The Word of God

Daily Reflections

  • While It Was Still Dark

    Reflection on Mass Reading for April 21, 2019

    “On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.” At this wonderful culmination of these days of lenting and detachment, we have come to the morning of our dreams. God has accomplished the victory He promised for us and we are glad indeed. Death has been destroyed forever and now the gates of Heaven, once closed because of selfishness and sins, are open for all humanity to enter with integrity and hope. It was on the “first day of the week” that this glory was discovered because it is the beginning of all our expectations every time we awaken in the morning. Thus, every beginning we have before us is the glimmer of the bright promise of tomorrow. Mary of Magdala was alone in approaching the burial place of the dead. This detail reminds us that each of us must face this truth on the path that we choose and envision, enlightened by the Church and the Word of God. Then, we join the millions who experience the same longing fulfilled and relieved even in the face of death. Although she did not actually see the moment of Resurrection, (she) “saw the stone removed from the tomb,” Mary knew what the scene meant: death had been conquered and Jesus is alive. This is assuredly our call for today and every day on this planet. We must look for, find and cling mercifully to the wonders of our lives which all point to the miraculous endings of all our stories nestled wonderfully in the heart of Jesus the Messiah who has risen from the dead. 

    Perhaps the most telling and soothing detail of John’s Easter Gospel today is this tender yet poignant morsel: “while it was still dark.” How often do our lives take swings and turns into chapters that we would never had imagined! How often have we found ourselves “in the dark” as well? And yet, whatever joy and happiness we may feel today must be kept safe and sound, deep within the recesses of our hearts, so that when we find that it is still dark, we must continue to make our way to the Lord with all the hope and faith that we can muster and share. “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”  (St. John Paul II)

    On behalf of all those who make CityOfAgape, its mission and its hope to bring the Word of God to everyone hungering for meaning and purpose in this life, please accept our heartfelt wishes for a happy, holy and beautiful Easter! “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.” (Responsorial Psalm)

  • Why This Night Is Different

    Reflection on Mass Reading for April 20, 2019

    For those among us who are blessed to attend the Easter Vigil tonight, will have encountered and entered a most wonderful mystery that the Church has to offer as a way of truly making the Easter experience the great moment it truly is. What we do tonight is nothing more than waiting at the Lord’s tomb, meditating on His passion and death and awaiting His glorious resurrection with prayer and fasting. When we think about it, we spend a great part of our lives waiting for everything from simple mundane things like traffic lights and parking spaces to remarkably awesome milestones in life like the announcement of a new baby, job or the tragic news we have all been waiting for. A vigil is the liturgical commemoration of a notable feast, held on the evening preceding the feast much like Christmas Eve. The actual term means “wakefulness” because we stay awake to pray and prepare for the dawn of Easter and, by extension, for the individual experiences we will have of our own death and resurrection and of those we love and cherish in this world. For our purposes here, let us take a look at the diagram of Liturgical Readings for tonight and follow them in our journey toward the empty tomb: 

    Reading 1:  Genesis-God creates with His Word and Holy Spirit over the waters
    Reading 2:  Genesis-God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac his only son. 
    Reading 3:  Exodus-Moses parts the Red Sea and leads his people out of slavery through the waters
    Reading 4:  Isaiah-The prophet reminds us of the safe passage of Noah through the waters
    Reading 5:  Isaiah-The prophet invites all to come to the waters
    Reading 6:  Baruch-The prophet issues a pledge of wisdom and a return to God
    Reading 7:  Ezekiel-The people of God will be cleansed by water and live in God’s land
    Epistle:  Baptism through water and the Holy Spirit is our way to union with God and promise of Heaven  
    Gospel: The tomb is empty; God did not spare His own Son and thus Jesus has defeated death forever

    You see, Easter is about the continuing cycle of life, death, life in an amazingly complicated and mysterious pattern that underscores and straps all reality together. This means so much to our human race and yet different takes and aspects based on the conditions and lived experience of everyone alive. But one thing is certain. Everyone dies; not everyone lives. Let us live in the light of Christ this night and always. 

  • Great Friday And The Defeat Of Death

    Reflection on Mass Reading for April 19, 2019

    †Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, Love leaves a memory no one can steal. —-from a headstone in Ireland

    Today is Good Friday. Why do we call it “good?” This is the first day of what the Church has long in her sacred history called the Triduum. These are the three glorious days that end Lent, enter the tomb of Jesus and rise with Him at Easter. It could be said that we call this good because although everyone wears a mask of sorts as we present to the world the person we want others to see, today we remember the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus so that you and I can reach true spiritual maturity which is that point where a person no longer hides behind any pretense, removes the mask of deceit and fear, exchanges the fashion statement for integrity and truly begins to live a holy life. Every year on Good Friday when this day arrives, it is certainly different for each one of us. It’s always different because either someone has died in the last year, a friend has become ill or incapacitated, another year has passed from the time we lost a dear loved one, and we ourselves have lived another year, presumably, one year closer to our own death.

