Mar 25, 2023
By Deacon Turf D. Martin
Surprise! Many of us have been to a surprise birthday party or surprise anniversary celebration. There is a surprise party going on right now and we are invited. The surprise is to look on life with the eyes of faith, to see exactly what we see now but to see it in a different way.
The raising of Lazarus is a revelation, a sign, a pledge of the power Jesus has over death.
We see that many times in the Gospel of John people understand Jesus’ words in a human way but Jesus wants to raise people’s thinking and understanding to a new higher way of looking at life. His words surprise people, because he is asking them to see him in a new way, divine rather than human.
In today’s Gospel, St. John chooses to convey this life-giving doctrine, this wonderful Good News of salvation, by means of a drama. The focus of the drama is not so much on Lazarus, as on the relationship Jesus has with his two sisters, Martha and Mary. We know these women already from St. Luke’s Gospel: Martha typically active; Mary apparently passive, yet the one whose love of Jesus is deeper, and who follows him more closely.
Jesus loves them both, as he loves Lazarus. Yet, remarkably, Jesus deliberately allows Lazarus to die. He could have saved him. The sisters know that. Why did he not act? How could he allow Lazarus to die, and them to suffer such sorrow and loss?
Jesus says to Martha, “Your brother will rise.”
Martha professes her faith in the resurrection at the last day, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.”
But Jesus wants to take her to a new understanding of resurrection, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Jesus wants Martha to know that it is through Jesus himself that Lazarus will rise again. Jesus is the resurrection. Jesus also wants Martha and us to know that for anyone who believes in Jesus, death has only the appearance of death because we live after death, “whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live.”
When we live as Jesus calls us, there is a continuation from this life to the next. The resurrection is not just something in the future—Jesus offers life now. The new life in the resurrection is for now. To prove his words to Martha, Jesus raised Lazarus.
Don’t miss out on the offer of Jesus’ life to you now. Don’t waste life. Live life with Jesus! Live the life of Jesus now so that you will not die. Allow Jesus to raise us up to new life. The resurrection is not just something in the future, Jesus offers life now. The new life in the resurrection is for now.
Ordained in 2013 in the Diocese of Jefferson City, Mo., Deacon Turf Martin ministers at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Sedalia, Mo., which Missionaries of the Precious Blood founded and where they previously served. Deacon Turf and his wife, JoAnn, are Precious Blood Companions.
Mar 4, 2023
By Fr. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S.
Now that we are well on our way in the season of Lent, I am sure each of us has made some Lenten resolutions. Maybe you gave up chocolate or social media. Maybe you promised to watch less television and to pray more. And I’m sure that now after a week of Lent each of us have been tempted to have that chocolate or watch the extra hour of television.
We know we ought to keep our resolutions. We know it’s the right thing to do. But we also know it is hard! It is hard to change our habits. If we just had a little extra will power, then we would be successful. Walk into any bookstore and you’ll see shelves of self-help books that offer us hundreds of strategies for improving our lives. And for most of us, those books are not very helpful. No matter how hard we try, we often fail after a few weeks. No matter how great the self-help strategy is, we falter.
Our readings for the second Sunday of Lent offer us an alternative to self-help books. Instead of self-help, our readings point to the importance of community and covenant. In the first reading from Genesis, Abram entered into covenant with God. Abram did not seek of his own accord and effort to make himself great. He did not try to build a great nation through his own work. Instead, he entered into covenant and God blessed Abram. Abram didn’t go it his own. He stayed connected to God and was blessed.
In the Gospel reading we have the story of the Transfiguration. Jesus takes Peter, James and John up the mountain, and together they witness something that is unbelievable. Together they see Jesus become dazzling white and they see Moses and Elijah with him. Together they are in awe and are frankly befuddled. Then they hear the voice of God and fear overwhelms them. It took a simple touch from Jesus to rescue them from their fear.
This episode highlights the importance of being in community, in communion, with one another and with Jesus. Peter, James and John did not have individual experiences of the transfiguration. Instead, they witnessed these events together as a community. And when they were frightened and scared, they did not try to go it alone and figure out what was happening. Instead, through their connection with Jesus they were able to overcome the fear.
Communion and covenant are important elements of our Precious Blood spirituality. We believe that the Precious Blood of Christ has made us one. And we have been bound to God by a bond that can never be broken. During this time of Lent, instead of turning to the self-help section of a bookstore, let us turn to one another for help and support. Let us realize that Christ, is reaching out to touch us and to tell us to not be afraid for Christ is with us.
The V. Rev. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S., is the provincial director of the United States Province. Previously, he served as the secretary general of the worldwide Congregation and was also in ministry at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., of which he is an alumnus.
Feb 27, 2023
For many years, both the former Cincinnati and Kansas City Provinces awarded annual grants to organizations that served the marginalized. From that good work, the United States Province is happy to announce that its Precious Blood Peace and Justice Grants will be available this year to organizations that are working to promote peace and justice, safety and hope, sustenance and life in the Spirit, for all of God’s children.
Grants will be awarded later this year of $1,000 to $10,000. While anyone can apply, all grant applications must be accompanied by a letter of support from a Missionary of the Precious Blood.
Please review the application form for priorities and procedures. Applications must be received by May 15.
Brother Rob Reuter, C.PP.S., is serving as chairman of the grant committee. If you have any questions, please contact him at email@example.com.
Feb 25, 2023
By Fr. Joe Uecker, C.PP.S.
