Today is the feast of St. Mark the Evangelist, the author of the second Gospel. Mark tells us that Jesus told the eleven Apostles, “Go into the world and proclaim the gospel.” Tradition tells us Peter preached in Turkey and Italy, Thomas in India, Philip in Greece, Andrew in Ukraine and Russia. Mark evangelized Egypt. Others went elsewhere. Together, risking their lives, they spread the Good News.
But, they didn’t get everywhere. They saved the low risk people for you and me: our next door neighbors, brothers-in-law, hair dressers, and plumbers.
Be like St. Mark. Go and evangelize!
(Lord Jesus, I give you thanks for the grace of fortitude bestowed on me in the Sacrament of Confirmation that overcomes any fear I may have of evangelizing to those who may not know you. Help us all, Lord, to complete the work of the Apostles, St. Mark and the other Evangelists. Amen.)
(Be Like St. Mark was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
My dear friend, Bob, and I were sharing stories a few evenings ago, both aware of how God has abundantly blessed us with family and friends. Like me, Bob has been graced with the gift of tears and as we talked those began to well up and leak out. It’s often difficult to express how it feels to be on the receiving end of Christ’s infinite love and mercy, especially when we don’t feel we deserve it. I can’t think of a better reason for tears of joy to be shared among friends. The next morning, Bob sent me the following reflection that expressed that feeling perfectly. I asked, and he consented to let me share it with you on Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Thank you, Bob.
Random Musings on a Spring Morning, by Bob Magness
It’s been a bit of a surreal morning, enjoying a cup of coffee thinking about the day ahead and reflecting on the day that was. The sun was poking through the trees and for the first time in a long time there was dew on the ground- not frost! And my thoughts turned green. Green with the thoughts of leaves budding from the trees… Green with the spring season… but mostly Green with the thoughts of the garden and the vegetable season ahead. I like gardening. I like the smell of soil and how it feels in your hands. I like the promise of hope from putting that seed into that soil. Hope that it sprouts and hope that it produces. Hope is a pretty good thing.
I got up to fill the coffee cup and clean the coffee pot. And in doing so, I put the coffee grounds into the compost bin. Yeah, I compost. But it’s a lazy man’s compost. It basically consists of coffee grounds and eggshells and whatever vegetable scraps we happen to produce throughout the week. And then this goes into a pile behind the shed. The unwanted, the scraps, the not pretty parts. It’s amazing how much is generated- all that stuff you’d just as soon forget about – that you don’t want anyone to see. So, into a pile it goes and thru the magic of Heaven and Earth a robust soil is created. And it is magic especially if you garden- because it’s almost alchemy in its ability to turn that discarded rubbish into a black gold.
My thoughts turned to Jesus’ Parable of the Sower and Seeds and how some of the seeds fall on rocky ground and some of the seeds get mixed in with weeds and of course the preferred case where the seeds fall on fertile ground. There’s probably a reason most people remember this parable even if they can’t remember the Book or Chapter or Verse. It’s a great analogy and lesson that leads to deep conversation about whether you are the sower or the seed and how your perception transitions depending on where you are in that particular moment in time. It occurs to me that no one ever talks about the terrain in which those seeds fall. Perhaps we think that the terrain is static and unable to change.
I remember hiking and seeing trees growing through the tiniest of cracks on a nothing but rock-faced landscape of a mountainside. And I thought about how that seed was able to penetrate even the tiniest of cracks and even thrive in that rock. And once in that tiny crack it’s able to open that rock and allow more soil which invites more seeds and increases that crack…a vicious cycle if you’re a rock. I began to think about glaciers and their ability to flatten mountains and grind those rocks into sand and how this helps the plants extract the valuable mineral content. And again, I thought of Christ’s word and God’s ability to change anything. But mostly I was thinking about that tree on the side of the mountain. I concluded that Hope is the reason it’s holding on to that rock face.
And I returned to my compost and what that compost has been able to do to the native, neglected, heavy clay soil in which my garden started all those years ago. The biology that happens in that compost pile is worth noting – fungi and mold start the process. Then worms and insects move in to break down that material into something that is not only usable but beneficial. Biology- more things that people don’t want to talk about and endure but it’s part of that magic. It’s not a quick process, it can seem like a glacier. Maybe it would proceed more quickly if I followed the rules or did it better. Every now and then I’ll turn the pile to mix but mostly it just sits there. When it’s ready, I add to the existing garden bed and plant. The seeds and plants flourish; and everyone comments how great the garden looks and how good those fruits and vegetables taste. All from the discarded rubbish- those kitchen scraps and eggshells and coffee grounds and how they became part of my garden.
