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Good Shepherd

By Fr. Tom Zelinski, OFM Cap.

This past Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Easter, we celebrated “Good Shepherd Sunday.” This is always the case with the 4th Sunday because there is always a Gospel with imagery about Jesus as Shepherd. It is interesting to me that the image of Jesus as Good Shepherd has remained so popular and appealing to people down through the centuries. Most of us have no direct contact with sheep or shepherds, and yet there seems to be some sort of comfort or assurance that people feel with this kind of imagery.

There is of course the famous 23rd Psalm which is a favorite prayer of many people. “The Lord is my shepherd. There is nothing I shall want.” It is a prayer of confidence, especially in difficult times.

In the Sunday Gospel we hear Jesus saying that his sheep hear his voice. They follow him and he gives them eternal life. Who are these sheep? Ourselves, of course. Do you and I hear his voice? The voice, the message, indeed comes to us in many different ways. First of all it comes through the scriptures and then through the traditions of the Church.

But the voice of the Shepherd also comes to us in many ways in our life experiences. It starts with our parents and what they try to teach us as little children and as we grow up. The voice comes to us through other teachers, pastors, coaches, mentors all through life. The voice comes to us whenever anyone tries to do good for us and to help us along the way.

We, in turn, become that voice, as we also reach out in any manner of love, compassion, instruction to other people.  And so, Jesus says “My sheep hear my voice.”  The voice, the message is always there in one way or another. We need to keep listening.

In these days of warfare and news of violence and civil strife, can we hear a voice of sanity, of peace, of justice coming through all the noise? Let us indeed keep listening for that voice of our Shepherd.

Life and Peace

By Fr. Tom Zelinski, OFM Cap.

This past Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Easter, we celebrated “Good Shepherd Sunday.” This is always the case with the 4th Sunday because there is always a Gospel with imagery about Jesus as Shepherd. It is interesting to me that the image of Jesus as Good Shepherd has remained so popular and appealing to people down through the centuries. Most of us have no direct contact with sheep or shepherds, and yet there seems to be some sort of comfort or assurance that people feel with this kind of imagery.

There is of course the famous 23rd Psalm which is a favorite prayer of many people. “The Lord is my shepherd. There is nothing I shall want.” It is a prayer of confidence, especially in difficult times.

In the Sunday Gospel we hear Jesus saying that his sheep hear his voice. They follow him and he gives them eternal life. Who are these sheep? Ourselves, of course. Do you and I hear his voice? The voice, the message, indeed comes to us in many different ways. First of all it comes through the scriptures and then through the traditions of the Church.

But the voice of the Shepherd also comes to us in many ways in our life experiences. It starts with our parents and what they try to teach us as little children and as we grow up. The voice comes to us through other teachers, pastors, coaches, mentors all through life. The voice comes to us whenever anyone tries to do good for us and to help us along the way.

We, in turn, become that voice, as we also reach out in any manner of love, compassion, instruction to other people.  And so, Jesus says “My sheep hear my voice.”  The voice, the message is always there in one way or another. We need to keep listening.

In these days of warfare and news of violence and civil strife, can we hear a voice of sanity, of peace, of justice coming through all the noise? Let us indeed keep listening for that voice of our Shepherd.

The Paschal Mystery

By Fr. Tom Zelinski, OFM Cap.

This past Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Easter, we celebrated “Good Shepherd Sunday.” This is always the case with the 4th Sunday because there is always a Gospel with imagery about Jesus as Shepherd. It is interesting to me that the image of Jesus as Good Shepherd has remained so popular and appealing to people down through the centuries. Most of us have no direct contact with sheep or shepherds, and yet there seems to be some sort of comfort or assurance that people feel with this kind of imagery.

There is of course the famous 23rd Psalm which is a favorite prayer of many people. “The Lord is my shepherd. There is nothing I shall want.” It is a prayer of confidence, especially in difficult times.

In the Sunday Gospel we hear Jesus saying that his sheep hear his voice. They follow him and he gives them eternal life. Who are these sheep? Ourselves, of course. Do you and I hear his voice? The voice, the message, indeed comes to us in many different ways. First of all it comes through the scriptures and then through the traditions of the Church.

But the voice of the Shepherd also comes to us in many ways in our life experiences. It starts with our parents and what they try to teach us as little children and as we grow up. The voice comes to us through other teachers, pastors, coaches, mentors all through life. The voice comes to us whenever anyone tries to do good for us and to help us along the way.

We, in turn, become that voice, as we also reach out in any manner of love, compassion, instruction to other people.  And so, Jesus says “My sheep hear my voice.”  The voice, the message is always there in one way or another. We need to keep listening.

In these days of warfare and news of violence and civil strife, can we hear a voice of sanity, of peace, of justice coming through all the noise? Let us indeed keep listening for that voice of our Shepherd.

