Responding to the Call of Jesus with Msgr. John Esseff – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Msgr. Esseff reflects on the teaching of Jesus found in Luke Chapter 10 and our call to be missionaries in the world. What does that look like?  How will we know what our calling truly is?

Luke Chapter 10: 1-12, 17-20

At that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others
whom he sent ahead of him in pairs
to every town and place he intended to visit.
He said to them,
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.
Go on your way;
behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.
Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals;
and greet no one along the way.
Into whatever house you enter, first say,
‘Peace to this household.’
If a peaceful person lives there,
your peace will rest on him;
but if not, it will return to you.
Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you,
for the laborer deserves his payment.
Do not move about from one house to another.
Whatever town you enter and they welcome you,
eat what is set before you,
cure the sick in it and say to them,
‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’
Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you,
go out into the streets and say,
‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet,
even that we shake off against you.’
Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand.
I tell you,
it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.”

The seventy-two returned rejoicing, and said,
“Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.”
Jesus said, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky.
Behold, I have given you the power to ‘tread upon serpents’ and scorpions
and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you.
Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you,
but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

Msgr. John A. Esseff is a Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Scranton.  Msgr. Esseff served as a retreat director and confessor to St. Teresa of Calcutta.    He continues to offer direction and retreats for the sisters of the missionaries of charity around the world.  Msgr. Esseff encountered St.  Padre Pio,  who would become a spiritual father to him.  He has lived in areas around the world, serving in the Pontifical missions, a Catholic organization established by St. Pope John Paul II to bring the Good News to the world, especially to the poor.   He continues to serve as a retreat leader and director to bishops, priests and sisters and seminarians, and other religious leaders around the world.   

 

HR6 In place of provincialism, respect and tolerance – The Holy Rule of St. Benedict with Fr. Mauritius Wilde OSB

 

From the Holy Rule of St. Benedict:

St.-Benedict-d

CHAPTER II
What Kind of Man the Abbot Ought to Be

“…..Let him make no distinction of persons in the monastery. Let him not love one more than another, unless it be one whom he findeth more exemplary in good works and obedience. Let not a free-born be preferred to a freedman, unless there be some other reasonable cause. But if from a just reason the Abbot deemeth it proper to make such a distinction, he may do so in regard to the rank of anyone whomsoever; otherwise let everyone keep his own place; for whether bond or free, we are all one in Christ (cf Gal 3:28; Eph 6:8), and we all bear an equal burden of servitude under one Lord, “for there is no respect of persons with God” (Rom 2:11). We are distinguished with Him in this respect alone, if we are found to excel others in good works and in humility. Therefore, let him have equal charity for all, and impose a uniform discipline for all according to merit.”

 

Father Mauritius Wilde, OSB, Ph.D., did his philosophical, theological and doctoral studies in Europe. He is the author of several books and directs retreats regularly. He serves as Prior at Sant’Anselmo in Rome.

DC10 St. Augustine of Hippo (part 2) – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson

Dr. Matthew Bunson discusses the life, times and teachings of St. Augustine of Hippo (part 2)

Born: 13 November 354
Died: 28 August 430
For more on St. Augustine of Hippo and his teachings

Augustine of Hippo
– Confessions
– Letters
– City of God
– Christian Doctrine
– On the Holy Trinity
– The Enchiridion
– On the Catechising of the Uninstructed
– On Faith and the Creed
– Concerning Faith of Things Not Seen
– On the Profit of Believing
– On the Creed: A Sermon to Catechumens
– On Continence
– On the Good of Marriage
– On Holy Virginity
– On the Good of Widowhood
– On Lying
– To Consentius: Against Lying
– On the Work of Monks
– On Patience
– On Care to be Had For the Dead
– On the Morals of the Catholic Church
– On the Morals of the Manichaeans
– On Two Souls, Against the Manichaeans
– Acts or Disputation Against Fortunatus the Manichaean
– Against the Epistle of Manichaeus Called Fundamental
– Reply to Faustus the Manichaean
– Concerning the Nature of Good, Against the Manichaeans
– On Baptism, Against the Donatists
– Answer to Letters of Petilian, Bishop of Cirta
– Merits and Remission of Sin, and Infant Baptism
– On the Spirit and the Letter
– On Nature and Grace
– On Man’s Perfection in Righteousness
– On the Proceedings of Pelagius
– On the Grace of Christ, and on Original Sin
– On Marriage and Concupiscence
– On the Soul and its Origin
– Against Two Letters of the Pelagians
– On Grace and Free Will
– On Rebuke and Grace
– The Predestination of the Saints/Gift of Perseverance
– Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount
– The Harmony of the Gospels
– Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament
– Tractates on the Gospel of John
– Homilies on the First Epistle of John
– Soliloquies
– The Enarrations, or Expositions, on the Psalms

