Honest thoughts about personal journeys
These spritual reflections are written by members of the Prep community – alumni, parents, students, faculty and staff. Each one focuses on the liturgical reading of the day. We hope that reading about the journeys of other people will inspire each of us to think intentionally about our own experiences with faith and life. If you would like to write an entry, please contact Steve Ruemenapp, Assistant Principal for Mission and Identity.
Happy New Year, St. John’s Prep! It’s time to shake the dust off the old list of New Year’s resolutions. I think we all know what they are, right? Eat well, sleep more, spend less, study more, get fit, save money, pray each morning, leave work on time, call home more, drink more water, spend more time with family and friends. All worthy, but I know my own list could use a refresh.
What if I think about my New Year’s resolutions in light of today’s Scripture readings?
I could be more like Moses this year, and put “go and bless” on my list of resolutions. If I said “the Lord bless you and keep you and be gracious unto you” in every situation, knowing that God uses me to bless others, how could I bless the SJP community? How could I share God’s blessing with my family, my students, my teachers and my colleagues? This will make for an exciting year.
I could be more like the shepherds and put “make known the message” on my list of resolutions. When someone shares discouragement or doubt or fear this year, rather than just being empathetic, I will like the shepherds “glorify and praise God for all I have seen and heard” and share that God delivers “just as it had been told”? This will take my conversations in 2017 to a whole new level of meaningfulness.
And I could be more like Mary, and put “keep all the things God has done for me, reflecting on them in my heart” as my number one resolution. I will replace the stress and anxiety that comes from living in a society that moves too fast too carelessly with thoughtful contemplation of God’s past and ongoing blessing in my life. This will be life-changing.
As we enter 2017, I pray for all those in the St. John’s Prep community:
“The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!”
~ Sharon Randall P'20 '22
January 2: Memorial of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church
There are few characters in scripture who I am drawn to as much as John the Baptist. In many ways that seems odd. Those who know me well would not see me much as a living in the desert, surviving on locusts and wild honey and having only a camel's skin for clothing type of person, as John is described in the gospel. Yet, I admire John immensely because he so clearly knew his mission in life and lived it with reckless abandon. His role was to testify to the coming of Jesus. He set the stage beautifully, and then knew it was his time to get off the center of the stage, but he still eventually paid for this work with his life.
We are in the first few days of 2017. It's always tempting for me to think about the long list of resolutions that I have for the new year...and I have already begun to do it. And, I think for me, in many ways, that is quite healthy. However, what if we also took a page out of John's book and recommitted to our main mission(s) in life? What are the one or two things that I want to try to fully commit myself to this year? Where can I make the most difference to improve my part of the world in 2017? I'd encourage us all to discern that in the next few days and see just how differently our corner of the world looks this coming December.
~Steve Ruemenapp is Assistant Principal for Mission and Identity, husband and father of four.
With the new year brings a new set of goals, aspirations and resolutions. It is an exciting idea to think about all the new things we want to accomplish, and to do that with a fresh slate. Today’s reading reminded me of one of the goals I always set for myself. John 3:7-10 reminds us that as long as we act righteous, God will love us. For he has brought us into this world and loves us unconditionally. Every year I commit myself to being better. To make small improvements and find the positive (God) in my daily life. This can sometimes be hard when we see so much negativity in the world today. Being kind to others, reaching out to people who you don’t always talk to just to catch up, or smiling at someone who seems to be having a bad day, are just a few of the things I feel can make a small impact. By doing this, we are acting out what God teaches us and for me, helps to achieve my goal of being my best self.
~ Krista Urquart, School Counseling
One of the best things that I love about the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany (celebration of the arrival of the three Wise Men on January 6), is that it gives our family time to reflect not only on our resolutions for the coming new year, but it also allows us an opportunity to pause and be truly thankful for the many blessings that we have received over the past year. We are incredibly thankful for the opportunity that we had to witness and to be blessed by those who showed us the power of love as an action verb.
In today’s first reading, the apostle John challenges us to examine what love as an action verb might look like when he asks, “if someone who has worldly means, sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him?” He answers this question in the most gentle way when he further says, “children, let us love not in word and speech but in deed and truth.”
We are to have deep compassion for those that we see every day and should then be moved to love them in such a way, that we reflect the love of God, namely Jesus, back to them. John is calling and encouraging us to not just say we love those around us but instead for us to show that love in tangible ways by meeting their needs and helping them.
