FR. RONAN’S BLOG

Trust Me

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Do you recall the old parlor game when at a party a person was blindfolded and then asked to fall backwards without being able to see if anyone was there to catch them? Usually there was a fair amount of hooting and encouraging, and
amidst all that, someone was saying, “Don’t worry, we won’t let you fall and get hurt!” I was always amazed at how some people were completely loose and fell backward, apparently without any alarm. Others, in spite of assurances, only eased backward, never completely giving up control.

What does it take for one to grow to trust another person? I like to think of myself as a trusting guy, maybe at times even gullible. When younger, sometimes I expected another to meet unrealistic expectations—trusting they could, when maybe the expectations were unrealistic. Now a bit wiser, I hope I am more inclined to ask a person what he/she feels is a realistic expectation and in discussion, arrive at a point of trusting that the plan is a good one. So it might be accurate to say, one’s experience shapes how one trusts others.

In relationships, when a man or woman has been through the ending of a marriage in divorce very often coming out of it, learning to trust another is a slow process. The other day a parishioner asked to speak with me about a young man
who as a teenager had a painful experience in a Catholic School. Now, 20 years later, the man is still angry and untrusting of anything to do with Church. No doubt, you can think of a number of other examples. Once our expectations are unmet and/or our encounter is painful or unpleasant in any form, trust is damaged.

The fundamental question for anyone to consider is how much do I trust this God whom I love and serve? It is one thing for me to speak and write about this—that’s easy. It is another for me to put into practice an essential posture of
deep trust. What enables me to do so is remembering my own history, recalling all of the times through so many years when this all-knowing and merciful God has been there for me, comforting, guiding, forgiving, nourishing and calming the troubles of my mind and heart.

And how about you? Maybe your story is similar; you too need to remember your history, how much and how often God has been there in amazing and wonderful ways. It will be no different tomorrow! Sometimes in a moment of trouble, we are inclined to forget this precious history. Don’t do that! Remember that you are God’s precious child who lives and breathes because of God’s will and love. Moreover, never forget that you have a destiny to live with your Creator God forever. God would never want it otherwise.

At the dawn of each new day, I wonder if God is saying to each one of us, “It’s OK–go ahead, get up and get your feet on the floor and don’t be afraid! I’ve got your back. You will not fall and get hurt … trust Me.”

Fr. Ronan

The Ascension of the Lord Thursday, May 13
or Weekend of May 15/16, 2021

Before he ascended into heaven, Jesus instructed his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all
of creation. In the first reading, after Jesus’ ascent, the angels ask his disciples “Why do
you stand here staring at the skies?” The angels want them to look around themselves and
be assured that Christ is working through them.
The Ascension does not memorialize Christ leaving us. But instead, Christ working through us, his mystical body, his church. As stewards of this legacy, we too are called to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our
words and actions; in how we live and how we treat others.
Are we sharing the life of Christ with others in our day-to-day lives? In what ways do we see ourselves proclaiming
the Gospel? In what ways can we do better.

Friendship

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

The other morning I was walking out of the lobby after the 8 o’clock Mass and a class of children from Good Shepherd School was ahead of me. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm, and the teachers were taking the children to the park. The children were holding hands, and one little girl explained that the girl beside her was her friend. Their sweet affection for each other was evident.

Friendship is a subject about which everyone has experience and comments. The brilliant Dominican friar, St. Thomas Aquinas, once said: There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship. From Sacred Scripture to philosophers, scholars, saints and everyday folks, friendship is valued as precious. While the use of the term “best friend” is more common among children and teens, an adult who has a best friend is blessed beyond measure.

In the Gospel of John proclaimed this weekend, Jesus calls us friends. Imagine. He qualifies His use of the noun: You are my friends if you do what I command you. The command of Jesus is that we are to love one another as He has loved us. Further He explains: I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. Friends do that. They are honest, forthcoming and trusting of one another. They do not rush to judgment. They are patient, loyal and always seek what is best for their friend.

And yet we all know too well that friends also make mistakes, misjudge, speak ill and can be hurtful. Indeed, friendship can be complex and hard work because love is hard work. In fact, love is the work of God for we hear this weekend that: Because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.

If love is of God, than surely forgiveness must also be of God. Because of love, we can forgive. Without love, forgiveness is merely practical and efficient, potentially self-serving and thus, not of God.

