Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"Be not afraid! Have Faith"

Today’s Gospel, Mk 5: 21-43, contains the story of the woman who was hemorrhaging for 12 years, had used up all of her funds and nothing the physicians did helped her.  She was bleeding physically, losing strength and unable to co-create with her God.  We, too, are bleeding, not physically, but spiritually. We may need to ask ourselves by what means do we deplete our deepest self from the nourishment it needs to grow stronger in God and in the ways of Christ.  Are we smothering the flame of our baptism/confirmation, starving our God-self, our True Self, turning the heart of flesh ithat God gives us through grace and redemption  into a heart of stone by such behaviors as cynicism, destructive criticism, by deceitfulness, by narcissism and individualism, by consumerism and materialism, by a lack of discipline, a lack of love—neither receiving love nor giving love—a lack of humility, faith and hope; by holding grudges and refusing to forgive ourselves and others?  What is blocking our “wombs” from being Christ-bearers, from being co-c reators with our God and cooperating with Christ in transforming the world in which we live? As we discover the answer to those questions, Jesus says to us: Be not afraid. Have faith. The wombs that are barren because of the spiritual bleed are curable in Christ Jesus. What we think is dead in us is asleep, as was the centurion’s 12-year-old daughter whom Jesus also cured in today’s Gospel. The spiritual barrenness we experience from time to time can be made fruitful again by our faith in Christ Jesus. And Jesus can also awaken us from  our spiritual "comas, " as "nothing is impossible for God," Mary reminds us in Luke 1: 37.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A lesson from King David

As I reflected on today’s first reading, 2 Sam 15, 13-14, 30: 16: 5-13, the following prayer followed:

“Lord, what an example from your servant, David!  His son is seeking to kill him. Others have raised up against him, cursing him and throwing stones  and dirt at him. He stops his army from striking back, as You stopped Your disciples who wanted to kill those who rejected You or rose up against You. David mirrors Your trust in Your Father.  Help us, Lord. When others rise up against us, when we are tempted to strike back with stinging words, weapons that do not destroy the body but deeply wound the soul.  You tell us, as you told Peter, ‘Put your weapons back in your scabbard.’ Stop the violence!

“Lord, give each of us the strength and the trust of King David. We, your servants, want to obey your command to stop any violent attack both of weapons that harm the body but also of weapons that bring harm to the soul of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Yes, we want to stop throwing ‘dirt,’ as well.  We truly want to stop the violence that led to your death on the cross and leads to so many people continuing to die prematurely.  Help us, O God! Help us!”

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Gratitude for what was, what is and what will be

Lord, thank you for this past week:
                for all that I understood and did not understand;
                for that which threw me for a loop,
                 and that which made my heart soar with hope and faith and love.
Thank you, Lord, for all that was a challenge,
                all that presented opportunities for spiritual growth
                and aliveness in the Spirit.
Thank you, Lord, for deepening my faith in You
                and for the invitations to humility and trust and
                genuine love—a love that runs deep, like underground rivers,
                that its activity is not seen by the naked eye,
                in short,  the kind of love I now know existed
                in my mother and father
               and is being emulated by so many in this world.
Lord, thank You for this week ahead;
               its hopes,
                its opportunities,
                its challenges,
                its potential learnings,
                the possibilities of new discoveries!
Give me the courage this coming week
                to ponder as Mary did,             
                to repent as Peter did,
                to love as Mary of Magdalen did,
                to go into the tomb as You did and rise renewed,
                to die to that in me that needs to die
                for new life to emerge,
                to rise with You to new ways
                of thinking and loving, being and doing.
May I step up to the plate this week, Lord,
                to become the woman you are calling me to become,
                to let my light shine in a world of darkness,
                to let my love grow in the toughness of life,
              as do blades of grass and small shrubs from mountain sides.
Yes, Lord, may I be more like you at the end of this week
               than I am at its beginning.

