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“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.
‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid’” (John 14:23, 27).
 
Peace and love, love and peace. It seems this is all we’ve been hearing for several weeks; yet, just as the disciples before us, we are challenged once again to love and to be peace for the world. When we read or hear about a violent place where people are hoping for or working to achieve peace, it is not the same as the peace spoken of in this Scripture reading—“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”
 
Shalom—the one word of Hebrew that almost everyone knows. Jesus entrusts to us the rich heritage of peace that he received from his own tradition and from his Father. Shalom is not what we usually consider to be peace—the absence of war and strife. It is a positive state in which all is right between us and God, and between us and all of God’s creation. This is the true peace that Jesus wishes for us. Such shalom is made possible only by the reconciliation of the world to the Father in Christ.
 
Jesus promises shalom, an active peace. It is the task of peace, the making right of relationships, the seeking of peace. Shalom is similar to the peace we are to seek with others before we gather in the celebration of the Eucharist. We are to heal the broken body of the Church and any of our relationships before sharing the Body of Christ and the shalom that calls us to “be peace” for others.
 
We are called to make shalom happen—to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to bring good news to all those who need it, to bring peace to all. Shalom is the greatest gift Christ left us. Spreading this peace is the greatest gift we can give to others.
 
How have you experienced shalom in your life?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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last_supperAt the Last Supper, Jesus gave us what could be called his final, “death bed” request.
 
He summed up the entire sense of his incarnation, teaching, passion, death, and resurrection in these few words:
 

“Love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love
one another.
This is how all will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.”

 
This might also be the greatest message of the Jubilee Year of Mercy—that we can be assured God loves us.
 
St. John Chrysostom, the revered archbishop of Constantinople and Father of the Church, pointed out that for St. Paul, “The most important thing of all was that he knew himself to be loved by Christ. Enjoying this love, he considered himself happier than anyone else.”
 
There is a beautiful song by Gregory Norbert, often heard in our churches. Its refrain says, “All I ask of you is forever to remember me as loving you.”
 
If we can live a life rich in love for God, self, and one another, as Jesus instructs, we will be blessed to have these poetic and saving words as our epitaph.
 
Our prayer today:
 

Dear Jesus,
grant us the grace and perseverance
to love one another as you love us.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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“’My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’” (John 13:33a, 34-35).
 
James and Kati Kim and their two small daughters settled into their car to return home from their Thanksgiving trip to the Pacific Northwest. Soon they would be sharing the news of their trip with family and friends. All it took was one wrong turn and their car became hopelessly stuck in deep snow. With no cars and no people in sight, James and Kati knew they were in serious trouble. They rationed their food, ran the car to keep warm until the gas was gone, and even burned the car’s tires to attract attention. Finally, after several days, James made a tough decision—he would have to leave and go look for help.
 
“Husband and father lost!” became the headline after Kati and the girls were rescued. People across the country prayed for James’ rescue, but days later his body was discovered about a mile away from the car.
 
James’ love for his family led him to make the decision to risk his life in order to save the lives of his wife and daughters. This is the kind of love to which Jesus challenges the disciples in this Gospel passage, a serious, doing for others, giving-of-my-whole-self love! Jesus tells the disciples their love should be based on the love he has shown them, from the lowly task of washing their feet, to a painful and humiliating death on the cross.
 
In light of the depth of Jesus’ love, the command to “love as I have loved,” can seem daunting, but we must do what we can to live it out. Some show it by working toward justice; by reaching out to those in need; by running into the wilderness or a burning building to save others, reaching out beyond themselves to love in the way Jesus challenges us all to love.
 
– When have you experienced agapé (self-sacrificial love) or shown it for others?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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jesus_good_shepherdThe relationship we have with Jesus is wonderfully expressed when we call him the “Good Shepherd.” Jesus guards, guides, protects, and watches over us, just as a human shepherd cares for his flock.
 
The image of Christ bearing a lamb on his shoulders is one of the earliest expressions of his love for us. The Good Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine in the flock to save the lost one. When he finds the lamb wandering in the mountains, he does not exhaust it by driving it ahead of himself. Instead, he lifts it to his shoulders and, mercifully, restores it to safety.
 
Then he instructs us to be like our heavenly Father—holy, perfect, and merciful.
 
