Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Christ is the Way,theTruth and the Life

In today’s first reading from Jeremiah 14: 17-22, the prophet says to God: “Let my eyes stream with tears day and night, without rest, over the great destruction which overwhelms the virgin daughter of my people, over her incurable wound.”  The incurable wound is sin that entered the world with Adam and Eve’s disobedience and mistrust of God, their vying to be like God.  We all experience the indomitable ego that wants to be like god, that wants to be “king of the mountain,” that wants to remain on its “high horse,” no matter what.  People throughout the world, in every culture and in every walk of life, vie for first place, for being or staying on one’s “high horse” or being “king of the mountain.”  We see it in Assyria, in the fight between Palestine and Israel, in the struggles in Africa during apartheid, in the civil wars fought on every continent, in the holocaust; in the struggle between black, white, Native Americans and the dominant culture, in politicians degrading one another, in the fight of the rich to remain wealthy at the expense of the poor and on and on throughout all of history to the present day. We see it in our families between spouses and between parents and children. We see it in the struggle for male or female dominancy. We see it in the crimes against women and children. We see it in the drug lords and in the violence in our streets.

As I brought these issues to the Lord in prayer this morning, I was reminded of what Jesus said to His apostles in Mt. 20: 24: “You know that among the gentiles the rulers lord it over them, and great men [and women] make their authority felt. Among you this is not to happen.”  The Lord also reminded me that Jesus Himself did not cling to equality with God but humbled Himself and took the position of a slave and was obedient [to His Father] even to the point of death on the cross.  Jesus accepted this poverty so that we could be rich in virtue.  What we see modeled in the world of today is anything but this kind of humility, this richness in virtue.

The choice is mine: to fight to stay on “my high horse,” to remain “king of the mountain,”   or to follow the humble Lord, who was obedient to the Spirit of His Father guiding Him throughout His life here on earth! Which spirit am I following: the spirit of the world or the Spirit of God?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Becoming the Beauty, the Renown, the Praise of God

In today’s first reading, Jeremiah 13: 1-11, the Lord tells us through the prophet that, “as close as the loincloth clings to a man’s loins, so had I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah [that includes you and me and all humankind] cling to me,…; to be my people, my renown, my praise, my beauty. But they did not listen.” Abandoning God, neglecting our faith and not taking time to develop intimacy with the Lord, our faith deteriorates, as did the loin cloth that God directed Jeremiah to hide in a cleft of the rock and leave it there for an extended period of time. It rotted! 

Faith, staying close to the Lord, growing in intimacy, withers when we fail to nurture it. And what a failure.  When we stop listening to and sharing everything about ourselves with our God, we also fail  in our growth as  God’s people, God’s renown, God’s praise, God’s beauty.  How do we nurture our relationship with God? The same way we develop close relationships with one another: by spending time with the one/s we love, by communicating honestly with them, by being loyal to them, by developing a trusting and loving relationship with them, saying sorry when we are wrong, listening, giving and receiving, being generous of our time, talent and energy, serving the other for his/her own sake.

God is always faithful to us! Am I faithful to God? Has my relationship with God grown since first receiving the faith or has it stagnated, faded, or, even rotted?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Wheat and the Weeds

Today’s Gospel relates a parable of the Kingdom of Heaven being likened to a  farmer planting wheat in his field while  an enemy, at night,  strew  weeds among the wheat(Mt 13: 24-30).  When you and I were conceived, God planted a seed, us! Each of us is a word of the Word, containing the potential to reach the greatness of being totally transformed into the image of God that we are.  In the Garden of Paradise Satan planted seeds of disobedience and distrust of God—sin now exists in each one of us alongside holiness.  At every moment of every day we are faced with the choice of choosing that which radiates the face of God, reflects the image of God or that which is in opposition to God, that is, the will of our egos which want to be their own god, be in control, and dictate how to live in this world as gods.  The ego distrusts anything but itself, obeys no one but itself, chooses only itself. That is its nature.

