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Easter Reflections 2020

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This year The Catholic Telegraph has reached out to those that work with Youth and Young Adult Ministries, as well as Young Adults throughout the Archdiocese for our 2020 Easter Reflections.

April 12: Easter Sunday, The Resurrection of the Lord
Readings: ACTS 10:34A, 37-43, PS 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23, COL 3:1-4, JN 20:1-9

Invitation to Prayer: Lord, Grant us the grace to live in the freedom of your Resurrection

Reflection: Happy Easter! He is risen!

J.R.R. Tolkein coined a phrase that was the basis for his writing of Lord of the Rings. That phase is Eucatastrophe. This is an unexpected happening that brings goodness out of devastation. In letter 89 he stated the effect of this sudden happy turn is so that joy can penetrate our hearts to the depth of our being. He concluded that the resurrection was the greatest Eucatastrophe in history. At the moment when all seemed lost, Mary Magdalen found the empty tomb and brought Peter and John.

When they entered the empty tomb. They were greeted only by burial cloths. These cloths are in two different locations which means that Jesus purposely put them in two separate locations. The fact that he is not bound by the burial cloths show us that he has passed through death and it no longer has power over him.

This should give us joy on this Easter Sunday. Lent has been a lot more penitential than we expected. We are still bound to our homes right now. Jesus is not. He can truly raise us up out of the things we are going through. As St. Paul says, “If you were then raised with Christ, seek what is above.” We can still live our faith, we can still love our families, call those who need to talk, take care of those who are in need being safe and taking precautions. We can still do these things. It is because Jesus has risen from the dead. That joy can still affect us to our soul and bring goodness of our devastation. Let us today remember that Jesus took on the sin of the world in his death on the cross and peacefully rose from the dead. I pray his peace be in your hearts today.

Prayer: Jesus we ask that your victory over sin and death be the greatest joy of our life.

Closing: Spend some time today thanking God for the blessings he has given you this Lent.

Father Brian Phelps was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. He is currently pastor at St. Francis of Assisi in Centerville

April 13: Monday in the Octave of Easter
Readings: Acts 2: 14; 22-33; Psalms 16: 1-2A and 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11; and Matthew 28: 8-15

Invitation to Prayer: Christ our Lord is risen, Alleluia!

Reflection: Today, Easter Monday, we continue to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus and our new life in Christ. We have finally arrived at the pinnacle of the liturgical season and we celebrate our share in eternal life that was won for us through Jesus’ victory over death. As part of our claim to salvation, we are called to walk in the path of the Lord as his disciples. We are compelled to embrace the Gospel of Life that is set before us in the Scriptures and to work towards victory over the culture of death that surrounds us.

What is this Gospel of Life that I am referencing? It is a deep understanding that we have all been created in the image and likeness of God and in kind have inherent human dignity. Every person- the unborn, the terminally ill, those on death row, and persons with disabilities- are children of God equal in personhood and worth. We are called to seek the face of Jesus in every person that we encounter. We are called to respect all life.

This respect for all life can seem foreign in our secular world. Our society tells us that one’s merit is based solely on accomplishments and productivity. If a person is unable to contribute to society in a fruitful way, then he or she is often considered less “human” than those who are more capable. This hierarchical ranking of people by results now typifies our secular culture and is intrinsically opposed to human dignity. In opposition to this pervasive attitude in our society, when we demonstrate a respect for life itself, we become a beacon of truth and light for all who surround us.

God breathed life into each of us at our creation and sent His son as a sacrifice so that we could have eternal life. Every person has an equal share in the inherited dignity of being created in the image and likeness of God and in the redemption that was purchased for us by Jesus’ sacrifice. As we ponder Jesus’ resurrection, let us also reflect on how we can carry this deep respect for life into our daily lives and our communities. Let us joyfully grow in our understanding of the Gospel of Life as proclaimed by Jesus and to work to embody His example.

Prayer: Lord, we praise and thank for the sacrifice you made for us, and we celebrate your resurrection. You are the true and ever-living God: the God of life. We ask you to open our hearts to the Gospel of Life so that we may see your face in the vulnerable, marginalized, and discarded. Help us to proclaim the Gospel of Life through our actions, prayers and words so that we can be living examples of your word to a world that so often forsakes human dignity. We ask this through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of Life, and through your son, Jesus Christ. Amen

Closing: Consider your perspective regarding life issues (abortion, assisted suicide/euthanasia, bioethical issues, capital punishment, human trafficking, racism, persons with disabilities, etc). How can you work to more fully embody the Gospel of Life through your attitude on these different issues? Is there a particular issue that you struggle with or know very little about? What can you do to grow in understanding of the Gospel of Life?

Resources: Want to explore this topic more deeply? Check out the Respect Life Pages of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati website. We offer a media/podcast series called Being Pro-Life that addresses each of the issues listed above from a Catholic perspective. Also consider joining us in our Nine Months with Christ in the Womb prayer campaign as we reflect on the humanity of Jesus in the womb.

Noelle is currently serving as the Associate Director for Respect Life Ministries for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. She is a graduate from the University of Dayton with a BA in Religious Studies and a minor in both Women’s Studies and Social Work. After spending eight years as a stay-at-home mom to her four children, Noelle is excited to be re-entering the ministry world. She is currently working towards certification in Special Needs Ministry, and hopes to also obtain her Master’s Certificate in Bioethics in the next five years. “I firmly believe that God has placed me exactly where I belong, and I am overjoyed to be a proclaimer of the Gospel of Life in this Archdiocese.”

April 14 Tuesday in the Octave of Easter
Readings: ACTS 2:36-41, PS 33:4-5, 18-19, 20 AND 22, JN 20:11-18

Invitation to Prayer: Jesus, help me to recognize You.

Reflection: This passage from John’s gospel always perplexes me. I try to put myself in Mary Magdalen’s shoes. How would I react if Jesus appeared to me outside the tomb? I ponder the scene in the new garden, imagine the resurrected Jesus approaching me. With the shadow of the crucifixion obscuring the eyes of my heart, I feel a twinge of doubt, that this is too good to be true. Evil won, right? We saw its power. There’s no coming back from this.

Have you ever felt this way? In these moments or even seasons in life where death appears to have the final victory, Jesus rises to meet us, calling us by name. “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for? […] Mary!” (JN 20:15-16)

When all hope seems lost, Jesus reminds us we haven’t lost Him. The light of the world has conquered darkness forever. Allow the unimaginable and nonsensical overwhelm you this Easter.

Prayer: Lord, teach my heart to dare to hope in the beautiful truth of Your mercy.

Closing: During this long celebration of Easter, ask God where He wants to overwhelm you with the gift of His mercy.

Emily Conklin is a digital content strategist by day and young adult ministry leader by evenings and weekends. She enjoys sharing the true and good news of God’s love through beautiful marketing and media.

April 15 Wednesday in the Octave of Easter
Readings: ACTS 3:1-10, PS 105:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8-9, LK 24:13-35

Invitation to prayer: Lord Jesus, make me a gift to others through Your Holy Name.

Reflection: We’re all familiar with someone who reminds us of the beggar at the gates described in the first reading. Whether we see them at an intersection, or outside of a sporting arena, the question has likely arisen for us: “What should I do for this person?” It can be a tricky question to answer. We might be reluctant to give that person money because we don’t know what they’ll do with it. We may feel like what we have to offer them doesn’t meet a real need that they have. Perhaps we could even just experience guilt that we don’t have more (or anything) to give that person.

It’s in this familiar situation that Peter and John find themselves at this point of the Acts narrative. The beggar had seen many come and go: some probably engaged with him, some likely ignored him. Peter and John, upon being asked for alms, have a three-fold response that could be helpful for us.

1. They give time to this person. They do not pass by without recognition, but instead stop beside him, which St. John Paul II notes should be our response to our suffering neighbor. “ We are not allowed to ‘pass by on the other side’ indifferently; we must ‘stop’ beside him.” (Salvifici Doloris 28)

2. They give their attention to this person. This is not to be just another surface-level interaction like the man was, perhaps, accustomed. Peter takes stock, requires the man to look at them, and from that intentional interaction the man knows to expect something from them.

3. They give Jesus to this person. Peter recognizes that the real need of this person – as with all people – is Jesus Christ. He recognizes what he cannot give (silver and gold), and then gives something better. The gift is not even the gift of healing: it is the Name and Person of Jesus that leads to the healing of this man.

We have these opportunities in our lives. The suffering neighbor, the beggar at the gate, is not just on the side of the road or on the banks of the Ohio. They can be in our homes, our daily communications and interactions. We are called as Christians to give our time, attention, and ultimately Jesus to those who need Him. Sometimes this takes the form of money, food, and perhaps even toiletries in this time of social isolation. Other times our gift might be a listening ear, help with homework, or a variety of small things done with great love. All of our responses, however, should be given through the lens of Jesus Christ, through Whom true satisfaction is made possible.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, open my eyes to see the suffering of my neighbor today. Help me to receive Your grace so that I might give that person my time, attention, and ultimately You.

Closing: Reflect on who has needed you most in the past few weeks. Who have you relied upon. Today is a great day to consider the many ways that we have found to be there for one another, and then unique way that this has brough Jesus Christ into our socially distanced lifestyles.

Bradley Barnes has served as the Coordinator of Youth Ministry at Guardian Angels Parish since 2014.

April 16 Thursday of the Octave of Easter
Readings: ACTS 3:11-26, PS 8:2AB AND 5, 6-7, 8-9, LK 24:35-48

Invitation to Prayer: Lord Jesus, I welcome you into this space. Join me, walk with me, guide me.

Reflection: Can you believe it? Easter has come! It was nearly a week ago that we celebrated the rising of our Lord from the dead. I know for me it is so easy to get caught up in the waiting and the suffering. I long for the hardship to be over, I beg God to give me strength and deliver me, and then at long last He comes. In the case of Easter we knew exactly when to expect Him but in nearly every other instance we ‘know not the hour’ Jesus will come to us. I can relate to the disciples in the gospel passage today. They are gathered together “recount[ing] what had taken place along the way” when all of a sudden Jesus joins them and they become afraid! Is this not the same guy who they studied with, ate with, traveled with and then went through and overcame the unspeakable just days before? And yet STILL they are amazed to the point of fear. Are we not all like this? We experience Christ in adoration and the Eucharist weekly for our entire lives- so often that we can become numb to the rhythm of it all. But now as we experience an extended lent where we are separated from Christ as we are used to, I pray we are not startled by the ways Christ comes to us in our midst.

The celebration of this Easter this year was very different for all of us and I think that part of me still feels the hardship of lent and longing for Christ (in a way that I hope or expect to receive Him.) I am trying to find my rhythm and help Eastertide feel celebratory, but what I need to do most is leave space – make space to welcome Christ in. Perhaps it feels as though lent is never ending this year and perhaps most of our hopes for how this past weekend was going to go didn’t come to fruition, but the reality is that we are called to celebrate Christ in the resurrection! He is here with us, now and always – even if we cannot see him in our midst. So, dear friends, I encourage you to not just prepare for Christ, but LOOK for Christ in your midst.

Prayer: Jesus, bring us peace and prepare our hearts for you. Grant us moments to continually turn our hearts and minds to you.

Closing: Today I encourage you to reflect on the past week and look for moments when Christ was in your midst. How can create more space to welcome Him into your daily life?

Audrey Meriwether is a young wife and mother who is a parishioner at Old St Mary’s in OTR. She and her husband are musicians who are often involved with various archdiocesan events such as the Candlelight Mass and Behold. Audrey is a seamstress, a lover of dancing and cooking, and an avid seeker of Christ through community

April 17 Friday of the Octave of Easter
Readings: ACTS 4:1-12, PS 118:1-2 AND 4, 22-24, 25-27A, JN 21:1-14

Invitation to Prayer: Lord, open my heart and mind to see you present among me.

Reflection: At first, the disciples did not recognize Jesus standing on the shore in front of them. Not knowing it was Jesus, they did as He asked and threw their nets onto the side of the boat, but were unable to pull the nets back in due to the overwhelming number of caught fish. In this moment, John recognized it was Jesus in front of them and exclaimed, “It is the Lord.” This recognition of Christ truly present among them changed John and led to the other disciples also recognizing Jesus’ presence. Jesus was present among them the whole time. Yet the disciples were not aware of his presence until they had a tangible sign. John’s recognition had a “domino effect” of the other disciples also recognizing Jesus. How often does this happen in our own lives, that Jesus is fully present among us, yet we are unaware? How often do we ask God for a sign so we can feel assured of his presence? Where could my acknowledgement of God in my life impact others in their relationship with God?

