Road Trip Reflections: New Cars and Old Songs

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I slept well Monday night and awoke early and made time for my daily prayer and meditation before getting back on the road. The Gospel for the day was from Mt 12:46-50 in which Jesus tells us, “Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.” He’s telling us that if we would just live God’s commandments, we will be adopted into His family for all eternity. That doesn’t sound too difficult. Just keep it between the ditches and we’ll be fine. I wish it was that easy.

I forgot to mention that last week we purchased a new car, a new Subaru Outback, and we’re driving it on this trip. The technology on these vehicles is getting more advanced every year. One feature that I kind of like is the lane departure warning. When you approach either the center line or the right edge of the lane, the car gives an audible warble and a visible yellow flashing light at the base of the windshield above the steering wheel indicating that you veered too close to the edge of the lane. It also tells you that you have made a “lane departure” if you cross the center line without first turning on your turn signal indicator.

At first, I wasn’t too keen on the idea of the car telling me how to drive. But, then, it dawned on me that all it wants me to do is keep it between the ditches, so to speak, to follow the commandments of good driving. I thought how nice it would be if life came with such technology that could keep us from sinning. But, then I realized that we already have that technology within us. It’s called our conscience. It’s OEM equipment which God installed in us at the factory. It lets us know when we are getting close to doing something wrong, and when we’ve crossed over the line either intentionally or unintentionally. The best part is that when we wreck the car because we have failed to heed the warnings, and we bring it back to the manufacturer, sorrowful and with intentions to steer straight and true from then on, He forgives us and strengthens within us the virtue of prudence to drive properly and safely.

Leaving Madison, we headed for Minneapolis-St. Paul to meet up with Melinda’s two nieces and one of them’s husband and son. We enjoyed two hours of catching up, good conversation, a delicious lunch of homemade soup and sandwiches, and entertaining the little one.

After saying our goodbyes, we got on I-94 and headed northeast toward Fargo, North Dakota, our stopping point for the night. An hour or so into the drive we passed an exit for St. John’s University near Collegeville, Minnesota. What’s special about St. John’s, you ask? It is the Alma Mater of my friend and co-founder of this blog, Rich Brewers. St. John’s University and St. John’s Abbey sits on the shore of Lake Sagatagan, as does the Stella Maris Chapel, the brick chapel you have seen in the header photo of this page over the years. I’ve always loved the image of that chapel sitting there in silence and solitude as if it, itself, were praying to God, with it’s reflection in the lake urging us to do the same.

Our new car also came with a three-month free trial of satellite radio. I found a station that plays old-time country music from folks like Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, and Ernest Tubb. An old song came on, Bobby Bare’s version of Loretta Lynn’s and Conway Twitty’s 1976 release of God Bless America, Again. As I listened to the lyrics I thought, “Yes, Lord, please bless America, again!”

“God bless America, again. You see all the troubles that she’s in. Wash her pretty face, dry her eyes and then, God bless America again.

“God, I sure do wish you’d bless America again. You know, like you did way back when it all began. You blessed her then, but we just sorta kind took it for granted, and never did ask again. So, just hold her hand God, that’s all. And, if she should stumble please don’t let her fall. God bless America, again.

“You know I don’t understand everything I’m readin’ here about what’s wrong with America….”

That last line grabbed me. If things were out of whack in 1976, how much more so are they today? I don’t understand, either. But, I’m here living it now, doing my best. I didn’t choose the way things are, I don’t necessarily like the way things are, and there’s not too much I can do to change the way things are other than to vote, pray and be the best person and disciple that God intended for me to be so that I can be an example to others.

After a second day of 504 miles, we made it safely to our hotel in time for a short walk before it was Rosary time.

(Note: Folks, I know I’m a couple days behind. Bear with me, I’ll post as I can. Thank you.)

“Good and Gracious God, thank You for another day of seeing this beautiful land, for family to visit, and for the inspirations You provide that come from the ordinary things in our lives. Give me the grace to follow Your commandments so that I will never exclude myself from Your family. And, give me the grace, I pray, to be the kind of disciple, husband, father, son, brother and friend that You created me to be. Amen.”