The seed of God’s will, God’s power, God’s creativity, God’s goodness, God’s grace within us is always juxtaposed to Satan’s will that we be our own god, that we push God out of sight, that we deny God, as Peter had done and seek to be on the throne, as James and John did when requesting to be at Jesus’ right and left in the Kingdom.

The choice is mine: do I  give nourishment to the seed of grace, the seed of holiness, the seed of humility, the seed of obedience, the seed of love, the seed of reconciliation even unto death or do I feed the ego and sin in me: putting others down and myself up, evading  and hiding truth from myself and others, ignoring or oppressing the poor as the rich man ignored Lazarus at his gate,  placing heavy burdens upon others as the Pharisees had done with no intention of lightening the burdens  I impose, etc.?

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Parable of the Sower

The sower sows seeds (Mt. 13:8).  The smallest of seeds sown is the mustard seed, a seed empowered to produce the largest of trees.  A lot of growing power, significant strength and endurance exist in that tiniest of seeds.  The seed of the Word of God contains infinite power, almighty power, divine power greater than any other power generated on this earth by humankind.  The seed of the Word of God planted in a heart open to God, respectful of God, eager for God will bear abundant fruit that will last an eternity.  At times we may wonder, especially when nothing seems to be happening, when we bump into the same weaknesses, seem to be making little or no progress in virtue. “Be still and know that I am God,” the psalmist chides us.  The seed of faith, hope and charity grows in the stillness, in the darkness of “night”.  God gives the growth, as St. Paul reminds us in  1 Cor. 3: 5.

Am I willing to remain open, to nurture the Seed, to water the Seed? Am I willing to cooperate with God? Or am I too busy, got other things more important to do? Do I simply ignore God’s Word speaking to me in my own being, through others, through the Scriptures, the Liturgy, the homily, the events of my life, thus choking it, leaving it to dry up on rocky soil?  The choice is mine.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

God's justice like the mountain of God

Today’s first reading, Jeremiah  2: 1-3, 7-8, 12-13, is proclaimed to all of us in today’s world, as we, too, have “defiled [the Promised Land], “made [God’s] heritage loathsome,” “rebelled against [God], gone "after useless idols.” 

The psalmist speak of God’s awesome, all prevailing mercy, which “reaches to the heavens.” God’s “faithfulness,” the psalmist reminds us, “to the clouds.”   God’s “justice is like the mountains of God; [God’s] judgments, like the mighty deep”  (Psalm 36).  If you and I, or any sinner, comes before God,  God takes out his gavel and proclaims: “Not guilty!”  “What?” we ask in amazement. God replies:  “Your debt has been forgiven.  Your sin is no more. It is erased, blotted out, forgiven.   

Volumes of testimony against the human race could be compiled to prove our guilt.  Those volumes would reach into the farthest depths of the earth and reach up into the farthest heights of the heavens.  God’s mercy, on the other hand, would be deeper and higher than any of our transgressions.   “…The  One sitting on the throne…[says to us], ‘Look, I am making the whole of creation new. Then He …[says]..., ‘It has already happened. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give water from the well of life free to anybody who is thirsty; anyone who proves victorious will inherit these things; and I will be his/[her] God and he[she] will be my son/[daughter].  But the legacy for cowards, for those who break their word, or worship obscenities, for murderers and the sexually immoral, and for sorcerers, worshippers of false gods or any other sort of liars, is the second death in the burning lake of sulphur.” (Revelation 21:  5-8).

Obviously, the choice is ours.  God is not the one who proclaims  us “Guilty” nor the one who condemns us.  We do that to ourselves by the choices we make.  What choices are you and I going to make today?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cherishing oneness with Christ