In this fast-moving city and time, everyone seeks friendship. It seems authentic friendship can be more elusive then in what are perceived as more simple times. In truth, I do not know. Yet I am certain every soul seeks a soul mate, not just in terms of a life partner, but also in terms of a true friend. For me, the place to start in such a search is in friendship with Jesus. Here one finds the path to authentic love and friendship, and from there the path can open to friendship in
countless ways and places.

Lest we think that each has to “make” this friendship happen, somehow, Jesus clarifies that misconception and self-centered position: It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.

Fr. Ronan

Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 8/9, 2021

In today’s Gospel, Jesus commands his disciples, whom he calls “friends,” to love one another as he
loves them. Jesus uses the word “love” as a verb or a noun nine times.
He also employs the word “command” or “commandment” five times. His command to
love one another is explicit. Those who understand the depth of Christ’s love
for us have reason to be joyful. We are called to be stewards of this loving
friendship; to love one another as Jesus loves us.
Do we give serious attention to what this love requires of us?
What is the price of this friendship with the Lord?
Are we willing to pay this price to keep Christ’s friendship?

We Are Called

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

This weekend eight tenth graders will all line up in the Church. Beside each of them will be their sponsor – one person chosen to literally “stand-by-them” as they are called forward to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. Some are
tall and appear older than their years; all are handsome and beautiful. Their families will sit nearby and watch as each young person answers the call to become an adult in the Church. The Episcopal Vicar will speak about the “call” each has received – it is a call to serve, to be in relationship with Christ and to make a difference in the world.

This idea of being called, singled out, invited to step forward is a theme of this liturgy. The theme actually speaks to all of us, young and old. When the parents of these adolescents brought their children to be baptized, they promised to raise their child in the practice of the faith. Indeed, called to marriage and parenthood, they were called to this role, and at the time of their assent, they had no idea what was to come!

Yet, with each call God makes, comes the courage and Grace to respond! God calls every baptized Christian to a life of service, and although the challenge to respond may be daunting, the Grace to do so is always enough. For, we celebrate that God has faith in each of us! Most of the time, God has more faith in us than we do in ourselves. So it is that in faith we can trust that God’s call to serve and live a life of dignity and love is not beyond our reach. In fact,
such is our destiny and the source of our greatest happiness in life.

This world of ours needs a lot of help! We need lots of hands and hearts to stand up and pull together to correct and improve, to search for and discover, to comfort and to lead. All this and more is needed in our world, our city, or
families and is also needed in our Church and parish.

How are you who are reading this article called to respond? Could it be in some ministry in the Parish: the food pantry, in liturgy, at the office, in education of our children, in different committees and commissions, in outreach to the
homebound and ill, in support for those in prison and their families? There is so much that is being done and needs to be undertaken.

Consider how many men and women have answered this call: to marriage, to ministry, to service in helping professions, to parenting, to military service, to priesthood, to religious life, and so on. In truth, I have never met anyone who has not been nervous, fearful and anxious in front of a major call to serve. I certainly have been. And when that happens, we recall from whence comes the call – and the One who calls us will always give us the strength and courage to respond.

Many have long been inspired by the wisdom of St. Catherine of Siena when she wrote: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

Fr. Ronan

Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 1/2, 2021

In today’s Gospel reading on “the vine and the branches,” Jesus offers a quintessential stewardship
statement: “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can
do nothing.” The theme of this reading is “fruitfulness.” We hear the expression “bear fruit” five
times. And “bearing fruit” is not something that the branches can do by themselves. They are extensions of the vine, Jesus, and are pruned by the gardener, God the Father, who wants them to be
fruitful and to be drawn into the unity of the Father and Son. Good stewards recognize that God’s
love, presence, gardening and pruning are gifts. Do our lives reflect a capacity to be fruitful? Do we
believe that by hearing the Word of the Lord and responding, we not only produce “good fruit,”
but abide in the very life of God?

There Are No Words

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

There are times in the lives of all of us when an experience comes along that stretches us, makes it hard to understand, explain and grasp. Sometimes the experience is beauty and loveliness, for example, the birth of a child. At other times the event might be terrible, ugly and tragic, a fatal auto accident. And when we move from such moments and later try to explain to another what happened, what it was like, we fail; there simply are no words adequate.