(Road Trip Reflections: New Cars and Old Songs was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2020 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

Road Trip Reflections: Rosaries, Sunsets and Signs

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Road trips. I love ’em! I love to get behind the wheel and go, just my wife, me, and the highway for eight to ten hours a day. It’s been way too long since our last one! The social isolation of COVID-19 has, for the most part, kept us home. Melinda and I did venture out last week, along with 12 others from our parish, to participate in a mission trip to Appalachia Kentucky to repair houses for those who can no longer afford to maintain their homes (perhaps a future post?). Other than that, we’ve stayed at home since mid-March.

Yesterday afternoon, full of anticipation, we hit the road heading northwest for an almost three week excursion that will include a long over due family reunion with all our children and grandchildren. Leaving Cincinnati on I-74, we pointed the car towards Indianapolis, Indiana, and then Bloomington, Illinois. At Bloomington, we turned north on I-39 and motored towards Madison, Wisconsin, for our first night out.

We made the turn at Bloomington about 7:30 p.m., and we broke out our Rosaries. Melinda and I have faithfully prayed the Rosary together every day since the first of April. When Pope Francis wrote his letter on 25 April encouraging everyone to pray the Rosary daily during the month of May, we invited a friend to join us. Our friend, who lives in Louisiana, was struggling with the social isolation and welcomed the opportunity to spend time together. Since May 1st, every evening at 7:30 p.m. we have FaceTimed and prayed the Rosary together, asking Our Blessed Mother to intercede for the health and well being of a long list of people. Being on the road was not going to keep us from joining together in prayer and meditation.

We prayed our Rosary, laughed and chatted for a bit, and then, about half way to Rockford, Illinois, said our goodbyes just as the sun was setting. Overhead were heavy gray clouds, but away on the horizon the sun found a chink through which it set the sky on fire with a fierce beauty the likes of which I haven’t seen in thirty years! Since I was driving and couldn’t do more than chance a quick glance at that marvelous sight, I asked Melinda to snap a photo so I could relive that beautiful moment when we stopped for the night.

Sunset in Northern Illinois, 20 July 2020

I recalled that morning’s Gospel passage from Mt 12:38-42 in which the scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus to give them a sign to help them believe. I found comfort knowing that I don’t need to see a sign to believe, rather I see the signs because I believe. This sunset seemed to be God’s way of thanking me for my belief. Thank you, Lord!

We arrived safely at our hotel in Madison, Wisconsin after 504 miles and eight and a half hours of driving. It was a great day! Road trips, I love ‘em! I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring. Check back to find out.

“Heavenly Father, thank You for the opportunity to travel in this great land, Your creation, with all its magnificence and beauty. Thank You for the finishing touches that only You, the Artist of artists, can paint. Thank You for friends with whom we can love and be loved and grow closer to You, together. And, thank You, Lord, for protecting us in our travels. Please watch over my family as we travel to be with each other. Amen.”

(Road Trip Reflections: Rosaries, Sunsets and Signs was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2020 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

My Sanctuary, My Refuge

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King David Playing the Harp, Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

Sometimes when one is practicing meditation, or mental prayer, it is so frustratingly easy to get distracted! There you are, you’ve placed yourself in the presence of God and you’re trying to stay focused on Him. But then, your mind drifts to some far off place that may seem totally disassociated with anything else, and before you know it you’ve spent who knows how long down that path. When you eventually do realize how far you’ve strayed, you pull yourself back to the present moment and try to refocus on the Lord.

This happened to me yesterday. I was kneeling before the tabernacle in our Adoration chapel at church, giving thanks for His love and mercy, and just generally soaking up the grace of being in His presence. Then I got distracted. When I finally came back to the present moment I realized that I had just been replaying in my mind scenes from a favorite movie, Remember the Titans, a 2000 production based on a true story. A movie I haven’t watched in many years.

In the movie, Denzel Washington plays the role of Herman Boone, an African-American football head coach at a newly racially integrated high school in Alexandria, Virginia. Coach Boone is charged with integrating black and white students into a functioning and winning football team amidst a culture that not only has been segregated for generations, but one that lives for it’s high school football. The task seems insurmountable as it requires every ounce of his courage, leadership, and diplomacy.

After viewing Boone’s challenges of building a united team at summer football camp; attempting to build respect and cohesion with his white assistant coaches; and the ever present friction (including threats to his family) from the predominantly white community, we are taken to a scene at the football field the night before the first game of the season. Coach Boone walks out into the bleachers and, looking out over the lighted field, utters, “Yeah, this is my sanctuary right here!” The football field was where he could put the world, and all the problems in it, out of his mind. It was his safe harbor, his refuge. It was where he had some control.

