Monday, October 29, 2012

Be Kind to One Another

In today’s first reading, Eph 4: 32-5:8, St. Paul asks us to “[b]e kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ…[L]ive in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us…Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones, no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place, but instead, thanksgiving.”  What if I consistently lived thankfully, looking for that in any other person for which I could sincerely say “Thank you.”  What if I looked for things for which I sincerely said to the person I live with each day: “I truly appreciated….”  As a former parent trainer, I recall the first lesson of Commonsense Parenting, which encouraged parents to look for things for which to praise their children and/or affirm their efforts to do well and to do so consistently every day.  Of course, there were other skills parents needed to practice, such as setting limits, following through with consequences for unacceptable behaviors, which transformed the family situation tremendously. 

So, what if I were a truly grateful person instead of a critical one? What if, instead of concentrating on what I don’t like, I would spend my energy focusing on what I do like about myself, about others, about anything and everything!  Yes, what if I lived in love as Christ loves me and handed himself over for me (cf. Eph. 4: 33). Perhaps I would be so busy looking for ways to be for the other and ways of easing the burdens of life, that I would readily notice others bent over by life’s hardships, as Jesus noticed the woman in today’s Gospel unable to straighten up for 18 years. Without a word from her or even eye contact, Jesus healed her, touched her with the compassion of God.  He did not see an elderly, weak, crippled woman  but a human being held in high esteem by her God and worthy of love and compassion, a person whose self-esteem needed to be restored and whose brokenness needed to be made whole.  The same opportunities are given to each of us each day. How am I going to respond?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Co-heirs and Co-partners in Christ's Promises

As I reflect on today’s first reading, Eph. 3: 2-12, I am awed.  Paul reminds us that we Gentiles are “co-heirs, members of the same Body, and co-partners” in Christ’s promises given in the Gospel. What does Christ promise us in the Gospel? The first thought that comes to me is his promise to Dismis on the cross when He says to him: “This day you will be with me in paradise” ((Lk 23:43).  The second thought that surfaces for me is Jesus’ prayer “Consecrate them in the truth” (Jn 17:17), that they may all “be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (Jn 17:21).  The  third thought that sprung up in me is Jesus’ statement  in John 14:12  that those who believe in Him will do the works that He does  and will do greater things than these because Jesus is returning to the Father.
Wow! What promises! And each of us who believe in Jesus will realize these promises in our lives!

Monday, October 22, 2012

God's Handiwork

In today’s first reading, Eph. 2:1-10, St. Paul reminds us that we are God’s “handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.”  Each of us, you and I, are “God’s handiwork,” not anyone else’s creation.  God’s and God’s alone! He created us, St. Paul says “in Christ Jesus,” not in gold, not in some precious metal, not in oil paints, or whatever other kind of material an artist would use, but “in Christ Jesus,” the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Son of God, the Redeemer of the human race. Imagine God saying to you personally: “I created you in My only begotten Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” God chose that which is most precious to Him to be the material of His re-creation of us.   How awesome is that fact!
Add to that realization, the fact that God has created each one of us “for good works that God has prepared in advance.”  Which of those good works have you and I realized thus far in our lives?  We learn from today’s Gospel that the good works that God has prepared for us in advance is not the accumulation of possessions or the building of hefty retirement accounts so that we can rest on our laurels, priding ourselves in needing larger warehouses in which to store our wealth. If we have been deceived along those lines and believe the lies the world hands to us,  God says to us through today’s Gospel, Lk 12: 13-21:  “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?”  Luke goes on to warn us  that “[t]hus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself [herself]  but is not rich in what matters to God.”
Am I engaged in the “good works that God has prepared in advance” for me?  Am I “rich in what matters to God”? Am I rich in love and charity?  in mercy and forgiveness? in serving others out of love? in being there for others in need?  in gentleness and patience?  in humility?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Growing in knowledge of God

In today's first reading, Eph. 1: 15-23, St. Paul prays "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give...[us] a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him."   This evening the twenty-nine delegates of the 2lst General Assembly are going to visit the soup kitchen of the Community of San` Egidio here in Rome.  This Center serves the poor and the immigrants of Rome.  We will grow in our knowledge of God by witnessing those who serve the poor, as Jesus did, and by the poor themselves.  Both those who serve and those being served will remind us of our dependence upon God and upon one another to build the Kingdom, to grow in wisdom and grace, open to all.

