Jesus didn't want people to see him as a magician or even as a messiah. He wanted more, for people to connect with him, to know him, from within themselves. There are also signs and wonders associated with that. But they are not magical. They are the real signs of a wondrous transformation of self, produced by the relationship we call faith. — from Sensing God
In 1220, St. Anthony was preaching conversion to the inhabitants of Padua when a young nobleman, Luke Belludi, came up to him and humbly asked to receive the habit of the followers of St. Francis. Anthony liked the talented, well-educated Luke and personally recommended him to St. Francis, who then received him into the Franciscan Order.
Luke, then only 20, was to be Anthony's companion in his travels and in his preaching, tending to him in his last days and taking Anthony's place upon his death. He was appointed guardian of the Friars Minor in the city of Padua. In 1239 the city fell into the hands of its enemies. Nobles were put to death, the mayor and council were banished, the great university of Padua gradually closed and the church dedicated to St. Anthony was left unfinished. Luke himself was expelled from the city but secretly returned. At night he and the new guardian would visit the tomb of St. Anthony in the unfinished shrine to pray for his help. One night a voice came from the tomb assuring them that the city would soon be delivered from its evil tyrant.
After the fulfillment of the prophetic message, Luke was elected provincial minister and furthered the completion of the great basilica in honor of Anthony, his teacher. He founded many convents of the order and had, as Anthony, the gift of miracles. Upon his death he was laid to rest in the basilica that he had helped finish and has had a continual veneration up to the present time.
The epistles refer several times to a man named Luke as Paul's trusted companion on his missionary journeys. Perhaps every great preacher needs a Luke; Anthony surely did. Luke Belludi not only accompanied Anthony on his travels, he also cared for the great saint in his final illness and carried on Anthony's mission after the saint's death. Yes, every preacher needs a Luke, someone to offer support and reassurance—including those who minister to us. We don't even have to change our names!
To be present is to arrive as one is and open up to the other. At this instant, as I arrive here, God is present waiting for me. God always arrives before me, desiring to connect with me even more than my most intimate friend. I take a moment and greet my loving God.
Your death on the cross has set me free. I can live joyously and freely without fear of death. Your mercy knows no bounds.
How wonderful it is to be able to enter into your presence Lord. No matter what time it is. No matter which land I am in. I need only to speak your name.
The Word of God
Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent
Reading 1 Jer 18:18-20
The people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem said, "Come, let us contrive a plot against Jeremiah. It will not mean the loss of instruction from the priests, nor of counsel from the wise, nor of messages from the prophets. And so, let us destroy him by his own tongue; let us carefully note his every word."
Heed me, O LORD, and listen to what my adversaries say. Must good be repaid with evil that they should dig a pit to take my life? Remember that I stood before you to speak in their behalf, to turn away your wrath from them.
Responsorial Psalm PS 31:5-6, 14, 15-16
R. (17b) Save me, O Lord, in your kindness.
You will free me from the snare they set for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hands I commend my spirit; you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.
R. Save me, O Lord, in your kindness.
I hear the whispers of the crowd, that frighten me from every side, as they consult together against me, plotting to take my life.
R. Save me, O Lord, in your kindness.
But my trust is in you, O LORD; I say, "You are my God." In your hands is my destiny; rescue me from the clutches of my enemies and my persecutors.
R. Save me, O Lord, in your kindness.
Verse Before the Gospel Jn 8:12
I am the light of the world, says the Lord; whoever follows me will have the light of life.
Gospel Mt 20:17-28
As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the Twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day."
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something. He said to her, "What do you wish?" She answered him, "Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom." Jesus said in reply, "You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?" They said to him, "We can." He replied, "My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father." When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus summoned them and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Some thoughts on today's scripture
▪ The mother of James and John was ambitious for her sons. She wanted the top place at every table with Jesus for them. Many a mother wants the same. But Jesus sidesteps again and says that the one who serves most is the one in the honoured place with God. As we watch Jesus in the gospels we see he is at the beck and call of many. He is the servant of all. This is love, and it is the way Jesus shows the love of God among us.
▪ Although James and John allowed their mother to speak for them, it was to them that Jesus directed his reply. As I pray for others, asking for their good, I pray also that they will notice God's action in their lives and be drawn more deeply into conversation with God.
What feelings are rising in me as I pray and reflect on God's Word? I imagine Jesus himself sitting or standing near me and open my heart to him.
I thank God for these few moments we have spent alone together and for any insights I may have been given concerning the text.
