Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday July 29, 2018
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 110

A Reading from the Gospel according to John
JN 6:1-15

Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee.
A large crowd followed him,
because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.
Jesus went up on the mountain,
and there he sat down with his disciples.
The Jewish feast of Passover was near.
When Jesus raised his eyes
and saw that a large crowd was coming to him,
he said to Philip,
"Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?"
He said this to test him,
because he himself knew what he was going to do.
Philip answered him,
"Two hundred days' wages worth of food would not be enough
for each of them to have a little."
One of his disciples,
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him,
"There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish;
but what good are these for so many?"
Jesus said, "Have the people recline."
Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.
So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.
Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks,
and distributed them to those who were reclining,
and also as much of the fish as they wanted.
When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples,
"Gather the fragments left over,
so that nothing will be wasted."
So they collected them,
and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments
from the five barley loaves
that had been more than they could eat.
When the people saw the sign he had done, they said,
"This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world."
Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off
to make him king,
he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today St. Paul urges us to love one another with humility, gentleness and patience. St. Francis de Sales refers to these virtues as the “little virtues”:

Let us try to acquire those little virtues such as patience, humility and gentleness toward our neighbor. Know that patience is the one virtue that gives greatest assurance of our reaching holiness. While we must have patience with others, we must also have it with ourselves. Patience helps us to possess our own soul so that we may do the will of God, the source of our greatest happiness. Those who want to aspire to the pure love of God need to be more patient with themselves than with others.

Patience with ourselves leads to humility. Deep interior humility begins with recognizing the multitude of blessings God has bestowed on us. We will enjoy and rejoice in them because we possess them, but we will glorify God because God alone is the author of them. We must use our gifts and talents in the service of God and our neighbors. Those who are humble are all the more courageous because they place their whole trust in God. Turn to our Lord who has given His life for you. Humility perfects us with respect to God and gentleness with respect to our neighbor.

Little by little bring your quick mind around to being patient, gentle, humble, and affable in the midst of pettiness, childishness and the imperfections of others who are weak. These little virtues, ones to be exercised in our daily life, in our household, our place of work, with friends and with strangers, any time and all the time—these are the virtues for us. God, who is infinitely kind, is satisfied with the small achievements of our heart. When we nurture our heart with virtue and good projects that allow us to serve God and our neighbor, our heart performs marvels.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales.)

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday July 22, 2018
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 107

A Reading from the Gospel according to Mark
MK 6:30-34

The apostles gathered together with Jesus
and reported all they had done and taught.
He said to them,
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
People were coming and going in great numbers,
and they had no opportunity even to eat.
So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.
People saw them leaving and many came to know about it.
They hastened there on foot from all the towns
and arrived at the place before them.

When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them many things.

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings remind us that our God is a God of compassion. St. Francis de Sales frequently stresses God’s loving care for us especially in adversity:

Our God is the God of the human heart. When our heart is in danger God alone can save and protect it. Just as God is the maker of all things, so also God takes care of all things, and sustains and embraces the whole of creation. Consequently, God wishes to make all things good and beautiful. Especially then, let us believe that God watches over our affairs, even in adversity. We do not always know the reason for our trials but we must admit that in our own affairs, we are sometimes the source of our afflictions.

While we must be careful and attentive to matters that God has committed to our care, we must not be anxious, uneasy or rash about them. Worry disturbs reason and good judgment, and prevents us from doing well the very things we are worried about. Gentle rains make open fields fruitful in grain, but floods ruin fields and meadows.

Thus, undertake all your affairs with a calm mind and do them in order one after the other. If you try to do them all at once or without order, your spirit will be so overcharged and depressed that it will likely sink under the burden without achieving anything. In all your affairs strive quietly to cooperate with God’s plan for you.

God gives us a rich abundance of means proper for our salvation. By a wondrous infusion of God’s grace into our hearts, the Spirit makes our works become God’s work. Our good works like a little grain of mustard seed have vigor and virtue to produce a great good because they proceed from the Spirit of Jesus. You may be sure that if you have firm trust in God’s compassionate love and care for you, the success that comes to your work will always be that which is most useful for you and the believing community.

(Adapted from St. Francis de Sales, Treatise on the Love of God, Introduction to a Devout Life).

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday July 15, 2018
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 104

A Reading from the Gospel according to Mark
MK 6:7-13

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two
and gave them authority over unclean spirits.
He instructed them to take nothing for the journey
but a walking stick—
no food, no sack, no money in their belts.
They were, however, to wear sandals
but not a second tunic.
He said to them,
“Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave.
Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you,
leave there and shake the dust off your feet
in testimony against them.”
So they went off and preached repentance.
The Twelve drove out many demons,
and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

In today’s Gospel we experience Jesus giving authority to carry out His work to the Apostles, and how their faith in Him leads to good works. St. Francis de Sales notes:

A living faith produces many great and good works. However, we see that strong and healthy persons must often be stirred up to put their strength and skill to proper use. The hand must lead them to their work. While a soul that is heavily burdened has the power to believe and hope in God’s love, it does not have the strength to see clearly if it does. Its distress has such a hold on it. Yet, our Savior never lets us go out on the road alone. The Spirit of Jesus is always with us, urging us on and appealing to our hearts and driving them forward so as to use well the holy love He places in us.

A tender mother leads along her little child, helps him and holds him up as long as she sees a need for it. Now she lets him take a few steps by himself in places that are very level and not too difficult. Then she takes him by the hand and holds him steady. At times she takes him up in her arms and carries him. It is also the way that our Savior takes constant care to lead forward His children. He enables them to walk before Him. He holds their hand in difficulties. Therefore when all things fail us, when our distress is at its height, our abandonment into the hands of our Savior cannot fail us. He will carry us along in hardships that He sees as being unbearable to us, if we let Him.

In many ways, God’s care preserves those who have faith in the teachings of Jesus. Our entire good consists not only in accepting the truth of God’s word, but also in persevering in it. Hence, we ought to have great courage and trust that God will assist us in all that we do for God’s glory. Let us rouse our faith. Give it life in believing fully in God’s love and care for us. Then all our works will bear fruit like those of the Apostles.

(St. Francis de Sales, Treatise on the Love of God; Sermons of St. Francis de Sales, L. Fiorelli, Ed.).

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday July 8, 2018
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 100

A Reading from the Gospel according to Mark
MK 6:1-6

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished.
They said, “Where did this man get all this?
What kind of wisdom has been given him?
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?
And are not his sisters here with us?”
And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.”
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

In today’s Gospel we see Jesus experiencing rejection and being amazed at the lack of faith people have in Him. St. Francis de Sales speaks of faith as consenting to God’s love:

There is often a long period between our first awakening from unbelief and the final resolution we make to believe fully in God’s love and care for us. There are many difficulties that occur between the first movement of faith in the God of Jesus Christ and our full consent to believe. St. Augustine delayed for some time before consenting fully to the teachings of Jesus Christ. But St. Ambrose said to him: “If you do not believe, pray in order that you may believe.”