“We hold …[a] treasure in earthen vessels” (2 Cor 4:7).  Because Christ lives and breathes and moves within us and we in Him, we are “always carrying about in…[our bodies] the dying of Jesus,  so that  the life of Jesus…[His rising is also]  manifested in our [bodies]” (2 Cor: 4: 5-6). What does the dying and rising with Christ look like in our daily lives?  Every day, like James and John in today’s Gospel, we are faced with the temptation to be looking for that which this world deems essential to our well-being—getting  privileges,  lording it over others, being number 1, etc. and/or  we come face to face with sin in us, that is, with our envy, jealousy, deceitfulness, pride, selfishness , sloth or unjustified anger.  Dying means not giving life to these tendencies, letting them die, and rising to new life in Christ Jesus.  Thus, when we encounter sufferings that come with dealing with the worst in human nature, that which is not of God, we have two choices: 1) to traverse the most travelled road or 2) to choose the least traveled road where we are transformed into Christ by the purifying fire ignited by the suffering itself, embracing the pain, addressing it and resolving it as Christ resolved it:  through love, forgiveness,  and reconciliation with those with whom we are at odds.   Living in this way, our lives “cause… thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God’( 2 Cor 4: 15).   Transformed into Christ by what we suffer in living a life for and with God, “…the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and place us…in his presence” (2 Cor 4:14).

Am I willing to live life on this level of meaning and with this kind of faith?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

God delights in clemency

In today’s first reading, Micah 7: 14-15, 18-20, our God is described as One “who removes guilt,” “pardons sins,” “delights…in clemency,” has “compassion on us,” treads our guilt underfoot, “casts into the depths of the sea all our sins,” and shows His “faithfulness” and “grace.”

Wow, what a God in contrast to the gods of the nations that surrounded Israel—gods who were anything but merciful, compassionate and forgiving.  Over repeated transgressions of the covenant, God remains faithful to the Chosen People, forming them into a “close-knit family,” who can, then, open its doors freely to neighbors and outsiders,” (Stuhlmueller, Carroll, O.P., Biblical Meditations for Ordinary Time—Weeks 10-22, Paulist Press, NY, 1984, p. 124) without losing its identify as God’s people and being prepared for Jesus’ message of inclusiveness; namely that all people  “who do the Father’s will are brother and sister and mother to Me” (Mt. 12: 50).

How firmly am I rooted in my faith and my faith community?  How open am I to those whose beliefs  differ from mine? How inclusive am I of others who, like myself, hopefully, are doing the will of the Father, when to what God is calling them differs from to what God is calling me?  Do I, like God, view people through the lens of compassion, pardon, clemency and ways to make God’s compassion a reality?  Do I view the world through the lens  of God’s faithfulness and grace? Or is my view narrowed by prejudice, exclusivity, shame and guilt, the letter of the law, no matter what?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Walk humbly with your God

In today’s first reading,  Micah 6: 1-4, 6-8,  the prophet spells out what the Lord requires of us:  Only to do the right and to love goodness and to walk humbly with our God.  God is not asking that we engage in a strict, ascetical penitential life but that we choose what is right, embrace goodness, and live a life of humility.  No heroics, just simple living, doing good things throughout the day: helping a person struggling to bring a load of groceries up the stairs, preparing a meal for the people I love,  doing the laundry, pitching in to get the dishes done so the whole family can relax, making a phone call to a friend, helping a child with homework, taking time to  listen to what kind of day our spouses/community members had, listening to someone overwhelmed with grief, doing an honest day’s work, saying “thank you” to the person who bags my groceries, etc.

As I reflected upon the phrase “walk humbly with your God,” I was touched by the image.  How can any one of us,  mere human beings, walking side by side with God, strut  about like  peacocks, saying by our demeanor: look at us, how great we are! And yet, how often do we not do that.  This is God walking beside us day and night, counseling us, affirming us, challenging us, comforting us, strengthening us.

 I then looked up Eccles. 3: 17, which reads:  “My child, be gentle in carrying out your business, and you will be better loved than a lavish giver. The greater you are, the more humbly you should behave, and then you will find favor with the Lord; for great though the power of the Lord is, he accepts the homage of the humble.   

Saturday, July 21, 2012

God heals the brokenhearted

The responsorial psalm of today’s liturgy, Ps. 10, voices the anguish of the people in Aurora, OH and all of us agonizing over what took place there.  It reads:

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….
He lurks in ambush near the villages;
in hiding he murders the innocent;
his eyes spy upon the unfortunate….
You do see, you behold misery and sorrow,
taking them in your hands,
on you the unfortunate [person] depends;
of the [parentless] you are the helper. 