From Vatican.va, an excerpt from the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI General Audience 2008

After his Baptism, Augustine decided to return to Africa with his friends, with the idea of living a community life of the monastic kind at the service of God. However, while awaiting their departure in Ostia, his mother fell ill unexpectedly and died shortly afterwards, breaking her son’s heart. Having returned to his homeland at last, the convert settled in Hippo for the very purpose of founding a monastery. In this city on the African coast he was ordained a priest in 391, despite his reticence, and with a few companions began the monastic life which had long been in his mind, dividing his time between prayer, study and preaching. All he wanted was to be at the service of the truth. He did not feel he had a vocation to pastoral life but realized later that God was calling him to be a pastor among others and thus to offer people the gift of the truth. He was ordained a Bishop in Hippo four years later, in 395. Augustine continued to deepen his study of Scripture and of the texts of the Christian tradition and was an exemplary Bishop in his tireless pastoral commitment: he preached several times a week to his faithful, supported the poor and orphans, supervised the formation of the clergy and the organization of mens’ and womens’ monasteries. In short, the former rhetorician asserted himself as one of the most important exponents of Christianity of that time. He was very active in the government of his Diocese – with remarkable, even civil, implications – in the more than 35 years of his Episcopate, and the Bishop of Hippo actually exercised a vast influence in his guidance of the Catholic Church in Roman Africa and, more generally, in the Christianity of his time, coping with religious tendencies and tenacious, disruptive heresies such as Manichaeism, Donatism and Pelagianism, which endangered the Christian faith in the one God, rich in mercy.

And Augustine entrusted himself to God every day until the very end of his life:  smitten by fever, while for almost three months his Hippo was being besieged by vandal invaders, the Bishop – his friend Possidius recounts in his Vita Augustini – asked that the penitential psalms be transcribed in large characters, “and that the sheets be attached to the wall, so that while he was bedridden during his illness he could see and read them and he shed constant hot tears” (31, 2). This is how Augustine spent the last days of his life. He died on 28 August 430, when he was not yet 76. We will devote our next encounters to his work, his message and his inner experience.

For more visit Vatican.va

Dr. Matthew Bunson, Senior Fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, is one of the United States’ leading authorities on the papacy and the Church.

His books include: The Encyclopedia of Catholic History; The Encyclopedia of Saints; Papal Wisdom; All Shall Be Well; Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire; and The Angelic Doctor: The Life and World of St. Thomas Aquinas; The Pope Encyclopedia; We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI, the first Catholic biography of the Holy Father in the English language; the Encyclopedia of U.S. Catholic History; Pope Francis. His also the editor of OSV’s “The Catholic Answer” magazine.

DC9 St. Augustine of Hippo (part 1) – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson

Dr. Matthew Bunson discusses the life, times and teachings of St. Augustine of Hippo (part 1)

Born: 13 November 354
Died: 28 August 430
For more on St. Augustine of Hippo and his teachings