It was after this “scene” that I realized I was daydreaming instead of praying. My first reactions were to apologize, thinking, “I’m sorry, Lord, I can’t even give you ten minutes without wandering off!”, and then to wonder, “Where in the world did that memory come from?”!

As I tried to get back into the moment, Coach Boone’s utterance, “Yeah, this is my sanctuary right here!” popped back into my mind. Then I realized what I was saying. I was in my sanctuary, my place of refuge, right there in front of Jesus in the tabernacle. The only difference was that, unlike it being Coach Boone’s place where he felt in control, it was my place of solitude where I could relinquish control and place all my trust in the goodness and mercy of God. It’s where I could forget the physical, economic and political messiness of the current world pandemic and simply bask in God’s love.

I recalled verses from Psalm 31 (vv. 2-6):

In you, Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness deliver me; incline your ear to me; make haste to rescue me!
Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to save me.
For you are my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me.
Free me from the net that has been set for me, for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commend my spirit; you will redeem me, Lord, God of truth.

And, I thought, “Wherever I am, Lord, especially in the Adoration chapel, you are there, also. Yeah, this is my sanctuary, right here!”

“Lord Jesus, You are my rock and my refuge, my sanctuary. Thank You for Your generosity. And, thank You for the grace to realize that sometimes distractions aren’t that at all, but actually loving inspirations sent from You through Your Holy Spirit. Amen.”

(My Sanctuary, My Refuge was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2020 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

Pope Francis: A Special Call to Pray the Rosary During the Month of May, 2020

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On Saturday, 25 April 2020, Pope Francis wrote a letter to the world inviting all people to pray a Rosary, either individually or, preferably, as a family, every day during the month of May (the Pope’s letter is included below). May is, of course, traditionally devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother. But, in light of the world pandemic that has disrupted our physical, social, economic, and spiritual lives, praying the Rosary can be a special way in which we implore Our Lady to intercede with Jesus for relief from our plight, and to let her help us stay focused on Him during this difficult time.

Many miracles have been attributed to the intercession of Our Lady as a result of praying the Rosary, and I, for one, believe that, considering the messy state the world is in right now, we need a miracle.

Many of you faithful may already pray a Rosary daily. Others may pray it periodically, but, unfortunately, too many don’t pray a Rosary at all. If you are unfamiliar with how to pray a Rosary, there are several resources available. Most parish churches offer a printed guide to praying the Rosary. There are on-line resources and applications, such as the Laudate app, that offer a variety of ways to pray the Rosary.

I suspect there are many reasons people do not pray it regularly, one of which is that they don’t understand the history and efficaciousness of the Rosary. The Rosary has been prayed since the early days of the Church. Over the centuries it has been instrumental in: helping Christian armies win battles when they were seriously outnumbered (e.g. the Battle of Lepanto, 1571, and the Battle of Vienna, 1683); defending against heresies; overturning of Communism in Eastern Europe in the 20th century; and, certainly, many personal miracles and answered prayers.

Another predominant reason many do not pray the Rosary, I believe, is that they think it is boring and repetitive, and they get nothing out of it. I know that was my opinion after I converted and thought I ought to pray the Rosary because that’s what I was supposed to do as a Catholic. I taught myself how to pray it by following step-by-step instructions printed on a trifold flyer that I picked off of a shelf in a church foyer somewhere. But, after praying a Rosary, I usually felt I had just wasted twenty minutes.

I eventually learned that, while praying the Rosary, we are supposed to meditate on the various events, or mysteries, in Christ’s life (e.g. Joyful, Glorious, Sorrowful and Luminous mysteries) by placing ourselves in the company of our Mother and, with her, contemplate the face of her son in the context of those various mysteries as each Hail Mary is recited. Understanding this helped me significantly in my spiritual growth.

A method of praying the Rosary that I find particularly effective is one called a “Scriptural Rosary”. When prayed with this method, a short verse from Scripture is recited before each bead of the Rosary. This method prompts one to reflect on each aspect of the mystery. A scriptural Rosary is available on the Laudate app.

Then I discovered a new “old” way to pray the Rosary. It is the method which Our Blessed Lady made known to St. Dominic in the early 13th century as he was fighting to convert Catholics back to the faith who had fallen to heretical views. Under her inspiration, St. Dominic gathered people together in their homes and shared with them the teachings of Jesus. Then, after each of five short teachings, he recited the Our Father and ten Hail Marys. In this way, St. Dominic, by teaching from the full Deposit of Faith, brought many fallen away Catholics back to the Church. The Holy Family School of Faith offers this method of praying the Rosary as a podcast that you can find here: Daily Rosary Meditation. (Note: be sure to click on the button, “Why do you pray the Rosary that way?”)

