PILGRIMAGE DAY 8: HUMBLY LOVING CHRIST



Hello everyone.  Hard to believe that today is the last day of our pilgrimage.  The day started relatively early with us arriving at the Vatican at 7 am for 7:15 Mass at the Tomb of St. Pope John Paul II.  This has the third time I've been blessed to have this opportunity, and it never gets old.  Walking into the Sacristy of St. Peter's, getting vested for Mass back there and then arriving at this altar where the only Pope I really remember from my Childhood all the way through my early years as a priest is burried - now a Canonized Saint...

I don't know how to explain how amazingly special that is.  And how overwhelming it is as well.  But when you see St. Peter's - that's the whole point of this Basilica - for the building itself to draw you in, and you to lose yourself in the immensity of the beauty remembering the immensity of God's love and mercy for us.




Here is my homily from today's Mass - the Feast of St. James the Apostle.  The Readings:  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/072514.cfm

HOMILY:



Humility -

That is what is at the core of today’s Gospel - we hear one of Jesus most urgent desires of His Apostles - His Followers, of all who preach and speak in His name. That the witness of their lives would not be diminshed or undermined by looking for places of honor or prestige, but that they would be men of humility - who’s primary, singular focus is what we talked about our first day of Pilgrimage - Jesus Christ - and Him alone. That they would serve Him, 
they would Love Him 
by Serving and Loving those He puts into their lives. St. James who’s feast we celebrate today (and his thunder brother John) hadn’t quite gotten that message yet as they put their Mom up to asking for positions of honor.

And sadly, we can point to all kinds of examples we’ve seen or heard or experienced in the Church that would be similarly disappointing.  The complete opposite of what Jesus is calling them to.

Yet rather than dwell on that, we are blessed in countless ways.  Blessed first and foremost to have had such an amazingly beautiful week here in Rome and Assisi on this Pilgrimage to have opportunities to meet Jesus Christ in a new and different way as we've travelled place to place which we will share and discuss later. But Blessed even more as a Church. 

Because as we celebrate this Mass here at the tomb of now St. John Paul II - one of the beautiful things thinking back on his Papacy was his humility. Through each stage of his papacy, he was constantly pouring out his life for the Church. An attempted Assassins bullet out on that square couldn’t stop him physically or spiritually - it made him in some ways even stronger in his example and witness. As Parkinsons and illnesses slowed him down, which in a world fixated on youth, exterior looks, "beauty" he didn't hide the physical toll that he suffered.  Rather, he shared his suffering, reminding us that those who are sick and suffering have human dignity & deserve care and compassion - not rejection and isolation.  And there are countless other examples of how he didn’t stop serving until the Lord called him home.  Which is why both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis expedited John Paul II’s canonization process. 

But we see how the hopes of Christ for those who would lead His Church would follow this Gospel mandate has continued with John Paul's successors.  Pope Francis has been loved the world over in no small measure because of his dramatic acts of humility.   If anything saddens me is how some people who love Pope Francis miss how amazingly humble Benedict was – in a different way – quite simply, it’s unheard of in our day and age for people in positions of power, authority to simply resign. Yet the gentle Benedict in such an unprecedented way simply said he believed in his heart and soul that the Lord was asking him to make such a bold move. Were it not for that boldness, there would not have been a Pope Francis.  And in all these papacies, we see how the Holy Spirit is continuing to renew the Church and do amazing things throughout the world in ways we could never have imagined.  Because it's The Lord doing the work, and these men have been attentive and guided by Him rather than their own agendas or plans - which is what humility is all about.

As we gather for this our last Mass together at this special place, first we should ask the Lord’s continued blessings on Pope’s Francis and Benedict - that their examples and witnesses will continue to be absorbed and imitated by all called to leadership in the Church... Examples and witnesses of truly being servants of Christ and servants to Christ’s people, the Church - and the world.

But may we also ask for St. Pope John Paul II intercession for each of us. 
 Pray for us and all the intentions we’ve carried with us to this place. 
 Pray for us that we will continue to draw closer to Jesus Christ. 
 Pray for us that we will lovingly, selflessly - and humbly share this special encounter we’ve had with Christ during this past week with all those we will return to.

St. John Paul II, pray for us.

PILGRIMAGE DAY 6: Re-adjusting our vision


Hi everyone - greetings from back in Rome!  

