Fr. Kelly

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.

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Fourth Sunday of Easter
JN 10:11-18
April 22, 2018

The last thing that I would have envisioned myself doing in my retirement years is boarding a school bus filled with high school students and embarking on a “field trip.” But that is exactly how it spent the Monday morning after Easter break. The entire student body of Nouvel Catholic Central was invited by Sacred Heart Parish, Mount Pleasant, to join Catholic school students from around our Diocese to a production called Cross and Light. Staged right in the worship space of the church, we experienced what might be described as a Passion play/musical. Coming at the very beginning of the Easter Season, it had a special impact on all of us. (You can find information on Facebook about this touring production.)

The folks from Sacred Heart were excellent hosts. They were also well organized. When our bus arrived in the church parking lot, there was someone there to greet us and show our driver where to park in the sea of yellow buses that all looked alike. As we disembarked, we were told where to enter the building and how to find the seats that were reserved for us. The energy level of the kids tends to be contagious, and, anxious to get into the “theatre,” I simply followed the directions without looking back.

At the conclusion of the play, there was an orderly dismissal. However, no bus had yet to move and it was only then that it occurred to me that I should have taken better notice of where we had parked. With the group of students for whom I was responsible fast on my heels, their energy level ramped up even higher from the performance, my post-production enthusiasm changed to panic. It was then that I spotted the principal, who stands out in a crowd because of his height, and his booming voice. He had ridden with us and was walking confidently in one direction. So, without another thought, I followed him…leading my own little flock.

My BRIEF time as a substitute theology teacher has given me the opportunity to see lots of examples of the power and influence of GOOD SHEPHERDS. The band director with the tap of his baton, the football coach with a few shrill blows on a whistle, the drama teacher calmly calling out: listen up, people! In fact, every time I walk down the hallway of the school and look into the classrooms I am passing, today’s Gospel comes to life for me. I very much enjoyed the same kind of experience of Christ the Good Shepherd as I walked through the halls of the elementary school during my six years as pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas. There, I daily observed Sr. Ann leading the flock of our littlest lambs…while the rest of the faculty followed her example.

Jesus said: I am the Good Shepherd. I think rather than simply trying to self-describe or leave us with an image of Himself and the way He interacts with us, The Lord used the title Good Shepherd as a “job description” for Christian discipleship. We are called to live the kind of lives that inspire others to follow our lead. We are called to be imitators of Jesus Christ, Who is the Good Shepherd, even to the point of laying down His life so that we might be saved. We are called to be “good teachers” in the school of life, helping The Good Shepherd guide all of God’s children safely home. It is God’s will that no child be left behind…no soul wander off…no life be lost! And God asks our help!

Third Sunday of Easter
LK 24:35-48
April 15, 2018

Two weeks have passed, but our Gospel for this Third Sunday of Easter holds us in “The Upper Room.” It’s not exactly rewinding the scene to watch it again. Each of the four Gospels report slightly different details concerning the Easter Morning discovery. By keeping us in a holding pattern, hovering over Easter Morning, we not only savor this season of joy and hope, but we also have the opportunity to consider Christ’s Resurrection from the perspective of the different eyewitnesses. If the details of their experiences vary, the common denominator is certainly an empty tomb. But more than that, there is the shared experience of Christ’s REAL PRESENCE, regardless of the circumstances.

And that is exactly what we see in this passage from Luke. Here, we are given a blend of many stories of the unbelievable becoming reality. Recognizing Jesus in the breaking of the bread, through His wounds that were not healed but glorified, watching Him eat fish and remembering Him feeding a multitude with a few fish…all convincing proof that Jesus had conquered death. As they shared with one another their various encounters with the Risen Christ, they began to see and better understand how all that was foretold in the Old Testament had been fulfilled through Jesus of Nazareth. The sharing of their stories enabled them all to see how God had kept His promise to send a savior, an unblemished lamb, to be the perfect sacrifice to take away the sins of the world.

Possibly the most convincing evidence of The Lord’s Resurrection was the change in His followers. Over the 40 days they spent together in the company of the Risen Lord, as He calmed their fears and enlightened their minds, they began to bond into a family of faith. In Acts 2, the sequel to Luke’s Gospel, the communal life of what was to become the first Christian community is described. They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.

Those of us who gather together today are really doing more than merely savoring something that happened in the past. Like the early Christians, we shrug off all of the things going on in the world…war, violence of every kind, greed, materialism, bigotry, and injustice in all of its forms. Turning from darkness and guided by light, we come together to share our own personal stories. Each of us, in our own way, has experienced the Risen Christ, Who has calmed our fears and resolved all of our doubts.

We are doing much more than remembering and celebrating Christ’s Resurrection. We are living it. We are an Easter people, devoted to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.

As such, we are commissioned to go out and share the Good News that has died, Christ is Risen, and Christ will come again. And upon His return in glory, He will find us waiting…a family of faith…living as best we can…the teaching of the apostles and the communal life, sharing in the breaking of the bread, prayers and our stories.