For my family, we were humbled beyond measure when friends, neighbors and family members all stepped in and helped us with meals, grocery shopping, rides, childcare, etc., after one of us had some significant health issues. We also received so much encouragement from cards, emails, texts and telephone calls during our most challenging days. People loved us not by what they said to us, but instead by what they did for us.
So my question for you is a simple one, what will you do today, to truly show God’s love to those around you, so that you reflect Jesus? Whom can you love so that they know it and not just hear it? May we as a Prep community, continue to extol the Xaverian virtue of compassion and love, to everyone that we see and meet, each and every day of this new year.
~ Sue House, proud Mom of P'18 '19 and '25 (hopefully).
Over the course of many reflections, I have often mentioned how my focus on the Gospel readings on my assigned days is centered on how Jesus reacts to certain situations. I then try to apply His actions and wisdom to my daily life, as a measuring stick for how I reacted or how I might improve in the future. However, I have also discovered a second benefit of this reflection exercise to be one in which I find myself going back to review my own understanding of the Catechism. In short, my reflection creates a learning opportunity, in which I refresh my knowledge of the basic tenets of my faith. Such is the case today, with the readings of January 6……
“He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit”………Mark 1: 7-11
That single line from Mark’s Gospel really caught my attention. I’ve certainly heard and read it hundreds of time in my life, but this time really caused me to stop and ask: Do I really understand who the Holy Spirit is? And, what role does the Holy Spirit play in my life? I was moved to read a number of articles online about the role of the Holy Spirit in the Catholic faith. Whether rightly or wrongly, I have always equated the Holy Spirit with my conscience, that little voice on my shoulder that reminds me how to act and how to interact with those in my life. Now, given that the roles of the Holy Trinity should never be divided up among the three persons as we believe they are all One, I nonetheless do often find myself praying specifically to the Holy Spirit for guidance on how to handle certain situations. Among the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit received at Baptism, I am most thankful for his blessings of understanding, fortitude and knowledge. Knowing that these gifts are always present and available if I listen and seek them out, is the true source of peace and serenity in my life.
So, as a new year begins, I pray that we all keep the Holy Spirit active in our lives and that His sense of peace extends over all of us in 2017…..
~ David Hennessey '83 P'16, Social Studies Department
We have this confidence in God,
that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask,
we know that what we have asked him for is ours.
If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly,
he should pray to God and he will give him life.
This is only for those whose sin is not deadly.
There is such a thing as deadly sin,
about which I do not say that you should pray.
All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.
We know that no one begotten by God sins;
but the one begotten by God he protects,
and the Evil One cannot touch him.
We know that we belong to God,
and the whole world is under the power of the Evil One.
We also know that the Son of God has come
and has given us discernment to know the one who is true.
And we are in the one who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ.
He is the true God and eternal life.
Children, be on your guard against idols.
I have been reluctant to end this year’s Christmas season; it has been a spectacularly blessed one for our family. Nothing would seem extraordinary to the onlooker. We had simply given ourselves the gift of time, with no grand ambitions to be filled, no crazy schedules or deadlines. Though I tend to shy away from New Year’s resolutions, this unhurried time prompted a reminder to focus more on my spiritual life. I received a gift from a friend that urged me “to take time to pray everyday.” It seemed a sign. My goal for 2017 will be a year to focus deeper on my spiritual life and relationship with God.
As I sat down to reflect on the January 7 readings, I had to smile. The day’s reading, from John 5:14-21 focuses on prayer! I almost coined it a coincidence, then remembered the term one of our parish priests uses: God-incidences. I love the distinction: a simple reminder of God making himself known to us when we go looking for him, or are open to his presence.
I started to research the interpretation of this passage, and wow! Lots of scholarly analysis, not all of it I am ready to digest. I opted to focus instead on 5:14-17, the words of which truly spoke to me.
We have this confidence in God,
that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask,
we know that what we have asked him for is ours.”
This passage reminds us immediately that when we approach God in prayer, we are showing that we have confidence in all of His attributes and promises. When our requests are in line with God’s will, our prayers will be answered. Sometimes, prayers are not immediately answered, and other times, prayers have been answered before we even realize it.
I will also include 5:21 – “Children, be on your guard against idols.”
When praying, a reminder to keep in mind the need to align with His will, and to “be on your guard against idols.” What is it we are praying for? Have we, perhaps just once, prayed to win the lottery, for example, and therefore been praying for the false idol of money?
I so appreciate how this passage was my assigned passage: thank you Steve Ruemenapp! Instead of seeing this as a coincidence, where, according to Albert Einstein: “Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous,” I will consider this a God-incidence. Happy 2017!