Friday, January 27, 2012

David's deceitful ways

In today’s first reading, 2 Sam 11:1-4a, 5-10a, 13-17, we are given the story of King David arranging Uriah’s death to cover up his sin. Certainly, in this incident David is cunning, narcissistic, and selfish.  He acts out of impulsiveness and passion. His behavior is irrational. Like Adam and Eve he is deceived, caught in a trap. His passion, jealousy,  envy and his determination to get what he wants , lured on by entitlement, perhaps, leads to murder, which he attempts to conceal, in much the same way as Adam and Eve and Cain attempted to hide from their own offending behaviors. Every day we human beings get caught in these traps, digging ourselves, at times, ever and ever deeper into pits of deceit and wrongdoing, securing for ourselves what we rationally believe is rightfully ours.  The thieves on the cross are every man and every woman.   Sinful maneuvers, employed consciously or unconsciously, to make others look bad and to get what we want at other people’s expense will, for most of us, be exposed here on this earth, while for others these behaviors seem to remain hidden until the day of judgment.  The Good News , however, is that God goes out in search of each one of us on a day-to-day basis, confronts us with our wrongdoing,  great or small, offers us forgiveness and invites us to the truth about ourselves over and over and over again.  What a gracious, compassionate, forgiving and reconciling God we have, a God who,  even while dying on the cross,  guarantees repentant sinners a place with Him in Paradise.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Religious life: a radical gift of oneself to God

One of the greatest gifts I have been given by God is my vocation as a woman religious. I came across the following statement this morning that, in part, answers the question: "What does consecrated life signify and contribute to the People of God?" Sister Doris Gottemoeller, RSM, says it so brilliantly: "...that God is worthy of the total gift of oneself"   (Horizon, Vol. 36, No. 3, Summer 2011, p. 12).  She goes on to quote Pope Paul IV's Evangelica  Testificatio (June 29, 1971) where he says that religious life "presents the church 'with [a] privileged witness of a constant seeking for God, of an undivided love for Christ alone, and of an absolute dedication to the growth of His kingdom. Without this sign there would be a danger that the charity which animates the entire church would grow cold, that the salvific paradox of the Gospel would be blunted, and that the 'salt' of faith would lose its savor in a world undergoing secularization'" (#3). 

How true for me. I live in a community of like-minded individuals as intent on seeking God above all, especially in our personal poverty as sinners in constant need of conversion and reconciliation with our true selves and with others on this faith journey.God's love for me, and for all of you reading this, is so compelling that  my heart burns within me to spread the Good News and build up the Kingdom of love among us. My heart aches when I listen to the daily news and witness the impact of secularism, materialism, and  consumerism that dominates our modernistic world. The aggressive pursuit of millions at the expense of the poor of this world is so contrary to the Gospel that striving to live as Jesus lived is a blessing  for me beyond words.  I hope this is true for you as well!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Being awakened

Today's first reading is about St. Paul being thrown "off his horse"  awakened to how he was hurting the Lord. I had a similar experience that has brought me to my knees. In prayer this morning I talked with the Lord about it. Our conversation follows:

“Lord, I was merrily walking along

when suddenly a huge “boulder” landed in front of me.

I looked at it—

‘Can’t walk around it,’ I said,

It’s size blocks any outlet, so it seems, Lord.

“So I come to You, Lord, in my distress.

The stone that sealed You in the tomb

Was removed for you by the power of God’s Spirit.

That same Spirit, I believe, Lord,  will remove this boulder.”

“Have no fear, Dorothy Ann,

You are a resurrection child,

A child of God,

A sister of Christ.

I, your God, am at your side.”

And I said to the Lord: 

“Obstacles are not obstacles to You, Lord!

Setbacks do not disturb You.

Darkness is not darkness to you

And chaos stirs You to action.

Out of mud, and this is muddy, Lord, you created an intelligent, loving human being

Who tilled the earth and became your co-creator.

“So, too, Lord, in my present situation,

You will bring order into the chaos,

Turn the darkness into light,

Remove the  boulders and open the way to move this ministry forward.

Something alive, inspired, creative, co-partnering will emerge from ‘the mud’.”

“Have no fear, Dorothy Ann, I do all things well!”