A Lonely Figure

By Fr. Tom Zelinski, OFM Cap.

This past Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Easter, we celebrated “Good Shepherd Sunday.” This is always the case with the 4th Sunday because there is always a Gospel with imagery about Jesus as Shepherd. It is interesting to me that the image of Jesus as Good Shepherd has remained so popular and appealing to people down through the centuries. Most of us have no direct contact with sheep or shepherds, and yet there seems to be some sort of comfort or assurance that people feel with this kind of imagery.

There is of course the famous 23rd Psalm which is a favorite prayer of many people. “The Lord is my shepherd. There is nothing I shall want.” It is a prayer of confidence, especially in difficult times.

In the Sunday Gospel we hear Jesus saying that his sheep hear his voice. They follow him and he gives them eternal life. Who are these sheep? Ourselves, of course. Do you and I hear his voice? The voice, the message, indeed comes to us in many different ways. First of all it comes through the scriptures and then through the traditions of the Church.

But the voice of the Shepherd also comes to us in many ways in our life experiences. It starts with our parents and what they try to teach us as little children and as we grow up. The voice comes to us through other teachers, pastors, coaches, mentors all through life. The voice comes to us whenever anyone tries to do good for us and to help us along the way.

We, in turn, become that voice, as we also reach out in any manner of love, compassion, instruction to other people.  And so, Jesus says “My sheep hear my voice.”  The voice, the message is always there in one way or another. We need to keep listening.

In these days of warfare and news of violence and civil strife, can we hear a voice of sanity, of peace, of justice coming through all the noise? Let us indeed keep listening for that voice of our Shepherd.

Praying

By Fr. Tom Zelinski, OFM Cap.

This past Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Easter, we celebrated “Good Shepherd Sunday.” This is always the case with the 4th Sunday because there is always a Gospel with imagery about Jesus as Shepherd. It is interesting to me that the image of Jesus as Good Shepherd has remained so popular and appealing to people down through the centuries. Most of us have no direct contact with sheep or shepherds, and yet there seems to be some sort of comfort or assurance that people feel with this kind of imagery.

There is of course the famous 23rd Psalm which is a favorite prayer of many people. “The Lord is my shepherd. There is nothing I shall want.” It is a prayer of confidence, especially in difficult times.

In the Sunday Gospel we hear Jesus saying that his sheep hear his voice. They follow him and he gives them eternal life. Who are these sheep? Ourselves, of course. Do you and I hear his voice? The voice, the message, indeed comes to us in many different ways. First of all it comes through the scriptures and then through the traditions of the Church.

But the voice of the Shepherd also comes to us in many ways in our life experiences. It starts with our parents and what they try to teach us as little children and as we grow up. The voice comes to us through other teachers, pastors, coaches, mentors all through life. The voice comes to us whenever anyone tries to do good for us and to help us along the way.

We, in turn, become that voice, as we also reach out in any manner of love, compassion, instruction to other people.  And so, Jesus says “My sheep hear my voice.”  The voice, the message is always there in one way or another. We need to keep listening.

In these days of warfare and news of violence and civil strife, can we hear a voice of sanity, of peace, of justice coming through all the noise? Let us indeed keep listening for that voice of our Shepherd.

Lenten Scriptures

By Fr. Tom Zelinski, OFM Cap.

We are at the beginning of Lent. At this time I think it is helpful to review the structure or schedule of the Gospel readings for the weekday Masses of Lent. There is a pattern to these that I have always found helpful.

For the first three weeks of Lent, our Gospel passages are taken from the Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. These readings are seen as lessons for discipleship. Of course we are to be disciples of Christ all year long, but sometimes Lent might give us more motivation to reflect on our lives and to see how we are doing as we try to take up our cross to follow Christ in our daily living.

The Gospels can present an ideal that perhaps most of us will never fulfill. One author suggests that it may even be good for us to stumble a bit and fail in our Lenten projects. This can always be a reminder that we need a savior and that we don’t become holy through our own efforts.

Then in the fourth and fifth week of Lent our Gospels turn to a focus on the mystery of Christ. These readings are taken from the Gospel of
John. We center on the person of Christ and what he might mean for us as we walk with him toward the events of Holy Week.

Of course, whether we are thinking of our own discipleship or reflecting on the person of Christ, the focus is always more on him than on ourselves. May we all deepen our relationship with Christ in this Holy Season.

Lent

By Fr. Tom Zelinski, OFM Cap.

Another Lent approaches. This is one of the ways by which Christian people mark our journey through life. With Lent, people often think of doing something special or different to aid in their spiritual life. Of course we are called to honesty and continuing conversion all year long.

But the coming of Lent, based on custom and memory, perhaps stirs a little more motivation for some gesture or practice that can add to our personal and spiritual lives.

