Easter Encounters, Journey of Faith

Easter Encounters, Journey of Faith

Allow me to tell you about a unique celebration of Easter from the Philippines, where I happily served as a missionary for over five decades.  Filipinos celebrate a ritual, known locally as the “meeting” (encuentro); it dramatizes the encounter of the risen Lord and his mother Mary on Easter morning. 

Popular Pageantry.  Here is how this country-wide popular ritual unfolds.  In the early morning darkness, two processions proceed through the town streets.  An all-male group follows the statue of the risen Christ; the women follow the sorrowful mother (mater dolorosa).  The sober, sad mood of Good Friday dominates the two processions.  Both groups, praying and singing, emerge into the town square where additional crowds are waiting.  They approach the arch of “meeting.”  The first light of dawn is breaking.

A white-clad angel is lowered ever so carefully from the arch.  She intones the Regina Caeli Laetare, Alleluia (Queen of Heaven Rejoice, Alleluia).  As the angel choirs break into their Easter chants, the lead angel removes the black veil and reveals Mary’s joyous face.  Mary meets her risen Son—to the wild, yet prayerful, enthusiasm of the expectant crowd.  Then the Eucharist is celebrated; the faithful hear the Gospel proclamation to become, like the first disciples, witnesses of the risen Lord.

Easter Experience.  The foregoing description of the Easter pageantry in the Philippines is, in fact, eminently faithful to the Gospel narratives; it follows a common five-point pattern that describes the “experience” of meeting the risen Lord.

(1)  There is a mood of sadness, fear, and despondency.  For example, Mary Magdalene weeping; the Emmaus disciples are returning home disappointed.

(2)  The initiative for the encounter comes from Jesus; he comes to Mary, but she thinks he is only the gardener; Jesus “the stranger” walks with the Emmaus disciples.

(3)  There is a greeting of peace and reconciliation.  Jesus says to his disciples: “Peace be with you.”  He personally calls Mary Magdalene by her name.

(4)  The high point comes in the moment 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.”

(5)  A mission command from Jesus follows: “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.”  “Go, make disciples of all nations.”

Our Experience.  This five-point biblical pattern, found in the Filipino celebration, is a paradigm of our own Christian experience.  We often walk in darkness, failing to recognize Christ’s presence among us; he calls us by name to acknowledge his living presence; we need Word and Sacrament (the Eucharist) to heal our blindness; when we recognize that he is risen and alive, we are impelled into mission to announce the Good News to all.

Easter Greeting.  Indeed, Easter is all about meeting the crucified-risen Lord and keeping his personal presence alive in our lives.  May you continue to have a deep “encounter” with the risen Lord!

James H. Kroeger, M.M.


Easter Sunday

My tears of sadness and broken heart

echo throughout the ages from Jerusalem

to my sorrowful home where the absence

of loved ones and departed friends

overshadows any hope of joy returning.

As the first rays of the new day break

through the darkness of endless night

an Angel in dazzling white asks:

“Why seek the living among the dead?”

Mary Magdalene’s mournful plea

resounds and echoes in my empty heart:

“Have you taken the body of my Lord?”

and then, against all hope or reason,

I hear a stranger call my name

pronouncing it full of love as no one else.

“My Lord! My Savior! My God!”

I would cling to you forever if I could.

But you, O Risen Jesus, have a mission

for me, your most humble and unworthy

disciple and servant: “go to my brothers

and sisters and share the Good News.”

Make me then your witness Lord,

to the ends of the earth no less than

to my family and friends.

Let my life be my proclamation:

“Jesus is risen! Jesus is with us!”

come, let us encounter him in our service

to others and in the Breaking of Bread.”

Alleluia! Amen!

Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M


Photo: Maryknoll Sisters at Selma, March 7, 1965. (Photo courtesy of Maryknoll Mission Archives)

Imitating the Kenosis of Jesus, Journey of Faith

Imitating the Kenosis of Jesus, Journey of Faith

Today on Palm Sunday as the second reading, the Church gives us a beautiful Christological hymn from Saint Paul.  Philippians 2:6-11 speaks about the kenosis, the “self-emptying” of Jesus.  While maintaining the full divinity and full humanity of Jesus, Paul says that Jesus voluntarily condescended and “emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave” (v. 7); he did this in profound humility and freely accepted death on a cross.  God the Father has exulted Jesus through the resurrection: Jesus is Lord and Savior of the world. 