For more than 2000 years Christians have tried to put into words the Easter story. The Passion gospel is proclaimed during Holy Week and narrates the story of the Last Supper, the arrest and torture of Jesus and His crucifixion and
death. On Easter Sunday, we proclaim the story of the empty tomb: Jesus has been raised from death and now lives again.

So it is that we can tell the story, just like we can say that at a certain time and place a precious child was born and similarly at such and such a time, a terrible and fatal accident occurred. And yet the narration only tells a part of the story and there is so much more to really begin to understand the event. It is moving beyond the story and into the real meaning of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that brings one into the place where we struggle to find the
words.

Music, poetry, literature, drama, opera, art in every form has all sought to lead us into the depths of the Jesus story. Often all of these most noble of efforts are helpful in lifting us beyond mere words toward a mystery as elusive as it is
alluring. For we are seeking to know something of God, the ineffable and omnipotent One, and still, there are no words. Yet the magnitude of the Easter story impels us to seek to understand, something!

Our tradition asserts that this broken world, including you and me, with all of the evil, fear, darkness and sadness of our time, has been embraced by the Son of the Living God, nailed to a primitive cross to suffer, die and be buried. And early in the morning of the third day, this same Jesus rose from death, conquering the power of evil and death forevermore. On the first Easter morning, Hope was born. It is not a theoretical and distant Hope, rather one that is available to all. On Easter the Church celebrates in a particular way the Sacrament of Baptism, initiating a person into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

There is a stirring in people, an inner something that longs to grasp this enormous truth, for which there are no words. Christ is Risen and in the midst of all the activities of humankind, the joyful and the sad, Hope is present and can never be diminished. To move beyond the story this Eastertime, to let the inadequate words lead us deep into our heart and to listen to that inner longing for Hope and walk in the promise of Easter is the gift God offers every one of us.

Fr. Ronan

Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 24 / 25 2021

In today’s Gospel reading we hear Jesus referring to himself as “the good shepherd.”
His sheep know him, trust him, listen to him and follow him; having faith that no harm will come to them as
long as they stay close to him. We reaffirmed our faith in Christ when we renewed our baptismal
promises at Easter.
As stewards of our relationship with Jesus Christ, are we, like the sheep, willing to listen to Jesus, follow him, trust him?

Renewal at Easter Time

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Each year we move through the Lenten season and arrive at Holy Week – looking toward the great feast of Easter. And in this region of the world, that corresponds with a wonderful change of seasons as well.

As we yearn for the ending of the pandemic, the festivities of the Easter Masses, everything from wonderful music, larger crowds, and glorious Easter lilies, combine to give us all a “lift”. People feel good about Easter and even without thinking too much about it, there seems to be an inner awareness that because of this event, life is different. There is a change in the way we look at our life and the world around us, for the central theme of this celebration is the resurrection of Christ and His victory over death forever.

The Church celebrates this time in prayer and song often using the word “renewal”, something all of us are seeking after COVID. Perhaps Easter itself opens for us a path toward our own renewal. For example, the readings offered at Mass during the season describe in some detail the experiences of the early Christian community. The apostles and the newly minted Christians devote themselves with eagerness and deep faith to proclaiming the gospel, the good news that Jesus Christ has risen. They seek to develop authentic community, each sharing whatever to provide for the needs of others. There is a purity, a clarity, and idealism all flowing from their faith in the truths of the person of Jesus.

On one occasion, as Peter and the apostles are arrested and brought before the authorities for preaching the resurrection of Jesus, they are ordered to stop using “that name”. When joyfully they persist and are arrested again, they face possible execution. One of their leaders, Gamaliel, reminds the court of earlier situations when movements had begun and of themselves ended. He counsels, “Be careful what you are about to do to these men… If this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will do itself in and if it is of God, you cannot stop it and may even find
yourself fighting against God.”
(Acts 5:34-40).

From that time until this present day, Christians realize that this movement IS from God and cannot be ended by any earthly force or power. The renewal of our spirit of hope flows from our remembering and celebrating the Easter mystery.

Refreshed and renewed in this way, I find myself going out into the world with a different attitude. I am more inclined to see all of creation as gift and precious, especially that which relates to the gift of life in all forms. Easter helps me see a closeness of God to us and a relevance of life to God’s purpose. Through the remaining five weeks of this Easter season, as the grip of the pandemic eases, what if you wonder how you might be renewed by Easter – what kind of renewal wants to take place in you?