Today started out with a final Mass in Assisi at the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli (St. Mary of the Angels) which is a Church within a Church.  The little Church is called the Porziuncola - it is the most sacred place for the Franciscans - because it was here that  Francis came to fully recognize his vocation (that he began to understand at the Church of San Damiano) - and renounced everything to radically live the Gospel mandates.  It was also here that Francis entered into eternal life.

Having the opportunity to celebrate Mass here is probably going to be hard to top - for reasons that I need a lot more time to pray and reflect over - St. Francis has figured quite prominently in my own personal spiritual life for over 18 years.  Having the opportunity to pray in these sacred places that I've read about over and over (in St. Bonaventures Life of Francis) is beyond... at least right now.

After Mass, we headed back to Rome.  It's about a 2 and a half hour ride.  It was nice taking  in the Italian countryside.  Thanks to some spectacular weather (the fears over the extreme heat and humidity have thankfully only really bothered us the first few days and have really mellowed out nicely)  it was a nice ride back.


Then -- we were off - to St. Paul's outside the Walls (where St. Paul is burried)






Santa Sabina -- one of the oldest Churches in Rome (from the 400's) which has this breathtaking sight nearby:



Then to the Church of the Gesu - where St. Ignatius of Loyola is burried - where there's a fantastic "telling" of the story of his life and death revealing this beautiful statue:





Then off to another amazing meal at Da Fortunato - which is right near the Pantheon - another ancient Church...


It's really all too much to take in.  Really thankful and blessed that Lino Rulli invites me to come along on this pilgrimage and to have this tremendous opprotunity with some great folks.

Here's my homily for today's Mass at Santa Maria degli Angeli.  The readings: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/072314.cfm



(still shocked at what a tremendous picture that is from this mornings Mass)

The first reading today is some of the most reflective passages in the entire Old Testament.

The Prophet Jeremiah is a young man who is called by God to deliver some tough love to the Jewish people. People didn’t like hearing bad news then anymore than they like it today. So it’s no wonder that Jeremiah – he’s a little anxious about it... doubting, worried about it all. And what does the Lord say to Him -

Jeremiah...

Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you

before you were born I dedicated you...

Even with those comforting assurances, the young Jeremiah quickly counters - BUT BUT BUT – I know not how to speak, I am too young.... And lovingly, the Lord answers - say not "I’m too young" have no fear - I am with you...see I place my word in your mouth.

We can get caught up in the heroics of all the Saints we’ve remembered thus far - especially as we’ve visited some amazingly beautiful places. They kind of keep us focused on the victory of their missions and sacrifices. For example, as we head back to Rome today and will see St. Paul’s tomb and St. Peter's tomb - we can be  struck by the beauty of those places marking those events.  We're not there to witness the abject fear Paul must have faced as a blade is prepared to strike him severing his head or the Cross that awaited Peter.  Or, we visit this amazing town of Assisi- again struck by an air of holiness & beauty - we’re not witnesses to the many doubts, trials, struggles that Francis, Claire and their followers had to endure -- families furiously, angrily enraged at them trying to drag them back home; locking Francis in what looked like a closet -- the fury of the world as they went against what was common, what the world was speaking at that time and instead following what the Lord was calling them to do.

Which is why the words of the prophet are a gentle reminder to each one of us. That as we come closer to Jesus Christ through these visits on this pilgrimage, as we recognize stirrings in our hearts that might seem new and different - possibly even insane and impossible - when we recognize a Call into relationship with Him, He never abandons us. He doesn’t give us an "impossible mission" slapping us on the back, throwing us out of an airplane without a parachute saying "good luck."

He calls us into relationship with Him. And what we find is that as we remain faithful to the tasks he puts before us, we find strength, we find patience, we find endurance, we find faith - we never knew we had.

 

PILGRIMAGE DAY 7: CHRIST OUR SAVIOR

Its hard to believe that we are in our last days of the Pilgrimage!  Today started out with a visit to the Major Basilica of St. John Lateran where we celebrated Mass in one of the Chapels.  The picture from the altar is a favorite of mine.  St John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist are pointing at Jesus Christ and as the host is raised at the consecration, at the host, as if to say "This becomes this..."  It is truly a moving experience to celebrate Mass in such an amazing surrounding


After Mass we headed to the Sacra Scala - the steps from Pilate's Prateourium which were brought from Jerusalem to Rome by St. Helena (and a few friends of hers who helped her bring them).  These were the stairs that Jesus walked to be sentenced to death by Pilate.  Its a pilgrim tradition to climb those steps on your knees and to offer a prayer on each one.  For many this is one of the most moving and personal things that they do on the Pilgrimage.  