Voluntary Acceptance of Suffering.  Turning to the Apostle Paul, we note that he preached the Gospel by his life and example.  We know that vulnerability and acceptance of the cross authenticate mission.  In imitation of Christ who gave himself up to death—even for sinners (Rom 5:8), Paul considers his suffering for the sake of the Gospel as a participation in the sufferings of Christ (2 Cor 1:5-7).  Paul saw himself sharing in Christ’s kenosis (Phil 2:6-11) as he endured suffering.  Writing to Timothy, he says: “… join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling” (2 Tim 1:8-9). 

Paul recounts his numerous trials in the service of the Gospel; he mentions his imprisonments, beatings, shipwrecks, travels, robberies, hard labor, sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, and nakedness (cf. 2 Cor 11:23-27).  Paul notes, “I am quite content with my weaknesses, and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and the agonies I go through for Christ’s sake.  For it is when I am weak that I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10).  Can we like Paul say: “May I never boast of anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14)?

Genuine Leadership.  In a 1977 book entitled Servant Leadership, Robert Greenleaf sought to describe the characteristics of an authentic leader, coining the term “servant leadership.”  However, in the eyes of this world, “servant leadership” is a contradiction in terms.  Why?  Because so often in this world, servants do not lead, and leaders do not serve.  Not so in the world of Jesus!

We all know that Satan’s motto is: “Non serviam.  I will not serve.”  And, those who are under Satan’s spell will tend to “Lord it over others” and “Make their importance felt.”  We need to have the attitude of John the Baptist, who said: “He must increase; I must decrease” (Jn 3:30).  I can only effectively act in imitation of Jesus if I learn the kenosis of servanthood.  In this way, we become authentic models of Christ’s call to generously serve our neighbors, following Paul’s exhortation: “Have this same mind in you that was in Jesus” (Phil 2:5). 

An Invitation.  Friends, during our Holy Week journey, we endeavor to deeply appreciate Jesus’ call to kenosis, voluntary self-emptying, genuine humble service.  We recall the oft-quoted words of Pope Francis: “Let us never forget that authentic power is service”! 

James H. Kroeger, M.M.


Palm Sunday

Jesus, Messiah, Savior, Son of God!

with palms and songs of Hosanna

I welcome you into my heart,

and my soul as Lord of my life.

Accept my faults and weaknesses

and fill the void in my heart to overflowing

with your boundless grace and

unconditional love.

Bless my emptiness that it may be

a fitting receptacle of your Spirit.

you who emptied yourself that you might

enter fully into our world of longing and

help me never to be satisfied

with anything less than your love.

I offer you my past, with its wounds;

my present, with its failures and disappointments;

and my future with its uncertainties.

Give me only your love and your grace

and let these be enough for me.

Let me drink fully from the wellspring

of your mercy and make up

with my sufferings whatever is lacking

for my deliverance and salvation.

May the radiance of your Cross

dispel all darkness and doubt

that I might join the saints and angels

in singing your praises forever.


Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M


Photo: Maryknoll Sisters at Selma, March 7, 1965. (Photo courtesy of Maryknoll Mission Archives)

Emerging from Our Tombs, Journey of Faith

Emerging from Our Tombs, Journey of Faith

Today, on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, we hear the astounding story of the resurrection of Lazarus.  There is a marvelous amount of detail in this Gospel account!  We learn so much about Jesus, his person, his mission, his compassionate heart.

Authentically Human.  This narrative reveals Jesus’ genuine humanity.  It shows his deep friendship with Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary.  His human emotions are revealed; the Gospel notes that he “was troubled in spirit, moved by the deepest emotions.”  Then, “Jesus began to weep, which caused the Jews to remark, ‘See how much he loved him!’”  Yes, Jesus wept!  Indeed, Jesus is genuinely human, fully sharing our humanity!    

Vatican II expressed the mystery of God-made-man in a beautiful, poetic way: “For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every person.  He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice, and loved with a human heart”.  Though divine, Jesus was totally, fully, completely human.

