Friday, November 30, 2012

People Fishing for the Eternal Kingdom

Today is the feast of St. Andrew, the Apostle.  Jesus is walking by the Sea of Galilee, sees two brothers, Simon and Andrew, fishermen, casting a net into the sea. He yells at them: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men [people]” (Mt 4: 18-22).  At once, they abandoned their nets and followed  Jesus.
Were they nuts? They were, probably, successful fishermen!  What happened to the boat and the net and the fish?  And this guy who was simply walking by and says “Come, foillow me. I will make you a different kind of fisher,” who was he? Why follow him and abandon a business? And we know that Andrew and Simon did not look back. They stayed with Jesus for three years and beyond, were at the Last Supper, suffered through Jesus’ crucifixion by Romans who occupied their country, witnessed his Ascension into heaven, were present at Pentecost when tongues of fire came down from heaven and rested on them, and, filled with the Holy Spirit, changed from cowardly men to bold proclaimers of the Word, of the Resurrection and of the Kingdom of God in our midst, a Kingdom that Yahweh told the Jewish people would never be destroyed.

So what happened? How could this be, you ask?  The fact is that once we encounter Jesus personally, nothing in this world is seen in the same way.  The Real is not what the world offers, though advocates of the world’s goods believe so and want us to believe so as well.  Our egos “chase success, power, a good name, achievements, and all the other stupid things we race after. God will always get…[us] on the run,” as He did Andrew and Simon (Rohr, Richard, OFM, Jesus’ Plan for a New World,” St. Anthony Messenger Press, Cincinnati, OH, 1996, p. 38).  As we chase after the things the world offers, not that we do not need those things, “once in a while…[we] glimpse out of the corner of…[our eyes] what really matters. Gotcha” (Ibid.)”

Thursday, November 29, 2012

God Will be the Victor

Today’s first  reading, Revelation 18: 1-2, 21-23; 19: 1-3, 9a, continues with John’s vision. This time he sees a “mighty angel [pick] up a stone like a huge millstone and [throw it]  into the sea and said: ‘With such force will Babylon the great city be thrown down, and will never be found again….Because your merchants were the great ones of the world, all nations were led astray by your magic potion.’”  After this scene of the destruction of Babylon, John heard “what sounded like the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying: ‘Alleluia! Salvation, glory, and might belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her harlotry. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.’….Then the angel said to me, ‘[Write this: Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.”

 You and I live in a world that has, in many ways, led people astray.  Extreme efforts to destroy the faith of its inhabitants are exerted by the powerful and mighty in every nation on this planet.  Desolation is spreading throughout the world: natural disasters, wars, violence of every kind, moral abominations, idolatry (worshipping sex, material fortunes, “freedom,” pleasure, power and control, etc.).    “…Flee to the mountains,” we are told in today’s Gospel, Luke 21: 20-28, that is, take refuge in God.  Pray, pray, pray for the conversion of this world.

 I know in faith that the “Babylons” of this world will be destroyed. I also know in faith that there is a remnant of people in the U.S., in Europe, Asia, in Africa and other parts of the world, as in the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., who will remain steadfast in worshipping the one true God, who will follow the Lamb wherever He goes and are called to the eternal wedding feast. May I be among those chosen few who keep the faith, no matter how bad it gets before Jesus’ return.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Winning the Victory Jesus Secured for Us

Today’s first reading, Revelation 15: 1-4, shares with us more of John’s vision. He sees “something like a sea of glass mingled with fire. On the sea of glass were standing those who had won the victory over the beast and its image… They were holding God’s harps, and they sang the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb [Jesus, the Lamb of God].

‘Great and wonderful are your works,

Lord, God almighty.

Just and true are your ways,

O king of the nations…

….You alone are holy.

All nations will come

and worship before you,

for your righteous acts have been revealed.’”


You and I, as Christians, participate in the works of God. The prayer that opens today’s liturgy asks that the wills of the faithful be stirred up so that we will strive more eagerly to bring God’s “divine work to fruitful completion.”  What a grace that has been earned for us by Jesus’ shedding of His blood and surrendering His will to the will of the Father, which is that we are victorious over the beast!  Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit so that we have everything we need to reverse the tendency within us to rebel against God, to choose our own will over God’s will, to make a name for ourselves as Adam and Eve attempted to do by eating of the fruit of the tree of good and evil in the middle of Paradise, what the people attempted to do in building the tower of Babel, what the Israelites attempted to do in worshipping the pagan gods of the countries that they had conquered on the way to the Promised Land.  We face the same temptations of those who have gone before us. We also are armed, however, with the same graces with which others have been armed and through which they  “won the victory over the beast and its image.”  If we cooperate with the graces we are given today,  we will “bring [God’s] divine work to fruitful completion.”  Yes, we will win “the victory over the beast and its image” because God’s work in us is “great and wonderful.”   I believe that! What about you?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Fully Ripe Harvest