Immediately after we went to SANTA CROCE IN GERUSALEMME - another Sacred Pilgrimage sight consecrated in the early 300's housing relics from Jesus' Passion and death (a nail form his cross, thorns from the thorn of crowns).  While not as oppulent as St. John Lateran, it is quite beautiful in a different way obviously spiritually, but also artistically.

It's going to be a "free night" for the pilgrims considering tomorrow is their last day and we're up and at it for Mass at 7:15 am at St. Peter's Basilica at the tomb of ST. Pope John Paul II.

Thanks for continuing to check in on our pilgrimage.  Have continued to pray for everyone each day - in a special way on the Sacra Scala today.

Here's my homily for this morning's Mass.  The Readings:  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/072414.cfm

HOMILY:

(Picture of the Basilica of St. John Lateran)



As we’ve returned to Rome, and not to jump ahead too fast, the reality that we’re on the last part of our pilgrimage comes to mind. Sorry, thats not meant to bring us all down, but to challenge us to make the most of these days.  Particularly in light of these readings:

In the first reading from Jeremiah, God speaks to the prophet (and to us) as someone who knows and loves the prophet (and each of us) very intimately. 
He knows the heart. 
He knows us better than we know ourselves. 
And he can’t help but point out that the prophet (and each one of us) can sometimes go from hot to cold in living our faith. Jeremiah (which we read yesterday) early on shows great devotion, great willingness to follow wherever the Lord led... As he’s matured, he gets busy - about the wrong things, he gets distracted, he allows all those things to obscure single hearted faith - and we can relate... we ike Jeremiah can, and often do the same things.  And as we do get distracted, we can become tempted and sometimes give into that temptation to choose our own path instead of what God has set for us.

But then we responded to that reading with those beautiful words of the psalm "With you is the fountain of life O Lord." We might get distracted, we might get busy, we might forget what we’re supposed to be about - but God is unwavering in his faithfulness to us. Constantly, consistently loving us throughout the journey.

But lest we are tempted to sit back, rest and let God take care of everything, We hear the voice of Jesus, through Matthew, speaking hard words, almost as if he really doesn't want those who are listening to understand his parables. It seems at odds with the consoling words we’ve heard. But Jesus reminds us that with true faith comes a certain amount of risk-taking, stretching, going beyond our comfort zones, which hopefully this week of pilgrimage has offered each one of us an opportunity to do.

Both St. John’s – the Baptist and the Evangelist - who are remembered in this Sacred Place give striking witnesses to the cost of true faith. John the Baptist is this obscure figure out in the wilderness who lives a life of poverty and repentance and calling others to do the same as the last of the Old Testament prophets pointing to the coming of the Messiah ... St. John the Evangelist - the Apostle, the writer - both John's spent most of their lives pointing to those words etched on the facade of this magnificent place - CHRIST OUR SAVIOR.

They challenge us.  Because most of us seem very comfortable with following Christ -- but from a distance.  We sometimes look to maintain our status quo or, at least, grow at our own rate. But hopefully these readings and the unique and special opportunity we’re experiencing on this pilgrimage are redirecting us... Calling us to to let go of our own ideas and agendas and trust, what our loving Father has in store for us. Inviting us to etch in our hearts, to proclaim with our lives - CHRIST OUR SAVIOR

St. John the Evangelist, St. John the Baptist - pray for us.


PILGRIMAGE DAY 5: - CHANGE THE WORLD

Have to admit I was a bit surprised by how moved I got this morning walking over to Celebrate Mass at Basilica di St. Chiara (St. Claire of Assisi's burial place).  Getting things set up and vested, I was walking out of the Sacristy when I realized the chapel just off to the side had this:



That's THE Cross that Francis of Assisi heard speak to him those words "Rebuild my Church."   Couldn't help but get a bit choked up standing there before offering Mass with our pilgrims in one of the little chapels in this beautiful Basilica which contained some of the garments that Claire and Francis wore after their conversion.


HOMILY: - Mass on Tuesday (Feast of St. Mary Magdalene readings:  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/072214.cfm)

Francis of Assisi -

Possibly one of the most revered Saints - both in and out of Christianity.

