“‘I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you’” (John 16:12-15).
The story of Pentecost is the story of the early Church. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus were fulfilled, and the believers began to spread the Good News.
The Pentecost story in the first reading in the Acts of the Apostles is a reversal of the Tower of Babel story. In the Book of Genesis, we are told of a time when all people spoke the same language. The people banded together to create a tower that would reach up to Heaven. The tower had such grandeur that the people praised the builders instead of God. Since people had used the gift of language to rebel, God took away their common language and scattered them (Genesis 11:1-0). This is the perfect example of what not to do with a divine gift. The people in the story fell in love with their gift and forgot the giver.
In the Pentecost story, the people who spoke all of the languages of the known world gathered in Jerusalem and, suddenly, they were able to communicate as one again. This gift came directly from God.
This is important to remember as we think about the gifts that we’ve been given. Whether we are physically strong or charismatic, these are gifts from God. Our response to these gifts is to use them in gratitude.
Of course, we may also have the opposite problem. Instead of feeling pride in our gifts, we may feel jealous of the gifts of others. Too often we beat ourselves up for not being strong enough or smart enough. Instead of using our own gifts, we waste our energy wishing for the gifts of others.
But we are not in competition with one another. As a community of Christians, we are a single body with a single mission to proclaim the Good News. Each member’s task is to figure out how his or her unique set of skills and talents can help all of us reach that common goal. There is one mission but many ministries.
Your gifts are God-given, and the best way to give thanks to God for those gifts is to use those talents in the service of God and others.
What are some of the prime passions and talents God has given you? How do you use them?
Adapted from “Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW Internationala reflection on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Acts of the Apostles, Bible, Book of Genesis, Catholic, Catholic Church, catholic RENEW program, Christ, Church, community, Easter, Easter Season, feast of pentecost, Genesis 11, gifts from God, Good News, Gospel, Gospel according to John, gratitude, Jesus, Jesus Christ, John 16, life death and resurrection of Jesus, Mass, ministries, Pentecost, prayer, proclaim the good news, renew catholic program, RENEW International, Scripture, Tower of Babel, using your talents to serve god
“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’ So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs” (Mark 16:15-20).
The Ascension is a beautiful development in the story we have been following for the past forty days. Jesus was “taken up” and seated “at the right hand of God” before our very eyes.
In this Gospel, Mark assures us the Resurrection has taken place— the Ascension is the culmination of the resurrection narrative. Jesus ascended from the warm embrace of his community of believers on earth. He was teaching and affirming at the moment of his ascension. He was with those he loved, his friends and followers, and assured them that they were ready to begin the serious work. Before the Ascension, he gave them instructions.
This Great Commission to the disciples was to proclaim the Gospel to all creation.
These are our instructions, too. The faithful fulfillment of our duties is to proclaim that God is with us and God is gracious. This simple and blessed assurance is our job.
As the disciples had grown and developed in the Easter narratives, we faithful continue to grow and mature, to evolve and change. Now we do so as living witnesses, developing the gifts that God has entrusted to us, bearing fruit by sharing the word with others.
The Ascension is far from the end of the story. The faithful are on earth, and Jesus is at the right hand of God, readying us for the next stage. The story is really just beginning.
How do you proclaim the Good News in your own life? How can you be a better witness of Jesus through your actions and in your conversations with others?
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW Internationala reflection on the coming Sunday's Gospel, ascension of the Lord, Catholic, Catholic Church, catholic RENEW program, Christ, Church, Easter, easter narrative, Easter Season, faith, faithful on earth, God is gracious, God's love, Good News, Gospel, Gospel According to Mark, Great Commission, Jesus, jesus ascended, Jesus Christ, living witness, Mark 16, Mass, prayer, proclaim the good news, proclaim the gospel, renew catholic program, RENEW International, resurrection narrative, right hand of God, solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, Sunday Gospel, Word of God
“’I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely. I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth’” (John 17:13-19).
John’s Gospel is one of contrasts—to be of the spirit rather than of the flesh, this world as opposed to heaven, light instead of dark.
