Friday, August 31, 2012

God's plan for us and the world

“…the plan of the Lord stands firm forever…” (Ps. 33)—a reminder in today’s liturgy.   That plan is the transformation of every man and woman into Christ, by Christ, and for Christ. That plan is our redemption and that of every nation, every  government, everyone in leadership (church, civil, corporate and congregational)—all wills coming into harmony with the will of God, being obedient to God in all the circumstances of our lives, unlike Adam and Eve who disobeyed God and fell into the ego trap of being a god unto itself.  Through the obedience of Jesus, the new Adam and the perfect Israel, we are empowered by the Cross of Christ to “demolish…[our] idols; and no longer bow down before the work of …[our] hands” but “ to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with… [our] God” (Micah 6:8) this day and every day. 

I pray for the humility and the inner peace to carry out God’s will, not my will, in all of the circumstances of this day. Grant that grace to all persons, Lord.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Enriched in every way

In today’s first reading, 1 Cor 1: 1-9, St. Paul recalls the graces God gave him as an apostle of Christ Jesus, as willed by God, to serve the Church of Corinth, as well as the graces given to the members of the church, to us disciples of Christ.  All of us have been “sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy.”  He reminds us that we have been “enriched in every way,” that we “are not lacking in any spiritual gift as we wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

The challenge is the waiting for and the making visible, by our actions, this revelation of the Lord in our personal lives.  This challenge to be one with the will of God is made difficult by the fact that we are vulnerable to Satan’s deceptive ways. We may think we are in sync with God and not be.  Our efforts  to be faithful to God’s way of being in this world are also challenged by the fact that we live in a nation that strives to be a god unto its own making. All around us, people seem to be carving “golden calves”  out of power, prestige, pleasure, popularity,  money, domination,  weapons of war, and the pursuit of ambitions that oppress the poor of this world. These ambitions can even lead to killing others (physically or  psychologically/spiritually crushing one inner spirit of hope, love and faith in oneself, in others, in God).    Our faithfulness to the graces Jesus wants to pour out upon us is tested in this crucible of “evil.” Will I allow the forces of evil or the grace of God to win out in my life? When the Son of Man comes, will I be distributing the food that supports life, that nurtures live, that sanctifies life? Will I be among the blessed that Jesus speaks about in today’s  Gospel, Mt 24: 42-51?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Am I a John the Baptist or an Herodias, a Herod?

Today we celebrate the Passion of Saint John the Baptist. The Gospel reading relates the circumstances that led to his beheading. We have the contrast of two persons: one who is in sync with the will of God, who, in the words of Micah 6:8, does “what is right,”  loves “loyalty” (to God and to one’s faith) and walks “humbly” with his God.  Herod, Herodias and their daughter, on the contrary, are in sync with this world’s values, are blinded by their egos and guided by selfishness and sin.

 All of us face the same challenges: to listen to the good spirits within us or to follow bad spirits, to be alert to that which is of God or that which is not of God, that is, the voice of selfishness, maliciousness, evil inclinations, that of  pleasing the crowd and clinging to a decision that we have come to know, in our heart of hearts, is not of God’s making.  We can choose to avoid embarrassment when we are wrong and follow through with poor choices or humbling ourselves to do what is right when others are clamoring for us to follow ways contrary to the Commandments and to Gospel living.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Giving one's life for another

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe, who, in the concentration camp, gave his life for the sake of a man who was destined for death. This man had a family and Maximilian, a Franciscan friar, ask the "executioners" that he be allowed to replace this family man.  The same heroic decision and unselfish giving of self for the sake of another occurred in Aurora, Colorado, when several young men shielded their girlfriends from gunfire and in Oak Creek, WI when the pastor shielded his parishioners.  Every day, men and women, from all walks of life, all sexual orientations, all cultures, courageously follow the Spirit's direction to spare others from harm, to protect a child from abuse, even from being neglected and ignored; to save others from natural disasters and from violence in our streets and homes.

You and I may choose a direction that is heroic and about which only we know. In other words, our choices do not attract national attention but we know we have been courageous in what we have done or not done out of concern for another person.   May God continue to give us that kind of courage on a daily basis as we live our lives according to the Gospels.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Spirit-filled Summer of Blessings

I will be on vacation until August 28th.  As I prepare for my own vacation, I hope all of you who frequently visit this site are having a wonderful summer, have also had time off from a busy schedule  doing some “fun” things you otherwise do not have time to do. 

