Monday, April 27, 2020

May 3, 2020 The Fourth Week of Easter

May- Month to Remember Mothers
Reading IActs 2:14a,36-41
Psalm 23
Reading II: 1 Peter 2:20b-25
Gospel: John 10:1-10

In today's Gospel and in Psalm 23, Jesus refers to himself as the “Good Shepherd.” This beloved Psalm brings comfort to people both during the ups and downs of life and when facing their death. I can remember when I was in the fifth grade, I had a devout public school teacher who at the beginning of the day would have us salute the flag and then recite together Psalm 23. What a wonderful start for our day!

Throughout my life the image of the Good Shepherd has had a special place in my heart. During my pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I had the blessing of participating at Mass in a small church dedicated to the Good Shepherd located in a field where sheep grazed. The Franciscan priest leading the pilgrimage preached a beautiful sermon on the Good Shepherd.

Later, while ministering on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona, I had the opportunity to observe shepherdess's tending their sheep on the grounds of the Desert House of Prayer. What a delight that was! 

Also, while on the Reservation, I was the contact for the Associates of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. One of the Associates happened to be a shepherdess herself. I recall her concern for the sheep, especially as she became older and less able. She searched diligently among her younger relatives to find just the right caring person to put in charge of the sheep when she would no longer be able to care for them.

In the May 2020 issue of Living with Christ, there is an excellent article by Pope Francis entitled: "Attending to God's Word."  Pope Francis provides a practical method for praying the Scriptures:
After calling upon the Holy Spirit for assistance, aware that you are in the presence of God, ask the Lord:
        1. What does this text say to me ?
        2. What is it about my life that you want to change by this text?
        3. What troubles me about this text? Or perhaps: What do I find Pleasant 
            in this text? What is it that moves me? What attracts me? Why?

When we make an effort to listen to the Lord, temptations usually arise. One of them is simply to feel troubled or burdened, and to turn away. Another common temptation is to think about what the text means for other people, and so avoid applying it to our own life. It can also happen that we look for excuses to water down the clear meaning of the text. Or we can wonder if God is demanding too much of us, asking for a decision which we are not yet prepared to make.

This leads many people to stop taking pleasure in encounter with God's word; but this would mean forgetting that no one is more patient than God our Father, that no one is more understanding and willing to wait. God always invites us to take a step forward, but does not demand a full response if we are not yet ready. God simply asks that we sincerely look at our life and present ourselves honestly before God, and that we be willing to continue to grow, asking from God what we ourselves cannot as yet achieve.

This reflection is adapted from Pope Francis' The Joy of the Gospel.

You might like to apply Pope Francs' method of praying the Scriptures to Psalm 23 or another passage.

Jesus has given us many precious gifts, including sharing his Father when he taught us the "Our Father Prayer," his sending us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, and placing us under the protection of his own mother Mary.

Through the centuries, our Blessed Mother has appeared at difficult times to be a comfort to those who are suffering. During an especially painful time in 1531, our Blessed Mother appeared to Juan Diego, an Aztec convert to Christianity, on Tepeyac Hill now in a suburb of Mexico City. She asked that a shrine in her honor be built there.

However, when Juan Diego brought her message to the bishop, he doubted the reality of the apparition. Therefore, he demanded a sign before he would build a church there. When Mother Mary appeared again, Juan Diego was all upset because he could not convince the Bishop of the reality of his vision. Gently, she spoke these endearing words: "Hear me and understand well, my little son, that nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed .... Am I not here who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection?" [Juan Diego was a grown man, the diminutive 'my little son' was an expression of affection].

Our Lady then instructed Juan Diego to pick some roses on the top of the Hill and bring them as a sign to the bishop. [It was December when that type of rose would not normally bloom.]  Juan Diego carried them to the Bishop in his tilma, [poncho].  When he opened the tilma, the roses fell to the ground. Printed on the tilma was a picture of Our Lady as she had appeared to Juan Diego. 

The bishop fell to his knees and ordered the construction of the Shrine which is visited daily even now and contains the tilma with the imprint of the picture of Our Blessed Mother.  

Our Lady of Guadalupe is credited with the ending of a deadly epidemic of hemorrhagic fever which ravaged Mexico City from 1736-37. Pope John Paul II canonized Juan Diego and declared Our Lady of Guadalupe the patroness of the Americas. 