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Being Jesus' brother or sister or mother

Today is the feast of St. Francis De Sales, a very timid man by nature.  He states that he was the youngest in his family, had very little self-confidence, wanted to live unnoticed and follow his natural inclinations to withdraw into shyness.  All of these aspirations, he cautions, are not from the spirit but are natural, human weaknesses. We were baptized and given a spirit of power, of courage, not the dispositions of a coward.  Every day we are faced with following the spirit, doing and thinking as God does rather than  following our natural inclinations and/or our ego self.  My natural self wants to retaliate when  wronged, so do dogs and cats and other animals. The spiritual self is invited to respond to evil with good, to egocentric behaviors  with  altruism, to pompous deeds with humility.  My natural self wants to attack others when I am confronted with what has been perceived as a wrongdoing or an inappropriate behavior. The spiritual self is encouraged to respond out of humility and listen to how the other perceives my actions, even when I believe that what I have said or done is being misinterpreted. When another makes a selfish choice that grates on my nerves, my natural self wants to treat him/her with like behaviors, responding sarcastically and/or acting as unkindly  as has this person has. Jesus says to us in today’s Gospel, Mk 3: 31-35, that “whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”   I have the choice of continuing to act with kindness and unselfishness, acting as Christ would versus being unchristian, that is,  doing the will of my Father and measuring up to being Jesus’ sister/brother.  Doing so is difficult but not impossible because we are armed with the power of the Spirit, the love that binds the three persons of the Blessed Trinity into one God. I have a spirit self and an ego self; the two become one when I am doing the will of my God.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Jesus' power over Satan

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells the parable of a house divided against itself. The Scribes accuse Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub!   How could anyone accuse Jesus of being in league with Satan!  That was the unforgiveable sin!  As I prayed over this passage, Jesus reminded me that Satan is the Father of lies and that it is important to be on my guard.  Satan, the Spirit prompted, is capable of major deceptions. No one is exempt.  However, as David says in the responsorial psalm, God’s faithfulness and mercy will never fail us.  Just as God found David, His servant, and anointed him, so, too, God finds us and anoints us with the same powerful Ally, the Holy Spirit.  The strong right arm of the Lord that upheld David up through the turbulence of his life, upholds us, as well.  We, too, are armed. Knowing that God fights at our side, we can be confident that Satan will not overpower us with his deceitful ways. God is our deliverer, as He was David’s.

Is God calling you?

Recently, some of the daily Gospels focused on Jesus’ calling of His apostles.  This led me to looking at the different lifestyles to which individuals are called to serve the Lord.  No matter which state in life one chooses, all are called to become men and women of faith and prayer, men and women serious about their ongoing conversion and transformation into Christ.  The “ingredients” of the lifestyle may be different but the end result are meant to be the same: union and intimacy with the Lord. Why, then, might one be of greater significance to any one person?  The significance of a state in life lies in whether I am choosing that to which God calls me.  God has an unique plan for each one of us. Is my will in harmony with the will of God in terms of which state in life I choose.  If my choices are out of sync with God’s will, I will not experience the harmony that I would otherwise know. It is like trying to wear clothing too tight or too loose for me. They do not fit right and I feel uncomfortable.  Or other analogies might be putting a round peg into a square hole, or putting tires on a car that are too small or too big for the car—they do not fit together.  If you are struggling to know whether religious life is right for you, talk to a vocation director, that is, enter into a mutual discernment process with the vocation director of the community to which you feel attracted.  If mutually you agree that God might be calling you to religious life, take the steps to becoming a postulant or a novice in that community. The postulancy, novitiate and temporary vow period in a religious community, what is called initial formation,  are also discernment periods in which both you and the community continue the process of discernment prior to final vows.  We might compare these periods of formation (postulancy, novitiate and temporary vows periods) to the periods of dating and engagement prior to  the permanency of marriage.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Taking risks

The first reading of yesterday’s liturgy was from 1 Sam 18: 6-9; 19: 1-7.  Saul, in his jealousy, planned to kill David.  God uses Saul’s son, Jonathan, to reason with him.  Like Jonathan, we, too, are sometimes challenged to stand up for others who are older than ourselves and/or “superior” to us by reason of their position, their age and/or education. Saul was Jonathan’s father. Jonathan did not confront him on his own power. It was the Truth and the Light within him.  It was also his respect for his father, Saul, for David and himself that guided him. Am I, one, that attuned to what is happening around me and, second, that willing, with God’s help, to risk standing up to evil?  Or do I turn the other way and 1) pretend not to see it, 2) tell myself “it’s none of my business,” 3) rant and rave about the situation to a third party and not directly confront the person whose actions need to be challenged? If I choose any of those three choices, how trusting am I of God’s direction and His power to overpower evil or God’s strength to transform my weaknesses and fears?  I find myself wanting in many ways! What about you?