God is truly present among us. Choosing to recognize and live from this truth is a beautiful way to live out the Easter season. Even though this Easter season undoubtedly feels different due to the global pandemic we are currently in, I believe God is inviting each of us to encounter Him daily and recognize his presence in ourselves, humanity, and creation. These personal encounters of Jesus will not only change us, but those around us as well.

Prayer: Lord, You are truly present among us. Increase my belief that You are present and place within me a heart of gratitude for Your presence.

Closing: Seek to recognize God present among you today. Pray the Examen prayer at the end of the day and especially reflect on gratitude for where you saw God.

Michelle Ragusa returned to Cincinnati in 2018. She is a Registered Nurse at Cincinnati Children’s doing medical consultations for child abuse and neglect cases.

April 18- Saturday of the Octave of Easter
Readings:ACTS 4:13-21 PS 118:1 AND 14-15AB, 16-18, 19-21; MK 16:9-15

Invitation to Prayer: Lord, fill me with a holy boldness!

Reflection:
My brother Michael and I are drastically different, both in looks and personality, but differences aside, he’s my best friend. In the end, he and I always connected on what was most important – willing the good of the other. In today’s first reading, we here of another unlikely pairing, St. Peter and St. John. Not only is there an age gap between these two men, but it would appear they also shared different personalities. That said, they were together at the tomb looking for Christ, and they are together here in our first reading. The two connected, and my guess is, it had something to do with that same desire I mentioned above – the desire to will the good of the other. That desire also led them both to proclaim Christ Jesus to all who would listen. It had our writer mention their “boldness.” What an example for you and me to try and replicate!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I ask that you reveal to me the gifts I’ve been given so that I may properly use them to glorify You, now and always! Let me live my life with a holy boldness, unafraid to proclaim your goodness and mercy!

Closing: I invite you today to firstly decide who you are in today’s first reading, if it be St. Peter or St. John (or a little bit of both), and then reflect on who is your counterpart. If you are unable to think of someone, ask yourself why. The Gospel message clearly illustrates that we aren’t called to do this by ourselves, but instead, with others. Following all that, I invite you to reach out to someone and send them a little encouragement.

Brendan Gotta is the Stewardship Director for Sudan Relief Fund. Before that, he spent three years as the Director of Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Arlington (VA). When he is not working, you can find him looking at photos of local churches on his @ChurchesandSteeples Instragram account, working on his @GottaBeSaints Podcast and picking up to go orders of tacos.

April 19: Second Sunday of Easter, or Divine Mercy Sunday
Readings: Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 118; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31

Invitation to Prayer: “My Lord and my God!”

Reflection: At the Last Supper, Jesus said to the Apostles, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. . . Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27) Yet, in today’s Gospel, the Apostles are gathered together in fear, behind locked doors. They seem to have allowed their hearts to be troubled and afraid. So, again, Jesus comes to them, this time after His Resurrection, and says, “Peace be with you.”

In our own lives, we, too, often give in to fear and worry. This might be related to financial issues, or sickness that we are facing, or the loss of a loved one, or any host of issues. And this might especially be true during this time of pandemic. And, yet, Jesus continues to come to us, offering us peace, the peace that only He can give. He wants to take away our fears and worries. He wants us to be able to trust in Him and His love for us.

The Apostles, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, grew in their faith and their ability to trust in the Lord. This means that we can do this as well. No matter how many times we have allowed our hearts to be troubled or afraid, we know Jesus wants something better for us. He wants us to believe, to trust, and to have life in His name. May we allow the Risen Lord to impart His peace to us today, and may that peace reign in our hearts forever.

Prayer: Jesus, I trust in You!

Closing: Spend time today thinking of some of the specific times and ways God has shown His faithfulness in your life. Allow these to be a reminder of how trustworthy He is.

Father Tim Ralston is the Pastor at St. Bernadette Parish, Amelia Ohio

April 20- Monday of the second week of Easter
Readings: Acts 4:23-31, PS 2:1-3, 4-7A,7B-9, JN 3:1-8

Invitation to Prayer: Lord, renew in me the grace of my baptism.

Reflection: A couple of months ago, I had my first “practice” baptism in my practicum class at the seminary. We have a practice sacramental lab (a mock-chapel) in which I “baptized” a baby doll with the assistance of my younger siblings, who role-played the parents and god-parents. In addition to being a learning moment for remembering all the essential words/gestures, while trying not to bust out laughing as I drenched the baby doll’s head in water, it was also an incredible time for reflection on my own baptism 26 years ago.

We hear the intense emphasis that our Lord placed on this sacrament when he tells Nicodemus that he must be “born of water and Spirit” if he wishes to enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus wants Nicodemus (and us) to realize the importance of the sacrament of baptism—that we actually receive God’s life within us. Before we knew how to walk or even formulate words, we received the Trinitarian Life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit within our souls—the Kingdom of God is for the little ones! The fact is, because of our baptisms, the Kingdom is actually present within us…at this moment! “I have found heaven on earth, since heaven is God, and God is in my soul.” ~ St. Elizabeth of the Trinity.

During this time of quarantine, and distance from the Most Blessed Sacrament, we can take time to remember the sacrament of baptism and tap into its grace-filled power. St Teresa of Avila reflected that she regretted not having prayed enough on the reality of God’s dwelling in her soul, “I understood well that I had a soul. But what this soul deserved and who dwelt within it I did not understand…if I had understood as I do now that in this little palace of my soul dwelt so great a King, I would not have left Him alone so often.” St Teresa recommends, with the help of our imagination in prayer, to meditate on the fact that God dwells within us and desires us to be present to Him in the silence.

Prayer: “Come, Holy Spirit, given to me at my baptism.”

Closing: Take a moment today to remember your own baptism: the particular church, the priest/deacon who baptized you, your family and friends. Then reflect on God’s presence in your soul right now, like a King in a beautiful palace, and that he is there with all His holy court: His Mother, the saints, and all of your patron-intercessors.

Anthony Marcelli is a Theology III Seminarian for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati

April 21 – Tuesday of the second week of Easter
Readings: ACTS 4:32-37, PS 93:1AB, 1CD-2, 5, JN 3:7B-15

Invitation to Prayer: Jesus, help me be receptive to your Holy Spirit moving in my heart.

Reflection: In Acts we hear the community of apostles and the first Christians “was of one heart and mind…they had everything in common…and there was no needy person among them.”

The early community was not unlike us in the fact that they were living a certain way before they met Jesus and with him everything was turned upside down. Suddenly they were living, working, praying, and rubbing elbows with people in new and intimate ways. Lots of learning how to love and sacrifice was happening, just like we are learning to love those around us in the middle of this COVID-19 quarantine.

And yet although they were thrown together and were already experiencing persecution, their joy is evident. Why? Because they encountered the person of Jesus and experienced his love. This led them to give up their lives, even their finances and material possessions with abandon for the Kingdom, concretely in their community. They prayed together, ate together, learned together, had everything in common, and the Lord overflowed them with joy, peace, and POWER.

But it took them giving their all, holding nothing back from God and from each other. They trusted that if they gave everything to the Lord and his Church, that God would provide for all their needs. And he did! It says “there was no needy person among them.” Where am I holding back parts of my heart from those around me? Where am I holding onto material things, relationships, or habits for my security rather than holding onto the Lord? How can I strive to love and be of “one mind and heart” with those who I am currently surrounded by?

Prayer: Jesus, I want to love you with all of my heart and find my security in you. Please help me to run to you first and hold nothing back from your heart that only wants to give me good gifts. And let that love and freedom help me to love those around me.

Closing: What areas of your life right now are you running to for comfort or security before your relationship with God? Pick one area/habit/attachment and ask Jesus to help you let it go and embrace his rest.

Abby Schmid is a daughter of the King who’s heart is split between Dayton where she grew up and East Cincinnati where she is loving being a VIA missionary youth minister. She loves being with Jesus in the Eucharist, diving into Scripture, living in intentional community, and sharing about Jesus’ merciful love.

April 22 Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter
Readings: ACTS 5:17-26, PS 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9, JN 3:16-21

Invitation to Prayer: Holy Spirit, give me eyes to see your truth and ears to hear Your Word. Help me to discern what is of you, which is light, and what is not of you, which is darkness.

Reflection: “This is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.”

Sin thrives in the darkness. Shame thrives in the darkness. For any of us who have struggled with a particular sin (aka…ALL of us), we know that all too well. We know the rush we experience when we do something we know we shouldn’t do. We also know the terror that we feel when our lies are uncovered. This stems from our concupiscence – our tendency towards things of the flesh. Many of our brothers and sisters struggle with addiction, most particularly to pornography. Satan would have you believe that is the worst possible sin ever. Satan lies to you and tells you that you are dirty, damaged, and beyond repair. Satan would have you believe that there is no hope or light at the end of the tunnel. Shame grips you until you feel like you are drowning in it so you keep coping by turning back to the thing causing the shame, causing you to spiral. If that is you, I implore you to bring that wound to the Father. Let Him bathe it in the rays of His piercing, but healing love. Satan wants you to keep that sin hidden – so bring it to the light. There is no shadow too dark for Him — no sin too evil and no hole to deep for Him to draw you out of.

Prayer: Christ, in you there is fullness of light. There is nothing you keep hidden from us: You reveal your entire heart. As we draw closer to Your most Sacred Heart, all darkness fades away to nothing. You see it all. Instill in us the desire to keep nothing hidden from you. Call us out of the darkness into Your marvelous light.

Closing: Listen to this podcast on the life and death of St. Mary of Egypt, the patron saint of penitents and those who struggle with lust: https://integrityrestored.com/from-prostitute-to-saint-learning-from-st-mary-of-egypt/

Sarah Rose is the Coordinator of Young Adult Ministry at St. Cecilia Church in Oakley. She graduated from Franciscan University is 2016 with a Bachelors in Theology & Catechetics, and is happily married to her college sweetheart John Paul. They welcomed their first child, Judah Zion, in 2019. She loves fictional novels, the saints (especially Blessed Chiara Luce Badano), & sharing conversation over a good cup of coffee.

April 23- Thursday of the Second Week of Easter
Readings: ACTS 5:27-33, PS 34:2 AND 9, 17-18, 19-20, JN 3:31-36

Invitation to Prayer: Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26

Reflection: During this Easter season we celebrate the Resurrection as the defining event of Christianity. It has always been believed that without the Resurrection Jesus is not who he claimed to be. Without it Jesus is just an interesting man who had some good things to say, but he is not the all important “God become man” who we worship. St. Paul himself says, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:13-14. It is Christ’s Death and Resurrection that elevates the rest of His works and teachings to not only be a good example for some to consider following, but the only means of hope and salvation for all mankind.

What is it about Christ’s resurrection that is so special, after all, didn’t Christ raise others from the dead? Why weren’t people worshiping Lazurus or any of the others the way they did Christ? The answer is that the Resurrection that Christ experienced is fundamentally different from the resurrection the others experienced. Lazarus was a miraculously resuscitated corpse, a man who died of illness and was brought back from death to his earthly life for a time. The important distinction we find in the Apostles’ preaching of Christ’s Resurrection is that he did not come back simply as he was before. Each of the accounts of Jesus’ Easter appearances is proof of that. He was walking through locked doors, disappearing suddenly, and changing his appearance. This was an altogether new and powerful transformation of the human person, it was truly a new life. This is the Good News that the Apostles ultimately gave their lives to share. The hope of restoration to our true life shared with God, lost through sin; an utterly new and mysterious gift of grace that heals us and makes us who we are meant to be.

This is a deep mystery, one that befuddled Nicodemus as he dialogues with Jesus in our Gospel reading today. For we must die in order to be born again into eternal life. We are now the grain of wheat that is a single grain, but through death we will burst forth into a new and greater form of life. (refer. John 12:24) This is our Easter joy, the hope of this resurrection of our mortal frames into life everlasting! He is Risen, Alleluia!

Prayer: Jesus, grant me to grace to share the joy of your Resurrection with everyone in my life.

Closing: In what new ways can you allow the grace of the Resurrection to transform you during this Easter season? Ask God to send you his Holy Spirit to embolden you as he did with his Apostles.

Matthew Cantrell is the Eastern Regional Engagement Officer of NET Ministries. NET Ministries challenges young Catholics to love Christ and embrace the life of the Church. Every August, 175 young Catholics aged 18-28 leave behind their jobs, school, family, and friends to devote nine months to serving with the National Evangelization Teams (NET).

