This Sunday, May 19, several of our youth will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, Minnesota. The reception of this Sacrament is a great grace for the individual and for our respective parishes. The Sacrament of Confirmation marks the beginning of the apostolic work of each member of the Church, for within the gift of this Sacrament is the grace to share Jesus with others through words and actions. It is my hope and prayer that our youth will receive this Sacrament with gratitude and grow in courage and joy in the privileged work of sharing Jesus with others!
This is also a time of congratulating our graduating seniors. Seniors will be recognized at the Church of St. Paul in Zumbrota and the Church of St. Mary in Bellechester. Let us give thanks to God for our seniors and pray for them as they make important decisions for their future.
This weekend I share with you a portion of a wonderful reflection that I recently read in the seven-volume series called In Conversation with God by Fr. Francisco Fernández Carvajal.
This excerpt is from Thursday of the 4th week of Easter.
“Learning to Forgive: People can change. Avoid making definitive judgments on people based on their external actions.
Now Paul and his company set sail from Paphos, and came to Perga in Pamphyl'ia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem. (Acts 13:13, taken from the first reading of Holy Mass for the Thursday of the 4th Week of Easter)
The first reading of the (Holy) Mass tells us of an event that took place among St. Paul’s missionary companions. They had sailed from Paphos and arrived in Perga in Pamphylia; but there John left them and returned to Jerusalem. (Acts 13:13) The others continued their apostolic journey and reached Antioch of Pisidia. John, also called Mark, was a cousin of Barnabas, St. Paul’s inseparable apostolic partner and one of the pillars of the work of spreading the Faith among the Gentiles. Since early youth Mark had known the fervent apostolate of the early Christians at Jerusalem gathered around our Lady and the Apostles, whom he had known intimately. Mark’s mother had been among the first women to help Jesus and the Twelve. It seems natural that Barnabas should have thought specially of initiating his cousin John Mark as a partner in the task of spreading the Gospel under his joint authority with St. Paul. (The Navarre Bible, Introduction to St. Mark’s Gospel)
John lost heart and went home, leaving his partners. He felt unable to cope and turned back.
This event must have weighed heavily on the others who went ahead. However, in preparing the second great apostolic journey to visit the brethren who had received the Faith, Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But St. Paul thought it best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. (Acts 15:37-38) St. Paul was not of a mind to take someone with him who had already let him down once. Such a difference arose between that they parted from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but St. Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. (Acts 15:30-40)
The arguments and the differences of viewpoints must have been substantial to cause such a separation. St. Jerome says ‘St. Paul was the more strict and Barnabas the more lenient in maintaining their views. Nevertheless, this argument showed up clearly human frailty. (St. Jerome, Dialogue against the Pelagians 11, 17)
Despite everything, St. Paul being a man of immense heart and a fervent apostle, who sacrificed himself to the utmost for his brethren, did not make a definitive judgment on Mark. On the contrary, years later we find Mark described as one of the apostle’s closest partners (Philemon 24) and a deep source of consolation for him. (Colossians 4:10) Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, greets you, and Mark, the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions – if he comes to you, receive him), and Jesus, who is called Justus… they have been a comfort to me. (Colossians 4:10-11) Later on, St. Paul asks Timothy to go with Mark because he is very useful in serving me. (2 Timothy 4:11) Within a few years, Mark was once more a friend and an effective partner of the apostle in his hardship. Perhaps once St. Paul had thought Mark was no use; now he wants him by his side. People can change, and when we have to judge them by their outward behavior – God alone can know their intentions– we should never make judgments that are fixed and unchangeable. Our Lord loves us as we are, with our defects too, when we struggle to overcome them, and He counts on time and grace to change us. Seeing the defects of those around us – sometimes very evident and undeniable ones – we should never lack the charity which enables us
to understand and to help them. From now on, couldn’t we look at others in such a way as not to be disheartened by their defects? The time will come when the wounds are forgotten… Perhaps many things which have saddened us today or recent times will be forgotten. We have defects, but we can love each other! This is because we are brethren and because Christ loves us truly… as we are. (A.G. Dorronsoro, God and People) The fundamental reason is that although Christ does not love our shortcomings, He loves us despite our many defects. Let defects not be a cause of distancing ourselves from those with whom we are living, with those around us at the office, in the university or in our place of work.” (In Conversation with God, Fr. Francisco Fernández Carvajal)
Through the intercession of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, St. Joseph, St. Paul and St. Michael, may God bless us with the graces to forgive one another and to joyfully share the Gospel with others! In Christ through Mary, Fr. Kasel