“Use your sickle and reap the harvest, for the time to reap has come, because the earth’s harvest is fully ripe,” ( Revelation 14: 14-19). Many of the liturgical readings at this time of year focus on the end time, whether that means the end of this world as we know it or the end of our personal existence as we know it.  This week a close friend of the family died. This person, for years, wanted to die and each year she would announce to us: “I won’t be around next year.”  We’d say to her” “You know, the day of your death is not yours to choose. God chooses that day for you.”   When each of us is “fully ripe,” I believe, that is the day that we leave this world.  And only God knows that moment! And what a mystery! My identical twin died at age 2 ½, one of my brothers at age 18, my mother at age 50, my father at age 67.Is it true, I wonder, that each of them was “fully ripe” for eternal life? I believe so or, at least, I hope so. My faith tells me that no death is an accident.  No, it is a design of God’s grace: He has a place prepared for us and it is time for that person to be given the inheritance God gained for him or her through Christ Jesus.  When God uses the “sickle” to “reap the harvest” for me to enter into the Kingdom where there will be no more tears, no more pain, no more heartache, no  more war, no more injustices or inequities, I hope I am ready.  What about you?

Monday, November 26, 2012

God as King

Yesterday we celebrated the feast of Christ, our King.  This morning in prayer I imagined the following conversation with the Lord. It went like this:
I am King.
You are a King’s daughter.
You are royalty!
You are the recipient of my inheritance,
eternal  life in my Kingdom.
I secured that inheritance for you
by my obedience as Son of Man to My Father’s will
—your salvation and the salvation of the whole world.
When I was nailed to a cross,
when I crushed the head of Satan,
all nations, all kingdoms of the earth, all languages (cf. Daniel 7: 13-14)
were brought under My rule and reconciled to My Father.
As Daniel prophesied, “all peoples, all nations and languages
serve [God].
[M]y dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not be taken away.” 
[M]y kingdom shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7: 13-14)
Look, Lord, at the world!
The world as you know it is passing away!
God shall reign forever. 
God reigns now and has reigned before this world ever came into existence
and will reign eternally.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hope that is Eternal

In today’s Gospel, Lk 20: 27-40, Jesus tells us that those who have passed through the door of death “can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise. That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

That is the hope to which all believers cling. It was the hope to which the 130,000 Vietnamese martyrs clung (we celebrate their victory today) when they were tortured and killed for their faith.  No matter how difficult or horrifying life becomes for those who believe in God, adhere to the values of the Gospel and stand up for what they believe, we know that our “crucifixions,” our dying with Christ is followed by a rising with Him.  Throughout this sojourn on earth, the Lord, as stated in today’s responsorial psalm, “trains [our] hands for battle, [our] fingers for war” (Psalm 144).  It is God at work in our lives who will give us the same victory He gave to David, his servant, and to Jesus, son of David and Son of God, who assumed human nature and was obedient to God even unto death for our sakes. 

What sacrifices am I willing to make for my faith, for the wellbeing of my family, my religious community, the good of the country, the civic and church community in which I live?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Giving God His Rightful Place

Yesterday, for me, there was something very sacred about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, a little taste of heaven, a giving thanks to God through bands, music, dances, and artistic displays of gigantic helium balloons and millions of people, in the midst of dealing with the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, gathered together to enjoy this expression of gratitude.

In this week’s liturgical readings, Jesus wept over Jerusalem, chases the money changers out of the Temple (those using religion for financial gain) and is Himself being pursued by those who want to kill him.  We, too, have within ourselves two opposing forces: those that want to give God His rightful place within our lives and within the world and those forces that want to silence God, want God removed/out of sight/destroyed in the world of today: a world, I believe, Jesus weeps over just as He wept over Jerusalem. Knowing that Satan roams the world seeking someone to devour by his deceit and his rebellion against God, Jesus stays with us in the Eucharist,  in the Scriptures, and, yes, hides Himself in the details of our lives.  By savoring God’s Word, memorizing Scripture passages, reflecting on the daily liturgical readings—“hanging on his words,” as did Jesus’ disciples as related in today’s Gospel, Lk 19: 45-48)—we arm ourselves against those evil forces, i.e. against Satan’s helpers bent on not allowing heaven and earth to be recreated as a place where God’s voice is not silenced but cherished and acted upon in accord with God's will.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Honor God’s name!
Acknowledge God’s presence!
Prepare God’s way!
Probe God’s messages!
Yes, know that God is always speaking Truth, seeking Truth, and inviting us to Truth!

