Thank you Father Kelly, God bless.
Thank you Father Kelly, God bless.
Our Sunday Journal is a brief reflection on the scripture readings of the day by Father Kelly, a senior priest in the Diocese of Saginaw.
Fr. Kelly is interested in your response to the Gospel or his reflection. He invites your comment on his journal entries.
Click here for the response form.
Followers of The Way
Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 26, 2015
We routinely relinquish our freedom of movement, often without a second thought. When the maitre’d in a restaurant says: “Please follow me,” WE FOLLOW! When an usher in a theatre or a baseball game unceremoniously takes the ticket out of our hands, and after a quick glance down, turns and wordlessly leads us towards our seats, WE FOLLOW! When a parking lot attendant or traffic cop signals directions, even when those directions might carry us out of our way…still… WE FOLLOW! We even give up our freedom to “things” like orange barrels and traffic cones. True, there are times when we might question, resist, complain, or even turn around to avoid following directions; for the most part, we simply give up our free will and WE FOLLOW! Why? Because we recognize that someone is acting under the “color of authority” (orange, yellow, red…sometimes blue or brown) for the purpose of protecting us, preserving order, and keeping us safe. And we fear the consequences of disobedience. In countless ways, each and every day, we give up our free will, and, without hesitation or question, allowing ourselves to be “shepherded.” But when Jesus, THE GOOD SHEPHERD, shows us THE WAY…very often…WE RESIST!
How ironic that we would give up our free will to an orange barrel, fearing the consequences of disregarding an unfeeling, uncaring plastic object, but so often insist on going our own way…doing our own thing…when it comes to The Lord! It certainly isn’t a matter of not understanding by “whose authority” Jesus guides us. The Father sent the Son to show us THE WAY! If we took the time to consider the risks we take from straying from THE WAY, we would probably be far less inclined to stray. Crazy as it might seem, we tend to be more concerned about a traffic ticket than eternal damnation! And that is exactly why it is so important to take particular note of the fact that Jesus calls Himself The GOOD Shepherd.
Unlike the numerous other ways in which we are “shepherded” each and every day…The Lord’s style of guiding and leading and protecting does not prevent us from using our free will. We chart our own course. And rather than preventing us from deviating from THE WAY, The Good Shepherd patiently and lovingly travels with us as we move in the direction of our own choosing. Should our chosen course create a distance between us and where He yearns for us to be, He will not give away our table or sell our seat to someone else. Our special place at the heavenly banquet has been reserved for us from the beginning of time, and no one but us will fill it. But there are consequences for not following THE WAY that He teaches. By wandering off on our own, our journey becomes even more challenging and dangerous. We find that we travel in darkness, constantly encountering obstacles that impede our progress. When we detour from THE WAY OF THE LORD, our pilgrim journey is not filled with the Peace that The Risen Christ brings to us.
The Good News that comes to us this week is a reminder that it is the will of The Father that no one should be lost…even if the cost of our recovery is the Son’s death. Jesus willingly accepted death on The Cross so that we might all find The Way to eternal life. Through the power of The Holy Spirit, The Risen Christ can do for us what He could not do for many as He walked the earth. Like a gentle breeze guiding a boat into safe waters, the Spirit makes a course adjustment in our lives. The Holy Spirit is an irresistible force that draws us towards the Source of all life and love; a new song so beautiful that we aren’t even tempted to change the station. Somehow, without giving up our freedom of movement, The Spirit of the Lord draws our attention to THE WAY back to the flock…because that is the will of The Father!
As we continue to make our WAY through the Easter season, the image of Jesus as a Good Shepherd offers insights into His earthly mission while preparing us for the coming of The Holy Spirit. We are truly God’s children, the flock of The Lord…and we know THE WAY!
The Gift of Peace
Third Sunday of Easter
April 19, 2015
We live in an age of “instant replays.” Everything is fair game for recording, including tragic events. For example, “body cams” and “dash cams” of law enforcement have proven of great interest and use to the press. On a good “bad news day,” the cell phone video of witnesses to a tragedy also surface and the cumulative result of all of this footage offers “proof positive” as to how the most recent tragedy unfolded. But does it really?
The families, friends, support network, spokespersons, and attorneys of the people touched by the event very often interpret what they see recorded in entirely different ways. Investigating authorities, and eventually jurors, focus frame by frame on what should be indisputable. Nevertheless, there will be discussion, debate, and flat out disagreement over just exactly what happened and why. We bring our own opinions, beliefs, values, emotions, feelings, and prejudices to what we see. Seeing might be believing…but believing doesn’t always mean what we think we see…and what we believe leads us to the absolute truth!