April 24- Friday of the Second Week of Easter
Readings: ACTS 5:34-42, PS 27:1, 4, 13-14, JN 6:1-15

Invitation to Prayer: : So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. Acts 5: 34-42

Reflection: In today’s entry from the Gospel of St. John, we hear the very prominent story of Jesus feeding the five thousand with five barley loaves and two fish. It seems like a pretty straightforward and to the point story of this miracle, but when we start to peel back the layers, we see many themes about the Church and what it means to be a Christian. I am reminded of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s writings on what the Pontiff calls the three essential elements of the Church: to worship God, to evangelize, and to serve the poor. In this miracle, all three of these elements are present. They went up to the mountain to pray because Passover was near, which is worshipping God. The miracle in itself is evangelization, as we read in the back end of this passage , the people who saw said “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”

Five thousand men who came to see Jesus were served as they reclined. The Lord only knows how many souls have fallen in love with Him because they were shown God’s mercy through Christian charity. Also, at the very end, we see the Lord’s humility. He withdrew to the mountain because the crowd wanted to make Him a king. He is the King of Kings, but the Lord knew that His crown was to be made of thorns, not of gold and gems. As I prepare to become a nurse next year, I pray that I am able to bring glory to God by showing my patients half the Christian mercy and humility as St. Stephen, St. Maximillian Kolbe, and St. Teresa of Calcutta did in their time on earth.

Prayer: Jesus, in the joy of Resurrection, let me find acceptance of suffering in your name.

Closing: Learn more of the lives of St. Stephen, St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Teresa of Calcutta

Josh Vogt is a nursing student and a parishioner at St Ann’s in Hamilton.

April 25- Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist
Readings: 1 PT 5:5B-14. PS 89:2-3, 6-7, 16-17, MK 16:15-20

Invitation to prayer: Alleluia, alleluia, may we proclaim You crucified and risen.

Reflection: Today is the feast of St. Mark, who is known as the evangelist. Today’s gospel is taken from his writings, one of the four gospels, while being the shortest goes into the most detail about Jesus’ ministry. Mark paints the picture of Christ and the kingdom of God breaking into human life with the Good News. Some have commented on Mark’s gospel having a tone of “haste” to it. It is important that we know of Christ’s ministry, and it’s important we know now. To an extent we can assume that haste was directed towards the first generation to read that gospel. But that message is as loud today, even amidst a pandemic when going out to evangelize seems impossible. What is the best way to proclaim the gospel during this time? To love your family and friends, do your job if you are able, pray for those in need, volunteer if you are healthy and able, do what is best for those most at risk. And once this is all over, may we come out the other side ready and excited to “…go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”

Prayer: Lord, send us forth in holy confidence to proclaim your kingdom and love every brother we meet along our journey.

Go forth: The disciples went out in small groups. Who will you proclaim the gospel with? Take this quieter time to work on your relationship with them so you will be prepared to shine Christ’s love together.

Sarah Rogers: works in the Young Adult and Campus Ministry in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. She is a Cincy native, loves spending my time downtown, either in a historic church or historic building-turned coffee shop.

April 26-Third Sunday of Easter
Readings: ACTS 2:14, 22-33. PS 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11, 1 PT 1:17-21, LK 24:13-35

Invitation to Prayer: Lord, Open my eyes by your grace that I may see you today

Reflection: The Road to Emmaus is a road that we all travel. We at times feel disheartened, our hopes seem low, and we may feel distant from God.

Cleopas and his companion left Jerusalem saddened and bewildered. They thought Jesus was the one that would redeem Israel, and their hopes seemed to be dashed. That unfortunately is part of living in a fallen world. At times, we feel let down, we go through loss, and experience grief. Yet, Jesus is the one that restores us to the life of grace. He is the one through his mercy frees us from sin and gives us back our hope and faith when it falters.

It is in the Eucharist that Cleopas and his companion finally recognize Jesus. When Jesus broke the bread with them in the Eucharist, “their eyes were opened.” That same phrase was used when Adam and Eve committed the first sin. Unlike Adam and Eve, who opened our eyes to sin and fallenness, Jesus opens our eyes and restores us to grace, innocence and the life of heaven.

I know this has been a hard few months, but I hope they been blessed. For Jesus transcends all of the walls that are put up right now. He is in the glorified state in his Resurrection from the dead. He is outside of the worldly time and space that keep us down and indoors. He wants to enliven your heart, restore your hope, and strengthen your faith in his love and mercy. Let us today return to Jerusalem with Cleopas and rejoice with others that Christ is truly risen.

Prayer: Jesus please help us to see you in a new with way with restored eyes of faith.

Closing: Spend some time praying and asking for the wisdom for the things in your life that need restored and transformed.

Father Brian Phelps was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. He is currently pastor at St. Francis of Assisi in Centerville

April 27- Monday of the Third Week of Easter
Readings; ACTS 6:8-15, PS 119:23-24, 26-27, 29-30, JN 6:22-29

Presence of God: O my God, make me a true disciple of Your Son, Jesus Christ.

Reflection: Jesus answers the crowd’s question in a way that only Jesus can, by not answering the question, at least, not the question they ask with their lips. Instead, he reads their hearts and answers their real question. No crowd that large gets into boats and travels across a sea to ask “when did you get here?”. They’re seeking Him. They have experienced Him in the miracle of the loaves and now they are seeking him on a deeper level. They might become true disciples.

What are we to do to become a true disciple of Jesus Christ? He tells us in this passage. In John’s original Greek, though, only once does he say to believe in Him. Every other time he says believe into Him. He’s not just a thought of the mind or a stagnant intellectual proposition. There is motion, relationship, and the mystery of seeking and finding God. To do the works of God, it is through the act of faith that we enter into the mystery of Jesus and find the food that does not perish. A true disciple of Jesus will discover in this, though, the mystery of hungering and being satisfied and then hungering more deeply. St. Catherine of Siena puts it this way, “O sweet Love, all my life I have never loved You. But my soul always longs for You; and the more it possesses You, so much the more it seeks You; the more it desires You, so much the more it finds You and relishes You, O sovereign, eternal fire, abyss of charity.”

In case we’re tempted to make this food a spiritual metaphor, though, turn back to the Gospel. Jesus is about to give the bread of life discourse. I invite you to read the rest of the chapter as if Jesus is talking to you. It is a test of the desire and faith of every person to be His disciple. Most of them will abandon Him by the end of the chapter. His teaching will be too hard for them to accept. They wanted the food to be a spiritual metaphor. Eat his living flesh and drink his blood? Really? Gross. But He won’t waiver on it, nor will the Church. Just read what Peter says at the end of the discourse. Peter, the first pope, has the true faith and speaks for the Church, for all disciples of Jesus. It’s not a popularity contest for Jesus; the Church is not his fan club. He wants true disciples with true belief in what He says even though the natural mind cannot comprehend it. Discipleship of Jesus means far more than following some wise sayings. He himself literally wants to be our food. Because God became flesh, even our flesh receives the dignity of union with God. St. Athanasius echoes St. Catherine but speaks more explicitly on the Eucharist, “We feed on the food of life, we constantly refresh our souls with his precious blood, as from a fountain. Yet we are always thirsting, burning to be satisfied. But he himself is present for those who thirst and in his goodness invites them to the feast day.”

Being a disciple of Jesus means not only believing in Him and His teaching, but also being conformed to Him and His sufferings. Can a person have the strength to bare the sufferings that come with being a disciple of the Crucified without this divine union? Jesus said that the servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Him, they will persecute His followers, and that we must take up our cross daily and follow Him. The first reading shows us this. Stephen’s trial mirrors Jesus’ own trial. Stephen is a true disciple of Jesus, conformed to his Master. But in that conformity to Christ’s sufferings is the disciple’s glory. See, in the midst of his sufferings Stephen’s face shone like that of an angel; he who ate the Bread of Angels.

In this time of the pandemic may we develop the hunger and the thirst for the Most Holy Eucharist. How joyful will be the day when we will be physically and lovingly reunited with Our Lord and enter more deeply into the mystery of Jesus Christ whom God sent. Who will have the faith to be His disciple?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, make me hunger for You that I may seek you; and in seeking you may I find You; and in finding You may I be fed; and being fed, may I hunger for You all the more. Give me a heart full of gratitude for the gift of the Eucharist. I long for the day when I will be able to eat Your body and drink Your blood. When that day comes, may I receive You worthily as Your true disciple with devotion and faith.

Action: Think of Jesus in the Eucharist in the tabernacle at church. Use your imagination to see the tabernacle. Speak a word of love to Him there. Ask for the strength to bare your sufferings in conformity with His in the passion, especially the suffering of this physical separation. Draw strength from Him, and then go perform an act of love for someone.

Marty is the director of Prison Ministry for the Archdiocese, serving five institutions across the Archdiocese by conducting Catholic programming, leading the Archdiocese Prison Ministry volunteer team, and bringing the sacraments of the Church to the incarcerated.

April 28-Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter
Readings: ACTS 7:51—8:1A, PS 31:3CD-4, 6 AND 7B AND 8A, 17 AND 21AB, JN 6:30-35

Invitation to Prayer: Lord, I invite you into my home and my heart. Come and abide with me today, nourish me and satisfy me with Your Word, and let it be on my mind, on my lips, and in my heart.

Reflection: As we continue to read through the Bread of Life Discourse, perhaps like me, your desire for the Eucharist has only increased. When we were in the Lenten season it seemed ‘easier’ to fast from the Eucharist, but now that we’re in the Easter season, it definitely seems more difficult. Focusing on this final line from Jesus though, brings me comfort: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” Whoever comes to the Lord will be satisfied. Yes, as Catholics the Eucharist is the source and the summit, but it is not the sole way that Jesus comes to us. Jesus promises us that if we come to Him – through prayer, Sacred Scripture, community, and other means – He will come to us and satisfy the desires of our hearts. As the prophet Jeremiah reminds us, “‘When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me,’ says the LORD,” (Jeremiah 29: 12-14). Let us seek the Lord today through our interactions with others, through our time in prayer and Sacred Scripture, and in the small ways He comes to us.

Prayer: Jesus, help me to recognize the other things that I go to in attempts to fill that deepest longing in my heart, for You alone can satisfy the desires of my heart.

Action: Make an act of spiritual communion sometime today.

Christen Aquino is the Managing Director of VIA (Youth Evangelization & Discipleship). She has served as a youth minister for over ten years in both Georgia and Ohio.

April 29, Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter
Memorial of Saint Catherine of Siena, virgin and doctor of the Church
Readings: Acts 8:1b-8, 66:1-3a, 4-5, 6-7a, Jn 6:35-40

Invitation to Prayer: When God speaks… listen! A word of caution, hold on tight, God’s power is about to take launch.

Reflection: If I could sum up today’s readings, alongside today’s Saint we honor in Catherine of Siena in one word… Power. The Acts of the Apostles is so loaded with the power and movement of God in extraordinary ways. Even in the midst of troubling times for the earliest Christians, it does not deter the apostles from evangelizing and sharing of Jesus Christ. Nor does it hinder Jesus, who starts to lay down the ground work of how literally he plans to share of himself in the Gospel of John. Nor did it hinder Catherine of Siena from sharing Christ in written word and God’s power.

While known for so many things, Catherine shares with Teresa of Avila becoming the first female Doctors of the Church. The accolades of Catherine are numerous, and yet, how does that impact us? Really, I think we ought to ask ourselves, how does she, and readings today impact us?

Do we really believe in the power of God, and how He moves throughout all history. After all, the truest history is his story. The same God that moved in the Apostles and did not surrender unto fear, is the same God of medieval times that inspired majestic Cathedrals; is the same fearless God that moves the most beautiful cathedrals, our bodies (temples of the Holy Spirit). We are not just called, but have been given the tools in the sacraments and scriptures to be dwelling places of God’s power to move and shape the world; to build, and in many cases, rebuild the Body of Christ through the power of the Triune Godhead.

Prayer: Through the Power of your Resurrected Body, we ask to see your power move around us, and if it be your will, through us. In your name Jesus, we shed any “spirit of timidity and cowardice, but a spirit of Power, love and self control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

Closing: Easter is a season that the Church proclaims a “new” Spring time as John Paul II reminded us. Let’s jump onboard with the Communion of Saints to proclaim that renewal. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever”; and so is his power.

Mark Hollcraft serves as Eastern Regional Director for NET Ministries. He has been involved in Youth Ministry in a variety of ways for 24 years. Being married to Meredith Hollcraft with 6 children has been his greatest adventure… so far.

April 30: Thursday of the Third Week of Easter
Readings: ACTS 8:26-40, PS 66:8-9, 16-17, 20, JN 6:44-51

Invitation to Prayer: Lord, give us this day our daily bread!

Reflection: In today’s Gospel we hear part of Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse:

“I am the bread of life… whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my Flesh for the life of the world.” – John 6:48, 51

As Catholics we hear these words and immediately think of the Eucharist – the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. So, in the midst of this pandemic that has separated us from our usual reception of the Eucharist, these words can be hard to hear. They may produce in us longing, desire, and hope, but they may also produce feelings of despair as we wonder when we will again gather around the Lord’s table.