If we were to simply say his name, and ask people what comes to mind -- no doubt people would agree on a number of words that are associated with Francesco, who hails from this beautiful place.

Lover of Poverty

Man of Peace,

Friend of Animals,

"Environmentalist"

All of those are wonderful dimensions of Francis’ life and mission. But any of them individually are somewhat lacking and could leave him in the ranks of other like minded individuals passionate about all those causes.

What makes Francis - Saint Francis of Assisi, such a giant in the Catholic Faith, is that at a moment of real crisis in the Church - this simple, humble man has an encounter with Christ - and his devotion and dedication to that changed the world -- not just His world, but the world. Hearing Jesus say "Rebuild my Church" caught him by surprise.  And in his youthfulness he simply starts picking up stones and doing physical labor. In time, in prayer, in humility, he comes to recognize Jesus calling out to Francis – no Francesco – not the physical Church in Assisi - rebuild my Church.

Providentially we’re celebrating this Mass here on the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene. And in the Gospel we see the same thing - in one of the biggest moments of crisis for the Church - Jesus’ passion, his gruesome death and being buried kind of was a horrendous time for the whole Church as the apostles scattered living in fear of what was to happen next. And in that moment, when fear and doubt and confusion covered all their eyes, this simple, humble woman, Mary Magdalene, encounters Christ, the Risen Christ - who entrusts to her the important, amazing task of proclaiming his resurrection to Peter, and the others. The world simply has never been the same since that good news spread that first Easter morning. Mary Magdalene’s love and devotion to Christ throughout his life prepared her to play this instrumental part to be a pivotal part of the Easter Story.

Francis, Claire, Mary Magdalene - over and over again, they and countless other men and women, these Saints, capture our hearts and imagination - hundreds, even thousands of years since they walked this earth. And over and over again, they remind us quite simply that when you and I encounter Christ - if we too are attentive to what he says to us, obedient to his word - Jesus Christ can use us to change the world once again. We too can become Saints.

PILGRIMAGE DAY 4: To those w faith no explanation is necessary...

MONDAY, July 21

So many of you remember that it was only two years ago that I made my first visit to Italy (truth be told it was my fist time ever out of the country.  Today, on our way up to Assisi from Rome we stopped at a beautiful town named Orvietto - famous for the Eucharistic miracle which was the impetus for the feast of Corpus Christi to be institutionalized 750 years ago. (I explain a little more of it in the homily down below)

The city is truly a beautiful town - more of what my stereotypical images of Italy would be :
(That's Lino at lunch)
A beautiful street


The Mass today was at the beautiful Cathedral containing the corporal from the Euchaeiaric miracle occurred.   For a lot of us it was the most moving Mass to date with one of our pilgrims prayerfully singing Ave Maria acapella after communion. 

Here's my homily for today's Mass.  The
Readings can be found at : http://usccb.org/bible/readings/072114.cfm

HOMILY 

"We wish to see a sign from you"

Reading this Gospel today, and knowing we were coming to Orvieto, I couldnt help but think how appropriate. One account of the Eucharistic miracle that took place here is that in 13th Century, a priest who is described as pious -- but had his doubts, his reservations how the God of the Universe could somehow be really present in a piece of bread and cup of wine. As he celebrated Mass, he hadn't even gotten to the words of consecration and inexplicably blood started to come from the host onto the priests hands and onto the corporal and altar cloths. Making this place a place of pilgrimage, which led to the Pope Urban IV to institute the feast of Corpus Christi - The Body and Blood of Christ.

I don't know - that sounds like quite a sign to me! How come this priest got one - but the scribes and pharisees are smacked down for asking for one... and how come when you and I want a sign, so often we feel our request (demand??) Are unanswered...

I think the difference is a matter of the heart.

Jesus isn't going to respond to the demands of the crowd looking for him to perform a miracle to impress them... simply because the disposition of their hearts were so closed, so twisted nothing would... "Jesus turn this water into wine?" "Oh it's red and not white... see, he's not so special." They were putting him to the test. There wasn’t openness of heart. They were simply looking for more reasons to argue, to fight, to dismiss Jesus.

I can’t help but think about how different this priest of orvieto was. He had already given his life to Christ and to His Church in laying down his life as a priest. And despite the doubts, he still approached the altar to celebrate Mass... He was praying similar to the Gospel encounter where the father is begging for Jesus to cure his son, says "I believe, help my unbelief."

For each of us here this pilgrimage, with our intentions, our cares and concerns that we're carrying - in some part of our hearts there's no doubt a desire that The Lord give us some sort of a sign of not simply his existence - I think that just looking at some of the beauty we've already witnessed points us to something bigger than ourselves - points to the existence of God. More likely, we're looking for a sign of God's personal presence, personal interest in each and everyone of us. That He hears and cares about what it is that troubles our hearts.

We’ve come to this place, not simply to visit a place of a reported miracle, but to reflect on the miracle of the Eucharist - that Jesus Christ continues to be made real, continues to come into our midst, into our hands to be consumed into our very body’s and souls.

It is said that it was this miracle of Orvieto that caused Pope Urban to commission St. Thomas Aquinas to write a special musical in honor of the Holy Eucharist.. With that in mind, it’s good to recall his famous quote: To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.



Lord, increase our Faith...

PILGRIMAGE DAY 2: Looking to Mary for inspiration...

Hi everyone - so here we are - day two of our pilgrimage.   The one thing I've forgotten from the last two pilgrimages is how much walking there is!  Yesterday between a "stroll" to the Pantheon and back was about 3 hours - followed by another 3 hours of walking through the Vatican Museums last night.  

Today we headed this morning to "Ancient Rome" - the Collosium, the Roman forum.  We tried to do that earlier in the day before th 90 degree heat got too much for everyone. 

 After that, we returned near our hotel so that pilgrims could purchase gifts to be blessed by Pope Francis tomorrow during his Weekly Sunday Angelus in St. Peter's Square (always an amazing experinece).

Then this late afternoon it was on the road again for Daily Mass and more touring.   We "popped" in St Peters in Chains ( Church where the actual chains that held St Peter imprisoned and that he was freed from by an angel in Acts 12 are kept).   In that church is another Michaelangelo "Moses" 

Thanks for checking in, for your messages and feedback.  Sorry the internets not great so I can't get back to everyone or post more pics.  Will try to do so when I get home.


Here's my homily for SATURDAY JULY 19.   The readings  can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/071914.cfm  

Today's Daily Mass was at the Basilica of Mary Major (thanks to one of the pilgrims for this beautiful pic from today's Mass) 

Homily:

Coming to this Church of the Madonna - the Church of Our Lady, and hearing this Gospel we're reminded of one of the most profound differences between the Pharisees - the religious leaders/experts of the day and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In the Gospel, the Pharisees have figured God out - or at least they think they have- because of yesterdays Gospel where they are angered by Jesus for allowing a curing on the sabbath, which they believed was out of the question (while they made exceptions for taking care of animals - their livestock...but I digress) Jesus points out their hypocrisy, points out their lack of openness of heart in allowing the cures to occur. And then we read how they reacted to that in today’s Gospel: they "went out and took counsel against Jesus to put him to death."

For us as Christians when we read that, and think of that - we are horrified by that. 

Yet, in all honesty, I know in my own life when things don't go within my scripted understanding of how things are supposed to go, I might be more like the Pharisees then I care to admit. Where I get angry that God isn’t following my will or my understanding of His will...Where thoughts or even actions of rebellion against God are born in my own heart.

Coming to this magnificent basilica - we're reminded of the one who’s our model as the complete opposite to that attitude. We’re reminded that when God invites Mary to consider something amazingly different then she could have ever imagined: that she would become the Mother of God through the power of the Holy Spirit overshadowing her, she simply and humbly opens herself to the Lord's will and invitation.

On this second day of Pilgrimage, we’re being invited to ask ourselves How is God knocking on our hearts, intersecting in our lives, looking for us to be open to Him moving us and changing us. That our initial reactions to these invitations might be met with resistance, that we might be upset that our lives may be changing-- is understandable. But we’re reminded of these two contrasts - the Pharisees in the Gospel and our Blessed Mother - to see how eventually our reactions will develop into two extemely different attitudes, reactions. One where we call for Jesus’ death - and one where we bring Jesus to birth once again. May we ask the Lord to bless us with His Holy Spirit to always remain open to his invitations, respond courageously, and have perseverance in moments of temptation and weakness - knowing that our Blessed Mother, Mary, Our Lady of the Snows, is always interceding for us to find the joy she experienced in God our Savior.