It may seem as though the Lord is standing aloof. But is He? He Himself was slaughtered in that murderous rampage, as Jesus tells us in   Mt. 25:40: “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren you do unto Me.”  Every person killed, maimed, injured and traumatized by James Holmes is a son/daughter of God. God dwells in each of them and them in God. So God was not untouched by this murderous rampage and is not standing aloof. Jesus' crucifixion was re-enacted in Aurora, OH. It is God who will come to the aid of the brokenhearted, as the psalmist reminds us in Ps. 34: 18:  “Yahweh is near to the brokenhearted, he helps those whose spirit is crushed.”    

May the people of Aurora be comforted by the prayers of those of us not physically there to help. And may those who can give hands-on assistance do so in Jesus’ name.    

May James Holmes, obviously a very sick man, get the help he needs to heal, to feel remorse and repent of the crime that he committed. He destroyed his life, too, in that onslaught of anger and deeply wounded his parents.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Following the Spirit's counsel

In today Gospel, Mt. 12: 1-8, Jesus and his disciples are confronted by the Pharisees for going through a field of grain on the Sabbath and picking the heads of grain and eating them.  The Pharisees chastise Jesus for “doing what is unlawful to do on the Sabbath.”  He tells them He “desires mercy, not sacrifice.”  How often, I thought, do I not judge myself mercilessly, demanding sacrifice of myself and/or others, and not being compassionate and understanding.  I asked Jesus to further instruct me. So I switched to my non-dominant hand and began writing. The following is what came through my consciousness:

      (Insert your name,   doing what is right means being sensible and wise as theSpirit guides you. That is what I did.  I knew it was a Sabbath.  And Sabbath laws were strict about what you could do and  could not do on the Sabbath. 

       (Insert your name)   , another person may have strict laws of what you can and cannot do. You, too, may be strongly opposed to what is right or wrong for another person. What you or the other person does not see is the Spirit’s counsel and wisdom directing the other to make the choice he or she is making. 

I was taught those same laws the Pharisees were reciting to Me. There is then God’s law written on the heart that the Pharisees could not see. That law is written on every person’s heart, including your own, and sometimes it brings you into the arena of opposing forces that rear their heads within your own being or from the outside. Will you follow the Spirit’s call or back down, following a law, which at that moment, in mercy and love, needs to be broken?

That message hit me between the eyes! What about you?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

"Come to me,...I will give you rest"

Jesus says to us in today’s Gospel, Mt. 11: 28-30, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest….”

I got up this morning dragging, feeling tired, longing for a day off, wanting a respite. I struggled with these tired feelings and the request to surrender part of this coming weekend to a community outing to benefit another member of my religious community.  My insides were saying: “No, I have nothing more to give, I have too much work to do, I haven’t caught up from being away from my desk most of June, I need the weekend just for me.”   I then decided to take today off, go for spiritual direction, cook for the Sisters with whom I live (it’s my turn), keep a scheduled dental appointment and spend the rest of the day relaxing!

I spent the hour of prayer in silent gazing upon Christ, surrendering my burdens to Him. Whenever my mind wandered, I’d gently came back to the passage and heard Jesus saying to me: “I will give you rest.” I rose from that hour of prayer refreshed, ready to go!

To whom to you take your burdens? And how to you listen to your tired body?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

God never abandons us

As we read today’s first reading, Is 10: 5-7, 13b-16, we might want to imagine how Jesus would say this to us. I came up with the following imaginative conversation parallel to Isaiah’s message to those who brought harm to Israel:

             Dorothy Ann, nations rose up against my people Israel. They boasted of their of
             crimes against my people: raping women, killing those left as orphans following
             a hostile, bloody takeover. They destroyed sacred vessels and confiscated treasures.
They boasted of their military prowess, their domination and destruction of all
that survived the massacre. These same abominations persist throughout the
world of today and have been a reality of one nation putting down another, one
ruler putting down his people, one violent individual putting down another.