As I reflect on this, I must remind myself that nothing is impossible for God and while He gave us the Sacraments as an efficacious means of sharing in his life, God himself is not bound by those Sacraments. I trust that he is bringing life and grace in unexpected ways to those hearts that are open during this time. The challenge then for me is to keep embracing the Bread of Life in my heart when I can’t embrace the Eucharist physically.

My prayer is that this physical separation may produce two things in my life. First, I hope it cultivates an openness to the many (and often unexpected) means of grace that the Lord places in my life. Second, I hope that in this absence a deeper fondness grows in my heart for the Eucharist. So, armed with the prayer of Spiritual Communion, I’ll seek to embrace today’s graces while I await that sweet reunion at the Eucharistic table.

Prayer: My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen. – An Act of Spiritual Communion

Closing: Do you miss the Eucharist? Why or why not? In what ways is the Lord continuing to offer grace to you each day? How can we do a better job of embracing those “daily breads” as we simultaneously grow in Eucharistic faith?

Matt Reinkemeyer is the Director of Development Operations for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Stewardship Office. His passion is for sharing vision and mission rooted in the Gospel with others and inviting them to be a part of it.

 

May 1 Friday of the Third Week of Easter
Readings: ACTS 9:1-20, PS 117:1BC, 2, JN 6:52-59

Invitation to Prayer: “Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”

Reflection: In the First Reading for today (Friday of the Third Week of Easter) we hear the story of Saul, “breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord” who, after encountering the Lord, is given a new name, and a new mission; Saul becomes Paul, who “began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues.” You’ve gotta love someone who is all-in.

I wonder … have you received a new name after an encounter with Christ? Did your mission change?

Or is your story more like that of St. Joseph – who as a Church we celebrate today as an Optional Memorial?

We don’t know much about St. Joseph before his betrothal to Mary, but we do know that his mission was confirmed for him when God sent an angel to St. Joseph in a dream. This encounter brought to Joseph the removal of doubt and a renewed submission of his personal mission to God’s will for his life. Again, you’ve gotta love someone who is all-in.

In the cases of both Paul and Joseph I’m struck with this: The mission for each man is about more than just the individual man. And so is yours. You have been given a role within the Church, a role within your heavenly family that only you can fulfill. You’ve been created for and crafted for that mission. But like Joseph whose mission is confirmed by an angel in his dream, the messages we receive require our cooperation. The graces planted in our hearts are more fully activated when we embrace our mission and act.

My work in these past few years has trained me to look ahead and plan for the future. However, these days of quarantine have been different. I’ve had to learn to be at peace with what I know, and what I can’t know. Part of that is wrestling with my own frustration and temptation to say, “I can’t move forward… because we don’t know when…” Today I wonder what these two Saints would have to say about our uncertainty in being able to plan for the future. I imagine they would say, “Be faithful to the last mission God gave you. Be faithful to it every day. Until a new mission comes.”

Prayer: “Jesus, I want to unite my life to your life, my thoughts to your thoughts, my affections to your affections, my heart to your heart, my works to your works, my whole self to your self, in order to become through this union more holy and more pleasing in the sight of your Father, and in order to make my life more worthy of your grace and of the reward of eternity. Amen” – Jean-Pierre Medaille SJ

Closing: God, your ways are not my ways. Grow me in faithfulness to you and the missions you have entrusted to me. Remind me, Lord, what is my mission right now? Who have you called me to protect? Provide for? Or partner within mission? St. Paul was sent to the house of Ananias. St. Joseph was sent to Mary. To whom are you sending me?

Abbie Kohler is a native of Minnesota who moved to Cincinnati in 2017 to work for NET ministries Eastern Region Office. Abbie has over 12 years of youth ministry experience & Currently volunteers on the core team for St. Gertrudes High School Ministry in Madeira. I like skyline and graeters… But I still have a soft spot for a tater tot hot dish!

May 2 Memorial of Saint Athanasius, bishop and doctor of the Church
Readings: ACTS 9:31-42, PS 116:12-13, 14-15, 16-17, JN 6:60-69

Invitation to Prayer: Come, Holy Spirit, renew in me a sense of awe and wonder.

Reflection: The renowned American short-story writer Flannery O’Connor once wrote: “The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” Her words resonate well with Jesus’ difficult teaching in today’s Gospel, which follows directly after his most overt/descriptive teaching on the Eucharist. Jesus recognizes that the eating of his body and blood is a “shocking” reality, one that causes many of his disciples to “no longer follow him;” this is the only time in the Gospels that we are told that disciples leave because of his teaching. Jesus was straight-forward and frank with his listeners. He did not water-down or present his teachings in pleasantly digestible forms; he recognizes that these are truths that are hard to stomach. Similarly, the Lord wants his disciples to present his Gospel in a candid, honest, and loving manner.

A professor and friend of mine shared a story with me about when he taught his undergraduate students about the Eucharist. His lecture was honest and full of conviction, I’m sure stemming from his own faith and love of the Eucharist. After class, a foreign exchange student approached him and said, “professor, could you tell us more about the eating of the God?” This question of my professor’s inquisitive student makes the Eucharist sound outlandish…but he’s right! The Eucharist is one of the most astonishing truths of our Catholic faith! God has become our food, our sustenance, our manna for the journey to the promised land. Many of us are so familiar with the idea of the Eucharist that there is a temptation to become quite casual to it. We, therefore, lose our sense of awe and wonder before so splendid a mystery. We must pray every day for the Lord to deepen our love and devotion to the Eucharistic mystery.

Prayer: Jesus, I believe that you are truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the altar.

Closing: Many of us cannot receive Holy Communion during this time of quarantine. Hopefully, we have been participating through live-streamed Masses, like from EWTN or our very own Cathedral, and are making a spiritual communion. Looking upon the sacred host, even virtually, and making an act of faith by desiring to receive him brings about tremendous graces! We may be unaware of these graces, but we can see their effects as our desire and love of Jesus grows with every spiritual communion. The next time we join a live-streamed Mass, as the priest elevates the Eucharist, let us join in St. Peter and St Thomas’ confession of faith and tell him, “My Lord and My God.”

Rev. Mr. Anthony Marcelli is a Theology III Seminarian for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati recently ordained Transitional Deacon on April 25, 2020.

May 3 Fourth Sunday of Easter
Readings: ACTS 2:14A, 36-41, PS 23: 1-3A, 3B4, 5, 6, 1 PT 2:20B-25, JN 10:1-10

Invitation to Prayer: Lord, help to hear your voice in my suffering.

Reflection: “Beloved: If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.”

“For to this you have been called…” The “this” from the previous sentence is being patient while suffering. It is not by happenstance; it is not a surprise to God. It is a calling. And a call merits a response. How do I respond to the Shepherd’s call when it is to suffer? Unsurprisingly, not well. I lash out. I lack hope. I listen to the voices that tell me that this is not fair, that I deserve better, that if I walked away from the Shepherd, I’d be better off. But the voice of the Shepherd leads me outside of myself. It leads me back to His love and protection. He knows it is Him I truly need, and in my suffering, I can draw nearer to Him who brings meaning to my suffering. He reminds me of His own suffering and when I unite my suffering with His, it can be meritorious for those for whom I offer up my suffering. Moreover, it consoles the heart of my Lord who gave all that He had so that I would know the Shepherd’s voice here on Earth and spend forever with Him in Heaven.

Eleven years ago this spring, two of my friends (in the same family) died in a car accident. I had never experienced suffering like that before. Sure, life wasn’t always peachy, but at that event, the proverbial bottom fell out. How could a good God let this happen? How could a family be torn apart like that, in mere seconds? It was a time of heavy days and sleepless nights. And yet, in the MONTHS of wading through the grief, the voice of my Shepherd called out to me. He wept with me. He did not want this for my friends. He did not want this for their family. But He was there. With them…with me. He loved us humans enough to allow us our free will. Choices made in that freedom led to my friends’ deaths, but my friends’ choices to love and follow Jesus lead to the hope of Eternal Life. I slowly began to trust again in the Giver of such an incredible gift of mercy and grace. That He would live, die, and rise for one such as me – fickle and needy – is why we can call our Shepherd “Good”.

Prayer: “Come, Good Shepherd, help me to respond to your voice with generosity and courage.”

Closing: When have you heard the voice of the Good Shepherd? How did He speak to you (audibly? in your heart, through Scripture, another person, an event, song, etc.)? How did you respond?

Molly Gallagher is the newest staff member of NET Ministries’ Cincinnati Regional Office.

May 4: Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Readings: ACTS 11:1-18, PS 42:2-3; 43:3, 4, JN 10:11-18

Invitation to Prayer: Jesus, from the beginning of time, You knew us. Before we were conceived in our mothers womb, You loved us. Allow us to feel and know this love of Yours more deeply this day.

Reflection: This first reading is a bit of a strange one, the Gospel a bit of a familiar one. This is something I deeply love about our Catholic reading cycle. The Church always puts readings together which illuminate and interpret each other.

The imagery of the gospel is one we are all familiar with. Christ calls Himself the good shepherd, an image we have all come to love. In this passage, Jesus tells us that He chooses us freely. That He, unlike a hired man, cares not for anything else but the well being of his flock, and this He does freely. How many times have people been interested in us conditionally? Wanting us not for our own sake, but for something else, be it money, social connection, advancement, what have you? The Lord here empathically states He is not interested in us for any reason other than ourself. What other religion can boast such a claim? Perhaps more of a challenge: who of us can boast such a claim? To love someone solely for their sake, this is a love unlike any other love, and our Lord tells us it is the love He has for us! Let us meditate solely on this beautiful reality!

In the first reading, the Lord grants St. Peter an interesting image. An array of different animals on a white sheet, and Peter commanded to slaughter and eat them all. The important point here is that some of these animals were previously considered by the Jews to be unclean animals, and thus unfit for true worship and sacrifice in the Temple. Here though, the Lord commands Peter to involve them in true worship of the divine. Here the Lord’s forever plan is being realized, namely that salvation has come through the Jews to the entirety of the world. None is unworthy. None is unfit. Not for God. Why? Because they are all, we are all, chosen members of Christ’s flock! What does that mean? It means our Lord, our Creator, our Judge, our Redeemer, comes after each of us, by name, specifically seeking us. We are His, and the love He has for us is a love unlike anything we have ever known.

Prayer: Come Lord Jesus, assure us of your love for us. Let us know the particular and truest form of love. We beg you Lord, allow us to know of your great love for us and to radiate it to the world.

Closing: The Lord, our shepherd, speaks to all those who listen. Those who listen will hear His voice. He calls us to Himself. He calls us to bring others to Himself. Who is the member of the Lord’s flock you are called to this week? Pray about it. Reach out to them this week.

Benjamin Klare is the Associate Director in the Office for Marriage & Family Life at the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. His primary responsibility is coordinating the Archdiocesan Anti-Pornography Initiative.

May 5: Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Readings: Acts 11: 19-26; Psalms 87: 1B – 3; 4 – 5; 6 – 7 and John 10: 22 – 30

Invitation to Prayer: “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.”

Reflection: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never parish.” (John 10: 27 – 28a)

Upon reflecting on this reading, I am immediately struck by a strong sense of belonging to Christ. I am his forever. He is my shepherd and will protect and guide me all my days. During these trying times, this thought offers me a sense of comfort and rest. I need not fear because he is ever beside me and will not abandon me in times of trouble.

No matter the circumstance, we all belong to Christ. As stated in the Gospel: “No one can take them out of my hand.” (John 10: 28b) Christ reaches out his hand to us in love, and we as Catholics have the privilege of reaching back and taking that hand through the Sacraments. We have a unique connection to Jesus as we actively participate in the sanctifying grace of sacramental life.
For many of us, there is an incredible sense of grief and longing as we continue our fast from the Holy Eucharist. There is a yearning for the tangible grace that we receive as we consume the Body and Blood of Jesus. As we await a time when we can return to the Eucharistic feast we can reflect on the struggle of the early church.

In today’s first reading from Acts of the Apostles we recall a time when the disciples of Jesus were scattered after the brutal execution of St. Stephen. While they were terrified and exiled, they continued to spread the good news of Jesus to their fellow Jews and some began to carry the message further to the Greeks. “The hand of the Lord was with them and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.” (Acts 11: 21) Their faith could not be quelled by fear or distance and through the hand of the shepherd it spread to many across the region.

We have a great opportunity during this time of exile as we anticipate our return to the Lord’s table. While we cannot meet Jesus in the Eucharist, we can take his mighty hand and proclaim his loving Gospel with our lives.

Prayer: Lord, we know that your hand is always upon us. Help us to rest in your love and proclaim your Gospel with our lives. Give us the strength to focus our lives on you during this time in exile. Help us to grow stronger in our spiritual practices and to deepen our understanding of sacrifice. We ask this through your blessed Sacred Heart. Amen.