In proclaiming the Holy Year of Mercy, Pope Francis called it an opportunity “to experience strongly within ourselves the joy of having been found by Jesus, the Good Shepherd who has come in search of us because we were lost.” It is a year, he noted, “in which to be touched by the Lord Jesus and to be transformed by his mercy, so that we may become witnesses to mercy.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

We thank you, Jesus,
that in your boundless mercy you embrace our lost souls
and carry us to redemption.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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The Good Shepherd“Jesus said: ’My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one’” (John 10:27-30).
 
A missionary priest, reflecting on his ministry among the Maasai people of Tanzania and Kenya, admitted he sometimes had problems explaining to them the references in scripture. However, they instinctively understood one magnificent image —the Good Shepherd. In their culture, the work and image of a shepherd is part of their everyday life.
 
As a nomadic people who live with an oral tradition, the Maasai do not have a complex numbering system. Maasai shepherds give each animal a name, often a nickname that describes its character and attributes. The shepherd identifies the sheep this way because he knows each one individually. This is exactly the image which Jesus uses in this Sunday’s Gospel reading: “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.”
 
In our culture, being called a sheep generally means a person is too easily led or thoughtlessly goes along with the crowd. But in this Gospel passage, Jesus is not calling us to be mindless followers. Rather, Jesus, who knows us better than we know ourselves, calls each of us by name. He says that the sheep that belong to him will never be lost. They cannot even be taken from him. What person, valued by the Good Shepherd as a unique man or woman, would ever want to leave?
 
– The Good Shepherd will never let his sheep be lost or be taken from him. How does this image comfort you? How does this image challenge you?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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accessThe early Celts used to say that heaven and earth are only three feet apart, and that in the “thin places” the distance is even smaller.
 
Today, we sometimes stand mute, gazing upon the Milky Way glowing in the night sky or waves dashing themselves upon rocky coasts or mountain summits scraping the sky.
 
But thin places are not confined to the physical. There are thin places of the mind and of the soul, where the earthly encounters the transcendent.
 
God’s creation is intense with his divinity. Divinity embraces us and reveals itself if we but recognize it: a friend’s smile, an infant’s finger, a stranger’s kind remark.
 
An act of mercy, too, can bring a bit of paradise to earth, when we respond with charity to the beggar’s outstretched hand, the eyes of a starving child, the immigrant seeking refuge.
 
We hear in the gospel story of the morning the apostles came in from fishing to find Jesus—whom they had seen crucified—waiting for them with a hot breakfast. None of them asked, “Who are you?” They stood in mute silence, because they realized it was the risen Lord, extending, in the form of a meal, his inexhaustible mercy.
 
Our prayer today:
 

In your great mercy, Heavenly Father,
you have given us a creation alive with your divine presence.
Help us always to cherish and advance it.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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“When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, ‘Children, have you caught anything to eat?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ So he said to them, ‘Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.’ So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord’” (John 21:4-12).
 
Global positioning devices are great tools to help us get where we need to go—and people put a lot of trust in them. You follow along until the GPS tells you to “turn left in 500 feet,” but it isn’t the right road! You decide to ignore the GPS and look for a familiar road, and the device recalculates the route.
 
Over the past few weeks, the Gospel readings have followed the disciples in a similar situation. Until Passover, they’d been traveling with Jesus and spreading his message, and they thought they’d keep doing just that. But things changed—drastically! So, they decided to just go back to fishing—something they knew well—to help them get their bearings.
 
We often do the same thing when things seem crazy; we go back to what feels comfortable to give us time to think or to get used to our new reality. It’s like a moment when the GPS says, “Take next exit on right” and you see that familiar landmark ahead: it’s just enough to relax you.
 
As often happens to us, the disciples see something they don’t expect—for them it was someone on shore with a small fire. He tells them to try fishing on the other side of the boat, and, for some reason, they listen. When they recognize him as Jesus, everything begins to make sense, but it’s a new reality. As you get to the exit, you see a new shopping center. Everything else is there, too, and now it all makes sense.
 
It is now up to the apostles, and us, to spread the good news which Jesus has entrusted to us. As the apostles share breakfast with him, their new path becomes clearer, and they know they don’t have to travel it alone. Christ, the true guide, will walk the path with them, just as he will walk with us.
 
