Men's Group Meetings
On Thursday, November 19th, we were fortunate to have Father Jim Sullivan speak to the Men’s group at our monthly meeting. He reminded us that we are coming to the end of the Church year at the end of this week and that the next week, with the start of Advent, a New Year begins in the Church.
Advent is a time of anticipation; of waiting for God and, as is Lent, a time for all of us to examine our own lives in a penitential way. We are reminded of this at Mass in Advent when the colors is purple representing Penance or Humility.
Today, the sense of penance is often lost in the Church. Father Jim related the story of Father John Vianney, the patron saint of priests and a great confessor of the Church. Assigned to a small backwater parish in Ars with a town population of about 200, St. John spoke about the needs for Confession and the healing and reconciliation it brought. His mission was to bring people back to the fullness of a relationship with God and he did this through the confessional. In time, people from all over Europe came to him. He spent 16 hours a day in the confessional, hearing the confessions of over 100,000 people. What a contrast to the confessionals of today where few and often no one comes. According to Father Jim, we have lost our sense of sin; lost a sense of what separates us from God.
Father Jim went on to the concept of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory..and what happens when we die. When we die, he says, there is an immediate “judgement”; the particular judgement (for more information see this link: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08550a.htm). At the time of death, we immediately know what our ultimate destiny is; heaven or hell. While we “know” at that time, we have an opportunity to be cleansed of our impurities before we enter Heaven, our souls have a chance to throw off the remnants of our sin and be cleansed and freshened. At the end of times, we are told we’ll get a new, spiritual body, one with attributes our current bodies do not have. It will be one that will also allow us to experience the fullness of eternal joy and the absence of pain.
So, do we know what Heaven will be like? What we do know is that Heaven will be different for everyone. Everyone will be perfectly happy but those with greater intimacy with God will have a deeper experience. We know already that God has made creatures to experience him differently. For example, there are 9 different choirs (or ranks) of angels: (http://www.catholic.org/saints/angels/angelchoir.php)
Each order of angel has complete joy and complete unity with God but different than the rest. So too will we, depending on our lives and our desire during this life to live as closely God as possible. As Jesus told us, “In my Father’s house there are many mansions.” John 14:2. While God has a place for all who accept Him regardless of their past sins and failings and even regardless of when the person came to the realization, those who have deeply lived their lives in Christ, who have worked to remove sin and who have sacrificed their own desires and interests to help others come to God will experience, in heaven an even greater sense of fulfillment.
Father Jim used an analogy of someone who worked hard..very hard to get through school, receiving the result of their hard efforts compared with someone who either didn’t have to work as hard or who “just got by”. Both graduated; both received the degree but the ones who worked harder, appreciated the effort and had a greater sense of accomplishment. While this is a tough analogy, when applied to Heave, it reflects the fact that our efforts to draw near to Christ in this life, to rid ourselves of sin and to help others get closer to Him will have us feeling more fulfilled.
That makes Purgatory a different kind of place then; far from being a “mini-Hell” where our impurities are “burned off”, regardless of our involvement, Purgatory is a place where the Faithful willingly want to be cleansed so they can enter even more deeply in God’s life in Heaven. It is a place we can willingly ask God to take away everything from our past lives that would hold us back from complete fullness of Joy. In Purgatory, we’re told, we’ll experience great sorrow and pain as we confront (again) those things that held us back or separated us from God but we also experience great joy knowing that we can willingly ask God to take those way. In a sense, like the sacrament of reconciliation, we can willingly ask God to remove those things in our lives in order to be fresh, to be cleansed.
As for Hell, we cannot know and therefore cannot assume who is there or who isn’t. What we do know if that God’s mercy applies to all who call on Him, no matter when they call on Him in this life; even at the very end of Life. God’s mercy extends to all; to the people who may have hurt us, to the people we might not even what to see in Heaven, if it were left up to us. God’s Mercy is for all.