This is so with the Apostles and disciples fresh from giving witness to the horrifically violent events of Good Friday. They may not have understood “why”…but those who were eye witnesses needed no further proof that Jesus was dead. They saw water pour from His side. The Body of Christ had been entirely emptied of The Precious Blood. And, for those who were not actual witnesses, video evidence was unnecessary. The looks of terror and despair on the faces of His followers who were there was convincing enough.
But then Easter morning dawned. People were seeing things that were not so easy to believe. Their minds argued and debated with their own vision. Mary Magdalene thought He was a gardener. Walking dejectedly back to Emmaus, the two mistook their traveling companion for a stranger. In this Sunday’s Gospel, those involved believed that they were seeing a ghost!
Knowing that our minds and our eyes “play tricks on us” in different ways, the Risen Christ offered proof of His Resurrection. In Mary’s case, it was His voice speaking her name…”Mary!” In Emmaus, it was the breaking of the bread; with Thomas, it was His wounds. And in this Sunday’s Gospel, the proof that Jesus lives was in the great gift of His Peace. And so, they began to believe to be true what they saw with their own eyes…but nevertheless doubted or misunderstood. The experience of the Risen Christ was so powerful and convincing that most of them suffered a martyr’s death for what they had come to believe. There are no videos of this.
Still, modern technology is capturing clear and convincing evidence that followers of Jesus Christ continue to believe, even to the point of suffering a violent death. In different parts of the world, Christians are being separated from non-Christians as video cameras capture their brutal murders. How can it be that after over 2000 years, Christian disciples continue to believe that Christ is Risen…even without seeing a video? The proof is in the Eucharist.
From the Table of the Word, we hear His voice speaking to us…healing, forgiving, and calming our storms. From the Communion Table, we see Him in the breaking of the bread. As we gather for Eucharist and look around at the Body of Christ, we have the same opportunity to do what Thomas did…touch “the wounds”…by reaching out to those less fortunate, who come to join their sufferings to the Lord’s. And, when we gather together as Jesus commanded, we experience and share His Peace! If you need proof that Christ is Risen, a video simply won’t do it for you. But, in order to believe, you need only come to the banquet of life…not an instant replay….but the experience of actually sharing in the Lord’s Supper!
How Can This Be?
Second Sunday of Easter
April 12, 2015
Palm Sunday evening, there were a number of programs about Jesus on television. I happened to be watching one that I found particularly inspiring. So, I sent a text message to a friend who I thought would appreciate the program as well. I kept it short, so as not to miss anything. “CHANNEL 72 GREAT JESUS PROGRAM.” In no time, I got back an equally brief reply. My friend obviously didn’t want to be distracted, either: “WATCHING LONG ISLAND MEDIUM!” As I read that message, I instantly thought: Why? Why would you watch “Long Island Medium” when you could be enjoying a really good program about The Lord? The answer just might be in this Sunday’s Gospel: John 20:19-31. Thomas’s reaction to the Easter news took me back to that text exchange…and it occurred to me…“that’s why!” Like Thomas, we need solid, concrete proof of things that are so far beyond our human experience, even our imaginations won’t allow us to believe…to be certain…to be convinced…to commit…until we see it for ourselves.
Remember that our story begins with a young girl responding to the invitation of a heavenly messenger with the words: How can this be? (Luke 1:34) We don’t call this very valid and reasonable question “doubt.” It is simply too far beyond either lived experience or even human imagination that a woman can “spontaneously” become pregnant, not to ask: How can this be? Still, Mary’s faith enabled her to lay aside her astonishment and declare: Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord! And from the instant the angel departed, the proof…the validation of her trusting faith…began to literally grow within her.
As we move forward into the Easter Season, it’s good to remember that our own personal stories begin in Baptism. When we come to the font of our parish church, in reality, we are stepping out of the “here and now” and into the waters of the Jordan River, where we share in Jesus’s Baptism. How can this be? That’s a reasonable question since timelessness in not part of our lived experience, far beyond our ability to imagine. And so we ask: How can this be? The answer comes to us on the echo of an angel’s voice: The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. By the power of the Holy Spirit, through Baptism, we are reborn in Christ, and from the instant that the water trickles over our heads, the eternal begins to grow within us.
