Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Salvation, Redemption, Purification, Wholeness, Glorification

In today’s Gospel, John 3: 16-21, John reminds us that God sent His Son into the world, not to condemn it, but “that the world might be saved through him.”

From the very moment that Adam and Eve walked their own ways, disobeying God, God put a plan of salvation into place.  No way, would God leave humankind to its own devices, to its disobedience and to being subject to rejecting God forever. No!  He would send a Savior to redeem us from Satan.  We belong to God. We are His. His plans that we live with Him eternally would not be thwarted by Satan. Satan has no more power over us, as Jesus took him on by His obedience to the Father unto death.  Jesus destroyed both Satan and the power of death, physical and spiritual by His death and resurrection. In Christ Jesus, we, too, will triumph over death and Satan. Alleluia!

Jesus comes into your life and mine, not to condemn us, but to save us, to glorify us as He was glorified in His resurrection from the dead.  That same privilege is ours, if we believe in the Lord, if we seek God above all else, if we follow good spirits and not evil ones, if we rely upon the Lord in our struggles against Satan, who seeks to devour us, to catch us in his lies. What lies? That when we listen to the Tempter, that is, when we give into temptations to "have some fun," to cheat, lie, steal, engage in sex outside of marriage, to act unjustly, to get whatever we want at the expense of others, by experimenting with illegal drugs, in short, by following our own will and rejecting the will of God,  our "eyes will be opened and [we] will be like gods, knowing good from evil" (Gen 3:5),  as Satan told Adam and Eve in the Garden.

God approaches you and me at those times, not to condemn but to save us from the Evil One. Am I ready to surrender to the One who can save me from death, cradle me in His arms and whisk me away from the Tempter?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Resisting Evil, Taking Risks and Doing What is Right

In today’s first reading, 1 Peter 5: 5b-14, St. Peter prays that we be clothed in humility in how we relate to one another, for “God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble.”  His reasoning: that, by humbling ourselves ”under the mighty hand of God,” we might be exalted by God.  Peter also reminds us that Satan is roaming the world “looking for someone to devour.”

 My heart aches as I think of that reality. Recently I read a book by a young woman, who, as a teenager from a rather affluent suburb of a big city here in the U.S.,  was lured into the commercial sex trade. She was deceived by a smooth-talking, affectionate young man who prowled around the high school “seeking someone to devour.”  As the luring young man primed her, for a time, with loving attention, gifts and affection, he then brought her to the place where the men for whom he himself was working waited. The torturous nights being raped by a number of men who paid “their bosses” was horrendous. Sometimes this prowling man would call her out of classes.  Eventually her grades fell to unusually low standards.  Teachers did nothing. The policemen patrolling the high school did nothing as she left class and met “the charming man” at her locker.  If she did not cooperate, she was warned that harm would come to her family. She also was physically beaten if she resisted.  Every night for two years, the one luring her would also wait for her late at night to secretively leave her home and meet him in an expensive car hidden in the neighborhood. She would then be driven to the designated place where pimps awaited her.

Yes, Satan is prowling this world in disguises! “Resist him,” Peter asks us, “steadfast in faith, knowing that your brothers and sisters throughout the world undergo the same sufferings—the pain, in this case,  of following the Spirit’s nudge to act on behalf of this young teenage girl.  “The God of all graces who called you to his eternal glory through Christ Jesus will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish  you after you have suffered a little. To him be dominion forever. Amen”  Following God’s call to help others in need may be difficult. However, becoming Satan’s slave  to disobedience is far more painful!

To whom/what do I give dominion each day? What will lure me today away from what God is asking of me?

Am I aware of persons prowling our high schools, our city blocks, our neighborhoods seeking young girls--most victims of human traffickers are between 12-14 years of age? Do I see suspicious behavior? If I am a teacher/a parent, do I notice changes in otherwise successful students/children that warrant my attention? At midnight, is my child in her room?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Creative, Life-giving, Life-changing Power of God

In today’s first reading, Acts 3: 11-26, Luke shares the story of the how people responded to the miracle that Jesus performed through Peter and John when they said to a man crippled from birth and who was begging for alms, “…in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk”   (Acts 3: 1-10). He rose and walked for the first time in his life. People were amazed and “looked so intently at [Peter and John] as if [they] had made [the crippled man] walk by [their] own power or piety.”

 Jesus is the same now as then.  He makes all things new. He makes the lame walk, raises the dead to life (the physically dead to eternal life, the spiritually dead to new faith, the psychologically dead to new ways of connecting with others and self that brings new life to them emotionally and psychologically).  We see the creative power of the Triune God at work in winter giving way to spring, in plants “resurrecting” from the soil, in buds bursting open on trees and bushes. Flowers of a variety of colors and shapes beautify our environment in myriad of ways, revealing the beauty, presence  and life-giving power of our God. We see God bringing forth new life in the birth of baby chicks and birds and baby animals of all kinds. And of course, we also see God’s creative power at work in the birth of babies being born to families wanting to work with God in the creation of life among us.