We can enter deeply into that Mercy ourselves. December 8th is the beginning of The Year of Mercy in the Church. Father Jim encouraged us to take advantage of God’s mercy during this time by getting into a place we can recite the 6 toughest words for Catholics to say.. particularly Catholic Men;
“Bless Me Father, For I Have Sinned…”
As we do that, we ask for God’s cleansing and can experience it as a shower that washes us clean. We can then experience the most powerful seven words we can ever hear;
“Go In Peace, Your Sins Are Forgiven.”
As we enter the Season of Advent, let us remember that God’s Mercy can save anyone. All love comes from God, not ruling anyone out, knowing that in God’s House, there are many mansions. As Thanksgiving approaches this coming week, this is one more thing for which we can be thankful.
On Thursday, April 16th, Dan Mathews spoke to our Men’s Group about the time “after Easter” for Christians. He pointed out that our lives after Easter should actually begin during Lent itself. The true purpose of Lent is preparation, mirroring the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert before embarking on his ministry; before living the rest of His life on earth. Jesus’ preparation served to make Him stronger, to rely on the Spirit, to overcome Satan’s temptation through prayer, sacrifice and fasting. This “preparation” is something that He did only for God; without compromise and without turning back.
At the heart of Dan’s message and discussion was a view of Lent many of us would find as different. For most of us, Lent is a time to forego something; giving up something, to gain control of our appetites and to practice self-constraint. Lent can also be a time to commit to do something positive; to read scripture daily; to pray the rosary during the 40 days or to perform some spiritual act we would not normally have done.
What made the discussion different was Dan’s idea that Lent should be the beginning of something; something we can continue to build upon when Lent is over, as we’re living our lives as people who know that the Lord has risen. As Dan talked about the ways his spiritual life has changed since 2001, when he began adding spiritual practices that continued even after Lent, he built a picture of spiritual growth that continues to grow each year.
To use another context, Dan’s approach might be similar to how we might view a change in our own lifestyles, if we had decided that we need to live in a more healthy manner. One approach might be to diet to lose weight; arguably a short term solution that most often doesn’t change our daily life in the long run. If we avoid pasta and ice cream for a while, we might see some results but often, unless we continue, we revert back to our old habits. We can see the same with exercise. Setting a goal to run a 5K (or 10K) and working up to it is admirable. What happens when that goal is achieved (almost like when Lent is done)? Do we stop the exercise; stop the running?
Dan’s approach is more like changing our lifestyle for the long haul; starting down the road to a healthier spiritual life but continuing that work, not for a short term goal but something we continue to sustain and make part of our growing spiritual life.
Dan shared parts of his own Lenten growth over the years. These are practices that he began during a specific Lent but ones which he has made a part of his daily life.
- · Becoming a Eucharistic Minister
- · Turning off the TV… and keeping it off.
- · Praying the Rosary
- · Reading a book of daily scriptural meditations (“Every day is a Gift”)
- · Daily readings and meditations on the Catechism
- · Reading a daily prayer book; Healing Prayers for Every Day.
- · Adding a specific prayer of Thanksgiving to each meal
- · Adding daily Mass
- · Praying the Divine Mercy chaplet
- · Spending 15 minutes each day in reading the Bible
- · Giving blood as often as possible to help others in need
- · Spending time in Eucharistic Adoration regularly
- · Increasing almsgiving regularly
- · Performing a service for a parishioner in need
The idea is to continue these practices make them part of our lifelong journey by starting these practices in Lent. Lent is, therefore, a time to find more room in our lives for God’s life in us.
Dan’s challenge to all of us was to reflect on what we did this past Lent and to look for ways we can sustain this going forward; not letting this end with Easter but to let it be a beginning of a deeper, more full life. In this way, we will be living our whole lives as an “Easter” people.
Our next men’s Group will be on Thursday, May 21st in the Parish Hall. We may be fortunate to have Father Kingsley with us for that evening. More information will follow.
On Thursday, March 19th, we had the pleasure of having Jack Zeisz share at the meeting. Jack is one of the founders of a group called “The Defenders of The Faith”, started by a request of the pastor of St. Anne’s in Avon. Jack shared how the group came about and how it is working to address many of the issues that are facing today’s Catholics (and other Christians) from secular and political actions that move against what we hold as important in our Faith.