Solidarity in Suffering.  The Gospel tells us that when Lazarus fell ill, “the sisters sent word to Jesus to inform him, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick.’”  Jesus departs for Bethany.  He is met by Mary who says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would never have died.”  Troubled in spirit, Jesus approaches the tomb of Lazarus, who had been dead for four days.  He asks that the stone covering the tomb be removed.  Then Jesus calls out loudly, “Lazarus, come out!”  Suggestion: Allow your imagination to recreate this scene and reflect upon it!

Opening our Tombs.  Pope Francis, reflecting on this Gospel passage, offers some profound insights.  He notes: “Christ is not resigned to the tombs that we have built for ourselves with our choice for evil and death, with our errors, with our sins.  He is not resigned to this!  He invites us, almost orders us, to come out of the tomb in which our sins have buried us.  He calls us insistently to come out of the darkness of that prison in which we are enclosed, content with a false, selfish and mediocre life.”

Francis continues: “It is an invitation to let ourselves be freed from the “bandages,” from the bandages of pride.  For pride makes us slaves, slaves to ourselves, slaves to so many idols, so many things.  Our resurrection begins here: when we decide to obey Jesus’ command by coming out into the light, into life….  Jesus’ act of raising Lazarus shows the extent to which the power of God’s grace can go….  There is no limit to the divine mercy offered to everyone!”

Imploring Mary’s Assistance.  Pope Francis, concluding his “resurrection of Lazarus” reflection, turns to Mary.  “May the Virgin Mary help us be compassionate like her son Jesus, who made our suffering his own.”  Mary, assist us to become “a reflection of God’s love and tenderness.”

James H. Kroeger, M.M.


Fifth Sunday of Lent

Mary, Mother of Sorrow and
Mother of Mercy, turn your gaze upon me

Who struggle here below to be true to 

The Way revealed by your Son

Through his life, teachings, Passion, Death

And glorious Resurrection.

Through his holy Incarnation he sanctified

All humanity, and by entering into

The human condition he revealed God’s Glory by weeping at the tomb

Of his friend, Lazarus, and calling him

Forth from the tomb to new life.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,

That Jesus might call us from our tombs

Of persistent sins, addictions,

Cruelties and indifference. Extend your Blessed hands of mercy and unbind us

From the bonds of unhealthy habits.

Set us free to live life to the fullest

Unfettered and free, in Jesus’ name.


Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M


Photo: Maryknoll Sisters at Selma, March 7, 1965. (Photo courtesy of Maryknoll Mission Archives)

Light for Blind Eyes, Journey of Faith

Light for Blind Eyes, Journey of Faith

As we read the scriptures during Lent, we should recall that the readings are specifically chosen to be a “catechesis” [faith instruction] for those who will be baptized during the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday; we all renew our baptismal promises during that liturgy.  Thus, we ask: What is today’s Gospel (Jn 9:1-41) of the “man born blind” teaching us about our faith and the person of Jesus?

John the Evangelist.  This Gospel writer uses the word “semeia” to describe Jesus’ miracles.  These special deeds are “signs” pointing us to Jesus himself.  Today’s healing of the blind man is a sign of Jesus’ power; it is also a sign of Jesus’ compassion for the needy.  Truly, Jesus’ power is manifested precisely through his deeds of mercy.  Likewise, our acts of merciful compassion manifest God’s love flowing out to others through our lives of generous service.

Some of the Jews refused to believe that the blind man was actually healed by Jesus.  However, the man himself confessed his faith: “I do believe, Lord.”  Jesus added: “I came into this world … to make the sightless see and the seeing blind.” 

First Encyclical.  Reflecting on phenomenal gift of human sight or vision, this writer recalls that first encyclical of Pope Francis was Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith), issued on June 29, 2013.  The following are some “points to ponder” drawn from Pope Francis’ spiritual wisdom.

“There is an urgent need, then, to see once again that faith is a light, for once the flame of faith dies out, all other lights begin to dim.  The light of faith is unique, since it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence” (4).

► “Faith’s way of seeing things is centered on Christ….  Faith does not merely gaze at Jesus, but sees things as Jesus himself sees them, with his own eyes: it is a participation in his way of seeing” (20, 18).

► “Faith’s understanding is born when we receive the immense love of God which transforms us inwardly and enables us to see reality with new eyes” (26).

