There’s no such thing as a free breakfast—or so Fr. Kasule told us in his homily along the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
We were celebrating Mass at the Church of the Primacy of Peter in the outdoor chapel. Gentle waves licked the rocks as Fr. Kasule elaborated on the Gospel reading from the 21st chapter of John.
Jesus had died on the cross and the disciples had returned to their old ways as fishermen. After a fruitless night at sea, a stranger told them to cast their nets to the other side. Upon realizing it was Jesus, Peter dove into the waters and swam to shore. There, Jesus said to him and to the others, “Come, have breakfast.”
The Gospel could have ended there and it would have been a pleasant passage. Jesus reveals himself, raised from the dead, and brings Peter a free breakfast.
Yet, Jesus draws Peter aside to ask him three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Talk about a direct question! Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Then Jesus hits him with a three-fold command: “Feed my lambs…Tend my sheep…Feed my sheep.”
It was never a free breakfast after all! Jesus had weightyexpectations of Peter as the future pastor of his fold.
In his homily, Fr. Kasule made reference to John Paul II’s book Love and Responsibility. One cannot speak of love without speaking of responsibility. To demonstrate true affection, one must make an honest investment and take action.
Indeed, responsibility is not something extra added on to love. To take responsibility is to love. Jesus’ admonition to Peter, “Feed my sheep,” is not a condition placed on Jesus’ love for him. Rather, it is the true way that Peter can love the Lord.
I was acutely aware of the relevance of the Primacy of Peter for us as men preparing for ordination. As Peter was commanded to feed Jesus’ flock, so too will we be commissioned. We will servein parishes and schools, feeding God’s people with Jesus who is true food and true life.
Priestly ministry—and any vocation for that matter—is not some free gift without responsibility. Rather, it entails entering the lives of others, giving of oneself. “Feeding” and “tending” are the two verbs that show this most clearly.
As I went forward to receive the Eucharist, I reflected on how appropriate the “food” image is for Scripture and for our lives. We all have a great hunger for the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ. We all have a responsibility to feed those in our charge. Jesus showed this to Peter, and he shows it to us.
And so, there along the Sea of Galilee, where Peter encountered the risen Lord, we sang:
We are currently in the Galilee section of our pilgrimage as we focus on holy sites that Christ ministered in for a long period of time before his journey to Jerusalem. Arguably, one of the most important event during Jesus’ Galilean ministry was his multiplication of loaves and fish, also called the “Feeding of the Five Thousand.” This is Jesus’ only miracle that is recorded in all four Gospels, thus showing its significance to 1st Century Christians.
On the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, there is a church dedicated to this miracle. This church, called “The Church of the Multiplication,” contains a famous Byzantine Mosaic dating from the 5th Century, which depicts this miracle. Pictures of this mosaic can be found throughout the Holy Land and so we have already seen this image numerous
When I first saw it, I was surprised to see that the depiction only has four loaves of bread with two fish. Yet in each of the four Gospels, the Feeding of the 5,000 began with five loaves and two fish. What were the Byzantines thinking? Did the artist read any of the Gospel accounts of this miracle? Assuming common sense on the part of the artist, we can ask, why is there a loaf of bread missing?
The key to this conundrum is the location of the mosaic. Most pilgrims who simply see the depiction on the side of a decorative plate or coffee mug would miss this context. In the Church of the Multiplication, the mosaic is on the floor just before the altar. That is to say, the missing loaf of bread can be found on the altar, and that loaf is none other than Jesus Christ, who is broken and shared for all the hungry who approach the altar for nourishment. A couple of miles down the road from the place where the multiplication miracle occured, Jesus says to his disciples, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (Jn 6:35).
The symbolism of the missing loaf brings out the central theme of the multiplication—the Eucharist. For Christians throughout the centuries, the miracle of the multiplication has always pointed to the miracle of the Eucharist. We even hear some of the same words when Jesus institutes the Eucharist and when he multiplies the bread. Before he feeds the crowd of 5,000, Jesus, “taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples…” (Mk 6:41). Later, during the Last Supper, Jesus “took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “‘Take it; this is my body’” (Mk 14:22). In the Eucharist, Christ gives himself as food to his people. He nourishes them and meets them in their spiritual hunger.
Therefore, the Church of the Multiplication, and the famous mosaic that lies before the altar, has valuable lessons for those preparing to be Priests of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, the priesthood exists for the sake of the Eucharist. We need priests because we need the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. We need priests because we hunger for the Bread of Life.
“One man scorned and covered with scars still strove with his last ounce of courage to reach the unreachable stars; and the world will be better for this.”
Miguel de Cervantes wrote these words about his hero, Don Quixote, a man who lost his mind and devoted his life entirely to chivalry at a time when living such a life was unheard of. This hero, at times a complete fool, sought to embody perfect virtue, in particular the virtues of courage and fidelity. The characters surrounding Don Quixote continually berate him, often violently, for being such a fool. Yet Don Quixote strove to reach the unreachable stars, and the world was better because he did.
