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Jesus’ Comforting Promises, Journey of Faith

Jesus’ Comforting Promises, Journey of Faith

 

Jesus’ Comforting Promises

          Our Gospel today is taken from Jesus’ “Last Supper Discourse” (John 13-17); it might be called “Jesus’ Farewell Address.”  Several significant events have preceded Jesus’ words we hear today.  He washed his disciples’ feet as a sign of radical service (13:1-20).  Jesus predicted Judas’ betrayal (13:21-30).  He told his disciples that he will soon depart (13:33; 14:25).  He gave them the new commandment of love (13:34-35) and foretold Peter’s imminent denial (13:36-38).  No wonder the disciples are deeply troubled and filled with anxiety! 

          In this turbulent context Jesus speaks comforting words, assuring his disciples that he is not abandoning them; he will give them “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name” (14:26).  Jesus gives several consoling assurances to his disciples; we can identify at least four of Jesus’ “promises”—all captured in words that begin with the letter P.

          Peace of Heart.  Jesus tells his disciples that their faith must be both in his Father and in him as the Son of the Father.  This is complete faith, a faith that produces peace of heart.  Jesus clearly assures his disciples that he is going to his Father; he will not abandon them, though he is going away.  “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” (Jn 14:27).

          Place in Heaven.  Jesus comforts his disciples, assuring them there are “many rooms in my Father’s house” and that he is preparing places for them in his Father’s Kingdom.  After our earthly journey, which may be filled with many difficulties and challenges, an eternal home awaits us in heaven.  We recall Jesus’ words to Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, he shall live forever” (Jn 11:25).

          Promise of Return.  Jesus assures his disciples that he will personally return and take them with him.  “I will not leave you orphans; I will come back to you” (Jn 14:18).  Though Jesus may leave his disciples briefly as he experiences his passion and death, he will return as resurrected Lord and personally escort his followers to their eternal home in his Father’s house.

          Performance of Christ-like Deeds.  Remarkably, Jesus says: “I tell you most solemnly,

whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself; he will perform even greater works, because I am going to the Father….  If you ask for anything in my name, I will do it” (Jn 14:12-14). 

          Friends, we, like the disciples at the last supper, are often incredulous and weak in faith; Jesus’ promises seem outrageous and too good to be true.  We humbly ask the Lord for deeper faith, seeking the dynamic presence and action of the Holy Spirit in our lives. 

And we recall Pope Francis’ words in Tacloban, Philippines, during his 2015 pastoral visit to the victims of a devastating typhoon: “Jesus is Lord and he never lets us down!”                           

James H. Kroeger, M.M.

  

Prayer for the 6th Sunday of Easter

We stand on your promise, Lord,

that whenever two or more gather

together in your name, you are there

in our midst to hear, answer,

guard and guide us.

Grant us, therefore, peace of heart

trusting in your word and

believing you have prepared

a place for us in your Father’s house.

We look forward to your return,

Lord Jesus, to wipe away every tear

and fill us with that unending peace

this world cannot give.

Take our hands, Lord God, and work

through them to show your love to all.

Use our voices to speak your words

to all who long for your truth.

And may our steps never wander

from your way as we walk with

all who seek your love and peace

beginning here and now.

Amen.

Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.

   

   

“AS I” True Measure of Authentic Love, Journey of Faith

“AS I” True Measure of Authentic Love, Journey of Faith

 

“AS I” — True Measure of Authentic Love

Today’s Gospel reading is taken from the “Last Supper Discourse” of Jesus in John’s Gospel; it extends for five full chapters (13-17).  We hear Jesus saying: “I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved you, so you should also love one another.”

In this same Last Supper message, we hear Jesus’ words: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13).  In the first scene of Jesus’ final meal, he shows his loving service by washing his disciples’ feet (Jn 13:1-15).

While meditating upon Jesus’ precious words and actions at the Last Supper, two passages seem to leap off the page.  “I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved you, you must also love one another” (Jn 13:34, cf. 15:12).  After washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus says: “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.  I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (Jn 13:14-15).

Both passages form a unity.  Jesus gives his disciples the commandment of love; then he himself puts it into practice by washing his disciples’ feet.  He challenges them to do the same.  Notice the parallel words: as I.  Indeed, Jesus asserts that the model, criterion, and measure of fraternal love is none other than his own person.