► “The Eucharist is precious nourishment for faith: an encounter with Christ truly present in the supreme act of his love, the life-giving gift of himself….  In the Eucharist we learn to see the heights and depths of reality” (44).

► “Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey.  To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence …” (57).

► “Mother of Jesus, help our faith!  Open our ears to hear God’s word and to recognize his voice and call….  Remind us that those who believe are never alone…. Teach us to see all things with the eyes of Jesus, that he may be light for our path” (60).

James H. Kroeger, M.M.


Fourth Sunday of Lent

O radient light, O sun divine!

Of God the Father’s deathless face!

Who from the first moment of Creation

Rose up in splendor that all things might

Reveal and reflect your truth, your beauty,

Your majesty and your power.

Protect me from ego, pride and ignorance

That I might never again walk in darkness.

But let the glory of your resurrection

Dispel all evil and error in my mind.

O morning star of love and grace

Light the way I should go and

Bring me into fuller communion

With your saints and angels.

O Son of God and source of life!

May my life be a mirror of your love

To everyone I meet, that even in

The darkest valley of death and despair

Your Cross might conquer all sin

Heal all wounds and raise us all

To that kingdom where you live and reign

With the Father and Holy Spirit,

God, for ever and ever.


Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M


Photo: Maryknoll Sisters at Selma, March 7, 1965. (Photo courtesy of Maryknoll Mission Archives)

Profound Thirst, Journey of Faith

Profound Thirst, Journey of Faith

Today’s Gospel, a deeply touching human-interest story, describes the lively encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.  Their conversation revolves around water, about various senses of “living water,” and how our thirst for God may be satisfied.

This reading from John’s Gospel along with the first reading from Exodus (both centered on life-giving water) form part of the Church’s catechesis for those who are preparing for baptism on Holy Saturday evening.  In addition, the readings remind all Christians of their own baptism and their obligation to live as God’s children “born through water and the Spirit” (Jn 3:5).

Our brief meditation today focuses on “thirst,” a common human experience.  Our body is composed of 75 percent water and 25 percent solid matter.  To provide nourishment, eliminate waste, and conduct all the thousands of activities in the body, we need water.  The experience of thirst, the desire to drink something, is our body’s natural indication of the need for hydration.  Indeed, water is essential for life.

Our Thirst for God.  All people “thirst” for fullness and completeness in their lives.  Thirst drives us to work hard at procuring the necessities for daily life.  We struggle to provide security for ourselves and our families.  At times, our “thirst” may be so strong that we become lost in a fretful search, forgetting what may be the true “living water” that will satisfy us. 

The Samaritan women also found herself on such an endless search; she had already married five men.  In Jesus she found the true “living water.”  She rejoiced in her discovery of the Messiah; she went immediately to call the townsfolk to come to the “streams of living water” that “well up to eternal life.”  Her genuine thirst, not her superficial desires, had been satiated.

God’s Thirst for Us.  We seek to move beyond our desires and to appreciate God’s desire for us.  Mother Teresa asked her sisters to often reflect on Jesus’ words from the cross: “I thirst” (Jn 19:28).  In the Missionaries of Charity convents, these words are often placed next to the crucifix in the sanctuary.  Though first spoken on Calvary, they continue to echo throughout all times and places. 

Friends, allow yourself (as did the Samaritan woman) to feel Jesus’ thirst for you: ► I thirst for you.  Yes, that is the only way to even begin to describe My love for you.  I thirst for you.  I thirst to love you and to be loved by you—that is how precious you are to Me.  I thirst for you.  You must never doubt My mercy, My longing to bless you and live My life in you. ► I thirst for you.  For Me there is no one more important in the entire world than you. ► I thirst for you.  All I ask of you is that you entrust yourself to Me completely.  I will do all the rest.

James H. Kroeger, M.M.


Third Sunday of Lent

Open our eyes, Lord, to the fact

That our greatest hunger, our deepest thirst,

Our strongest desire is for the meaning

That can only be quenched, satisfied, and

Fulfilled when we draw from the wellspring

Of your mercy, grace and love for us.

You who know the depth of the longing

Inside the human heart, stop me from

Seeking for joys that pass, and love

That can neither fill nor satisfy for

A lifetime much less than for all eternity.