The Lord is King!
Always present is my God! Halleluiah!
Now and forever near to those who seek Him,
Knowing my comings and goings and my thoughts from afar!

Sound the trumpet! God is near!  Halleluiah!
Give glory and honor and praise to God’s holy name!
In times of darkness and of light, in sorrow and in joy, in life and in death
Verify that God is God,
Invisible and infinite,
Never far from the brokenhearted is our
God and Savior!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The power of praise

In today’s first reading, Rev. 4: 1-11, we are told that there are creatures before the throne of God who, day and night, praise God, saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come.”

The author of the book of Revelation sits in awe of who God is.  Awe is a form of praise. It is also humility, a holy respect of self, God and the other.  Praise draws us closer to God and God to us. Authentic praise of self and others creates intimacy.  Praise sanctifies us, cast out negativity and fills us with positive energy (cf. The Word among Us, November 2012, p. 40).  When we genuinely praise another, it has the same effect.  Praise is the antithesis of sin in us.  The author of the meditation for Nov. 21, 2012 in The Word among Us, p. 40, writes:

                 “To understand this truth, reflect on these words of Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa,
                preacher to the papal household:

                ‘Praise is, par excellence, anti-sin. If, as St. Paul has said, the
                            mother-sin is impiety, that is a refusal to glorify and thank
                            God, then the exact opposite to sin is not virtue but praise!....’”

It behooves us each day to develop the art of gratitude. We might do that, at the end of each day, by asking ourselves the following questions:  for what today am I grateful? What today has my spouse, my children, my co-workers, my fellow religious done that has been music to my ears, put a song in my heart and lifted my spirit? Keeping a gratitude journal, so to speak, will change your life! And, furthermore, developing the habit of looking for the good each person in your life does each day and pointing that out to them will also change the environment in which you live.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"Hot" Discipleship

Both of the readings in today’s liturgy, Rev. 3:1-6, 14-22 and Lk 19: 1-10, are invitations to conversion, to a change of heart and mind.  In Revelation, God tells us that He will not settle for “lukewarmness,” for apathy,  lethargy, or  half-hearted discipleship. “I wish you were either cold or hot…[B]ecause you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” 

Am I caught in an “I don’t care attitude” when another invites me to commit to Christian living--to being honest and upright, to being transparent in a spousal relationship,  to being loving and caring, forgiving and respectful, to building relationships within community if I am a member of a religious community? 

Zacchaeus, a tax collector, working for the Romans, was known  for extorting money from his fellow Jews. He was, in short, a crook, one engaged in cheating, in being deceitful and conniving.  He was also a man who must have heard about Jesus and wanted to see him. Being short in stature and knowing Jesus was coming down the road, Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree in the area. Jesus spotted him and invites him “to come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” Jesus invites. Zacchaeus accepts the invitation.  As a result of his encounter with Jesus, Zacchaeus is converted totally—no half measures anymore. He repents of his sinful ways, makes restitution for his crimes against his fellow Jews, and  promises Jesus to give back 4xs the amount he extorted from others in the payment of taxes to the Romans.

That kind of transformation is what happens in our lives when we truly let Jesus, our Savior, into our “houses.”  Am I willing to risk a visit from Jesus? Am I willing to have my lukewarmness, my apathy, my half-hearted discipleship transformed into full discipleship?  Am I willing to have my indifference transformed into being  “hot” in building the Kingdom of God here on this earth, in the world that I occupy: my home, my workplace, my parish, my community?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Faithfulness to Call to Love

Today’s first reading, 3 John:  5-8, begins with the phrase: “Beloved, you are faithful in all you do for the brothers and sisters, especially for strangers; they have testified to your love before the Church.”  Immediately, I thought of the Foundress of my religious community, Venerable Mother Frances Streitel, and the young women who dedicated their lives to the Gospel as Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother between the years of 1883-1895.  From 1888-1895, many of these young women were sent to the U.S. from Europe, beginning in 1888. In 1889, 1890, 1891, 1893 and 1895 hospitals, orphanages, schools and a health resort were opened to attend to the needs of immigrants, of the sick and the poor and parentless and uneducated children.  These young women religious left everything to follow Jesus.  Strangers could count on these women to respond to their desperate need.  These acts of heroism continue to this day by men and women religious and by lay men and women who leave their homelands in search of ways to support their families and to respond to brothers and sisters in Christ.