May God be praised, honored, glorified through all of creation. May you and I be a significant part of that glorification, honoring, praising and thanking God by our intimacy with Him, with ourselves and with others in renewing life around us and within us, as the sun renews all of the plant kingdom this spring!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Jesus's Lesson on Intimacy

Today's Gospel, Luke 34: 13-35, recounts the story of the two persons on the way to Emmaus. They are discussing all that had taken place in Jerusalem, where Jesus, their Lord and Master, was crucified, died and was buried.  As they are sadly recounting the story and sharing their grief, the Risen Lord joins them but does not reveal who He is. "He asked them: 'What are you discussing discussing as you walk along?' they stopped, looking downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, 'Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?' And he replied to them, 'what sort of things?'"

As with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus joins you and I in our conversations with our loved ones--our spouses, our fellow religious, family members, sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, our grandchildren and grand nieces and nephews.  As with Cleopas and his companion, Jesus feigns ignorance, as He knows what is heavy upon our hearts.  As with the two persons on the road to Emmaus, He knows what is difficult for us to understand as well. He wants to know from us! He wants us to share our sorrows, our concerns, our hurts. He wants to know, from us, what is bothering us. Please don't say "Jesus already knows!"  Yes, He does, but is waiting for us to be honest with Him.

Notice what Jesus also teaches us in how to relate to others so that they are respected, understood, and loved: Listen, ask questions, before speaking.  How difficult that is to do when our egos what to show how much we know!  Acting ignorant is not what the ego does. It wants to be on top. It wants to dominate and let the other people know how informed it is, how intelligent we are. Consequently, it is easy to shut others down, close the door to growing in intimacy, love and understanding.

Help me, Lord, learn to listen, to ask questions, to be silent as the other person is telling his/her story! And speak only after that person has finished pouring out his/her heart. Then share my response, as only then is the other person's heart open to hear what I have to say in love!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

God: Our Shield and Our Help

As we reflect upon today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 33, we might create a prayer out of that psalm as follows:

Upright is Your word, O Lord, 
and all your works are trustworthy!
You love justice and right;
Your kindness, O Lord, fills the earth.
Your eyes, O Lord, are upon those who reverence you--
(may each of us honor, adore, praise, glorify, and thank You all of our days).
Your eyes, O Lord, are upon those who hope for Your kindness--we not only hope for your kindness, we depend upon it, Lord--to deliver us from death--the death of sin or selfish ambitions that bring harm to ourselves and others.
We need You, O Lord, to preserve us in spite of famine--the famine that is draining us of selfless giving of ourselves to help others in need, of welcoming strangers, of using diplomacy, wisdom and and patience in the pursuit of the common good,of disciplining ourselves from greedy ambitions and the need to prove military strength and "be the greatest" of all nations militarily. May we, O Lord, heed your words to Peter in Gethsemane when he used the sword and you said to him: "Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Mt. 2:52). The psalm continues:
Our souls, O Lord, wait for You.
You are our help and our shield.
Your kindness, O Lord, be upon us, 
upon all who put their hope in you, not in any president or politician, not in any world leader, not in money or wealth, not in pleasures, not in power or control. No, Lord, in You alone!  May we put You, Lord, our God, back into the center of our lives, our politics, our families, our relationships, our churches. Only then, will we bear fruit that will last: LOVE, the love you showed us on the cross.

Monday, April 17, 2017

This Risen Christ

In today's Gospel, Matthew 28: 8-15,  Mary Magdalene and the other Mary left the tomb to announce the news to his disciples, namely that they found the tomb empty. On the way to inform the disciples, Jesus meets them, greets them, and tells them to not be afraid and that they are to tell his brothers to go to Galilee, where they will see them there.

Notice that it is Jesus that shows Himself to the women. Jesus knows their fears. He knows that they have just come from His burial place and found the tomb empty. When you and I are looking for Jesus where He cannot found, Jesus knows!  He is always looking for us. He finds us and calms our fears. He also, however, asks us to share the Good News with others of His Presence, His nearness, His love for us.  He wants everyone to know that He is right here with us, walking beside us, watching out for us.  He is risen, as He said.  Though the disciples do not see Him as they did during His public ministry and though we do not see Him, as they did then either, He is still here with us every moment of every day!

I believe!  Do you?

Sunday, April 16, 2017


HALLELUIA! The Lord is Risen. Heaven has been open to us. Sin is destroyed! Alleluia! Satan’s power taken away from him. He will not be victorious in turning us away from our God and Savior, unless, like Judas, we do not seek His mercy and love.
Pardoned, forgiven, saved by God’s love for us and His mercy toward us! Alleluiua!
Pardoned by the Lord’s love shown to us by Jesus’ obedience to the Father unto death. Alleluia!
Yet, for our sins was Jesus put to death! Alleluia, praise to our Savior and Lord!

Every woman and man, every child and adolescent, has died with Christ in baptism and will rise with Christ at the end of his or her time here on earth. Alleluia.
Alleluia. O death, where is your sting! Death, for us,  includes the resurrection, as it did for Jesus!
Sting of death, you have been dissolved into the joy of our awaiting for Jesus to return to take us with Him! Alleluia!
Today, Jesus, said to the good thief on the cross, you will be with me in Paradise. Jesus will say the same thing to you and I when we are about to be released from death. Alleluia!
Ever mindful of God’s unconditional love for us, we, too, await our resurrection into eternal life! Alleluia!
Remember that you have been ransomed from sin by Jesus’ death and resurrection! Alleluia!