The Hospitality of Silence

Seventh Sunday of Easter (A): Acts 1:12-14

“Interior noise makes it impossible to welcome anyone or anything.” – Pope Francis

Preachers often find the Seventh Sunday of Easter a challenging one. By now, they have already used their favorite Easter themes in their homilies. Moreover, this isn’t a day when much appears to be happening. We have just celebrated Ascension, and now we look forward to Pentecost. In our first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, the first Christian community has gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem for prayer. No brainstorming or strategizing sessions; no lively discussions of how best to fulfill the Lord’s mandate to bring the Gospel to all nations. They are gathered together, in one accord, in prayer. No one speaks or does anything else in our first reading. We are in an in-between time, or so it seems. In other words, it is a time of waiting in silence.  Continue reading “The Hospitality of Silence”

The Reason for Our Hope

Sixth Sunday of Easter (A): 1 Peter 3:15-18

“Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence”. – 1 Peter 3:15

“I freed thousands of slaves, and could have freed thousands more, if they had known they were slaves.”
― Harriet Tubman

You may have noticed an unusual thing about the Scripture readings during this Easter season. The second reading has been taken, not from one of the letters of St. Paul, but from the First Letter of St. Peter. There is a good reason for this. This letter would make an excellent Easter Vigil homily, as it reads like it is addressed to people who have just been baptized. It has many allusions to baptism. It offers encouragement as well as reminders that both joy and struggle are to be expected for all who follow the way of Christ. This was necessary, as sporadic persecutions of Christians had already begun in the eastern Mediterranean world.  Continue reading “The Reason for Our Hope”

The Servant of the Lord

Fifth Sunday of Easter (A): John 14:1-12

This weekend offers us a fascinating conjunction of meaning and symbolism. Today, May 13, marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin at Fatima. The month of May has, traditionally, been associated with the Blessed Virgin. As if that weren’t enough, tomorrow, May 14, is Mother’s Day.

The Scripture readings for this Sunday do not speak of Mary explicitly. However, these readings (and the Gospel in particular) offer us a context in which we can more clearly see certain aspects of Mary’s role and how they harmonize with and point to the central role of her Son.  Continue reading “The Servant of the Lord”

The Calling

My Journey to the Hermit Life

“You and I ought not to die before we have explained ourselves to each other.” – John Adams, to Thomas Jefferson, 1813

“I never explain anything!” – Mary Poppins

I don’t remember a voice
On a dark, lonesome road
When I started this journey so long ago
I was only just trying to outrun the noise
There was never a question of having a choice

– Mary-Chapin Carpenter, The Calling

Those first two quotes, even though they seem to be saying opposing things about explanation, both express something true about our experience of faith in general, and about being called by God in particular. On the one hand, we feel a desire to express our experience of faith whenever God blesses us in some way. Recall how the two disciples at Emmaus immediately return to Jerusalem after recognizing the Risen Lord in their midst, so that they can tell the others what they just encountered, and hear from the others their experiences of the Risen Lord as well. Faith seeks to be shared, and yes, explained in some fashion.

Mary Poppins has a point, however. There is something about faith that eludes explanation. Whatever we may say about it – as true as it may be – seems so inadequate compared to what we have been given in Christ. Moreover, not everyone will understand our explanation, no matter how carefully we word it. God always goes beyond our words. To those who understand, no explanation is necessary. To those who do not, no explanation is adequate. Continue reading “The Calling”

The Gate

Fourth Sunday of Easter (A): John 10:1-10

As very young children, our first encounter with the world was mediated by our parents. For a time, our parents were our world, for all intents and purposes. We assumed that their way – whether it was how they cooked steak, cut grass or made beds – was the natural way, the only way to do those things. If we encountered other children from other families who had different ways, our first impulse was to assume that our family’s way was the right one.

This principle also applies to our first encounter with faith or religion. As children, we began by assuming that our parents’ faith – or their attitude to faith or religion – was the correct one. Our parents’ faith was right because it was our parents’ one.  Continue reading “The Gate”