Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter

Reading I Acts 16:1-10

Paul reached also Derbe and Lystra
where there was a disciple named Timothy,
the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer,
but his father was a Greek.
The brothers in Lystra and Iconium spoke highly of him,
and Paul wanted him to come along with him.
On account of the Jews of that region, Paul had him circumcised,
for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
As they traveled from city to city,
they handed on to the people for observance the decisions
reached by the Apostles and presbyters in Jerusalem.
Day after day the churches grew stronger in faith
and increased in number.

They traveled through the Phrygian and Galatian territory
because they had been prevented by the Holy Spirit
from preaching the message in the province of Asia.
When they came to Mysia, they tried to go on into Bithynia,
but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them,
so they crossed through Mysia and came down to Troas.
During the night Paul had a vision.
A Macedonian stood before him and implored him with these words,
“Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
When he had seen the vision,
we sought passage to Macedonia at once, 
concluding that God had called us to proclaim the Good News to them.

Responsorial Psalm 100:1b-2, 3, 5

R.    (2a)  Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R.    Alleluia.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
    serve the LORD with gladness;
    come before him with joyful song.
R.    Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R.    Alleluia.
Know that the LORD is God;
    he made us, his we are;
    his people, the flock he tends.
R.    Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R.    Alleluia.
The LORD is good:
    his kindness endures forever,
    and his faithfulness, to all generations.
R.    Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R.    Alleluia.

Alleluia Col 3:1

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If then you were raised with Christ,
seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Jn 15:18-21

Jesus said to his disciples: 
“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.
If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own;
but because you do not belong to the world,
and I have chosen you out of the world,
the world hates you.
Remember the word I spoke to you,
‘No slave is greater than his master.’
If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
And they will do all these things to you on account of my name,
because they do not know the one who sent me.” 

– – –

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

We Do Not Belong to This World

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus said to His disciples: “If the world hates you, realize that it hated Me first.”

He then goes on to remind them that they do not belong to this world. 

We all need that same reminder. We do not belong to this world either. 

We belong to God. And eternal life with Him is our ultimate goal.

Our time here on Earth is short. Though we often get caught up in the here and now; though we have day-to-day responsibilities, problems, and dilemmas; and though we must take care of ourselves materially, we must also prepare ourselves for the next life. 

Since we don’t belong to this world, our focus must be on what we have to do to earn heaven.

To that end, as long as we are doing God’s will, we cannot worry what others think about us. We cannot hide our faith or keep our mouths shut when we see injustice being done. Nor can we fail to stand up for our fellow human beings, especially those who are shunned by society. That includes the preborn, the elderly, the sick, and the disabled. It is our job to speak for those who cannot use their own voices. 

And just like the disciples, we might be hated because of our beliefs. We might get ridiculed. We might even lose friends. But those are worldly and temporal things, and God encourages us to maintain our focus on Him.

That doesn’t mean it will be easy. In fact, it’s very difficult to be hated or ridiculed. It’s difficult to lose friends. But that is why Christ constantly told His disciples that He would never leave them. He understood that they would need to draw strength from Him. 

God tells us the same thing. He will never leave us. And we must trust in His mercy and goodness. As He said in Jeremiah, “Blessed are those who trust in the Lord; the Lord will be their trust. They are like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It does not fear heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still produces fruit.” 

Though we may encounter many droughts in our lives, our steadfast faith ensures that we will produce the fruit that enriches our days and that will lead us closer to God in heaven. 

Contact the author

Susan Ciancio has a BA in psychology and a BA in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, with an MA in liberal studies from Indiana University. For the past 17 years, she has worked as a professional editor and writer, editing both fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, blogs, educational lessons, professional materials and website content. Eleven of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently Susan freelances and writes weekly for HLI, edits for American Life League, and is the editor of Celebrate Life Magazine. She also serves as executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program-an educational nonprofit program for K-12 students.