In his letter, Pope Francis emphasizes his desire that we pray as a family. Praying as a family brings us into union with one another and amplifies our prayers to Mary who brings them to Jesus. In normal times, “families” might be expanded into “groups” which might include friends and neighbors as well as family. Whether it’s just your family or a larger group who have come together to pray a Rosary, these settings are conducive to building friendship and creating good conversation through which all participants may grow spiritually.

Finally, I realize that there are occasionally non-Catholics (e.g. some of my own family) who read this blog and who do not understand why we have a devotion to the Virgin Mary nor why we invoke her intercession through a Rosary prayer. If any non-Catholic would like to join me in praying a Rosary, I will be happy to lead them through. I encourage you, also, as engaged Catholics to invite your non-Catholic family and friends to pray the Rosary with you.

I pray that you and all the faithful will renew yourselves spiritually during this month of May, especially since so many parishes still will not offer mass due to pandemic restrictions. May we all, in union with each other, grow closer to our Lord, Jesus Christ, through His and our Mother, Mary.


LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO THE FAITHFUL FOR THE MONTH OF MAY 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The month of May is approaching, a time when the People of God express with particular intensity their love and devotion for the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is traditional in this month to pray the Rosary at home within the family. The restrictions of the pandemic have made us come to appreciate all the more this “family” aspect, also from a spiritual point of view.

For this reason, I want to encourage everyone to rediscover the beauty of praying the Rosary at home in the month of May. This can be done either as a group or individually; you can decide according to your own situations, making the most of both opportunities. The key to doing this is always simplicity, and it is easy also on the internet to find good models of prayers to follow.

I am also providing two prayers to Our Lady that you can recite at the end of the Rosary, and that I myself will pray in the month of May, in spiritual union with all of you. I include them with this letter so that they are available to everyone.

Dear brothers and sisters, contemplating the face of Christ with the heart of Mary our Mother will make us even more united as a spiritual family and will help us overcome this time of trial. I keep all of you in my prayers, especially those suffering most greatly, and I ask you, please to pray for me. I thank you, and with great affection I send you my blessing.

Rome, Saint John Lateran, 25 April 2020
Feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist

Pope Francis

(Click here to be linked to the Vatican website to read the original letter and the two prayers mentioned.)

(Pope Francis: A Special Call to Pray the Rosary in the Month of May, 2020 was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2020 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

Mission: Possible

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(A reflection on today’s first reading from Acts 9:1-20)

Ananais Restoring the Sight of St. Paul, Jean Il Restout, 1719, The Louvre Museum

One of my favorite television series as a child in the 60’s was Mission: Impossible. At the beginning of each episode, Jim Phelps (played by actor Peter Graves) received a tape recorded message describing a mission being presented to him that began, “Your mission, Jim, should you decide to accept it….”. Each mission was complicated and dangerous and had a high likelihood of ending with him and his team of secret agents losing their lives. Without fail, Agent Phelps accepted the impossible mission and successfully completed it.

This memory came from out of nowhere this morning as I read the Scripture for the day. The first reading from Acts is the account of Saul’s conversion and baptism. The Lord struck Saul, blinded him and left him to sit praying at the house of Judas for three days. Simultaneously, the Lord called upon Ananais, a follower of the Way, to go to Saul and lay hands on him so that he would regain his sight. The Lord told Ananais, “Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for in my name.”

Scripture doesn’t say, but Ananais either passed that message along to Saul or it came to Saul via the Holy Spirit, and he immediately began to proclaim Jesus as the Son of God in the synagogues of Damascus.

God created Saul just like the rest of us, with free will to accept him or to turn away from him. Saul chose to accept Jesus as the Son of God and, in so doing, accepted what had to seem like an impossible mission at the time: convince and convert the entire world to do the same. One difference between Saul and Jim Phelps was that Saul knew the mission, in the end, would definitely result in his death.

Saul, the other Apostles, and the saints throughout the centuries made a pretty good start at converting the world. But, the work is still not completed. God calls each of us in our baptism and confirmation to continue their work. With the condition the world is in today, it may seem like an even more impossible mission. Yet, we can do it one person at a time, because the other difference between our work and Jim Phelps’ is that, with God, all things are possible!