All the unspoken things from earlier times… and my mind reflected on all those things I would rather not talk about. Those scraps of bad actions and broken eggshells of worse ideas. Like that lazy compost pile behind the shed, and what is returned has an amazing ability to amend the poor and rocky soil of my heart. And somehow that pile produced a family garden. Not through any work of my hand, but in giving that mess to Christ. A garden. Beauty beyond measure. Pride beyond words.
And there are still some thistle seeds present- always present. I like to blame the finches but somewhere I know the truth.
And there are still rocks in that garden.
But there’s hope that the seeds sprout and take root and produce fruit and then yet more seeds.
And hope is a pretty good thing.
(Random Musings on a Spring Morning was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
(Editor’s note: In the original posting yesterday, the link to the included homily broadcast did not work. It has been corrected.)
Happy Easter, everyone! Christ is risen today! Alleluia!
It’s been a beautiful day here in Southwest Ohio. A perfect day to celebrate and be joyful. It didn’t begin that way for me, though. I caught my annual springtime cold on Thursday and it’s steadily worsened. I did go to the Mass of the Lord’s Supper Thursday evening and coughed and sneezed my way through it. And, as my cold got worse overnight, I knew better than to go to the Stations of the Cross and the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, and I decided to skip going to the Easter Vigil Mass as well.
After a fitful night’s sleep I poured myself out of bed this morning and made it to 9:00 a.m. Mass. I managed to make it through with only a few coughs and no sneezes. But, between my head being stopped up and the additional noise from all the extra people, I didn’t understand a word of Father’s homily.
In resignation, I closed my eyes and repeated Simon Peter’s words from the Transfiguration, “It’s good that I am here”, and gave thanks for the opportunity to offer up my suffering and unite it to His cross.
As I stood to go up to communion I recalled the words from the second reading, Col 3:1-4, “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” With each step forward I was drawn to the glory of Christ resurrected, and away from the fogginess I’d been experiencing all morning. By the time I reached the priest to receive the Eucharist, I felt an intense inner peace and knew I was smiling from ear to ear. As I walked back to my seat, letting the Body of Christ dissolve on my tongue, I looked upwards, still smiling, thinking of what is above, and I spied above the entrance doors to the church the Risen Christ on the cross with His arms spread wide in love. He was saying to me, “Your life is hidden here with Me.”
As I knelt back at my seat and said my prayer of thanksgiving after communion, that feeling stayed with me. I wasn’t focused on the way I felt, didn’t work to fend off a coughing fit or stifle a sneeze. I just focused on Jesus, thankful for the hope that my destiny will be with him. I knew that I will suffer things in my life much worse than a common cold, but in the end all of it will pale in comparison to the joy I will find when I find myself with Him.
I left Mass feeling pumped up spiritually yet drained physically, and still somewhat frustrated that I hadn’t heard well enough to understand Father’s homily. I felt a little cheated. Then, about two hours later, I received a message from a friend with a link to a homily from Fr. Ehli at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck, North Dakota, where my friend’s daughter attends church. It was like the Holy Spirit heard my grumblings and blessed me with what was probably an even better homily on which to meditate. It hit home with me and I feel I need to share it with you here: Fr. Ehli’s homily. The homily begins at the 20:30 mark and ends at 31:30. I won’t give his message away except to say that, between it and my experience at Mass, knowing what’s in store at the end makes the getting there, even with springtime colds and other struggles, much more peaceful.
I pray that your Easter has been a joyful one, that your Hope has found new life knowing that Christ defeated death and He is holding a place for you. God bless you!
“Lord Jesus, You suffered and died for me and redeemed me of my sins. Your resurrection defeated death and gave the world hope that, by following You, we may also defeat death and live with you for all eternity. Thank you! Amen.”
Resolution: I desire to sow the seeds of this Word today by making a concrete resolution to live with more peace in the present moment.
(Peace in Knowing the Meaning of Easter was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)