Pondering such questions, wonderfully prepares us for the gift of God’s loving Spirit on Pentecost Sunday, May 23.

Fr. Ronan

Third Sunday of Easter
April 17 / 18 2021

An underlying lesson from all three readings this weekend is that the Risen Christ has wiped
away our sins, not only for individuals, but throughout the world and its history.
The terrible power of sin has now been reversed and our coming to perfection through the love of God is part of the Easter experience. As stewards of God’s love we are called to participate in Christ’s redemptive activity.
The steward questions for us are many: How do we resist injustice at home or in the workplace?
How do we confront violence in our language and attitudes?
How do we bring Christ to others?

Starlight

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Have you ever had the experience of being outside on a very, very dark night with no moon, and looking up
you saw a sky replete with stars – millions and millions of stars across the entire dome of the sky? It’s an incredibly spectacular view, especially if you’re in an area unmarred by city lights and polluted air. Those stars, we’re told, are more than 25 light years away, with each light year being comparable to a distance of 5.8 trillion miles! One finds
mention of the stars in sacred scripture at many different moments. But there’s one particular line is Psalm 147 that always gives me pause. It says that God calls each of the stars by name. Imagine that!

Well, it was under such starlight of the Jerusalem sky that Mary Magdalene set out from her home with her friends to the tomb on that Sunday morning, arriving just as the sun was coming up. They were looking for the body of Jesus, but the maker of these named stars had been at work. And the one through whom all things were made was no longer entombed but had risen.

Jesus Christ had risen. Jesus Christ is risen The resurrection of Jesus has catapulted the vision and plan that God has for
the whole of the salvation of humankind for centuries. God’s vision for a world of peace that goes beyond the absence of war. It is a vision of a world that is not divided or divisive; a world in which there is no hunger or poverty and so much more wellbeing for all. It’s a world that is so much better than the one we often find in our life journey in these days. It’s a remarkable and unique vision – one that we all know about because of the life, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Yet, it is an elusive vision. A dream that we need to continue to choose and strive towards though we fall short of it often. Yes, it can be frustrating and we can get discouraged, yet it is a dream and a vision that we know about and desire, as imperfect as our efforts may be, because we sometimes savor it when we come together in mutually beneficial ways in relationships, in friendships, in families, in parishes, in communities, and in neighborhoods. God’s plan for us is embodied in the hope that all of evil and the pathway forward from evil is conquered in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Recently, Pope Francis published an encyclical entitled, Fratelli Tutti (we are all sisters and brothers). In it, he speaks about the common heritage of all humankind as sisters and brothers. It’s a simple truth although it’s hard for us to even appreciate its full impact. We are all the same. We are all the work of God’s hands. God’s fingerprints are on each one of us and yet God made us to be entirely unique individuals. God’s vision is for each one of us to take the thread that is me, that is you, and weave it into one remarkably united, precious, and beautiful tapestry through friendships, families, communities, institutions of various sorts, workplaces, schools, countries and throughout the world.

This remarkable vision is pregnant with hope for us to become one, distinct and different as we are, into one, integrated, and desirable tapestry of life. When you look at a tapestry there is so much color, variability, and beauty to it. But did you ever look at the reverse side of a tapestry? It’s really messy. This is the story of our life – weaving that tapestry, that beauty that is God’s dream for us can be messy but when we choose to live it and get a taste of it, it spurs us onward. And the pattern to create this incredible tapestry is found in the person of Jesus – in his life, his teachings, his cross, his resurrection.

This spectacular vision can only fully come to be if each of us chooses to earnestly engage in the full practice of love – the practice of authentic love. It’s not the superficiality of love that we hear about in our culture, the totally self-defined and self-referential and all about self, kind of love. No, truly authentic love is pure at its core and includes the wellbeing of others. Because, you see, the dream will never come true if it’s the “I’m number one” kind of love. It’s not about me or you, it’s about us, all of us. It’s the first person plural that must be the operative and defining aspect of completing the vision that God has for us.