 In today’s Scriptures, Saul and his army are on a rampage, seeking to kill David. They enter a cave where David and his army are hiding. Saul falls asleep and David, having pity on him, spares him his life.  Both David and Saul were saved from Satan that day: David from Saul’s evil ways and Saul from his own jealousy and evil intent.  From who or what am I being saved? From what or from whom is God protecting me? How is God using me to protect others from evil?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Who am I: Saul, David, Goliath?

In today’s Scripture,  1 Sam 17: 32-33, 37, 40-51, we meet a man whose trust of God is so rooted that he believes, beyond a doubt, that he will overcome Goliath, the Philistine warrior.  Initially, Saul is cautious, saying to David: “You are merely a boy. Goliath is a warrior since his youth. There is no way you will overpower him.”  It’s kind of like saying: “Who do you think you are, David?”  There is a Saul, a David, and a Goliath in each one of us.  The Saul in us is the doubter, that part of us that discourages ourselves and/or others, that part of us quick to blow out the spark, smother the enthusiasm of another or ourselves with such statements as  “I can’t do that. I’m not strong enough, smart enough, old enough; I’m not qualified or I’m not as qualified as so-and-so,” etc. Or to the other:  “You can’t do that! You don’t have the strength, the qualifications, the background, etc. You’re too young, too old; you’re not this or not that, etc.”  The Goliath in us is the arrogant one, that part within us that believes we can overpower others with our physical, intellectual, material strength; that part of us that belittles, demeans, despises, misjudges others or ourselves, as Goliath did David (cf 1 Sam 17: 42).  Samuel reminds us in 1 Sam 17: 47 that whatever we accomplish, whatever battles we win, are won by our God working through us.  There may be a lot of “Goliaths” in our lives but God is more powerful than any of them. May your faith in God and mine be more than an intellectual assent but be of the heart, as it was for David.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"Judge not by appearance"

In today’s first reading, 1 Sam 16: 1-13, God challenged Samuel: “How long will you grieve for Saul…”   I may ask myself: Am I clinging to my grief and thus holding myself back from God’s plan for my future?  God says to Samuel: “I rejected Saul as king of Israel. Fill your horn with oil [the strength of the Spirit, the strength of faith] and be on your way. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen my king from among his sons.”   Repeatedly, as the seven sons of Jesse passed in front of Samuel, God  whispered to Samuel’s heart: “Do not judge by appearance or from lofty stature.”  This passage has a strong message for those seeking a marriage partner, a companion for life.  How often does a marriage end in divorce and the divorcee knew prior to the marriage that the person really was not the right one but made a choice based on external appearance and not from the heart.  How often do I not make that mistake. The person is tall, beautiful to behold, has curly hair, has the “perfect body,” has several advanced degrees, speaks articulately, etc. And so, I quickly succumb to that which is readily obvious and put myself down, judge myself negatively, reject what I have been given by God for His service.   How often, also, do I not abandon that to which the Spirit is guiding me because I’m afraid of being judged by what can be seen and so I ignore my heart’s direction. The same dynamics can happen when one is choosing a career or a religious community in which to consecrate one’s life to the Lord. Appearance is a powerful factor and one can ignore the Spirit’s inner direction of what is right for me.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Characteristics to strive for as religious

I am in Trinidad, West Indies, attending a Formation/Vocation meeting.  Archbishop Joseph Harris of Port-of-Spain spoke to us about religious life in general and the dynamics of formation, that is the educational program young women go through in preparing to commit themselves through the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.  He identified four characteristics that are essential for those who are committing themselves to the Lord. These characteristics are inclusivity, availability, martyrdom (not necessarily by the shedding of one’s blood) and servanthood.  What did the Archbishop mean by each of these? As religious we are called to be inclusive, that is, stated negatively, not to engage in exclusive relationships but to be open to all.  Availability  24/7—being available as Jesus was and, when tired, withdrawing for rest but when with people--in ministry, in community, at play--being completely available to whatever need arises.  Servanthood, that is, being servants to all as Jesus was a servant to His disciples, not lording oneself over others, but being the other person’s servant, being there for them and to meet their needs: need for comfort, understanding, acceptance, pardon, love.  Martyrdom—a willingness to die to selfishness and sin within me and rise with God to new life: to being transformed into Jesus in  living justly, humbly and lovingly.  These challenges are what make religious life exciting for me.  We are never "finished" in the conversion process but always striving to live the Christlife. And my weaknesses are my strengths, that is, it is in my weaknesses that I learn humility, the humility of a Savior who left the glory of heaven and equality with God and assumed the position of an obedient servant.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

"Who are you looking for?"

