Lincoln’s Log 4-25-2021

Previously, in the Acts of the Apostles…

“Peter, filled with the Spirit, said: ‘… There is no salvation through anyone else [but Jesus], nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.’”
Acts 4:8a, 12

All through the Easter season, we read from the Acts of the Apostles. This book is a sequel to the Gospel of Luke and tells the story of the early church. Each Sunday of Easter, we read a small snippet of Acts so it is challenging to get the context for each reading.

Here is some context for this Sunday’s reading:

After receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, Peter and the apostles begin proclaiming the Gospel. Signs and wonders accompany the preaching and the community begins to grow rapidly. While going up to the Temple to pray, Peter and John encounter a beggar. Peter dramatically heals the beggar who begins proclaiming the good news of Jesus.

But there is resistance. While he is still preaching, the priests, temple guards, and Sadducees confront them. The resurrection of the dead and the role they played in Jesus’ death are the issue. They throw Peter and John in jail for the night.

The next morning, Peter and John are brought before the leaders in Jerusalem and questioned, “By what power or by what name have you done this?”

In response, “Peter, filled with the Spirit, said: ‘… There is no salvation through anyone else [but Jesus], nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.’” This is today’s reading. (Acts 4:8-12).

As the resistance continues to strengthen, so does the faith of the early church. The signs and wonders continue, but so do the powers of resistance. Before long, Stephen, one of the early church leaders, is murdered. But the Gospel marches on.

Stay tuned for next week…

Take some time this week to read through the Acts of the Apolstles up to 9:25. We pick up the story there next week, as we hear how Saul – who oversaw the murder of Stephen – tries to join the disciples (Acts 9:26-31).

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 4-18-2021

Easter Repentance

Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.”
Acts 3:19

“Jesus said to them, ‘Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
Lk. 24:46-47

This weekend, the third Sunday of Easter, we read from the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. These two books in our Scripture are companion volumes, both written by St. Luke with the intention of telling the story of Jesus (in the Gospel) and the story of the early Church (in the Acts of the Apostles).

In both the Gospel and in Acts this Sunday we read a word that we associate with Lent, not Easter. That word is: repent! At the beginning of lent, we heard the call us to repentance as Ashes were placed on our heads, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” But that was lent. Shouldn’t we be done repenting by now? After all that work, can’t we take a break from repenting and enjoy ourselves?

We easily forget that there are two dimensions to repentance. To repent means to turn away from sin and turn toward God. Both elements are always present, but during lent, we often focus on turning away from sin. This facet of repentance can make us think of repenting as dour or dark or difficult. But turning away is only one side of the repentance process.

Easter exposes the other, more important, side of the process. In Easter repentance, we turn toward the new life and love of God given to us in Jesus. We repent joyfully. We celebrate the fact that Jesus has conquered sin and death and this celebration is a form of repentance. Sin can’t survive in the presence of real joy. Embracing new life in Jesus drives death away. Our hearts sing, “Alleluia,” which vanquishes fear. It is as if our hearts were empty but are now filled with the love of Jesus. His fullness drives everything else away.

Easter repentance is not dour or dark or difficult. It is cheerful and light and easy because Jesus has conquered death and sin. Alleluia!

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 4-11-2021

Risking Easter Joy

“The Joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness, and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew.”
Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel #1

“When we feel joy, it is a place of incredible vulnerability — it’s beauty and fragility and deep gratitude and impermanence all wrapped up in one experience.”
Brene Brown

This time of year I find myself asking, “Why are we better at keeping the 40 days of Lent than the 50 days of Easter?” It seems like we are better and penance and walking the way of the cross than we are at living the joy and new life that Jesus gives us at Easter. I often hear people talking about their Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving; but rarely have I heard someone talking about how they are living with new joy in the season of Easter. Yet, we are in a season that is filled with joy. Alleluia’s ring through the liturgy; flowers bloom; the Scripture speaks of mercy and peace. The message of the church in the season of Easter is clearly one of joy and new life.