During this period we pray like St. Augustine who cried out: “Lord, I do believe, but help me in my unbelief.” That is to say, “While I am no longer in the dark night of unfaithfulness, for the beams of your faith light up the horizon of my soul, I still do not believe as I ought. The knowledge that comes to me through faith is still weak and mingles with unbelief.”

God continually draws our hearts until we find the teachings of Jesus pleasing. Till we reach this stage, God’s goodness never fails to reach us through inspirations. However, we are free to consent to God’s loving appeals or reject them. Mighty rivers, coming upon open plains, spread out and take up ever more space. Similarly, if we do not reject God’s holy love, it goes on expanding with continual increase in us until we are entirely converted. Holy love guides us through our journey of forgiveness. It consoles us, animates and strengthens us in our difficulties. Hence faith includes a first start of love that the heart feels for the things of God. Let us not reject this gift of faith.

(Adapted from St. Francis de Sales, Treatise on the Love of God.)

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday July 1, 2018
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 98

A Reading from the Gospel according to Mark
MK 5:21-43 OR 5:21-24, 35B-43

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat
to the other side,
a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.
One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward.
Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying,
"My daughter is at the point of death.
Please, come lay your hands on her
that she may get well and live."
He went off with him,
and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.
She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors
and had spent all that she had.
Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.
She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd
and touched his cloak.
She said, "If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured."
Immediately her flow of blood dried up.
She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him,
turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who has touched my clothes?"
But his disciples said to Jesus,
"You see how the crowd is pressing upon you,
and yet you ask, 'Who touched me?'"
And he looked around to see who had done it.
The woman, realizing what had happened to her,
approached in fear and trembling.
She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.
He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has saved you.
Go in peace and be cured of your affliction."

While he was still speaking,
people from the synagogue official's house arrived and said,
"Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?"
Disregarding the message that was reported,
Jesus said to the synagogue official,
"Do not be afraid; just have faith."
He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside
except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.
When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official,
he caught sight of a commotion,
people weeping and wailing loudly.
So he went in and said to them,
"Why this commotion and weeping?
The child is not dead but asleep."
And they ridiculed him.
Then he put them all out.
He took along the child's father and mother
and those who were with him
and entered the room where the child was.
He took the child by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum,"
which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise!"
The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around.
At that they were utterly astounded.
He gave strict orders that no one should know this
and said that she should be given something to eat.

OR

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat
to the other side,
a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.
One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward.
Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying,
"My daughter is at the point of death.
Please, come lay your hands on her
that she may get well and live."
He went off with him,
and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.

While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official's house arrived and said,
"Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?"
Disregarding the message that was reported,
Jesus said to the synagogue official,
"Do not be afraid; just have faith."
He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside
except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.
When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official,
he caught sight of a commotion,
people weeping and wailing loudly.
So he went in and said to them,
"Why this commotion and weeping?
The child is not dead but asleep."
And they ridiculed him.
Then he put them all out.
He took along the child's father and mother
and those who were with him
and entered the room where the child was.
He took the child by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum,"
which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise!"
The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around.
At that they were utterly astounded.
He gave strict orders that no one should know this
and said that she should be given something to eat.

Salesian Sunday Reflection
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s readings remind us of God’s desire for human wholeness as God forms us, not for death, but for eternal life through faith in Christ. Through this life-giving faith, God calls us to share the abundance of our gifts with those in need. Francis speaks similarly:

God’s desire that we be made whole has been shown to us in so many ways. God shows us that we are made for eternal happiness: first by creation and then by Jesus’ coming. In becoming human, He has taken on our likeness and given us His. Is it any wonder that this beloved Lover of us wants us to love one another as He has loved us?

Nothing urges on a man’s heart so much as love. Our Lord suffered death with so much love in order that the whole human family may become divine. The self-giving love of Jesus presses down on us in a special way. He desires that we live in Him. To God’s glory then we must bring home all our works, actions, thoughts and affections.

God wills for all humans to be eternally happy. Our will must correspond to God’s will. Thus we must will our own wholeness just as God wills it. To the extent that God gives us the means to make ourselves whole, we must accept all the graces God has prepared for us and offers to us. How earnestly we ought to summon up our courage to live according to what we are. We ought to imitate as perfectly as possible Him who came into this world to teach us what we need to do to preserve in ourselves this beauty and divine resemblance which He has so completely repaired and embellished in us! It is this divine resemblance that we ought to recognize and help to preserve in our neighbor who is also God’s child. Let us walk then in the way of love as God’s most dear children.

(L. Fiorelli, ed. Sermons; St. Francis de Sales, Treatise on the Love of God).

Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Sunday June 24, 2018
Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
Mass during the Day
Lectionary: 587

A Reading from the Gospel according to Luke
LK 1:57-66, 80

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child
she gave birth to a son.
Her neighbors and relatives heard
that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her,
and they rejoiced with her.
When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child,
they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,
but his mother said in reply,
"No. He will be called John."
But they answered her,
"There is no one among your relatives who has this name."
So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.
He asked for a tablet and wrote, "John is his name,"
and all were amazed.
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed,
and he spoke blessing God.
Then fear came upon all their neighbors,
and all these matters were discussed
throughout the hill country of Judea.
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying,
"What, then, will this child be?"
For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.
The child grew and became strong in spirit,
and he was in the desert until the day
of his manifestation to Israel.

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Nativity of John the Baptist

Today we celebrate the Birth of John the Baptist. He was noted for his zeal in preparing the way of the Lord. Here are some thoughts of St. Francis de Sales on the value of zeal:

True zeal makes use of anger to help it correct an evil. At the same time, true zeal always honors and respects the dignity of the person being corrected. It never turns the hatred of evil into hatred of the evildoer. Nor does zeal turn charity into raging cruelty.

Anger is used by grace to put into effect the work we are called to do. Yet, if anger makes itself master, it overthrows the authority of reason, and it constricts zeal tempered by holy love. Like a fire that in an instant consumes a solid building, excessive anger destroys the zeal coming from a very good soul. Properly used anger is an aid given by our nature to move us to reason, as well as reflect and make good judgments.

Great saints, who have regulated their emotions through prayer and practicing virtue, can also direct their anger at will and put it out or draw it back as seems good to them. Such was St. John the Baptist who through his zeal suffered a martyrdom of love of God. For the most of us, however, our horse is not so well disciplined that we can make it gallop or come to a stop at will. Thus, we must take care not to needlessly stir up anger within ourselves.

