Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sacrificing the Innocence of Children

Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Innocents, whose death was ordered by Herod.  When Herod  “realized that he had been deceived by the magi…[h]e ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi” (Mt. 2: 13-18). Imagine the terror that came over Bethlehem, the mothers desperately trying to save their children to no avail. Having been warned in a dream to “flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you,”  (Mt. 2: 13-18),  Joseph flees with Mary and Jesus during the night to escape Herod’s wrath.  Imagine Mary’s sorrow, as those young mothers whose babies were snatched from their arms were probably friends of Mary, young women with whom she grew up in the streets of Bethlehem.   Also imagine the holy family fleeing during the night and the hardships of that journey into Egypt and becoming refugees in a foreign land.
The slaughter of innocents continues to this very day. Little children sold into the sex slave and the labor force; children fleeing with their parents away from war-infected cities, trying to escape rebels shelling their homes and “playgrounds,”  children hiding in closets while their parents scream at each other or threaten to harm one another, children whose living rooms have become places where drugs are exchanged and a child’s play is silenced!

Yes, to this very day “A voice…[is] heard in Ramah [in Chicago, San Francisco, New York, Connecticut, Colorado, Texas, and so many other U.S. cities and cities throughout the world], sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel (insert the name of a woman you know] [is] weeping for her children and she would not be consoled, since they…[are]no more” (Mt. 2: 13-18).

Who will deliver us from this insanity?  Jesus, the Son of God, disguised to our human eyes in the body of an infant will sacrifice his life on the cross so that we will, in truth, overcome the evil that seems to have taken hold of the world of today just as it had in the days of Herod! “Take courage,” Jesus tells us in Jn 16:33, I have overcome the world.”

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Feast of St. John, the Beloved Disciple

Today we celebrate the feast of St. John, the youngest of the apostles and the only one who did not die a martyr’s death.  However, he was exiled to the island of Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation.  Recent scholars point out the relationship between the Book of Revelation and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. If interested in this development, I recommend that you read Scott Hahn’s book entitled “The Lamb’s Supper, The Mass as Heaven On Earth.”  When participating in the Mass—standing, as it were, beneath the cross of Christ, as St. John did, “we share in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the Holy City of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle. With all the warriors of the heavenly army we sing a hymn of glory to the Lord; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, until He, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with Him in glory” (The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy as quoted by Scott Hahn in The Lamb’s Supper).
Thus the Gloria and the “Holy, holy, holy,” the Lamb of God” and “Happy are those who are called to this Supper” prayers offered during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We join with all of the angels and saints in heaven as our Warrior God proclaims battle upon Satan prowling the world in search of souls. In Jesus’ name and through His once and for all sacrifice on the cross, Satan will be overcome. We will ultimately triumph over evil, as Jesus did on the cross, where He took on sin to destroy it forever.  He descends from heaven to earth in every liturgy, inviting us to “Take and Eat; this is my body given up for you,” and “Take and drink; this is the blood of the New Covenant,” shed once and for all for the salvation of the world. You are a part of that saving act in every Eucharist, as John was a part of the first Eucharist, when, at the Last Supper, Jesus said those same words to the apostles at that last meal of Jesus on earth. He would not eat it again until the heavenly and earthly liturgies unite as one.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Feast of St. Stephen, the first Martyr

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen, the first person to give his life for his faith in Christ Jesus.

In the Gospel, Mt. 10: 17-22, Jesus tells us not to worry about what we might say when confronted for our faith, when we are challenged by pagans, non-believers, and/or oppressors because “[y]ou will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”  Stephen, filled with the wisdom of the Spirit, was no match for his debaters, St. Luke tells us in the first reading of today’s liturgy, Acts 6: 8-10; 7: 54-59.  Stephen “was working great wonders and signs among the people. Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freemen, Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and people from Cilicia and Asia, came forward and debated with Stephen, but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.”

The Spirit that willed Stephen is also within our very beings. We, too, have access to the Wisdom of God, who comes to us in Baptism, Confirmation, the Holy Eucharist and through grace available to all who call upon the name of the Lord.  May you and I, today, experience that power at work within us and around us and within and around others as well. May our eyes be opened to the wonders of the Lord worked by others, by the signs God’s gives of His love’s transforming power.

The infant Jesus, God among us, continues to this day to come in disguises and in ways that, many times, pass us unawares. Our efforts to seek the Lord each day make it more likely that we will recognize Him in the daily events of the day: in our children, our young people, the elderly, our own family members and relatives, our priests and deacons, in the signs of the times (the disasters around us that invite us to call upon the Lord and put our faith in God, not in material things or even in humankind. God alone saves!


