Vincentian Reflections

Vincentian Reflections2019-02-19T18:29:31+00:00
2803, 2023

April 2 – Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday has arrived. Things are moving and changing so quickly and yet time seems to be moving so slowly. We go from our Lord’s jubilant entry into Jerusalem to less than a week later hearing the cries of “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Our second reading from Philippians is iconic. In short order it recounts that Jesus went from being God to being a slave; from being put to death on a cross to being exalted by God the Father and recognized by all as Lord and God. Indeed, it portrays the greatest humility and the greatest glory, both displayed as one. The events, the meaning, and the necessary response can overwhelm us. The followers of Jesus at that time, including the apostles, were filled with fear, lost their way for a time, and only found their way back by turning to God in patience, in trust, and in prayer. For it did not make sense and they had no answers. Their salvation was in loving one another for they had not yet seen God’s answer – the Resurrection! What a long week it must have been for them, feeling like an eternity with no good outcome.

We too have faced a long and confusing time as we emerged from the pandemic to a world beset by war in Ukraine, massive natural disasters in Syria and Turkey as well as here at home in Florida, eastern and western Kentucky, and political and economic unrest around our country. In the face of so much uncertainty, fear can embrace us if we let it. We can feel powerless in the face of all of this. I wish I could provide answers to you. But the only answers are in patience and trust and prayer. We need to care for one another now more than ever, holding each other in love and trusting in God’s love for us. We do not know the outcome individually or collectively, but we know that God has our backs!

As Vincentians, we encounter others through our ministry who face fear, uncertainty, and upheaval in their lives in ways we often can only imagine. Now more than ever we need to be a beacon of hope, reminding them that they matter, that we love them and so does God. We need to help them to find patience, trust in God, and prayer. And so often in our attempts to do so, they actually help us to the very same. When we turn our fears over to Him, He walks with us enlightening us and embracing us in the warmth of His love. Am I able to trust in both my ministry and in my life in God’s will? Do I lose sight of being truly faithful in ministry and life, to God and trusting that IN HIS TIME He will respond to our needs and the needs of our neighbors? Do I turn to God in prayer, joining my suffering to that of the suffering servant Jesus, accepting all that he gives me and awaiting the glory of His mercy?

Lord Jesus, guide me in right paths. Give me the patience to listen for your will for myself and for our ministry. Equip me with the right words and actions guided by your Spirit in all that I do. Give me humility that I might never lose sight of your will in all things. Help my unbelief that I may believe and trust that you will not fail me if I keep my eyes and ears and heart totally focused on you. In the absence of your presence in the Eucharist, let me join you in Spiritual Communion that I might never be separated from you. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Come at least spiritually into my heart and let me embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Help my suffering and the suffering of others, that we might accept these crosses and embrace them as you embraced yours. Let our suffering connect ever more fully to that which you endured for us. We pray all of this in your name. Amen

Deacon Mike

2203, 2023

March 26 – Fifth Sunday in Lent

This week we hear the story of Jesus bringing back to life Lazarus from Bethany. Jesus in his obedience to and dependence upon the Father has the authority to give life to whom he will. He is “the Resurrection and the Life.” This week we shift from a focus on the sinfulness of our lives that we must overcome to the immense grace and mercy of Jesus who draws us out of death into life. Death is a certainty for all of us – it is a part of the human condition created by the sin of Adam and Eve. It is only by the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus that eternal life awaits those who believe and say “Yes Lord, I believe!” We have his assurance that if we walk with the Spirit and allow the Spirit to walk with us, eternal salvation will be ours.

Jesus acts in concert with and obedience to the Father’s will as he raises Lazarus. The very name Lazarus means “God helps.” Jesus offers his prayers of thanksgiving for all to see and hear that they might know who Jesus is, and from where his authority comes. He reminds us of the importance of prayer first to guide all of our actions, and to seek God’s help. Prayer to know His will, prayer to accept His will and prayer to follow His will – in all things! That desire calls us to walk in the Spirit in all things.