Closing: As we continue to “shelter in place,” what can you do to grow deeper in your relationship with Jesus? How have you felt Christ’s hand in your life?

Noelle is currently serving as the Associate Director for Respect Life Ministries for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. She is a graduate from the University of Dayton with a BA in Religious Studies and a minor in both Women’s Studies and Social Work. After spending eight years as a stay-at-home mom to her four children, Noelle is excited to be re-entering the ministry world. She is currently working towards certification in Special Needs Ministry, and hopes to also obtain her Master’s Certificate in Bioethics in the next five years. “I firmly believe that God has placed me exactly where I belong, and I am overjoyed to be a proclaimer of the Gospel of Life in this Archdiocese.”

May 6- Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Readings: ACTS 12:24—13:5A, PS 67:2-3, 5, 6 AND 8; JN 12:44-50

Invitation to Prayer: “I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness.” (JN 12:46)

Reflection: I remember my parents turning on the closet light in my room before going to sleep. Like most kids, I didn’t like the dark. It wasn’t darkness itself that scared me; rather, I feared what was in the dark, what I couldn’t see. The sliver of light peeking out from under the closet door was enough to give everything in the room shape. For something so small, it was a great comfort.

That’s why I love the image of Jesus as the light of the world. As I prayed through today’s gospel, I imagined rays of light swallowing every corner of darkness. And like the darkness, I imagined my fears, burdens and sorrows evaporating before the light. His great light comes not only to rescue me so that I “might not remain in darkness,” but also to heal what was in darkness – my sins, shame, hurts.

This Easter season, I’m asking the Lord to overwhelm me with His mercy. In fact, I’ve been praying with the image of Divine Mercy and imagining myself covered in beautiful light. The more I pray with this image, the more my heart seeks the one who “came into the world as light.”

Prayer: Jesus, you are the light of the world. Overwhelm me with the light of your mercy.

Closing: Find an image of Divine Mercy and allow yourself to pray with it for a few moments. Ask Jesus where He wants to shine light in your heart.

Emily Conklin is a digital content strategist by day and young adult ministry leader by evenings and weekends. She enjoys sharing the true and good news of God’s love through beautiful marketing and media.

May 7, Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Readings: ACTS 13:13-25, PS  89:2-3, 21-22, 25 AND 27,  JN 13:16-20

Invitation to prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to proclaim Your Word to a world that needs to hear it.

Reflection: Think of the childhood game “Telephone.” One person has a message, and they whisper it to the next person, repeating this until you get to the end of the chain. By the time it reaches the end, the message can be slightly garbled or completely changed. This can happen for a lot of reasons: maybe one person in the chain didn’t speak clearly enough, or maybe someone thought they heard something different because they were distracted

As Jesus speaks to His disciples in this Gospel passage, He’s asking all of us to faithfully transmit a message. In these days of social distancing, our personal interactions with others may be the only glimpse they get of a Savior who loves them. Soon, we will be reentering parts of our world, and that world desperately needs Jesus. We have been entrusted with an incredible message, and at a time where that message may easily be lost. That message is that, through His Cross and Resurrection, we’ve been set free! Alleluia!

But notice what He points out: the messenger is not more important than the one who has sent him. As we venture back into the world, let us not place our cares and concerns about what truly matters: sharing the Hope and Love that comes directly from the One who sent us.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to remember that I am a messenger of Your Love to the whole world. Help me find ways to be Your faithful messenger.

Closing: Look back over the weeks of isolation. For the Christian, God is seen to be working through all things. Think of the positive “God moments” of the past weeks, and use those to joyfully share the workings of God with someone who needs a reason to rejoice.

Bradley Barnes has served as the Coordinator of Youth Ministry at Guardian Angels Parish since 2014.

May 8-Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Readings: ACTS 13:26-33, PS 2:6-7, 8-9, 10-11AB, JN 14:1-6

Invitation to Prayer: “Jesus said to Him, ‘I am the way the truth and the Life.'”

Reflection: Today’s gospel brings me a lot of comfort. Jesus is lovingly speaking to his apostles encouraging them to seek comfort in Him. He begins by saying “do not let your hearts be troubled” and then continues by reminding us that He has prepared a place specifically for us. What a love letter we receive from our Lord today! In this time of not being able to receive Christ in the Euchartist, in this time where my heart is filled with confusion and longing, I needed to hear these words today. It is easy for me to fall into the trap of viewing God as loving but distant, fatherly but neglectful, powerful but frightening. But in this Gospel passage, Jesus beckons us to Him and to His Father. He longs to take us by the hand and guide us to the specific place He has prepared.

As I read this passage, I can feel my heart soften and I begin to lay down my anxieties and fears, but then we come to Thomas’s objection and I am reminded that the moments where I feel most distant from Christ is when I try to figure it out on my own. “We do not know where you are going! How can we know the way?” Isn’t it so true of all of us that we blame our confusion and lack of trust on the fact that we do not know the ‘who/what/when/where/how’ of God’s plan? But Jesus replies so simply “I am the way.” As we continue on our paths towards Christ, I encourage you all to keep your focus and trust in Jesus who has promised to deliver us. He longs to lovingly take us by the hand and we need to challenge ourselves to stop looking over our shoulder and fretting about the ‘what ifs.’

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to trust in You for You are the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Closing: As we continue on our journeys and as stressful moments arise, I encourage you to pray this prayer by St. Faustina: “Sacred heart of Jesus, I place my trust in You.” It has brought me immense peace in my most stressful moments and I hope it does the same for you.

Audrey Meriwether is a young wife and mother who is a parishioner at Old St Mary’s in OTR. She and her husband are musicians who are often involved with various archdiocesan events such as the Candlelight Mass and Behold. Audrey is a seamstress, a lover of dancing and cooking, and an avid seeker of Christ through community.

May 9: Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Readings: ACTS 13:44-52, PS 98:1, 2-3AB, 3CD-4, JN 14:7-14

Invitation to prayer: Jesus, increase my trust in you. Open my heart and mind to see the way in which you love me.

Reflection: As the last supper discourse is happening, the disciples tell Jesus, “Master, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” The disciples have been following Jesus for a long time and yet still do not recognize the Father within Christ. They want and need more for their belief. And Philip is not afraid (perhaps ignorantly) to ask Jesus for what he desires. Jesus responds with the shared works between him and the Father and, ultimately, saying “And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.” I am struck by Philip’s ability to ask Jesus directly for what he needs.

In prayer, we are often afraid to ask God for what we desire. There is a fear that what if I am asking for too much or what if I ask for the “wrong thing”? Yet today’s Gospel illustrates that we do not need to be afraid. There is humility in recognizing what we need and turning to God with those desires. God is often present and moving in those desires and Philip’s desire may have been a fragment of a deeper longing to encounter and know God. God always meets us where we are. We do not need to be afraid of asking for the “wrong thing”. Simply, God is not out to get us and his movements towards us are always loving. What is a desire in my heart that I have been afraid to bring to God? Today’s Gospel invites us to reach towards God with humility and trust to encounter God’s love in a new way.

Prayer: Father, your movements towards us are rooted in love. Increase my trust and humility to come to you with my desires, knowing that you often speak to us in our desires.

Closing: Take 10 minutes today to come to God in prayer, praying for the humility and trust to acknowledge a desire in your life and bring it directly to God.

Michelle Ragusa returned to Cincinnati in 2018. She is a Registered Nurse at Cincinnati Children’s doing medical consultations for child abuse and neglect cases.

May 10: Fifth Sunday of Easter
Readings: Acts 6:1-7; Psalm 33; 1 Peter 2:4-9; John 14:1-12

Invitation to Prayer: Lord Jesus, remove the fear in my heart and replace it with Your peace.

Reflection: A recent study of American adults found that about 60% of them reported experiencing loneliness. This was an increase of 13% over the span of two years. It seems that more and more people are feeling lonely, isolated, and/or disconnected. And this study was conducted before our current pandemic and stay-at-home measures. Those numbers could be even higher during this time.

We know that our faith teaches us that God made us for relationship – with Him and with others. But when we lack strong relationships, it is easy for us to feel alone or isolated. Perhaps we even feel unloved or unwanted. Jesus, though, wants to help us understand how loved, how wanted, we truly are. Jesus desires a relationship with us. This is clearly evident in our Gospel reading today.
Jesus, while celebrating the Last Supper with His disciples, wants them to know they will not be alone or forgotten, even when Jesus seems physically absent from them. So, Jesus tells them that He is going to prepare a place, a mansion, for them in heaven. Jesus is preparing a place so that they may live there with Him! And, as if that weren’t enough, Jesus says, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.” Jesus loves us so much that He will come back to get us, so as to take us to heaven to be with Him.

This is incredible! We know that God is perfect in and of Himself. He doesn’t need anything, including us. But He desires us – He chooses us. And He wants a relationship with us so much, that He will continue to come to us, seeking to draw us closer to Him and His merciful love. We are not alone or forgotten. We are wanted – we are loved.

Prayer: Jesus, thank you for Your gift of love. Thank you for reminding me that I am never alone. Come, Lord Jesus, into my life and into my heart, that I may truly love You also.

Closing: Express your thanks to God for desiring you. Seek some way to help one other person today to know God’s loving presence as well.

Father Tim Ralston is the Pastor at St. Bernadette Parish, Amelia Ohio

April 11, Monday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Readings: ACTS 14:5-18, PS 115:1-2, 3-4, 15-16, JN 14:21-26

Invitation to Prayer: Lord, use me as You will!

Reflection: “One friend. If all the souls thirsting for the Truth only had one good Catholic friend!”

In today’s first reading, a crippled man, lame from birth, encounters St. Paul, and realizing the man has the faith to be healed, Paul tells him to, “Stand up straight on your feet.” A beautiful act of healing is preceded by a true act of faith.

Was the mans faith not strong enough before encountering Paul for this healing to take place, or was it that the people around Him lacked the faith to perform this miracle? Something to ponder, no doubt.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, there are many people out there who are like this crippled man, in need of healing, but with no one to help. Let us be your hands and feet, and be that “one good Catholic friend.” Mary, give me the graces to be open to whatever God has planned for me.

Closing: I invite you to reflect on that quote above, and pray that you can be that one person for someone who desperately needs it.

Brendan Gotta is the Stewardship Director for Sudan Relief Fund. Before that, he spent three years as the Director of Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Arlington (VA). When he is not working, you can find him looking at photos of local churches on his c account, working on his @GottaBeSaints Podcast and picking up to-go orders of tacos.

April 12, Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Readings: ACTS 14:19-28, Psalm 145:10-11, 12-13B, 21, JN 14:27-31A

Invitation to Prayer: Come, Holy Spirit, Love of the Father and Son, teach us how to pray.

Reflection: Augustine once formulated the greatest of all mysteries—The Trinity—in the following way: God as Lover (the Father), Beloved (the Son), and the Love that they share (the Holy Spirit) (On the Trinity book 8, chapt. 7). We find in the Trinity that the greatest of all truths in the universe is that God is a loving communion—God is Love!

Jesus talks about this Trinitarian love in our Gospel today: “The world must know that I love the Father.” These lines in our Gospel are the only place in scripture where Jesus describes in words His Love for the Father; the rest of the Gospels is the visual proof of this statement. The Catechism puts it this way, “[His] desire to embrace his Father’s plan of redeeming love inspired Jesus’ whole life” (CCC 607). To embrace the Father’s plan to redeem us in His Love was Jesus’ “food” (Jn 4:34) that sustained and empowered every action of His life. Jesus wants you and I to “know” the Love within the Trinity.

In scripture, “to know” often entails a more profound knowledge than merely knowing facts or information; it involves a relationship and intimacy—Adam “knew” his wife Eve. Jesus is telling us that he wants us to have an intimate union within the Love that is the Trinity. We will experience this union of Love within God when we live out the same life as Jesus: to “embrace the Father’s plan of redeeming love.” This redemption means our own sanctity through prayer and the sacraments, as well as bringing His redeeming Love in the lives of those closest to us.

Prayer: Jesus, show me the Love you have for the Father.

Closing: St Faustina wrote in her diary that Jesus loves “hidden souls”—people who give time to him through a quiet life of prayer by making their heart a “resting place for the Heart of Jesus” (Diary 275). During this time of quarantine, most of us have an opportunity to become “hidden souls.” This is a time to set aside more time to speak to him, to enter into Trinitarian Love. A great way to do this is with scripture; St. Ambrose says that “We speak to God when we pray. God speaks to us when we read scripture.” Let’s set aside a specific time of the day (15-30 minutes) to speak to God and listen to Him speak of His Trinitarian Love to us.

Rev. Mr. Anthony Marcelli is a Theology III Seminarian for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati recently ordained Transitional Deacon on April 25, 2020.