In seeking to develop our spiritual well-being, we must not love anything too much, not even virtues, which we can sometimes lose by our misplaced zeal. All God wants is our heart. Zeal is simply ardent love. Yet zeal can be a good or evil love. Since zeal is ardent, impetuous love, it requires prudent direction. True zeal is a child of charity and thus is patient, kind, without hatred and rejoices in the truth. Let us calm our impetuous ardor for truth and goodness by inflaming our zeal with sacred love.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales.)

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday June 17, 2018
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 92

A Reading from the Gospel according to Mark
MK 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds:
“This is how it is with the kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and through it all the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”

He said,
“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s readings help us to keep things in perspective. Make no mistake – we are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. While we are charged with a tremendous duty - advancing the kingdom of God - the most effective means to accomplishing this great calling is to pay attention to detail – that is, buy doing little things with great love.

In his Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales made the following exhortation:

“Put your hand to strong things, by training yourself in prayer and meditation, receiving the sacraments, bringing souls to love God, infusing good inspirations into their hearts and, in fine, by performing big, important works according to your vocation. But never forget…those little, humble virtues that grow like flowers at the foot of the cross: helping the poor, visiting the sick, taking care of your family, with all the responsibilities that accompany such things and with all the useful diligence which prompts you to not stand idle.”

“Great opportunities to serve God rarely present themselves, but little ones are frequent…you will profit greatly in God’s sight by doing all these things because God wishes you to do the.” (III, 35, pp. 214 – 215)

God gives us a rich abundance of means proper for our salvation. By a wondrous infusion of God’s grace into our minds, hearts, attitudes and actions the Spirit makes our works become God’s work. Our good works - like planting miniscule mustard seeds here or like scattering small seeds there - have vigor and virtue enough to produce a great good because they proceed from the Spirit of Jesus.

As it turns out, little things do really mean a lot in the eyes of God. In fact, they mean everything!

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday June 10, 2018
Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 89

A Reading from the Gospel according to Mark
MK 3:20-35

Jesus came home with his disciples.
Again the crowd gathered,
making it impossible for them even to eat.
When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him,
for they said, "He is out of his mind."
The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said,
"He is possessed by Beelzebul,"
and "By the prince of demons he drives out demons."

Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables,
"How can Satan drive out Satan?
If a kingdom is divided against itself,
that kingdom cannot stand.
And if a house is divided against itself,
that house will not be able to stand.
And if Satan has risen up against himself
and is divided, he cannot stand;
that is the end of him.
But no one can enter a strong man's house to plunder his property
unless he first ties up the strong man.
Then he can plunder the house.
Amen, I say to you,
all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be
forgiven them.
But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit
will never have forgiveness,
but is guilty of an everlasting sin."
For they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."

His mother and his brothers arrived.
Standing outside they sent word to him and called him.
A crowd seated around him told him,
"Your mother and your brothers and your sisters
are outside asking for you.”
But he said to them in reply,
"Who are my mother and my brothers?"
And looking around at those seated in the circle he said,
"Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of God
is my brother and sister and mother.”

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In his Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales does not equate happiness with self-centeredness, self-absorption or self-obsession. However, Francis does equate happiness with what he calls self-possession. The Gentleman Saint writes:

“It is man’s great happiness to possess his own soul, and the more perfect our patience the more completely do we possess our souls.”

What happiness it is to know and accept yourself for who you are in the sight of God! What delight it is to be comfortable – without being complacent – in your own skin! What joy it is to be essentially at home – to be at peace – with the person that God made you to be! Why, it’s the next best thing to Paradise.

Tragically enough, the ability to be at home with ourselves became the first – and the most fundamental – casualty of The Fall. No sooner had Adam and Eve eaten from the fruit of the tree of knowledge than their natural state – their nakedness, their transparency – became a reproach. They were embarrassed – they were ashamed – of who they were. Literally, they were no longer comfortable in their own skin. Suddenly sullied by self-alienation and self-loathing, Paradise was lost…and life became a burden.

As we know all-too-well, so much of the misery, sin and sadness that plagues the human family to this very day comes from either (1) the inability to be who we really are, or (2) the fruitless attempt to become someone we’re not.

In his Treatise on the Love of God, Francis de Sales exclaimed:

“God has signified to us in so many ways and by so many means that he wills all of us to be saved that no one should be ignorant of this fact. For this purpose, through Creation God made us ‘in his own image and likeness’, whereas through the Incarnation God has made himself in our image and likeness.”

The redemptive grace of the Incarnation makes it possible for us to experience once again the happiness that comes from possessing our own souls. The restorative power of the Incarnation makes it possible for us to experience once again the joy of being essentially at home with who we are in the sight of God. Wounded as we are by sin, our practice of devotion – our quest to possess our own souls – no longer comes effortlessly as it originally did in Paradise. It requires perpetual practice; it demands tremendous patience.

That said, God not only promises us the joy and peace born of this heavenly self-acceptance; God also shows us how to achieve it on this earth in the person of his Son.

Jesus embodies the power of self-possession. Jesus exhibits the joy of self-acceptance. Jesus exudes the peace of self-direction. Who better than Jesus shows us what it looks like to be comfortable in one’s own skin? Who better than Jesus demonstrates what it looks like to invite - and to empower - others to do the same?

Not unlike what he did with our first parents, The Evil One hits us where it hurts. Sometimes Satan tempts us to believe that we can’t possibly be happy by being who we are. Other times, Satan tempts us to believe that we’d be happier if we were someone else – perhaps anybody else – other than who we are. In very deep, dark places within our minds and hearts, each and every one of us is tempted to ask this question:

Sinner as I am, weak as I am, wounded as I am and imperfect as I am, why should I believe that God wants me to be comfortable – at home - in my own skin?

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Sunday June 3, 2018
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Lectionary: 168

A Reading from the Gospel according to Mark
Mk 14:12-16, 22-26

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread,
when they sacrificed the Passover lamb,
Jesus’ disciples said to him,
"Where do you want us to go
and prepare for you to eat the Passover?"
He sent two of his disciples and said to them,
"Go into the city and a man will meet you,
carrying a jar of water.
Follow him.
Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house,
'The Teacher says, "Where is my guest room
where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?"'
Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready.
Make the preparations for us there."
The disciples then went off, entered the city,
and found it just as he had told them;
and they prepared the Passover.
While they were eating,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, gave it to them, and said,
"Take it; this is my body."
Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them,
and they all drank from it.
He said to them,
"This is my blood of the covenant,
which will be shed for many.
Amen, I say to you,
I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine
until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."
Then, after singing a hymn,
they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Body and Blood of Christ

In today’s Gospel we experience Jesus telling His disciples of His real presence in the Eucharist. St. Francis de Sales notes that the Eucharist strengthens us and the community.

The first Christians had but one heart and one soul and preserved this union among themselves. What built that great union among them was none other than the celebration of the Eucharist. Later on, when reception of the Eucharist was discontinued or rarely received, holy love became cold among Christians, and totally lost both its strength and its alluring delight. In the Eucharist, God is at once both Gift and Giver who strengthens each of us in community.