~ Jennifer Troisi P’20
Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Epiphany. "The Lord and ruler is coming; kingship is his, and government and power." With these words the Church proclaims that today's feast brings to a perfect fulfillment all the purposes of Advent. Epiphany, therefore, marks the liturgical zenith of the Advent-Christmas season.
The feast of the Epiphany, which was kept in the East and in certain Western Churches before being observed in Rome, seems to have been originally a feast of the nativity; January 6, for those churches where it was kept, was the equivalent of Christmas (December 25) in the Roman Church. The feast was introduced at Rome in the second half of the sixth century and became the complement and, so to say, the crown of the Christmas festival.
Epiphany means manifestation. What the Church celebrates today is the manifestation of our Lord to the whole world; after being made known to the shepherds of Bethlehem He is revealed to the Magi who have come from the East to adore Him. Christian tradition has ever seen in the Magi the first fruits of the Gentiles; they lead in their wake all the peoples of the earth, and thus the Epiphany is an affirmation of universal salvation. St. Leo brings out this point admirably in a sermon in which he shows in the adoration of the Magi the beginnings of Christian faith, the time when the great mass of the heathen sets off to follow the star which summons it to seek its Savior.
The feast of the Epiphany is, then, the first of the three manifestation feasts – the Epiphany, the Baptism of the Lord, and the Wedding Feast at Cana. These are feasts commemorating the divinity of Jesus through the actions of the different people In the three stories. Today, the Magi are central. Then, we have John baptizing Jesus and finally Jesus providing for the guests at the Wedding Feast.
Let us take the time to spend some time today reflecting how these readings have meaning to each of us today. How we can help to be that manifestation of God in our world – today and every day.
Today’s readings from Isaiah and Matthew’s Gospel both share the same words, “with whom I am well pleased.” I have always found these words to stand out to me at Jesus’ baptism, the symbolic commissioning of the beginning of his ministry. In Isaiah, God is pleased with his servant who works for justice. It would seem to suggest that Jesus is the servant who works for justice judging by the language being heard here. While the fact is that Jesus worked for justice in his time on this earth pleasing God, the question begs, with whom is God well pleased now?
I would propose that anyone who is working toward peace and justice today is whom God is well pleased. We as Christians have been baptized with the same charge, to do God’s will on earth. Often, the temptation is to fall into a behavior that is focused on one’s own personal devotion to God through prayer and ritual. However, today’s 1st reading in Isaiah would suggest it is in our work for peace, non-violence, and justice that is what pleases God.
In our 21st century context, it is clear that with the growing demands on our earth and communities from over-population, the complexities of our technologies, and more that practicing our faith means engaging directly with injustice in our world. Being a man or woman of faith in today’s society means being in relationship with those who suffer and those on the margins. As the New Year starts, perhaps challenge yourself to actively work for justice once a month for an hour or two as a way have God be well pleased with you.
~ James Barry, Religious Studies Department
In today’s reading, we hear of Jesus’ authority over an unclean spirit as he is teaching in the synagogue. For much of my life, I often viewed these stories as miracles that Jesus performed and it wasn’t until I was older that I considered more deeply the implications of Jesus casting out unclean spirits. We are all prone to giving in to unclean or bad spirits throughout our lives but by inviting Jesus into our lives, we can rid ourselves of these spirits. Perhaps for many of us, unclean spirits are seen mostly in small ways. On days that we wake up on the wrong side of the bed, do we take time to invite Jesus into our lives? Maybe we opened ourselves to God the day before but by continuing to extend that invitation each day, we continue to cast out and ward off those unclean spirits that work their way into us.
I also find that there is something to learn from this passage in the way that Jesus addresses the man with the unclean spirit. Jesus doesn’t vilify the man or write him off. Instead, Jesus recognizes that it was the spirit within the man that was speaking and not the man himself. Although there is little we can do immediately cast out the negativity or ugliness that we sometimes witness in others, I imagine that we would be far better off if we recognize that often, others negativity may not be a reflection of who they really are.
~ Chris Bauer, Campus Ministry
I can’t imagine how overwhelmed Jesus must have felt when the whole town gathered to be healed and exorcised. But somehow he stayed focused. So much so that he would not allow even familiar people to distract him from his task with small talk.
And when the disciples tried to take Jesus away from prayer the next morning to perform more acts of healing, he again brought his goal to the forefront and instead moved on to nearby villages to preach.