The mission of the Defenders of the Faith is as follows:
“(We are…) dedicated to preserving religious liberty and educating the faithful about laws and legislation that jeopardize our religious freedom.”
The group’s purpose is “to share nonpartisan information about religious freedom within the context of the Catholic Faith and constitutional rights in order to educate the faithful, prompt critical thinking and facilitate fruitful action.”
Jack shared that the group has been successful in holding prayer vigils as well as supporting conferences to raise our consciences about the state of our religious freedom in today’s climate both here, in the US as well as in many places in the world where Christians are violently persecuted; like Syria, Iraq, Egypt and North Korea. They have held prayer vigils asking God’s guidance and protection during the 2012 elections and hosting a conference to talk about the Christian ethics behind such issues as the HHS Mandate (requiring religious institutions that provide healthcare for their employees to provide coverage for contraception and contraceptive services, even when such coverage would violate the moral teachings of those who run the institutions), Abortion, Stem Cell research and the “Death with Dignity” (or Assisted Suicide) legislation.
Jack’s message and the message of The Defenders of the Faith is that these issues are not about politics; not about being liberal or conservative; not about being a Democrat or a Republican or a Libertarian but rather they are about following a moral imperative, doing what’s right in God’s eyes by praying about these issues, thinking about them as Catholics and being steadfast in our beliefs. Prayer is a critical part of this both to support those who are suffering for their faith as well as for ourselves; to help us understand God’s mind and separate His message from all those with which we are bombarded in our daily lives.Taking action, as individuals and in groups is also something which God calls us to in the role we each serve as a Defender of the Faith in whatever situation we find ourselves.
We ask for your prayers for the work of the Defenders of the Faith. Jack did provide those of us who came with some examples of the work they have done. I have extra copies if anyone who missed last Thursday would like a copy.
Many thanks to all who participated and came to our Friday Simple Supper event on Friday, March 20th. The Men’s Group hosted and provided the soup and bread for the meal.
Our next meeting is in April 16th in the Parish Hall from 7-8:30. We hope to have a discussion on our life as Catholics “after Jesus’ resurrection”; after Easter. We’ve asked Dan Mathews back to join us with his engaging discussions and issues. More on this as we get closer.
Our Men’s Group met last Thursday evening and had the pleasure of having Fr. Jim Sullivan return to speak to us. He began by offering us his reflections on his first 6+ months as a parish priest, a life different than that of his deaconate assignments. For those of you who know Fr. Jim’s background (Sullivan Brothers’ Construction), he assured us that he is still in the “building and renovation” business although now working with souls!
Fr. Jim related a quote from Luke1:25 in which Elizabeth, Mother of John the Baptist, reflecting of the role she is about to fulfill in God’s plan, says “"Thus the Lord has done to me in the days when he looked on me…” Fr. Jim related that God puts us in the right place, at the right time to do His work. Our role is to be attentive to what that is and act on it. Regardless of our own sense of the highs and lows going on with us, God asks us to be ready and attentive to opportunities around us to be Christ to others in need around us. His stories of how this worked in his visits to the sick, dying , elderly and those in need gave us living examples of being the right person, in the right place at the right time.
To help in our “readiness”, Fr. Jim recommended concrete action on our part. Starting with our daily schedule, as he said, “Make God your first appointment of the day; Make God your last appointment of the day and everything between will be then bracketed within God’s grace.” He also cautioned us, as did Bryan Bywater and Dan Matthews before, to be careful that the busyness of our life not crowd out the importance of keeping our attentiveness to what God wants from us. He went on to say that we should be people of the ”newspaper” andthe Bible; needing to be in the world in order to do God’s work but not solely or exclusively in either. We need both. We need to be part of our world while we keep focused on God’s message. As Fr. Jim says, “The activities of the world around us gives purpose to our day while the Bible gives us purpose for Life”. Our job is to use both in being ready for what God asks of us, like Elizabeth.
Fr. Jim went on to the focus of his message, talking about the three pillars of a spiritual life for us, taken from Matthew 6 where Jesus says; “…when you pray….when you fast…when you give alms…” As Christians, we need to do all three.