Augustine of Hippo [
– Confessions
– Letters
– City of God
– Christian Doctrine
– On the Holy Trinity
– The Enchiridion
– On the Catechising of the Uninstructed
– On Faith and the Creed
– Concerning Faith of Things Not Seen
– On the Profit of Believing
– On the Creed: A Sermon to Catechumens
– On Continence
– On the Good of Marriage
– On Holy Virginity
– On the Good of Widowhood
– On Lying
– To Consentius: Against Lying
– On the Work of Monks
– On Patience
– On Care to be Had For the Dead
– On the Morals of the Catholic Church
– On the Morals of the Manichaeans
– On Two Souls, Against the Manichaeans
– Acts or Disputation Against Fortunatus the Manichaean
– Against the Epistle of Manichaeus Called Fundamental
– Reply to Faustus the Manichaean
– Concerning the Nature of Good, Against the Manichaeans
– On Baptism, Against the Donatists
– Answer to Letters of Petilian, Bishop of Cirta
– Merits and Remission of Sin, and Infant Baptism
– On the Spirit and the Letter
– On Nature and Grace
– On Man’s Perfection in Righteousness
– On the Proceedings of Pelagius
– On the Grace of Christ, and on Original Sin
– On Marriage and Concupiscence
– On the Soul and its Origin
– Against Two Letters of the Pelagians
– On Grace and Free Will
– On Rebuke and Grace
– The Predestination of the Saints/Gift of Perseverance
– Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount
– The Harmony of the Gospels
– Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament
– Tractates on the Gospel of John
– Homilies on the First Epistle of John
– Soliloquies
– The Enarrations, or Expositions, on the Psalms

From Vatican.va, an excerpt from the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI General Audience 2008

n Milan, Augustine acquired the habit of listening – at first for the purpose of enriching his rhetorical baggage – to the eloquent St.-Augustine-iconpreaching of Bishop Ambrose, who had been a representative of the Emperor for Northern Italy. The African rhetorician was fascinated by the words of the great Milanese Prelate; and not only by his rhetoric. It was above all the content that increasingly touched Augustine’s heart. The great difficulty with the Old Testament, because of its lack of rhetorical beauty and lofty philosophy was resolved in St Ambrose’s preaching through his typological interpretation of the Old Testament: Augustine realized that the whole of the Old Testament was a journey toward Jesus Christ. Thus, he found the key to understanding the beauty and even the philosophical depth of the Old Testament and grasped the whole unity of the mystery of Christ in history, as well as the synthesis between philosophy, rationality and faith in the Logos, in Christ, the Eternal Word who was made flesh.

Augustine soon realized that the allegorical interpretation of Scripture and the Neo-Platonic philosophy practised by the Bishop of Milan enabled him to solve the intellectual difficulties which, when he was younger during his first approach to the biblical texts, had seemed insurmountable to him.

Thus, Augustine followed his reading of the philosophers’ writings by reading Scripture anew, especially the Pauline Letters. His conversion to Christianity on 15 August 386 therefore came at the end of a long and tormented inner journey – of which we shall speak in another catechesis -, and the African moved to the countryside, north of Milan by Lake Como – with his mother Monica, his son Adeodatus and a small group of friends – to prepare himself for Baptism. So it was that at the age of 32 Augustine was baptized by Ambrose in the Cathedral of Milan on 24 April 387, during the Easter Vigil.

For more visit Vatican.va

Dr. Matthew E. Bunson is a Register senior editor and a senior contributor to EWTN News. For the past 20 years, he has been active in the area of Catholic social communications and education, including writing, editing, and teaching on a variety of topics related to Church history, the papacy, the saints, and Catholic culture. He is faculty chair at Catholic Distance University, a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and the author or co-author of over 50 books including The Encyclopedia of Catholic History, The Pope Encyclopedia, We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI, The Saints Encyclopedia and best-selling biographies of St. Damien of Molokai and St. Kateri Tekakwitha.

Corpus Christi Sunday with Msgr. John Esseff – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Msgr. Esseff reflects on the teaching of Jesus found in John Chapter 6 for the great feast of Corpus Christi.  He discusses the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.  The tragedy becomes when we look upon the Blessed Sacrament as a “something” instead of a “Someone”.

From the NAB  John Chapter 6

The Bread of Life Discourse.22* The next day, the crowd that remained across the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not gone along with his disciples in the boat, but only his disciples had left.23* Other boats came from Tiberias near the place where they had eaten the bread when the Lord gave thanks.24When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.25And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”26Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.27Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life,*which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”l28So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”29Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”30So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do?m31* Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:n

‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

32So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.o33For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34p So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”35* Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.q36But I told you that although you have seen [me], you do not believe.r37Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me,38because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me.s39And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it [on] the last day.t40For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day.”u

41The Jews murmured about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,”42and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”v43Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring* among yourselves.w44No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.45It is written in the prophets:

‘They shall all be taught by God.’

Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.x46Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.y47Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.48I am the bread of life.49Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;z50this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.51I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”a

52The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?”53Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.54Whoever eats* my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.55For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.57Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.b58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”59These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

The Words of Eternal Life.

Msgr. John A. Esseff is a Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Scranton.  He was ordained on May 30, 1953, by the late Bishop William J. Hafey, D.D. at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton, PA.  Msgr. Esseff served as a retreat director and confessor to St. Teresa of Calcutta.    He continues to offer direction and retreats for the sisters of the missionaries of charity around the world.  Msgr. Esseff encountered St.  Padre Pio,  who would become a spiritual father to him.  He has lived in areas around the world, serving in the Pontifical missions, a Catholic organization established by St. Pope John Paul II to bring the Good News to the world especially to the poor.   He continues to serve as a retreat leader and director to bishops, priests and sisters and seminarians, and other religious leaders around the world.   

 

The Holy Trinity and Prayer – Building a Kingdom of Love with Msgr. John Esseff

Msgr. Esseff asks the question, “Is your prayer centered in the Holy Trinity?” He challenges us to take a good look at our prayer lives and do we pray as Jesus taught us…to the Father.

Reading 2 Rom 8:14-17

Brothers and sisters:
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear,
but you received a Spirit of adoption,
through whom we cry, “Abba, Father!”
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit
that we are children of God,
and if children, then heirs,
heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,
if only we suffer with him
so that we may also be glorified with him.

Gospel Mt 28:16-20

The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they all saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

 

 

 

St. Athanasius of Alexandria – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom w/ Dr. Matthew Bunson Podcast

Dr. Matthew Bunson discusses the life, times and work of  St. Athanasius of Alexandria

Born: 296 AD, Alexandria, Egypt
Died: May 2, 373 AD, Alexandria, Egypt

For more on St. Athanasius of Alexandria and his teachings

Athanasius 

From Vatican.va, an excerpt from the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI  General Audience 2007:

Athanasius was undoubtedly one of the most important and revered early Church Fathers. But this great Saint was above all the impassioned theologian of the Incarnation of the Logos, the Word of God who – as the Prologue of the fourth Gospel says – “became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1: 14).

For this very reason Athanasius was also the most important and tenacious adversary of the Arian heresy, which at that time threatened faith in Christ, reduced to a creature “halfway” between God and man, according to a recurring tendency in history which we also see manifested today in various forms.

In all likelihood Athanasius was born in Alexandria, Egypt, in about the year 300 A.D. He received a good education before becoming a deacon and secretary to the Bishop of Alexandria, the great Egyptian metropolis. As a close collaborator of his Bishop, the young cleric took part with him in the Council of Nicaea, the first Ecumenical Council, convoked by the Emperor Constantine in May 325 A.D. to ensure Church unity. The Nicene Fathers were thus able to address various issues and primarily the serious problem that had arisen a few years earlier from the preaching of the Alexandrian priest, Arius.

With his theory, Arius threatened authentic faith in Christ, declaring that the Logos was not a true God but a created God, a creature “halfway” between God and man who hence remained for ever inaccessible to us. The Bishops gathered in Nicaea responded by developing and establishing the “Symbol of faith” [“Creed”] which, completed later at the First Council of Constantinople, has endured in the traditions of various Christian denominations and in the liturgy as the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed.

In this fundamental text – which expresses the faith of the undivided Church and which we also recite today, every Sunday, in the Eucharistic celebration – the Greek term homooúsiosis featured, in Latin consubstantialis: it means that the Son, the Logos, is “of the same substance” as the Father, he is God of God, he is his substance. Thus, the full divinity of the Son, which was denied by the Arians, was brought into the limelight.