 My inheritance you inflict:

 Widow and stranger you have slain in your wars,
the fatherless you have murdered with violent weapons
 or with violent words of gossip;
women you have raped; young girls and boys you have sold into the sex slave;
young men and women you have killed for drug money
or by the fleeting pleasure of gossip;
unborn infants you have slaughtered in the womb.

 And you have the audacity to say, as Assyria said:

 “By my own power I have done it,
And by my wisdom, for I am shrewd…
(L)ike a giant I have put down the enthroned….”  (cf. Is 10: 5-7, 13b-16)

 God’s response to us is contained in today’s psalm (Ps. 94: 7-8, 9-10, 14-15)

                 “Understand, you senseless ones
                of my people;
                and, you fools, when will you be wise?

                 “Shall he who shaped the ear not hear?
                Or he who formed the eye not see?
                Shall he who instructs nations
                not chastise,
                he who teaches [human beings] knowledge?

                 “For the Lord will not cast off his people
                nor abandon his inheritance;
                but judgment shall again be with justice,
                and all the upright of heart shall
                follow it.”

My response: O God, have mercy.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Giving glory to God

A message from my recent retreat:  My retreat opened with the Lord leading me to psalm 139: "I am wonderfully made." The thought came to me that all of us are created to radiate God's glory and that everything in our lives visits us for that same reason.  Every person we encounter, all of the situations in which we engage are meant to both reveal God's glory to us and to be an vehicle through which we give glory to God.   With that thought, I surrendered all of my concerns to the Lord and I prayed that I may glorify the Lord, serve the Lord in whatever I do or say and in the person I am becoming.    The following prayer surfaced:

             Lord, in Your on-going creaton of me, I give you:
the good and the bad,
the beautiful and the ugly
the impatient and the patient,
the vitriolic and the serene,
the selfish and the unselfish,
to be the clay that you use
to remold, reshape, and  recreate
me into the woman you call me to become:
another Christ.

What do  you give the Lord today and where, today, did you see the glory of God revealed?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Jesus' challenging mission: disturbing the peace

In today’s Gospel, Mt 10: 34-11:1, Jesus says to us: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not 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.”  I said to the Lord: “Wow, that statement is enough to turn everyone away from Christianity and from reading the Bible.”  I imagined the Lord saying to me:  

“Dorothy Ann, I know those words are harsh.  The Son of God took on human
 nature to save each person from death. To reverse that sentence of death, which
 Satan thrust upon the world by his lies, would entail “the sword” of grace, violence
toward evil, and the strength to stand by Truth to follow God’s ways in the face of
fierce opposition from those who are closest to you—family members. Truth
confronts falsehood mainly within the family. Choosing my Father’s will, many times, 
comes in conflict with family members who insist on a choice that is contrary to what
God is asking of a son/daughter, a daughter/son-in-law.  Tempers fly even to the point
 of imprisonment and bloodshed,  lawsuits and legal wrangling. It happened to me; it
will happen to my disciples. And in today’s world that is attempting to destroy the
Sacred, division within families—natural, liturgical, political and religious—is increasing. 

Hold fast to the faith you have been given! 

What a clear message of what this passage could mean.  It made sense to me. What about you?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Being re-created, purified, renewed: a martyrdom of sorts