As I read today’s Gospel, I found myself feeling a little uncomfortable. The urgency of the people to move Jesus away from his priorities made my heart beat a little faster. I thought about the times that someone has approached me saying, “I’ve been looking for you.” My immediate response is panic. Did something terrible happen? Does the person expect something of me that I can’t fulfill? Surely nobody is looking for me in order to give me a million dollars, I think to myself. I try really hard to listen and be accommodating. But sometimes the interruption takes me away from my immediate goal and I become annoyed.
Priorities. We all have them and sometimes they change. And we all have ideas of what we think other people’s priorities should be, especially when it comes to our kids. Before my son left for college, I thought besides schoolwork that his priority should be a clean room. Not so much. A teenager is focused on myriad activities and goals that do not involve a vacuum cleaner. I often wake up on a Saturday morning thinking I will spend the day cleaning the house and organizing my hall closet. That is until my friends call me to go out for breakfast and a little shopping. But at least I had the intention! I tell myself. This is something I continue to work on. Focus, that is.
I came across this poem that I wanted to share. It’s called "Stay Focused" by author and poet, Raj Arumugam.
don't you just love
people who can stay cool
and focused on the job?
That's what the world needs
People who keep their minds
steady on the job at hand
See, you call the doctor
and the receptionist answers
says she can't fit you in early
'How about 2 weeks from now,
say Friday? '
'That's 16 days from now, ' you say,
Petrified. 'But I could be dead by then.'
'Oh, ' says the receptionist
right on task, cool and focused:
'Your wife can always calls us
and cancel the appointment'
don't you just love
people who can stay cool
and focused on the job?
That's what the world needs
People who keep their minds
steady on the job at hand
~ Mary Mazzeo P'14, Registrar
Our readings today offer a simple but oft-forgotten message that is so relevant in our daily lives: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” We are always aware when we are told things we want to hear, especially in this time of New Year’s Resolutions.
Should I skip going to the gym today? -If you are not feeling well, sure!
Should I eat that piece of candy I resolved not to eat? -Why not?! You have been doing well so far!
However, we tend to ignore the voice in our heads that provides the thought that we do not want to hear. We tell ourselves that it is okay to give in “just this once”, or “I’ll make up for it tomorrow”. Yet here we have the Holy Spirit telling us that we must always listen to these voices, for it could be the voice of God speaking to us. Of course, it may not be as trivial as “You should follow through on your resolution today”, but the point remains the same. We cannot close our ears to that which we do not want to hear. We cannot harden our hearts when God speaks to us.
The final thoughts from our first reading provide a much better conclusion than I myself could provide, so I conclude with that message, in hopes that we can remember this in each of our daily thoughts and actions, big or small:
“Encourage yourselves daily while it is still "today," so that none of you may grow hardened by the deceit of sin. We have become partners of Christ if only we hold the beginning of the reality firm until the end.”
~ Evan Korol, Mathematics Department
I am blessed to teach a junior religious studies class here at SJP, and some of my students are reading :Tattoos on the Heart" by Fr. Greg Boyle for their semester exam. I have just finished listening to the book. The book focuses on the many ways that working with the "homies" in Los Angeles has informed Fr. Greg's perspective on life and faith. I love this book.
Fr. Greg uses the story from today's gospel during one of his from "Tattoos on the Heart." He emphasized that the friends of the paralytic literally tore the roof off the house and prompted everyone to broaden their perspective on God and community. Out of love and concern of their friend, they went through all the work of ripping the roof off and, as a result, their friend was able to walk again.
I wonder, where do I need to blow the roof off some of my perceptions about God and who is in and who is out? How can I get a more expansive view of God's love and who is part of God's community? I am immediately prompted to think about our recent presidential election. I had a hard time with the results and disagreed pretty intensely with some people on the opposing side. It's very easy for me to fall into an us vs. them mentality. That is one roof I need to work hard at tearing off while still working hard to live the Gospel. Jesus associated with all kinds of people, and I believe he is calling me to see his love in all those people who voted for the other person. Inauguration is next week. How can we tear the roof off our differences and live out God's kingdom in 2017 and beyond?
~ Steve Ruemenapp is Assistant Principal for Mission and Identity, husband and father of four.
In yesterday's Gospel, we see four friends rip the roof off of a house to bring a "sinner" to be healed by Jesus. Jesus compliments the man on his faith and then heals him. Today, Jesus pushes the boundaries of who is in and who is out by searching out a tax collector to come and follow him.
