Cain and Abel and he continues on to Christ Jesus and being made perfect in him.

 

My dear friends, let us love one another, since love is from God and everyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. Whoever fails to love does not know God, because God is love. This is the revelation of God’s love for us, that God sent his only Son into the world that we might have life through him. Love consists in this: it is not we who loved God, but God loved us and sent his Son to expiate our sins. My dear friends, if God loved us so much, we too should love one another. No one has ever seen God, but as long as we love one another God remains in us and his love comes to its perfection in us (1 John 4:7-12).

 

Saint Paul adds to this by putting Jesus’ resurrection and the Covenant together. He did it in a “homily” in a synagogue during his missionary activity and is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles (13:32-33).

 

We have come here to tell you the good news [Gospel] that the promise [of the Covenant] made to our ancestors has come about. God has fulfilled it to their children by raising Jesus from the dead. As scripture says in the psalms: You are my son: today I have fathered you [the ritual of coronation of the king].

 

So for John, too, the love he speaks of is merciful Covenant love brought to perfection through the raising of Jesus from the dead. The love of God becomes visible in the Covenant love within us which is the Person of the risen Jesus Christ. We become members of God’s family by this divine love living in us which shows forth by our love of one another. We have seen this in our articles about the Eucharist and the real presence of Christ within our hearts — which we celebrate at every Mass. By renewing the Covenant love at the altar the Lord Jesus is present to us more and more and we grow in the perfection of his image as we head toward full stature in Christ (see Ephesians 4:13).

 

John enjoyed the revelation that God is love and has shared it with the Church ever since. That is why he is a saint of the resurrection of Jesus.

 

[See the Archives at the bottom of the Blog Page]