For more visit Vatican.va

Dr. Matthew E. Bunson is a Register senior editor and senior contributor to EWTN News. For the past 20 years, he has been active in the area of Catholic social communications and education, including writing, editing, and teaching on a variety of topics related to Church history, the papacy, the saints and Catholic culture. He is faculty chair at Catholic Distance University, a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and the author or co-author of over 50 books including The Encyclopedia of Catholic History, The Pope Encyclopedia, We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI, The Saints Encyclopedia and best-selling biographies of St. Damien of Molokai and St. Kateri Tekakwitha.

St. Catherine of Siena – Passion for Truth: Beginning to Pray w/ Dr. Anthony Lilles

Episode 22 Beginning to Pray:  St. Catherine of Siena

From Dr. Anthony Lilles’ “Beginning to Pray”  blog site:

Catherine of Siena – passion for truth

She is an important figure for those who see a rediscovery of prayer as the force of renewal in the Church. Because she put her devotion to Christ first, she found herself with a spiritual mission to help restore the life and unity of Christ’s body. Some of her efforts met with a little success. But as she approached her death at the age of 33, her lifetime of effort in building up the Church seemed to be in vain. Corruption, scandal, cowardice – and most of all indifference – seemed to infect the Church even more. (For more on her life, go to http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03447a.htm.) Yet she never lost hope and she persevered in prayer. This is because she understood the love and mercy of God.

She was uneducated, but in 1377, by a miracle, she learned to write. Even so she retained secretaries to whom she dictated most of her thoughts. Her master work on the spiritual life is known as the Dialogues. These are conversations between her soul and God the Father. God the Father reveals his deep love for his Son and his plan to build up the Church. One of the beautiful aspects of this conversation is the Father’s explanation for how each soul can come to know Jesus.

Fr. Thomas McDermott - Prayer and the Dominican Tradition 2Christ is the bridge to the Father and we cross this bridge by allowing our hearts to be pierced by what the Lord has done for us. The passion of Christ reveals at once the truth about who God is and who we are in his sight. For her, among the greatest blocks to the spiritual life is ignorance. Knowledge of God and knowledge of self go hand in hand in progressing toward spiritual maturity. But the knowing is not simply an intellectual trip. It as the kind of knowing informed by the loving affection of a real friendship. The friendship she describes in tender terms evokes the deepest joys and sorrows all at once.

The gift of tears, so central to early Dominican spirituality, is a beautiful part of this description. She presents those holy affections as the only proper response to the great love revealed in Christ crucified. These tears move us away from sin and into the very heart of God. She describes this as a journey that begins with kissing the feet of Jesus and entering into his wounded side. For her, intimacy with the Lord is always through the Cross and informed by a profound gratitude and humility.

One other beautiful feature of her spirituality is her understanding of virtue. This understanding is not quite classical in that she goes beyond the generic definition of a virtue as a good habit. Instead, she addresses a problem that is related to life in the Church. She notices that different Christians excel at different virtues. One might have a special aptitude for the art of getting on with others and is a special source of justice in the community. Another may be especially able to enter into the heart of someone enduring great difficulty and brings to the Church a particular awareness of mercy. Still another might have a profound gift of prayer. The question she takes up is why has the Father given different gifts to different members of the Body of Christ.

In the Dialogues, the Father explains to her that He has distributed his bountiful gifts in this way so that each member of the Body of Christ must rely on all the other members and at the same time each member bears a particular responsibility to support the Body of Christ commensurate to the gifts he has been given. In other words, his has distributed his gifts in a manner that disposes us to love one another. And the Father is counting on this mutual love, this genuine fellowship. It is part of His plan that as we cross Christ the Bridge we enter into communion with Him not merely individually, but together as a family.

The family of God requires a new kind of love, a love which only God can give us. A beautiful foundation is laid for what will later be understood as a “call within a call,” that particular mission each one is entrusted with in the eternal loving plan of God. On one hand, answering this call involves some suffering – just as Mother Theresa in our own time discovered. But those who endure this would not have it any other way. There is a certain joy and fullness of life that one discovers when one generously embraces the loving plan of the Father. The possibility of this joyful fulness makes Catherine’s message to the Church dynamically attractive.

For those beginning to pray, Catherine sheds light on the importance of truth, devotion to Christ and the life of the Church. These things organically hang together in her vision of the spiritual life so that growing in prayer goes beyond the merely therapeutic: it opens up the possibility of fully thriving, of living life to the full.