And Jesus says: “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me (Mt 25:40).

These strangers testify, today,  before God in eternity “to the love of these young women religious who had  given their all to meet unmet need with the wealth that consumed them: God’s love, God’s compassion, God’s mercy.  They had little of nothing of this world’s goods but like Peter and John before the poor man sitting at the door of the Temple they could say: We have no money, but in the name of Jesus, we give you God’s love,  God’s compassion and God’s mercy. 

These heroic deeds on the part of women and men religious and parents who sacrifice everything to give their children what they need—that is, God’s love, God’s compassion and the good that comes from sacrifice  and learning to give of their all  to help others—continue to this day.

What role are you and I playing in this world so much in need to selfless giving for God’s sake?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Kingdom of God is among You

In today’s first reading, Philemon 7-20, we have such phrases as “…do what is proper,…out of love,” may “the good you do…be…voluntary,” return to those who know you as a mature person “in the Lord,”  “may I profit from  you in the Lord,” and “[r]efresh my  heart in Christ.”  Each of those phrases affirms Jesus’ teaching in today’s Gospel, Lk 17: 20-25, when He says to us:  “The Kingdom of God is among you”; don’t go looking for it anywhere else.  It’s the reason Jesus also said to John the Baptist:   the blind see, the deaf hear, the poor have the Good News preached to them (not necessarily in words but through the good that is done), the lame walk, the sick are healed and the dead (not just physically dead) come to life.  The same is true today.  You and I make God’s Kingdom visible in the good that we do. We refresh hearts in Christ by our love and forgiveness, by our conversion and repentance.  By the fruits of our lives, we  will be known as mature women and men in the Lord, as was Paul’s friend Onesimus (See Philemon 7-20). 

O Jesus, may all of this be true for all of us today and every day.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Bath of Rebirth

In today’s first reading, Titus 3: 1-7, Paul reminds us that “…when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because  of [God’s] mercy, [God] saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life” (Titus 3: 1-7).  Without this intervention and because of original sin, our minds remain darkened and our wills weakened. So when invited by grace to “…be obedient, to be open to every good enterprise, …to slander no one, to be peaceable, considerate, exercising all graciousness toward everyone’ (Titus 3: 1-7), we easily choose opposite behaviors and  give in to impulses and compulsions enticed by the Father of Lies, who places doubts in our minds of trusting the Holy Spirit of God prompting us to do good and avoid evil.   “…Though I walk  in the dark valley,” the psalmist reminds me, “I  fear no evil; for …[God is] at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage” to be obedient, to be open to every good which the Spirit invites me to embrace, “to be peaceable, considerate,” and “gracious” toward all those I encounter today.

Monday, November 12, 2012


"Increase your faith," the apostles plead with Jesus in today's Gospel. Jesus reminds them that if they have faith the size of a mustard seed, they would ask a mulberry tree to uproot itself and plant itself in the sea and it would obey their command.  And I want to say: "Oh, come on, Lord, do you really mean that?" The answer is: "Yes, he does," figuratively speaking. We know that a mustard seed has everything in it to become what it is intended to become.  Within you and me, a seed from our biolgoical fathers planted into our biological mothers had everything in it for us to become fully functioning, productive, human beings.  More awesome yet, however,  is the seed of faith planted into us by the Holy Spirit with we were baptized and confirmed in the faith.  Everything in that seed of faith makes it possible for you and me to reach our fullest spiritual living out our faith and to develop our spiritual potential to love as Jesus loved, to trust God as Jesus did and to believe in God's plan for salvation as Jesus did.

Friday, November 9, 2012

You Are God's Temple

Today’s readings, Ez 47: 1-2, 8-9, 12; 1 Cor 3: 9c-11, 16-17; Jn 2: 13-22, all speak about the temple, a holy place where God dwells in a special manner.  St. Paul reminds us in 1 Cor that each of us is God’s temple. Jesus, in Jn 2: 13-22, speaks about Himself as the temple which, though destroyed on the cross, He will “raise…up in three days.” 