At times throughout the journey in this Holy Land, a Christian can feel like Don Quixote striving for the unreachable stars. When a Christian arrives at a holy site, he tries to be present at that place and pray, but is surrounded by people with their cameras out, taking pictures to document the moment. He is surrounded by people almost casually talking with each other or loud tour guides shouting instructions. It can seem like the life of prayer and true pilgrimage has fallen by the wayside, much like the life of chivalry had disappeared in Don Quixote’s time. It can seem totally countercultural to enter these sites and not take pictures with a cell phone. But perhaps these countercultural actions are the stars the Christian ought to reach for. Perhaps the world will be better for his striving for this true silence.
At times the Christian can be scorned for living this way (look to any of our martyrs). It is true also that the Christian is covered with scars, often the scars of his own sinfulness. But the true Christian strives with the last ounce of his courage to reach That Which is unreachable, our Lord and our God. The scorn of the world and the contempt of the evil one try to dissuade the Christian, but through those difficulties, the Christian perseveres. When that perseverance is genuine, That Which is unreachable comes to the Christian. The white marble altar in Nazareth proclaims “VERBUM CARO HIC FACTUM EST.” The fourteen-pointed star in Bethlehem marks the spot where VERBUM was born. The Christian strives for the Unreachable Star, and through the difficulty of perseverance, the Star comes to the Christian. Ad Astra per Aspera.
Recently, my classmates and I had the opportunity to visit the Mount Carmel mountain range in the Galilee region for a second time. On our first trip, we were on the mountain of Muhraqa, where the prophet Elijah challenged over 400 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:20 – 40). This time around we visited the Carmelite Convent that houses the shrine to Our Lady Star of the Sea (Stella Maris). The early members of the Carmelite Order built this shrine on top of the cave where, according to tradition, Elijah, the eighth century (BC) prophet to the Northern Kingdom of Israel, spent some time hiding from those wishing to take his life. The first book of Kings relates the following concerning this: “There he [Elijah] came to a cave, where he took shelter. But the word of the Lord came to him: Why are here, Elijah?” (1 Kgs 19:9) In answeringthis question, the prophet gave witness to his faithfulness and steadfast resolution to carry out the work that the Lord had entrusted to him. However, those who, up to that point, had been unfaithful to God remained opposed to changing their ways.
Put differently, a sense of discouragement had started to overcome Elijah, making him feel unable to continue his God-given mission to the people of Israel. The words he had so far pronounced in the name of God had born no visible fruit, and the only viable course of action for him seemed to be to just stay in that cave. But that penetrating question came once more: “Why are you here, Elijah?” This time, even though the prophet responded the same way as before, the Lord God commanded him to leave that cave and “take the desert road to Damascus” where he would anoint the next king for the Northern Kingdom of Israel. As I sat there contemplating this very cave, I reflected of the numberless times God has silently put forth the same question: “Why are you here?” One could give a thousand different answers and perhaps present a myriad excuses for why we have not yet taken that step that the Lord is asking us to take. Certainly, God had to ask this question to the Prophet Elijahtwice. After that, the prophet responded with action. Is it time for you to get up, exit that cave and spring into action?
Cana is one of those places in the Bible that simply sticks out for people. Instantly people associate Cana with weddings and the beginning of Jesus’ miracles at his mother’s urging, “They have no wine” (John 2:3). Simply put, they have no joy. They have gone as far as they can go with Christ. It is time for him to change everything.
The heart of the story of Cana is a story of vocation. The couple whom Jesus, his mother, and his disciples were celebrating were beginning their vocations as a married couple; while Jesus, his mother, and his disciples were beginning a new chapter of their own journey to sainthood, a new vocation following Christ.
As I reflect on the story of Cana within the hallowed halls of the Church built in the late 19th century, the words of the steward began to take shape, “Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now” (John 2:10). Life without Christ is very similar, we think that what we are experiencing, the life we are living is filled with joy and vigor, but it slowly degrades into the lies of this world until it becomes fleeting moments of satisfaction followed by seeking our next moment of happiness. Ultimately, we realize it is an illusion, a descent from one gratification to the next.
However, with Christ, everything changes. We go from living life on our own, to the sweetest, choicest, most satisfying adventure by the grace of Christ. Ultimately, this is the discovery of our vocation, our path to sainthood – whether it be marriage, the priesthood, religious life, or consecrated single life. The Lord is never outdone in generosity and desires to satisfy every desire with overflowing joy.
It brings a whole new reality and comfort by the words of Our Mother, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5).
I have received great comfort and joy throughout my time as a seminarian from frequent recitation of the words Verbumcarofactumest—“the Word became flesh” (John 1:14)—as part of the traditionalAngelus prayer I recite each day at noon and 6pm.As recounted in Saint Luke’s Gospel, this prayer is based on Saint Gabriel the Archangel’s Annunciation to Our Lady that she was to be the Mother of our Divine Redeemer.The “Angelus”—named thusly because of the angelic message it proclaims—never fails to fill me with great hope and awe in the infinite love that God pours out for us through our Blessed Mother.After all, it is through Our Lady that the eternal Word of God assumes our humanity, in all of its weakness and frailty, and, therefore, through Our Lady that God chooses to bear forth His loving work of redemption for us,in His son, Jesus Christ.