The height of Our Savior’s self-giving love for us is the Eucharist. Infinite happiness is pledged to us in the Eucharist, the perpetual feast of divine grace. In the Eucharist, God becomes our food. How wonderful to be nourished on the Bread from heaven that Our Lord gave to us.

The more we are united to God, the more we are united to one another. Each time we receive Communion, our union will become more perfect. For being united with Our Lord, we shall also remain united to one another. That is why the holy reception of this heavenly Bread and of this sacrament is called Communion, that is, common union.

The Eucharist is the real and spiritual presence of Christ. When we receive the Eucharist, our Lord carries us and does deeds in us altogether performed by Him. In the Eucharist, all He asks is our co-operation in the practice of virtue and good works. Our Savior gives Himself totally to us in the Divine Sacrament. Ought we not to give ourselves totally to Him who advances, strengthens and nourishes us with His life-giving love in the Eucharist?

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales.)

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Sunday May 27, 2018
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
Lectionary: 165

A Reading from the Gospel according to Matthew
Mt 28:16-20

The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they all saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
"All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Trinity Sunday

Today, Trinity Sunday, the Church celebrates the three Divine Persons in God. St. Francis de Sales states that we, as a community, are called to a similar union of pure love:

The pure love of the Trinity overflows into the spiritual health of the whole human family. The Holy Spirit, in us during this mortal life, leads us to Christ, who is the way to the Father. It is the Trinity that has brought about the mystery of God becoming human. Our Savior has taken on our likeness and given us His. Only in and through Christ are we able to participate in the Trinity’s union of pure love.

Our spiritual health is founded on the Incarnation. Our Savior was too great a lover of truth and authentic goodness to be carried away by greed, ambition, and honors that harm us. Our Lord calls us to love one another and be united together as purely and perfectly as possible. It is only God’s image and likeness that we ought to love and honor in all. St. Paul recommends: “Beloved, walk the way of love for one another as very dear children of God.” Paul adds that he wants us to walk with giant strides as Jesus did: loving and forgiving all. We are truly God’s children when we love one another dearly in all goodness of heart.

The union of the three Divine Persons is really impossible to imagine. It would be presumptuous to hope to reach an identical union of love as found in the three Divine Persons. Yet we must be willing to approach this union in a manner consistent with our human condition. We are all called to become holy, but we must rely primarily on God’s grace, not our own human effort, to love divinely. Just as the love of the three Divine Persons overflows into the whole human family, may our love resemble the Trinity, and overflow into the hearts of those we encounter each day.

(Adapted from the Writings of St. Francis de Sales, especially The Sermons of St. Francis de Sales, L. Fiorelli, Ed.)

Pentecost Sunday - Mass during the Day

Sunday May 20, 2018
Pentecost Sunday - Mass during the Day
Lectionary: 63

A Reading from the Gospel according to John
Jn 20:19-23

On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, "Peace be with you."
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
"Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained."

Or

A Reading from the Gospel according to John
Jn 15:26-27; 16:12-15

Jesus said to his disciples:
"When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father,
he will testify to me.
And you also testify,
because you have been with me from the beginning.

"I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
But when he comes, the Spirit of truth,
he will guide you to all truth.
He will not speak on his own,
but he will speak what he hears,
and will declare to you the things that are coming.
He will glorify me,
because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.
Everything that the Father has is mine;
for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine
and declare it to you."

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Pentecost Sunday

On the Feast of Pentecost, we experience the Spirit of truth empowering the disciples of Jesus to be authentic witnesses to Jesus’ words and deeds. St. Francis de Sales notes:

The holy love that the Spirit pours into our hearts is infinitely more than all other forms of love. The love the Spirit gives us redeems us and gives us eternal life. On the Feast of Pentecost the Holy Spirit reinvigorated and gave strength and virtue to Jesus’ disciples to carry on our Savior’s work through forming the true Church.

You too exercise an apostolic function by witnessing to your way of life as a Christian. The love of the Spirit empowers you to do our Lord’s work. Our works that flow from the Spirit’s love have vigor and authenticity, and grow like the mustard seed. This Divine Spirit does not hesitate to dwell in us. Hence we must make room in our hearts for the Holy Spirit. Now what must we do to make room? God asks first for our heart. The Spirit, who dwells in us, desires to open our hearts to divine goodness. The Spirit of Jesus wants us to experience the fruits of divine love. The Spirit does this by giving us gifts and blessings inseparable from holy love that leads us to eternal happiness.

Our desire, to attain the fullness of a holy life, is a spark of the divine flame and the work of the Spirit. If we wish to sail on the little boat of the Church amidst the bitter waters of this culture our Savior will glide us to eternal happiness. He makes every effort to encourage you take the oar in hand and sail. He has promised that if you take the trouble to row your boat, He will lead you to another place full of life. To the extent you allow the Spirit to enlarge your heart, the Spirit will increase your ability to love divinely. Happy, indeed, are those who decide to serve God even only a little! God will never let them remain barren and unfruitful!. Who, then, can resist the empowering love of the Spirit?

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal)

The Ascension of the Lord / Seventh Sunday of Easter

Sunday May 13, 2018
The Ascension of the Lord
Lectionary: 58

A Reading from the Gospel according to Mark
Mk 16:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Go into the whole world
and proclaim the gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them,
was taken up into heaven
and took his seat at the right hand of God.
But they went forth and preached everywhere,
while the Lord worked with them
and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.

Sunday May 13, 2018
Seventh Sunday of Easter
Lectionary: 60

A Reading from the Gospel according to John
Jn 17:11B-19

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying:
“Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me,
so that they may be one just as we are one.
When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me,
and I guarded them, and none of them was lost
except the son of destruction,
in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
But now I am coming to you.
I speak this in the world
so that they may share my joy completely.
I gave them your word, and the world hated them,
because they do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
I do not ask that you take them out of the world
but that you keep them from the evil one.
They do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world,
so I sent them into the world.
And I consecrate myself for them,
so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Seventh Sunday of Easter

In today’s Gospel we experience Jesus praying that his disciples may be made one, and “consecrated to the truth.” St. Francis de Sales notes:

How good and pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to dwell together in unity! When two or three or more souls share with one another their sacred love and holy affections, and establish a single spirit, they experience true friendship. Friendships that are sacred, speak truthfully, and praise only virtue and God’s love.

For those of us who live in the world and desire to embrace true virtue it is necessary to unite together in holy friendship. The higher the virtue you share with each other, the more perfect your friendship will be. You encourage, assist, and lead one another to perform good deeds. People walking on level ground do not have to lend one another a hand. Yet, those who are on a rugged road hold on to one another in order to walk more safely. The only connection between them is that of sacred love, which St. Paul calls: “the bond of perfection.” This bond of love grows in time and takes on new power. It gives us ease and true liberty. Its force is gentle, yet so solid.