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

O Blessed Christmas Morning!


As I reflect upon the meaning of Christmas, I am speechless. “How, I asked myself, am I to share any of my thoughts?”  My mind seemed blank, as I sat in silent contemplation of today’s liturgical readings. The words that came to me were: “I adore you, O Christ, and I bless you because by your holy…[love], you have redeemed the world.”   How to imagine that our God came into this world as a tiny, vulnerable infant--God hidden within human nature:  the infant Jesus, the little boy Jesus, the adolescent Jesus, the man Jesus as Immanuel with us. How awesome!  Why would God, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, ever leave heaven to come to earth, to enter our existence and become a human being? Love and mercy beyond all telling. For all eternity, once sin entered this world, and even before humankind turned against God, a plan was already in place to mend a broken relationship, to restore unity between God and humankind, to bring us back to God, from whom we strayed.  What love! What mercy! That tiny, vulnerable baby is God come to save us, God fulfilling an eternal plan to reconcile us, to heal us, to make us whole again, to reopen the gates to Eternal Life.  Imagine the angels, unable to contain their joy in heaven, breaking through to earth to sing God’s praises at Bethlehem, at every Eucharistic celebration, at every baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion,  and celebration of Reconciliation, at every marriage, at every Anointing of the Sick, at all ordinations. God with us in all the ways that grace is received into our lives—a reality that began when God becomes human like us in all things but sin so that  we, through grace, could, ultimately, become like God in holiness.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Birthday of Jesus, the Christ

We are nearing the birthday of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity.  What a sight!  The Son of God leaves the glory of heaven to take up residence here on earth and embrace all that it means to be human.  God becomes incarnate, an infant dependent upon Mary and His foster father Joseph for everything. He, the Creator of the Universe, enters our existence as a newborn child. What humility!  He comes to show us the way to the Father. That way is the way of  obedience, learning such throughout his childhood and adolescence as any child does, and through his sufferings here on earth to the point of his crucifixion. Jesus learns the way of humble  service, the way of self-giving, self-emptying through the example of Mary and Joseph.  Like any small child,  Jesus is taught to love by His parents, loving him into existence and into fullness of life that is experienced in being loved, cherished, affirmed, directed and guided by one's parents, one's teachers and, in Jesus' case, the rabbis of his day.  Through Mary and Joseph, and other adults,  Jesus is taught to respect, honor and love himself, to cherish and appreciate his God-given talents and gifts as a human being. He is nurtured and strengthened by the love and the guidance of his earthly parents in the same way that responsible parents today provide the proper environment for their children to know, love and serve God in this life and be happy with God eternally.

Lord, may I appreciate your generosity and humility in coming to earth, in becoming God incarnate living among us!  May I fall on my knees when I think of You leaving the glory of heaven to embrace the not-so-glorious realities of human life and then, to top it all off, fall into the hands of the Scribes and Pharisees, the leaders and elders of your people who, during your public ministry, did everything possible to find ways to put you to death, to remove you from our midst because they saw you as a threat to their powerful positions and their worldly pursuits!  God have mercy! We are still trying to remove any remembrance of you from our lives today!

Friday, December 20, 2013

God's Visit

Today's Gospel tells the story of the Annunciation, when the angel of the Lord announces to Mary that she has found favor with the Lord and will conceive a child in her womb who will be called holy, the Son of the Most High God. He will assume the throne of David and rule over all and  His Kingdom will have no end, totally unlike any earthly kingdom. 

Imagine this happening to you. You are engaged to be married. You and your fiancee have not engaged in sex. Both of you believe that that is a sacred gift reserved for marriage, for persons in a committed relationship to one another and to God.  Suddenly, in the quiet of your room, no one is around but you,  a heavenly messenger appears to you and says:

"Hail, full of grace. The Lord is with you."

You're thinking: "Oh, my God! Who is this? What is this all about?"  You begin to tremble with fear. "Am I hallucinating? What is happening to me? Oh, God help!"  The angel notices that you are terrified and says: "Don't be afraid. You have found favor with the Lord. I have great news for you. You will conceive a child in your womb, a son, whom you will name Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High God.  He is going to ascend the throne of the greatest rulers whoever governed any nation on this earth.  In fact, He will rule forever with justice and right judgment and His Kingdom will never end."