How, with whom, and to whom today did you build the Kingdom.  With whom and through whom did you learn of God's wisdom today? Where and through whom did you experience a "revelation resulting in knowledge of God'?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Created to give praise to God's glory

In today's first reading, Eph 1:11-14, St. Paul reminds us that "In Christ we were chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accompolishes all things according to the intention of his will..."  God's will for you and me is that we realize the good for which we were created, that we triumph over evil in this world and radiates God;'s glory in all that we do. In other words, ultimately, we cannot fail, as God accomplishes this in us. His intentions become our reality over time.  Nothing will separate us from the love of Christ, from realizing that love and revealing that love in our relationships, in our world, in the Church, in our families, in our cultures.  We   are God's work of art in the process of becoming a manifestation of God's glory.  We exist, Paul tells us, for "the praise of God's glory."  We do not exist for the world, for someone else's glory, or even our own glory,  but for God's glory alone. How am I revealing God's glory in my daily life, in my relationships, in my ministry/job, in my relationhship with my children, my coworkers?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Gathering in Rome

From Oct. 14-29th I am at the General Assembly of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother.  We gather once every five years as a congregation to set direction for the next five years.  Delegates are sent from all of our regions: Africa, Brazil, Austria, Germany, the US, the Caribbean and, of course here in Italy.  Today, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, upon whom we call every day and perhaps every hour of each day to enlighten us, open us up to hear the Spirit speaking through each person, each culture and each area of the congregation. It is a rich experience and a busy time.  Today, for instance, we spent the morning listening to each of the 29 delegates give her input on the proposed Congregational mission statement. The goal is that this statement resonates in each member and one that will be understandable to all who  see it in our offices, our places of ministry and our living spaces.  We want this statement to be one that “rolls off our tongues,” guides us in our everyday activities and motivates us to remain faithful to who the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother are, why we are and what we are called to be in the church and in the world of today.

To follow us go to There are pictures there as well as a video of the opening liturgy.
So please pray for us, as we do for you!

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Sign of Jonah

“This generation is an evil generation. It seeks a sign and no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah…”  (Lk 11: 29-32). The Ninevites had violated the covenant God had made with them. Jonah was a sign to them that disaster would befall them if they did not repent.
We are all familiar with signs: a stop sign, a  yield sign; a green, yellow and red traffic light. We also know what a tunnel cloud means or what thunder means. Some of us are also very skilled at reading body language. All of us read signs all of the time.  Why do we miss the signs that signal God’s will for us or signs that warn us that we are out of  sync with what the Spirit is asking of us? Have we numbed ourselves to God’s voice? Have we become deaf to the voice of the Spirit? Are we blind to spiritual realities? Do we dismiss the “Jonah’s” in our lives that God sends to warn us that we are on the wrong path or on a path that will lead to our disaster? For whom or for what are we looking?
Perhaps you are the “Jonah” God has sent to another person to warn him or her that she is headed for destruction and needs to turn back to God. Have you, as did Jonah, attempted to avoid that mission?
“If today you hear his voice,” the psalmist says to us in today’s liturgy, “harden not your hearts.”

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Clothed in Christ

"...all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ" (cf. Gal 3: 22-29).  This clothing is not exterior to the person each of us is.  No, it is an interior clothing of the mind and heart and will of Christ.  We are being transformed into Christ each day, each year of our lives.  We are becoming the handmaid par excellence of God, as Mary was, and the obedient son of the Father as Jesus was.  Being clothed in grace is to be clothed in the radiance of the Son’s obedience and the brilliance of Mary's fiat.  We are in the process of becoming one with Christ as Jesus and the Father and the Spirit are one.  To be clothed in this way is far beyond what we can imagine of beauty.  No piece of clothing that we admire here on earth matches it.  The price we pay for this "clothing" has been paid for us by the blood of Christ outpoured on Calvary--it was not paid for in cash but in the very life of Jesus.  We, too, are empowered to give our lives in love to one another because we are clothed in grace. We are capable of doing great things in this life to make the world and all in it one with its Creator because we have put on Christ in baptism. We died with Him and rose with Him to new life in which, as Paul says, there is neither Greek nor Jew, male nor female: all are one in the Lord working for the greater good, building the Kingdom of God on earth.  This union of minds and hearts and wills  will happen in the world, in the Church, in every nation, in every family, in all cultures and between all of the diversity of peoples throughout the world.  Barriers to this transformation will be overcome in Christ Jesus.  This is our hope. This is our faith in Christ Jesus.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Good being challenged