    This is why the Scripture passages and the yearly reading of the Passion we have for Good Friday are simply priceless. We came from God, and slowly but surely, we are moving back to him, face-to-face, to give whatever account we have of how we used these precious pearls of time while we were alive. I guess that’s why there are some who can’t (or won’t) deal with death. The message and experience must be too much, too overwhelming. I have also known people who have down right rejected God with a kind of indignation and misplaced anger for “having taken my loved one away.” That’s actually more tragic than death itself because there is absolutely no way you can arrive at a spiritual and mental place of peace and comfort— or even effectively through the grieving process —without the one who defeated death on the cross. Grief is the price we pay for loving and less we think that getting through this life without love is some kind of viable option, when you really think about it, it is indeed a fair price.

    The readings from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, Psalm 31, the Letter to the Hebrews and the Passion according to St. John all clearly and effectively underscore that truth. God is in control. He sent His Son Jesus to take away the eternal price of our sins and Jesus gave us the Church so that through the centuries of time and space, we would remain together in hope and prayer until the day comes for us.

    +May the Divine Assistance remain always with us and May the souls of all the faithful departed,through your mercy, O God, Rest in Peace. Amen

    Because I could not stop for death,
    He kindly stopped for me;
    The carriage held but just ourselves
    And Immortality.

    —Emily Dickinson

  • This Is My Body, My Life

    Reflection on Mass Reading for April 18, 2019

    Although it is not plausible to debate that eating is essential to our survival, that it is deeply symbolic and that it is enjoyed across the board by every known culture on the planet, we can and should open the debate lines concerning how we have lost the meaning of meals and the richness of gathering to feast especially in our modern times. For example, it appears that breakfast is often a shake of everything from protein, fruits, or a soda with ice, lunch a sandwich gobbled in front of the computer, and dinner, when hurriedly arranged or just accidentally falling into place, is quickly consumed usually in front of the television blaring or everyone with their phones checking social media posts and or texts. Even though we see commercials to the contrary and movies and listen to heart-felt pitches to act otherwise, we still continue with this rapid feeding frenzy. Perhaps it is because eating like this satisfies some basic needs as it fuels our bodies. But being fed is not the same as being nourished. This is how and why we must understand the great significance of Holy Thursday, when Jesus the Christ uttered those immortal words that have since been repeated over the centuries and the great span of time: “This is my body…this is my blood…do this in memory of me.”  Our First Reading begins to set the stage for this deeper awareness of the simplicity of eating: “This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the LORD, as a perpetual institution.” Our lives have been bought and purchased and at an amazing cost! None of us are here “by accident.” We each have a deep and enriching purpose which we must find and for that journey must be fed: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” 

    While thought-out mealtime practices and rituals can draw us into a state of increased awareness, our appreciation for the Eucharist can give sight to the vision we need to focus on the things that really matter in this life and to get home safe to Heaven when it is all said and done. Jesus does so much more this night as well. He teaches us that not only do we take meaningful time when we sit and share food but also take every opportunity and chance to serve, even to the point of washing each other’s feet. “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” Today, especially on this day, we need to remember what the initial impression of this passage made on initial First Century audience: even art and literary works have somewhat romanticized this event, it was not really beautiful to them. It was not even humbling, it was actually humiliating. You see to wash another’s feet was a dirty job reserved for slaves. Today this action would be tantamount to going to someone’s house to clean their bathroom including the toilet. Maybe caregivers who have to clean and wash and witnessed the worst in a person’s life are closest to the real meaning of this marvelous gesture. As Jesus feeds us with His very Body and Blood, He is assuring us that He is showing us and expecting us to be the least among us. It is easy to do great things for those we love. What about doing the hard things for those we don’t even know or even better, know that we will never be able or willing to say thank you. This is selfless and it is what this night is all about: empty yourself like Jesus did so where He has gone, we can follow. 

    If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. J.R.R. Tolkien

  • A Fate Worse Than Death

    Reflection on Mass Reading for April 17, 2019

    “The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” Imagine the pain of a person when they realize they have wounded and perhaps forever severed the most wonderful and awesome relationship that they will ever encounter. Now compound this upon the world stage of history and we may have something close to the experience of Judas, the man who betrayed the Son of God. “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” His name has become synonymous with any notorious traitor even to this very day. In addition to this remarkable infamy, there has developed a popular hatred of Judas in various parts of Christendom. On the Greek island of Corfu, for example, the people at a given signal on Holy Saturday night, throw vast quantities of crockery from their windows and roofs into the streets, and thus execute an imaginary stoning of Judas. 