It is common to “give up” something during Lent. Often that is some food or a habit like drinking alcohol or smoking. These are good if they help us in our relationship with God and other people. Moving something out of our lives can remind us of our dependence on God, who alone can fill our human emptiness.

However, other thoughts might come to mind. For example, on a positive note, what can we add, what can we give to other people and to the world around us? There is so much news about anger and violence in our world, including right now more news of war and destruction. Perhaps Lent can be a time for us to bring some peace to our local world, to the people around us.

“Make me a channel of your peace” is part of a famous prayer. How can I bring more peace, more compassion, more kindness to the people near me? Besides giving up something for Lent, perhaps we can give something positive and life-giving to our brothers and sisters.

Advent

By Fr. Tom Zelinski, OFM Cap.

We come again to the season of Advent. It is good for us to look again at the basic themes of the season. As we know, “Advent” refers to “approaching” or “coming toward.” God in several ways has come to us and continues to do so. Of course, God is always with us. But in our perception and imagination, there is a sense that we need to experience more of God.

We do this every year. Our liturgical year is a repetition of familiar things. It is good to repeat, and recognize that it’s not “the same old thing” every year. Something has happened to us, simply in living through another year. So in this season, there is always something old, something new.

It is good to repeat the old, the familiar. There is stability and comfort in that. Our human spirits need the comfort of the familiar. We have memories of Advent and Christmas of the past. We rejoice in the familiar story of the birth of Christ. We rejoice in all that story has meant to us from the time of childhood.

And yet, as adults, we need to be challenged by the constant theme of our unfinished lives: God in Christ has more to do with us. And so, we need the ringing message of early Advent. Stay awake! Be alert! The Kingdom is at hand! We have heard that message before, but it continues to call to us as we proceed on our journey.

So let us rejoice in the familiar, comfortable things of this season, but let us be ready for the new thing which God wants to do in us. Come, Lord Jesus!

I Want to See

By Fr. Tom Zelinski, OFM Cap.

The Gospel passage for the 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Series B, is about the cure of a blind man, Bartimaeus. Despite his physical blindness, Bartimaeus seems to have more faith, more insight, than the people around him. He calls to Jesus as “Son of David.” That is a title for the Messiah.

When Jesus asks him what he can do for him, Bartimaeus makes that simple and profound request, “Master, I want to see!” He wants to see with his eyes, but further, he wants to see and understand who Jesus is and what their relationship might be. The stories of healing in the Gospel are always about more than the physical cure or healing. They stand for something more and deeper.

And so, we could put ourselves in the place of Bartimaeus. If Jesus were to ask you what he can do for you, right now, what would you ask? We all could say, “Master, I want to see!”  I want to see and understand myself better. I want to understand my relationship with God better. I want to better understand my relationships with other people: my wife, my husband, my children, my parents.  I want to see and understand the world with more compassion and charity and justice.

It is often said that we do not see things as they really are, but that we see things as we are. In other words, we all have our own biases and conditioning and life experiences which color how we see and understand our world. We could ask, again and again, that Jesus would help us to see things more clearly so that we would live more honestly and sincerely in our world.

It is a good prayer to say over and over, “Master, I want to see!”

Stay Awake!

By Fr. Tom Zelinski, OFM Cap.

In the Gospel for Thursday of the 21st Week, Jesus reminds us to “Stay awake, for you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” When we read and hear these words, we perhaps think of death, the time of our exit from this life.  That is a valid understanding and it is something for which we ought to prepare, with as little fear as possible.

But we can also have a wider meaning for those words about being awake. Being awake, staying awake is standard teaching by those who teach prayer and meditation. We are encouraged to be awake to the presence of God in our lives at all times.

We say we believe that God is everywhere and with us in every moment, but it is easy to be distracted and forget about that presence as life hands us its various issues and problems and distractions. And we can’t be expected to walk around mumbling “God is here” all day long.

However, that presence of God is still the reality we are to believe. And so it is good for us to occasionally remind ourselves that we are indeed to be awake to that divine presence in everything we do. There is the phrase, “the sacrament of the present moment,” which has been a part of our spiritual tradition for a long time.

The people we recognize as saints in the Church were very much aware of that constant presence.  St. Therese of Lisieux had her “Little Way” of relating with God in ordinary things.  Mother Teresa, now Saint Teresa, said we might not do great things, but we can do little things with love.  I’m sure Blessed Solanus was very much aware of that constant presence with his regular focus on gratitude for all things. We could go on and on.

And so, when we hear Jesus say “Stay awake,” it doesn’t have to be a scary thing, but can be a hopeful and encouraging reminder that indeed, God is present to us in every moment. It is up to us to find ways in which to stay awake as we wash the dishes, do the laundry, work in our office or factory, or whatever we do. This may be so simple that we forget to do it!

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