Memorial, John the Baptist de la Salle

Today’s Scripture Readings

 Acts 5:27-33, Ps 34:2, 9, 17-18, 19-20, John 3:31-36

There are several things going on in the readings today. So I think it’s important to focus in on one. The Psalm says, “the Lord is close to the brokenhearted; those who are crushed in spirit he saves.” If we hear nothing else today, that is worth taking deeply into ourselves and savoring.

Too often our lives are cluttered with activities, obligations … and things we really want to do. Here is a gift of peace that could change us when we are frightened and brighten our days when the pressure of those schedules and other’s demands overwhelm us. “Those who are crushed in spirit he saves.”

This, to me, is the heart of prayer. No doubt at some point you have read or heard about a study that is run by some scientist who is trying to find out if prayer is effective. They are trying to measure one person’s or a group’s prayer to see if it changes some outcome for someone else. The results are often inconclusive, because it is the wrong question. Prayer is an expression of our relationship with God and no doubt there are changes but they are in us. We who were sad or frightened or heartbroken have been changed. That is the reality of prayer. It is as John’s Gospel says, “He does not ration the gift of his Spirit.”

So we can be confident that no matter how disheartened or frightened we may feel, God’s Spirit can lift us out of it if we are open to it. We need to believe in God’s presence right here, right now. That’s what believing in Jesus means. God is available to us in the midst of today’s life, in the current moment and whatever is happening for us.

We also have to recognize that this uncertainty, not being sure what Jesus can do, is not new. In the reading from John, the testimony of John the Baptist is saying, Jesus, the one from heaven, tells people what he has seen and heard but “no one accepts his testimony.” Lots of people didn’t believe it when Jesus was standing right in front of them.

Now, thousands of years later with the advantage of Church history, generations of saints and our own life of faith, it can still be difficult to accept that God is here for us and will give us what we need to overcome hard times. Today’s Psalm is really quite explicit, “many are the troubles of the just man, but out of them all, the Lord delivers him.” It doesn’t say many are the troubles of bad people, but many are the troubles of the just, and I would add, holy people. There really isn’t any question that bad things happen to good people. The only question is, will we believe, especially when we are “brokenhearted and crushed in spirit” that God can make a difference?

Well … Jesus is Risen, He is truly risen. Alleluia!

That should be our answer.

Tuesday, Second Week of Easter

Today’s Scripture Readings

Acts 4:32-37, Psalm 93:1-2, 5, John 3:7-15

Happy Easter. Jesus is risen. He is truly risen!

So as you know, it is the Easter season. We are celebrating this amazing event that no one really understands. Jesus died and yet we believe he rose from the dead and lives with us still today. We may have become so used to the idea in our religious selves that we have forgotten how absolutely outrageous that claim can sound. Someone died and yet is alive in a real way 2,000 years later.

Perhaps we are like Nicodemus trying to understand what Jesus is trying to do with us. I think for me that is why I have always been drawn to the part of this reading that talks about the wind and how we don’t know where it comes from or where it goes. I think that is also true of how our lives work. Don’t we at times think, how did I get here? In the same way don’t we often wonder, what’s next? These common experiences expose a real vulnerability and hopefully humility that is part of human life. Too often we try to cover that vulnerability with behavior meant to hide it, or deny it or worse avoid it.

We need to accept our inability to control or comprehend every facet of our life so we can accept the loving care of God and follow where God leads. Wherever that might be. So Jesus is telling Nicodemus, and us, to look to God. To look up like the Israelites did in the desert. Looking up at the serpent in order to be healed. Facing, in other words, those things that frighten us. We can only overcome what we are willing to look at and tackle head on. In our case, it is Jesus on the cross who is lifted up. So we can see that giving ourselves totally to the challenges in our lives is the way to go. Giving ourselves totally to the people in our lives is the answer. That inherently means that we are not alone. Like the ideal description in the Acts of the Apostles we too can contribute to the good of the whole community but then also receive what we need from others. Which, of course, brings us back to where we started. In order to receive the gifts, the care and love from others we have to admit we need it. We have to admit that like Nicodemus we aren’t entirely sure of everything. We aren’t in total control of what happens in our lives. We need the help of others, we need the help of God to find our way, and only then will we be born again.