Might she not help us in the deadly pandemic which we are experiencing now? Let us pray to her who is our Mother too.


Blessings on Mother's Day and Thank You, Mothers, Grandmothers, adoptive mothers, And all who serve others in a motherly way! 
May those who have passed on enjoy the peace and joy of their heavenly rewards!


Pat Chiaffa, ASBS
As I entered the kitchen, I heard what sounded like the juggling of the storm door lock on my back door. Terror struck me immediately as I realized I had not shut and locked the back door for the night. Cautiously descending the steps leading down to the basement in the darkness, I caught sight of the would-be invader. The intensity of my scream startled him just enough for him to lose his grip on the handle. In that split second I was able to put the security latch on the storm door and shut and lock the inside door. Trembling as I dialed 911 on my cell phone, I ran to the front door to make sure it too was locked. My heart raced and I felt as though I couldn’t breathe. It was at that point that I awakened from my nightmare in a panicked state. My heart was pounding. I did not think that I’d regain my breath nor slow down my heart rate. “Lord help me,” I prayed. Then I remembered Psalm 23 and started meditating on its calming words, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” I visualized the verdant pastures and the restful waters. Falling into the arms of the Shepherd, my breathing and heart rate slowly normalized. My mantra for the following day was, “only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life.” Your blog, and Psalm 23, were the last words I read before I went to bed. Both turned out to be a life line.

My unsettling dream, I believe, was symbolic of a recurring trust issue. Ego versus soul, or as you put it in your blog, I encountered head-on the temptation that arises when we endeavor to listen to the wisdom of Spirit. I am extremely guilty of making excuses to water down the clear meaning of Scripture texts. I have done it far too long and too often. Like a sheep wandering from the fold in search of greener pastures, my first instinct when I realized I was in dangerous territory was to call out to the One who eagerly awaits my return. I can’t ignore the blaring message that I am being called to surrender to the Shepherd. I overcame the thief; the conflict was life-threatening. Jesus, who is the gate, assures that the robber will not pass through. I know Jesus’ promise is trust worthy for He willingly died for His flock so they can settle in eternal pastures. Lord, free me from the unfounded fears and inaction that currently prevent me from entering through your gate.

As we enter the month of May, I ask the Blessed Mother to intercede for me to overcome my resistance to total surrender to her Son that I may become a faithful, dedicated disciple in imitation of her life and contribution to the Christian community. Mary’s powerful intercession before God is widely recognized and deeply sought. Prelates from the United States and Canada will be reconsecrating their countries to the Blessed Virgin Mary on May 1 under the title of Mary, Mother of the Church. Prayers to Mary are fervently offered daily by the faithful for an end to the corona virus pandemic and for the well-being of all those impacted by the virus. May these prayers strengthen our faith in God’s plan, support us throughout these days of physical distancing and teach us the unique lessons we are meant to realize through this global crisis.

Lastly, as we prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day, let us express our gratitude to / for all those special people in our life who nurtured us and contributed to our physical, emotional and spiritual growth.

Stephanie Morris, ASBS, Ph.D Historian, Certified Archivist, Emerita The readings focus on shepherds leading their flocks. We refer to priests as “shepherds” of their “flocks” – the parishioners. Our Lord is our “Good Shepherd;” we are His “flock.” Shepherds were the first to reverence the Infant Jesus and His Mother on that first Christmas. Shepherds were not the “elite” in Jesus’ time. They worked every day, even on the Sabbath, to protect their flocks. St. Katharine quotes St. Matthew’s Gospel where he describes people as being “like sheep without a shepherd” (9:36). The Lord said that laborers were scarce. Young St. Katharine wrote an essay, “Wanted Gardeners,” in which she described a desolate garden. The flowers “ran wild and uncared for …. Where are the laborers?” She could have asked, where are the shepherds? How can we be shepherds? Few of us are called to a religious vocation in which we can act as Shepherds of God’s People but there are other ways. Like the shepherds at Jesus’ birth, we can reverence
Jesus and His Mother by prayer. We can pray for more vocations to the priesthood. We can honor Mary, His Mother, in a special way this May. We are beset with the dangers of a pandemic; we can pray to the Good Shepherd to protect us from these dangers if possible. We can rely on His strength and patience in suffering to help us through the darkest days.