While Lent is a time to consider our sinfulness, it is also a time to ponder the graciousness of God. The Responsorial Psalm for the First Sunday of Lent sets the tone for the entire season. It is one of the most familiar biblical prayers for divine mercy:
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
In the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
If this psalm is the prayer of the sinner, the first reading for today is the story of the sin. Like every biblical story of sin, it begins with the graciousness of God. It is important that we recognize this order, lest we think that sin is simply the transgression of law, rather than a breach of a loving relationship.
he passage describes how God created the first human person just as a potter forms a piece of art and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. He then became a living being.
But life itself was not enough. God provided this human person with the nourishment and beauty of the natural world. And why did God so act? Because God is gracious.
Not satisfied to be a humble earth-creature, the man and his new female companion desire to “be like gods who know what is good and what is evil.” This is the universal and perennial sin, to want to “be like gods.” And who has not ‘fallen’ into that same trap? Humankind seems prone to sin. We set ourselves up as a law unto ourselves; we seek to control others; we reject God and enthrone human ingenuity.
Have mercy on me, O God.
Lent is a time to acknowledge our sinfulness, but not to dwell on it. We must acknowledge it if we are to appreciate the extent of God’s goodness. This is precisely what Paul teaches us today. The sinfulness of humankind cannot be denied, but as grievous as the sin may be, How much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow for the many.
Paul contrasts Adam and the evil of human sin with Christ and the grace that comes because of divine mercy. According to Paul, there is no comparison, grace far surpasses sin: In the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
The Gospel reading shows us human nature at its finest. Jesus is tempted, yet he does not succumb. Many scholars believe that this account reflects more than simple temptation. Rather, it draws its meaning from past events in the history of ancient Israel and it focuses on the messianic ministry of Jesus.
And what were the temptations that Jesus faced? He successfully resisted temptations like those to which the ancient Israelites fell victim: grumbling against God because of hunger in the wilderness; demand for a demonstration of divine power; worship of a false god. His ancestors may have failed, but Jesus remained faithful.
Many commentators maintain that this narrative reveals the true character of Jesus’ messiahship. It shows that Jesus sought to satisfy spiritual, not merely physical, hunger; he refrained from using divine power simply to attract followers; and he was submissive to God’s will, not his own.
We enter Lent this year sobered by world events. The horrors and inhumanity of war and assaults on truth have embittered our spirits; the devastation of natural catastrophes has seared our hearts. We have been forced to face our own human failings and the vulnerability of humankind generally. Despite all of this, the graciousness of God is offered to us. The unselfishness of which we are all capable is seen in the willingness of so many to step forward and help others who suffer terror, loss and confusion.
This unselfishness is really the face of our gracious God, encouraging all of us to put differences aside, to repent of our offensive attitudes, and to work for a caring and harmonious world.
Jesus’ resistance to temptation is placed before us today as an example for us to strengthen our own resistance to temptation. He would have us move beyond a superficial pursuit of the pleasures of this world to discover what satisfies our spiritual hungers. He shows us how to trust in God’s tender providence rather than merely test God’s almighty power. He challenges us to worship God rather than power, possessions, or celebrity. What will be our response?
A native of Fort Wayne, Ind., Fr. Joe Uecker, C.PP.S., has spent over 40 years in ministry in the Diocese of San Angelo, Tex. He served as pastor in San Angelo, Sweetwater, Abilene and Odessa. Since retiring in 2011, he continues to live in Odessa.
Feb 22, 2023
By Fr. Joe Nassal, C.PP.S.
On Ash Wednesday, the prophet Joel proclaims, “Rend your hearts, not your garments.” Rending means tearing, as when the psalmist prayed for God to rend the heavens and come down to earth. Or, in Mark’s Gospel when Jesus steps out of the water after his baptism and “he saw the heavens torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, ‘You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.’”
So, the prophet says instead of tearing our clothes as a sign of our desire to change, our desire to repent, our desire to reclaim our true self, we are told to rend, to tear open, our hearts.
The heart, they say, is a strong muscle, and yet we know how fragile and prone to bruising and breaking our hearts are. As the poet Mark Nepo puts it, “The heart, when broken, always has this choice: to cling to the idea of what broke it; or to long like trampled grass for the heat of the sun.”
In the Responsorial Psalm today (Psalm 51), we ask God, “Create a clean heart in me.” We often associate the word “clean” as opposed to “dirty” to reflect the notion of sin and asking God to wash my heart of all the grease, grime and guilt that has accumulated over the years. To make the heart pure so no more thoughts of greed or selfishness will contaminate or corrupt the heart.
My Scripture professor in graduate school, Fr. Carroll Stuhlmueller, said “Create a clean heart in me, O God,” is better translated, “Create a safe place in me, O God.”
By asking to create a “safe heart,” we are inviting God to create within me a safe zone where I can find my truth, where I can tell the truth about myself. To ask God to open our arteries again and let the blood flood freely, pumping and pulsing without any blockages caused by resentments and regrets that at times restrict the flow of life.
As Precious Blood people, when we ask God to create a “safe heart,” we ask the Divine Surgeon to dissolve those clots that harden our hearts, that sludge of grudges we have held too long, and to open a space of forgiveness and mercy so that we may return to our true selves.
This season of Lent affords us the opportunity to examine our hearts and come home to the truth that each of us is made in God’s image and likeness, that each of us is God’s beloved. What is keeping me from embracing and living this truth? What is the sin that keeps me from loving unconditionally; the fear that keeps me from reaching out to others in love; the guilt that crowds out the grace or the shame that stalks my step?
May this season of Lent find us going often to our “inner room,” that safe place in our hearts where we can, in the words of St. Paul in the second reading, “be reconciled to God” who transforms us and reminds us yet again we are beloved. It is from this safe place that we go forth as “ambassadors for Christ,” ministers of reconciliation in a broken world.
Fr. Joe Nassal, C.PP.S., a noted author, preacher and retreat leader, also serves as vice provincial director of the United States Province.