This passage from John was part of Jesus’ last discourse before his passion and resurrection. This reading is used in the liturgy between the feasts of the Ascension (when Jesus ascends to heaven) and Pentecost (when the Holy Spirit descends upon the followers of Jesus).
In John’s Gospel, to follow Jesus is to live in the light. “The world” here refers to those who have not understood Jesus’ message—those who ultimately arrest and kill him. Jesus knows that he will depart from the disciples’ presence. He is preparing them for the time when he will no longer be present in the flesh but will be with them in a different way. He tells them that they will be protected by God, as they are entrusted to be the bearers of Jesus’ mission.
So, why is this reading used between the feasts of Ascension and Pentecost? Perhaps it is because as Jesus’ mission in the world had come to an end, he passed this mission along to the disciples. We, too, are the disciples of Jesus and must take up the mission of Jesus in the world. The end of the physical presence of Jesus was directly connected to the beginning of the new Church, which is enlivened and protected by the spiritual presence of Christ.
God is with us, no matter where we are or where we are going. Like the disciples, perhaps we also need to hear that we are protected, even as we are living through challenging times. This reading reminds us that every ending is another beginning—the beginning of something more powerful than we could have imagined.
What “in between” times have you been through? How have you experienced the presence of God in these times?
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW Internationala reflection on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Ascension, Bible, Catholic, Catholic Church, catholic RENEW program, challenging times, Christ, Church, Easter, Easter Season, Good News, Gospel, Gospel according to John, Jesus, John 17, John's Gospel, live in the light, Mass, mission of Jesus, passion and ressurection, Pentecost, renew catholic program, RENEW International, Scripture, spiritual presence of Christ, word is truth
Earlier this week, the Vatican opened the cause for the canonization of Dom Helder Camara, the “bishop of the poor” and one of the most influential Latin American church leaders of the twentieth century.
“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.’ ‘I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you’” (John 15:9-14).
We are challenged in this passage to follow and remain faithful to the commandments. We are to give of ourselves, even to the point of laying down our lives for others. Above all, we must love each and every other person as much as we are loved by God.
One words sums up this whole reading—Love.
Love is what we remain in and are faithful to. Love is what gives us comfort, challenges us, provides us strength, and love is what we must dare to share.
Our friendship with Jesus demands that we remain in that love. We have to work at sustaining our friendship with him by following the commandments. In baptism, we enter a community that commits itself to remaining in God’s love and to sharing that love with all whom we encounter.
What have been the moments when “remaining” has been difficult and challenging?
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW InternationalCatholic, Catholic Church, Christ, Church, commandment, disciples, Easter, Easter Season, faithful to the commandments, Good News, Gospel, Gospel according to John, Jesus, Jesus Christ, John 15, love one another as I love you, loved by God, Mass, prayer, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, remain in my love, RENEW International, Scripture, Word of God
I have eleven grandchildren ranging from ages 24 to 10. Among these are twin grandsons, age 21, very handsome and quite nice. I am blessed that all of my grandchildren love and revere their faith.
“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing’” (John 15:1-5).
Lent is about “pruning” bad habits and eliminating things that get in the way of our relationship with God, our selves, and others. Easter, on the other hand, is about the resurrection, new beginnings, and joy. It is the result of this pruning – a strengthened and invigorated relationship with God or a renewed outlook on life and faith. New life begins from where we have changed or withdrawn from old, unhealthy behaviors.
Think about it this way: When we are consumed by anger, we don’t have as much energy going toward love. We take that energy away from love to feed our anger. If we prune away that anger, we have that much more energy to give to something more constructive.
Now that Lent is over and the “pruning” is complete, we can see how we are connected to Christ and we can choose where to grow by redirecting our energy. Easter is a time to begin anew and become who we now can become only because those old encumbrances are gone.
Only branches that are connected to the vine produce grapes. So, too, will we be fruitful as long as we maintain our connection to Jesus. The Gospel tells us that as long as we live in Christ, even if we occasionally need a little pruning to make us stronger or better, we will always be fruitful.