In today's Gospel, Luke 11:15-26, the crowd accuses Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub, the Prince of Demons. Jesus comes back with: "If I drive out demons by Beelzebub,by whom do your own people drive them out (Luke 11: 19)?  We know that Satan will not prevail and that Jesus will cast Satan out of existence.  Just as Jesus, while he walked this earth and confronted injustices of all kinds, was tested by crowds who challenged the source of His work, so, too, will we be tested and challenged by others who are threatened by the good we do and by who we are.  We need to hold fast to our faith, as, in today's first reading, Gal. 3: 7-17, Abraham held fast to his faith. He did not succumb to idolatry, to the evil around him.  He trusted God even to the point of sacrificing his son--a practice by the pagan nations of his time. God did not sanction this pagan practice. So when Abraham was about to follow this practice, God intervened and, with power, commanded Abraham not lay a hand on the boy.  Isaac lived!  Truth prevailed. There are things going on today that God does not sanction either--things Jesus challenged in his own culture and for which he was put to death--his ways, his truth threatened the powers that reigned during his time here on earth. There are truths today that threaten powers that be. The truth  that comes from the Spirit of God will prevail in the long run, however.  All evil will be put to death, even evil disguised as a good, will be crushed. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Today, the 50th Anniversary of Vatican  Council II, begins a Year of Faith announced by Pope Benedict XVI.  Our faith in Jesus Christ, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, is being challenged in today's world, it seems to me.  The question is: am I being swept away by this world's denial of the existence of God and more specifically by the world's rejection of Christ, the Son of God, sent into the world, not to condemn it but to save it?  When I was baptized into Christ, I was put on a path of  communion with Christ. I began a journey of being transformed--body, mind and spirit--into the Body of Christ and into the mind and heart of God.  Each day is an opportunity for me to put on Christ, to become Christ, that is, to be salt for the earth and light for the world, illuminating the path to union with the Trinity.  Each day, through grace and my cooperation with grace, I am being transformed into the image of Christ--a transformation that will take place until my birth into eternal life when my union with God will be complete.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

God's Work Environment

“Be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46: 10).  Every morning I begin my hour of prayer in stillness, using the mantra: “Listen to the stillness. God is at work” or “Be still and know that I am God.”  This morning the thought came to me that when I am talking—sometimes incessantly, rambling on and on, as in the case of political issues—I need to tell myself to be still in order to know that God is God.  As in the Old Testament--through Exodus, the wanderings in the desert, through the divided kingdom (The Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel), through the Exile, the Return from Exile, the Maccabbean Revolt and  in the New Testament through Jesus’ death-- God prevailed in building His Kingdom and remaining true to the covenant He made with Adam and Eve, namely that the serpent’s (Satan’s) head would be crushed. Sin would not prevail. God’s plan will be accomplished and no one will stop that from happening. Even in our day, in our present circumstances, as we listen to the wrangling of the Democratic and Republican parties, the debates, God’s will shall prevail.  I may not realize it but God is at work.  I simply have got to be still and listen. God says to me in Jeremiah 29:11 I have “plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope…”  God has those same plans for the United States, for the world, and it cannot get worse than it did for Israel in Egypt, in Exile, or during the Maccabbean Revolt, nor for Jesus in His passion, death, and resurrection. God has a plan that will not be impeded.

Do I believe that?

