Returning to Ordinary Life

05-22-2022Weekly Reflection© J. S. Paluch Company

Six weeks into our Easter rejoicing, the Church gives us readings today that start pre-paring us for a return to ordinary life. The Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel both dwell on proper daily behavior for followers of Jesus, while the reading from Revelation reminds us why we bother with laws at all. In Acts, leaders of the church meet to discuss which essential elements of the Mosaic Law converts must obey if they wish to be disciples of Jesus Christ. John’s Gospel reflects back to the Last Supper discourse when Jesus himself emphasizes the importance of obeying God’s commandments. Observing God’s law, says Jesus, shows a desire to be intimate with the Lord. We follow rules not for their own sake, but to love God and neighbor better. This more excellent love brings us closer to Revelation’s vision of paradise, gleaming with “the splendor of God.”

Making All Things New

05-15-2022Weekly Reflection© J. S. Paluch Company

Although we are five full weeks into the celebration of Easter, today’s readings focus on newness. Our Easter food leftovers may be long gone, but the readings insist on every moment’s freshness in the risen Jesus. The Acts of the Apostles depicts Paul and Barnabas reflecting on all the innovative work that God has done with them. They have traveled hundreds of miles, introducing faith in Jesus Christ to all who listen, even Gentiles. For the dutiful Jewish scholar Paul, preaching to Gentiles is a completely unique development. Jesus calls Paul, and us, not to be afraid of new challenges: as John the Evangelist reports in Revelation, Jesus promises to “make all things new.” In the Gospel reading, Jesus even gives us a new commandment. The He-brew Scriptures overflow with commandments, but Jesus knows we need one more, perfect mission: “love one another.”

A Foretaste of Paradise

05-08-2022Weekly Reflection© J. S. Paluch Company

Throughout Easter Time, the Church rejoices with Jesus, risen from the dead. Our readings on this Fourth Sunday of Easter celebrate our instinct to come together in joy, worshiping in church. While private prayer nourishes our individual relationship with the Lord, community prayer is a foretaste of paradise. The book of Revelation depicts a “great multitude” worshiping God “day and night in his temple.” Our churches on Easter Sunday often reflect this happy multitude, filling the pews to bursting. Four Sundays into the festive season, we are encouraged to keep praising God together. In the Acts of the Apostles, Paul and Barnabas demonstrate their instinct to worship with their faith community each Sabbath, dutifully taking their seats in the synagogue. In the Gospel, Jesus calls us his sheep and reminds us why coming together as a flock is so important: uniting in community, we imitate the unity of God.

God’s Overflowing Kindness

05-01-2022Weekly Reflection© J. S. Paluch Company

The superabundance of God’s kindness ties all of today’s readings together. Especial-ly when life overwhelms us, the Lord provides all we need, and then some. In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter takes the lead when facing the Sanhedrin. We might expect the man who denied Jesus to crumble under the imposing glare of the high priest. Instead, the Holy Spirit helps him testify to his faith in Jesus Christ. What Peter had lacked before, cour-age and conviction, God provides in abun-dance. Similarly, today’s Gospel shows Jesus providing a surplus of fish for the disciples. They have no luck fishing until the Lord inter-cedes. Jesus supplies an almost ridiculous number of fish, and he cooks it for them, too. As our reading from Revelation affirms, the overflowing riches of God require constant praise. Countless creatures—“everything in the universe”—cry out to honor the Lord, for-ever and ever.

Difficulty, Survival, and Glory

04-22-2022Weekly Reflection© J. S. Paluch Company

In Revelation, John the Evangelist tells us what we can expect as followers of the risen Jesus: distress, endurance, and a kingdom. Although we are only eight days into our fifty day Easter feasting, we cannot ignore the distress weighing down our daily lives. Jesus’ resurrection does not erase individual suffering, but his glorious triumph over death cultivates endurance in our hearts. We remember that Jesus did not spare himself, and we ask for the strength to endure as he did. Imitating Christ helps us grow as members of God’s royal family. As beloved citizens of the Kingdom of God, we recognize our kinship with all people. Peter demonstrates his care for others as he heals multitudes of broken, suffering people. In the Gospel, Thomas accepts his own spiritual healing when Jesus helps him to believe. In times of difficulty, survival, and glory, we borrow Thomas’ declaration of faith: “My Lord and my God!”

Everything is Changed

04-14-2022Weekly Reflection© J. S. Paluch Company

Easter changes everything. Having been raised from the dead, Jesus shatters the frightful images that haunt humanity. Betrayal, torture, crucifixion, death, burial—these ter-rors pale in the brilliant glory of Jesus resur-rected. Today’s psalm guides our response to God’s power: “it is wonderful in our eyes.” To-day is indeed a day for wonder, for gasping in astonishment at Jesus’ resurrection. For all of human history, death had been final. In the Acts of the Apostles, though, Peter testifies that Jesus, who was publicly executed, was raised to life by God. John’s Gospel admits that the disciples “did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” Even Jesus’ closest friends were not expect-ing this innovation: life after death. In re-sponse to the Easter miracle, Paul tells us to become “a fresh batch of dough.” Everything, even our very selves, must become new. Easter changes everything.

The Message Of Christ’s Love

04-10-2022Weekly Reflection© J. S. Paluch Company

From the proclamation of the Gospel at the beginning of the liturgy, we know that today is different, not only because we hear two Gospel passages, or because we hold palms and move in procession. Today begins Holy Week, a time set apart, a week in which to listen, pray, reflect, and take to heart the truth of Christ’s passion, crucifixion, death, and ultimately, resurrection. It takes a week, and a lifetime, to truly hear the message of Christ’s love. It is difficult for us to comprehend that Jesus willingly sacrificed himself, so we must hear the story again and again. Let this week be for us a new moment of faith in which we, together with the criminal who was crucified with Christ, cry out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Something New in Christ

04-03-2022Weekly Reflection© J. S. Paluch Company

Jesus knew that the scribes and Pharisees were trying to trap him. They put him in what seemed to be a no-win situation. Let the woman who was caught in adultery go, and he would have been accused of ignoring the law. Let her be stoned, and he would fail to show mercy toward her, contradicting his life’s message. Jesus’ response teaches three crucial lessons: none of us is free of sin; we are not the ultimate judges of others; Jesus is the mercy of God, in whom we can always trust. In Christ, God does something new. When we give our hearts to Christ, we have the hope of new life, a life in which mercy reigns.