It is the presence of God’s love in us that leads to an authentic love of self, and subsequently, to love others the way God desires us to love them. We cherish all creatures for love of God. To love our neighbor in holiness is to love God in them. Thus, we must not neglect to nurture the friendships with our parents, kindred, neighbors and others. Yet, we live in a world where everyone is not of the same mind and heart. Hence we need particular friendships to support us in the many dangerous places we must pass through. True friendships are sacred because they come from God, lead to God, and will endure eternally in God. How good it is to unite our hearts here on earth, as we will do in eternity!

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Sunday May 6,2018
Sixth Sunday of Easter
Lectionary: 56

A Reading from the Gospel according to John
Jn 15:9-17

Jesus said to his disciples:
"As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father's commandments
and remain in his love.

"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one's life for one's friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another."

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Sixth Sunday of Easter

In today’s Gospel we experience Jesus telling us to remain in His love. By remaining in His love we will learn to love one another. St. Francis de Sales notes:

Love causes us to be like what we love. We are given a natural inclination to love God. Moreover, we are commanded to love God and the things of God above all other things. Alas, we are like the eagles that have greater power of sight than flight. While we see how worthy of love God’s goodness is, we have less strength of will for loving it.

Yet, this human heart of ours is capable of producing certain beginnings of love for God. But to advance to the true maturity of love, that is, to love God and all the things of God, we need divine love. Through God’s goodness our spirits are raised up and united with God’s love. Overflowing with divine love, we come back to share this pure love with others.

To love God without loving the neighbor is impossible. God has chosen us as children and thus we must show that we are truly God’s children by our loving one another dearly in all goodness of heart. Our Savior, in coming into the world, raised our nature higher than all the angels and has made us so like Himself, that we can say that we resemble God perfectly. In becoming human, Our Lord has taken on our likeness and has given us His. Oh, how earnestly we ought to summon up our courage to live according to what we are! Imitate as perfectly as possible Him, who came into this world to teach us what we need to do: to preserve in ourselves this divine resemblance.

It is this divine resemblance only that we are called to love and honor in our neighbor. Is this not a powerful motive to have for loving each other? All nations, which have a union of hearts that reflect the image of God, will surely be filled with joy.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Sunday April 29, 2018
Fifth Sunday of Easter
Lectionary: 53

A Reading from the Gospel according to John
Jn 15:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples:
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Fifth Sunday of Easter

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us that He is the true vine and we the branches. Thus, we must remain in Him if we wish to bear much fruit. St. Francis de Sales state that we too must live Jesus in order to advance the kingdom of God in our hearts and in the world:

How happy you will be if in the midst of the world you keep Jesus Christ in your heart! I beg Him to live and rule there eternally. Confidently and sincerely keep up this holy pursuit of living Jesus, for all true peace finds its source in His way of truth.

If Our Savior is to reign in our heart so that we may bear much fruit, then there are some things we must observe. The first thing in the morning is to prepare your heart to be at peace. Ask for God’s grace, and offer to God all the good you will do during the day. In this way you will be prepared to bear with peace and serenity all the pain and suffering you will encounter during the day. Then take great care throughout the day to frequently call your heart back to that peace. At every moment give the very heart of your heart to our Savior. You will see that as this divine Lover makes a home in the center of your heart, the world with its emptiness and meaninglessness will leave.

This is a huge undertaking but a generous person can do it with the help of the Creator. Yet it is impossible to have your soul so totally in hand right away. We have to put up with others, but first with ourselves. Good heavens! What makes us think we can enter into a state of interior rest without going through setbacks and struggles? If you ask God for patience, and strive to practice it faithfully, God will give it to you. But most of all don’t lose heart. Be patient. Meanwhile, do all you can to develop a spirit of compassion. What matters most is that we do faithfully all the things we need to do to advance the kingdom of God in our hearts. Then we can bear much fruit in the world.

(Adapted from Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal…. J. Power & W. Wright, Ed; Spiritual Directory, L. Fiorelli, Ed.)

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Sunday April 22, 2018
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Lectionary: 50

A Reading from the Gospel according to John
Jn 10:11-18

Jesus said:
"I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
A hired man, who is not a shepherd
and whose sheep are not his own,
sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away,
and the wolf catches and scatters them.
This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd,
and I know mine and mine know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I will lay down my life for the sheep.
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.
These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice,
and there will be one flock, one shepherd.
This is why the Father loves me,
because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.
I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.
This command I have received from my Father."

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Fourth Sunday of Easter

In today’s Gospel we experience Jesus describing Himself as the Good Shepherd and what this means. St. Francis de Sales reminds us that we are all shepherds who must tend our sheep:

Our Good Shepherd gathers us all around Himself in order to keep us always under His most holy protection. But we too are shepherds and have a flock to attend. Our flock is our desires, feelings and emotions. We must keep watch over this spiritual flock, by learning from Jesus how to govern ourselves.

Since we easily mismanage ourselves, Our Good Shepherd wants us to give up such self-management except to consent and follow His Will. He desires what is best for our wholeness. Following in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd, we learn how to direct, to govern and put our desires, feelings and emotions in order, so that they conform to God’s goodness. What could be more pleasing to this Divine Shepherd than to bring to Him our loves so that He may purify them? Holy love is our first desire. True love is accomplished when we live no more according to our own willful desires, but according to the inspirations and promptings of Our Savior.

Our Shepherd tenderly nourishes us with an incomprehensible love. He died in love, by love, and for love. To bring us life, He suffered death. What remains for us? We ought to consecrate every moment of our life to the divine love of our Savior’s death that opened us up to eternal life. That is, we must bring to fruition all our works, all our actions and all our thoughts so that God’s glory may shine through them. How happy we will be if we remain in the Shepherd’s presence, faithfully bringing His reign in our midst!

(Adapted from St. Francis de Sales, Sermons, L. Fiorelli, Ed.; St. Francis de Sales, Treatise on the Love of God).

Third Sunday of Easter

Sunday April 15, 2018
Third Sunday of Easter
Lectionary: 47

A Reading from the Gospel according to Luke
Lk 24:35-48

The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way,
and how Jesus was made known to them
in the breaking of bread.

While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
"Peace be with you."
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have."
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, "Have you anything here to eat?"
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.

He said to them,
"These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled."
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
"Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things."

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Third Sunday of Easter

In today’s Gospel we come to see how the Disciples’ faith is affirmed as they continue to experience Jesus’ presence among them. St. Francis de Sales tells us that God also continues to affirm our faith:

So loving is God’s hand as it handles our hearts! So skillful is God’s hand in bringing its strength to us without depriving us of freedom. God’s power gently gives us power as the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts the first rays of the divine light of faith.