May 13- Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Readings: ACTS 15:1-6, PS 122:1-2, 3-4AB, 4CD-5, JN 15:1-8

Invitation to Prayer: Lord, help me remain in You.

Reflection: I once read a reflection on today’s Gospel stating that it is not enough for a branch to be associated with the vine. A branch cut off and placed beside the vine is not enough for the branch to live as it should. The connection to its life-sustaining force is what helps the branch have life and be fruitful.

Too many times, prayer is another thing to do in my day. I do not view it as my connection to my life-sustaining force, the God of the Universe who loves me and wants me to spend time with Him so He can walk with me and strengthen me. Unconsciously (most of the time), I think it is enough to be associated with God. My work revolves around sharing His Gospel – that should be enough, right? I imagine – for God, we can never spend enough time with Him. Can a branch spend too much time with a vine?

At the recommendation of author Matthew Kelly in his book Resisting Happiness, I have begun to set an alarm on my phone for each hour of the workday to remember a special prayer intention for that hour of work. I pause, take a deep breath, and pray for that person or situation that is on my heart. In bringing those prayers, worries, and concerns to the Lord, it has done me good to remember, throughout the day, that I am not on my own, flailing in the wind. I am connected to the Maker of Creation, my Savior, my Redeemer who is victorious over death itself. He sees me, knows me, and loves me. And yes, in the state of the world in which we currently reside, I need that reminder every hour. Praise God for His love, the Vine that never lets go of its branches.

Prayer: Lord, show me how I can remain connected to you, the Giver of Life.

Closing: How are you remaining connected to God throughout the day? Do you see Him as your vine? How would your life change if you did?

Molly Gallagher is the newest staff member of NET Ministries’ Cincinnati Regional Office.

May 14- Feast of Saint Matthias, Apostle
Readings: ACTS 1:15-17, 20-26. PS  113:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8,  JN 15:9-17

Invitation to Prayer
: Holy Spirit, open my heart to love today. Introduce me to Love Himself.

Reflection: In the English language, we only have one word for love. However, in the Greek language there are four types of love distinguished:
-Agape: divine love. Pure & self-sacrificing.
-Storge: familial love. Long-lasting & sturdy
-Eros: sexual love. Romantic & passionate. Name comes from the Greek goddess Eros.
-Phileo: friendship love. (friend = philo). Beyond a casual friendship, phileo represents a deep level of emotional connection that offers multiple benefits to those who share it. If ‘eros’ is the love of the body, ‘phileo’ is the love of the soul.

“This is my commandment, love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” We may assume that Jesus was referring to ‘agape’ here, as He talks about laying one’s’ life  down. However, the word ‘love’ is translated here from ‘phileo’.

‘Agape’ loves unconditionally, usually at cost to the bearer. ‘Agape’ puts the beloved first and sacrifices all pride, self interest, and possessions for the sake of that beloved. ‘Agape’ says, “I will love you, even when you deny me love in return. I will love you even when you don’t love yourself.” ‘Phileo’ is different from ‘agape’ in that it is relational and reciprocal. ‘Phileo’ may not be as deep as the love within a family, perhaps, nor does it carry the intensity of romantic passion or erotic love. But the emphasis that Jesus places on this form of love in this passage confirms that we were not made to walk this Christian road alone. This Gospel passage immediately follows the metaphor of the Vine and the branches. Jesus is teaching the disciples that discipleship means friendship with him and with God. Discipleship is being a branch of the vine. It is relational. A friend knows the plans and purposes of the other. Hence Jesus’ use of the term ‘friends’ for his followers: “I no longer call you slaves… I have called you friends, because I have told you everything  I have heard from my Father” (v. 14)  We were created for community. We crave togetherness. When one of us is hurt, that pain reverberates to all of us.  We need people in our lives who will ‘agape’ love us, but also who will ‘phileo’ love us. Jesus ‘agape’ loved every single person He came in contact with during His ministry, but He chose His ‘philos’ – His friends – and ‘phileo’ loved them (v. 16). We need to offer that to others as well. We need to show ‘agape’ love to the vulnerable and to those who don’t return it, just as much as we need to show ‘phileo’ love to those with whom we are closest: our friends.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, You have created us from love, out of love, and for love, and for that You are worthy of all praise, honor, and exaltation. Help me to love those closest to me. Prepare my heart for true friendship by showing me how to receive and accept love.

Closing: This scene from the Passion of the Christ, which contains this Gospel message, is one of my favorites: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Y9qCsIPzNo. Take some time to watch and pray with this today.

Sarah Rose is the Coordinator of Young Adult Ministry at St. Cecilia Church in Oakley. She graduated from Franciscan University is 2016 with a Bachelors in Theology & Catechetics, and is happily married to her college sweetheart John Paul. They welcomed their first child, Judah Zion, in 2019. She loves fictional novels, the saints (especially Blessed Chiara Luce Badano), & sharing conversation over a good cup of coffee.

 

May 15- Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Readings: ACTS 15:22-31, PS 57:8-9, 10 AND 12,  JN 15:12-17

Invitation to Prayer: Jesus, help me to live in the freedom of your grace.

Reflection: In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus telling his Apostles, “I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.” (John 15:15) From Slavery to Friendship, what does Jesus mean exactly?

First, it is important to understand the Jewish concept of slavery, which was much different that the slavery we hear about in American history class. This biblical slavery was not centered arund race or hatred, but on one’s financial situation. If you were deep in debt to someone, and were unable to pay it off, you became their slave until the debt was paid. If the debt was so great that it could never be paid off during your lifetime then your children would be born into that slavery to work off the debt. The only other way you could be freed from slavery is if someone paid the debt off for you, this was referred to as Redeeming the slave.

Armed with this understanding of slavery, Jesus’ words in the Gospel today take on a whole new meaning. Throughout the letters of St. Paul we hear that we were slaves to sin. So Jesus does not speak of the Apostles as his own slaves that he has decided to treat as friends, but as men whom he is about to redeem by his own blood on the cross. Jesus pays the price for our sin and frees us from slavery into Divine friendship with him as sons and daughters of the Father.

This understanding is fundamental if we are to make sense of the scriptures and the death of Jesus for us. In being our Redeemer, he frees us into a new life with him in friendship.

During this Easter season, we give thanks to Jesus for Redeeming us from the debt of our sins. He paid a debt he did not owe, because we owed a debt we could not pay.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for my freedom in you. Help me to preach the good news of this freedom to everyone in my life.

Closing: What debts and grudges do you hold against others in your heart? How can you forgive those debts, as you have been forgiven?

Matthew Cantrell is the Eastern Regional Engagement Officer of NET Ministries. NET Ministries challenges young Catholics to love Christ and embrace the life of the Church. Every August, 175 young Catholics aged 18-28 leave behind their jobs, school, family, and friends to devote nine months to serving with the National Evangelization Teams (NET).

May 16- Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Readings: ACTS 16:1-10, PS 100:1B-2, 3, 5, JN 15:18-21

Introduction: We are called to imitate Christ

Reflection: The Lord in this passage from the Gospel of St. John reminds us of the unfortunate reality that every Christian has faced. We are called to imitate Christ by spreading His teachings and defending them from the world. As we are facing the de-Christianization of the western world, we are going to be hated right alongside the Lord. When we think of the word “martyr” and “persecution,” St. Stephen, St. Paul, St. Patrick, the Japanese Kakure Kirishitans, the Mexican Cristeros, etc, come to mind.

However, there are levels of persecution that the world is dishing out to Catholics right now. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI recently spoke of the “excommunication (from) society” of those opposed to deeply unchristian actions. We are all too familiar with this phenomenon, especially as of late. The Little Sisters of the Poor are constantly being dragged to the Supreme Court by secular governments, bishops are receiving threats for defending basic Catholic teaching, and so many other examples. But, as the Lord said, these people persecute us because they do not know His Father. St. Paul did not know the Lord until he was knocked off his horse on the road to Damascus.

We must bear Christian witness even though it means increasingly being hated by the world. St. Therese de Lisieux said “The world is thy ship, and not thy home.” We are called to use this time on Earth in a way to lead us to Heaven, not to please the world. If you heed the Lord’s message today, all the pain, frustration, and exclusion you have faced will not be on your mind when you’re in Paradise.

Prayer: Oh my Jesus, as we celebrate this Easter Season, let me be open to strengthen ways to imitate you and turn away from imitating the earthly now.

Closing: How can I imitate Christ more with my family, friends, and neighbors? List ways we can further our conversion to Christ.

Josh Vogt is a nursing student and a parishioner at St Ann’s in Hamilton.

May 17: Sixth Sunday of Easter
Readings: ACTS 8:5-8, 14-17, PS 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20, 1 PT 3:15-18, JN 14:15-21

Invitation to Prayer: Come Holy Spirit

Reflection: Pope Francis once quoted Gandhi in speaking to youth back in 2016. The quote from Gandhi is this, “You Christians look after a document containing enough dynamite to blow all civilization to pieces, turn the world upside down and bring peace to a battle-torn planet. But you treat it as though it is nothing more than a piece of literature.” This quote should both sadden us and challenge because Christ gives us what we need to continue His work by living his teachings and commandments.

Pope Francis reminds us that our Bibles are not some old book that should stay on the shelf. It is the Word of God, the Light that has come into the darkness that continually sparks the fire of faith. In our Gospel today Jesus tells us that he well send the Holy Spirit so we can continue his works of worship charity, mercy, and service in our communities. Through prayer, perseverance, works of mercy, and worship of God we can see the great transformation of Christ in our lives and the lives around us.

Let us today be bold and live the commandments not for ourselves, but because we love Jesus and want to glorify him. Whoever crosses our path today, let us see Christ sending that person to us personally so we can glorify him by our love.

Prayer: Jesus please help me to know how much you love and want to share your love with us.

Closing: Pray for someone today that you have never prayer for before.

Father Brian Phelps was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. He is currently pastor at St. Francis of Assisi in Centerville

May 18: Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Readings: ACTS 16:11-15, PS 149:1B-2, 3-4, 5-6A AND 9B, JN 15:26—16:4A

Invitation to Prayer: Lord, send us your Spirit and renew the face of the Earth!

Reflection: In today’s readings we continue to hear Jesus speak of the Holy Spirit as we prepare for Pentecost. Today, Jesus reminds us that the Spirit “will testify to me and you also testify.” Jesus seems to be reminding us that there is an important connection between living in communion with the Trinity—Father, Son, and Spirit—that necessarily includes giving witness.
I recall many times where I was speaking to teens in youth ministry or parents in a pastoral situation and the right words just seemed to have come to me. I had gone into those situations either unsure of what to say or even thinking that I was going to say or share something different than what came out. Yet, the Spirit prevailed on me in that moment. More importantly, I remember times when someone else—a priest, a friend, a colleague—have shared some message of hope, challenge, or encouragement that was immensely powerful to me even though it was seemingly mundane to them. When we give witness and when we receive the testimony of others, the Spirit works.

St. Paul seems to give us a clue as to how to become powerful witnesses. In the first reading he is looking for a place to pray. He then meets Lydia and gives witness to her of his faith in Jesus. I believe this note about him looking for a place to pray is important. We open ourselves to the Holy Spirit when we pray. The Spirit then speaks not only to us in that prayer, but then through us as the Spirit and we ourselves testify together to the saving plan of Jesus.

Prayer: My Jesus, I believe that You died and rose so that I might live with you in eternity. I also believe that you ascended and sent the Holy Spirit so that we could be with you even now in the Holy Spirit. Make me docile to your Holy Spirit so that I might hear you speaking to me and in turn speak to those who need to hear of you. Renew me now in your Holy Spirit!

Closing: Who has given witness of their faith to you? Who have you testified to of your own faith? How can Pentecost be an opportunity of renewing your life of prayer and testimony? Be as specific as possible.

Matt Reinkemeyer is the Director of Development Operations for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Stewardship Office. His passion is for sharing vision and mission rooted in the Gospel with others and inviting them to be a part of it.

Tuesday, May 19- Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Readings: ACTS 16:22-34, PS 138:1-2AB, 2CDE-3, 7C-8, JN 16:5-11

Presence of God: Be with me, Jesus, always at work in me by Your Holy Spirit, even though You have gone to the Father and I cannot see You.

Reflection: Imagine for a second that it is the day before the COVID-19 quarantines, social distancing, shelter-in-place, and suspension of public Masses happened and Jesus is talking to you. What would he be saying to you? How would he be preparing you for a time when you could not receive him sacramentally, physically in the Eucharist?

Now read the Gospel passage for today. Do not these words from Our Lord spoken to the Apostles the night before His passion and death, and applied to His ascension, also speak to us today? Have we not gone through a similar experience as the Apostles during this time of not being able to go to Mass like we normally do and receive Holy Communion? To be sure, Christ our Teacher is trying to teach us, His disciples, something through this. May the lesson not be lost on us. Let us turn to this Gospel and hear with our understanding what the Lord in this extraordinary time is teaching us through experience.