 

For other episodes in the series visit the Discerning Hearts page for Dr. Anthony Lilles



Happy Easter!!!! Have You Encountered Jesus? – Building a Kingdom of Love w/ Msgr. John Esseff

Gospel JN 20:1-9

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine;

Msgr. John A. Esseff is a Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Scranton. Msgr. Esseff served as a retreat director and confessor to St. Teresa of Calcutta. He continues to offer direction and retreats for the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity. Msgr. Esseff encountered St. Padre Pio, who would become a spiritual father to him. He has lived in areas around the world, serving in the Pontifical missions, a Catholic organization established by St. Pope John Paul II to bring the Good News to the world, especially to the poor. He continues to serve as a retreat leader and director to bishops, priests and sisters and seminarians, and other religious leaders.

Lent – You Have Stood By Me with Dr. Anthony Lilles – Discerning Hearts Podcast

From Dr. Anthony Lilles’ blog “Beginning to Pray”

You have stood by me in my trials and I am giving you a Kingdom.”  This solemn declaration was made by the Lord even as He faced betrayal, denial, and abandonment – suffering these unto death. To enter into His Kingdom, we must follow Him down this same pathway.  This means that we will face what He has faced. To enable us to follow Him, He must purify us and strengthen us to remain standing with Him even after our sin. To the degree that we are afraid of death, suffering, and sin, we are afraid also of His mercy. But His merciful love overcomes our fear.  Accepting His mercy, we learn to see in our own life experience that sin, suffering and death ultimately do not stand between us and the love of God. Indeed, He has made of them a pathway.

“You have stood by me.” We hear these words knowing full well how often we have failed Him. Yet, He does not focus on that. He sees what is good. He chooses to be conscious of what we have done in our devotion and so He directs us to also acknowledge what He sees.  It is not that He is not aware of our sins. It is only that He chooses not to allow them to define our relationship with Him.  Thus, He said this in the presence of the Twelve: the betrayer, the nine would abandon Him and the most trusted who would deny Him. He says it also to us now.

“You have stood by me” unveils his decision to see past our failures to a deeper mystery about us that we cannot know on our own. He gazes with hope on the possibilities of the human heart. This is because we are not in his eyes friends who fall short of His expectations. Instead, we are each a gift of the Father to Him – and so He treasures our faithfulness no matter how weak or fleeting it might be.  Thus, He confirms all that is good, noble and true. The the gaze in which he holds us never breaks – He suffers this regard of the deepest truth of our existence unto death and will search hell to rescue it.  Here, the basis of hope no matter how often we have fallen, a truth He repeats today in our presence too: “You have stood by me.”

“I have prayed that your faith will not fail and once you have turned back, you must strengthen the faith of your brethren.”  Love requires many difficult purifications and painful healings before we can stand before the face of the One who loved us to the end. No unaided human effort can endure these trials of love. Yet, we never face these alone, but always in the Church with Christ’s gentle presence and His mighty prayer. His prayer that our faith should not fail does not mean we will not fall.  It means that if we fall, no matter how far or hard or for how long, we can turn back – convinced that the power of His love is greater than the power of our sin.

What we do not see but what Christ sees is the splendor of His Bride – a splendor in which we have already been implicated from before the foundation of the world. Despite the sinfulness of her members and even the failures of her shepherds, she knows from the vantage point of eternity the way to the Bridegroom in both life and death. She knows this path to love even as it leads through the difficult ambiguities of our lives. She knows it by love and She knows it for love even when we have long stumbled away from it. She knows even as it disappears from our sight at the last moments of this life. And so, if we listen to the voice of the Bride, she teaches us to find it even when we feel farthest from it. Indeed, the Good Shepherd Himself will pick us up and place us there – for He has abandoned everything to find us.  Though we cannot see it, the Body of Christ knows the passage that crosses from the gates of hell to the very threshold of heaven. Christ Himself bridges this abyss – and He suffers it in His mystical body so that we might become immaculate and holy in His presence.

Dr. Anthony Lilles is the author of “Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden”, which can be found here