You know, starlight can sometimes be intoxicating. It can set us off in a dreamy place. Fairy tales are told about starlight. But starlight is real. For me, when I think about and observe starlight, it gives me hope because it helps me
recognize the truth of the omnipotence of God, that nothing is impossible for God. With God all things are possible – but God needs our cooperation to make the dream become a reality. So let’s not get stuck and want to give up, allowing ourselves to believe that our dreams, our political systems, our health care systems, our education systems, sensible immigration policies, work situations or our caring for one another are impossible to ameliorate.

That we can be as united as we are different is the ultimate dream for which each of us long. The strength that flows from our unity can realize in little and big ways the vision God holds for humankind.

Fr. Ronan

Second Sunday of Easter
April 10/11, 2021

When the risen Christ encounters his disciples in the locked room he adds a new
Beatitude to the ones we’ve heard proclaimed before:
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.
Stewards of the mysteries of God’s love do not need proof of the risen Christ. They know it because their lives have been transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit who has breathed new life into them. As stewards of
this great gift it is appropriate to reflect on how we in turn add new life into our parish communities.

Darkness Vanishes Forever

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

The great hymn sung at the Easter Vigil is called the Exultet. It is an ancient piece and arguably one of the greatest proclamations that has ever been compiled about our salvation and the meaning of Easter. After the dramatic entry of
the priest and ministers into the darkened church on Saturday evening and the lighting of the Easter candle, the priest sings out, “CHRIST OUR LIGHT!” – to which the people respond, “THANKS BE TO GOD!” The Easter Vigil has begun
and the community celebrates the truth of Christ’s Resurrection.

The implications of the Resurrection are proclaimed in the Hymn that invites the world and all creation to rejoice because “Christ has conquered … and Darkness vanishes forever.” The beautiful chant reviews all of salvation history
remembering the fall of Adam and Eve and proclaims it a “Happy Fault, a Necessary Evil – which gained for us so great a Redeemer”. “This is the night …” is proclaimed over and over in a style that emphasizes the immensity of the event.

In truth, the moment is too huge for us to capture. We live so deeply in our own skin and sinfulness that it is almost impossible to imagine freedom from the power of darkness in our world and in our lives. The powers of darkness have
so creatively and effectively duped us into believing in a God who is limited in love and mercy that we don’t get the full impact of the Easter message. We see ourselves and not the God who created us as the center of this drama. With ourselves at the center-point we believe that all love and mercy must be somehow filtered through our senses and abilities.

The Easter proclamation denounces this self-delusion: “The power of this holy night dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy.” The freedom that is offered us tonight can change our lives – can make everything different! For it is in Jesus Christ, in and through our baptism in the Son of God that we are free.

The Church teaches that we are “An Easter People”. What does that mean? For me this message gives to each of us the capacity to say NO to darkness; to hunger, violence, injustice and all of the “isms” of our time that diminish the dignity of people near and far. Not only does Easter give me a personal hope for tomorrow, it compels me to make tomorrow other than it would be if Christ had NOT risen from the dead!

With Christians throughout the world this Easter we proclaim, “Father how wonderful your care for us! How boundless your merciful love!”

May the Hope that is ours in and through the Resurrection of Christ shine brilliantly in your life and through you, lessen the darkness of this world.

Fr. Ronan

The Resurrection of the Lord
Easter Vigil April 3, 2021

In tonight’s reading from Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans, we are reminded that we are alive in
Christ. And it is not merely once a year that we remember what Jesus did to give us this new
life, forgiveness and peace. Every day good stewards remember their baptism.
They remember that they are united with Jesus in his death; that daily they drown the old sinful nature, and
that daily they rise to their new life in Christ.
Let us be mindful every day, especially when we are troubled by life or tempted by sin, that our lives are no longer about us, but about Christ’s active, loving presence within us.
That is our baptism. Alleluia! He is risen!

Easter Sunday
April 4, 2021

The tomb is empty! Jesus Christ has risen today!
Our Savior is active, alive, and transforming us and our communities of faith, even the world, at this very moment. Easter is a time of joy, a time of celebration. To have faith in the risen Lord is also to believe that we are disciples who bear witness to Christ in a broken and troubled world.
To be good stewards of this faith obliges us to be living witnesses to Christ’s peace at home and in public.
Jesus cannot be found buried.
He is risen. Alleluia!

Some New Normal

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

As Charlestown blossoms literally and figuratively into this early springtime, everyone is hoping we are moving back to something we used to call normal. Yet I think all of us have heard people say we will never get back to normal and we do not really know what the new is going to be. Nonetheless, in this beautiful season, a new normal is being lifted up to us.