How do we Christians know if our love is authentic?  We measure our deeds against the model exemplified in Jesus’ own life.  Is our service genuine?  We compare ourselves to our Master, who said: “The Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve” (Mk 10:45).  Friends, those very simple words as I(only three letters of the alphabet) must guide our daily decisions and actions.  How eminently clear!  How difficult and challenging!

There are numerous New Testament examples of how this as Ilove commandment is to be lived out.  We must readily forgive our neighbor’s faults; yes, not only seven times, but seventy-seven times (Mt 18:22).  Do we quickly judge and condemn others?  Jesus spoke these words to the woman caught in adultery: “Has no one condemned you? … Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (Jn 8:10-11).  Do we have time to pray and listen to God’s voice?  “After sending the crowds away, he went up into the hills by himself to pray” (Mt 14:23).

Jesus has said: “Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate” (Lk 6:36).  When Jesus saw the crowds, he said: “I have compassion for the people…” (Mt 15:32).  Jesus is God’s compassion in person; we Christians are to be the same.

Friends, as we hear Jesus’ as Ilove commandment, we simply take time to meditate on the authenticity of our discipleship in imitating Jesus.

     James H. Kroeger, MM

Prayer for 3rd Sunday

Help me, O God of love, to imitate

Your example and love my friends

and family fully.

Give me the courage to love myself

that I, like you, might love others.

Give me strength, like yours, to seek

the lonely and the lost.

And give me the grace to accept

the will of the Father in my life,

that I, like you, might spend myself

in your service.

Above all, Lord Jesus, give me the wisdom

to know when to speak or keep silent,

to act or to refrain from acting, to hang on or to let go.

When you commanded us to wash

each other’s feet as a sign

of our obedience to your law,

you called us to overcome our pride

and willingly serve others

as if we were serving, helping, and loving You.

Amen.

Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.

Lord, Shepherd Me, Journey of Faith

Lord, Shepherd Me, Journey of Faith

 

Lord, Shepherd Me

“Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life” is the refrain from a liturgical song by Marty Haugen.  Frequently heard at Masses as the refrain of the responsorial psalm, it reflects the theme of today’s readings.  In fact, today is called: Good Shepherd Sunday.

Now, allow your imagination to move from today back to the “60s” (not the “1960s”) and travel to Rome.  Many people were becoming Christians and their faith was being severely tested.  Both Saints Peter and Paul had been martyred between 64 and 67 under the persecution of Emperor Nero.  Christians were being thrown to the lions in the coliseum [to commemorate their sacrifice the Pope makes the way of the cross in the coliseum on Good Friday].  In a word, being a Christian demanded deep faith—even to the point of death.

One response of the Christians was to literally go “under-ground”; they met in the catacombs both to worship and bury their dead.  What paintings did these early Christians place on the catacomb walls?  The earliest and most frequent image was that of the Good Shepherd.  Even in the most difficult of times, Christians felt Jesus’ closeness to them.

Quite naturally we can say (along with the early Christians): “The Lord is my Shepherd; I lack nothing…. He guides me…. I fear no harm” (Psalm 23).  We hear Jesus’ words spoken to us: “I am the good shepherd; I lay down my life for my sheep; I know my own and my own know me” (John 10).  Our faith is indeed a great source of consolation!

Frequently, when we think of shepherds in the Church, we naturally—and correctly—think of the guiding role of the bishops, religious, and priests.  However, the task can also be very validly applied to the pivotal role that others play in the Christian community, e.g. parents in the family, workers in a NGO seeking to protect migrants’ rights, a marriage counselor assisting struggling couples.  Friends, along with the help of Jesus, you are to be a true shepherd for needy persons.  Shepherding (it takes many forms) is your pathway to holiness.

On this “Good Shepherd Sunday” I choose to end this reflection on a very practical note by offering two concrete suggestions.  First, you may wish to consider having two images of Christ present in the home.  Of course, the crucifix is essential.  You may also wish to purchase a picture of Christ the Good Shepherd with the sheep on his shoulder; it will serve as a reminder to imitate the “chief shepherd” Christ in your ministry.

Finally, give yourself a special treat.  Listen to the beautiful song “Shepherd me, O God” by Marty Haugan.  It is available free; simply google: haugen shepherd.  Indeed, it will lead you—and those you shepherd—beyond your wants and fears into a deep contemplation of the Good Shepherd.