In the first reading, an angel brings the prophet Ezekiel to the entrance of the temple, where he sees “water flowing out [not only] from beneath the threshold…toward the east” but from the south and north as well. That flowing water refreshes the salt waters and gives life to “every sort of living creature,” “abundant fish,” “fruit trees of every kind,” whose” leaves” never fade and whose “ fruit” never fails. You and I, baptized into Christ, filled with the glory of God through the sacraments, are made holy by Christ’s death and resurrection. Through our baptism, we have been missioned and empowered by the Holy Spirit to be ambassadors of Christ in the world in which we live. That means that through us, the purifying, reconciling waters of our baptism are to be flowing in such a way as to refresh life, produce fruit and “fish” in abundance.  What a gift and responsibility of being church in the secular world.

The Gospel retells the story of Jesus cleansing the Temple, chasing out those who violated the purpose of the Temple, that is, those who made His “Father’s house a marketplace”.  Does Jesus, living within the Temple of our being, find us violating God’s Temple? What in you and me needs to be cast out so that we truly are a refreshing presence of God  in our world, a source of God’s abundance, a bearer of fruit that will last, and persons through whom “fish” exist in abundance. In other words, to what extent are we “fishers of men/women,” persons who bring people to Christ and Christ to people by our faith, hope and love?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The supreme good: knowing Christ Jesus

Paul had everything going for him. He was a Jewish Rabbi of significant renown.  His zeal for his Jewish faith motivated him to arrest Christians who, in the Jewish tradition were perceived as traitors to the faith. Nothing was too much for Paul to protect his heritage or his religious upbringing.  His loyalty and commitment to Judaism was undeniable.  God, however, had other plans for Paul’s talent, strength, and loyalty.  Miraculously, Paul’s eyes were opened to God’s salvific plan for all God’s people.  Through grace, Paul was introduced to Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.  In today’s first reading, Phil 3: 3-8a, Paul tells us that, following his personal encounter with Jesus, he considers “everything as a loss  because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

What about me and you? Do we consider knowing Christ and developing an intimate relationship with Him as the supreme good of each day of our lives? If not, why not? And, if so, what efforts do I make each day to get to know Jesus?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

God gives generously

The statement in today’s first reading, Phil. 2: 12-18, that touched me is “…God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work” and the phrase in the responsorial Psalm, Ps. 27, which reads:   may I “gaze on the loveliness of the Lord…”  This evening, as I reflected upon the challenges of today, I realize deeply that it is God who put the desire in me to do the work of this day and also presented today’s work.  This leaves me feeling humbled, as I frequently wonder what the day’s work might be, as vocation ministry is not like going to a classroom every day or going to a counseling center to work with clients every day.  No, it is not that structured nor am I guaranteed that anyone will inquiry about religious life or be knocking at the door to become a Sister of the Sorrowful Mother.   Yet every day, God puts within me the desire to work in His vineyard and presents the day’s work to me as the day unfolds.

The second statement “may I gaze upon the loveliness of the Lord” touched me as I was beginning to complain about issues to myself.  “Wait a minute,” I said to myself. “What about seeking the loveliness of the Lord today instead of focusing on some negatives. What a difference the day might make”, I said to myself. And how true for me today. It truly unfolded with many surprises within it—gifts from the Lord, including the discipline to take on a challenging task!

May the Word of God continue to shape my life and yours.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The humility of God

In today’s first reading, Philippians 2: 5-11, St. Paul puts before us Jesus’ model of humility.  “[T]hough he was in the form of God, [Jesus] did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.”  Every day, false sacreds emerge for us. Those might be anyone or anything we elevate to the level of the Sacred, anything or anyone we put on a  sacred pedestal, as the serpent elevated the fruit on the tree in Paradise. “Eat of it, devour it, possess it, and you will be like God,” Satan insisted.  This temptation surrounds us every day. Someone gets an award; we do not.  Our mouths water! Someone is given recognition or praised in our presence while we stand in the background, hardly noticed, if acknowledged at all.   Our hearts ache.  Someone outperforms us, or we imagine being outperformed. We feel a twinge of jealousy or envy. If only we were this person or that person, if only we had this job or that job, this degree or that degree, these opportunities or those opportunities, we tell ourselves; then, we, too, would accomplish great things! Etc. Etc. Etc.

 This is not the path Jesus models for us. It is not what religious life is about nor what being a Christian is about. Jesus, Paul reminds us, “…emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and, found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.”  He wasn’t here to show us how to gather accolades.   All of those  aspirations to be “Kings” and “Queens”  in our own right, to belong to an exclusive club, are deaths to which we  must die and rise with Christ in humility and love.  Jesus calls us to repentance and to conversion. Are we open today to being transformed by Christ and reconciled with God in the depth of our being, not on the pedestal of something/someone  we elevate to replace the Divine in our lives. What a challenge! Something only grace can accomplish in us.