These movements of the Spirit are the beginning of holy love. They are the first green buds that the soul, warmed by the Heavenly Sun, begins to put out in the springtime. Joyous, beautiful, and pleasing is this dawn of sacred love. Still it remains true that the dawn is not the day. These movements of divine love precede our act of faith. When God gives us faith, God enters into our being and speaks to us by way of inspiration.

Little by little our Lord strengthens the grace that comes to us from divine inspiration. So pleasantly does God propose to us what we must believe that we adhere to the light of truth with a gentle but powerful certitude: faith alone makes us love and believe in the truth of Christ’s love by diffusing a certitude in our mind. Faith is the best friend of our spirit. For step by step as it were, we are led back to God.

How gently Our Lord proceeds in hearts that consent to serve God throughout their life by keeping the Commandments. I believe that God would give us still more help if it were not because of our failure and the obstacles we place in the way. Therefore, let us be attentive to our progress in the love we owe to God, for then the love that God brings will never be wanting to us, and our faith in Christ will grow just as the Apostles’ faith did after the resurrection.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales, especially, Treatise on the Love of God.)

Second Sunday of Easter

Sunday April 8, 2018
Second Sunday of Easter
(Or Sunday of Divine Mercy)
Lectionary: 44

Reading from the Gospel according to John
Jn 20:19-31

On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, "Peace be with you."
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
"Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained."

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, "We have seen the Lord."
But he said to them,
"Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."

Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you."
Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe."
Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!"
Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples
that are not written in this book.
But these are written that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Second Sunday of Easter

In today’s Gospel the Disciples experience Jesus’ real presence after His Resurrection. He invites us also to believe in His real presence among us. St. Francis de Sales notes:

Through faith God leads us to penetrate, understand and love divine truths that are revealed. An act of faith on our part is choosing to love God and the things of God. When we allow the mysteries of divine revelation to speak to us, our faith is strengthened.

When temptations against faith and the Church arise, do as you do with other temptations. Don’t argue at all with them. Place yourself at Our Savior’s feet. Tell Him that you are His, and want His help, even if you are unable to speak. Temptations against faith are trials like any other, and you must calm yourself. I have seen few people make progress without experiencing trials. So be patient. After the squall, God sends the calm.

Faith is brought to life by holy love. Without a doubt as long as we are in this life, the imperceptible movement of God’s love in us makes us holy. It is the Holy Spirit who pours this divine love into our hearts. As soon as trees are transplanted, their roots spread and are thrust deeply into the earth that nourishes them. Only later, when we see the tree continue to grow, do we notice that their roots are spreading and being nourished by the earth. Similarly, by divine love, a heart can be transplanted from things that are not of God to things of God. If this heart earnestly prays, it will surely continue to reach out and attach itself to God’s goodness that nourishes it.

Vivified by holy love, a living faith serves God. As a faithful servant it does all that it knows and recognizes is pleasing to God. Let us be servants also of God’s love just as the Apostles and early Christians were. In this way we will give witness to Jesus’ presence among us, as a living community of faith, hope and holy love.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales.)

Easter Sunday

Sunday April 1, 2018
Easter Sunday
The Resurrection of the Lord
The Mass of Easter Day
Lectionary: 42

Reading from the Gospel according to John
Jn 20:1-9

On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
"They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don't know where they put him."
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.

Or

Reading from the Gospel according to Mark
Mk 16:1-7

When the sabbath was over,
Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome
bought spices so that they might go and anoint him.
Very early when the sun had risen,
on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb.
They were saying to one another,
"Who will roll back the stone for us
from the entrance to the tomb?"
When they looked up,
they saw that the stone had been rolled back;
it was very large.
On entering the tomb they saw a young man
sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe,
and they were utterly amazed.
He said to them, "Do not be amazed!
You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.
He has been raised; he is not here.
Behold the place where they laid him.
But go and tell his disciples and Peter,
'He is going before you to Galilee;
there you will see him, as he told you.'"

Or

Reading from the Gospel according to Luke
Lk 24:13-35

That very day, the first day of the week,
two of Jesus' disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them,
"What are you discussing as you walk along?"
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
"Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?"
And he replied to them, "What sort of things?"
They said to him,
"The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over
to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this,
it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:
they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb
and found things just as the women had described,
but him they did not see."
And he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?"
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going,
he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, "Stay with us,
for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over."
So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him,
but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other,
"Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?"
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together
the eleven and those with them who were saying,
"The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!"
Then the two recounted
what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Easter Sunday

Today we experience and celebrate Jesus conquering death. We also celebrate and welcome our newly baptized who now robe themselves in a new life in Jesus Christ. St. Francis de Sales speaks of the power of God’s love as we take off our old garments that led us away from God, and put on the new garment of Jesus Christ:

It is divine love that empowers us to take off the old garments of Adam and put on the new garment of Jesus Christ. It is holy love that causes us to live again in God. Divine love enters the soul to make it happily empty itself of all that is not of God.

Yes, we even must empty ourselves of all our affection for virtue that is agreeable, profitable and honorable to us, and suited to our self-centered loves. Now we clothe ourselves anew with various affections, perhaps the very ones we have given up, because they are agreeable to God, profitable to God’s honor, and destined for God’s glory. This means that we take on the affections suitable to the service of God’s love. Hence we love our parents, country, home, friends, and things, as God desires us to love them.

God’s love, which is stronger than death, enables us to forsake all things that lead us away from loving divinely. Holy love, magnificent as the resurrection, graces us with glory and honor. Through God’s love, we gladly die to our false self so as to rise anew to our true self in Christ!

Alleluia!

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales, especially, Treatise on the Love of God.)

Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion

Sunday March 25, 2018
Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion
Lectionary: 37 and 38

A Reading from the Gospel according to Mark
Mk 14:1—15:47

The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread
were to take place in two days' time.
So the chief priests and the scribes were seeking a way
to arrest him by treachery and put him to death.
They said, "Not during the festival,
for fear that there may be a riot among the people."

When he was in Bethany reclining at table
in the house of Simon the leper,
a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil,
costly genuine spikenard.
She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head.
There were some who were indignant.
"Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil?
It could have been sold for more than three hundred days' wages
and the money given to the poor."
They were infuriated with her.
Jesus said, "Let her alone.
Why do you make trouble for her?
She has done a good thing for me.
The poor you will always have with you,
and whenever you wish you can do good to them,
but you will not always have me.
She has done what she could.
She has anticipated anointing my body for burial.
Amen, I say to you,
wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world,
what she has done will be told in memory of her."

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve,
went off to the chief priests to hand him over to them.
When they heard him they were pleased and promised to pay him money.
Then he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread,
when they sacrificed the Passover lamb,
his disciples said to him,
"Where do you want us to go
and prepare for you to eat the Passover?"
He sent two of his disciples and said to them,
"Go into the city and a man will meet you,
carrying a jar of water.
Follow him.
Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house,
'The Teacher says, "Where is my guest room
where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?"'
Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready.
Make the preparations for us there."
The disciples then went off, entered the city,
and found it just as he had told them;
and they prepared the Passover.