James H. Kroeger, MM

Good Shepherd Sunday

O blessed Lamb of God and Shepherd

of the House of Israel, come to our aid

when we wander far from your truth

or stray from the path of righteousness.

Like you, may we sacrifice ourselves

for the good of your people and

with you , may we seek, find and lead back

all who have strayed from your flock.

Comfort those who mourn,

strengthen the weak and frail,

protect from all harm those

who are in danger for love of you.

Amid the noise and confusion

of the world around us

let us listen for and hear your voice

heeding your call to holiness and

wholeness in your presence.

Holy Shepherd, bless all who lead

others back to you, teachers, preachers,

doctors and nurses, parents and counselors

that we might truly become one flock and one shepherd

in Christ’s name we pray.

Amen.

Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.

Be Not Afraid, Journey of Faith

Be Not Afraid, Journey of Faith

 

By James H. Kroeger, MM

What is the opposite of “faith” in the sacred scriptures?  Many responses are possible: doubt, disbelief, mistrust, uncertainty, hesitation, skepticism, apprehension.  You might even assert that the antonym of “faith” is “fear.”  To be afraid often means doubting God is really with us or thinking his designs for our salvation will somehow be frustrated.  Today’s Gospel reveals the character of the fearful, “doubting Thomas.”

Is the assertion that “fear” is the opposite of “faith” really valid?  A look at some biblical passages reveals how faith requires overcoming our fears, our difficulties in believing; we can look to several New Testament examples. 

Models of Faith.  When the angel Gabriel is sent by God to the town of Nazareth and speaks to Mary, he says: “Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favor….  You are to conceive and bear a son.”  Mary expresses her fully human doubts: “But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?”  Gabriel assures Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you….”  Mary responds: “I am the handmaid of the Lord; let what you have said be done to me” (Lk 1:26-38).  Mary moved from fear to faith, surrendering totally to God’s loving design for her. 

Joseph, betrothed to Mary, has a dream and hears the angel say: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:20).

When the resurrected Jesus appears to the women, he commands them, saying: “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers…” (Mt 28:10).  When Paul had a vision in Corinth, the risen Lord addressed him: “Do not be afraid to speak out, nor allow yourself to be silenced: I am with you” (Acts 18:9-10).

An Invitation to Believe.  The evidence is overwhelming.  To be called by God and to encounter the living Lord means moving from fear to faith.  This is Jesus’ invitation to Thomas and to us

Fear is the enemy of faith, because fear paralyzes us, immobilizes us.  Fear can frustrate God’s plan for us; it tempts us to forget God’s abiding presence.  Fear is anti-Gospel; it can be a temptation or tactic from the devil. 

Realistically, we all must face our fears just like Mary, Joseph, the women, Paul, and Thomas did.  We analyze them.  We accept life’s realities and realistic dangers; we are not naïve.  We search deeply, exploring fear’s origins (our background, insecurities, laziness, pride, fear of failure or embarrassment, etc.).  And, in spite of all these circumstances, we still commit ourselves radically to God. 

A Formula of Faith.  Let us respond like Thomas and proclaim our faith in Jesus: “My Lord and my God!”  We are challenged to become fearless witnesses, authentic evangelizers, and joyful, faith-filled proclaimers of the Gospel. 

Our motto of discipleship becomes the “4-F” approach: Forget Fear, Find Faith!                         

Divine Mercy Sunday

Most merciful Lord and Savior

for love of humanity

you took up your cross

to reveal the boundless forgiveness

your Father has for us.

I come before you now

in my hour of need

asking only that your presence

might give me the strength and courage

to do what is right and

say what is just and good.

May I be a true mirror of your grace

to all who hunger for your truth

and thirst for justice and peace.

All glory and honor

to your Resurrection,

my Lord and my most merciful God!

Amen.

Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.

Easter Encounters with the Risen Lord, Journey of Faith

Easter Encounters with the Risen Lord, Journey of Faith

 

Today we celebrate the Resurrection, the greatest of our Church’s feasts.  That makes it the perfect opportunity to think about what I call “faith encounters.”   

There is a rich variety in the different Evangelists’ scriptural accounts of that first Easter.  There are, to be sure, differences in the details of Jesus’ appearances to Peter, Mary Magdalene, the Emmaus disciples, Thomas, and various groups of apostles.  Yet each Gospel writer seeks to communicate the same fundamental truth: the crucified one is risen.  Surely, this was also the Virgin Mary’s experience!

