Sunday, July 22, 2018

Christ as One Who Ends All Divisions

In today's second reading,  Ephesians 2: 13-18, St. Paul reminds us that Jesus "came and preached peace to [us] who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we [all] have access in one Spirit to the Father."   Paul was speaking to Jews and Gentiles, peoples who were at odd with one another, divided by different faiths. In Jesus, divisions cease between persons, cultures, nations.  Jesus "is our peace, he who made both [parties-- whether individuals or nations, different races or nationalities] one and  broke down dividing wall/[s] of enmity, through is flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create  in himself one new person [nation, race, culture, religion] in place of the two [or three, four, five, etc.] thus establishing peace, and might reconcile [all] with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it."

God sees us at war with those we consider inferior to us; He witnesses us at odds with different cultures, races, nationalities, countries. God, not only sees the divisiveness and the animosity that exist among us, but also takes action, sending us the graces we need to end divisions, to reconcile with one another as persons, as countries in opposition to one another, as persons  hostile toward those who may worship God differently than we do.  We have God on our side to help us accomplish the mission of reconciliation and to move toward greater union and deeper love in our relationships on all levels of existence: familial, interpersonal, societal, ecclesial, national, international.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

A Message from the prophet Micah

Today's first reading, Micah 1: 1-5,  I believe, applies to us today, as it did to the people of Micah's time.  The prophet Micah utters a warning to us in all segments of society in any part of the world:  Woe to those who plan iniquity, and work out evil on their couches [or behind closed doors]; in the morning light they accomplish it when it lies within their power. They covet fields, and seize them; houses, and they take them; they cheat an owner of his house, a man [woman] of his [her] inheritance.  Therefore thus says the Lord: Behold, I am planning against this race an evil from which you shall not withdraw your necks; nor shall you walk with head high, for it will be a time of evil. On that day a satire shall be sung over you, and there shall be a plaintive chant: 'Our ruin is complete, our fields are portioned out among our captures, the fields of my people are measured out, and no one can get them back!' Thus you shall have no one to mark out boundaries by lot in the assembly of the Lord."

Are we listening to the Scriptures?  Is it possible that persons whom many applaud and trust may, in fact, be planning "iniquity, and work[ing] out evil"?  Is it possible that people's inheritances may be in the process of being squandered by levying heavy tariffs on imported and exported goods--an action that may ultimately result in businesses and farms going  bankrupt?  Is it possible that building walls, demonizing our allies and the canceling of important legislature and treaties that protect our environment and our security may, in fact, result in evil "from which [we] shall not withdraw our necks"?

In today's responsorial psalm, we pray: "Why, O Lord, do you stand aloof? Why hide in times of distress? Proudly the wicked harass the afflicted, who are caught in the devices the wicked have contrived. For the wicked [person] glories in his [her] greed, and the covetous blasphemes, sets the Lord at nought. The wicked...boasts, 'He will not avenge it'; 'There is no God,' sums up his thoughts".

Lord, may we heed the warnings of the prophet Micah and take seriously the prayer of the psalmist!

Friday, July 20, 2018

"Put Your House in Order" (Is 38:1)

In today's first reading,  Isaiah 38: 1-6, 21-22, 7-8,  God sends the prophet Isaiah to Hezekiah to say to him:  "Put your house in order, for you are about to die; you shall not recover."   Hezekiah, we are told, "turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord: 'O Lord, remember how faithfully and wholeheartedly I conducted myself in your presence, doing what was pleasing to you!' And Hezekiah wept bitterly."

What if, tonight, God sent you and me a messenger who informed us that we are about to die and, therefore, we should "put [our] house in order, for [we] are about to die."  How would we react? What would we say to the Lord, our God? Could we, as did Hezekiah, say to the Lord: "O Lord, remember how faithfully and wholeheartedly I conducted myself in your presence, doing what was pleasing to you"?

What would we need to put in order, if we had only a short period of time to live?  Could we say to the Lord: "I have been faithful and I have served you wholeheartedly as a husband/a wife, as a student, as a member of my religious community, as a parishioner, as a citizen?

What changes would I, would you, need to make so that we can say with Hezekiah at the end of our lives: "I have been faithful and have put my whole heart into my marriage, into my role as father/mother/grandfather/grandmother/aunt/uncle/son/daughter? What do I, do you, need to do differently so as to be faithful to my vowed commitment, my baptismal vows, and in carrying out my responsibilities to my parish, my civic community, my county?

In today's Gospel Acclamation, Jn 10:27, the Lord says to us: My sheep hear my voice,...; I know them and they follow me." Hezekiah faithfully followed the Lord!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Seek the Lord above All

Today's first reading, Isaiah 26: 7-9, 12, 16-19, begins with the following statement: "The way of the just is smooth; the path of the just you make level. Yes, for your way and your judgments, O Lord, we look to you; your name and your title are the desire of our souls. My soul yearns for you in the night, yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you; when your judgment dawns upon the world's inhabitants learn justice. O Lord, you  mete out peace to us, for it is you who have accomplished all we have done."

We have a lot to learn from that passage and questions to ask. First of all, how smooth is the way upon which I walk? If not smooth, is it because I am involved in unjust practises or burdened down by pursuits that are fleeting and unnecessary? Second of all, am I looking for God's way and God's judgments or am I busy seeking other people's judgment, hoping to be appraised mightily? Thirdly, what are my desires? "God's name and title"? Fourthly, for what does my soul yearn in the night?

If it is God's judgment that we are seeking, Isaiah tells us, then we will learn justice (and, I add, practice it)!  If we realize that whatever good we accomplish is God at work through us, we will then be filled with peace.