O Jesus, my Lord, my God, my all,

Teach me to love and serve you as I ought

And as you deserve.

May your unconditional love overwhelm

My guilt, shame, and embarrassment

For sins past and present that I never

Again hesitate to reach out to you

Who have been waiting for me

From all eternity. Fill me once more

With your love so overflowing that

I cannot help but share your blessings

With the whole world.


Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M


Photo: Maryknoll Sisters at Selma, March 7, 1965. (Photo courtesy of Maryknoll Mission Archives)

Get Up!  Do not Be Afraid!  Journey of Faith

Get Up! Do not Be Afraid! Journey of Faith

Each year on the second Sunday of Lent, the Gospel reading is always a narrative of Jesus’ Transfiguration.  The episode confirms Jesus’ prophecy of his passion; it is also intended to strengthen the disciples to endure Jesus’ coming death with faith.  The Father’s voice is heard: “This is my beloved Son on whom my favor rests.  Listen to him.”  Then, Jesus speaks to Peter, James and John, telling them: “Get up!  Do not be afraid”!  Jesus is advising his disciples—and us: Have faith!  Do not submit to fear and doubt!  What beautiful, practical advice!

Exploring Faith.  One may ask: What is the opposite of “faith” in sacred scripture?  Is “fear” the antonym of “faith”?  Being afraid often means doubting that God is really with us.  I boldly assert that “fear” is opposed to “faith.”  Some examples may clarify my assertion.

In the Hebrew scriptures, God speaks to Abram (Gen 15:1) “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward will be very great.”  In the New Testament, when the angel Gabriel is sent by God 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” (Lk 1:30-31).

Other persons receive the same call to move away from fear and to trust in God’s designs.  Two well-known examples immediately come to mind: “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).  The lowly shepherds hear the angel declare: “Do not be afraid.  Listen, I bring you news of great joy” (Lk 2:10).

Words of Encouragement.  Jesus himself during his public ministry speaks of the need to have faith.  When the disciples were struggling with rough seas, Jesus calls out to them: “Courage!  It is I!  Do not be afraid” (Mt 14:27).  During the miraculous catch of fish, Jesus says to Simon: “Do not be afraid; from now on it is people that you will catch” (Lk 5:10).  Jesus tells his disciples: “Fear not, you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows” (Lk 12:7); “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the Kingdom” (Lk 12:32).

In our daily life, we need to hear Jesus’ voice to realistically face our fears (like Abraham, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, Peter, and the disciples).  We accept life’s challenges and realistic dangers; we are not naïve.  Yet, in spite of many daunting circumstances, we commit ourselves radically to God.  With the continual presence of the Spirit, we respond with authentic Gospel boldness.  As Peter, James and John discovered, God’s transforming grace is sufficient; we become, in fact, fearless witnesses, authentic evangelizers, and joyful, faith-filled proclaimers of the Gospel.  We appreciate Pope Francis’ advice in Evangelii Gaudium (80): “Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary enthusiasm!”

James H. Kroeger, M.M.


First Sunday of Lent

Stay by my side, Lord Jesus, as I walk

This world of uncertainty and sorrow.

Be my guiding light when darkness falls

And I no longer know which way to go.

When doubt descends may your Truth

Rise like the Morning Star to lead me

Along the right path to you.

Stay with me Lord Jesus, when doubt

Fills my heart and robs me of peace.

May your words echo in my mind

“Be not afraid, I am with you till

The end of time.”

O blessed assurance that calmed the

Heart of Mary, the mind of Joseph,

The faith of Peter and the zeal of Paul.

Lord Jesus, you who gave heaven up

To live among us here on Earth

Help me seek, find, and worship you

No less in the least

Of my brothers and sisters than

In the Blessed Sacrament of the altar.

May your presence be your pledge

Of your abiding peace each day and night

Until I leave this world to live with

You and all the saints forever.


Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M


Photo: Maryknoll Sisters at Selma, March 7, 1965. (Photo courtesy of Maryknoll Mission Archives)

Facing the Temptations of Life, Journey of Faith

Facing the Temptations of Life, Journey of Faith

Jesus is our model as Christians, both in all of life and especially during the season of Lent.  Matthew, in today’s Gospel, narrates how Jesus was led into the desert where he fasted and prayed for forty days.  Then, the devil comes to tempt him, seeking to turn him away from his mission.  Finally, Jesus commands the devil to leave: “Away with you, Satan!”