    However interesting, the painful truth for us to face on this midway of Holy Week is the potential for each of us to betray love itself in our own lives. This comes when we allow selfishness and hate to brood within us so that we do not not even realize the pain and misery we are inflicting upon others and, by extension, to our very souls. What happens is that we become so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others, that in the end, we become disguised to ourselves. Perhaps the pains and disappointments of life create hurt and deep wounds beyond our imagination. The paradox of this week deeply entwined with the whole teaching of Jesus the Christ is simple in many ways. If we love until it hurts, then there can be no more hurt, just more love to give. (St. Theresa of Calcutta) It is then, and only then, can we shout and sing with the most joyous voice we have, joining the refrain of today’s Psalm: “I will praise the name of God in song, and I will glorify him with thanksgiving: ‘See, you lowly ones, and be glad; you who seek God, may your hearts revive! For the LORD hears the poor, and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.’”

    The shattering of a heart when being broken is the loudest quiet ever. Carroll Bryant

  • The True Cost of Words

    Reflection on Mass Reading for April 16, 2019

    George Bernard Shaw is credited with saying that the “single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” While there are many different explanations and approaches to explain and or further expand on this thought, for today let us consider what Jesus has done for us and how we respond based on what we have in the dramatic unfolding of events in the Gospel as we move through Holy Week this year. First we begin with the explosive observation that Jesus makes to His closest friends that one of them is about to betray Him and send Him to death: “Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.’” Each Apostle in the upper room took the phrase in a different light. One or two began to blame themselves. Perhaps a few couldn’t or wouldn’t believe what they just heard. Peter impulsively sprang to action and pledged undying loyalty and protection while Judas knew exactly who the Lord was talking about. 

    “Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, Yet my reward is with the LORD, my recompense is with my God.” On this Tuesday in Holy Week, we are called to pay even closer attention to what is being said to each of us as it may relate to our individual circumstances especially in our spiritual lives. When you hear, “one of you is about to betray me,” what is the first thing that comes to your heart and mind? Is there any evidence whatsoever that would or could suggest betrayal in our lives? The next pertinent question would then be, to whom or what? To God? Our spouse? Our family and friends? The reality is simple during this very holy time: everything that is uttered and celebrated has deep meaning and significance and must be addressed with courage and fidelity.  We must make this week different by what we do with it. Now, lift that up in prayer and wait patiently for the inspiration that will come, guaranteed!

    Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves. Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.  Brené Brown

  • Open-Handed Holy Week

    Reflection on Mass Reading for April 15, 2019

    “You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” This particular and perhaps familiar Gospel passage has been quoted and misquoted, applied and misapplied by so many over the centuries, literally ever since it was first transcribed. This, among many other factors, is exactly why it is simply not enough to know what the Bible says, but what it means. You see, on a first glance, the phrase about always having the poor seems almost fatalistic, as if to suggest that there is really no use to address the issue of poverty because we will never rid our society from it, but that is so far from the meaning. Jesus was actually quoting another well-known Biblical passage from Deuteronomy which sets the context of the poor and our response in a very different context: “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be … For the poor you will always have with you in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” (Deuteronomy 15:7-11) Thus, realistically and with the greatest of authentic interpretation, the Lord Jesus is enthusiastically begging us to be “open-handed” toward the poor among us. Holy Week begins for most of us with this deep and emotional call to be aware of those who suffer in our own circles, perhaps right in front of us and to respond quickly, deeply and readily. 

    In this most awesome week, we must see our own roles to feed the hungry and lift up the poor among us. In the New Testament humble beginnings of the Church, there were no needy persons among them. Everyone shared and cared for each other. Poverty, even as we can describe it today, was eradicated in their midst. That was the natural outcome of taking Jesus’ teachings seriously and to heart. Just imagine that for a moment: a world where all are free to love and serve! This is not some nimble-headed utopia but the goal of being a follower of Christ right here, right now. The fulfillment of Lent, Holy Week and all that Jesus taught and lived and died for is now about to be realized and celebrated. Spend today reflecting on those in your own homes and friendships who really need you. Pray for all those who are unhappy in this life and beg Jesus to live deeply within them and in you. He has the ultimate endorsement from Heaven: “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, Upon whom I have put my Spirit.”

    What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like. Saint Augustine