Of particular note is the end of the passage when Jesus cries out in a loud voice “Lazarus, come out.” And when Lazarus came out, he instructed them to “untie him and let him go.” There was no need for Jesus to call to Lazarus to come out, nor to have others unbind him. These actions were not for Jesus’s benefit, but rather for ours.  While he calls each of us from the death and darkness of sin (particularly through our baptism), we each also have a responsibility to help one another overcome the sins and challenges that bind us up each day. We are to free others from their difficulties in life. As we unbind them from their challenges in life, they unbind us from our prejudices, from our pride, and from our self-centeredness. We grow in our humility and patience and the Spirit of God comes to dwell fully in us and we come to know the Lord that we may believe. We become as the woman at the well, the man blind from birth and, Mary from the gospel this week, saying, “Yes Lord, I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God.”  We come to believe because we see the power of God manifested through our actions and the actions of others.

As Vincentians, our call to holiness comes through the unbinding of the poor and less fortunate. We must tap into our charism of friendship to both our neighbors and to one another to loosen the grips of suffering for our neighbors. In prayer and thanksgiving we need to seek the will of the Father as we seek solutions to the challenges in life for our neighbors and ourselves. As Jesus reaches back to each of us through the Eucharist (the Thanksgiving of love eternal), we must become like Eucharist to one another. How well do I embrace my call to unbind others, helping them through their sufferings to find the hope of Christ that awaits them.

Lord Jesus, unbind me from my sins and give me the courage to do likewise for others. Let me be your instrument that others may come to know you through my ministry to them. Reveal to me your spirit of faith and hope through those whom you bring to me. Allow me to join the woman at the well, the blind man and Mary of Bethany proclaiming your goodness and testifying to your Word though my words and actions. We pray all of this in your name. Amen

Deacon Mike

1403, 2023

March 19 – Fourth Sunday in Lent

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” We come from the darkness of death and the sin of Adam and Eve. Through Baptism we are called into the light of Christ. It is the love and mercy of God overwhelming the sin of Adam and Eve. We are a little over half way in our Lenten journey and our readings have shifted. They reflect our continual call to conversion and discipleship. A call that seeks our response to that ultimate sacrifice Jesus made for us. A response that begins with our Baptism and leads to an ever deepening relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. A journey to salvation – not just salvation in heaven, but salvation here on earth as well – as Jesus saves us from the darkness of Satan’s evil ways. It is Christ who is our hope and our light!

This is the call of our Baptism and Confirmation. In Baptism, Christ claims us as His very own. Our soul is marked by Him and He says to Satan, “stay back, this one belongs to me!” In Confirmation, we claim Christ as our very own. He anoints us with the Holy Spirit to walk with us and give us the strength and courage to say to Satan, “stay back, I belong to Christ!” And in so doing, we commit to a life led by Christ and filled by Christ. Through the Eucharist he feeds us and nourishes us with his very self – his flesh and blood, soul and divinity! He gives us strength to respond to and embrace his overwhelming love for us.

St. Paul tells us to walk away from the darkness, to not be associated with it, and to live only in the light. He reminds each of us of who and what we are supposed to be. If Christ isn’t the very center of our lives – if He isn’t in every decision we make – if He isn’t in every waking thought we have – if He isn’t the very essence and reason for our living, the one true and complete love of our lives – then we have work to do!  In Lent, we are challenged to confront the darkness in our lives – and change!  To be transformed!  We are challenged through our words AND our actions to be children of the light. We are challenged to reach out to others – particularly those who are less fortunate – and be as Christ to them.

It is more than just accepting Christ. It is more than just believing in Christ. It is about becoming a reflection of Christ through our very actions. Our readings call us past our blindness – the blindness of our prejudices and judgments – to see as God sees and to act as God acts. As the Lord said to Samuel, “man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart.” “We are called to look into the heart – ours and others. At a time when intolerance seems to be rising by the day, our Baptism calls us to come out of such darkness to live as “children of light…producing goodness and righteousness and truth.”  Christ is our light and our hope. He calls each of us as well to be His light, lifting one another out of the darkness. He calls us to take off our blinders of pride, self-righteousness, and intolerance replacing them with the humility and mercy of Christ Jesus.

In his exhortation, The Gospel of Joy, Pope Francis calls on us to help others to see our joy in Jesus Christ. It is not enough for us to call ourselves Christians. We have to bring Jesus Christ to others. Pope Francis tells us, “Just as Jesus healed a man who was blind, we must lead others out of darkness into the Light of Christ.”  He summons us to share our joy – and proclaim it with our lives to those who are searching:  I was lost, but now I am found. I was blind, but now I see.