How have you strengthened your relationship with God this Easter season?
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW Internationala reflection on the coming Sunday's Gospel, bear much fruit, Catholic, Catholic Church, Christ, Church, connection to Jesus, Easter, Easter Season, fruitful, God's love, Good News, Gospel, Gospel according to John, I am the vine, Jesus, John 15, live in Christ, Mass, new beginnings, new life, prayer, RENEW International, renewed outlook on faith, resurrection, Scripture, strengthen relationship with God, Sunday Gospel, true vine, Word of God
“Jesus said: ‘I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep’” (John 10:11-15).
At one time or another, most of us have probably worked just for the financial reward—we punch in, punch out, and go through the motions. On the other hand, have you ever worked at doing something that you loved? Perhaps something that was challenging but that you found meaning in, and that you felt called to do?
In this gospel passage, Jesus spoke of himself as the good shepherd, as compared to the hired hand. The life’s work and call of a shepherd was to watch over his flock. It was his responsibility to see that no sheep went astray or was preyed upon. A shepherd didn’t just do his job; he was deeply invested in his sheep and herded them with care and concern. Jesus contrasted the good shepherd with the hired hand. The hired hand has no concern for the sheep but only for the reward of earning a day’s wages. When the wolf comes, the hired hand takes off, protecting only himself.
We know that, as the good shepherd, Jesus loves and cares for us. As Christians, we are called to share that love and care with those we serve and those with whom we work.
Ask yourself—are you just doing your job, or are you living out your vocation? Are you the hired hand, working only for the reward of money, prestige, or a line on your resume? Or are you the good shepherd who responds to the call of God, finding and giving meaning to the work you do and the people you encounter?
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW Internationala reflection on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Catholic, Catholic Church, Christ, Church, Good News, Good Shepherd, Gospel, Gospel according to John, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Jesus' love, John 10, kingdom of heaven, renew catholic program, RENEW International, resonsibility, Scripture, share love of Christ, watch over your flock
“And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them. He said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, ‘Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things’” (Luke 24:40-48).
In this final post-resurrection appearance, the two disciples were startled and terrified when Jesus appeared to them. Can you imagine—Jesus who had died was in their midst? Was he a ghost? Jesus realized their fears and disbelief and invited them to look at him and touch him. He even asked for food to show them that there was no doubt that he was alive.
In their joy, the disciples came to understand not only the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection, but to realize that it was also their destiny and calling. Death never triumphs; life and love always have the final say. They were the witnesses of this glory and joy and were charged with spreading this Good News to “all the nations” (Luke 24:47).
Just as the disciples were part of this story and mission, we are too. Jesus lives in and through us. As witnesses of the risen Christ, we are invited to proclaim this Good News throughout our day-to-day encounters, our relationships, and the very way we live our lives. What better way to live than to share the joy of the love of Christ through our words, actions, and our encounters with each and every person we meet?
How do you witness the risen Christ in your life?
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW InternationalBible, Catholic, Catholic Church, catholic RENEW program, Christ, Church, eternal life, forgiveness of sins, glory and joy, Gospel according to Luke, Jerusalem, Jesus, Jesus lives in us, Jesus' death and resurrection, Jesus’ Resurrection, law of Moses, Luke 24, post-resurrection appearance, prayer, proclaim the good news, proclaiming the gospel, prophets, psalms, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, renew catholic program, RENEW International, repentance, rise on the third day, risen Christ, Scripture, share love of Christ, Sunday Gospel, witness, witnesses of risen Christ, Word of God
“Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nail in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’ Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.’ Thomas answered and said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed’” (John 20:24-29).
Jesus was crucified around 30 AD, and the Gospel of John was written sometime around 100 AD. John’s community was struggling to keep faith in the face of persecution, the absence of Jesus, and the realization that Jesus’ return was not imminent.
Despite the joy we feel as we celebrate Easter, we can’t close our eyes to the fact that the world can be a cruel and unjust place. We are surrounded by examples of poverty, neglect, abuse, and apathy. We can become burdened by these things and lose touch with the loving God who created all things good and sent Jesus to redeem us from our sins. When this happens, doubt can be like a black cloud hanging over us.
