Trust

We cannot be channels of God’s comfort and compassion if we continue to be bound by fear and anxiety, which is why God urges us to cast our burdens upon him, to trust his presence with us and his work within us, and to leave behind all fear. Trust in God and discover the glorious freedom of the children of God, who need never be afraid.

Br. David Vryhof, SSJE
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Meeting Us Where We Are, and Sending Us Out – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof

John 20:19-31

Has the Risen Christ ever come to you when you were in a place of need?  If so, how did he come?

I’m moved by the resurrection accounts in the Fourth Gospel, in which Jesus returns to his broken-hearted disciples as the Risen One, meeting them just where they are.

Early in the morning of the first day of the week, he appears to Mary Magdalene just outside the tomb.[i]  She is confused and desperate, weighed down with grief and loss, and can only imagine that someone has, for reasons incomprehensible to her, removed the body from the tomb and laid it somewhere else.  Her teary eyes fail to recognize the One who speaks to her.  She assumes he is the gardener and pleads with him to tell her where they have laid him.  Then Jesus speaks her name.  “Mary.”  And her world immediately brightens.  Instantly, the weight of grief is lifted from her shoulders; hope springs anew; her teacher is alive!

Recall how Jesus appears to Peter, the faithful and devoted disciple who, swept up in a moment of fear, denied knowing his Lord three times.[ii]  Now he meets Jesus on the shores of Lake Galilee, where he has been fishing with the others.[iii]  Jesus speaks to him so tenderly.  “Peter, do you love me?”  Never a word of blame is spoken; Jesus does not criticize or shame. Three times the question is asked; three times Peter affirms his love for Jesus; three times the charge is given, “Feed my sheep.”[iv]  Jesus offers forgiveness, accepts Peter’s pledge of love, and restores him to a position of leadership among the disciples.  So kind, so tender, so sensitive to Peter’s pain, Jesus absolves him. Read More

Celebrate

Have we missed seeing the things God is doing now in our lives and in our world? Jesus invites us to live with joy, constantly alert for signs of God’s grace around and within us. God is present and at work. Grace and salvation are here, and are available to us in abundance. There is cause for authentic celebration!

Br. David Vryhof, SSJE
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Authority

What a contrast Jesus’ values are to the ways of the powerful, who so often are consumed with protecting and promoting their own interests! By washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus does not diminish his authority. He shows them a new way of exercising authority, a new way of being with others that is characterized by humility, compassion, and loving service.

Br. David Vryhof, SSJE
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Christ died for you – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof

John 11:45-53

The gospel passage we have before us today wraps up the greatest miracle story in all of the gospels: Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  Other miracles pale in comparison to it, but still, as is so often the case in the gospel accounts, the reactions to this astounding miracle are mixed.  Many of the Jews who witness the miracle come to believe in Jesus.  But others report Jesus’ words and actions to the priests.

Their report prompts an interesting discussion:  Jesus’ increased popularity poses a threat to the chief priests and Pharisees because it risks drawing the attention of the Romans, who, they fear, will crush this populist movement, destroying both their religion and their nation.  There’s no reason to doubt the genuineness of their concern for their faith and for their country, but we must note, too, that the chief priests and Pharisees derive what power they have from Rome, so the threat to their livelihoods, their influence and their social status is real.

Caiaphas, the high priest, has a solution:  Let this one man, Jesus, die for the nation.  The death of Jesus will squelch the movement, he argues, and it is better to have this one man die than to have the whole nation come to destruction.  The evangelist John is quick to point out the irony of the high priest’s statement.  Caiaphas is speaking from a political point of view when he speaks of Jesus dying for the people, suggesting that Jesus die instead of the people.  John, however, understands Caiaphas’ words from a theological point of view.  For John, Jesus dying “for the people” anticipates the voluntary offering of his life that will further God’s plan to save both Jews and Gentiles through Jesus’ death and resurrection.  He will die on behalf of the people, rescuing them from the power of sin and death, and obtaining for them the precious gift of eternal life. Read More

Burden

Whenever we are weighed down with care, all we need do is to hand our burden to Christ, trusting him to carry it for us and with us. As the psalmist says, “Whenever I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.” A simple act of trust, a simple letting go, ushers us into the place of rest.

Br. David Vryhof, SSJE
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Knowing God – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof

John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

Each of the gospel writers has come to know Jesus and in his gospel is trying to convey his understanding to others in order that they, too, might believe in Jesus.  For Mark, Jesus is the “Son of God,” proclaiming the good news that the “kingdom of God” has come near (Mk 1:1,14).  For Matthew, he is “the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Mt 1:1).  For Luke, he is the “Son of God” (Lk 1:35), the one whose miraculous birth was foretold by an angel (Lk 1:30-33).  For John, he is “the Word” who was “with God” and who “was God” from before all time, and who has taken on himself our human nature (Jn 1:1-2, 14): “The Word became flesh and lived among us,” John tells us.

 The gospel writers declare openly what they believe about Jesus’ identity, but throughout their narratives, we see people – including Jesus’ own disciples – struggling to grasp what the evangelists have already come to believe.

In today’s gospel passage from John, the question of Jesus’ identity is, once again, at the forefront.  The people of Jerusalem have heard of this teacher-healer from Nazareth in Galilee and know that the authorities are trying to kill him.  They wonder aloud why Jesus is being allowed to preach so openly among them.  But they also claim to know him, or at least know something about him.  “We know where this man is from,” they say, “[how can he be the Messiah?]” Read More

Strength

“Apart from me you can do nothing,” Jesus reminded his followers. Without God’s strength at work within us, we will never become what God intends us to be. In God, even our weakness is turned to strength, our failings turned to victory, and our helplessness turned to power.

Br. David Vryhof, SSJE
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Resisting Change – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof

Jeremiah 7:23-28
Luke 11:14-23

If we were trying to come up with a theme for today’s lessons, I’d suggest the word “resistance.”

In the first reading, God reminds the Israelites of God’s generous offer: “I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and [you shall] walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you.”  But the Israelites very clearly don’t hold up their end of the bargain.  They do not listen or obey, but instead they walk “in their own counsels.”  Despite repeated pleas from the prophets, they continue to “stiffen their necks” and refuse to accept God’s guidance and discipline. Why?  Why do they return again and again to their old lives, refusing the new way of life God is offering them?

In the story from Luke, the theme again is resistance.  Jesus heals a man by casting out a mute demon.  The mute man speaks, and the crowd is amazed, but some challenge him by questioning the source of his power and by demanding further signs.  Why couldn’t they rejoice in the healing?  Instead of rejoicing and following him, they stiffen in their resistance and refuse to accept Jesus’ words and deeds.  Where does such resistance come from?  What were they resisting and why? Read More

Overcome

All of us have experienced setbacks – sometimes through our own fault, sometimes through the fault of others, or through some sickness or tragedy. Look beyond these setbacks to see and trust God’s faithfulness. God has a way of overcoming evil with good, of conquering hatred with love, of countering despair with hope. God will carry us through it all.

Br. David Vryhof, SSJE
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