Prayer: It’s easy to find reasons to forget to pray; our busyness; our feelings of awkwardness; Not knowing what to say.. Fr. Jim encouraged us to move beyond rote prayer; to move beyond just prayers of petition but into meditation, into contemplation and into real contact with God. He related the issue to having a friend who, when we saw him, always only asked for something; never going deeper in the conversation. To remain at the petition-only stage is to restrict our relationship with God to something less that what He wants and less than we need. As Fr. Jim quoted “Friendship begins when silence is comfortable….”
Fasting: According to him, this is the hardest of the three. It’s hard to give up something to which we are attached, or that we really enjoy. By doing this on occasion,, by saying “no” to ourselves, we are more capable of saying “yes” to God. Fasting helps put this in order. He gave us several ideas to “say no to ourselves” such as cutting back on things we enjoy (a bit) be it food, football, etc. Not eliminating these things but consciously doing them “less” to build our spiritual muscles. It helps us build our spiritual stamina.
Generosity: Being a generous person; not just being “nice” or giving donations; but looking for ways we can be generous with our time, our talents and our treasure. He encouraged us to daily be generous to another person.
He closed by reminding us that spiritual growth is not like physical growth. It is not affected by age, even by circumstances. There is no such thing as stagnancy in spiritual life. We need to keep moving forward. If we remain the same, year after year, we diminish. We miss the opportunity to deepen our relationship with God and with those who God give us in our lives, like the members of our Men’s Group. He encouraged us that we can always grow in our spiritual maturity.
We closed the night with prayer and a social time. We had a good turnout with some new members coming and some bringing their sons. Please continue to spread the word and bring new people onboard. As the song says, “All Are Welcome….”
Our next Men’s Group meeting is on Thursday, February 19th (the day after Ash Wednesday). We will again be offering everyone an opportunity to be part of fasting teams for Lent, as we did last year. This is a good follow-up to Father Jim’s talk and the talk John Sullivan gave last year on Fasting. More to come on this and on our February speaker and topic.
Please mark your calendars, then for Thursday, February 19th at 7pm in the Parish Hall.
Also.. Please makes sure to send any suggestions you may have for future activities for the Men’s Group to one of the members below!!
December Caroling Night
If you have questions, comments or suggestions, we'd love to hear from everyone. Feel free to contact any of us.
At our November Men’s Group meeting we had the pleasure of having Rev. Bryan Bywater join us. He is an “Anglican Evangelist” who came from West Hartford, CT and was raised, in his own words, in an “unchurched” family. God intervened in his life in a dramatic way, bringing him to conversion while rock climbing, of all things. In Bryan’s words, “God awakened an enthusiasm for Love when Love was at a low ebb in my life”. Bryan currently works with several local groups in the Naugatuck Valley area and maintains a strong ministry in Tanzania.
He talked to us about “Soul Care”, how and why we need to care for our own souls even more than we care for the “things” in our life; our homes, our vehicles, our finances and even our friends. By caring for our souls, it gives us a strong foundation on which to care for everything else in our life, including our families.
He challenged us to think of those things that we know would draw us closer to Christ; the things that we know and even want to do: Here are just a few
- Receiving the Eucharist often
- Daily Prayer
- Sacrament of Reconciliation
- Praying the Rosary daily
- Reading & Praying Scripture
- Sacrificing for our faith and our Families
- Doing Acts of Service
- Performing Acts of Obedience
The question is “Why aren’t we regularly doing those things, especially if we want to do them?”. How many hours do we each devote to caring for life’s issues and how many hours do we devote to caring for our own soul’s welfare? Our soul is the most permanent thing around us; it is immortal but it needs constant care.
Bryan encouraged us to ruthlessly attack the “busy-ness” in our lives but not just with “human weapons”. To only rely on those means that we are not equipped to handle the temptations and the pressures that have us compartmentalize our Christian lives from our “everyday” lives. We need something more; we need “spiritual weapons” to fight with. As Bryan reminded us, we can each be that weapon for one another by forming partnerships with one another to help one another be accountable in doing the things we want to do to be closer to Christ; prayer, good works, etc.