How has God guided me in my life even when I thought another way was better?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.
Painting by Kristin Serafini.

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missionIn his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul recounts the number of persons who saw the risen Christ. In addition to the Apostles and the women, “he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time”
(1 Cor 15: 3-8).
 
Even with this witness, Jesus gave great encouragement directly to us, who live 2,000 years later, when he said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
 
But is it true that we in the 21st century cannot see Jesus? Don’t we see him in the poor and the imprisoned, in the hungry and thirsty?
 
Pope Francis, in a 2014 general audience, reminded us that it “is through our brothers and sisters that he comes to us and makes himself known. This is what belonging to the church means.”
 
Perhaps we get the best glimpse of Jesus in his acts of mercy, the Pope adds. For example, when Thomas refuses to believe the other apostles, Jesus does not abandon Thomas in his stubborn unbelief. He waits.
 
As St. Thomas Aquinas said, to one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.
 
Our prayer today:
 

Lord,
help us always see your face
in our brothers and sisters
and reflect your mercy toward them
through our faith.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you’” (John 20:19-21).
 
This Gospel passage gives us a window into a time of bewilderment and confusion. The disciples are huddled together in fear—their leader and friend has been crucified, and they might be next.
 
Into this scene of apprehension, pain, and uncertainty, Jesus appears and wishes them peace! So, the friend they abandoned when he was arrested and killed by the authorities is alive, standing in front of them and wishing them peace. Quite a shock for sure. To top it all off, Jesus tells them to go out and spread his message of peace. Yet, somehow, they believe.
 
While working in Iraq in 2005, four members of Christian Peacemaker Teams were kidnapped and held for 118 days, and one was murdered. Yet, when they were asked to speak at the trials of the kidnappers, they said: “We unconditionally forgive our captors for abducting and holding us. We have no desire to punish them… What our captors did was wrong… Yet, we bear no malice towards them and have no wish for retribution…”
 
This profound witness does not negate the suffering that took place: when Jesus appeared to the disciples his body still bore the marks of his crucifixion. These former hostages certainly bore the emotional marks of their captivity, and yet they responded to their suffering and pain with words of peace and reconciliation. Rather, the power of this peaceful response is even greater because it is in answer to suffering and pain, not an easy thing. We, too, carry marks of events and people that have wounded us, and it can be quite difficult to move on. Yet, we are called by our faith and by Jesus to offer peace, to forgive, and even to draw positive strength from such experiences. We can choose to stay hidden in fear or to step out and bring about peace.
 
When have you experienced goodness, new life, or peace ultimately coming from a painful situation?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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EucharistIn many churches of the Eastern rites, it’s traditional for the congregation to gather outside the sealed church on Easter morning, symbolizing Christ’s time in the tomb. The priest, with his hand cross, knocks three times on the main door, and it is thrown open. The people enter, as if entering Christ’s kingdom, to adore their risen Savior in the Eucharist.
 
The ritual may remind us of the opening of the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica that began this Jubilee Year of Mercy—illustrating the idea that, during the Jubilee, the faithful are offered what Pope Francis called an “extraordinary pathway” towards salvation.
 
In an important way, the message of Easter is forever linked to the message of the Last Supper.
 
At the Last Supper, Jesus transformed bread and wine into his body and blood. In his resurrection, the risen Christ gives himself to us both in the fullness of his divinity and in his glorified humanity.
 
As Pope Francis suggests: “In the Eucharist we feel this belonging to the Church, to the People of God, to the Body of God, to Jesus Christ. We will never completely grasp the value and the richness of it.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

Merciful Jesus,
we pray to become more and more worthy
of the gift of your body and blood
in the Holy Eucharist.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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“Prayer over the People: from The Roman Missal
 
May abundant blessing, O Lord, we pray,
descend upon your people,
who have honored the Death of your Son
in the hope of their resurrection:
may pardon come,
comfort be given,
holy faith increase,
and everlasting redemption be made secure.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
 

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clouds-806637_1920I gave up being pregnant for Lent. It wasn’t my plan. I actually started Lent giving up alcohol, soft cheeses, and sushi. But about halfway through the Lent, I had to give up something else.
 