My summer certainly has been one of tremendous blessing.  This past weekend I just returned from Rome where I was attending a General Assembly Planning Commission Meeting at our Generalate.  It was a great experience of everyone being willing to do the work in a spirit of collaboration and deep respect.  When I was asked to be chairperson of this Commission, my response was: “I’ve never done anything like that and not sure this is within my abilities.”  What I realized was that my most important task was to allow the Spirit to function freely and creatively in each of the committee members and also be open to the Spirit working within me. 

Earlier in the summer, I spent three weeks in Trinidad, spending most of that time with three pre-postulants, processing with them, praying with them, accompanying them in whatever way needed.  During that same time, I did an assessment for another religious community and completed three lengthy reports to support my recommendation of each of the three women to be accepted into our postulancy program.  During that time in Trinidad, I was blessed in ways I could never imagine in being with these three women but also with being able to participate in great liturgies and be the recipient of awesome homilies by some very young, Spirit-filled priests. 

To any one discerning a religious vocation or a vocation to the priesthood, know that God and we need good women and men willing to give their all to building the Kingdom!  If God is calling you, I pray that you have the courage to say “yes.” I did and have never regretted it!

I now look forward to some time off to be with family and friends. The blog will be continued on my return here on the 28th of August.

The Glory of God

In the first reading of today’s liturgy, Ez 1: 2-5, 24-28, Ezekiel describes a vision of God’s glory—a brilliance he describes as a “flashing fire enveloped in brightness,  from the midst of which…something gleamed like electrum.  Within it were figures resembling four living creatures that looked like this: their form was human.”

 We know that we have been created in God’s image but probably never consider the glory of God that shines forth from us, or another,  when we are one with the Spirit in our ways of thinking, acting and choosing; when we are loving and caring for another; when we are reconciling, understanding, and forgiving of others, when we are patience and compassionate as God is compassionate.  Each of us has probably seen the glory of God radiating through the beauty of nature—sometimes taking our breath away! At others times we have stood in awe of a child who reflects God to us. What about our perception of God’s glory in the mundane realities of our lives, of ourselves?  At times, like Ezekiel in exile, we may actually wonder whether God has abandoned us when, suddenly, as it seems in Ezekiel's case, God reveals His presence. 

When has God suddenly shown His glory in your life?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Great is your faith

In today’s Gospel, Mt. 15: 21-28, the Canaanite woman from the region of Tyre and Sidon, a non-Jew, approaches Jesus, asking that He free her daughter from a malicious demon that torments her.  Jesus seems to ignore her.  The disciples get exasperated by the woman’s persistence: Send her away, she keeps begging on and on. Her whining is intolerable, so it seems to be their position. Jesus is not welcoming, so it seems. He even refers to her as “a dog.”  I’m here for the Israelites. You’re not a Jew. Go away, He seems to be saying to her.  She does not give up hope and finally Jesus gives in and heals her troubled daughter.

Jesus’ withholding of a positive response seems cruel. Or is He holding out in order to call forth the depth of her faith and strengthen her resolve?  Sometimes, when my prayers do not seem to be heard, when I am going through rough times, I may feel as though Jesus is ignoring me. When I come up against others’ taunts or when others say, by word or action, as the disciples said to Jesus “shut her up”, I could disappear and sulk. The Canaanite woman did not do that. She knew what she wanted. She knew that Jesus was the answer. She did not give up hope or stop trying to make her dreams a reality. She was willing to work for the results she envisioned.

I have much to learn from her.  Is my focus strong? Is my faith unshakable? Am I that sure of what I am pursuing that I am willing to go to whatever length is necessary for as long as it takes, not giving up, but being even more sure that what I am hoping for is possible, as long as I do not lose hope, as long as I am willing to work for it, as long as I go to the right source, ignore the outer noise, the objections, the ridicule, willing to stand alone in what I know is possible, as did the Canaanite woman?

Trusting in God's Saving Power

Today’s readings, for me, are about utter dependence upon and trust of God and God’s eternal faithfulness to humankind.  The first reading deals with political disasters—the Assyrians invade the Northern Kingdom, destroy the city and drive the people into exile.  In the Gospel, the disciples’ boat is on the verge of capsizing in a turbulent sea.  Out of nowhere, between 3:00-6:00 a.m., Jesus, though not recognized, is seen walking on the sea, coming toward the boat.  They cry out: “It is a ghost.” Jesus responds: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”  Peter says: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Peter starts out, doubts, almost drowns and cries out: “Lord, save me!” 

What lessons for you and me!  The world is in no better shape than when the Assyrians invaded the Northern Kingdom.  We have nations rising up against nations to this very day, destroying cities, driving people out of their homelands. Personal disasters also touch every person’s life, multiple times, it seems. This is life “in this vale of tears.”