When it was evening, he came with the Twelve.
And as they reclined at table and were eating, Jesus said,
"Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me,
one who is eating with me."
They began to be distressed and to say to him, one by one,
"Surely it is not I?"
He said to them,
"One of the Twelve, the one who dips with me into the dish.
For the Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him,
but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.
It would be better for that man if he had never been born."

While they were eating,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them, and said,
"Take it; this is my body."
Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them,
and they all drank from it.
He said to them,
"This is my blood of the covenant,
which will be shed for many.
Amen, I say to you,
I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine
until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."
Then, after singing a hymn,
they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Then Jesus said to them,
"All of you will have your faith shaken, for it is written:
I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be dispersed.
But after I have been raised up,
I shall go before you to Galilee."
Peter said to him,
"Even though all should have their faith shaken,
mine will not be."
Then Jesus said to him,
"Amen, I say to you,
this very night before the cock crows twice
you will deny me three times."
But he vehemently replied,
"Even though I should have to die with you,
I will not deny you."
And they all spoke similarly.
Then they came to a place named Gethsemane,
and he said to his disciples,
"Sit here while I pray."
He took with him Peter, James, and John,
and began to be troubled and distressed.
Then he said to them, "My soul is sorrowful even to death.
Remain here and keep watch."
He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed
that if it were possible the hour might pass by him;
he said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible to you.
Take this cup away from me,
but not what I will but what you will."
When he returned he found them asleep.
He said to Peter, "Simon, are you asleep?
Could you not keep watch for one hour?
Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test.
The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak."
Withdrawing again, he prayed, saying the same thing.
Then he returned once more and found them asleep,
for they could not keep their eyes open
and did not know what to answer him.
He returned a third time and said to them,
"Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?
It is enough. The hour has come.
Behold, the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners.
Get up, let us go.
See, my betrayer is at hand."

Then, while he was still speaking,
Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived,
accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs
who had come from the chief priests,
the scribes, and the elders.
His betrayer had arranged a signal with them, saying,
"The man I shall kiss is the one;
arrest him and lead him away securely."
He came and immediately went over to him and said,
"Rabbi." And he kissed him.
At this they laid hands on him and arrested him.
One of the bystanders drew his sword,
struck the high priest's servant, and cut off his ear.
Jesus said to them in reply,
"Have you come out as against a robber,
with swords and clubs, to seize me?
Day after day I was with you teaching in the temple area,
yet you did not arrest me;
but that the Scriptures may be fulfilled."
And they all left him and fled.
Now a young man followed him
wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body.
They seized him,
but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.

They led Jesus away to the high priest,
and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together.
Peter followed him at a distance into the high priest's courtyard
and was seated with the guards, warming himself at the fire.
The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin
kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus
in order to put him to death, but they found none.
Many gave false witness against him,
but their testimony did not agree.
Some took the stand and testified falsely against him,
alleging, "We heard him say,
'I will destroy this temple made with hands
and within three days I will build another
not made with hands.'"
Even so their testimony did not agree.
The high priest rose before the assembly and questioned Jesus,
saying, "Have you no answer?
What are these men testifying against you?"
But he was silent and answered nothing.
Again the high priest asked him and said to him,
"Are you the Christ, the son of the Blessed One?"
Then Jesus answered, "I am;
and 'you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of the Power
and coming with the clouds of heaven.'"
At that the high priest tore his garments and said,
"What further need have we of witnesses?
You have heard the blasphemy.
What do you think?"
They all condemned him as deserving to die.
Some began to spit on him.
They blindfolded him and struck him and said to him, "Prophesy!"
And the guards greeted him with blows.

While Peter was below in the courtyard,
one of the high priest's maids came along.
Seeing Peter warming himself,
she looked intently at him and said,
"You too were with the Nazarene, Jesus."
But he denied it saying,
"I neither know nor understand what you are talking about."
So he went out into the outer court.
Then the cock crowed.
The maid saw him and began again to say to the bystanders,
"This man is one of them."
Once again he denied it.
A little later the bystanders said to Peter once more,
"Surely you are one of them; for you too are a Galilean."
He began to curse and to swear,
"I do not know this man about whom you are talking."
And immediately a cock crowed a second time.
Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had said to him,
"Before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times."
He broke down and wept.

As soon as morning came,
the chief priests with the elders and the scribes,
that is, the whole Sanhedrin held a council.
They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.
Pilate questioned him,
"Are you the king of the Jews?"
He said to him in reply, "You say so."
The chief priests accused him of many things.
Again Pilate questioned him,
"Have you no answer?
See how many things they accuse you of."
Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.

Now on the occasion of the feast he used to release to them
one prisoner whom they requested.
A man called Barabbas was then in prison
along with the rebels who had committed murder in a rebellion.
The crowd came forward and began to ask him
to do for them as he was accustomed.
Pilate answered,
"Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?"
For he knew that it was out of envy
that the chief priests had handed him over.
But the chief priests stirred up the crowd
to have him release Barabbas for them instead.
Pilate again said to them in reply,
"Then what do you want me to do
with the man you call the king of the Jews?"
They shouted again, "Crucify him."
Pilate said to them, "Why? What evil has he done?"
They only shouted the louder, "Crucify him."
So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd,
released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scourged,
handed him over to be crucified.

The soldiers led him away inside the palace,
that is, the praetorium, and assembled the whole cohort.
They clothed him in purple and,
weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him.
They began to salute him with, AHail, King of the Jews!"
and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him.
They knelt before him in homage.
And when they had mocked him,
they stripped him of the purple cloak,
dressed him in his own clothes,
and led him out to crucify him.

They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon,
a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country,
the father of Alexander and Rufus,
to carry his cross.

They brought him to the place of Golgotha
— which is translated Place of the Skull —
They gave him wine drugged with myrrh,
but he did not take it.
Then they crucified him and divided his garments
by casting lots for them to see what each should take.
It was nine o'clock in the morning when they crucified him.
The inscription of the charge against him read,
"The King of the Jews."
With him they crucified two revolutionaries,
one on his right and one on his left.
Those passing by reviled him,
shaking their heads and saying,
"Aha! You who would destroy the temple
and rebuild it in three days,
save yourself by coming down from the cross."
Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes,
mocked him among themselves and said,
"He saved others; he cannot save himself.
Let the Christ, the King of Israel,
come down now from the cross
that we may see and believe."
Those who were crucified with him also kept abusing him.

At noon darkness came over the whole land
until three in the afternoon.
And at three o'clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
"Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?"
which is translated,
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Some of the bystanders who heard it said,
"Look, he is calling Elijah."
One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put it on a reed
and gave it to him to drink saying,
"Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to take him down."
Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.

Here all kneel and pause for a short time.