Things weren’t going well one weekend and I had made an emergency appointment for an ultrasound on Monday morning. As I read my Lenten daily devotional on Sunday night, the prayer was, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:5). I thought that it was a sign that everything would be fine. But it wasn’t. The baby wasn’t meant to be and I lost it.
 
A long, hard, terrible week followed. I have read about people’s “dark nights of the soul,” but I never fully understood what that meant. My faith was rocked. My world was rocked. I know God doesn’t punish us, but I felt punished. It was Lent and all I was reading about was God’s mercy, but God didn’t feel merciful to me. I had definitely hit a low point in my faith, the lowest point I had ever hit. I continued to read my Lenten daily devotional, even though my heart wasn’t really in it.
 
The next week, the scripture reading was, “Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (John 8:12).
 
This resonated with me. The world can be a very dark place. Watching the news is terrifying. Even more so with my own personal crisis, the world felt very dark and frightening. But without faith and without God, the world stays dark. It’s our faith that gives us the light to navigate in the darkness. It gives us the hope to navigate in a sometimes hopeless world. Without God’s love, mercy, and light, we would be lost.
 
As Lent ends and Easter begins we rejoice in God’s unending love and mercy. Be the light that your friends, neighbors, and the world desperately need.
 

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“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” (Luke 24:1-12).
 
Seeing the stone removed from the tomb, Mary was fearful and upset that someone had taken Jesus’ body. She ran for help to the other disciples, who loved Jesus as she did. In the end, they really couldn’t offer any help to her. They “saw and believed” but “did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.”
 
Faith in the resurrected Christ, the faith that we celebrate on Easter – the greatest feast of our Church year – is not something we can easily grasp. We can’t “master” it and move on with our lives. Even the disciples, who traveled with Jesus, experienced a lack of understanding and uncertainty.
 
We can easily find ourselves in similar situations in which we experience doubt or questioning. These situations are the keys for us to develop our relationship with God, who is infinite yet close at hand; who is divine yet sends his Son to assume our humanity; who is the source of wisdom yet respectful of free will.
 
No matter what we think we know about God, there is always more to know, to experience, and to be surprised by. It is in these times of believing, yet not fully understanding, that we come to know God even more.
 
When have you experienced fear, confusion, or a lack of conviction in life? How were you able to find God in that situation?
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Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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CrossWhat are we to make of Christ’s words of sheer, seeming hopelessness: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
 
St. Augustine, the fifth century bishop and doctor of the Church, suggests that this soulful prayer of the dying Savior points to our kinship with Christ.
 
“He died for our sins, he who is the only Son, so as not to remain alone,” Augustine said. “He who died alone did not want to be alone. The only Son of God made many children of God. By his blood, he bought for himself brothers; he who had been rejected, adopted them; he who had been sold, bought them back; he who had been gravely offended, filled them with honor; he who had been put to death, gave them life.”
 
Augustine preached that we should take joy in this act of divine mercy—even as we enter this week when we remember Christ’s brutal passion and death.
 
Fr. William Nelson, a priest in Japan, once wrote to a friend:
 

“How we welcome the good news of love poured out! Yes, there is a balm, a fountain, love poured out and bread broken and wine served.”

 
What more could we ask for?
 
Our prayer today:
 

Almighty God,
we praise you that in your infinite mercy
you do not deal with us according to our failings,
but treat us with the tenderness of a father.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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“It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’; and when he had said this he breathed his last” Luke 23:44-46).
 
During Holy Week, we will hear many words describing the suffering and death of Jesus. In times of suffering, we return to an awareness of our own human frailty. It is a place of humility, recognizing God as Creator and ourselves as finite creatures. We are not in ultimate control. That is God’s domain. So, too, is the reason for suffering and the miracle of the Resurrection.
 
The Passion of our Lord is what connects him with us in our humanity. In suffering, we grow in solidarity with Christ and with those he loves. His suffering is an icon of our own suffering, a window of opportunity that points us to God. God, who is infinite, reaches out in humility to touch us in that pain.
 
As we recall this most precious event within Christian tradition, we are called to enter more deeply into the reality of pain and persecution in our world. We also know the profound promise of a light that will not be overcome by deep shadows.
 
When do you suffer or feel helpless in your own life? Can you see God meeting you in this suffering?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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