Like Peter, we have the option of crying out to the Lord: “Lord, save us.”  And He will.  We also know in faith, that, as in the Old Testament, God is a warrior who fights for us, who comes to our aid, and is close to the brokenhearted who seek Him above all and in all and through all.  Evil will not triumph, even though it may look that way. With the author of psalm 89, we pray:  “O Lord, you have been our refuge through all generations. Before the mountains were begotten and the earth and the world were brought forth, from everlasting to everlasting you are God!”

Monday, August 6, 2012

Being transformed and transforming life by Love

Today is the Transfiguration of our Lord on Mount Tabor.  This event occurred a few days after the Lord had announced to the apostles His upcoming death on Calvary.  He took Peter, James and John, the same three who accompanied Him to Gethsemane, with Him. I asked Jesus in prayer to talk to me about this event. In the depth of my being the following message was heard:

It happened as described in the Gospels (Mk 9: 2-10, Mt. 17: 1-8, Lk 9:28-36) shortly before my going up to Jerusalem to leave this world through the door of death.  The Transfiguration prepared me for that event. Moses and Elijah spoke to Me about my death and rising from the dead, a consummation of My mission here on earth to transform all that destroys life, seemingly so, into new life, into a joy, a strength, no one can take  from you.

My death and resurrection would be the culmination and completion of My total gift of self to My Father, a love unequalled, untarnished, not only to My Father but also to you and all humankind, a love glorified; a transcendent, imminent love, an all-encompassing love, a universal love for all to see and experience, a love to be imitated on earth by humankind's gift of self to one another in marriage and/or in service to humankind as men and women of God in the Church, in God's kingdom here on earth.

In what ways are you and I emulating this love?  How much of myself am I willing to give to others in humble service in obedience to the Spirit guiding me as it guided our Lord throughout His life here on earth?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Jesus, the Living Bread from heaven

In today's first reading, Ex 16:2-4, 12-15, God responds to the people's need for food. They are out in the desert, totally dependent upon God to keep them alive, to continue the journey to the Promised Land, and to thrive.  Only through the glorious deeds of the Lord, the Lord's compassion and love, is this possible for them and for us. God sends down food from heaven in abundance to meet their physical needs.  In the Gospel, Jn 6: 24-35, Jesus reveals that He is the Living Bread come down from heaven.  All who believe in Jesus and eat of His body and drink of His blood  will have eternal life.  Jesus gives of His total self for our salvation.  Fullness of Life, an abundance of Life, is a reality for all those who believe and imitate Christ's life of total self-giving, whether that be in marriage between husband and wife who, loyal  and committed to one another,  become "bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh," (cf. Gen) or whether in religious life, priesthood or the single life  where individuals surrender totally to the Lord in service to the People of God, the Church.  In other words, as Jesus says to His disciples in today's Gospel, fullness of life is not about perishable things but the imperishable, that is, about LOVE, the love modelled in the Trinity between the Father and the Son through the Spirit in the total gift of self to one another for the sake of other's well-being, yours and mine.  For whom, am I willing to give totally of self? 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Today's reading from Jeremiah is a continuation from yesterdays in which Jeremiah's opponents want to put him to death.  A defender challenges his accusers, reminding them that Jeremiah is speaking on behalf of the Lord.   Jeremiah is so confident that he was carrying out God's command that he feared no evil, not even death.  He could say to those who wanted him dead: "I am in your hands; do with me what you think good or right."  In faith, I asked the Lord to speak to me. The heard the following message within my spirit self:

Dorothy Ann, Jeremiah was given that courage by Me. I gave that same power to you in your baptism and confirmation and in every Eucharist and in the reading of the Word. I perfect it in you through the events of your life and in your sharing those events with me.  You are growing strong in the faith. Your trust in Me is  deepeneing and your love is being set ablaze.

My response was: Thank you!  Mother/Father God, Christ Jesus, and Holy Spirit, have mercy on me.  Transform my disbelief, my doubts, my weakness into even deeper faith, stronger trust, and an even  more ablazing love. Open my eyes to see You at work in me and in others, my ears to hear your Word, my will to follow You and my heart to love you.

My prayer is the same for you who read this.  As you reflect on Jeremiah's courage, what is your response, your wish?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Being a "Jeremiah" or receiving a "Jeremiah"

In the first reading of today's liturgy, Jeremiah 26: 1-9, Jeremiah is asked to speak to "the people of all the cities of Judah who come to worship in the house of the Lord; whatever I command you, tell them, and omit nothing. Perhaps they will listen and turn back, each from his evil way,...."  God's heart, I believe, cringes when you or I choose evil ways, when we make choices that are contrary to the will of God and that, therefore, deprive us of the peace, the joy, the harmony God wills for us or, worse, lead to disastrous, harmful ends.  God does not will that for any of us.  To spare us such misery or ongoing misery,because we have already chosen evil, God sends "Jeremiahs" to us or asks us to be a "Jeremiah" in the lives of others.