We can start do these things in small ways; filling God in our lives before Life fills up our time and attention. This means making time for God in our daily routines; during our car travels; while walking to places; tying our devotions to something we routinely do every day. It may mean sacrificing what we feel we want to do now for something of everlasting importance; spending time with God. Lastly Bryan encouraged us to be creative in our time with God; mixing up our devotions by finding small ways to shift things up; he referred to it as creating “spiritual muscle confusion” much like a personal trainer would do to build physical muscle strength by not doing the same thing over and over again.
As we enter the Advent season, it’s a great time to try new things; daily scripture; short conversations with God while we are walking; going out of our way to encourage one another; finding a spiritual “partner” we can share with regularly to talk about how we are doing. In this way, we can use Advent to become better caretakers of our own souls.
Our next Men's Group meeting will be on Thursday, December 18th. This will be a special event. We will be caroling on the steps of St. John's. Please bring members of your family to join in the fun and singing. Hot chocolate and cookies will be available after our caroling. Dress for the weather! Singing will start at 7. Songbooks provided!!
We will send an email asking for donations of cookies for the event.
On Thursday, October 16th, the Men’s Group had the pleasure of having Dan Mathews come to our evening meeting. Dan is a dedicated worker for the Archdiocese of Hartford and one of those individuals who daily lives his Faith in all situations. Currently Dan is a coordinator of Campus ministries, serving several Higher Ed organizations such as Post University as the Newman Club liaison. Dan coaches, mentors and develops Catholic leaders on campus. He regularly runs scripture studies and orchestrates events to further God’s life in a campus setting. As those of us who came on Thursday can attest, Dan’s style is engaging, causing people to really think about how a Catholic/Christian should react to situations.
Dan’s talk covered a continuum of how we, as Catholics, might respond to events we encounter; ranging from a simple, “First do no harm” to stronger and stronger ways we can express our Faith directly, every day. Personally, I came away with a better appreciation for God’s work in situations around us as well as how I am personally challenged to do what God wants in situations I encounter daily.
Dan encouraged us to see how we can impact God’s work, often in unseen and very often in quiet ways. He also pointed out that God is also calling each of us to develop our relationship with Him in order to be always open to what He would like us to do whether that be in talking to someone who we may not know, by serving those around us or by boldly talking about God.
He concluded by taking the group through a life example of how a Christian would approach a personal decision point, drawing on our backgrounds, our upbringing, our own thinking as well as how we might approach things with God’s view in mind. Listed below are several key messages that Dan used that you might find helpful yourself.
Micah 6:8. "What does the Lord require of you, O Man...?"
Isaiah 6:8. "I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send...?' And I said, 'Here I am, Lord. Send me.'"
Matthew 22:36-40. "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?" Jesus replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it. 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
"You ask what you might offer to God. Offer yourself! What does God expect from you- except yourself?" -St. Augustine.
Our next Men’s Group meeting will be on Thursday, November 20th at 7pm in the Parish Hall. Pastor Brian Bywater will be our guest that night. Reverend Bywater grew up in West Hartford, CT in an un-churched family. He developed a deep passion for social justice, surfing, outdoor activities and as he tells it, himself while in college. All that changed when he met the Lord in a close encounter in 1992 which he will share about.
He was ordained a deacon in the Episcopal Church and priested in the Anglican Church of Tanzania in the missional diocese of Tabora. He continues to travel yearly to work with evangelists in Africa, pastors three nursing homes, and teaches extensively on the call of the church.
Bryan now serves as an evangelist for the Anglican Church of North America within the diocese of New England. His is a great story of being pursued by God and, once caught, turning into one of God’s “fishers of men”.
He'll be speaking about "Soul Care, strengthening our spiritual lives so that we may lead our families and communities for the glory of God". Come and join us on November 20th and bring a friend.
God's Blessing on your week,
The St. John’s Men’s Group met on September 18th in our monthly meeting to hear Father Dennis Connell from the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Father Dennis spoke on the topic of “The Measure of A Man”, taken from a book of that title by Gene Getz.
In his talk, Father Dennis spoke about he himself came to his decision to become a priest, especially as a later calling, having served as a member of the Navy, a college instructor, a ranch hand and a deacon in Peru.