What can you do today to be part of the Mission: Possible team?

“Heavenly Father, thank You for Your love. Lord Jesus, thank You for Your forgiveness and mercy. Holy Spirit, thank You for opening my heart to the will of God and urging me to continue the work of the Apostolic Fathers and saints in this Mission: Possible.

“I resolve today, Lord, to reach out to a friend who is hurting and invite her to join my wife and I in praying a Rosary for healing during the month of May, per our Holy Father’s request. Amen.”

(Mission: Possible was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2020 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

The Cardinal at My Window

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Some people are keeping track of the number of days they’ve been in lockdown, or quarantine, or whatever you want to call it. I haven’t kept track because it really doesn’t matter. Today is today and it’s here that the Lord meets us. Not in our memories of yesterday or our worries about tomorrow. Today.

That’s easy to say, but lately it hasn’t been easy for me to feel the Lord’s presence. I’ve been faithful to my daily prayer and meditation, yet I miss receiving Jesus in the Eucharist and I feel my spiritual life has grown a little stale.

Yesterday morning as I was eating breakfast and trying to figure out what I would do during the day, I heard a tapping at my living room window. I curiously checked it out and found a bright red male cardinal fluttering his wings and striking the glass with his beak. He would tap for a few seconds and then fly to a nearby branch of a pink dogwood tree. Shortly, he would come back and repeat the performance.

That beautiful and persistent little guy kept up his routine throughout the day until nightfall and then came back this morning with renewed vigor. And, he’s been at it all day today! Tap, tap, tap on the window. It’s like there’s something in here that he wants.

Maybe he wants my attention.

I recalled reading somewhere that a cardinal sighting represents an angel or the spirit of a loved one who has returned to let one know they are with you and watching over you. Interested, I did an on-line search along those lines and I came up with a few hits from New-Age or psychic resources that point to this being a Christian belief. But, I know that superstition and Christianity don’t mix. I know that a black cat crossing one’s path isn’t an assurance of bad luck. And, I’m pretty sure there’s no reference in Scripture tying cardinals to the spirits of those who have passed.

Yet, while I don’t believe in superstition, I do believe that God sends us signs. Is a cardinal the definitive sign God has chosen to tell us that a loving spirit is watching over us? I don’t think so. But, can God send us a loving spirit as a sign through a cardinal? Certainly He can! God created it. He can do what He wants.

Needing to spend some time reading and meditating on the Scripture de jour, I set all those thoughts about cardinals aside and found my place of silence and solitude. I read in today’s first reading: “Jesus was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him… “(Acts 2:22); “I saw the Lord ever before me…” (v. 25); “my heart has been glad and my tongue exulted…” (v. 26); and “…You will fill me with joy in Your presence.” (v. 28).

In the Psalm (Ps 16), I read, “I keep the Lord always before me;…therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices.” (v. 8-9).

And, the Gospel, Lk 24:13-35, recounted the appearance of Jesus to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus; how at first they didn’t recognize Him, but, once they did in the breaking of the bread, their hearts were filled with joy and they hurried to tell the Eleven of their encounter with Him.

Collectively, these passages reminded me that Jesus is always with me even though I may not always recognize Him or feel His presence. He is with me in the people He has placed in my life and in my life’s circumstances. They reminded me of the joy I feel when I do feel Him near me. They reminded me that even in difficult times when the world pulls my attention away from Him, He is still there going before me. And, they reminded me that I ought not to keep quiet but to hurry and tell others about Him.

And, then, I thought about the bird again. Was God wanting to catch my attention with one of His truly beautiful creations as a sign to let me know of His presence? Whether it was His intention or not, it certainly worked.

Could that crazy cardinal have actually been a messenger sent to draw me away from the hum-drum of isolation so that I could refocus on His love for me? Possibly. If so, He succeeded by reminding me of the grace that He gives me each and every day. That His grace is here with me in the love I share with my wife and our support for each other during these unusual times. It was there in the video calls with all four daughters and grandchildren today. It was there last night in the good food, friendship and conversation we shared among a few friends as we “risked” getting together for the first time in over a month.

But, mostly, that silly, persistent, cardinal, who wouldn’t give up pecking at my window, reminded me to never give up on God’s love for me, and never give up loving Him in return.