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Good Samaritan's Example

In today’s first reading, Gal. 1:6-12, Paul challenges the Galatians and us to remain true to the Gospel that is preached to us, that which we read and reflect upon in the daily and/or weekly liturgies and that which we ponder as we personally open the  Scriptures in our private prayer. Paul describes himself as “a slave of Christ” and for that reason does not seek to please people.     In today’s Gospel, the story of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10: 25-37, the person who stops to help the man who fell victim of robbers is one who seeks to please God. The priest and the Levite, on the other hand, seek to please themselves. They pass by the injured man, ignore him. In fact, they go to the very opposite side of the road in order to avoid him and keep themselves pure according the Mosaic Law. They are slaves to the letter of the law.  They do not show compassion and mercy. They do not heed the words in today’s Gospel to “love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

We, too, on a daily basis, are challenged to love as Christ’s loves. To show mercy as Christ shows mercy.  When we tenaciously cling to the letter of the law, we are striving, most times, to please ourselves, not God. “Look how great I am doing,” our egos boast to ourselves, even if that boast remains in our unconscious, that is, we remain blind to what we are really doing  and why we are doing it. Obeying the letter of the law kills the law of the Spirit. How easy for us to live on this superficial level!  And how difficult, but obviously not impossible, to live according to the Spirit. “Good Samaritans” throughout history show us the way. Who are the “Good Samaritans”—the most unlikely of persons—in your life who show you  how to love, how to show mercy, in short, how to be the hands and feet, the mind and heart of Christ in your world?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Replacing Entitlements with Blessings

All week long the first reading of the Liturgy centered on the story of Job.  Job lost everything: all of his possessions, his sons and daughters and even his own health.  Through all of this, Job maintained his faith, his trust and his respect of God. Never once does he speak disrespectfully of God or abandon God.  His friends confront him, believing that he must have seriously and severely offended God.  “God must be punishing you,” Job’s friends reason with him.  Job does wonder why God is allowing so much evil to happen to him.  Satan, we learn, has challenged God concerning Job, saying: “Of course, he is loyal to you . You have blessed him and protected him from evil. If calamity strikes, he will not remain reverend and faithful.”  So God gives Satan his wish to try Job. Job wins out and God stops Satan from continuing to torture him.

How easy it is when tragedy strikes to believe that the country, the nation , the people, the person or even ourselves as individuals deserve to suffer.  This belief runs through both the Old and New Testament. When Jesus heals the man born blind from birth, for instance, the Pharisees insist that either the man or his parents sinned gravely and deserved this hardship. “Not true,”  says Jesus. The physical impairment, in this case, is an opportunity that will reveal God’s greatness, God’s power, God’s mercy and God’s love, as is the potential within all of the tragedies of this life. Magic does not remove the vicissitudes of life, the difficulties and challenges of being finite human beings. Not even Jesus escaped life’s traumatic, problematic situations nor death itself.

In Job’s case, his response was: “Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I go back again. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”  What if I, when confronted with suffering, hardship, disappointment and of a situation that denies me what I want or what I think is my right, I  would respond with “Blessed be the name of the Lord,” instead of ranting and raving of how unjust life is and how unfair people can be. Maybe, sometimes,  I need to try Job’s way instead of the way of entitlement.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Awesome Charity of God

In the Franciscan Office for today, one of the readings is St. Clare’s Fourth Letter to Agnes of Prague, who became a poor Clare, leaving all of her wealth to follow Jesus. St. Clare writes:   “At the surface of the mirror [of the Cross], consider the holy  humility, the blessed poverty, the untold labors and burdens that Jesus endured for the redemption of the whole human race. Then, in the depth of this same mirror, contemplate the ineffable charity that led Jesus” to suffer excruciating pain and unutterable torture throughout his passion and death.  Consider God’s charity in hanging naked on the cross dying a shameful and humiliating death for our sakes.

As I contemplated God’s charity, poverty and humility, I was brought to my own knees.  Here is the Creator of the Universe nailed shamefully and cruelly on this tree of torture, giving up His very life for my sake, for the salvation of us all. What do I do when I am asked to give up something for the sake of the other, for the common good of the family, the community, the mission of the Church? I had to admit my own shortcomings, weaknesses, and, yes, even sinful selfishness when it comes to letting go, not of my very life as Jesus did, but of my addiction to work, my clinging to my way, my unwillingness to sacrifice for a good greater than myself.

