May 10,2020

This weekend we celebrate Mother’s Day, one of the nicest days in the year since we single out our mothers for special attention and memory. Each one of us has unique stories to tell of our mothers, and we do so with thanksgiving and perhaps with a tear in our eyes, especially if our mother has now earned her eternal reward. That is the case with my mother—she died on December 8, 2007, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, at the age of 99, and we had her funeral on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, both of which are significant since she always had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother.

 

My mother chose to be a stay-at-home mother although she had worked until she became pregnant with me. Besides preparing for my birth, she and my dad moved into a brand new home just six weeks before I was born, and she had many stories to tell of that move and the adjustment it demanded in her life. Our new home was on the south side of Indianapolis and on a street with very few homes, although it was just one block away from her new Catholic church. Mom had always lived on the east side of town until this move and in developed neighborhoods. She told me often that she felt like she was moving “into the hinterlands far away from anything and anyone she had ever known.” Obviously this was a move that had both its ups and downs, but bringing a newborn into a house that was surrounded by naked earth and mud rather than by green grass and shrubs was one of the downers.

 

Mom grew to like where she lived, but she had some difficulty getting used to the Franciscans who staffed our parish since she had only known diocesan clergy up to this point. Little did she know then that this very son who was about to be born would eventually become a Franciscan himself. Back in those days a woman stayed in the hospital for a week or two after giving birth, so mom was not even present for my baptism. In fact, she really only had a few chances to see the pastor and speak with him before my birth. I once asked her what it was about this priest that she found so different from the priests she had known earlier. She told me as an example that she was shocked when, after making her confession shortly after she returned home from the hospital, he asked her before she left the confessional, “By the way, how’s that new baby doing these days?”

 

My mother was always affirming of me unless I goofed up or disobeyed. I’m sure she tried to bring out the best in me by telling me not to be afraid of trying new things. Well, one of the new things I decided to try was smoking cigarettes. I was with some of the neighborhood kids one day while I was in sixth grade, and we were playing at a house down the street that was being built. It just so happened that on this Saturday no workers were present, and one of the older boys asked me whether I would like a smoke. It sounded like a great idea, so I took one of his COOLs, lit it up, and suffered through my first COOL. We managed to visit our newly-found hideout a few more times the next week, and the COOLs continued.

 

Both my mother and father smoked—CHESTERFIELD was their brand. Before long, I decided that I could really smoke without the neighbors, so periodically I would take a few of my parent’s cigarettes and go into my aunt’s yard which was adjacent to ours but up on a hill where I thought no one would ever see me. That was my mistake. My aunt saw me, called my mom and tipped her off to my escapades. Mom sat me down at the breakfast table, told me to have a cigarette with her, and I declined. It didn’t work. She forced me to smoke in front of her all the way to the end of the cigarette, and then told me I’d better not smoke again for at least a number of years. And I never had another cigarette until I was in college.

 

I owe so much to my mother. Even after I was ordained and could only get home for a visit every couple of months, she was ever the mother, and I was her son. I remember one time when she was in the nursing home, I had the opportunity to be with her from Good Friday through Easter Sunday. When it was time for the evening meal, we went down to the common dining room and sat with two other ladies who were her table mates. Everything was going fine until the entre arrived: it was a piece of delicious meat. Mom was horrified that only meat was available on this Good Friday when we should be fasting and abstaining. She kept apologizing to me, but I told her God would understand, so we both ate what was served to us. After all, I said, St. Francis said we should eat whatever was put before us and not complain!

 

 She was more than willing to share whatever she was thinking and to offer an opinion on almost any topic. She was an avid reader and very interested in politics, so later, when her eyes were such that reading became difficult, she substituted by watching various news programs on television. This made visiting with her a real pleasure because conversation was never lacking. I am so grateful that God gave me her to be my mother. Hopefully the following applies to your mother as well:

 

There are ANGELS God puts on this Earth

who care for us and guide us.

You can feel their love and gentleness

as they walk through life beside us.

 

They do great things for us every day,

they whisper in our ears,

they even hold us in their hearts

when we are filled with all our fears.

 

They are always there to give a hug

and try to make us smile.

They treat us with respect and love,

they treat us like their child.

 

God blessed me with an Angel,

I’m proud to call my own.

She’s been with me throughout my life,

been with me as I’ve grown.

 

She’s guided me the best she can,

she’s taught me like no other,

and I’m thankful I’m the lucky one

who gets to call her…MOTHER.

 

FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

 

The nature of the Church’s ministry emerges in the First Reading, from the Acts of the Apostles. In response to the continued growth of the early Church, the Apostles choose seven men, filled with the Holy Spirit, to share their ministry of service. The role of deacon from the Greek word diakonein, “to serve”) emerges. Preaching (leading people in worship of God) and service (caring for the poor) are the two foundational pillars of ministry.