What are the temptations that Jesus faces?  He is challenged to turn stones into bread, to jump down from the parapet of the temple, and to bow down in homage to the devil.  Jesus rejects all these offers, using Scripture to bolster his position.  Realistically, as Jesus’ disciples, we might ask: Do the temptations of Jesus have anything to teach us?  Examining them one-by-one, we will see that these temptations are our temptations also.

►►  First, one temptation is to have material things to satisfy our hungers.  It could be called the temptation to Possessions and Property.  Yes, we need the basic necessities of life.  There is nothing wrong in having adequate means to support ourselves and our families.  However, there can be a real temptation to seek after more than is needed.  One Lenten practice that will temper our acquisitiveness is to freely give help to others; this is the practice of voluntary almsgiving.

►►  The second temptation, when Jesus is taken to the temple parapet and challenged to jump down, is to seek for Popularity and Prestige.  If angels are seen to support Jesus, all the people will acclaim him; he will achieve great popularity.  Yes, in both large and small ways, we seek to be well-known and acclaimed, to become popular

heroes.  Thus, to conquer our selfishness and pride, we are asked during Lent to voluntarily practice fasting.

►►  The final temptation that Jesus faces is to bow down to Satan; then, he will have “all the kingdoms of the world” at his disposal.  This is a clear temptation to Power.  The earthly power will come—through bowing down to Satan’s power.  We often see this reality in many aspects of life, such as in business and politics.  The antidote is to let God have power over our lives.  This can be achieved through the Lenten practice of more fervent prayer.

Our Lenten Journey.  Every year on the First Sunday of Lent, the Church gives us the Gospel of Jesus’ temptations; they are also our temptations, real temptations.  Jesus struggled against Satan’s temptations; we are invited to do the same during Lent.  We conquer the desire for material possessions and property through almsgiving; we combat the craving for popularity and prestige through fasting; we defeat the desire for power through prayer.  Indeed, the traditional Lenten practices of almsgiving, fasting, and prayer will enable God’s grace to enter our lives and conquer all our “P” temptations.  Have a blessed Lenten season!  Let us pray for each other during this holy season.

James H. Kroeger, M.M.

8TH Sunday in Ordinary Time

We confess, Lord, that we are dust

and unto dust we shall return.

With you we enter the desert of desires

and the wilderness of earthly wants

to experience a true hunger for justice,

peace and love that come from you alone.

With you we reject temptations to power,

prestige and popularity by overturning the vain idols

we allowed the world to set up in our hearts.

And though the devil quotes and distorts

scripture to confuse and confound us,

we cling to your cross as the ultimate

weapon to conquer Satan’s kingdom.

By your grace may we be ever mindful

of your presence in our world and

in our hearts, especially in the poor,

the oppressed, the lonely and the lost.

Accept our small sacrifices as a token

of our gratitude for giving us second

and third chances to rise each time

we fall and to follow you faithfully to Calvary.


Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M

A Debt Never Fully Paid, Journey of Faith

A Debt Never Fully Paid, Journey of Faith

Our reflection today focuses on the brief, yet profoundly insightful, first reading where we hear some very concrete, practical advice from the Book of Leviticus: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (19:18).  Indeed, there is one debt that we will always owe and never be able to pay fully.  The command to love remains constant; love can never say: “I’ve done enough.”

A Central Virtue.  A brief glance at Scripture reveals the centrality of love in Christian life.  Jesus commands his disciples to manifest mutual love: “By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples” (Jn 13:35).  Paul tells the Ephesians: “Follow Christ by loving as he loved you” (Eph 5:2); he advises the Corinthians: “Let everything you do be done in love” (1 Cor 16:14).  John writes: “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 Jn 4:8); “God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 Jn 4:12).

Of course, one can never forget Paul’s great “love exhortation” in the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians: “Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited….  Love never comes to an end” (13:4, 8).  “There are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love” (13:13).   