In today’s Gospel, John 1: 35-42,  John  points out Jesus to his disciples. Two of them left John and began to follow Jesus. He noticed that they were following and turned and asked them for what they were looking. In reply they asked Jesus where He stayed and Jesus said to them: “Come and see.”  So they went with Jesus and saw where He was staying and remained with Him the rest of the day.   Andrew, who was one of those disciples went to find his brother Simon Peter and told him that they had found the Messiah and brought Simon Peter to meet Christ.  Jesus looked at him and said: “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas…” 
As I reflect upon this Gospel, I ask myself: when another points out Jesus to me, am I willing to follow Him?  Or am I too busy, too distracted, uninterested?  Obviously, as Christians we are followers of Jesus and He asks us the same question He asked John’s disciples who were following Him from a distance: What are you looking for? That is a very important question.  Would our answer be: Jesus, where are you staying? Am I interested in getting closer to Jesus or do I want to remain distant from Him?
Another significant piece of this Gospel is that Andrew, realizing that he found the Messiah, his Savior and the Savior of the world, goes to his brother and shares the Good News.  When I have encountered the Lord in the Scriptures, in the circumstances of my life, when I realize that my Savior has touched my life, with  whom do I share the good news or is there anyone I invite to meet the Lord?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"I will it. Be made clean"

In today’s Gospel (Mark 1: 40-45), a leper reaches out to Jesus, bows before Him and says: “If you wish, you can make me clean.”   Jesus is moved to pity and says: “I will it. Be made clean.”  Jesus is revealing to us who God is—a God of compassion, a God willing to risk His life for our well being,  our wholeness, our reinstatement, our inclusion, our being one with God and all His Holy ones for all eternity.  Notice that there is no hesitation on Jesus’ part when the leper asked to be cleansed and brought back into the community.  None! Am I, like the leper, willing to reach out to Jesus or do I see myself as unworthy to be in His presence, to receive the fullness of God’s love, to know that God and I are one, as Jesus and the Father are one, brought into union by the blood of Christ.  God longs for us to be where He is. God longs for us to be open to the greatness of His love, a love that spared not His only begotten Son so that we would no longer be separate from, apart from, the One who loved us unto death, death on a cross.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"The Kindgom of God is at hand"

“The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1:14), we read in the opening lines of today’s Gospel.  The Lion King comes to mind as I read that passage.  Remember how relieved the residents of Nardia were when liberation from evil was in sight.  That is what Jesus is telling us in today’s Gospel. John has just been arrested. The situation looked as though evil had the upper hand.  It looked that way, too, when Jesus was crucified and put to death 2000 years ago.  So, too, today. Evil seems to be galloping out of control and seems to be dominating all of creation: human trafficking, the disappearance of innocent children, murders by persons seeking to become rich or seeking revenge, corruption of our political systems, nations threatening to do harm to other nations, discrimination against women and blacks and other minorities, injustices of every kind, racism, sexism, individualism, consumerism, materialism,  natural catastrophes and so much, much more that is not of God.  “Repent,” Jesus says, “the Kingdom of God is at hand.”  Do I believe Jesus? Am I looking for Jesus? Am I a collaborator with Jesus in the work of the Kingdom and in the confrontation of evil? Or am I a perpetrator, a collaborator, a bystander, watching the collapse of our nation, our Church, our society, our families, our own integrity, believing that I am helpless to make a difference? Or, like the four apostles in today’s Gospel called to become one with Jesus and His mission, do I believe that I am  called to be one of His disciples sent into the world to spread the Good News, to be the Light that the world needs to overcome its darkness?  Armed with the Word of God, with the Eucharist, with the graces of the sacrament of Reconciliation, I can and do make a difference, as do the Tim Tibows of this world who are unafraid to rely on God and express their faith.  What about you?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Jesus' baptism

Today we celebrate the baptism of Jesus.  Following his baptism, the Spirit led Jesus out into the desert to test Him and prepare Him for His ministry.  In the desert, Jesus rejects Satan and all his works—his lies and his power to deceive—and upholds the Father’s will, our salvation. At Jesus’ baptism the Spirit descended upon Him, publicly proclaiming  Jesus as the Messiah, the Holy One of God , sent into the world to set prisoners free, to bind up wounds, to give sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, to  “bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching (Is. 42: 1-4, 6-7).