There were simply no outsiders with Jesus, except for the people who chose to keep themselves from being close to him. Everybody was welcome and encouraged to be "in." That's why it was always good news.
Who is in and who is out in my life? In my family? At my work? In my community? In our country? If we're living by the good news, we all need to be in!
~ Steve Ruemenapp is Assistant Principal for Mission and Identity, husband and father of four.
John the Baptist, or J-Baps as I like to refer to him in class, was a pretty popular guy according to the Gospels and the Jewish historian Josephus. People from all walks of life went out to the desert to receive his baptism of repentance, including even the religious authorities of his day, the Pharisees and scribes. His ascetic, seemingly bizarre way of life and his message made him a kind of religious superstar by 1st century Judean standards. Although today’s Gospel reading about John’s encounter with Jesus contains many profound mysteries, the first insight that struck me is that John’s popularity does not go to his head. He does not lose sight of the fact that his mission is to prepare the ground for the coming of Jesus Christ, the Light to the Nations. John doesn’t make his job all about himself, but the One above himself.
To what extent in my job or in my studies do I recognize that what I do is for God’s greater glory? To what extent do I make myself the center of attention, rather than pointing through my actions to “the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world”?
~ Dr. James Arinello is a religious studies and history teacher. He is sometimes capable of keeping his reflections short and to the point.
Today's reading features a passage from the Gospel According to Mark 2:18-22. A quick glance at the five verses reveals a seemingly trivial statement about fasting. Quite literally, the passage pertains to a religious discrepancy between the Pharisees and Jesus's followers about fasting. For many Christians, the concept of fasting as a matter of religious duty seems somewhat distant. After conducting some research and considering the essence of Jesus's words for my self, I realized that today's reading carries much more gravity.
When Jesus provides the analogies of a new patch on old clothing and new wine poured into old wineskin, he references the creation of the New Covenant with God. Historically speaking, Jesus's messianic proclamations raised many eyebrows. One cannot underestimate, therefore, how neither Jesus's followers nor the Pharisees nearby would have taken his words lightly. For Christians especially, the New Covenant with God reflects the fundamentals upon which Christianity exists. In reading Scripture, I always try to read on three different levels. First, I read for literal meaning. Though I am not a biblical literalist, the meaning contributes to the metaphorical meaning of a biblical passage. On this level, I derive theological insights. Lastly, I always want to apply a passage of Scripture to the modern world. The applicational function of reading the Bible provides me with the day-to-day advice and allows all of us to reflect in a creative way. In my fourth of year of religious studies at St. John's, I have learned that we all take something different away from reading the Bible.
After some thought about the foundational meaning of the passage, I consider today's reading a story of old, new, and how change affects all of us. For my classmates, me, and our families and friends of the Class of 2017, college is just on the horizon. No matter how much excitement or nervousness this time brings for students and their families, change challenges all of us. Even Jesus's followers demonstrated uncertainty of embracing the Messiah and adopting the New Covenant with God. As I consider the changes I will face- where I live, the people I meet, the greater independence and responsibility -I look toward Jesus's fortuitous message of embracing the forthcoming by making every best effort to adapt rather than pour new wine into an old wineskin or adding a new patch to old clothing. Above all else, I am grateful for the opportunities that change affords us. Through all the questions, difficulty, and hardship raised with the new, I look to God with gratitude and faith in His vision.
~Will Poirier '17
“Desire each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness for the fulfillment of hope until the end, so that you may not become sluggish” (HEB 6:10-20)
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus calls into question the Pharisees, who often hold the law of God to be more important than God’s will. The problem of dispute is that Jesus’ disciples are picking grain, completing work, on the Sabbath, the day of rest. I always enjoy the stories where Jesus calls into question the Jewish faith of his day. The Pharisees become what the Old Testament verse above warns us against, to become sluggish. They blindly acknowledge the laws of the Sabbath. Jesus reminds the Pharisees of an Old Testament story in which David unlawfully took bread that belonged to the priests in order to feed his hungry companions. The Pharisees subscribe to the idea that the status quo must be just, and therefore, they follow the laws without questioning. In addition, they judge those who do not obey the laws: “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?" (MK 2:23-28).
It is easy to be sluggish like the Pharisees. Being comfortable with my own view of the world can sometimes lead me to be judgmental of those who see things differently and live by different principles. Through his actions and words to the Pharisees, Jesus demonstrates how to be more eager in a life of faith. Following the laws of his faith community does not solely define his spiritual life. He also incorporates scripture and his own conscience. I think it is important to remember that living a spiritual life should not be completely dependent on religious dogma. Jesus proves by questioning the Pharisees that religion and other important institutions should be called into question to make sure they are operating justly.
