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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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