My retreat was awesome, as retreats tend to be; awesome in God’s gentle urging of me to look deeply into me and to allow God to gaze deeply as well.  It opened, as most retreats open for me, God suggesting that I look at Ps. 139 where I am reminded that I am wonderfully made.  The thought came that, even in God’s ongoing creation of me, I am wonderfully made: He uses the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the patient and impatient parts of me, the selfish and the unselfish, the vitriolic and the serene. He shapes and reshapes, molds and remolds.  Where is all of this coming from,  you ask? Well, on July  2, three days before going on retreat, I returned from three weeks vocation work in Trinidad, but my suitcase with everything in it that I needed for retreat went to Canada. The ticket agent tagged it with the wrong tag, I discovered when nothing showed up in Newark. Nothing showed up on the 3rd or 4th of July either, as promised. So I purchased some items I could not go without and borrowed clothes from someone who wears an extra large (my size is medium).  I get a few miles from the retreat center, stop at an oasis service station and decide that I am not going to look like a ragamuffin. So I purchased a couple of medium-size tee shirts. I return to NJ on the 12th of July. Still no suitcase. Toronto, Canada wants proof that I travelled on July 2nd! Customs will not release the luggage!  So the worst of me surfaces—the vitriolic part of me, a raging anger, patience turned ugly.  Where were the graces of a six-day retreat. I felt anything but holy, believe me. But, yes, I am wonderfully made.  The Lord reminded me, when I complained of how sinful I was, that the instruments He uses always need purification. “I needed to purify Peter in his denials, Thomas in his doubting, James and John in their search for privilege, all of the apostles in their fear of persecution, opposition and martyrdom….I purified them with the fire of imperfection, sinful inclinations, selfishness, pride, insecurity, and false ambitions. That is the fuel for  the decomposition—the “burning bush” that never is really  burned."  The purifying fire of God's love and forgiveness does not destroy, God reminded me. And, yes, He uses my sinfulness to reshape me, remold me, recreate me into His image. Hope never fades.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Annual Retreat: Vacationing with the Lord

I will be on retreat with the Lord for the next 8 days, so I will not be blogging during that time. This is the most wonderful time of every year for me. I cannot think of doing anything better or greater than taking a vacation with the Lord.  He and I will walk through the Scriptures together—it will be like an Emmaus  journey. We will walk through the gardens and woods together, as God did with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Paradise.  It is simply the most cherished time of every year for me.

 Will be back blogging on the Scriptures when I return from retreat on July 13th.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Being real as Thomas was

Today is the feast of St. Thomas, the Apostle, a Martyr for his faith. It was Thomas who said to the apostles that he would not believe that the Lord had risen from the dead unless he put his hands in his side and his finger into the print of the nails.  We refer to Thomas as the Doubter. What if we took another look at Thomas as one who did not follow the crowd, was not a pushover,  did his own thinking, shared his own truth.  He did not hide his doubts, as did the other apostles.  The others doubted as much as he did, would not believe the women when they returned from the tomb and told them that they had seen the Lord and he was risen. Nor  did the other apostles believe the disciples from Emmaus when they, too, reported that the Lord  was alive and spoke with them.

 Who would you or I be? A pushover, one who says what everyone else says because they said it, one who says what “the authority” said (Peter was the one with the authority) because authority said it whether we believed it or not, one who hid his/her truth or his/her doubt, as most of the apostles did? Or would we have the humility to acknowledge our doubt as Thomas did? Would we change our position when the truth was revealed to us, as Thomas did when he fell to his knees and said: “My Lord and my God!” “You were right and I was wrong.”

Sunday, July 1, 2012

God touches us individually and personally

Today’s Gospel, Mk 5: 21-43, reveal a God of love and compassion,  a God who cares about each one of us. Jairus, a synagogue official, approaches Jesus and asked that he heal his daughter who is dying. A huge crowd is following Jesus. A woman haemorrhaging for twelve years, having exhausted her means in various failed and painful treatments, touches the hem of Jesus’ garment  and is healed. He knows that power left Him and turns around and asks: “Who touched me?”  When the woman, trembling, comes forth and tells Him her story, He says to her: “Woman, your faith has saved you.”  God knows when we approach Him. He also knows when power leaves Him and changes our lives. Our God is a personal God, not a distant God. God’s personableness and gentleness are also revealed in His healing of Jairus’ twelve-year-old daughter, who is “dead,” according to the  people who had been keeping vigil at Jairus’ house. Jesus goes to her room and says to the little girl: “Talitha koum,” which means “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” She does so and Jesus tells the family to get her something to eat. What caring and what attention to detail in terms of need. That is who God is!  How do you experience the personableness, the tenderness, the gentleness, God’s individual attention in your life?