What about you? Ever find yourself face to face with this challenge of selfless giving, of being poor for the sake of the other, of needing to ask forgiveness for a pouting stubbornness and entrenched selfishness that reveals itself in your withholding love, being unwilling to turn off the TV, put down the cellphone, turn off the computer, be flexible to accommodate another person's need?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Questioning Job Meets the Almighty One

Today’s readings, Job 9: 1-12, 14-16 and Luke 9: 57-62, may leave us with a lot of unanswered questions.  Job is left floundering and saying, in effect, who am I to question the Almighty or to argue with the One who “is wise in heart and mighty in strength? Who am I to argue with the One “…who removes mountains before they know it…[who] shakes the earth out of its place…[who] commands the sun, and it rises not…[who] alone stretches out the heavens and threads upon the crest of the sea.”  Why would God “hearken to my words,” Job wonders.

We know that God did speak to Job (cf. Chapters 38-41) but not in the way Job may have expected.  God confronts Job with more questions, brings him to his knees in awe and repentance and opens his heart  to grace.  God also answers our questions in a way that our faith is strengthened.  We, too, fall on our knees in awe and repentance. We, too, have our hearts opened to God’s grace and power when we are honest with God about our situation, not pretending that everything is okay when it isn’t.  When we ask God for what we think we  need,  the answer we get is not usually that for which  we asked but much more and of a different caliber.  Our vision is limited. God’s is not. What we want is earthbound, tangible and visible to the naked eye. What God wants for us is heaven bound and of the heart.  We see dimly. God sees clearly.

In the Gospel, Jesus’ response to those who express a desire to follow Him is also esoteric to our human ears and mind-boggling to our finite intelligence.  Jesus, who reads the hearts of his would-be disciples, knows exactly what is impeding their wholehearted discipleship. So He challenges them in a way that leaves us clueless.  “What,” we ask, I can’t even say good-bye to my family?” and “ I need to leave the dead bury their dead?  How can a dead person bury a dead person? How ridiculous can Jesus be,”  we may wonder!  “Does He know what He is talking about?” we quip arrogantly.   When we ask those questions we are forgetting that the meaning of Jesus’ responses are only known by the person to whom Jesus is speaking, much the same as an inside joke  is only known by the insiders. 

What is Jesus saying to me that I know for certain in the depths of my heart , though others may not have a clue?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Gift of a Guardian Angel

“Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here.  Ever this day be at my side to light, to guard, to rule and guide.”  What a gift! God, out of His infinite love, has assigned one of His angels to guard us day and night. This messenger from God does not ever leave our side.  Those whispering messages,  which our Guardian Angel sends  us often,  warn us, protect us, and shield us from harm. It is this Angel that encourages us to resist temptation and choose the good. It is our Guardian Angel who prompts us to take care of ourselves and others. It is that same angel who invites us to love with our whole being, our whole mind, our whole heart and our entire will, holding nothing back. Today, let us give thanks for God’s awesome love in the gift of our Guardian Angel.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Job: A person of strong faith, unwavering hope

Today’s first reading, Job 1:6-22, at first was very disturbing to me!  I said to myself: “How can God give Satan permission to attack Job, a righteous person, destroy his possessions and take the life of his children. What cruelty!  God? God as I know God?  No way!”   I vehemently oppose this image of God. I reject it!

Jesus does not present God to us as a cruel God. On the contrary, Jesus shows us that God is compassionate, heals the brokenhearted, binds up wounds, makes the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak, and gives vision back to the blind, spiritually and physically blind.  The lame walk and the dead are restored to life, physically and spiritually.  Satan is cast out, confronted, thrown into the swine.

So what does Job teach us? Not that God is cruel but that God shields us from that form of destruction that is eternally fatal: the lost of our souls, spiritual death.  Job remains strong in his faith and in his trust of God, because God did not abandon him at all.  Job’s love for his Creator God never wavered because of God’s power at work in the depth of his being.  Job comes through the sufferings of his life stronger than ever. Why? Because God never left his side.

We learn this same lesson from Jesus, who did not escape the sufferings of this world either.  Like Job and Jesus, each of us  who cling to our faith will rise from the “ashes of death,” whatever form death takes. Who we really are and what really matters—our eternal salvation, our faith and trust in the Lord, our love for God, others and ourselves—is strengthened and purified as gold tried in fire, as we pass through this “valley of tears.”  None of us, who believe in Jesus, who cling to God, is diminished by the difficulties of this life. No! Our true selves emerge, as it did for Job!