Feature Image Credit: Manuel Cóbar, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/12584-camino-natural

Daily Prayer for May 8

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble…The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Psalm 46:1, 7, RSV

Lord, Almighty God of heaven and earth, grant that we may come to you as your children. For you have chosen us through the gospel, and Jesus Christ has obtained mercy for us so that in you we have a refuge in disturbed and evil times. We turn to your Word, Lord God, rejoicing that again and again the whole of Christendom is led back to your Word. Strengthen all those who serve your Word, who look to you and to the grace of Jesus Christ. Grant that everywhere we may have hope and joy in the redemption you will bring in every situation, also in our ordinary practical life. Grant that through this redemption the earth may proclaim your praise and honor your name, your kingdom may come, and your will be done on earth as in heaven. Amen.

Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter

Reading I Acts 15:22-31

The Apostles and presbyters, in agreement with the whole Church,
decided to choose representatives
and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. 
The ones chosen were Judas, who was called Barsabbas,
and Silas, leaders among the brothers.
This is the letter delivered by them:
“The Apostles and the presbyters, your brothers,
to the brothers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia
of Gentile origin: greetings.
Since we have heard that some of our number
who went out without any mandate from us
have upset you with their teachings
and disturbed your peace of mind,
we have with one accord decided to choose representatives
and to send them to you along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So we are sending Judas and Silas
who will also convey this same message by word of mouth:
‘It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us
not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities,
namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols,
from blood, from meats of strangled animals,
and from unlawful marriage.
If you keep free of these,
you will be doing what is right. Farewell.’“

And so they were sent on their journey.
Upon their arrival in Antioch
they called the assembly together and delivered the letter.
When the people read it, they were delighted with the exhortation.

Responsorial Psalm 57:8-9, 10 and 12

R.    (10a)  I will give you thanks among the peoples, O Lord.
or:
R.    Alleluia.
My heart is steadfast, O God; my heart is steadfast;
    I will sing and chant praise.
Awake, O my soul; awake, lyre and harp!
    I will wake the dawn.
R.    I will give you thanks among the peoples, O Lord.
or:
R.    Alleluia.
I will give thanks to you among the peoples, O LORD,
    I will chant your praise among the nations.
For your mercy towers to the heavens,
    and your faithfulness to the skies.
Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
    above all the earth be your glory!
R.    I will give you thanks among the peoples, O Lord.
or:
R.    Alleluia.

Alleluia Jn 15:15b

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I call you my friends, says the Lord,
for I have made known to you all that the Father has told me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Jn 15:12-17

Jesus said to his disciples:
“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.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another.”

– – –

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Friend Group

Think of the personalities in your friend group. Who’s the de facto “leader” of your group? Which person comes up with the plans, gets everyone else excited, keeps everyone connected? Every group has that person. Maybe it’s you.

Jesus’ friend group included a lot of personalities too – the Rock, the Boanerges (“Sons of Thunder”), the doubting one, the young and Beloved disciple. But it wasn’t Jesus’ personality that kept them all connected, it was WHO HE IS, and WHAT HE DID for them. He is God and he gave everything for them. Wow.  The really awesome thing is that WE CAN BE IN THAT FRIEND GROUP TOO!

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is reiterating the most important lesson for his friends: they must love one another AS HE LOVED THEM. In case they might miss the point, he tells them exactly how he loves them; his love is so great that he will LAY DOWN HIS VERY LIFE for his friends. He chose them, he told them everything he heard from his Father, and now he will die for them.

What are they (and we) supposed to do in response? Jesus’ friends are called to love one another in the same way and GO AND BEAR FRUIT, to the glory of the Father. A few verses earlier (Jn 15:1-8), he has explained that without him, we can do nothing, and so we are like branches which must remain firmly connected to Jesus, the Vine, in order to bear any fruit.

These words, spoken just before Jesus actually gave himself over to death for love of his friends and love of his Father, must have resonated deeply with the disciples. The Church built up around this genuine self-giving love and Communion with the very Person of Jesus Christ, defining his followers as those who loved one another and their enemies! This was a profound, sacrificial love, far deeper than “being nice” or any kind of natural human compassion – this is love with an eternal perspective, love that wants what is spiritually, eternally, best for the other. This is love that can only come through us from the One Who IS Love, and only if we remain firmly connected to the Vine, and allow ourselves to be pruned by the Vine Grower. Jesus taught us that we can call God “Father,” because we are IN the Son.