The Spirit that descended upon Jesus at his baptism, overshadowed Mary at the Annunciation  and descended upon the apostles and the disciples at Pentecost, making them  bold proclaimers of the Good News in word and deed.  At our baptism and later through the sacraments of Reconciliation, Eucharist, and Confirmation, we too have been equipped to assume our  role as active proclaimers of Jesus’ death and resurrection, in short, empowering us, in word and deed as well,  to do what Jesus did:  cast out demons , enable the crippled and those bent over to walk upright,  heal the sick, right the wrongs, forgive the sinner in ourselves and in others, confront injustices, forgive debts,  open the eyes of the blind  to see  and the ears of the deaf to hear, including our own,  and setting “prisoners” free, ” not by crushing the “bruised reed,” or quenching the “smoldering wick” but  by responding compassionately and lovingly to the brokenhearted and, where possible,  righting the wrongs in their lives. Yes, our baptism and confirmation stamped us as disciples. Have we, and do we, consummate our discipleship by the way we live the Christian life?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

God is in our midst

One of the readings from the Franciscan Liturgy of the Hours, that is, the Prayer of the Church that is prayed daily by priests and religious, is from the prophet Zephaniah 3: 14-17.  Zephaniah proclaims the joyous reality that the Messiah is in our midst: “Rejoice and exult with all your heart…The king of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more…He will rejoice over you…he will renew you in his love…” because “the Lord has taken away the judgment against you.”  Wow!  The Lord God is truly in our midst. Life will never be the same, as it wasn’t, for certain, at the wedding feast of Cana in today’s Gospel.  At Mary’s intervention and keen sense of impending disaster for the wedding party, Jesus changes water into wine, fills the empty jugs. Imagine saying to guests “all I have is water” and/or believing that you have nothing to give, cannot  make a difference, that you are inferior to anyone else because you are not an astonishing entrepreneur, you are not as intelligent as another, etc.  No, even though you and I are ordinary kinds of persons  we extraordinary because God is with us and works through us and in us.  Every one of our experiences is a Cana experience: Mary is there but not only present but  fully aware of the need that calls forth her Son’s power. The ordinary in your life and mine can become the extraordinary. That which is lacking and needs an intervention will happen because Mary, the mother of God, and God Himself is in our midst. The embarrassing moment can be transformed into a moment of delight and gratitude because Mary and Jesus is not just observers of what is happening but  doers working with us to make a difference. I believe that. Do you?

Friday, January 6, 2012

"This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased"

In today’s Gospel, Mark 1: 7-11, Jesus goes in search of John the Baptist.  He hears what John is doing, namely, that he is preaching about the One who is to come after him whose sandals he is not worthy to undo.  Jesus finds John baptizing in the Jordan,  calling people to repentance, and  preparing  the way for the Messiah, the Anointed of God. Jesus enters the water to be baptized by John. John argues with Jesus: “You should be doing the baptism.”  Jesus wins the argument and  He, the Son of God made flesh, is baptized as is any other human being.  John is told that he will know who Jesus is when the Spirit descends upon Him. As Jesus leaves the Jordan, the heavens open up and the Spirit, with whom Jesus will baptize, rains down upon him.  God proclaims for all to hear: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.  At my baptism and at yours,  God, too, looked down and said: “This is my beloved son/daughter in whom I am well pleased.”  Every moment that we live the Gospel of Christ, reincarnating Jesus in the world of our day, preparing the world in which we live to welcome the Way, Truth, and the Life,   the heavens open up and the Spirit descends in blessing, proclaiming who we truly are in His sight!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

"Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"