The story of “doubting Thomas” is used to communicate this limited thinking. Thomas wanted obvious, empirical evidence. He was unable to let his present experience penetrate his grief over the loss of his rabbi and friend.
Unlike Thomas, we will never “see” Jesus and put our hands into his nail marks. However, we are asked to have faith in Jesus Christ present in the world. Our thinking about faith can never be limited to nailmarks. We can see Christ at work in the world in all of our positive encounters, and we can use that to inspire us to greater belief. We can believe that we were created beautiful and holy. We can believe that things can change for the better, no matter how hopeless a situation may appear.
Let us use this Easter season to respond to Jesus’ invitation to believe in him and to accept the peace that the risen Jesus gives to us. God wants nothing more than for us to live fully and respond to his call – to break free of doubt and proclaim, “My Lord and my God!”
When have you experienced doubt? How were you able to overcome it? How did it affect your faith?
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW Internationala reflection on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Catholic, Catholic Church, catholic program renew, Christ, Christ in the world, Church, community, Didymus, doubting Thomas, Easter, evidence, faith, Gospel according to John, have faith in Jesus, Jesus, John 20, keeping the faith, loving God, mark of the nail in his hands, Mass, My Lord and my God, nailmarks, overcome doubt, peace be with you, persecution, prayer, redeem us from our sins, renew catholic program, RENEW International, risen Jesus, Scripture, seeing Jesus, St. Thomas, Sunday Gospel, twelve disciples, We have seen the Lord, Word of God
“All things seem possible in May.”
O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today!catholic RENEW program, Christ, devotions, floral crown, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Mary, May crowning, month of May, mother of Jesus, motherhood, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May, renew catholic program, RENEW International
Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May.
The Lord is truly risen, alleluia.
To him be glory and power
for all the ages of eternity, alleluia, alleluia!
-Entrance Antiphon Easter Sunday, Mass During the Day
Your love, O God, embraces all creation, from the tree of the cross.
At the end of the Lenten faith-sharing season we invite you to take time to reflect on and evaluate your small group’s experience this past season in the context of the Paschal Mystery—the life, death, resurrection, and glorification of Jesus. Christ lived, died, rose from the dead, and returned in glory to his Father—not just for himself but for all. In this mystery he overcame death and gained eternal life on our behalf. We celebrate the Paschal Mystery in the sacraments, and we experience it ourselves when we relate to Christ our own sufferings and joys, the deaths and new births that are a part of life.
“On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, ‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.’ So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead” (John 20:1-9).
John’s account of Jesus’ Resurrection speaks to the tremendous power of personal witness. Mary visited the tomb, mostly likely to anoint the body, since Jesus had been buried quickly to avoid ritual defilement for Passover, but she found the tomb empty. She did not keep this information to herself but ran to Peter and the other disciple—the apostle John. Mary was not afraid to tell them what she had experienced and act on what she had witnessed. She believed in what she saw and shared it. Such trust in God is at the heart of personal witness.
We don’t know when our moment to witness to God’s love for all people will present itself. We don’t know when we will be asked to speak the truth that others may find challenging. We can, however, draw courage from Mary’s willingness to speak and to act.
We are the powerful personal witnesses to Jesus in the world. Like Mary, we are invited to continue to speak the truth of Jesus, never knowing when our words and witness might draw others closer to God.
How do you witness your faith in your daily life? How can you be a better witness to your faith?
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW Internationala reflection on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Alleluia, Bible, Burial cloths, Catholic, Catholic Church, catholic RENEW program, Christ, Christ is risen!, Church, Easter, Easter Season, Easter Sunday, God's love, Good News, Gospel, Gospel according to John, Jesus, Jesus' disciples, Jesus' tomb, Jesus’ Resurrection, Mary Magdalene, Mary of Magdala, personal witness, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, renew catholic program, RENEW International, resurrection, Scripture, Simon Peter, Sunday Gospel, trust in God, witness to faith, Word of God
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