Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist (2)

Some people think discerning your vocation is like career planning, but today’s feast of Mark reminds us that praying about God’s will for your life is not exactly the same thing. It’s safe to say that Mark didn’t plan on being an evangelist. He knew many of the apostles; when Peter was miraculously freed from prison he went to the house of Mark’s mother (see Acts 12:12). Mark tried being a missionary with Paul and Barnabas, but went home before the missionary trip was over, and this upset Paul so much that when Barnabas tried bring Mark along again, he and Paul parted ways over it (see Acts 12:25, 15:37-39). It seems the missionary life wasn’t for him.

Scripture doesn’t chronicle it, but tradition holds that Mark eventually started helping Peter as a secretary (see today’s First Reading) and the accounts in Mark’s Gospel were probably the ones he heard from Peter himself. Mark probably didn’t appreciate the importance of his work in his lifetime, but we all owe him a debt for helping us remember the life of Christ through his Gospel.

What does God want you to do with your life? Don’t focus on big plans, but know he already has big plans for you. Just take one step at a time, asking Our Lord to guide you, and be open to his will.

Readings: 1 Peter 5:5b–14; Psalm 89:2–3, 6–7, 16–17; Mark 16:15–20. See also Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist.

5th Sunday of Easter, Cycle C

In today’s First Reading recalls the end of Paul’s first missionary voyage. In his lifetime he made three missionary voyages, and just like when he was knocked to the ground and blinded, he had no idea where his missionary voyages would lead him. Today he arrives back in Antioch, the Christian community who had sent him out at the Holy Spirit’s instruction, and he tells them something none of them expected: the Gentiles, the non-Jews, were welcoming the Gospel too. He encourages them to keep the faith, since, as he says “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Paul is saying that from experience. On the mission he just finished he had almost been stoned in one town, mistaken for the god Zeus in another, and in a third was dragged outside the city, stoned, and left for dead.

In today’s Second Reading John tries to describe what the Kingdom of God will look like one day: the Church, as splendid as a bride on her wedding day, with Christ as her spouse. In every celebration of the Eucharist we try to imitate what the Church will be like to Christ on that day: we wear nice clothes and vestments, we sing beautiful music, we use things of gold and silver and candles and nice things to celebrate Jesus coming down to be with us and come down into our hearts. Some day we will all be united, just like those people listening to St. Paul in Antioch, just as when we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, rejoicing forever with God among us and all the pain and sorrow wiped away.

St. Paul describes the path to Heaven as hardships, but Our Lord in today’s Gospel calls it the moment of his glorification. When John in his gospel talks about glorification, he is referring to Jesus being crucified. So as Judas goes out to betray Our Lord, the Lord says, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” He knows that the suffering and hardship that he is about to undergo will make what John sees in the Second Reading come true: all of us, united with him in joy. “The One on the throne” in the Second Reading today is Jesus Himself, and he says, “Behold, I make all things new.” Death and sickness and tiredness and effort are a part of life, but Jesus will re-new everything again: not just spruced up, new again. He is always coming into our hearts to renew us with his love, and one day, things will be as if they were brand new, forever, like a flower in the fullness of bloom, but never drying out or wilting.

Let’s love one another as he had loved us, so that in us he can continue to make all things new.

Readings: Acts 14:21–27; Psalm 145:8–13; Revelation 21:1–5a; John 13:31–33a, 34–35.

4th Week of Easter, Saturday (2)

In today’s First Reading Paul and Barnabas are enjoying what every apostle hopes for: results. Our Lord warned his disciples that their message would be rejected by some, and they should just keep working where they can. This happens twice today for Paul and Barnabas: first the Jewish officials don’t want them speaking with the Jews, then they make waves and force Paul and Barnabas to leave the area entirely. We should pity any town that an apostle leaves while shaking the dust off his feet. The disciples, as the First Reading reminds us, “were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.” Those who rejected them were not.

As disciples we should not be concerned about popularity contests. Believers are not popular today in many circles. We should be concerned about being filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. That will exercise the force of attraction to which open hearts will gravitate, aided as well by the Holy Spirit.

Readings: Acts 13:44–52; Psalm 98:1–4; John 14:7–14. See also 4th Week of Easter, Saturday

4th Week of Easter, Friday (2)

In yesterday‘s First Reading Paul began his sermon in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch explaining that Jesus was the Messiah for whom the Lord had been preparing and announcing throughout salvation history in deeds, events, and prophecies. Today he explains to them the evil events that had taken place in their days, but how they paled in comparison to the good news of Christ’s victory over sin and death through the Resurrection. That is the good news we have rejoiced in ever since.

At the start of today’s Gospel Our Lord invites his apostles, not long before his Passion, to not be troubled, to believe in his Father and in him and not be afraid. The days just after that encouragement were the darkest ones the apostles ever experienced in their lives, but that darkness faded in the light of the Resurrection to become a joy they spent their whole lives spreading, even to martyrdom.

Our Lord doesn’t want us to be troubled or afraid. The key is to believe in him. His victory has shown there is nothing to fear.

Readings: Acts 13:26–33; Psalm 2:6–11b; John 14:1–6. See also 4th Week of Easter, Friday.

4th Week of Easter, Thursday (2)

In today’s First Reading Paul recalls the history of God’s relationship with Israel, and that history gradually grows in hope and expectation until he sends his Son as the Messiah. God gives Israel a place to call home: he frees them from Egypt, establishes them as his people by making a covenant with them, and leads them to the Promised Land after tolerating their infidelity in the desert. He sent them leaders, the judges and the prophet Samuel, to bail them out when their infidelity gets them into deep trouble with surrounding nations. Finally, they ask for a king like the surrounding nations, and he appoints Saul, who ends up being enslaved by public opinion and disappoints the Lord. The Lord is trying to do good with them, and, sometimes, in spite of them.

Then the Lord gave them David, who, despite some faults and failings, ushered in one of the most prosperous times of Israel and a united kingdom. At this same time, touched by David’s devotion, the Lord promises a savior through one of his descendants, whom we now know to be Christ, even though those listening to Paul in today’s First Reading were still on the fence. Paul mentions that David was pleasing to God when he sought to carry out his every wish. Christ took this dedication to a new level, not only being God’s Son, but obeying him and seeking to please him with all his heart. In this way the Lord went from sending help to sending himself.

The Lord has sent so many good people our way, both personally and as the People of God. Our Lord reminds us in today’s Gospel that we too have been sent. Let’s help people believe in the Father and believe in his Son by doing good too.

Readings: Acts 13:13–25;  Psalm 89:2–3, 21–22, 25, 27; John 13:16–20. See also 4th Week of Easter, Thursday.