Ironically, it is new while at the same time being ancient. This weekend Christians celebrate Palm Sunday, that moment 2000 years ago when the Jewish community in Jerusalem recognized in Jesus the long hoped for fulfillment of the ancient promise. They greeted him in the valley ascending to the great city, hacking palm branches from nearby trees and laying them on the dusty road tread by a donkey carrying the Messiah. Everything about this Jesus, the itinerant prophet, was new. No one had ever spoken about God the way He spoke. The message and the actions, the healings and the teachings, the very lifestyle and person of the carpenter from Nazareth captured the minds and hearts of the people. Something new had arrived.

While Christians remember that day from long ago, the relationship to which all are invited in the present moment is entirely new. Relationships are like that. If they are authentic, they are never static; they are alive and invite us into ever growing depth. The promise God makes to human kind is a new covenant, a new way of being in relationship with God. It is new in that it is defined not by commandments, regulations, and various practices. Rather it is defined in terms of an authentic, intimate, relationship of love.

Christianity is about a relationship — it is not about a series of do’s and don’ts. The Creator God freely offers the relationship. It is not of our making. It is a gift just as our very life is a gift. The invitation to renew the relationship in
the springtime of 2021 offers to each person a new normal. This normal is so very much richer, more profound, and transformative than the normal of earlier days.

I have never met anyone who is not searching in some way, at some level. There is, I believe, a universal restlessness among all humankind and it has been heightened during this tragic, unimaginably painful year. On the one hand, we
could feel we are restless to return to everything that used to be. I would suggest that is not enough. However, what is enough and is being proclaimed at the beginning of this most holy week is the invitation into an ever-deeper relationship with our God.

Wherever we find ourselves on the continuum of restlessness, the invitation for men and women of faith in this holy season that includes Ramadan, Passover, and Easter, invites all to a new normal ever ancient and ever new. There is a good reason as to why this is called a season of hope.

Father Ronan

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
March 27/28, 2021

This weekend we participate in the proclamation of the passion and death of Jesus
according to the Gospel of Mark. In the extended version of this weekend’s Gospel
reading, Jesus is at Gethsemane, praying to his Father, in much emotional distress.
He knows he can save himself. He can escape over the Mount of Olives in the dead
of night and make his way safely into the Judean desert.
Instead, Jesus chooses obedience to his Father and waits for his persecutors.
As Saint Paul puts it in the second reading, Jesus is “obedient to the point of death.”
Jesus’ obedience is a lesson for those who are good stewards of their life in Christ.
Let us reflect on how we might be more obedient to the will of God instead of our own will.

The Attraction of Angels

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

It seems wrong to think about death in the springtime. Yet in this COVID era, we all know death is ever-present and never discriminates about whom, when or where. Death scares us. In fact, death is the ultimate of all fears. All others are minor expressions of death.

Almost always, death means pain, suffering and grief, especially when death is sudden and arrives for the young and beloved. In fact, the proportion of suffering seems in direct relationship to those two realities. There is no one who is exempt from the experience of death, although some of us have more experience with death than others.

Death impels us to look and think outside of ourselves and, for many, this means to seek understanding and answers, consolation and comfort in our God. Our tradition has taught us from the earliest of times that God’s plan is that every person has a destiny in eternity, a place beyond this life that never ends. In the English language, we call that place Heaven.

In 2010 Todd Burpo published a small book called: Heaven is for Real: a Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back. The book describing the near death experience of three year old Colton was on The New York Times bestseller list for more than 60 months. I read the book a few years ago and there is good reason it continues to be a very popular read across America. The story contains details that all of us long to know and stretch to imagine. The innocence and beauty of the child’s descriptions of angels and music, knowledge of a range of issues beyond a child’s ability to have known, and his encounter with Jesus, challenge our beliefs. Yet we all want to know more, and many of us are so deeply attracted to angels!

I believe our Creator God has “wired” us for Heaven. The restlessness of the human heart that lures all of us into searching for satisfaction and completion is never at peace until it rests in authentic love. And Love is God. Our destiny is not in this life, rather beyond it and yet the entrance to our destiny is our death. Wow! What a peculiar set of circumstances each of us has to find a way to accept and live into. Often the elderly have taught me to clear away all the stuff that might have been important, and long for what really matters. Over and again I have heard, “I am ready – I want to go home,” from folks who have lived through illness and aging.