~John DeBello '16
Today’s Gospel reading relates Jesus challenging the Pharisees regarding church law. As Jesus enters the synagogue, the Pharisees watch him closely to see if he will cure a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. Jesus directly confronts them, asking “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” The Pharisees refused to answer him, so Jesus, with anger and grief over “…their hardness of heart,” cures the man. The Pharisees, now with proof of Jesus breaking church law, rush to the Herodians to put Jesus to death.
How often do people today adhere so strictly to ‘church law’ that they offend, insult, demean or physically hurt others? Who are we, as even Pope Francis said about himself regarding the sexual choice of others, to judge? How does church law, created by men centuries ago, over-ride our Christian behavior? Jesus certainly is well aware of ‘keeping the Sabbath’, yet he clearly states the need ‘to do good….to save a life’ as acceptable reasons that church law may be superseded. Yet, how often do we forsake our Christian duty by succumbing to our politics, personal distastes, or peer pressure? ‘Pharisee’ behavior—ignoring the hurt we cause to others, or allowing others to suffer because we deem our personal or political beliefs as separate from our role as Christians—befalls us all. The difficulty in our chosen life as Christians, or simply living as ‘good people’, mandates that our humanity towards others overrides all other dictates—whether political, social, or even canonical. Jesus calls us to follow him, including ‘doing good’ when perhaps we find it the most difficult to do so.
Years ago a plastic wrist band inscribed with the letters “WWJD”(What would Jesus do?) was the rage—might we engrave those letters into our hearts and minds to help us remember that the behavior we seek to emulate in our lifetimes is not the behavior of the Pharisees, but rather the more difficult, often counter-cultural role, of Jesus.
~ Katy Brandin P'13 '16
The word had spread (without the aid of social media) about Jesus. People in need or in awe, were flocking to see Him. They came far and from many different places...they believed! Jesus was trying to keep a bit of a low profile because He feared the crowds may crush Him. He knew, however, that it was not the time and place for His death.
Jesus had the advantage of knowing what was to come. We all wish we knew what was coming next in our lives...what's down the road...how we can prepare for it. Jesus knew God, because he was God. For us, faith is required. We can't predict the future, or control it...we can only have faith in what God has in store for us. And for us to know God requires us to have a relationship with Him by being in His presence through prayer. Like any relationship, it takes time and effort. The more we are with Him, the more we can live out His will for us, and accept His plan.
I've always loved the line from the John Lennon song, Beautiful Boy. It says: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." Not easy to accept, but life is certainly lighter when we give it up to God.
~ Steve Cunningham P'12 '14 '17, Assistant Head of School for Facilities
He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles, that they might be with him and he might send them forth… Mark 3:14
When the Gospels tell us of Jesus going up a mountain, something important is about to happen. Just as Moses when up the mountain to receive the Law, Jesus went up to give the New Law in the Sermon on the Mount. In today’s Gospel, Jesus goes up the mountain to appoint his apostles. Some of them are well known, like Peter, James and John. Others like Thaddeus and Simon the Cananean played no singular role scripture. And one would betray Jesus. Still, Jesus called them all. And each one followed.
Today Jesus continues to call you to faith. It involves a journey up a figurative mountain to truth and hope. It does not matter what you have or where you came from. What matters is where you’re going. If you’re going to give Jesus your trust, that’s the first step. From there, you’ll never walk alone. He entrusts this day to you. He asks that you continue the work he began with that motley crew of saints and sinners. Each was loved and all were sent make Him known by their words and actions.
So where are you going today?
"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone." -Thomas Merton, O.C.S.O. 1915-1968. American monk, writer and mystic
~ Fr. Thomas Powers ’73 U’19
Saint Agnes is the patron Saint of chastity. I had no idea of this until taking a look at the readings for her Feastday. Agnes was born into a wealthy Roman family and was a beautiful young girl. Many suitors approached her for hand in marriage but she would turn them all down saying that “Jesus Christ is my only spouse”. The young men she turned away grew so angry and insulted by her devotion to God and purity that they turned her name into authorities as a Christian follower. Eventually she turned down Procop, the Governor’s son, and this began her downfall. Procop did not go away quietly, he tried to win her over with rich gifts and promises but beautiful Agnes would have none of it saying “I am already promised to the Lord of the Universe. He is more splendid than the sun and the stars, and He has said He will never leave me.” When Procop’s advances failed he took her to his father, the Governor. He too promised Agnes wonderful gifts if she would deny God, but she refused. He placed her in chains as a more dire motivation but her lovely face shone with joy. He next sent her to a place of sin, which I take to mean a brothel, where she was protected by an Angel. At last she was condemned to death, yet Agnes was as happy as a bride on her wedding day. She was pleaded with to save herself to which she said “I would offend my Spouse if I were to try and please you. He chose me first and He shall have me!” With that she bowed her head in prayer and waited for the death stroke of the sword. At the age of 12 (or 13) Agnes was killed. The year was 304.