When scripture scholars speak of these encounters they incorporate five common elements:

  • The mood of sadness among Jesus’ grief-stricken followers.  Consider Mary Magdalene weeping in the garden or the disappointment the Emmaus disciples are feeling as they return home.  Their minds are clouded.
  • The initiative for the encounter, which comes from Jesus.  Whether he approaches Mary in the garden, who confuses him with the gardener, or joins the disciples returning to Emmaus, his person is unrecognized.
  • A word or greeting of peace or reconciliation.  Jesus engages his disciples; he often says to them, “Peace be with you.”  He personally calls Mary Magdalene by her name.
  • The climactic high point comes in the experience of recognition.  The Emmaus disciples recognize Christ in the breaking of the bread; Mary addresses Jesus as “Rabbuni” (Teacher); John exclaims to Peter: “It is the Lord.”
  • A mission command from Jesus concludes the encounter: “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.”  “Go, make disciples of all nations.”

Does not that biblical pattern of resurrection encounters reflect our own
Christian experience
?

So often, we too walk in darkness, buffeted by life’s challenges.  The truth is Jesus always walks with us.  He is present, but we often fail to recognize his loving presence among us.  Then Jesus calls us personally by name and we become aware of his living presence.

God’s Word, the Eucharist and personal prayer help us to overcome our blindness and recognize that Jesus the Christ is alive with us and in us.  Thus, we are invited and sent into mission to announce the Good News to all.

Today, as “missionary disciples,” let us declare, in the words of Saint Luke tells us that the Emmaus disciples used, “Yes, it is true; the Lord has risen.”  In Saint John’s words to Peter we also proclaim: “It is the Lord.”                 

I encourage you, in this season of great joy, to consider how your own life experience aligns with the Easter experience of Jesus’ disciples.  I think you will find it fruitful—you may even surprise yourself!

     James H. Kroeger, M.M.

Easter poem

O blessed light that first shattered
the once eternal gloom of unending death
at the breaking of dawn
that first Easter morning
shine in my heart and dispel any shadow
of doubt or despair and disperse
the clouds of sadness that I too
might gaze into the Empty Tomb
and hear my Lord and God
risen from the dead
call my name and offer peace to my soul.

Hide me in Your wounds, Lord Jesus,
that I too might find healing and joy.
Even as You healed me by Your suffering
transform my wounds into a fountain
of grace and healing for others.
Above all, Lord, even as I believe
You are present in the breaking of bread,
help me always to see You in
my Brothers and sisters
especially the poor, the oppressed,
the weak and the lonely.

May the glory of this Easter Day
shine in my heart and enlighten my mind
even when sin and suffering threaten
to extinguish all faith and hope.
Praise be to You, Risen Lord, Jesus Christ,

in every land, by every tongue,
now and till the end of time.
Amen. Alleluia!

Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.

ABOUT MARYKNOLL

We are a Catholic Society of priests and brothers based in the United States. We are dedicated to missionary work overseas in over 20 countries. Additionally, we animate Catholics in the United States to follow their own baptismal call to share God’s compassion and love with the poor, the sick, and all those in need.

OUR GENERAL COUNCIL

L-R Tom O'Brien, Ray Finch, Joe Everson, Russ Feldmeier

(Fr. James M. Lynch, Fr. Lam M. Hua, Fr. Lance P. Nadeau, Fr. Timothy O. Kilkelly)

The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers is overseen by our General Council, led by Superior General Rev. Lance P. Nadeau, M.M.

OUR FOUNDERS

L-R Tom O'Brien, Ray Finch, Joe Everson, Russ Feldmeier

(Our Co-Founders Father Price and Father Walsh)

PLACES WE SERVE

EVANGELIZATION, PARISHES, AND PROJECTS

USA

STORIES OF MISSION

(Africa) Education and Formation of African Clergy

The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers Africa Region will provide tuition assistance to African clergy, male and female religious at institutes of higher education or specialized training. Read More

Stories of Our Global Mission

The calling of a lifetime

The life of a Maryknoll missioner is challenging, fulfilling, and deeply rewarding. Follow your baptismal call to mission by sharing God’s compassion with the poor, the sick, and people most in need.

L-R Tom O'Brien, Ray Finch, Joe Everson, Russ Feldmeier
“Go where you are needed but not wanted, and stay until you are wanted but not needed.”
– Bishop James E. Walsh, M.M.
First Maryknoll Bishop