There are times when, like Thomas, we doubt. So it is also good to remember that even as we are called to share in His Divine life and eternal glory, we are also invited to share in His earthly mission and ministry. Through the power of the Most High, with which we are infused when the living waters wash over us, we are empowered to forgive, exorcise demons, feed the hungry, and calm the storms that rage around us. Through Baptism, we are called to help make timelessness…the Kingdom of God…a lived reality. While we wait for the resurrected life growing within us to be born into the Glory of the Heavenly Jerusalem, whereupon our trusting faith will be validated and rewarded, there will be times when we question, or even doubt. When that happens…DO THE WORK! Jesus was all about “the work!” And when we share in the work, it’s easier for us to imagine just exactly what it means to be raised from the dead. DO THE WORK AND IMAGINE RESURRECTED GLORY!
April 5, 2015
Taking the liberty of changing the currency, there is an old Jewish saying that goes something like this: When talking about the infinite mystery of God…Three words are worth one dollar…two words are worth three dollars…and one word is worth five dollars.
Taking liberty with this ancient wisdom and using it to describe the infinite mystery of Christ’s Resurrection, what can we say except: ALLELUIA!
MAY THE NEWS FROM THE EMPTY TOMB STRENGTHEN YOUR FAITH…ENLIVEN YOUR HOPE…AND KEEP YOU SECURE IN GOD’S UNFAILING MERCY AND LOVE!
March 29, 2015
When people travel to the Holy Land as Christian pilgrims and not merely tourists, it is often said that they are able to “read the Gospels with their feet.” In other words, by walking in the footsteps of the Lord, it’s as if the stones on which they trod “speak to them.” This experience is especially powerful when making the short walk from the little village of Bethany down into the Kidron Valley and up through the gate of the ancient wall that surrounds Jerusalem. The geography is such that modern day disciples can be certain that they are following “The Way of The Lord!” Jesus made that very same short walk, quite likely, numerous times.
While spiritual experiences are unique to each individual, any Christian pilgrim who has been privileged to participate in the Palm Sunday procession from Bethany into the Holy City will undoubtedly rank it among the most profound and moving moments…not just of their trip…but of their lives. Commemorating Jesus’s triumphant entry at the beginning of His final week in an earthly body, the event is both international as well as ecumenical. People from many different nations, representing many different Christian Churches, walk in what is more parade than procession, best described as controlled chaos.
The control comes from “The Way.” The road is narrow and winding, oftentimes enclosed with high stone walls or abutting a dangerous drop-off. People need to be mindful of their step, difficult as that might be, due to the chaos. The chaos comes from the wave after wave of hymns, sung in many different languages…the blaring of marching bands…somehow out of place while, at the same time, totally appropriate to the occasion. This religious procession is chaotic because of the shouts and cries of children…the relentless press of people, walking shoulder to shoulder and moving forward at a quick pace. The sense of chaos is enhanced by the feverish and endless waving of palm branches. Everyone has palm branches!
A modern day pilgrim is able to walk “The Way” on Palm Sunday in high spirits, because we know that Easter Glory is only seven days away. In the midst of the controlled chaos, it’s easy to overlook that the parade route passes by the Garden of Olives where Jesus endured an intense spiritual, emotional, and even physical agony that was the prelude to His Passion and death. The high spirit of the parade also causes us to overlook Jesus’s own reaction to the controlled chaos as He made his triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
Is it possible that the exuberant reception which we remember today was controlled chaos for the Lord? Knowing what was to begin there in a matter of a few days, is it possible that as He passed by the Garden of Olives, The Lord’s human nature was once again tempted…this time to flee? Was that day something to be endured rather than enjoyed… the natural tendency to self-protect, held in check and controlled by His Divine nature which gave Him the courage and the strength to move forward into the week we now call “Holy”?
While it’s true that our spiritual experiences are unique to each individual, it’s also true that as a pilgrim people, we do have this much in common: “The Way!” When we walk the Gospel, we follow in the footsteps of the Lord. But, that does not mean that the journey is an easy one. It certainly wasn’t for Jesus. It is fraught with danger, conflict, and chaos. However, when we journey together, the temptations and fears…the conflict and confusion…the doubt and the despair can be controlled, because the Lord is with us.
Once again, Lent is over, and very soon, we will make our triumphant entry into the Easter Season. But, the season is short-lived, and in no time, we will find ourselves back in Ordinary Time of the Liturgical Year…and the ordinary chaos of our daily lives. It will help us to control the chaos if we remember what we learned by walking in Jesus’s footsteps…from the desert to the mountaintop and then on to the Temple that was in need of cleansing. With the Christ Light guiding our steps, like Jesus, we can stay the course. When we are tempted or threatened, we need to look back and re-experience the thrill of standing outside an empty tomb from which a dead man was raised. Better yet, when the chaos of this world threatens our ability to control our lives…we can turn with hope towards another empty tomb…from which burst forth the Glory of The Resurrected Christ…Who is complete control.