PILGRIMAGE DAY 1: "They Finally came to Rome..." (Acts 28: 14)

Hi everyone - so the 33 pilgrims joined us today arriving on the Red Eye at 7:30 am Rome time.  We all got back to the hotel gave them a few minutes to wash up (since Check in isn't until after 12 Noon) and then made our way to Vatican City for our First Mass.  After Mass we had a fantastic lunch at Da Roberto for Norcina which is rigatoni with an Alfredo type sauce with sausage in it.  Amazing...

Here's my homily for today's Mass - Thanks for reading, know that you are all in my prayers.  I've been going through a page of intentions per-day to lift up in prayer...

FRIDAY - July 18th. Readings: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/071814.cfm


Thanks be to God - we’ve all made it here... safe, hopefully some what sound - to Rome, to Italy - to the Eternal City - the city of Sts Peter and Paul.

Some of you have heard Lino has accused me of being a "scaredy cat" not wanting to go to the Jersualem. While there’s some truth to that - and not to get into all that especially during a homily where he can’t debate with me about it... being here in Rome we also have to recognize that for us Catholics, Rome has almost as deep spiritual meaning to us. For while the life, death and resurrection of Jesus took place in Jerusalem, the Church really grew out of Rome.

The persecution of the Early Christians forced the Church to almost completely abandon Jerusalem. St. Peter –

having been the one to whom Jesus gave "the keys of the kingdom of heaven" too,

the one Jesus appointed;

the one to whom he would build his Church upon

well in those early decades of the Christian faith after Jesus’ resurrection, the future of the Church depended upon the apostles being faithful to Jesus’ call to them to proclaim Him, His Gospel, His Good News to the furthest ends of the earth. And so where did they go to do that? The Acts of the Apostles tells us quite simply - They "finally came to Rome"(Acts 28:14).

And doing so, would eventually cost St. Peter his life, St. Paul his life - and thousands upon thousands of others their lives. But the Gospel did go forth from here to the ends of the earth. The church, despite those crushing defeats did solidify on St. Peter - and continues to proclaim this good news from this, St. Peter’s see, to the ends of the earth. The words of St. Paul who is buried in this, the first place of our pilgrimage - which makes up a bulk of the New Testament - is still revered by billions in our world at this very moment - and billions who preceded us.

Kind of cool to think about, huh?

We will be spending a great deal of time, visiting some amazing sights, tombs of our family members - fellow brothers and sisters who passed along this faith to us. And that’s why this, today’s Gospel is providential for us to begin with:

In the Gospel, the pharisees try to stump Jesus once again by noting his followers are technically violating one of the commandments. As Jesus figuratively slaps them down, he does so making an absolutely essential point for us as Christians - and for us this week as pilgrims. He quite simply insists that He, Himself, must be the core, the focus, the thing that we fix our eyes on alone.

To the original listeners he points out that He Himself is more important than the most important place to the Jews the Temple; He Himself is more important than the most important thing to the Jews the Law. And some 2,000 years later, that’s still the case. All of these amazingly breathtaking sights, the relics and remains of the Saints are absolutely meaningless if we don’t recognize that they are here as tangible, visible reminders of our ancestors faith, their testimonies to the importance of Jesus Christ to their lives - so much so they laid down their lives – spiritually, and physically – for Him alone.

That’s why we visit these places... That’s why they have deeper meaning other than artistic beauty - we see the inner beauty of people’s faith expressed both in those martyrs and Saints burried here - our Catholic all-stars - as well as the reverence of the people who built these Churches - so moved in mind and heart by these witnesses.

For us coming here today - in the verses right before this gospel passage, Jesus offers His followers some of the most comforting words of the Gospel "come to me all you who labor and are burdened..." This week, I believe the Lord is asking each of us, What are some of our burdens? What are some of the heavy things that we’ve carried with us - not in your luggage, but in your hearts? Is it fear over some life change? Sick family members? The grief of some loss we’ve experienced?

Jesus promises us that – if we let him – he will remove those burdens from us. But that involves a radical re-alignment of our hearts and minds to following Jesus alone and not our own wills. May the witnesses of the Saints that we encounter in these holy places inspire us to come to meet anew and come to know Jesus ever more deeply as we gaze on him through the vision, the perspective of some of his most devout followers.