Here are some ideas to help you enter into Easter Joy (adapted from the wonderful book, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun):

  • Attend to the people who give you joy. What attracts you to them? How can you learn from them? Ask God how you might celebrate them in a way that encourages them.
  • Identify the place you most readily connect with God. Is it in nature? Listening to Christian music? Participating in Mass? Solitude? Whatever the place or experience, go there. What do you want to tell God about the joy you receive there?
  • Think of activities that give you joy. Do it!
  • Recall some of God’s gifts to you. To celebrate God’s grace to you, write a song of celebration, make a collage (or other work of art) that represents your joy, write a poem of praise, play music and dance before the Lord, or memorize a verse of praise from Scripture and repeat it all through the coming days.
  • Ask God to give you the gift of joy.

What are you doing for Easter this year? Take the risk of joy this Easter!

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader

Lent/Easter Homily Series

I thought I would share a few of my homilies from lent and the beginning of Easter. They build on one another and are my first attempt at a bit of a homily “series.” Let me know what you think!

You can find all of the podcast episodes at: Exploring His Kingdom (buzzsprout.com)

Here are the episodes in the series:

The Woman at the Well

The Man Born Blind

The Raising of Lazarus

Holy Thursday – The Battle Begins

Easter Sunday – Jesus Victory

Easter Sequence

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.”
Psalm 118:24

On four special days out of the year, the church uses what is called a “sequence.” These ancient liturgical hymns are used on the feasts of Easter, Pentecost, Corpus Christi, and Our Lady of Sorrows. They explore the meaning of the feast we are celebrating through profound poetic imagery. The texts are not easy to understand and take some time to digest. But they possess a great depth of imagery and spirit.

Here is a section of the Easter sequence for you to ponder this week and throughout the season of Easter:

Christians, to the Paschal Victim

Offer your thankful praises!

A Lamb the sheep redeems;

Christ, who only is sinless,

Reconciles sinners to the Father.

Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous:

The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.

Speak, Mary, declaring

What you saw, wayfaring.

“The tomb of Christ, who is living,

The glory of Jesus’ resurrection;

Bright angels attesting,

The shroud and napkin resting.

Yes, Christ my hope is arisen;

to Galilee he goes before you.”

Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining.

Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!

Amen. Alleluia.

Easter Sequence

May the Lord give you the blessings of new life through the power of Jesus paschal mystery!

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 4-4-2021

Lincoln’s Log 3-28-2021

Betrayal

“The essence of the mystery of the Christian faith is mercy, which is made visible in Jesus of Nazareth… and [is] the deepest storyline of the Church’s story.”
Directory for Catechesis #51

“… the bystanders said to Peter, ‘Surely you are one of them; for you too are a Galilean.’ He began to curse and to swear, ‘I do not know this man about whom you are talking.’ And immediately a cock crowed a second time. Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times.’ He broke down and wept.”
Mk. 14:70-72

One moment of the Passion of Jesus strikes us to the heart: Peter’s betrayal of Jesus. We all know what it feels like to be betrayed. Some of us have been betrayed by a spouse or a close friend. We know that the wound of betrayal can hurt more than physical pain. It wounds our ability to trust. It undermines our capacity to relate to others with freedom and vulnerability. We know the pain that Peter’s betrayal inflicted on Jesus. Our hearts break.

But this scene of betrayal takes us deeper. We don’t just appreciate the pain Jesus experienced from the betrayal. More deeply, we identify with Peter. On occasion, we may be innocent victims of betrayal, but deep in our hearts, we know that we have betrayed God and others. That’s why Peter’s betrayal touches us so deeply. We know we are just like him: untrustworthy, fearful, and weak.

The story of Jesus’ passion reveals our brokenness. It shows how badly we are in need of redemption and how undeserving we are. The more we uncover our brokenness, the more the Lord heals us. It is a painful experience to engage Jesus’ passion, but it is the type of pain that leads to freedom.