Today’s Gospel,  Jn 1: 43-51, relates the call of Nathaniel to be an apostle.  His initial response to Philip’s invitation flows out of sarcasm: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  Philip is all excited that he and the other first-called apostles have found the Messiah, the One of whom Moses and the prophets spoke. Nathaniel could have stopped there and not accepted Philip’s invitation to “come and see.”  How often do I not judge a situation or a person as Nathaniel did and, unlike Nathanial, have nothing to do with that person, that event, that place; not take the time to listen, close myself off from hearing or seeing what could be an opportunity for my further transformation and conversion into Christ. Or, turn this scenario around.  I come home from work excited about what I have seen and heard in the “Scriptures” of my day.  The persons with whom I want to share my excitement are uninterested, can’t be bothered, are too busy, don’t want to be disturbed or, worse, have judged me harshly: “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” “You’re exaggerating,” “You’re making that up,” “You’re looking for attention.”  That isn’t how Jesus responded to Nathaniel, even though he initially was cynical. Jesus is direct with Nathaniel and Nathaniel is open to Jesus.  What, in the story of Nathaniel, resonates with you?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God

“All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God,” or a variation thereof,  is the Antiphon of the responsorial psalm for all of this week.  As I reflect upon that phrase, my thoughts go to the newborns and toddlers sent into this world this past year or recent years. Each of us is sent here to praise the Lord. My thoughts then go to the snowflakes beginning to fly or to the new leaves and flowers on plants in other parts of the world that have year-long springlike or summerlike weather, the newly born animals, fish of the seas, and birds of the air, each in its own way singing God’s praises. The universe itself—the stars in the sky, the sun and moon, the galaxies and other planets—all emanating from Creative Energy to reflect  God’s glory, His greatness, His love and power.  Hidden in all of creation, and especially in humankind, is God’s transformative power bringing each of us into oneness with His Son and with one another in love, reconciling our wills to the will of our Creator, to the will of our True Selves, healing brokenness and making us whole again in Christ Jesus (watch a cut on your finger heal—that kind of healing within the depths of our beings also transpires through God’s grace and our openness to be healed, that is, our willingness to “lance the boil” and release the poison of resentments and past hurts by acknowledging them and grieving the losses sustained as a result).  All of us, through Christ’s power to save, are being made over into a purer likeness of our Creator God when we allow God to save us. “I have come into the world,” Jesus tells us, “not to condemn it but to save it.”  May each of us know that reality deeply in this coming year of our personal lives, our community life, and the life of our families.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Begotten of God

The first reading for today’s liturgy begins with the statement: “If you consider that God is righteous [good, just, truth and love], you also know that everyone who acts in righteousness [goodness, holiness, justice, and truth] is begotten by God."  If I am begotten of God, I originate from God. If my choices flow out of justice, goodness, righteousness, holiness, truth and/or love, they originate from the Holy Spirit working within and through me.  If my works are of God, I, too, am of God. Christ came into the world in obedience to the Father to take sin away, to destroy sin, so that we are no longer its slaves but free to act through the Spirit.  Sin in the world and sin in human nature has been nailed to the cross. Anyone who believes and looks upon the cross of Christ for mercy each day and each moment, especially when tempted by Satan, will know Christ as Christ knows him/her and is set free to reject Satan by the One who knew no sin.  Christ triumphed over sin through His death and resurrection  in obedience to the Father’s will  and so, too, will you and I in Christ Jesus, who, as St. John tells us in today’s Gospel,  baptizes us with the Holy Spirit. That is my hope. What is yours?

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Lord has done wondrous deeds (Ps. 98)

One of the verses of the responsorial psalm of today's liturgy request that we:

          "Sing a new song to the Lord.
          He has done wondrous deeds.
          His right hand has won victory for Him,
          His holy arm!"

A plan for the salvation of the world has been put in motion.
A plan for the salvation of every human being has been orchestrated.
Jesus has won victory over the powers of darkness in each person's life, in the life of each of my family members, in the life of my religious community, the church and every nation in the world.
No one will be lost except those who choose death over life, darkness over light, lies over the truth.

"O God, You trust us, your children, to the point of giving us freedom to choose the good and reject evil, to embrace the truth and shun lies.  In humility, Lord,. you do not control us but honor us, respect us, trust us to choose what is right and just, to walk in Your Son's footprints and, like the good thief, to accept salvation."