We know the greeting given Jeremiah. The people demanded that he be put to death.  When we are the one challenging another to abandon an ill-chosen path or when we are being challenged concerning inappropriate behavior, the response may be unpleasant.  Many times, we attempt to avoid conflict. So when God invites us to be a "Jeremiah," we may hide from Him. Or if God sends a "Jeremiah" to challenge us, we may respond belligerently, argumentatively, or aggressively, as did the people in the O.T. 

My prayer:  Lord, may each of us have the courage to co-operate with the grace of ongoing conversion, no matter who is the instrument you choose to bring us back to you. And, if you choose us to be that vehicle of grace in another person's life, may be rely on the power of the Spirit to guide us and strengthen us to be the one who speaks the truth that will set this person free, if the person is open. If not open, may be still do our part and surrender the outcome to You.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

I am the Potter; you are the clay

Today’s first reading, Jeremiah 18: 1-6, is about the Divine Potter, who takes the clay that we are and the clay of our experiences and shapes them into an image of Himself, pours out His Spirit upon them, and makes them vehicles of love and forgiveness, uses them  in a way that empowers us to form right relationships.  As I reflected on that passage and the psalm of today’s liturgy, Ps. 146, what came into my consciousness was the following message:

“(Insert your name), as the psalmist says, there is no salvation in human beings.  None! Their plans vanish and are buried with them when they die (cf Ps. 146: 3-4). Your help, the saving graces that you seek, come from Me.  I am your God. I shepherd your soul.

“Just as I, the Divine Potter, formed you in your mother’s womb (Ps. 139: 13), so, too, do I give form, life and spirit to you now. The mystery of your becoming human is now the mystery of your becoming divine.  I alone can do that. I reshape and remold you  until the vessel I am making is pure gold, not the gold of this earth but the gold of eternity, the gold of a divine image that glorifies Me, praises Me, imitates Me and delights in Me as I delight in you. What delights me is not what delights the world. It is the difference between living from the heart, living from the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law.  Do not put your faith in the law. The law cannot save (compare Galatians 3: 10-14). Only I do that. Law does not give life. Only I do that.  When you build your life on the letter of the law, you build it on sand. A storm comes and it collapses.

When I said to the Lord: “But, Lord, laws are important,” I heard the following message in my consciousness:

“Not the kind deprived of spirit, of love, that are unjust, that are not life-giving, that are disrespectful of others, that do not promote right relationships, that do not honor Me or you.  Look at the Scriptures. I never used laws to humiliate people, to put them down. I never used laws to control people. Those behaviors lack spirit and are not motivated by love.”

These reflections left me with the question:  Am I turning out in such a way that the Divine Potter needs to remake me, reshape my behaviors, remold my attitudes, redirect my choices, and renew my energy in accordance with the will of God?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Pearl of Great Price

The story in today’s Gospel, Mt.13: 44-46, is about the merchant who searches for “a treasure buried in a field.” He/She goes out to find that treasure. When found, this person sells all that he/she has and buys it. The author of the reflections for this Gospel given in the July/August 2012 issue of The Word among Us, p.52, suggests to us that the merchant is God.

Each of us is the pearl God is seeking.   We got buried in debris, so to speak, when Adam and Eve disobeyed and distrusted God—a disobedience and a distrust that all of us inherited.  Their turning away from God intensified God’s search for us.  The Son of God took on human nature to show us the way back to God and to redeem us from the destruction of sin: the loss of right relationship with God, our Creator, ourselves and one another.

 Imagine God saying to you:

(Insert your name), you  are the treasure I seek and for which I sent my only begotten Son into the world. He paid your ransom. You are now my precious pearl of great price. I want to find you, no matter what. I will look for you in any place where you have hidden yourself.  I will walk on whatever thorny path you are traveling and enter whatever cistern into which you have fallen. Even if you have wandered off into murky, muddy waters, I will enter those waters in search of you.   When I find you and you accept being found, I will polish you until you glow with my glory as the brightest star shines in the heavens.

God's heart is bent on us!  Where is your heart? For what does your heart pine? What treasures are you seeking? God is seeking you to join Him and all the angels and saints at the eternal banquet of love, beginning here on this earth.