In the spiritual life there are times where God seems to abandon a soul. The familiar ways that soul had of relating to God suddenly seem devoid of His presence. What worked in prayer the day before no longer brings any consolation. This is not because He has stopped loving that person, but just the opposite, He is drawing them out of him/herself and more deeply into Him. He wants that soul to go looking for Him with new eyes and a new heart that has opened itself again to receive an even greater outpouring of love and grace, to have an even closer union with God. Naturally that soul feels grief at first, and some even fall into despair and give up on God when this happens. If only they knew that the Lord does this because He wants his disciples to set their hearts solely on the glory of God and the joy of heaven, rather than the joys of this world. He never truly abandons a soul, in the absolute sense, who believes and loves Him. He is always pouring His Spirit, the Advocate, into their heart, even if they don’t feel it.

If you need an image of what that kind of disciple looks like, look to Paul and Silas in the first reading today. They were convinced by the Holy Spirit of sin, and righteousness, and condemnation, as Jesus said. Unbelief in Jesus leaves someone in sin, whereas belief saves. Righteousness comes from Jesus who makes all righteous who are in Him. The ruler of this world has been condemned and dispossessed of his former power over us to enslave us in death. The Apostles were convicted of those things. Are you?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, send me your Holy Spirit. May He strengthen my heart to seek Your face and the Father with a new fire of love.

Action: Is there someone who is despairing in your life because they feel like God has abandoned them during this time? Have a spiritual conversation with them to strengthen their hearts to seek God anew.

Marty is the director of Prison Ministry for the Archdiocese, serving five institutions across the Archdiocese by conducting Catholic programming, leading the Archdiocese Prison Ministry volunteer team, and bringing the sacraments of the Church to the incarcerated.

May 20 – Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Readings: ACTS 17:15, 22—18:1, PS 148:1-2, 11-12, 13, 14, JN 16:12-15

Opening Prayer: Lord, you are the Author of all Creation. We thank you and bless you for this day that you have made that we might live and rejoice in it, according to Your Divine Will. Amen.

Reflection: God doesn’t need me. He loves me and He wants me. Take a deep breath and let that truth stir deep into your heart. God doesn’t need me. He loves me and He wants me.
In his words to the Athenians, St. Paul reminds us that God is the creator of all things. He gives life and breath. He is not limited by us, nor does He need us. So that we exist is because God wants us and loves us. God does not try to hide from us, but rather has ordered creation in such a way that He wants us to seek Him out. Just as artwork tells us something about the artist, so too does creation tell us about the Creator.

The first paragraph of the Catechism says it beautifully, “God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. […] In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.” [CCC 1]

The Gospel reading for today draws this together for us because Jesus promises the Holy Spirit – “the Spirit of Truth” – who helps us to enter into the blessed life promised to us; helps us to see God in the world around us; helps us to pray (Romans 8: 26); and draws us more closely, more intimately to God.

Call to Action: Pray with, “God doesn’t need me. He loves me and He wants me.” Allow the Lord to speak in the silence of your heart today His words of love and affirmation that you are His beloved son or daughter in whom He is well pleased, and that He loves you and wants you.

Closing Prayer: Lord, thank you for loving me. Help me to be more open to responding to you and be more aware of how you are at work in the world around me.

Christen Aquino is the Managing Director of VIA (Youth Evangelization & Discipleship). She has served as a youth minister for over ten years in both Georgia and Ohio

May 21 – Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Readings: Acts 18:1-8, 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4, Jn 16:16-20

Invitation to Prayer: Jesus, I do not know how to pray, please teach me to pray as I ought!

Reflection: If there is one thing that does not come natural in our culture, it is…

Waiting!

And yet in today’s Gospel, there is a very deep root and connection to waiting; but not the kind of waiting as we encounter in Advent or Lent.
But this kind of waiting, is more about kairos (God’s timing), than chronus. Chronus (Chronological) is more what we are used to with the 24/7 for 365 days. But kairos is more in sync with trusting that God, to whom Time belongs, is in charge. It speaks to a surrender of our own desires, expectations, and even knowledge (of what we know and what we think we know) to God, who is the keeper of all knowledge, time and space.

In today’s Gospel, the Apostles of Jesus are puzzled, by Jesus’ words, he will be gone, but then he will be back, only to be gone again. It can feel like an emotional roller coaster, unless we find ourselves rooted in God. I think this experience of COVID – 19 have led many to experience a roller coaster of emotion. And yet, we entrust and root ourselves to Chairos, to God, and not lean into our own understanding.

Prayer: Father, thank you for keeping us close to the heart of your Son. Mary, we ask your intercession to also keep us close to the heart of your son Jesus. St. Joseph, please intercede for us and protect us that we would always remain close to the heart of your son.

Closing: Part of the Church’s genius is found in the Liturgical Calendar, and in particular how the Saints and devotions are built on this Liturgical calendar. I encourage each of us to consider how fostering a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary can continue that journey of remaining in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Mark Hollcraft serves as Eastern Regional Director for NET Ministries. He has been involved in Youth Ministry in a variety of ways for 24 years. Being married to Meredith Hollcraft with 6 children has been his greatest adventure so far.

May 22- Friday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Readings: ACTS 18:9-18, PS 47:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, JN 16:20-23

Invitation to prayer: Come Holy Spirit, enter this moment and turn our sorrow to joy.

Reflection: I imagine being one of the disciples Jesus spoke this to out loud. I’d hear those words, “you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices.” And I’d be all-hands on deck ready to go. But once the mourning would start I would get scared, I would be uncomfortable and I cherish my comfort. While Jesus said this would happen He also said it isn’t what we are made for. We aren’t made sadness, despair, or groveling. We are not made for self-isolation and coronavirus. We are made for joy, gladness, and dancing! We are made for community and the Church.

Here in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, public Mass is happening soon. We have a chance to enter back into our community or even bring to real life one that was formed online during the pandemic. The virus is not gone, we can’t go back to how it was (nor should we want to), but Jesus is slowly calling us to arise and walk. Regardless of if that’s 6 feet apart or one day closer than that, it’s what we were made for! We’re experiencing the sadness He said would come, and I think we’re pretty good at leaning into it, but will we be able to lean into the joy the same way? We need to prepare our hearts for that encounter. What will we be welcoming people into after this time of isolation? How is our heart and soul aligned? We should take the next few days to make sure we are ready to make our brothers and sisters feel welcome when they return or maybe just show up for the first time to Mass. If the pandemic has brought about any good may it be that souls return to Jesus.

Closing prayer: Jesus, tend to the garden of my heart that’s been growing during this pandemic, prune and water it. Take my hand as I walk back into Mass and I will meet You in the Eucharist.

Call to action: Make a resolution of what you will say or do for someone at Mass that will speak life into the loneliness they just experienced in quarantine.

Sarah Rogers: works in the Young Adult and Campus Ministry in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. She is a Cincy native, loves spending my time downtown, either in a historic church or historic building-turned coffee shop.

 

May 23 – Saturday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Readings: ACTS 18:23-28, PS 47:2-3, 8-9, 10, JN 16:23B-28

Invitation to Prayer:  “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” – 1 Corinthians 12: 7; 11

Reflection: “Paul… traveled in orderly sequence”. I want to stop right there & ask St. Paul to detail for me how he came up with his orderly sequence. Some days my sense of order feels like wildflower seeds being scattered in the wind by the youngest daughter in Despicable Me. But St. Paul was a thoughtful kind of guy – even as Saul (pre-conversion) this man had a mission and a clear vision. Am I a person of clear vision? If not naturally, has God given me tools to learn how to be a person of vision – for the sake of His mission?

At the recent Rejoice in Hope Banquet Fr. Mike Schmitz spoke of using this season of “forced change” during Covid-19 to enact intentional change in our lives. He said, “If I don’t have a vision, if I just have this vague idea, this hope, this wish … it’s gonna be whatever. If I don’t have a vision driven by a clear Why…then my change is still haphazard”. I think of St. Paul’s sense of purpose in the Church as anything but “whatever”. We don’t have to be St.Paul, but we are all called to be saints. And most of the Saints I’ve ever read about had a clear sense of their mission, even if it was revealed just one step at a time, and even if it was incredibly humble. If we don’t know what’s at the end of the road, but we’re clear this is the road God wants us on, then we take that next step & we have both our “Why” & our “What’s next”

“If I make this statement in faith ‘God you are at work. You are doing something.” The next thing is a question: ‘What is the work you are about God? What is it you want to do in me God?’ Because that’s the critical question.” – Father Mike Schmitz

In today’s gospel we hear “Ask, and you shall receive.” I don’t think I’ve ever thought of that promise in regards to answering questions about my mission. I’ve asked for things, for healings, for blessings, for answered prayers in the form of big signs, sure! But I’ve never said, “Lord – you told me to ask. So please show me, tell me, what is the work you are about, God? What is it you want to do in me, God?”

A woman I met once, in a conversation I will never forget, told me, “My mamma always says, ‘Baby, you HAVE not – because you ASK not!’”

So let’s ask.

Prayer: You, Lord, know our greatest gifts & our biggest weaknesses. We offer you both, to be refined & put to the service of the mission to which you are calling us, “For our good and the good of all your Holy Church”.

Closing:  Ask to be made open to hearing God, directly, indirectly – through any means He may use. And ask for the courage & clarity to act. Give yourself time today to ask, and listen.

Abbie Kohler is a native of Minnesota who moved to Cincinnati in 2017 to work for NET ministries Eastern Region Office. Abbie has over 12 years of youth ministry experience & Currently volunteers on the core team for St. Gertrudes High School Ministry in Madeira. I like skyline and graeters… But I still have a soft spot for a tater tot hot dish!

May 24 – The Ascension of the Lord
Readings: Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:17-23; Matthew 28:16-20

Invitation to Prayer: Holy Spirit, I invite You into this time of prayer. Help my heart to be open to Your guidance and light.

Reflection: I remember as a kid watching anytime I saw a balloon released into the sky, accidentally or intentionally, and simply staring, trying to follow it with my eyes until it vanished completely out of sight. And, to be honest, I probably still do this today. So, I can easily imagine myself being right there with the Apostles in our first reading, staring intently as Jesus ascends to heaven. The angels (“men dressed in white garments”) would have had to rouse me as well by asking, “Why are you standing there looking at the sky?”

But even as I acknowledge this likelihood, I understand the point of the angels’ question. The Apostles weren’t just supposed to wait around, even though they were told Jesus would come back again. Jesus had been preparing them for the work of spreading the Gospel, building the Kingdom, and making disciples throughout the entire world. This is the Great Commission we read in today’s Gospel, a mission that remains with the Church to this very day.

We, then, as members of the Body of Christ, continue to share in this mission. We, too, have been called to proclaim the Gospel – with our words, our actions, and our very lives. We know that Jesus will come again in all His glory. When this will happen is not for us to know. We are called to be prepared for this, then, at every moment of our lives. The best way to prepare is to do the work that is ours to do – sharing the work of Jesus and His Church. And as we do so, we recognize that we do not work alone. Jesus, even as He ascends to the Father, and as He promises to come again, says to each and every one of us – “Behold, I am with you always.” So, we don’t need to just stare into the sky – we can allow our awareness of the presence of Christ in our lives to motivate us to keep working, so as to be His witnesses in the world today.

Prayer: Jesus, may this joyous feast of Your Ascension remind us that we, Your body, will one day be where You, our glorious Head, has preceded it.

Closing: Today, as we hear Jesus tell us that He is with us always, let us take some time and reflect on various ways that Christ has been, and continues to be, present to us.

Father Tim Ralston is the Pastor at St. Bernadette Parish, Amelia Ohio

May 25- Monday of the Seventh week of Easter
Readings: ACTS 19:1-8, PS 68:2-3AB, 4-5ACD, 6-7AB, JN 16:29-33

Invitation to Prayer: Jesus, thank you for always remaining with us, even when we feel separated from you.

Reflection: It amazes me how the Gospel for a given day can feel hand picked for the day. Jesus speaks about a time we will each be “scattered to his own home” and separated from him, but in response to this Jesus gives us his peace and tells us that he has conquered the world. How incredible that this Gospel passage comes to us on the first official day our Archdiocese returns to the public celebration of Holy Mass. Truly we have been scattered from one another, each in our own homes. It has been a time of uncertainty and fear for many. It has been incredibly difficult to be separated from Christ in the most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, but throughout this time Jesus has been pouring out his grace and peace on us.