I could not pass up sharing the additional background on a saint and feast day I knew nothing about. I cite Catholic Online (www.catholic.org) as my source. The strength of faith of young Agnes and her unending optimism in the face of her martyrdom make her path to sainthood obvious.
Moving on to today’s Gospel reading we are presented with two verses from the third book of the Gospel of Mark. This is the shortest Gospel reading I have ever seen and its concluding statement referring to Jesus as being “out of his mind” begs for more detail. Looking at additional verses we see that crowds are building due to the enormous popularity that Jesus is garnering from his healing of the sick and unclean. Growing popularity also brings greater scrutiny and ridicule from the Pharisees and scribes. In the midst of this Jesus also names his apostles. He clearly has momentum going and it is at times like this that the critics and naysayers come out. According to the scribes, Jesus being “out of his mind” is attributed to his being possessed by Beelzebul – “by the prince of demons he drives out demons.” Jesus answers this with a series of parables. “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him.” While not part of today’s Gospel reading the parables of Jesus never fail to hold meaning especially in today’s United States of America. Let us come together as one nation under God. God Bless America.
~ Mike McShane P'18
Today’s reading is from Corinthians 1:10-13,17. The theme of this letter from the apostle Paul, is unity. Paul is back in Corinth after being away for an extended time. What he finds when he returns is a deeply divided church no longer centered on Christ’s teachings.
I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.
Is anyone else thinking, this is the situation our country finds itself in? Doesn’t it feel lately like we are living in the divided states of America? I have been struggling with this reading for more than a week because I am divided. It’s uncomfortable to be American right now regardless of who you voted for.
For Paul, the solution to the divisiveness of his time was to redirect the focus back to Christ. What would Jesus Christ do today? John’s gospel holds some clues.
In John 8:1-11, Scribes and Pharisees bring a woman accused of being in the act of adultery in front of Jesus and command stoning her as punishment. The men put the woman in front of Jesus to try to trick him on the Sabbath. The woman as far as we know from the story was in the middle of relations and then dragged down the street to be judged. They left the guy at home. Can you imagine this scene? Jesus, when confronted doesn’t react quickly with words, instead he bends down and writes with his finger in the sand. When he is ready to respond he says, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” The accusers leave and Jesus turns to the woman and says, “Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin...”
The lessons here are far reaching. We are all sinners. We all make mistakes. No one is exempt. We are all the same in Christ no matter who we are, what we think we possess or where we come from. Forgiveness is the way back to wholeness and unity. Divisions can be bridged with time (writing in the sand), open hearts (“neither do I condemn”) and minds (“go now” and live the life God intends for you).
May God Bless America...one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
~ Jacqueline Potdevin P'19
In Mark's Gospel (3:22-30), we find Jesus speaking in parables. The "Scribes who came from Jerusalem" were witness to the miracles of Jesus. Having no other way to explain these phenomena, they posit that Jesus is working in tandem with Satan. Jesus replies by attempting to show how absurd that assertion is:
"How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand."
This highlights the nature of Satan. If Satan cannot vanquish Christianity, he will work to set every man against his neighbor. Strength is weakened by division. Ultimately, it is a commentary on intent. Jesus tells them those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness. We have been taught that Jesus is forgiveness incarnate. However, behind that forgiveness, there must be true feeling and intent. Only the penitent person will be forgiven.
The world is a confusing, chaotic place - and things seem to get more confusing and chaotic every day. It is easy to come to quick judgment of our fellow humans when people get in the way of things we covet, or when things don't fall our way. We are humans and we make mistakes. We make lots of mistakes. It's important to look beyond the surface and attempt to judge people based on their intent. Did they purposely mean to hurt you? Did they do the best they could given the circumstances? Just as Jesus offers forgiveness to all those who seek such with a pure heart, we too should base our judgments on intention. We would undoubtedly become a far less judgmental people.
