These reflections are a result of more than 40 years of ministry as a Roman Catholic priest. Most of these years I spent in the Diocese of Charlotte which covers Western North Carolina. Now I am retired, and live in Medellín, Colombia where I continue to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Medellín.
Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. But many that are first will be last, and the last will be first." (Mk 10:28-31)
A hundred times more . . . houses and lands, well, not so much, but brothers and sisters and mothers and children in abundance. Hard times (persecutions) go with the territory if you stand with the people the Lord loves, but after 45 years of priestly ministry it has truly been worth it all. Saint Joan of Arc (1412-1431) would agree! Today’s picture is of my mom, Norma, standing by the statue of the execution of Saint Joan of Arc near the Church of Sant'Alessio on the Aventine Hill, Rome, January 15, 1989.
When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. (Acts 1:12-14)
The disciples gathered in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is the perfect image of the church. Although this feast day is of recent origin (2018), its rationale is as old as the Scriptures themselves. In the United States today is Memorial Day. As my grandmother taught me, this day was originally known as Decoration Day, a day to visit the cemetery to remember those who have fallen, decorate their graves, and pray for peace and for an end to war.
As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. (1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13)
If we all drink of the one Spirit, then why do we have such divisions in the Body of Christ? If Pentecost is the reversal of the Tower of Babel, then perhaps we really need to listen to the Spirit speaking to the Heart of the Church and allow the Spirit to renew the spiritual gift of service in us so that we may accomplish the work to which we are called: to proclaim the same Spirit, the same Lord, the same God.
Jesus said to Peter the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, "Follow me." (Jn 21:15-19)
Today we have Peter being restored to ministry, “Feed my sheep.” But it’s a ministry based not on apostolic power but rather based on love, “Simon do you love me?” Saint Philip Neri (1515-1595) was committed to the renewal of secular (non-religious) priests. He began the custom of visiting the seven patriarchal basilicas of Rome. In Colombia the custom is to visit seven churches to visit the Altar of Repose on the evening of Holy Thursday.
Peter turned and saw the disciple following whom Jesus loved. When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, "Lord, what about him?" Jesus said to him, "What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours? You follow me." So the word spread among the brothers that that disciple would not die. But Jesus had not told him that he would not die, just "What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours?" It is this disciple who testifies to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. (Jn 21:20-25)
As the Easter Season comes to a close, Peter has been restored to ministry and questions Jesus about the Beloved Disciple. Apparently, the Beloved Disciple has died. (And if Lazarus is the Beloved, then for good reason folks would believe that he would not die—since the Lord had raised him from the dead!) The writer of this added chapter to the Fourth Gospel tells us that the Beloved Disciple testifies to these things and has written them. That would make the core of the Fourth Gospel older than anyone has ever imagined.
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: "I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” (Jn 17:20-26)
The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus comes to a conclusion with this passionate plea for unity. In fact, unity among believers is essential so that the “world may believe that you sent me.” Christian Unity can never become pasé. Christian Unity is the constant prayer of Jesus.
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying: “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.” (Jn 17:11b-19)
The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus continues. And what a powerful prayer it is. A prayer for unity among believers, a prayer of consecration. In a world torn by so many divisions not the least being the divisions in the church and between believers, we need this prayer more than ever before. Mary Help of Christians is an old and popular title of the Virgin Mary. I learned the devotion to Mary Help of Christians from my Colombian madrecita, Doña Ofelia Arroyave.