As Vincentians, now more than ever, our neighbors in need find comfort in our presence in their lives. We offer the hope of Christ. Many who have not faced challenges before may now find themselves confronted with new circumstances. Through our prayers and our presence, we make apparent through our ministry, the light and hope of Christ. We may be the only light present in their lives at this point. We must trust in the guidance and protection of Christ to inform our ministry for our neighbors and ourselves. How do I make myself available to others to be the presence of Christ in their time of need?  Am I willing overcome my fears, and find ways to meet the needs of those who are most vulnerable?

Lord Jesus, help me to see your light and goodness through the darkness. Give me the courage to find ways to minister to others, overcoming all obstacles. Allow me to place my trust in your guidance for my ministry. Help me to be the light and presence that others might find your hope in their lives as well. We pray all of this in your name. Amen

Deacon Mike

703, 2023

March12 – Third Sunday in Lent

Lent is meant to be a time of repentance. It should call us to an awareness that sin separates us from God, and of what it cost Him for the redemption of our sins. This is an opportunity to contemplate what our Lord really did for us on the Cross. Repentant sinners seek a cleansing from sin. True repentance leads to a change of direction. It starts with regretful acknowledgment of sin with a commitment to change. It is about a journey for each of us as we seek to resist the inclination to sin and temptations of the devil, by changing that which is wrong in our relationship with God and building on that which is right. We make this journey with the assurance from our baptism that Jesus walks with us and the Spirit guides and protects us.

The readings speak to a constant tension that exists in our relationship with God as we journey with Him. The first reading talks about Massah and Meribah, which mean to test and quarrel. They are a reminder of this tension where the people would put God to the test and quarrel at times with how he cared for them. We are thankful for the blessings he bestows upon us and readily trust Him when things are good. But we struggle when things don’t go according to our plan for life, and begin to question anew His care for us. Lent invites us to set out; to say to ourselves, “I have got to change, I have got to make this journey.” We are being invited to leave behind what is not working and not good for us and go to a place up ahead. Like the Israelites, we start out making the changes we must, but the road is long, uncertain and sometimes very hard to stick to, with many frustrations and failures. Was God with them? Judging from their condition, it didn’t seem so to the Israelites.  We can identify with the people wandering in the desert, for we too have known similar moments on our journeys. There have been times when we have lamented, “How long must I endure this?” “When will it end?” “Can I/we make it?” We know what we have left behind and we are not sure what lies ahead. Will it be worth the struggle? We have known the hard places; we have known the rock at Horeb. The experience of the Israelites in the desert reminds us how much we need God – day by day.

In our gospel, we hear the story of the woman at the well. Unlike us – or the people that Moses leads out of Egypt from captivity to freedom, she does not have a relationship with God. She is a sinner who has come to live with the emptiness that comes from accepting sin in her life. But she has a thirst – a desire – that she doesn’t even recognize. It is a thirst that is quenched only by the living water – Jesus Christ – whom she meets at the well. It is only through him that she’s able to begin to find her way out of the clutches of Satan, when she finally says to him, “Sir, give me this water to drink.” It is a reminder to us that it is only through our baptism that we have found our way into relationship with God.

We need to listen for his voice and guidance in all things, and soften our hearts to accept His will for us. We need to maintain hope through the difficult times, realizing that He will lift us from our sufferings to ultimate joy. As St. Paul tells us, “it is through our Lord Jesus Christ that we have peace with God.” He reminds us that “the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holt Spirit.” This is our hope, the hope of Jesus Christ – and hope does not disappoint!

As Vincentians, with every neighbor in need, we enter into situations where people are challenged to see God’s plan for them. We become present to them in their time of need just as God is always present to us. We ask them to trust us and allow us to help them just as God asks us so often to trust him. Through prayer we discern what God’s will for their situation is. It can be challenging for them to understand and for us as well. How do I seek God’s will in difficult situations for neighbors in need AND for myself? Do I trust that God will be present in both easy and difficult times? Do I listen for His voice, with an open and loving heart?

Lord Jesus, help my heart not to be hardened. Give me patience with those I minister to when they struggle with trusting me. Give me patience to trust in your will, not putting you to the test nor quarrelling with your ways. Help me to make myself fully present to others that I may be more aware of your continual presence to me. Grace me with humility to submit fully to your will trusting in your love for me always. We pray all of this in your name. Amen.

Deacon Mike

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