Friday, September 20, 2019

Competing for the Faith

In today's first reading, 1 Tim : 2c-11, St. Paul reminds us that "the love of money is the root of evil."  Note that he says "the love of money,"  not money itself.  How does the love of money become the root of all evil in the life of some people? Because in their desire for money some individuals "have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains."  What pains? The pains of being unjust, promiscuous, corrupt, deceptive, narcissistic, hate-filled, envious, conceited, arrogant, divisive, contentious, to name a few of the traps Satan sets for men and women enslaved to money.  Persons whose idol is money will do anything , it seems,  to increase their bank account: engage in human trafficking, slave labor, the sale of  illegal drugs; aborting or killing a child in the womb, cheating the poor of a just wage or not paying employees at all by declaring bankruptcy, engaging in unfair price setting and on and on and on!  Yes, when money becomes an idol, sin abounds and eventually the money lover becomes a slave and slavery eventually becomes extremely painful!

St. Paul says to Timothy and to all men and women of God, to you and to me: "Avoid all this. Instead, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of witnesses."  You and I were called to be men and women of God when we were baptized and confirmed in the faith.

What are you, am I, pursuing: Righteousness? Devotion? Faith? Love? Patience? Gentleness?  In what are we competing?

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Behaviors and Speech That Reveal Love, Faith, and Purity

In today's first reading  1 Tim 4: 12-16, St. Paul exhorts us to not "have contempt  for [our] youth, but to set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. "

Simple but profound teachings!  There is a psalm that says: Lord, I am not preoccupied with things too profound for me or beyond me.  Living a spiritual life, St. Paul says,  is about not showing contempt for oneself or anyone else, about not showing contempt for my life as a youth or any other time, not showing contempt for the elderly or poor or sick or lame, or mentally ill, the rich or the poor, immigrants or natives,  those whose skin is black or yellow, white or red.

Jesus, in today's Gospel,  Luke 7: 36-50, enters the house of a Pharisee. He is not greeted, as was the custom of Jesus' time, with the washing of his feet or the anointing of his head. A woman, a known sinner whose many sins were forgiven by Jesus, enters the house, knowing that Jesus is there, and, in profound gratitude,  washes Jesus' feet with her tears, anoints His feet with "an alabaster flask of anointment" and kisses them. The host is disturbed by what he sees happening and says to himself:  "If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner."

Contempt! The woman's behavior does not reveal contempt for herself or Jesus but love, purity and gratitude. The pharisee is definitely out of line, not setting an example "in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity." St. Paul by word and the woman by example challenge us to live a life of love, faith and purity. Our speech and our conduct are to reveal our faith in Christ Jesus, as did the conduct of the woman who anointed Jesus' feet.  Our words and actions are to reveal the depth, the breath, the width, and the height of  our love, our faith, our trust in Christ Jesus, in ourselves and in others.

If someone shadowed us today, what would our behavior or our speech reveal of us?

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The Church--the House of God and the Family of the Living God

St. Paul, in today's first reading, 1 Timothy 3: 14-16, speaks about the Church as"the household of God", the "pillar and foundation of truth," the "Church of the living God."  God is alive, active, caring, loving. God is parenting, mothering, fathering. God is actively disciplining us as his daughter/son. God is guiding us, celebrating us, comforting us, coaching us, counseling us!  As members of the Church we are members of God's household where truth reigns, justice abides, grace abounds.  We are members of a household where love grows, peace abounds, good thrives, differences are accepted, talent is given an environment where it is developed and expanded.  In God's household, each person is cherished, loved, understood, lifted up, challenged, made strong in weaknesses, led to his/her truth, taught to cope with difficulties and confront that which is evil and unwelcome!  No one in God's family is left to be bullied, abused or shamed--bullying, shaming, abusing of one another is brought to a halt and replaced with that which accepts another as a work of art in process, as one on the way to the eternal Kingdom, as one dear to God and possessed by God, the Potter molding the clay, strengthening the person as a vessel of grace, and making one a manifestation of God's image here on earth!

We are members of the household of God, a spiritual palace, where the work of God may remain invisible to some but not to others, a place where each person is listened to, where each person's needs are met and the Spirit reigns supreme!

What a gift, Lord, Thank you for making a place for each of us in Your Kingdom here on earth, the Church, your household, your family and being our Shepherd here on earth until we come to our place in your eternal Kingdom!

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Faith Demonstrated by the Centurion

In today's Gospel, Luke 7: 1-10, we learn of the centurion whose slave is at the point of death. The centurion sends Jewish elders to Jesus, asking that he come to heal his slave whom he valued highly.  The elders beg Jesus to respond to the centurion's request because he "deserves to have you do this for him, because he loves our nation and he built a synagogue for us."  As Jesus is approaching the centurion's house, the centurion says to him,  "Lord, do  not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. Therefore, I do not consider myself worthy to come to you; but say the word and let my servant be healed. For I, too, am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another 'Come here,' and he comes; and to my slave, 'Do this,' and he does it."