"What? How is this going to happen? I'm a virgin. My fiancee is a virgin.  I have never had a sexual relationship with anyone."

"Don't worry! Nothing is impossible with God."

"I know! But how am I to conceive a child without having a sexual encounter with a man?"

"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God....for nothing will be impossible for God."

Recognizing the truth of all of this and that you belong to God above anyone self,  you respond: "Be it done to me according to your word."

As with Mary, so, too, with you, God breaks into your life in profound ways, sometimes frightening ways.  On the day of your baptism, confirmation, first confession, first Holy Communion, and Confirmation and any sacrament received since you died and rose with Christ in your baptism, something profound, something holy is happening.   As with Mary in the Annunciation, you are completely changed by God visiting you, not through a messenger, but directly through the sacraments.  As you cooperate with grace, as Mary did, you will never be the same. God has broken into the ordinariness of your life and made it extraordinary. By God's grace you give birth to Jesus whenever you do the good God calls you to do, whenever you fulfill your mission on earth just as Mary did; namely bringing Christ to every encounter and to every event of your life.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Barrenness Transformed into Fruitfulness

In both readings of today's liturgy, Judges 13: 2-7, 24-25a and Lk 1: 5-25, an angel appears to announce that two couple will bear a child: Manoah and his barren wife and Zachariah and his wife Elizabeth, also barren and way beyond child-bearing age.  Both children, Samson and John, will be prepared to play a significant role in salvation history. Samson will deliver the Israelites from the military power of the Philistines. John the Baptist will prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah.  The Spirit of the Lord "stirred" Samson, who was consecrated in the womb. John was "filled with the Holy Spirit even in his mother's womb".

Both the barrenness and the fruitfulness are gifts from the Lord and will reveal God's power at work in those who believe and in those who do not believe.  The wife of Manoah and her husband and Elizabeth believe in the angel's announcement. Zachariah does not. "How am I to know what you are talking about when my wife is barren and unable, at this point in her life, to conceive a child?"  Neither our barrenness nor our lack of faith stop God from accomplishing our salvation or the work He plans to accomplish through us. Without divine intervention, we remain barren.  With divine intervention we bear fruit. All is through the Holy Spirit, either stirring us or filling us!  Blessed be the name of our God!

What in me is barren and in need of being "stirred" up or "filled up"with God's Spirit? What in me, through the Spirit, is bearing fruit?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Exiled by choice--God's Justice

In today's first reading, Jer 23: 5-8, Jeremiah is prophesying to a people exiled from the Promised Land.  The day will come, Jeremiah tells the people,  when you will proclaim God's justice: "As the Lord lives, who brought the descendants of the house of Israel up from the land of the north---and from all the lands to which I banished them; they shall again live on their own land."  God is just. He allowed the Chosen People to suffer the consequences of their idolatry--their choosing to worship pagan gods. Consequently, they ended up in exile, physically separate from their homeland and spiritually separated from God.

God is also just with us.  When we choose to worship the gods society holds out to us, we are also exiled. We lose our way. We become confused, restless and empty, longing for true peace, longing desperately to find God.  God will leave us in the desert we create for ourselves until such time, that we truly repent, recognize our wrongdoing or our misguided choices and beg God to turn us back to Himself. The choice is ours, as God respects our free will.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What We Can Learn from the Genealogy of Jesus

Today's Gospel, Mt. 1: 1-17, presents the genealogy of Jesus, "the Son of David, the son of Abraham."  Jesus is a king whose kingdom will last into eternity.  As Jesus says to Pilate, "Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. As it is, my kingdom does not belong here." Pilate answers: "So, then you are a king?" Jesus respond, saying: "It is you who say that I am a king, I was born for this, I came into the world for this, to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice" (Jn 18: 36-38). 

Lying in that manger on Christmas day if our King, the one who came into this world to testify to the truth that God is lo0ve, that God is merciful, that God is compassionate, that God is true to his promise to bring salvation, not just to the Jews but to foreigners, as ell, and to all peoples, the great and the small, public and private sinners, those despised and those acclaimed by all. 

In Jesus' genealogy, the "skeletons" are let out of the closet: David, an adulterer and a murderer; Rahab, a prostitute of Jericho who sheltered the spies and was admitted to the company of the Chosen People; Tamar, who deceived her father-in-law Judah into an incestuous union; and Bathsheba, who with David, committed adultery; and many others, males and females, of varying decrees of infidelity. There are "skeletons" in the closets of our families as well and in our personal lives also.  All are invited into God's Kingdom, into God's light to be purified, made whole, healed of their "infirmities." 