Anything we think we can do without Jesus is just self-assertion, self-insertion, self-sufficiency. None of these keep us connected to the Vine so that we can love truly and bear lasting fruit. Today, let’s consider how well our attitude toward God mirrors Jesus’ attitude toward the Father, and how deeply we love the people around us. Enough to lay down our very lives? This is the profound love that can be ours IN CHRIST, if we set our own agendas aside. This is the glorious grace that is ours through baptism. This is the profound commandment Jesus gives his friends. 

Contact the author

Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father Rob and seminarian Luke ;-), and two grandchildren. She is a Secular Discalced Carmelite and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 25 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio, by publishing and speaking, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Catechesis, various parishes, and other ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is https://www.kathryntherese.com/.

Feature Image Credit: Kimson Doan, https://unsplash.com/photos/AZMmUy2qL6A

Daily Prayer for May 7

We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. l John 4:13, NIV

Dear Father in heaven, we thank you with all our hearts because we know you are holding us by your hand and leading us on all our ways, in spite of all contradiction, strife, distress, and confusion within ourselves. What are all these compared to your love, which does not let us go but watches over us and finally brings us to what is good? Release us from our many burdens. Free our spirits and our souls more and more until we can do nothing but give praise and thanks with heart, soul, and strength for all you are to us. Amen.

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter

Reading I Acts 15:7-21

After much debate had taken place,
Peter got up and said to the Apostles and the presbyters,
“My brothers, you are well aware that from early days
God made his choice among you that through my mouth
the Gentiles would hear the word of the Gospel and believe.
And God, who knows the heart,
bore witness by granting them the Holy Spirit
just as he did us.
He made no distinction between us and them,
for by faith he purified their hearts.
Why, then, are you now putting God to the test
by placing on the shoulders of the disciples
a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?
On the contrary, we believe that we are saved
through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they.”
The whole assembly fell silent,
and they listened
while Paul and Barnabas described the signs and wonders
God had worked among the Gentiles through them.

After they had fallen silent, James responded,
“My brothers, listen to me.
Symeon has described how God first concerned himself
with acquiring from among the Gentiles a people for his name.
The words of the prophets agree with this, as is written:

    After this I shall return
        and rebuild the fallen hut of David;
    from its ruins I shall rebuild it
        and raise it up again,
    so that the rest of humanity may seek out the Lord,
        even all the Gentiles on whom my name is invoked.
    Thus says the Lord who accomplishes these things,
        known from of old.

It is my judgment, therefore,
that we ought to stop troubling the Gentiles who turn to God,
but tell them by letter to avoid pollution from idols,
unlawful marriage, the meat of strangled animals, and blood.
For Moses, for generations now,
has had those who proclaim him in every town,
as he has been read in the synagogues every sabbath.”

Responsorial Psalm 96:1-2a, 2b-3, 10

R.    (3)  Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
or:
R.    Alleluia.
Sing to the LORD a new song;
    sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name.
R.    Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
or:
R.    Alleluia.
Announce his salvation, day after day.
Tell his glory among the nations;
    among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.
R.    Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
or:
R.    Alleluia.
Say among the nations: The LORD is king.
He has made the world firm, not to be moved;
    he governs the peoples with equity.
R.    Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
or:
R.    Alleluia.

Alleluia Jn 10:27

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Jn 15:9-11

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 might be in you and
your joy might be complete.”

– – –

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

True Joy

How can we be happy? This seems like the question that has echoed through the ages. Everybody wants to be happy and wants to find the key to peace. Often we turn to worldly things for this happiness because we are given a glimpse of happiness when we receive material things. We turn to money, status, food, relationships, whatever we can in order to feel happiness for just a few moments.

But today in the Gospel we hear Jesus talk about joy instead of happiness. He says, “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.”