You do not know what you are asking. (Matthew 20:22)
Jesus' disciples made a lot of mistakes, didn't they? Peter tried to keep him from the cross, Thomas doubted the report of the resurrection, and today we hear how James and John angled for positions of influence just like ambitious politicians! But look what happened to them. Tradition tells us that John was banished to the isle of Patmos, where he experienced such closeness with the Lord that he had the vision described in the Book of Revelation. And his brother, James, became a heroic martyr, the first of the apostles to die for his faith.
You may find it easier to empathize with the "flawed disciples" than the great saints they became. After all, we all can tend to get down on ourselves. But remember what caused such a change in these men. It was Jesus' commitment to keep working with them, teaching and forming them over time.
Just as when an unknown rookie becomes the league's most valuable player, or when a promoted intern turns out to be an inspirational leader, much of the credit should go to the coach—and for us, that's Jesus! Like a good coach, he sees what nobody else sees, and is able to call it out of us. Take today's Gospel. Jesus saw that James and John were proud and misguided. But he also saw how eager they were for the kingdom to come and how much they wanted to be part of it. And so he helped them channel that energy away from political gain and into the servant love of sainthood—and he can do the same with you.
Jesus takes us exactly as we are. He knows where we are vulnerable to temptation, and he knows how to strengthen us. He knows where our fears lie, and he knows how to give us courage. He has great plans for all of us, whether that means serving our families or evangelizing our neighborhood. The world may or may not remember those things two thousand years from now, but surely, the angels and saints see every act of faith that we perform—and they rejoice in them all!
"Lord, you know me better than I know myself. Help me trust in your plan to refine and use me for great things."
Throughout history, the faithful have died for their faith. Ever since the first Christians came to be, those who followed "the Way" of Christ, they were persecuted and put to death. And no more than within the last 100 years has there been an onslaught. Why? Why the deliberate attacks against CHRISTians? This is a mystery, and they say God's love is a mystery, and what makes it so enticing is that it is a Holy Mystery. For we will never fully know God, but, listen to this...we can fully love Him. You don't even really know your spouse as God knows, yet we love them and accept them and their weaknesses. This is how God loves His spouse, and we are the bride. And so Jeremiah would foreshadow the life of Christ as a prophet and a priest to offer prayers for the people of God. Is it right that the people of God get paid with so much pain? Ask Jesus our Lord, dare to ask Him and dare to listen to the answer. Because many cry but never listen. "Save me, O Lord, in your kindness." we pray today. Jeremiah prays the same and the Lord prays. Who are we that He should listen? I want you to do what I want to do. This year, why not write down the date of your baptism. My kindergarten daughter brought a mock up baptismal certificate from her ccd class and asked me for her date of baptism. I didn't know. I asked my wife and she said she'd look. I said "better get everyone's baptism date so we can celebrate them, the day they were spiritually born". This gift of baptism is the true gift of life. The chalice the Lord would partake would make way for a baptism of death to life. And so our Lord comes into our lives, " whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant". Enough said. ENOUGH with words, only what HE says matters: "the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many". At the rite of election with the Bishop this weekend, I turned to a man and his kids "how long you been going to church?" he replied "couple years, just now trying to catch up and get the kids baptized....I should have never left, now we have to go through all this!". I said, "giving to God is not easy, not at first, but things get easier the more you give". It's not to say problems go away, no, they probably will increase. God's love load is just that, how much are you willing to give...like Him. Test? Hmm, no, I said love load. Consider what it means to be ONE with Christ.
One with His Passion. One with His Love. One with His suffering. One with His grace. One with His Life. And Life with Him means eternity. And what will it be like? I hope like this: That the day I show up, (if I get to go to Heaven), the welcoming will be like "good, you are here, let me show you where we need you" and then they put me to work as a slave. A slave of love. A servant of love. A slave that serves love. And the fountain of love is God. And so I will be a delivery guy. That is what an angel does. This is not a place about me. This is not a vacation. This is not a thrilling place of great expectations. This is a place of burning love. No eye has seen nor ear has heard. For when the Lord transfigured, Moses appeared, and Elijah. Those who were no longer slaves of the world, but slaves of God. Many slaves suffer and many slaves die. What an honor. What an honor to have died for the love of God.
Yesterday in RCIA (class for those wanting to become Catholic), I said one line that seemed to seal and permeate faith, solidified if you will. And I'll leave you with all that it means and it was an agreement with no word said, after I said: Do it for God