“Good and gracious God, thank you for sending your fine feathered creation to draw my attention back to You. Even though I may lose sight of You from time to time, thank You for never leaving my side. Lord, thank You for Your angels who watch over me. And, I pray that the souls of all the faithful departed, through Your mercy, rest in peace. Amen.”

(The Cardinal at My Window was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2020 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

Speak Boldly Like Peter

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Visit of Nicodemus to Christ, John La Farge, 1880, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Ever since Easter the first readings of daily Scripture have been from the Acts of the Apostles and have been accounts of Peter speaking and healing in the name of Jesus. In healing the man who had been crippled from birth, he and John astonished the other Jews who were going into the temple for their three o’clock prayer (Acts 3:1-10).

Filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8), Peter went on to speak with great confidence to the people of Jerusalem and converted thousands in the process. In spite of being arrested by the Sanhedrin, thrown in jail, and almost sentenced to death by them, he continued to speak boldly (Acts 4:13, 29, 31) and bear witness with great power to Christ’s resurrection (Acts 4:33).

Certainly, seeing Jesus twice since His death; having Jesus explain the purpose of His crucifixion (Lk 24:45-47); and committing to follow Jesus by being reminded that he denied Him three times (Jn 21:15-17), brought about Peter’s complete conversion. His heart was fully convicted and his will completely committed to obeying the Lord to “go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Mk 16:15). Any fear he and the Apostles might have had was replaced with fortitude to speak boldly, and to rejoice when they were persecuted and suffered dishonor for the sake of the name [of Jesus]. (Acts 5:41).

In addition to this recounting in the Acts of the Apostles, we have also, this week, been reading about Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus (Jn 3:1-21), a Pharisee and the teacher of Israel (Jn 3:10). Nicodemus came to Jesus one night after hearing about Him driving the money-changers out of the temple, and, more than likely, about His miracle at Cana. He questioned Jesus about His miracles, or signs, because he knew that they could only come from God. Jesus explains that the only way to enter the kingdom of God is to be born again by being baptized and receiving the Holy Spirit. Nicodemus doesn’t understand the concept of being born again and questions, “How can this happen?

As many times as I’ve read this I always saw Nicodemus’ questioning as trying to catch Jesus in blasphemy so that He could be imprisoned. I had a vision of the learned Nicodemus on an ego trip, and, when the conversation was over, him walking away shaking his head in frustration and disbelief. But, I’m wondering if I was wrong. Maybe Nicodemus actually believed Jesus was who He said He was but his questions were simply an attempt to better understand.

At the end of the Gospel on Good Friday, we read in Jn 19:39 that, Nicodemus, the one who had first come to Him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds, and, along with Joseph of Arimathea, helped bury Jesus’ body. Why would he do that? A hundred pounds of myrrh and aloe must have been worth a significant sum. A hundred pounds seems to be a measure that might be fit for a King. Could Nicodemus have come, through faith, to accept Jesus as the Messiah?

Nicodemus appears one other time in Scripture, in Jn 7:50. The Pharisees had sent officers to arrest Jesus but they came back empty handed because they, too, were amazed at the way He taught. They were reprimanded and accused of being deceived by Jesus like they perceived the crowds had been. Nicodemus stepped up and asked his fellow Pharisees, “Does our law condemn a person before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?”, to which he is ridiculed for forgetting that “no prophet arises from Galilee.” Could Nicodemus have been making an attempt to stand up for Jesus and protect Him?

I’m not a theologian and I haven’t consulted one on this subject. But, for the moment, I am going to assume that Nicodemus secretly believed, like Joseph of Arimathea, that Jesus was the Messiah. Maybe after that first encounter with Jesus and seeing the miracles He subsequently performed, Nicodemus came to believe that He was the Son of God. And, I’m going to suppose that he followed the doings of the Apostles after the resurrection and the Lord’s ascension and heard their witnesses. If that were true, then what would Nicodemus have said if he’d been asked if he believed in Jesus?

I think the fact that Nicodemus is never again mentioned in the New Testament indicates that he either never gave anyone a reason to ask him, or, if they did, he denied his belief. Admitting his belief would have been at odds with the rest of the Pharisees and certainly the Sanhedrin. He was a leader, a prominent figure in Jerusalem, and taking sides with Jesus and his rag-tag band of followers would have turned their entire law upside down. Believing in Jesus would have been tantamount to blasphemy and could have meant his death. He was, I’m sure, a wealthy man and, at a minimum, he would have forfeited many material possessions besides just his status and reputation.