So Jesus doesn’t seem super occupied with happiness, but instead with joy. What is the difference? I think if we truly look at it, happiness is an emotion that can come and go, but joy is a virtue that stays. What do I mean? Think of some of the martyrs who were joyful even during their death because they knew where they were going. They were able to live the virtue of joy even in the most “unhappy” of times. They did not let the world affect their virtue.

So we really should be asking how can we always have joy? The answer, of course, is given to us in the Gospel. We ask Jesus for it. He has perfect joy and wants to share it with us. He wants to give us this virtue that lasts even when it seems that we should be unhappy or broken or hurt or suffering.

Do we know this Jesus who wants to give us this joy? Ask yourself that question personally. Have you met this Jesus who wants to take your yoke and make it easier, who wants to give you joy beyond your imagination, who wants to bring you peace and love? I think we want to believe that Jesus is that person or we easily believe he does that for others, but do we pray to know this Jesus who wants to bring us joy? 

Especially during this time of Easter, let’s all pray fervently for the grace to grow in this important virtue. So that we may always have joy even when the things around us seem negative, we know that nothing and nobody can rob us of joy. From all of us here at Rodzinka Ministry, God bless!

Contact the author

Tommy Shultz is the Founder/Director of Rodzinka Ministry and the Director of Faith Formation for the North Allegan Catholic Collaborative. In these roles, he is committed to bringing all those he meets into a deeper relationship with Christ. Tommy has a heart and flair for inspiring people to live their faith every day. He has worked in various youth ministry, adult ministry, and diocesan roles. He has been a featured speaker at retreats and events across the country. With a degree in Theology from Franciscan University, Tommy hopes to use his knowledge to help all people understand the beauty of The Faith. Contact Tommy at tommy@rodzinkaministry.com or check out his website at rodzinkaministry.com.

Feature Image Credit: Mohamed Nohassi, https://unsplash.com/photos/odxB5oIG_iA

Daily Prayer for May 6

I heard a loud voice proclaiming from the throne: “Now at last God has his dwelling among men! He will dwell among them and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes; there shall be an end to death, and to mourning and crying and pain; for the old order has passed away!” Revelation 21:3–4, NEB

Lord our God, we look to you and to Jesus Christ our Savior. Continually renew your grace and your power in our lives, we pray. Renew your grace and power, that we may have light even in dark and distressing times and through the Savior may overcome as we wait faithfully for your kingdom. Help us to be ready to take anything upon ourselves, to serve you with body and soul, with all we have and are. May we belong to the hosts of those who go to meet you, who wait for your coming kingdom, which will bring comfort to the world and to all people who now suffer and grieve. O Lord our God, have mercy on our times and on our world. Grant that with thanks and praise we may soon see the signs of the fulfillment of your promises. Amen.

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

Reading I Acts 15:1-6

Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers,
“Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice,
you cannot be saved.”
Because there arose no little dissension and debate
by Paul and Barnabas with them,
it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others
should go up to Jerusalem to the Apostles and presbyters
about this question. 
They were sent on their journey by the Church,
and passed through Phoenicia and Samaria
telling of the conversion of the Gentiles,
and brought great joy to all the brethren.
When they arrived in Jerusalem,
they were welcomed by the Church,
as well as by the Apostles and the presbyters,
and they reported what God had done with them.
But some from the party of the Pharisees who had become believers
stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them
and direct them to observe the Mosaic law.”

The Apostles and the presbyters met together to see about this matter.

Responsorial Psalm 122:1-2, 3-4ab, 4cd-5

R.    (see 1)  Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
or:
R.    Alleluia.
I rejoiced because they said to me,
    “We will go up to the house of the LORD.”
And now we have set foot
    within your gates, O Jerusalem.
R.    Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
or:
R.    Alleluia.
Jerusalem, built as a city
    with compact unity.
To it the tribes go up,
    the tribes of the LORD.
R.    Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
or:
R.    Alleluia.
According to the decree for Israel,
    to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
In it are set up judgment seats,
    seats for the house of David.
R.    Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
or:
R.    Alleluia.

Alleluia Jn 15:4a, 5b

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Remain in me, as I remain in you, says the Lord;
whoever remains in me will bear much fruit.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Jn 15:1-8

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 everyone 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.
Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

– – –

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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