This week, take some time to read the passion (Mk. 14:1-15:45) and talk with the Lord about your brokenness. Then, listen. Like Peter, you may be moved to tears. But you will not be left alone to wallow in misery. The Lord will come to you with healing love. Mercy is the heart of the Gospel. Entrust yourself to Jesus’ merciful heart which will never betray you.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 3-21-2021

Defeating Death

“By the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who are allied with him experience it.”
Wis. 2:24

“… Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, ‘Untie him and let him go.’”
Jn. 11:43-44

As lent drives to its culmination, we hear about Jesus’ conquest of the final enemy: death. This is the final Sunday Gospel we will hear before Holy Week. The last two weeks have been building up to this weekend’s Gospel by showing Jesus’ power over sin.

  • Two weeks ago, in the story of the Woman at the Well (Jn. 4), we heard Jesus defeat sin’s power of shame and addiction.
  • Last week, we heard about the Man Born Blind (Jn. 9), which revealed Jesus’ destruction of sin’s power in the dysfunctional systems around us.
  • This week, the final enemy is destroyed.

Death enters the picture with the sin of Adam and Eve. This sin alienated Adam and Eve and us, their descendants from the life of God. “For you are dust, and to dust, you shall return” (Gn. 3:19). That is our condition. We are all going to die, and there is nothing we can do about it. We can delay death by taking care of ourselves, but all of us are mortal and we will die. Through sin, our own sin and that of Adam and Eve, we all are subject to the power of death.

Yet, today’s Gospel reading reveals that, as powerful and pervasive as death is, it is not almighty. In the Gospel we see Jesus confronting the power of death over His friend Lazarus. Jesus is victorious and Lazarus is resuscitated. This victory over the death of one person points us forward to Jesus’ ultimate victory over death through the events we celebrate in Holy Week. It is by His crucifixion and resurrection that Jesus ultimately defeats sin’s greatest power and frees us from the power of death.

This is good news!

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 3-14-2021

Sin’s Structural Power

“Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to [Jesus], ‘Surely we are not also blind, are we?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind you would have no sin; but now you are saying “We see,” so your sin remains.”
Jn. 9:40-4

“‘Structures of sin’ are the expression and effect of personal sins. They lead their victims to do evil in their turn. In an analogous sense, they constitute a ‘social sin.’”
CCC #1869

Last weekend, in the story of the Woman at the Well in Jn. 4, we saw the power of sin revealing itself through the shame that can isolate us from God and from our community. Today, we see the power of sin expressing itself through systems and structures of sin.

The Man Born Blind, in Jn. 9, is healed by Jesus. He begins to believe in Jesus. He even starts to change his life to become Jesus’ disciple. This is a good thing. His parents and community should be excited by his healing and the positive changes he is making. But this is not what happens.

Instead of rejoicing and celebrating the man’s healing, his parents and the community resist this change. They interrogate him about why he has changed. They are suspicious of the man even though he has clearly been healed. The community tries to put him back in his place, a broken beggar who is known as a sinner. “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” they ask. Then they throw him out (Jn. 9:34).

This is one of the dynamics of sin that anyone who is trying to make a significant positive change has experienced. An alcoholic who quits drinking finds himself being pressured by friends to come out drinking with them. A person who has gotten out of a dysfunctional relationship finds that their friends or family don’t understand. Someone who starts to pray more gets harassed for being “holier than thou.” The man who starts volunteering at the shelter gets teased by his co-workers. The woman who hangs a cross in her office is pressured to take it down. An individual who refuses to gossip or tolerate racist jokes can find himself isolated.

Sin not only challenges us from within through the voice of shame but it pressures us from the structures and communities around us. The world is broken. As we grow in faith, we find that it is a struggle not only with our own hearts but sometimes with our families, coworkers, and friends. The world has a way of trying to bend us to sin.