Debt of Love.  Loving “one another” includes not only those who are believers; this command extends to all people.  In his Good Samaritan parable (Lk 10:29-37), Jesus shows that the command, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev 19:18) extends even to strangers in need.  Christians are to love without distinction; it is of no consequence whether people are good or bad, deserving or undeserving, grateful or ungrateful.  We stand in debt to love them all—unselfishly!

Someone may ask: When did I incur this debt of love for others?  In Baptism we received the marvelous gift of God’s unbounded love and mercy; thus, we are obligated to generously manifest this same merciful love to others.  We did not deserve or earn the gift of God’s love; it is gratuitously lavished upon us.  Our “debt of love” flows from God’s superabundant love for us; “what proves God’s love for us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners” (Rom 5:8).  Loving others is the only way to thank God; he first loved us—unconditionally!    

Paying the Debt.  It is a fact that paying off debts is a challenging task; it requires discipline and self-sacrifice.  Paying the debt of loving others involves personal sacrifice and concrete action.  We ask our heavenly Father to assist us in paying our debts of mutual love and compassion.  Admittedly, we always fall short of perfectly loving each other.  Yet, we struggle daily to live in love, seeking to partially pay our debt—all with the help of God’s own transforming love and grace!    

James H. Kroeger, M.M.

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus, you are God made visible,

divine love in human form,

perfect reflection and image of love:

giving, feeding, healing, serving,

yet wounded by us and for us,

that we too might seek, find and

love one another even as you see

love in each one of us.

Unworthy and undeserving, and

while we were yet sinners

you died for us, Lord Jesus, and

rose to new life to show us the way

of true happiness, holiness and love.

Grant us the grace, Lord, to forgive

others as you forgive us

and to make love the center of our lives.

Hold your wounds ever before our eyes

that we might never forget the price you paid

that all people might truly be free.

As your wounds are proof of your love

and source of healing for the nations,

transform our wounds, Lord Jesus,

physical and spiritual, into fountains

of grace, love and healing for others.


Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M

However, I Say to You . . ., Journey of Faith

However, I Say to You . . ., Journey of Faith

Our Gospel today and the Gospel of next Sunday together form an integral section of Jesus’ profound Sermon on the Mount.  It is commonly called Jesus’ “six antitheses.”  We know that an “antithesis” is an alternate assertion different from the original “thesis.”  Thus, Jesus is giving a new, more profound interpretation of six basic elements of Jewish law.

Jesus makes a pivotal statement; he asserts: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish but to fulfill them” (Mt 5:17).  Indeed, Jesus is not doing away with the Mosaic Laws found in the Old Testament; he is completing them, giving them a new and profound interpretation.

An Original Perspective.  Following his purpose in reinterpreting the commandments, Jesus goes on to describe six concrete ways in which his new law supersedes the old law.  He uses a standard way of speaking: “You have heard how it was said [in the old law]; however, I say to you….”  He first quotes the Mosaic injunction, then proceeds to give it a new, more “radical” interpretation.  Note that the Mosaic Law remains valid; however, as a Christian follower of Jesus, we must go deeper in fulfilling the demands of the law.  It is not enough just to follow the external demands of the law; we must fulfill them wholeheartedly—with renewed motivation.

Reinterpretation.  Allow me to paraphrase each of the six antitheses: (1) Moses said: “Do not murder.”  Jesus says: “Do not hate anyone or even be angry with another.”  (2) Moses said: “Do not commit adultery.”  Jesus says: “Avoid all lustful thoughts and illicit desires.”  (3) Moses said: “If you divorce, give your spouse a divorce notice.”  Jesus says: “Do not be the first to break the marriage relationship.”  (4) Moses said: “Make all your oaths in Yahweh’s name.”  Jesus says: “Remember that any promise is always made before God.”  (5) The Mosaic Law asserted: “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”  Jesus says: “Always do good—even to those who oppose you.”  (6) Moses asserted: “Love your neighbor.”  Jesus says: “Love even your enemies, for that is actually what God does.”  Indeed, Jesus is setting a very high moral standard for us as his disciples!

Jesus’ Claim.  Jesus always says: “I say to you.”  This is significant.  Jesus is actually reinterpreting the God-given Mosaic Law, and he is doing it on his own authority!  Who can validly reinterpret God’s law?  Only God can do that.  Thus, when Jesus says: “I say to you,” he is claiming to act with God’s authority, to be God himself.  As Christians, we follow Jesus, because we truly believe that he is none other than God himself, incarnated in human flesh.  Jesus’ teachings are profoundly challenging!  Thus, we pray and strive to follow them with renewed hearts, always relying on God’s abundant grace and mercy!