In the course of his discussion, he emphasized the characteristics of a Godly Man as described in several scripture passages (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1: 1-10; Micah 6:8) which lay out our goal to become men whose hearts are aligned with God in all that we do, in our work, in our families, in our daily lives. Father Dennis went on to say that we should concentrate on setting our own spiritual goals and start by taking small steps to get there. As we do that, we need to look at what is working well, perhaps doing a few things well and building on that success rather than looking ahead and knowing how far off each of us are toward spiritual perfection.
He went on to quote Hebrews 10:24, encouraging us to “rouse one another to good deeds”, encouraging each other to be steady, be consistent and be faithful in whatever we can do to grow in God’s grace. He reminded us (Hebrews 3:13) to take advantage of what we have around us, our Faith, our parish, our fellowship, our families and to not miss an opportunity to share that with others in our lives, especially in our parish. By doing that, perhaps even a simple act of consistently greeting someone new at Mass and inviting them to join us, will help all of us become the Body of Christ we wish to be. He exhorted each of us to start by setting some personal goals, perhaps small to start, on what we will do differently starting today and to continue to focus on the successes we see while challenging ourselves to keep moving forward.
The meeting ended with prayer, several prayer intentions and a time for socializing together, as we usually do.
Announcements at the Meeting:
The Parish needs some setup help on Saturday, September 27th for the Parish Picnic. They also need assistance in the Food tent, serving and could use some help in taking things down at the close of the event on the 28th. Come to the picnic, stop by the Men’s Group table and be available to anyone who might want to learn a bit more about what we do.
The next Men’s Group Meeting will be on Thursday, October 16th in the Parish Hall, from 7:00 to 8:30.
Several members of the Men’s Group are attending the 7th Annual Men’s Conference at Goodwin College on Saturday, October 25th. All are encouraged to attend. As the event comes closer, perhaps we can arrange some common rides.
The Seven Deadly Sins:
Pride is excessive belief in one's own abilities that interferes with the individual's recognition of the grace of God. It has been called the sin from which all others arise.
Covetousness is the desire for material wealth or gain, ignoring the realm of the spiritual.
Lust is an inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body.
Anger is manifested in the individual who rejects or forgets love and opts instead for lashing out or even holding onto grudges.
Gluttony is an inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires.
Envy is the desire for others' traits, status, abilities, or situation.
Sloth is the avoidance of physical or spiritual work.
The Seven Contrary Virtues:
humility, kindness, self-denial, modesty, patience, generosity, diligence
Practicing these virtues is alleged to protect one against temptation toward the Seven Deadly Sins: humility against pride, kindness against envy, self-denialagainst gluttony, modesty against lust, patience against anger, generosity against covetousness, and diligence against sloth.
We ended the meeting with prayers of petition and a decade of the rosary followed by a time for sharing and socializing. At this meeting we had several members who had not been able to come before. We're growing in supporting one another and in our numbers (slowly). Keep the group in your prayers..and keep our meetings on your calendars.
All who attended are thankful to Father Jim for his good words, for his own inspiring spiritual journey and for coming back to St' John's to talk to the group.
We thought we would do something different for our July Meeting. We'll be having a pot luck for all men's group family members (kids, too) and guests on Saturday July 26th starting around 5pm and going whenever. Lawn and yard games, etc. The pot luck will be at Don & Donna Kelly's on South Street in Middlebury, near Westover School. Details will follow but we wanted you to hold the date.
As we said, continue to pray for our Men's Group and for St. John's.
On Thursday, May 15th, Deacon Dan Camerota spoke to the Men’s Group about his personal reflection on the deaconate, retracing his own spiritual journey in his service over the years. Dan’s talk provided a great insight into the type of service and commitment that is asked of our deacons. It was very clear that service such as what Dan (and Bob) provide to us at St. John’s enriches all of our lives through the many things they do; seen and unseen. We’re very grateful to them and for hearing more about the ministry.
Dan also reminded us that the role of Deacon is something for each of us, as heads of our households and families. We are, in a real sense, deacons for the spiritual life of our families.