Sunday of Divine Mercy
Second Sunday of Easter
JN 20:19-31
April 8, 2018

St. John Paul Il, while Bishop of Rome, declared the Sunday after Easter to be “Divine Mercy Sunday.” This is certainly the appropriate time of the liturgical year for our thoughts to linger on “The Mercy of God.” The Father gave The Son as the spotless, sacrificial Lamb. On Good Friday, on the altar of The Cross, Jesus was offered up in reparation for the sins of the world. The Paschal Mystery is God’s perfect expression of forgiveness and love.

Our First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles describes a faith community that mirrors Divine Mercy. There, we hear that the community of believers was of one heart and mind. Their generosity and care for one another is nothing short of inspiring. But, considering that many of these first Christians knew Jesus personally, and might even have been among the Easter witnesses who experienced the Risen Christ, it is easy to understand how they could live out the Law of Love so dramatically.

But, before they were able to put The Lord’s teachings into practice, the disciples needed first to escape the “Upper Room.” Easter night found them behind locked doors. Fear had caused them to seek refuge in the very place where the Lord had gathered them for His final Passover meal. Even after Christ mysteriously breached the false security of the “locked door,” revealing His resurrected life to them, it appears that their fears remained. A week passed, and they were still hidden behind locked doors. This time, Thomas was with them.

Thomas voiced doubts that were quite possibly shared by the others who were still “locked behind closed doors.” Fear holding them within the perceived security of the Upper Room might also have kept them from expressing their feelings and doubts which remained locked in their minds and hearts. Thomas had the courage to speak.

The Risen Christ, showing the fullness of Divine Mercy, did not rebuke Thomas for his doubts. Instead, Christ invited him to reach out and touch resurrected glory. Christ’s wounds had been transformed; no longer gory scars memorializing the brutal and violent death, but now radiant evidence of unconditional love and infinite mercy.

Over 2000 years have passed since the Risen Christ appeared to His followers to calm fears, strengthen faith, rekindle hope, and resolve doubts…and to proclaim in the most dramatic fashion the Father’s love and mercy. But still, even to this day, many remain hidden within the false security of upper rooms.

Today’s Readings work together to reassure us that Jesus is alive and walks among us, inviting us to reach into the very depths of His Risen Glory so that we might no longer be unbelieving but believe…no longer be fearful but be courageous…no longer be isolated in our upper room but come down and join the other disciples in our proclamation that Christ has died, Christ is Risen, and Christ will come again.

Peace

Easter Sunday
JN 20:1-9
April 1, 2018

In this hi-tech, computer-dominated age, “fact checking” has become not only a simple matter of a few Google searches, but is something we have come to insist upon. We demand truth, and we know how to find it.

Biblical scholarship, as with all serious sciences, has taken full advantage of this resource in order to delve deeper into what God is revealing to us through Sacred Scripture. But even before “artificial intelligence,” the human intellect focused on The Gospel. Serious students of the Bible did not require a search engine to go about their work. And it did not take them long to see something that might easily escape many of the faithful. Simply put…the endings of all four Gospels…THE RESURRECTION NARRATIVES…do not agree in many details. Moreover, these varied accounts of the empty tomb cannot be harmonized. So, we are left asking the very question that Pilate posed to Jesus on Good Friday: WHAT IS TRUTH?

One fact that needed no confirmation for His followers was that Jesus was dead. A bloodless corpse was removed from The Cross and placed in the arms of His grieving mother. No further confirmation was necessary.

It also appears beyond doubt that the Romans permitted burial. That was accomplished by placing the lifeless, earthly body in a cave and an enormous rock sealed the tomb. It is reported, and seems most logical, that the Romans posted a guard at the entrance of the tomb. But there are no eye witnesses to what happened next.

Those who came onto the scene Easter morning encountered an accomplished fact. The tomb was empty. THAT IS TRUTH.

As is to be expected when we human beings encounter something that stretches our minds to the breaking point, their individual reactions and observations were personal and unique. The fact that they might differ in various details does not render any of them untrue. All four of the accounts, together with all of the recorded appearances of The Risen Christ after Easter, come together, as a complete body of evidence that enables us to imagine the unimaginable…THE TRUTH THAT JESUS LIVES ON.

Mark offers instruction on the best way to “fact check” THE TRUTH THAT JESUS LIVES ON. The first and shortest of the Gospels concludes with the directive: But go tell His disciples …He is going before you to Galilee…there you will see Him As He told you.

So then, on this Easter morning do as we’ve been directed. Go to your own personal Galilee…that place, or prayer, or memory of your most vivid experience of Jesus, and there, you will see the Risen Christ. And you will have no further need to fact check THE TRUTH THAT JESUS LIVES ON…and those who follow His Way will as well.

THAT IS THE TRUTH!

Blessing on you this Easter Morning.

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