Carrying the Cross…

Some thoughts on discipleship after reading The Gospel of Mark; which by the way the Church just celebrated his feast day a few days ago…

I’m most inspired by the discussion Jesus lays out for us on the condition of discipleship found in the Gospel of Mark. To take up one’s cross and follow Christ is the very essence of what it means to be His disciple. I have to die to myself and to the world around me if my vocation to the religious life is to be authentically lived. Living a vowed life through chastity, poverty, and obedience unites me more closely to Jesus Christ, and these vows should never be looked upon as crosses, for they are acts of supreme love towards our risen Lord. However, it’s not always easy pursuing these vows on a daily basis, and maybe it’s through this uneasiness that Christ’s cross is made manifest in my life. Only through hopeful perseverance of this daily cross will I gain a greater understanding on what it means to be a servant of God. This is perhaps the greatest challenge and struggle (cross) that I’ll ever have to face, but one that’s ultimately necessary to inherit the kingdom of God and make His kingdom known to all who are in need of a witness to the saving power of the Gospel message.

Men of Service

Wow!!! 595 men are expected to be ordained to the priesthood in the United States in 2015, an increase of 24.7% over last year’s figure of 477, according to data released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Check out the ordination class photos at:

http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/ordination-class/ordination-class-of-2015.cfm

released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It’s a great time to be a Catholic priest!

This information and photo was also promoted by:

www.opusbono.org

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Message of Hope Not Doubt

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

John 20:27-29

It is no denying that Thomas doubted that day. But he also never gave up hope and said he would never believe.  My heart goes out to Thomas each time I experience this scripture.  It is so easy to label him “doubting thomas”.  I too am well aware of my shortcoming. I too, like Thomas, probably would have had some level of reservation upon hearing the good news. If I could have only been with Thomas to journey with him as ask him… What will you do once you touch His wounds?

Today I invite you to not focus and dwell on the shortcomings of others, especially Thomas, once they have been addressed in a compassionate manner. Please hear the real essence of the message of belief written in the scripture; that is this…..the invitation for you to touch the wounds of the Risen Lord so that your belief is unwavering and your need to see Jesus motivates you and calls you to action.  Today’s Gospel reading is a message of hope.

His hands, side and feet are no longer bloody but the wounds are still present. Yes, unfortunately they are very present in today’s world. You need but touch the poor; embrace the hungry; hold the hand of and journey with the lonely. But because the tomb is empty and He has risen, I believe there is hope.

My own (Norbertine spirituality) lived experience and ongoing transformation assures me of this hope. Please journey with those who you perceive to be unworthy, different from you or less that you, do not disdain them or label them. You are certainly entitled to your perception, but it may not be their complete and true reality. Thomas believed enough to come back to the place where the disciple were gathered and raise the question.  Perhaps they are like Thomas; not at the gatherings filled with Easter Joy, alone and “was not with them when Jesus came.” (Jn 20;24) To label them, accuse them or even judge them, is not our place. Only God should have this role. If we take on approach, we are being extremely unfair to our brother and sisters. I believe this is why when Jesus arrived none of the disciples spoke, because Jesus was the one that needed to be heard that day.

This is the lesson learned and the gift that I received this weekend while doing ministry with (Day of Reflection) and facilitating a prayerful dialogue focused on Spirituality with the students, staff and members of the Archdiocese of Atlanta at the Atlanta University Center – Lyke House. It is the Catholic Student Center that serves the campuses of Morehouse College, Spellman College, Clark Atlanta University and the Interdenominational Theological Center of Atlanta. Please join me in praying for all our youth and young adults in college and who are apart from their families, while away at college, during this Easter Season.

Msgr Branch

AUC Catholic Students

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thirst for knowledge

I just returned from a week’s stay in Chicago where I spent time with our seminarians who are studying at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. It was a great week, especially celebrating the Octave of Easter with them…..as I sat, talked with and listened to their “discussions” about their classes and met with their teachers, it only enhanced the whole Easter Triduum experience for me…the Risen Lord is truly present among them and I kept on thinking about the phrase from the Psalm ….athirst is soul for God, the God of my salvation…..why? because you could sense the thirst in their souls for the Lord, and the deeper knowledge that comes from their studies….it was like participating in the Easter Triduum again but in a deeper sense of God’s presence and love. In speaking with their professors and visiting the school, the conversations and the place itself resonated with the joy of the season….certainly the thirst for knowledge was helping to quench theirs and my thirst for the Lord in this Easter season…..it provided me with a sense of vitality and hopefulness for those pursuing a call to the Religious Life.

The Psalms and Me…

A small reflection by yours truly on the sacredness and the blessed gift of the Psalms…

I think of the Psalms as medicine for the soul, a balm or a salve that soothes an aching heart, a heart that’s feeling wounded and alone, either by my doing when sin rears its ugly head, or the times life throws me a curve ball that I was not expecting. Psalms are like poetic blueprints that I can go to time and time again whenever a particular crisis or cause for joy comes my way, and I’m in dire need of some words that will communicate my deepest thoughts to a God who loves me and wants to be in a relationship with his created likeness. As a Norbertine, I pray the Psalms each and every day, not alone, but together with my fellow confreres in the community; uniting us all with one heart and mind on the way to God. Whether it’s early in the morning, noon, late afternoon, or at night, I pray the Psalms through the singing of the Divine Office, thanking God for his steadfastness towards whatever my disposition happens to be, praising him for another beautiful day to get to know Him more intimately.

Earth’s Womb

Today the Son of Man lies in earth’s womb.

My grandmother once shared with me that each time she gave birth to a child, a part of her went with her child into the world, as they exited her womb on the day of their birth to keep them safe and faithful when there were apart from her; just as a part of her was buried in their tomb on the day she laid their body in the grave.

“So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by.” John 19:42

If I could only have been there, near our Blessed Lady, when it was time to move the stone and close the entrance of the tomb that Jesus’ body was laid in. What was the response of his grief-stricken mother, as the disciples said to her that it was time to close the tomb? Would my own selfish grief have allowed me to look to others, especially Mary, and comfort them?

Today is the holiest of Saturdays and a day of expectant waiting. We anticipate the resurrection of the Lord. However, let us remember this day the loneliness of death and the sorrow of Mary, who buried her son in earth’s womb. I pray that your time of waiting was a day of preparation and prayers for others who mourn and are alone. Let us all have hope in the great welcome that await us  in the holy city, the New Jerusalem, where death is no more and a mother’s weeping has ceased forever.