The Gospel for this fifth Sunday of Lent finds Jesus anticipating His own death while at the same time teaching us how to live and how to die. Jesus uses the simple example of a seed that needs to die in order to be fruitful – what a paradox. In fact, He is speaking about all of us and the necessity of dying to our selfishness in order to be fully alive, which is to say, in order to love and to be loved.

This story gives a glimpse of what God wants for every one of us: to move through our reality and suffering, to find a path in life of faith and love and, in this sweet experience of living, prepare to die so that we may live completely and always.

The upcoming celebration of Holy Week and Easter brings into the sharpest focus the relationship among living, suffering and dying with a future hope of resurrection. Jesus has shown the way, and at the very center of this way is Love. For it is in love that one dies to self and through love that one arrives at fullness of life now and in eternity.

Fr. Ronan

Fifth Sunday of Lent
March 20/21, 2021

Proclaimed this weekend is the Gospel story of Jesus inviting his
disciples into a great mystery with curious pronouncements:
Those who love their lives just as they are will lose them. If a grain of
wheat dies, it will bear much fruit…What does Jesus mean?
The climactic event of Jesus’ passion and death is drawing closer;
a time when the great confrontation between Jesus and the powers of darkness take place.
When Jesus is lifted up, he will draw all to himself.
The Christian steward knows life can’t be lived in complacency.
We are called to die to self, bear more fruit, be raised up with Jesus.
Jesus brings discomfort to those who are comfortable.
Jesus urges us to give witness in his name.
How will we respond?

Restlessness

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Most of my adult life has been blessed with the opportunity to work with young adults, first in colleges and later in the years after graduation. I always enjoy the humor, intelligence, honesty and searching of this age.

Here in Charlestown, we have whole new generations of young men and women, single, engaged and married. Inevitably well educated and hard-working, the young are seeking to find fulfillment in life. Career choices, friendships, relationships and social life are all a part of the search. For some volunteering is important, and for all some kind of service is respected.

Though perhaps not true of all, I seem to find in many an underlying restlessness among young men and women. No matter how much work, how successful and promising the career path, how well remunerated the job, how brilliant and exciting the social life and how special the relationships with others, there seems to be a pervasive feeling that something’s missing – that there must be something more they are meant to achieve, secure or experience. So the restlessness is met with a choice to do more, accomplish more, acquire more, and see more. The resulting “busyness syndrome” does little other than increase the perceived deficit because it cannot be resolved by more of the same.

As if to exacerbate the sense of incompleteness, from time to time a young adult will meet another who seems to possess an inner happiness, completeness and goodness that is untethered from typical achievements. A person for
whom personal accomplishments are of less importance than working for and within some ideal – one for whom the “other” takes precedence over “self”. Unfortunately our present day culture rewards more what David Brooks calls our “résumé virtues” versus our “eulogy virtues” (New York Times: 4/11/15).

And yet everyone realizes that eulogy virtues are those we most appreciate in another and aspire to in ourselves.

In these Lenten days perhaps a gift each of us can give ourselves is to listen to the restlessness within. I’ve long been convinced restlessness is often a way God’s Spirit is working in our lives – and not just in the young! For if we are honest, most of us would agree whatever our life is about, come-day go-day is not enough. What fulfills and completes ultimately does not come from the outside, but rather from the inside; from the awareness of God’s love for us and our love for one another, and how we live that out.

Fr. Ronan

Fourth Sunday of Lent
March 13/14, 2021

This weekend’s Gospel reading gives us the encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus, a Pharisee and leader of the Jews who comes to Jesus by night, recognizing Jesus as a teacher from God, but coming in secret for fear of being put out of the synagogue. Jesus rebukes him for his lack of understanding. Good stewards realize that for the sake of this world, God gives his most cherished beloved son. And so they are willing to confess Jesus as their Lord and savior in a public way. They do not keep their faith to themselves, in darkness. The Gospel reading challenges
us to profess our faith in word and deed publicly, not to hide it away. Are we willing to accept the Gospel’s challenge? Are we willing to get out of our personal “comfort zone” and confess our faith in Christ Jesus in an open, tangible way?

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