However, I have never prayed the words Verbumcaro HIC factumest—“the Word became flesh HERE”—until visiting the Basilica of the Annunciation during our Holy Land Pilgrimage. The Basilica in Nazareth is built atop the location where the Archangel appeared toMaryin her house just over 2,000 years ago to announce to her God’s desire that she become the Holy Mother of our loving Savior Jesus Christ(Luke 1:31).The sacred words “the Word became flesh here,”written in Latin on the front of the altar in the ruins of the house of Mary in thelower church, mark the precise spot that tradition maintains is where the Angel Gabriel announced this joyful news to Mary, and through her Yes to God’s plan, the Incarnation, God becoming man in Jesus Christ at the moment of human conception in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, took place.
Was I completely overwhelmed by the spiritual gravity of the situation? Yes! Spellboundto actually be praying with the all-important “HERE”? Of course! Awestruck that the Incarnation took place HERE, in a concrete time and space all out of God’s loving desire that we might share in His own divine life? Absolutely! Fortunately, Our Lady is always at work in us to help us receive her Son’s graces.As such, she implanted the same fervent desire into my heart that she often does when I receive Holy Communion and struggle how to respond to the gift of God Himself withher humble fiat, her “let it be done unto me according to thy word”(Lk 1:38). May Our Lady’s fiat, her humble receptivity to the will of God, always be our own as well! Ave Maria!
Nazaret fue el pequeño pueblo donde Jesús creció y vivió con su familia y no es difícil imaginar como fue aquella época del siglo I. La Basílica de la Anunciación de la Virgen presenta justamente en la entrada los vestigios de lo que fue la ciudad antigua y como estaban construidas las casas. Este humilde pueblo que acogió a José, María y Jesúsdespués de salir de Belen fue un lugar donde Jesus pudo conocer la realidad social de los mas necesitados: los enfermos, las viudas, los pobres etc. Jesús no solamente, vivió esta realidad que aun hoy nos toca, sino que decidió emprender la “Instauración del Reino de Dios” lo que significa que comenzó su ministerio en este mismo lugar y seguramente desde su hogar junto a José y María de quien recibió mucho más que amor.
Las calles de Nazaret nos recuerdan que el ministerio de Jesús continua y precisamente desde la propia vida y lugar en donde estemos. Jesús debió conocer muy bien los caminos de estas tierras, los cultivos, las aves, los trabajadores, en una palabra la vida diaria de este pueblo. Sin embargo, Jesús no fue un simple observador, El mismo experimento en su propia humanidad las necesidades de un hogar, de alimento, de amistad, de afecto, de conocimiento, de entender la realidad que lo rodeaba porque sus palabras en el evangelio nos muestran a un hombre de su tiempo que supo entender que la vida se hace santidad solamente cuando no se busca; sino cuando se pierde dándola por los demás.
Observar, oler, degustar y vivir la realidad de Nazaret ha sido un privilegio porque ahora no solamente puedo pensar como fue la vida de Jesús en sus primeros años y ministerio en Nazaret. Hoy me siento llamado a ver la realidad a través de los ojos de Jesús, quien dejó que sus sentidos le dieran sentido a este caminar en la tierra fijando siempre su mirada en el Reino; El proyecto del Padre que continua tu vida y en mi vida hoy.
In this episode, seminarians Robert Ryan (Archdiocese of Chicago) and Noah Thelen (Diocese of Grand Rapids) talk to Andrew Meng (Diocese of Wichita). Andrew’s vocation story could very closely be compared with a famous Jesuit priest. They also describe their time in prayer during a special Holy Hour of Adoration, visiting Ein Karem, and going to Yad Vashem, a holocaust museum.
“And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and a report concerning him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.” – Luke 4:14-15
Recently my classmates and I visited the site at the Jordan River, where our Lord Jesus Christ was baptized by St John the Baptist. This marked the beginning of a new phase in his life. It signified the transition from his life as a carpenter in Nazareth to his ministry. We as pilgrims here in the Holy Land are also entering a new phase of our pilgrimage where we will focus more intently on the ministry of Christ leading up to his death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. This pilgrimage and our literal following in the footsteps of Christ is timed perfectly. Soon we will begin our canonical retreat in preparation for our upcoming ordination to the diaconate.
The time we are spending in the Holy Land is the perfect preparation for us soon-to-be deacons. Here we can grow closer to Christ by following his life closely and praying more intently by being able to see with our own eyes what these places described in scripture look like. We will soon be charged with proclaiming and preaching the Gospel to the peach of God. We will seek to gain more disciples for Christ. This next phase of this pilgrimage, which will mirror the next phase of our lives as we enter the ordained ministry, will bring us closer to Christ by intentionally conforming our lives to his.
So far, this has been a blessed experience for us all and we are thankful to have this unique opportunity. I think we will be better priests because of it. You all should know of our prayers for our supporters and benefactors back home who made this trip of a lifetime possible.