~ Kathy Cormier P'15 '16
Today’s Gospel opens with Jesus teaching with a crowd of people seated around him. This is a familiar scene. We see it at the house of Martha where Mary and his disciples are seated around Jesus—and “Mary has chosen the better part.” We see it in the Synagogue at Capernaum—“where he teaches with authority.” We even have a glimpse of it from the time Jesus was a precocious child (middle school?) seated among the rabbis in the Temple of Jerusalem where they were “astounded at his understanding and his answers.” But what is his lesson? One way of reading this passage that resonates with me centers on identity.
In New Testament times individual people were often identified in a few different ways. Often they were identified by where they came from, their place of origin such as Jesus of Nazareth, Joseph of Arimathea, or Judas Iscariot (Iscariot- from
Kerioth). Just as important as “place” was for identity, so too was one’s occupation, Jesus the carpenter, Matthew the tax collector or Simon the tanner. What one does is still important (for some) for understanding who one is— at the next cocktail party just count the seconds before someone asks, “So, in what field do you work?” or “what do you do for a living?” Finally, family is also important to identity. Jesus is identified as son of Mary, Levi as son of Alphaeus, James & John, the sons of Zebedee.
In the midst of all these ways that identity is imparted, shaped, and chosen, Jesus offers a different lesson about identity. Jesus, rebuffing his mother, brothers, and sisters who have come to “seize” him because they think he is “out of his mind,” indicates that “doing the will of God” is our most profound and basic source of identity. Responding to Jesus’s invitation to enter into a relationship with him shapes who we become, gives direction to our activities, and creates community. Relationships that shape identity like geography, occupation, and kinship are secondary to the deeper, more profound relationship with the Eternal God. It is this relationship that gives meaning and significance to the geographical (why am I here? Why now, at this moment in history?), to the occupational (why am I doing what I do? What am I called to do?), and to family itself (How does “doing the will of God” expand my understanding of “family”?).
How do I allow myself to be formed by God? How does my relationship with Jesus give meaning and direction to my life with others?
~ Sean Sennott, Religious Studies Department
There are few things more complicated than corporate America. On January 3 I received a phone call that changed my whole work dynamic. It was unsettling because I love my job and what I do. I am successful and never dreaded Monday mornings. On January 3 my entire job function, how I do it, and who I do it with changed. Managing change at work has always been a strong attribute of mine. I have adjusted to new bosses easily, I have adjusted to new jobs easily, I have tolerated jobs I did not care for with little effort. This change was so great and there were so many parts to it I realized that no one would be able to seamlessly adjust. When I read today’s gospel it gave me hope. Jesus gives us power to do things we don’t think we can do. Humans are amazingly resilient and pliable. Change in our lives can be painful, it can be joyous, and it can be annoying. Every experience we have prepares us for something else. It is so easy to focus on what we need to do, what is not going right. But the truth is there is so much beauty and happiness in our lives and we should focus on that and pray that we are provided with the strength to manage what is not right. As I walk out the door today I am going to look at a list of what is giving me joy and I will face the world and the tasks at hand with a smile. I hope you will do the same. I am writing this on Martin Luther King Day… so it seems appropriate to close with a quote from him: ”The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”
~ Lou Chinappi P'12
On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples:
"Let us cross to the other side."
Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was.
And other boats were with him.
A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat,
so that it was already filling up.
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.
They woke him and said to him,
"Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"
He woke up,
rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Quiet! Be still!"
The wind ceased and there was great calm.
Then he asked them, "Why are you terrified?
Do you not yet have faith?"
They were filled with great awe and said to one another,
"Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?"
This story from Mark conveys the message of having faith in God. In today’s reading, Jesus is on a boat with a few of his disciples, when the wind and sea endanger the boat. Jesus’ disciples worry, for they believe that the boat will be destroyed, but Jesus ceases the harsh conditions of the environment. The disciples are dumbfounded, and Jesus questions their faith in him, so they respond by asking whom it is they should have faith in.
This bible story from Mark is incredibly intriguing because it portrays a time in which some of Jesus’ many disciples, question what Jesus is able to do. Jesus was a teacher who believed that His disciples should always question Him, so Jesus could further enhance their spiritual beliefs.
I believe this passage addresses the question many people have throughout their lives, “is God ignoring me?” According to this story, no, is the answer. When you believe that God has abandoned your prayers, remember that God shall always answer them eventually.
Alexander Troisi ‘20