 

In the reading from the First Letter of Peter, Peter identifies the Risen Lord as “a living stone,” chosen by God the Father, as the cornerstone of a spiritual house where we, his followers, become “living stones.” In spiritual unity with the Risen Christ, we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own.”

 

The context for the Gospel reading is Jesus’ discourse with his followers at the Last Supper. Jesus refers to himself as “the way, the truth and the life.”  We are followers of the Way (Jesus) who leads us to the Father. Jesus reveals his intimate relationship with the Father: he is in the Father, as the Father is in him. Jesus’ words are the Father’s words, and Jesus’ works are the Father’s works. United with him, Jesus promises his followers that they too will do great works.

 

From these readings emerge a deeper understanding of Jesus and of our identity. Jesus is the human face of God, as Pope Benedict XVI described him in his encyclicals Saved in Hope and Charity in Truth. As God’s “chosen race,” we follow Jesus, the Way, to our eternal home.

 

The reading from Acts describes Stephen as “a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church relates faith to love. “Faith bears its fruit in love: it means keeping the word and the commandments of Jesus. It means abiding with him in the Father who, in him, so loves us that he abides with us” (#2614).

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the Apostles they should look to him for what is essential. “You have faith in God; have faith also in me,” he says. Pope Benedict explains in his encyclical on hope that people come to know themselves through Christ. He states: “Christ tells us who man truly is. He shows us the way, and this way is the truth. He himself is both the way and the truth, and therefore he is also the life which all of us are seeking” (#6).

 

For Your Reflection: Does hearing that you are part of “a royal priesthood, a holy nation” affect how you regard yourself as a Christian? Is there a place in your life where you need to request God’s mercy? What anxieties do you need to turn over to God?

 

FEAST OF ST. MATTHIAS, APOSTLE

Thursday, May 14, 2020

 

How does one qualify to be an apostle? The first act of the apostles after the Ascension of Jesus was to find a replacement for Judas. With all the questions, doubts, and dangers facing them, they chose to focus their attention on finding a twelfth apostle. Why was this important? Twelve was a very important number to the Chosen People: twelve was the number of the twelve tribes of Israel. If the new Israel was to come from the disciples of Jesus, a twelfth apostle was needed.

 

But Jesus had chosen the original twelve. How could they know whom he would choose? One hundred and twenty people were gathered for prayer and reflection in the upper room, when Peter stood up to propose the way to make the choice. Peter had one criterion, that like Andrew, James, John, and himself, the new apostle should be someone who had been a disciple from the very beginning, from the baptism by John until the Ascension. The reason for this was simple: the new apostle would become a witness to Jesus’ resurrection. He must have followed Jesus before anyone knew him, stayed with him when he made enemies, and believed in him when he spoke of the cross and of eating his body—teachings that had made others melt away.

 

Two men fit this description—Matthias and Joseph called Barsabbas. They know that both of these man had been with them and with Jesus through his whole ministry. But which one had the heart to become a witness to his resurrection? The apostles knew that only the Lord could know what was in the heart of each. They cast lots in order to discover God’s will, and Matthias was chosen. He was the twelfth Apostle and the group was whole again as they waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

 

That’s the first we hear of Matthias in Scripture, and the last. Legends like the Acts of Andrew  and Matthias testify to Matthias’ enthusiastic embrace of all that being an apostle meant including evangelization, persecution, and death in the service of the Lord.

 

A TEMPERATURE CHECK ON HOW YOU ARE DOING

 

Chances are that you are feeling a bit down these days as this “Shelter in Place” ordinance has gone on much longer than most of us would have ever imagined. I know that is what I am feeling right now. Little did I think that we would get to the month of May and still not be celebrating public Masses and hearing confessions at St. Peter’s. While I appreciate the sense of quiet, time for reading and praying, and more time spent with my brothers in community, I also know that a kind of depression can also set in as well. I hope everyone reading this bulletin is making the best of these weeks of “togetherness” by accomplishing a series of projects that lead to a goodness and wellbeing rather than just passing time or becoming lazy. Try to view these days as gifts of God rather than merely a cross that you must bear. The approach we take can make All the difference in the world.

 

A CHUCKLE FOR THE EASTER SEASON

 

Fresh out of business school, the young man answered a want ad for an accountant. He was being interviewed by a very nervous man who ran a three-man business.

 

“I need someone with an accounting degree,” the man said. “But mainly, I’m looking for someone to do my worrying for me.”

 

“Excuse me?” the young accountant said.

 

“I worry about a lot of things,” the man said, “but I don’t want to have to worry about money. Your job will be to take all the money worries off my back.”

 

“I see,” the young accountant said. “And how much does the job pay?”

 

“I will start you at $85,000.”

 

“Eighty-five thousand dollars!” the young man exclaimed. “How can such a small business afford a sum like that?”

 

“That, “the owner said, “is your first worry.”