The good news is that Jesus never abandons us. “When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him… “ (Jn. 9:35). Change is hard, but God’s grace makes it possible.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 3-7-2021

Scrutinies and Sin

“The scrutinies… are rites for self-searching and repentance and … are meant to uncover, then heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect; to bring out, then strengthen all that is upright, strong, and good. For the scrutinies are celebrated in order to deliver the elect from the power of sin and Satan, to protect them against temptation, and to give them strength in Christ….”
RCIA #141 [Emphasis added]

This weekend, and for the next two weeks, we will be praying the scrutiny rituals over our elect. These ancient rites remind us of the power of Sin in the world. Sin, with a capital “S” is the power of evil in the world that separates us from the love of God. It binds our freedom and leads us on the path of death. Like an addiction, sin roots itself deep in our hearts and makes us it’s slave (Rm. 7:14f). Sin also has a role in shaping the culture around us and distorts the way we see reality. Ultimately, Sin cuts us off from God, the source of life itself.

The Gospels for the next three weeks expose various ways Sin lurks in our midst, so that we can allow God to heal us and be delivered from all forms of Sin.

  • This weekend, as we encounter the Woman at the Well (Jn. 4), we see Jesus’ power over personal sin. This woman has made bad choices and given herself to false gods, but Jesus has the power to free her. She is released from the shame that has held her in bondage and is free to worship God “in Spirit and in Truth” (Jn. 4:23). We too, can be set free by Jesus.
  • Next weekend we will hear the story of the Man Born Blind (Jn. 9). We hear that we are blinded by Sin. We think we see, but we are blinded by our expectations and prejudices. There is social sin (CCC 1869), which distorts our vision and prevents us from seeing God’s Kingdom breaking in around us. Yet, as he healed the Man born blind, Jesus has the power to heal our blindness and reveal God’s Kingdom in all its glory.
  • Paul tells us “the final enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26). In our final scrutiny Gospel, we witness Jesus’ power over this enemy. Jesus’ friend Lazarus has been claimed by death and rots in a tomb, but Jesus brings life which has power over death (Jn. 11).

For these next three weeks, the Gospels expose Sin and we pray, invoking Jesus’ power to free, heal, and conquer death itself. As we approach the great Mystery of Easter, let us turn to Jesus, our source of life.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 2-28-2021

Growing in Trust

“If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Rm. 8:31b

“How deeply do you believe that since God is for you, no one can destroy you?”
Question of the Week

In the story of the Transfiguration we hear of a powerful encounter with God. A few disciples travel with Jesus to a grand mountain vista. There, before their eyes Jesus begins to glow with a radiant light. Ancient prophets appear with Him and a voice booms from heaven declaring Jesus, “My beloved Son.” Wow!

How would you react if you were one of those disciples?

Mark tells us that the disciples were “terrified” (Mk. 9:6). The whole scene was overwhelming. The disciples didn’t know how to respond.

And suddenly, it was over. The disciples look around and there is no one else there, “but Jesus alone with them.”

As they come down the mountain and return to their lives, the questions keep coming. What does this mean? Jesus “charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead” (Mk. 9:9). They don’t even understand what Jesus was talking about but are questioning in their hearts “what rising from the dead meant” (Mk. 9:10).

This powerful encounter with God didn’t provide the disciples with answers. It spurred them to deeper questions. The mystery of God’s love for them in Jesus didn’t come all at once. It was only after the resurrection that the meaning of Jesus’ transfiguration began to become clear to these disciples. It took time for them to trust what had been said to them in that powerful mountaintop experience. They had to grow in their ability to trust Jesus, even though it had been revealed to them.

We all make a similar journey. We know that God loves us. We have heard the Gospel and we celebrate it week after week in our walk with the Lord. Yet, like the disciples we need to grow in our ability to trust. Every morning we open our eyes, every disaster averted, every prayer answered, every experience of forgiveness, generosity, or love reveals the trustworthiness of the Lord. We trust a little more. Some days are better than others. Some experiences challenge our ability to trust and others make the Lord’s steadfast love clear.

This week we explore the heart of that trust with our question, “How deeply do you believe that since God is for you, no one can destroy you?”

Pray with the question. Share it with others. Ponder it in your heart. It can lead you to deeper trust if you allow it.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader