Thursday, September 20, 2018

"By the Grace of God, I Am Who I Am" (1 Cor 15: 1-11)

In today's first reading, 1 Cor 15: 1-11, St. Paul hands on to us what was handed down to him, namely, that Jesus died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.  In grappling with his own history of persecuting the Church, he says: "[B]y the grace of God, I am what I am."  In today's Gospel, Luke 7: 36-50, a woman enters Simon's house, having found out that Jesus was dining with this Pharisees. Simon is upset and says to himself: "If this man [Jesus] were a prophet, he would  know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him."  Jesus reads Simon's thoughts and shares with him a story of two persons forgiven a debt, one of the debts is large and the other much  smaller.   Which man, Jesus asks Simon, will love the creditor more? "The one, I suppose, [responds Simon] whose larger debt was forgiven."  Jesus then turned to the woman and says to Simon: "'Do you see this woman?....[H]er many sins have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love'....He said to [the woman]: 'Your sins are forgiven....Your faith has saved you; go in peace.'"

Who am I/who are you in this Scripture passage?  Simon who is standing in judgment over others? the creditor who forgives the debt that others owe him? the persons owing debts to others? the sinner kneeling at Jesus' feet, kissing them, anointing them with expensive oil, weeping out of love for the Lord and, recognizing her sinfulness, grateful for being forgiven?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Living a Life of Love

 Today's first reading, 1 Cor 12: 31-13:13,  contains the famous passage on the greatest of spiritual gifts, love!  "If I speak in human and angelic tongues," Paul warns me, "but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing."

Paul could also say to me and you: If you make millions and billions and have no love, you gain nothing and are nothing!  Or, if you win the most prestigious awards or secure the most prestigious of positions and have no love, you gain nothing or are nothing!

It's all about love! We have only to look at the love of a mother/father for their child/children, parents willing to sacrifice everything for the well-being of their children, parents who discipline their children, teach them Gospel values,  how to focus on the Living God, and how to live honest, just self-sacrificing love for the sake of others, and we see love at its finest.  Persons who live a life of love are kind and patient, compassionate and understanding, merciful and caring of others. Such persons do not "brood over injury"  or "rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoice with the truth."  Such persons find ways to forgive and let go of past hurts, returning good for evil and kindness for a lack of kindness!  These kind of persons, filled with hope and gratitude, are graced to endure all things in a way that strengthens their loving spirit.  May you and I be such persons!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

"God Has Visited His People" (Lk 7:16)

In today's first reading, 1 Cor 12:12-14, 27-31a, St. Paul speaks about the body of Christ, into which "we were all baptized."  Through baptism we became "individually [a] part of [Christ's body].  Just as with the human body there are many parts and each part has a role to play in the body being healthy and a fully functioning body, so, too, with the body of Christ.   Each member of the body of Christ has been given gifts: the gift to teach, to preach, to heal, to govern, to prophesy, to assist others, to do mighty works, and so on. We are all called to "[s]trive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts."  What might those be?  I believe that the greatest spiritual gift is to know Jesus Christ and follow His Way, the way of self-sacrificing love, the love Jesus showed us on the cross: a willingness to die so others may live--dying to selfishness, doing things to ease the burdens of others, making a difference in peoples' lives, choosing to be honest no matter what the cost, going the extra mile for those in need, especially those in our families and communities.  If we choose to live honestly and justly and give generously, cheerfully, lovingly, humbly, God, I believe, is revealed to others. And others will say of us as they said of Jesus: "God has visited his people" (Luke 7:16).

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Mary, Mother of Sorrows and our Mother

Today, the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, celebrate their patronal feast, the feast of the Sorrowful Mother. The Gospel reading for this feast is John 19: 25-27.  Mary stands beneath the cross as her only Son, Jesus, is crucified, mocked, and dies the cruel death of a criminal.  Following His condemnation to die by crucifixion, He had been brutally beaten and crowned with thorns.  Having lost a significant amount of blood in the scourging, Jesus falls three times as He carried His cross up the hill to Calvary, where He would be put to death for the sins of humankind!  It was the sins of humankind, in fact, your sins and mine,  that crushed Jesus, killed Him.

Mary stands at the foot of the cross watching her Son's agony and hearing Him say: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing."  Standing beneath that cross, Mary,  no doubt, realized what the prophet Simeon meant when he prophesied that her heart would be pieced with a sword, the sword of suffering.

It was from the cross, that Jesus gave us Mary as our mother. We are as much her sons/her daughters, as Jesus was her Son. She feels for us, as she felt for her Son. And, just as she stood beneath the cross of her Son and supported Him in his agony, so, too, does she stand with each of us in our moments of suffering.  She could not stop the pain her Son, nor can she stop the pain we are in.  However, she intercedes for us, as she interceded for Jesus.  She wipes away our tears as she wiped away the tears of her so many times in His life time. And beneath that cross, she gave Him the strength He needed to suffer on our behalf, showing us the infinite love God has for us!And she gives us the strength we need, as well!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Living a Life Full of Love

St. Paul, in today's first reading, 1 Cor 7: 25-31, writes to the people, encouraging them to be ready for the second coming of Jesus, which he believed was near.  "[T]ime is running out,....[T]he world in its present form is passing away," he tells them.  Though we do not know the time or the hour when the world, as we know it, will pass away, we can be ready. How? By conversion! By living pure lives! By living for eternity and bringing a little of eternity to the place where we live! What does that mean? Creating "heaven"here on earth for the people with whom we live!  Making love the essence of our lives, of our relationships!  How kind and forgiving am I, are you? How merciful and caring? How honest and just? Can others depend upon us to be there for them in hard times? How willing am I to rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep? In other words, what am I, are you, doing to lift others' burdens and to enhance their successes?  Or am I too wrapped up in my own little world to notice others around me, especially when they are carrying heavy crosses?

Today we celebrate the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary, a woman "full of grace," who lived a live full of grace! May you and I do likewise!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Called to bear the everlasting fruit of love

In today's Gospel, Luke 6: 12-19, we are told that Jesus went up to the mountain to pray. He spent the entire night there.  Coming down from the mountain, he called his disciples to himself and named the twelve persons who were to carry on His mission after His return to the Father. Jesus continues to call us to be disciples of Good News, the news of His death and resurrection, the news of His presence as Eucharistic food, His presence within us and all around us.  God is closer to us than our very breath. God sustains us, encourages us, strengthens us, counsels us and, yes, continually purifies and sanctifies us through the situations of each day.  The antiphon of the responsorial psalm of today's liturgy, I believe, tells us why: "The Lord takes delight in his people." God delights in you. God delights in me! And, as we pray in the Gospel acclamation of today's liturgy: "[God] chose [us, as He did His twelve apostles] from the world that [we] may go and bear fruit that will last,"and that fruit is love!

Saturday, September 8, 2018

God Comes to Save

In tomorrow's first reading, Is 35: 4-7a,  God asks the prophet Isaiah to "[s]ay to those whose hearts are frightened:  Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared....Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe. The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground springs of water."

Imagine the day when "the eyes of the blind"  and "the ears of the deaf" throughout the world--in our  own country, in our government, in Congress, etc.--will actually be opened to truth and to the cries of the poor, the oppressed, the abused of our societies.  That day is coming, Isaiah tells us!  God will come "with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save [us] from all kinds of oppressors, within and without: pathological lying, corruption, thievery, murder, avarice, narcissism, covetousness and so many other ways in which we are deceived by Satanic forces.

Know, too, that our own ears and eyes will be opened.  "Streams [of grace] will burst forth in the desert [of our hearts]." Our thirst for God, for Truth itself and for truth within ourselves, will be quenched!