Thus, as I pondered this all week, I concluded that if he did come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, he kept it to himself. Whereas Peter, who had nothing to lose but his life, spoke boldly with courageous faith, Nicodemus could never even whisper a word for fear of losing the things of this world which he so esteemed.

And, therein lies the question I have to ask myself – at the risk of losing everything, would I be Peter and boldly proclaim Christ as my Savior and rejoice in the prospect of persecution, or would I be Nicodemus and, out of fear, remain silent?

What would you do?

“Lord Jesus, thank You for Your love. You know I love You. I pray that my love for You will always grow stronger. I pray that if the day ever comes that I may have to choose between life and my faith in You, that I have, like Peter, the courage to choose You. But, I know I’m weak, so mostly I pray that I am never put to that test. Amen.”

(Speak Boldly Like Peter was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2020 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

Let Us Rejoice and Be Glad!

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Today is a 2-fer day: two reflections from my prayer and meditation on today’s Scripture.

(A 100-word reflection on Luke 24:13-35 – Jesus’ appearance on the road to Emmaus)

Supper at Emmaus, Caravaggio, 1606

The two disciples with whom Jesus spent the day walking to Emmaus did not at first recognize Him. But, at day’s end, Jesus sat with them “at table, took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized Him, but He vanished from their sight.” (Lk24:30-31)

They thought Jesus had left them. But, He was still there….present in the bread that he’d just consecrated.

I can’t see Him, either. But, He’s still there in the Holy Eucharist which I will soon be able to receive again.


(A 100-word reflection on Ps 118:24)

Before my meditation this morning I looked out my window as the sun was rising in a cloudless bright blue sky over my frosted lawn. A red-breasted robin, perched on a branch of a blooming pink dogwood tree, was checking me out just inches from one window. A few feet outside another window were five goldfinches clinging to my bird feeder having their breakfast.

Then, I read the same verse from Psalms that’s been in the Liturgy every day this week: “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad!”

I can do that!

“Good and gracious Lord, thank You for the beauty that You bring to each and every day. Help me to always see the beauty of Your handiwork, even in the cloudy and dreary days. And, Lord, may I never fail to rejoice and be glad when I receive Your Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Most Holy Eucharist. Amen.”

(Let Us Rejoice and Be Glad! was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2020 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

Recognizing Jesus

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(A reflection on Jn 20:11-18)

As she wept at His tomb, Mary of Magdela encountered Jesus but didn’t recognize Him until He spoke to her compassionately, saying, “Mary, stop holding on to Me”. Then, obeying her teacher, Mary told the disciples with pure joy, “I have seen the Lord!”

I can’t see Jesus face to face in this life. But, I know He’s present every moment of my day. He sends His love to me through Holy Scripture and through my wife, children, friends and many of life’s circumstances. I need to better recognize Him and live such that others may recognize Him in me.

“Lord Jesus, today I resolve to recognize the kindness of others as Your love poured out through them. And, I resolve to be the instrument through whom your love and mercy may touch others. Amen.”

(Recognizing Jesus was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2020 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

From the Archives: Go to Galilee

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As I read today’s Scripture, the difference in my attitude between last week and this morning became apparent. Last week it was difficult to have a conversation with Christ. How could I bring to Him my piddly troubles when He was being sold out, scourged, mocked and crucified? But, this morning, as I read Peter’s speech to the people of Jerusalem (Acts 2:22-33), I felt renewed. To paraphrase Peter, my heart is glad….my flesh dwells in hope….and the Lord’s presence fills me with joy.

Then, as I read the Gospel, Mt 28:8-15, I realized that Jesus is wanting to be with me. And, I remembered having the same feeling last year on Easter Monday and sharing it with you then. It’s worth sharing again. He wants to be with you, too.

(Go To Galilee was originally posted on 22 April 2019)

Painting by Hans Memling – 1480

(A reflection on Mt 28:8-10)

As the two Marys rushed fearfully and joyfully to tell the disciples what they had seen and heard, they met Jesus on the way. Jesus told them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee and there they will see me.”

After the intensity of Holy Week – the exhausting emotion of reflecting on Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection – I need to meet Jesus again. And soon. I need to go to Galilee. My Galilee is that place of solitude and silence, where I can spend time with Him in meditative prayer.

Where’s your Galilee? 

GO THERE.