James H. Kroeger, M.M.

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

O God, in ages past

you spoke to us through Moses

and the prophets, giving us the Law

that we might walk in your ways and live

according to your truth.

Then in the fullness of time

You spoke to us in Jesus Christ,

not only writing your Law in our hearts

but sending us the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom

to recognize your will and the strength to live

it in our lives.

Beyond “Eye for an eye” you command

us to love our enemies and pray

for those who persecute us.

More than walking a mile with our adversary

You command us to walk two miles

and to the one who asks for our tunic

You command we offer our cloak as well.

But to fulfill your commands

we would need to be divine like you

and to that end you gave us

Your body and blood as food and drink

and the Holy Spirit with the power

to live your truth and so

become more like you in this life and

live with you forever in the next.


Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M

Our “Salt and Light” Mission, Journey of Faith

Our “Salt and Light” Mission, Journey of Faith

Jesus appointed seventy-two disciples and “sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go” (Lk 10:1).  From among his many disciples, Jesus also chose twelve as his apostles.  Jesus taught his disciples; he also sent them as his apostles, his missionaries to the world.  They were to speak in his name and conduct themselves as models of peace, charity and humility, proclaiming that “the Kingdom of God is near” (Lk 10:9).

Our Mission.  The apostolic task of Jesus’ first followers has been handed on to us.  As baptized Christians, we also must manifest the missionary zeal of the Apostles.  Today’s Gospel challenges us to be “the salt of the earth and the light of the world” (Mt 5:13-14).  We are to learn the ways of the Lord and proclaim the Good News to all peoples “in season and out of season” (2 Tim 4:2).  We are to show the essence of our faith by our very lives.

As contemporary missionaries of our Lord, we are to challenge the culture of modern times and those things that do not promote life, justice, and the dignity of humanity.  We have to courageously and faithfully hold on to the ways of the Gospel.  We have many brothers and sisters who are devoting their lives in this endeavor, but the task is not theirs alone.  It is our fraternal duty to support those who are offering their lives to bring the Good News to the “four corners of the earth” (Is 11:12).

Evangelization.  Being salt and light, is needed in all the various contexts of our Christian life—in our homes, schools, and workplaces, and through various media available to us.  We seek to be courageous witnesses of our faith to every individual we encounter.  We seek to let everyone appreciate that God is alive and is present in our midst by bearing good fruits in our lives.

Reflecting on today’s Gospel, Pope Francis asks: “What must a Christian do in order for the salt not to run out, so that the oil to light the lamp does not come to an end?”  The “battery” that a Christian uses to generate light, Francis explains, is simply “prayer.”  We may do many fine things, but “if you do not pray, it will be dark and dimly lit.”  Genuine prayer, prayer from the heart, assures that our light and salt will be in adequate supply.

An Outward Direction.  Pope Francis continues: “Both salt and light are for others, not for oneself; salt does not give flavor to itself; light does not illumine itself.”  Yet,

we may ask: How long does light and salt last as we continuously, generously give of ourselves?  Francis notes: “That is where the power of God comes in.”  In prayer we seek God’s abundant grace to “be light which illumines and salt that gives flavor and preserves.”

James H. Kroeger, M.M.

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

0nly by my being ever mindful

of your loving presence

and giving flesh to your Living Word

O God, my life, my hope, my redeemer

I become Salt of the earth and

Light to the world.

Like salt may my words and deeds

preserve what is true, good and holy

as well as add spice to everyday life.

Like light may I illuminate the world

and show others the way that leads

to healing, to love, and to You, my God.

Lord Jesus, from your birth and baptism,

through your sermons and suffering,

and by your Passion and Death on the Cross,

you lived and died for others, especially the poor and despised.

Help me always to do the same.


Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M


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.


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

(Fr. Lance P. Nadeau, Fr. James M. Lynch, Fr. Timothy O. Kilkelly, Fr. Juan Montes Zúñiga)

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


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

(Our Co-Founders Father Price and Father Walsh)





(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

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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.

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