Jesus is absolutely amazed by this man from Rome and heals his slave.  He's never met such a person in all of Israel with the faith of this centurion.  Would Jesus say this of you, of me?  Have you, have I developed the kind of character this centurion has developed?   

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Mary, the Mother or all Sorrows

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Sorrowful Mother. Can any sorrow be greater or deeper than the sorrow Mary endured as she stood beneath the cross and witnessed her son's agony and painful death.   Also think of Mary hearing of Jesus' arrest and then meeting Him on the road to Calvary, carrying the heavy cross, bleeding from the wounds of the scourging and from the crown of thorns on his head and kicked and whipped when He fell beneath the weight of the cross. Furthermore, think of what pain must have pierced her heart, knowing that Jesus was carrying the cross to the hill where he would be cruelly crucified like a common criminal and hung up naked for all to see struggling to breathe.

It's hard enough to see a loved one die of a dreaded disease or a fatal accident but how much more difficult must it be to see a loved one put to death in a public place, stripped of his clothing, nailed to a cross, hung naked to die an agonizing death, and sneered at, mocked, made fun of during the dying process!  Any other mother, I suspect, would been sobbing and screaming at those putting their child to death:  "Stop! That's my beloved son/daughter! Stop!"  Not Mary! She stood beneath the cross, sharing her Son's suffering, supporting Him in His agony and, with Him, I believe, praying:   "Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23: 34).  Jesus also cried out upon the cross: I thirst." So, too, I believe, did Mary thirst for all to come to believe in her son as the Son of God, who came to this world to reveal the Father's love and compassion for each of us, dying that we might live forever with Him in Paradise.

How ready are you and I to say with Mary and Jesus, at any time in our lives:  Be it done unto me according to your will? And for what do we thirst?

Monday, September 9, 2019

Rejoicing in Knowing that What We Endure Brings about a Good for Others

In today's first reading, Colossians 1: 24-2:3, St. Paul tells the Colossians that he is rejoicing  in the sufferings that he is undergoing for their sake.  Sounds like parents who are  filled with joy that the sufferings that they are enduring will result in their children growing up in the faith, will empower their children to make good choices and, in turn, become good parents and good providers for their own children,.  Nothing, then, is too much for a parent to endure! 

That is God for us! Nothing, absolutely nothing, is or was too much for Jesus to endure for our sake. That was true for the Son of Man, God incarnate, who as a man lived in Capernaum for a time and is true for Jesus now.  Christ lives in us--that is the mystery Paul is talking about in this passage to the Colossians.  The fact that Christ lives in us means that whatever suffering we are going through Christ also is enduring for our sake and the sake of the Church yet to be borne into eternal life.

"[W]hat is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of ...the Church" is what Paul states he is filling up in his flesh.  That suffering Jesus in filling up by His dwelling within us and suffering what we are suffering, thus transforming such into redemptive graces for ourselves and the whole Church.

Furthermore, St. Paul says "I am a minister in accordance with God's stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God."  The word of God is sent to us to bring about the purpose for which God sent it, our salvation.  Paul worked slavishly for the Colossians, and all to whom God sent him, so that they would come to Jesus, believe in Jesus and carry out Jesus' plan of salvation for them.  So, too, does Christ come to us in the sacraments, in the Scriptures and in the good works we do--all meant to bring about our salvation and open the gates of heaven for us in Christ Jesus and through Christ Jesus and for Christ Jesus, who loves us unconditionally and acts continuously for us to know and accomplish His Father's will!

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Reconciled by God in Christ's Body

In today's first reading, Colossians 1: 21-23, St. Paul reminds us that we "once were alienated and hostile in mind because of evil deeds." 

Notice that our being alienated from others or from our deepest self, where truth and peace reside, where the Trinity dwells, results from the evil we do or think, and not from God or others.  When we are feeling hostile towards ourselves or others, it is because of the choices we make to engage in  evil acts!  Hostility in ourselves feeds hostility in others. If we react with hostility then we are likely to receive such from the other person. On the other hand, if we return good for evil and peace for hostility, the reaction is different, because we, then, are cooperating with God's grace of reconciliation.

The grace to reconcile with others or with our true self is always offered to us by God, as St. Paul reminds us:  "God has now  reconciled you in the fleshly Body of Christ through is death, to present you holy, without blemish, and irreproachable before him [and before others], provided that [we] persevere in the faith, firmly grounded, stable, and not shifting from the hope of the Gospel..." which we hear at every Mass or Liturgy.  If we live the gospel, we will then be persevering in the faith and firmly grounded in our belief that God is calling us to be agents of reconciliation.

Lord, help us live our faith today, knowing that in every situation that we will face you will have prepared the way for us to be agents of reconciliation, ambassadors of peace, and instruments of Your love!