Our next Men’s Group meeting is on Thursday, June 19th from 7 to 8:30 pm in the Parish Hall. Come join the other men in the parish as we discuss, pray and grow together in our faith. Spread the word and bring a friend!!
God's Blessing be on all of us!!
If you’d like to contact anyone about the Men’s group, please feel free to get in touch with any of the following:
April 24th Men’s Group Meeting Summary
During our recent Men’s group, we had a short talk and discussion about what happened, “After Easter”. Here's a summary.
There were three main scriptural references and some thoughts behind each one.
The Road To Emmaus: Luke 24: 13-33
After the crucifixion, two of Jesus’ disciples were leaving Jerusalem and heading “home”. They had left the band of disciples and had apparently “given up” on Jesus’ message. One had even commented, ““…But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”. In their frustration, confusion and even depression, Jesus came to them, explaining the scriptures and encouraging them to open their minds. The message of this first point was that at times, when God does not answer our prayers or solve our problems in the way we think He should, we can start moving in the opposite direction. Even so, God comes to us (always) and offers us a way back…a way to get our thoughts back aligned with His. These two disciples handled it well since the Scripture then tells us, “They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem”.
What was going on with the apostles?: John 20: 19-27
After the crucifixion, the apostles were huddled in a locked room in Jerusalem for fear of the High Priests and other Jews who had just put Jesus to death. What was going on in the minds of these men who had followed him, some for 3 whole years, some hoping He was the one to restore the fortunes of Israel? They might have been thinking things like:
· “I left my family for Him.”
· “I gave up my job to follow him.”
· “I suffered humiliation for Him.”
· “What am I going to do now”
· “How can I ever go home again?”
· “I trusted him”
· “What will people think of me now”?
Even if we have faith and know God is there, we might not get the whole picture. We can become impatient. We can often not understand what God really wants. In effect, we give in to our own fears and can safely stay within our own comfort zones. Again, Jesus comes to us through our own “locked doors” saying “Peace Be With You!”. Notice though, in verse 26, eight days elapsed before they saw Jesus again. Eight days of having to hold on, without more explanation, without any clue of what God’s plan was/is; no real assurance that all would be well; just an injunction from Jesus to receive His peace. He asks us to remain full of His Peace and that we lay aside our concerns, our fears and allow ourselves to trust Jesus even if we don’t really know the road ahead.
Going Back to only “What we know”; John 21:2
Even after Jesus came back and visited the disciples, there was doubt in them about what the future was for them. In this passage from John, the disciples see Peter preparing to go out. They asked him where he is going and he replies, “I’m going fishing…”. Peter (and four other disciples) leave and go back to their nets.. to what they knew…
One of the things that does happen to us.. to all of us..is to go back to our lives as if nothing happened. We go back to what we know; what we are comfortable with; to our routines, to our own Christian patterns.
What would happen if we didn’t? How would “after Easter” be different for us? How would we like it to be different?
We know that the disciples did not stay within their comfort zones. God empowered them to act with Power and purpose. That promise is still there for us today.
Christ has risen and it makes all the difference. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, following Easter, the standard greeting among Christians is
“Christ has Risen.” Khristós Anésti!
And the response is “ He has risen indeed!”. (Alithós Anésti!)
Christ has risen and it makes all the difference.
We’re no longer have to walk alone, without direction.
We no longer have to be afraid of whatever causes us to fear.
We can “live” Easter! He has risen indeed!
Our May Meeting is Thursday, May 15thfrom 7pm to 8:30 in the Parish Hall. Join us for our discussion and fellowship.
Many thanks to all those (and their wives) who contributed to this past Friday's "simple supper" before the Stations of the Cross. This is the last one before Holy Week and it was very successful. We had about 50 people attend and we supplied 6 different types of soup and a variety of homemade bread. We had a number of people who remarked that they came to see what the "men" were putting out for soup. I think, most of us, like me, didn't "fess up" to the fact that our spouses did much of the "souping". There were significant exceptions, however. Paul Heroux's clam chowder, his own creation, was completely a "male -produced dish". Kudos to Paul! Thanks again for all those who contributed in any way.
God's Blessing be on all of us!!