The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.
When the centurion who stood facing him
saw how he breathed his last he said,
"Truly this man was the Son of God!"
There were also women looking on from a distance.
Among them were Mary Magdalene,
Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome.
These women had followed him when he was in Galilee
and ministered to him.
There were also many other women
who had come up with him to Jerusalem.

When it was already evening,
since it was the day of preparation,
the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea,
a distinguished member of the council,
who was himself awaiting the kingdom of God,
came and courageously went to Pilate
and asked for the body of Jesus.
Pilate was amazed that he was already dead.
He summoned the centurion
and asked him if Jesus had already died.
And when he learned of it from the centurion,
he gave the body to Joseph.
Having bought a linen cloth, he took him down,
wrapped him in the linen cloth,
and laid him in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock.
Then he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb.
Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses
watched where he was laid.

Or

Mk 14:1—15:47

As soon as morning came,
the chief priests with the elders and the scribes,
that is, the whole Sanhedrin held a council.
They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.
Pilate questioned him,
"Are you the king of the Jews?"
He said to him in reply, "You say so."
The chief priests accused him of many things.
Again Pilate questioned him,
"Have you no answer?
See how many things they accuse you of."
Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.

Now on the occasion of the feast he used to release to them
one prisoner whom they requested.
A man called Barabbas was then in prison
along with the rebels who had committed murder in a rebellion.
The crowd came forward and began to ask him
to do for them as he was accustomed.
Pilate answered,
"Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?"
For he knew that it was out of envy
that the chief priests had handed him over.
But the chief priests stirred up the crowd
to have him release Barabbas for them instead.
Pilate again said to them in reply,
"Then what do you want me to do
with the man you call the king of the Jews?"
They shouted again, "Crucify him."
Pilate said to them, "Why? What evil has he done?"
They only shouted the louder, "Crucify him."
So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd,
released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scourged,
handed him over to be crucified.

The soldiers led him away inside the palace,
that is, the praetorium, and assembled the whole cohort.
They clothed him in purple and,
weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him.
They began to salute him with, "Hail, King of the Jews!"
and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him.
They knelt before him in homage.
And when they had mocked him,
they stripped him of the purple cloak,
dressed him in his own clothes,
and led him out to crucify him.

They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon,
a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country,
the father of Alexander and Rufus,
to carry his cross.

They brought him to the place of Golgotha
—which is translated Place of the Skull —
They gave him wine drugged with myrrh,
but he did not take it.
Then they crucified him and divided his garments
by casting lots for them to see what each should take.
It was nine o'clock in the morning when they crucified him.
The inscription of the charge against him read,
"The King of the Jews."
With him they crucified two revolutionaries,
one on his right and one on his left.
Those passing by reviled him,
shaking their heads and saying,
"Aha! You who would destroy the temple
and rebuild it in three days,
save yourself by coming down from the cross."
Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes,
mocked him among themselves and said,
"He saved others; he cannot save himself.
Let the Christ, the King of Israel,
come down now from the cross
that we may see and believe."
Those who were crucified with him also kept abusing him.

At noon darkness came over the whole land
until three in the afternoon.
And at three o'clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
"Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?"
which is translated,
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Some of the bystanders who heard it said,
"Look, he is calling Elijah."
One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put it on a reed
and gave it to him to drink saying,
"Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to take him down."
Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.

Here all kneel and pause for a short time.

The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.
When the centurion who stood facing him
saw how he breathed his last he said,
"Truly this man was the Son of God!"

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Palm Sunday Passion of the Lord

Today we begin the most sacred week of the Christian calendar.

We heard Isaiah’s Servant Song proclaimed to us. The Servant represents the sufferings of the exiled community of ancient Israel in Babylon. In the midst of their suffering, the Servant speaks a word of hope to the community: “The Lord God is my help; therefore I am not disgraced.”

In Mark’s account of the Passion, Jesus’ last words from the Cross are the opening words of Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”? Jesus was identifying himself with the suffering people of every age. Jesus has taken upon himself the sufferings and sins of every person who will ever live.

In the midst of all his suffering, Jesus knew his Father’s love.

Perhaps his last cry in a loud voice indicated that he was identifying himself with the last words of Psalm 22: “You, O Lord, be not far from me; O my help, hasten to aid me.” Then Jesus breathed his last. We know that his Father heard the voice of his suffering Son – and has greatly exalted him.

Jesus wants each of us to know that he has shared in our sufferings – for he is our brother. He invites us to join our sufferings to His – for the salvation of the world.

Let us be with Jesus, our brother and Savior, during this Holy Week.

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Sunday March 18, 2018
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Lectionary: 35

A Reading from the Gospel according to John
Jn 12:20-33

Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast
came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee,
and asked him, "Sir, we would like to see Jesus."
Philip went and told Andrew;
then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.
Jesus answered them,
"The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there also will my servant be.
The Father will honor whoever serves me.

"I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?
'Father, save me from this hour'?
But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.
Father, glorify your name."
Then a voice came from heaven,
"I have glorified it and will glorify it again."
The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder;
but others said, "An angel has spoken to him."
Jesus answered and said,
"This voice did not come for my sake but for yours.
Now is the time of judgment on this world;
now the ruler of this world will be driven out.
And when I am lifted up from the earth,
I will draw everyone to myself."
He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Fifth Sunday of Lent

As we continue our Lenten journey, the prophet Jeremiah turns our attention to the new covenant God desires to establish with his people. “All, from least to greatest, will know the Lord. He will write the law on our hearts and forgive our evildoing and remember our sins no more.”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus announces that the “hour” has come. When he is lifted up from the earth, he will draw all to himself. Jesus has chosen to strip himself of his divinity and become human like us so that we would know the great love God has for us.

Now he is preparing himself to be the grain of wheat that will fall to the ground and die in order to produce much fruit. This will be the hour of our salvation. Because Jesus is obedient to his Father whom he loves dearly, he will suffer and die for the sins of the whole world. He will reconcile the whole human race with God. With his death and rising, Jesus will complete God’s new covenant. Through the grace of baptism, God’s law is now written on our hearts. We become God’s children once again, able to call God “Father.”

When we go within our hearts to listen to God’s word, we must not be surprised that we encounter a challenge. Jesus will challenge us to follow him wherever he goes, to do the will of his Father, as he did. Like Jesus, we may feel troubled at times with what we have to face each day. Like Jesus, we will come to understand that our Father is with us in everything we do.

We have nothing to fear. We heard Jesus tell us: “My Father will honor whoever serves me.” That is Jesus’ promise to us.

Let us be faithful to the new covenant Jesus has made with us. Let us listen to our heart; it is there that God speaks to us. Let us strive each day to do with love all that our God asks of us. Let us ask Jesus, who has died and risen for us, to draw us closer to him and one another each day.

(Adapted from the Writings of St. Francis de Sales.)