In the Gospel, Jesus says to us: "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest."  "Come to Jesus" to learn the ways of the Lord! Jesus tells us that He has come that we might have fullness of life (in Him) and that He has not come to condemn the world but save it!  In seeking other people's judgment and looking to the law, we set ourselves up for condemnation! Jesus is meek and humble of heart and relates to us in that way!  Go to Jesus when you are burdened and when you are not!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A Prophet's Warning

In today's first reading, Isaiah 10: 5-7, 13b-16, the Lord God again warns Assyria, saying: Woe to Assyria! My rod in anger, my staff in wrath." As God watches the poor being neglected, truth being scorned  and lies being protected, could God be saying to us: "Woe to you"? As justice is being eroded by persons who have assumed the position of being guiltless and beyond reproach,  I believe that we need to get on our knees and beg Jesus to send the Holy Spirit, opening our eyes to God's presence, our ears to God's voice giving direction, our wills to follow God's precepts and our hearts to love and act on God's decrees!  "Against an impious nation," God sends prophets and prophetesses, warning us of being deceived by the powerful and cunning men of this world! Are we, am I, listening?  Are we, am I, seeing?

De we realize when other people and when we ourselves are, in fact,  saying: "By my own power I have done it [whatever good we project we may be doing, even when that good may actually be harmful for the people we are called to protect]? Do we realize when we, or others, are also saying: "...I have done it, my wisdom, for I am shrewd."  Are there times when we rejoice in having "put down the enthroned," by our power, by bullying, by making fun of others, by whatever means to this end?  The prophet points out the wrong being done by people of power in his day, when, in fact, they say:   [L]ike a giant, I have put down the enthroned; my hand has seized like a nest the riches of nations".  It seems that persons in power in our day are "seizing like a nest the riches" of others.   The question, however, that I need to ask myself is: Am I competing to be richer than others and willing to go to any expense to raise myself  above others in material or other kinds of riches?

The prophet asks the questions:  ....Will the axe boast against him [the bully] who hews with it? Will the saw exalt itself above him [the bully] who wields it? As if a rod could sway him [the bully] who lifts, or a staff him who is not wood! Therefore the Lord will send among his fat ones leanness, and instead of his  glory there will be kindling like the kindling of fire."

Is it time for us to heed the prophet's words? Is it possible that we have the "an impious nation" and the bully?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Stand Firm in Your Faith

In today's first reading, Isaiah 7: 1-9, the House of David is informed that the enemies of Judah are encamped in Ephraim and planning to attack the city of Jerusalem.  The heart of the king trembled in fear.  The prophet tells King Ahaz to fear not because his enemies "will not be able to conquer [the city of Jerusalem]."  Isaiah is sent to say to Ahaz: "Take care [that] you remain tranquil and do not fear; let not your courage fail before"  those who are determined to "tear Judah asunder, [to] make  [Judah their]  own by force, and appoint the son of Tabeel king there."  The Lord continued to assure Ahaz: "This shall not be....[W]ithin sixty years and five, Ephraim shall be crushed,  no longer a nation. Unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm."

The response to today's responsorial psalm reminds us that "God upholds his city for ever."  We go on to pray: "Great is the Lord and wholly to be praised in the city of our God. His holy mountain, fairest of heights, is the joy of all the earth. Mount Zion, 'the recesses of the North,' is the city of the great King. God is with her castles; renowned is he as a stronghold...."

Jerusalem is a symbol of the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of God, that stands forever.  As people of God we are part of that heavenly Kingdom, a Kingdom being built here on earth of living stones with God as our stronghold.  Of whom need we fear!  In Jeremiah 29:11, we are promised, that God has a future full of hope for us, not disaster. It seems that is what Isaiah is trying to get through to King Ahaz and us!  Let us stand firm in our faith that God is with us as we stand up to the enemies who seems to be destroying truth and courting evil instead of good for all peoples!  And let us stand firm in our abilities to cooperate with God in building a kingdom of justice and peace for all!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Shown the Salvation of God

In today's responsorial psalm, Palm 50, we read: "[T]o him/[her who] goes the right way I will show the salvation of God."  That is God's promise to us.

We may be very concerned about those who  do not choose the right path but instead choose evil over good, deceit over truth, unjust practises over justice, and even betray others, including one's country, for the fleeting, short-term goal of self-aggrandizement, looking popular, and/or being acclaimed as powerful and strong by a "mighty"few.  

We need to do more than simply voicing our concern over evil in the world of our day. If we only voice our concern and do not take action, good remains undone. Words only point to the good.  They do not do the good.  With Jesus, we must act on behalf of truth, of justice, of freedom. We live at a time when morality,  truth and authentic freedom are scorned by the majority.  Many men and women of integrity, it seems, cowl in fear of the repercussions of being honest. They seem to be working to save their lives instead of losing them for the sake of the Gospel. Hence evil continues to gallop across our country as we hide behind our fears! "God save us," we cry.  And God says to us through today's psalmist: "Though  you pray more, I will not listen....Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan's plea, defend the widow."  And  I would add: Stand up to those doing evil: to those acting unjustly toward immigrants, barring"Dreamers" from citizenship, sending asylum seekers back to dangerous situations; denying the truth, putting children in cages and spreading messages of hatred and prejudices toward other races and religions.

If we defend what is right and condemn what is wrong, as Jesus did in his own day,  we will meet opposition as Jesus did.  Jesus tells us plainly in today's Gospel: "I have come not to bring peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one's enemies will be those of his household."  Jesus then adds: "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me, is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."   By taking up the crosses that come with standing up for the truth and doing what is right, we will be shown "the salvation of God."