We know that even during this difficult and unprecedented time in our lives Jesus has made us more than conquerors in him. Our obedient sacrifice to protect the parts of his body, the Church, that are most vulnerable to this virus has been guided and blessed by the Lord. Our return will indeed be triumphant, so long as we remain faithfully obedient to the precautions set forth for us by our loving shepherds. Though these times are uncertain we can be certain of one thing, we can take courage in the fact Jesus is Lord! “In this world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)

Prayer: Let us pray that the Lord Jesus continues to bless us with his grace as we reenter the sacramental life in a renewed way.

Closing: How has your separation from the sacramental life of the Church given you deeper appreciations for your Catholic faith? How can Christ renew you as you reenter it?

Matthew Cantrell is the Eastern Regional Engagement Officer of NET Ministries. NET Ministries challenges young Catholics to love Christ and embrace the life of the Church. Every August, 175 young Catholics aged 18-28 leave behind their jobs, school, family, and friends to devote nine months to serving with the National Evangelization Teams (NET).

May 26- Memorial of Saint Philip Neri, priest
Readings: ACTS 20:17-27, PS 68:10-11, 20-21, JN 17:1-11A

Invitation to Prayer: Jesus, help me receive your Word with an open heart.

Reflection: Have you ever imagined what you would say to those you love most if you knew you would never see them again? In the movies sometimes there are these dramatic moments where the hero declares his love or speaks of what they regret never doing.

In both the reading from Acts and the Gospel of John we get a glimpse of Jesus and St. Paul giving such speeches. Paul knows he is being called away permanently from those he loves and that unknown persecution awaits him. And Jesus is speaking to his beloved Apostles at the Last Supper, knowing that he is about to be arrested and killed, and that his friends will not know what to make of it.

Their final speeches are not filled with words of regret or desperation. Rather they both are filled with great love for those they have poured out their lives for and a declaration that they know they have loved, foughted, and are at peace with knowing the Lord blessed the zealous mission they lived. They are filled with hope and confidence that they did everything they could to proclaim and live to the full in God. When our moment comes, will we be able to say the same?

Prayer: Jesus, I want to be bold in love for you and your Church. Help me to love fiercely those entrusted to me.

Closing: How would I love and proclaim the Good News differently if I knew my time was almost done? Ask Jesus to help you make a resolution for how to live the mission you are called to.

Abby Schmid, VIA Missionary, Youth Minister, St, Bernadette Amelia

May 27 – Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Readings: ACTS 20:28-38, PS 68:29-30, 33-35A, 35BC-36AB, JN 17:11B-19

Invitation to Prayer: Let us take a moment of silence to shut our eyes, breathe in, and recall that we are in the presence of the Lord.

Reflection: These two passages are incredibly moving. Both depict the heartfelt yearning of a shepherd who wishes only the best for his flock. St. Paul, saddened by his having to leave, urges the presbyters of the Church of Ephesus to safeguard Ephesus in the truth and to be watchful for the wolves that will come. So meaningful was his presence to them in this time that they weep together for his leaving. Christ, in the garden of Gethsemane, earnestly implores his Father that the Church might be one.

In both there are two essential themes we observe. Firstly, that the spiritual leader of both of these flocks is invested in his community. Both Christ and Paul’s heart is with the community they serve. Each wishes only the best for his sheep. This teaches us both of the love God has for us and of the love we ought to have for those whom we serve. Secondly, there is a truth so important, that it is under attack and worth safeguarding. Both Paul and Christ’s parting prayers concern protection. They wish wholeheartedly that the message of the Gospel be safeguarded from the wickedness of the world. This teaches us that the truth of the Gospel is something objective, something which cannot be taken as we wish to hear, but must be heard as it, without removal or addition. This is a truth that both Christ and St. Paul died for.

The ponderous questions which arise in my heart are: Lord, do I fully know of your love for me? Jesus, do I share your heart for those whom I serve? Father, would I die for the truth of your word? Holy Spirit, have I safeguarded the truth of your Gospel in my own heart and in the heart of those I’m responsible for, or have I allowed it to be gnawed at and tainted by the wolves of this world?

Prayer: Come Lord Jesus, assure us of your love for us. Come Holy Spirit, give us a love too deep for words for those whom we serve. Heavenly Father, teach us the eternal and life saving truths of the Gospel.

Closing: What questions have you about our faith? What little or big doubts have crept into your life concerning Jesus and our faith? What have you done with these? Have you allowed then to gnaw at your belief? I challenge myself and you this week to seek out a deeper knowledge of our faith. Pick up the catechism, google search catholic answers, or reach out to a knowledgeable individual (priest or otherwise) in your community to seek deeper answers to the questions you have.

Benjamin Klare is the Associate Director in the Office for Marriage & Family Life at the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. His primary responsibility is coordinating the Archdiocesan Anti-Pornography Initiative.

 

May 28: Thursday of Seventh Week of Easter
Readings: Acts 22:30; 23: 6 – 11; Psalms 16: 1 – 2A; and 5, 7 – 8, 9 – 10, 11 and John 17: 20 – 26

Invitation to Prayer: “Lord, send out your spirit and renew the face of the Earth.”

Reflection: The Gospel reading for today is considered the climax of what is called “the high priestly prayer” of Jesus. In this prayer, Jesus intercedes for his disciples- not just the disciples present with him in Jerusalem, but for all his followers throughout time. As he prepares for his passion and death, Jesus prays that we may all be one in him and in the Father, that we can be united as a sign of God’s loving grace here on earth.

I find it incredible that a man facing his own death would take the time to intercede on my behalf. He prayed for the strength and unity of his followers with him at the table, and all his followers to come. While Jesus is no longer here with us on Earth, we are united in one spirit as the Body of Christ.

As I scroll through my social media accounts and watch the news, I have become increasingly aware of the significant division that is taking place in our society. Personal opinions and political commentary have become the source of much turmoil during these uncertain times. There is an incredible divide in our nation and it has begun to permeate our Church. As disciples of Christ, we are called to work towards unity. It is our mission to strive for union with the Father and the Son that Jesus prayed for in John’s Gospel.

Unity does not mean conformity. As Catholics we are not mandated to have the same thoughts, opinions, or political perspectives, but we are called to be united “through Him, with Him, and in Him” as one body to spread the Gospel in our world. As agents of the Gospel, we must focus on showing the love of Christ to those around us. Even when we are faced with division, our hearts should be open so that we can “love God above all things and our neighbors as ourselves”.

Prayer: Loving Father, your Son interceded for us on the eve of his passion and death so that we could become one with you. Help us to grow deeper in our understanding of what it means to live in your love, so that we may more completely be agents of the Gospel in our daily lives. Send down your spirit to heal the brokenness in our world and help us to open our hearts to your call of unity. We ask this through your son, Jesus Christ, in unity with the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Closing: Am I an agent of the Gospel through my words and deeds? In my interactions with others, am I working towards unity? How can I better proclaim the love of Christ in my daily life through my interactions with others?

Resources: The Social Action Office in tandem with the Office for Respect Life Ministries is promoting Civilize It, a campaign to promote civility, clarity, and compassion during this election year. You can read more about Civilize It on the USCCB website at: https://www.wearesaltandlight.org/civilize-it or on our Faithful Citizenship Page at: http://www.catholiccincinnati.org/ministries-offices/catholic-social-action/faithful-citizenship/.

Noelle is currently serving as the Associate Director for Respect Life Ministries for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. She is a graduate from the University of Dayton with a BA in Religious Studies and a minor in both Women’s Studies and Social Work. After spending eight years as a stay-at-home mom to her four children, Noelle is excited to be re-entering the ministry world. She is currently working towards certification in Special Needs Ministry, and hopes to also obtain her Master’s Certificate in Bioethics in the next five years. “I firmly believe that God has placed me exactly where I belong, and I am overjoyed to be a proclaimer of the Gospel of Life in this Archdiocese.”

May 29- Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Readings:ACTS 25:13B-21, PS 103:1-2, 11-12, 19-20AB, JN 21:15-19

Invitation to Prayer: Jesus, help me to know your voice.

Reflection: Earlier in John’s gospel we hear the story of Jesus appearing to the seven disciples while they’re out fishing. Having caught no fish during the night, the risen Christ appears on the shore at dawn and tells them to let down their nets. Miraculously, they pull up 153 fish.

Simon Peter immediately recognizes Jesus and leaps from the boat to swim to shore. It’s a beautiful image of faith: jumping from safety and comfort to go to the Lord. But Jesus does something interesting after that. He asks Simon Peter three times if he loves Him.

Of course, there’s more to Jesus’ question than “do you love me?”. He’s also asking Simon Peter to lead his Church: “Feed my lambs… tend to my sheep… feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17) Simon Peter knows Jesus’ voice and follows Him. Now Jesus is asking him to shepherd His flock, to be a shepherd among The Good Shepherd. And that only comes with knowing Jesus’ voice and following where He leads.

Prayer: Jesus, you are The Good Shepherd. Open the eyes of my heart to encounter your kindness, goodness and love all the days of my life.

Closing: Do you know Jesus’ voice? Today, practice Letcio Devina with the gospel. Lean in to what strikes you and journal your thoughts as you talk to Jesus about it.

Emily Conklin is a digital content strategist by day and young adult ministry leader by evenings and weekends. She enjoys sharing the true and good news of God’s love through beautiful marketing and media.

May 30 – Saturday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Readings: ACTS 28:16-20, 30-31, PS 11:4, 5 AND 7, JN 21:20-25

Invitation to prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to fulfill the mission that You’ve entrusted to me.

Reflection: Today we read about the end of St. Paul’s ministry and life. Consider all the things that he had gone through up until the point that our first Mass reading recounts:
He began life as a Roman citizen, an upstanding and faithful Jew trained by one of the best teachers, and thereby a persecutor of the upstart Christian movement. A radical conversion moment to the way to Damascus convinced him to commit to spreading the Gospel all throughout the world, giving up everything that had been familiar to him. During his public ministry, he would deal with church disputes, problems with traveling companions, doctrinal questions, and grueling years on the road preaching in various communities. Finally, all roads would lead to Rome – and that journey was fraught with legal trials and a shipwreck to boot!

The story picks up in our reading with St. Paul beginning a ministry in isolation. He had limited time left to evangelize Rome, and had to do it through limited contact with others. Is any of this sounding familiar?

Tonight, we begin to open our parishes back up to the celebration of Sunday Mass, and things are going to look different. Not everyone will be comfortable coming back, we’ll have to change some of our worship habits, and our social distanced living will continue. St. Paul proves to us, however, that we can do this. The Holy Spirit, given to the Church at Pentecost, is still equipping us today.

If we give ourselves over to the mission, then God has a mighty work for us to do in our families, friend circles, and beyond – even when we must maintain a safe distance from one another. That same Holy Spirit who equipped St. Paul to minister from his confines in Rome equips us now to reach the world with the Gospel, despite the current pandemic. Veni, Sancte Spiritus! Come, Holy Spirit!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, send your Holy Spirit to animate my heart and prepare it for mission. Let me be open to sharing Your Good News in whatever way I am able.

Closing: We have almost made it to Pentecost! May we finish the race strong, and prepare ourselves to enter a new phase of this ongoing journey that God is guiding us through.

Bradley Barnes has served as the Coordinator of Youth Ministry at Guardian Angels Parish

May 31- Pentecost Sunday
Readings: ACTS 2:1-11, PS 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34, 1 COR 12:3B-7, 12-13, JN 20:19-23

Invitation to Prayer: Come Holy Spirit

Reflection: Today is Pentecost. When the Holy Spirit descends on the Apostles, the Church is born on this day. This descent of the Holy Spirit is a promise by Christ that he will send the Holy Spirit upon them after he goes to the Father.

We hear in our first reading from Acts of the Apostles that every nation under heaven of devout Jews are present when the Apostles begin their preaching inspired by the Holy Spirit. All present are amazed that they could understand the Apostles in their own language. This shows all that the Church is the unifier of all people under Christ. Christ then sends us as the Church to continue his work in the world begun on this day. The Holy Spirit is given to us in Baptism which brings us into the love between God the Father and Christ the Son. This amazing, purifying love of God fashions us and forms to live His Word in great and courageous ways in the world.

We also know that there is one present among the Apostles to whom the Holy Spirit already descended and that is the Blessed Mother. The Holy Spirit descended upon her at the Annunciation. St. John Paul II states in a General audience June 28, 1989, that the Apostolic Community needed her prayer, presence, and guidance in preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. As she is Mother of God, and Mother of the Church, she then is also the Mother of all of humanity. Let us follow their lead and ask the Blessed Mother for guidance in preparation for what our Lord calls us to fulfill in our vocations, families, service to our communities, and to whomever we meet

Prayer: O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

Closing: Let us today pray for each other that we may see Christ all that we meet.

Father Brian Phelps was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. He is currently pastor at St. Francis of Assisi in Centerville

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