What in me needs the light of truth; what am I hiding from the Lord and others? What/who in my family is hiding from the Truth?  God excludes no one and no part of me from knowing the Truth and being set free! That is Christmas' gift!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Standing Up for Truth

In today’s Gospel, Mt. 21: 23-27, the chief priests and the elders of the people get caught hedging the truth. They dodge Jesus’ question, afraid of the crowd and of being politically incorrect.  John the Baptist is the very opposite.  He stands his ground, preparing the way for the Lord, calling the people to repentance and pointing out Jesus to the crowds: “Look, the Lamb of God. “  Neither is John the Baptist afraid of confronting Herod’s sin of incest with his brother’s wife.

How often do you and I hedge the truth, say whatever needs to be said to assumedly remain popular, to avoid offending anyone, or to assure that we are politically correct!  Standing up for what we believe, speaking the truth, being honest and open when asked a question about our faith:  many times that calls for the courage to go against the crowd.  It means having the courage and the faith of Mary when asked to bear a son prior to the consummation of her marriage to Joseph, or Joseph’s courage to take Mary as his wife, or having Mary’s forte at the wedding feast of Cana when she instructed the servants to do whatever Jesus told them to do. It also means having the strength to obey as the apostles did when called to leave their fishing boats or the tax collector’s lucrative business to follow Jesus or to join Him when He dined with sinners.  It means following the example of Jesus who was unafraid to dialogue with the women of His day or having the courage of the woman at the well who was unafraid to encounter Jesus at the well and then return to her country proclaiming the Good News of the Messiah. It means trusting the Lord’s authority to proclaim the resurrection, as did Mary of Magdala when commissioned by the Risen Christ to go tell the apostles that He truly was risen from the dead. She proclaimed that truth unflinchingly even though the apostles treated her with scorn, disbelieving such a proclamation coming from a woman.  Truly, like all of the faith-filled persons before us, we, too, are challenged to believe in the authority of Jesus and act upon the authority He gives to us as Christians to proclaim our faith even when it is politically incorrect to do so.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.   The Gospel reading is Luke 1: 26-38, which recounts the angel’s appearance to Mary.  We all know the story well.  We know the angel’s message and we know Mary original reaction—she is extremely troubled—and her final statement: “Be it done to me according to your word.”  And the angel leaves her.

There she is pregnant out of wedlock. She could be put to death once this word gets out, yet she only asked how is she going to conceive a child since she has had no relations with a man.  And the angel, matter of factly, informs her that the Holy Spirit will overshadow her and the child will be the Son of God, whose Kingdom will have no end. Mary surrenders to the will of God, knowing in faith that nothing is impossible with God. Once the angel left her, she takes recourse in her cousin Elizabeth, who is part of God’s plan of salvation (God includes women).  Mary has just exhibited unbelievable strength and faith as a woman.  In the words of the psalmist (Psalm 113), God has raised “the poor from the dust and lift[ed] the needy from the dunghill to give them a place with rulers, with the nobles of…[God’s] people.” 
What if  God, today, asks the impossible of me? What if God, today, asks something of me that would turn my life upside down and put my life, as I know it, at risk.  What would I do? How would I respond? Would I have the faith of Mary?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Laboring and Carrying our Burdens in the Strength of the Lord

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.”    In the first reading, Isaiah 40: 25-31, Isaiah reminds us that God “does not faint or grow weary” and that “his knowledge is beyond scrutiny.”  There is nothing about you or me  that God does not know.  He knows when you or I have grown weary. He knows when we feel faint and overwhelmed by what we are facing in our lives, in this very  hour.  He knows exactly where you and  I are on this journey to the Promised Land. He knows whether we are in “inclement weather,” buffeted by storms too much for us, whether  we are on a smooth path or a rough one, whether we have encountered an “enemy,” or are approaching a hostile or a friendly environment.  He also knows whether we are “armed” for the battle or ill-prepared.  “Why,” God asked, “do you even think that your “way is hidden” from me or that your rights are “disregarded” by  me? “Do you not know or have you not heard, Isaiah asks, that the Lord is the eternal God, creator of the ends of the earth, that God “does not faint nor grow weary,” that “his knowledge is beyond scrutiny,” that he “gives strength to the fainting; for the weak he makes vigor abound.”  Do you not know  that those who “hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles’ wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.”  Yes, if we come to Jesus, in good times and in “bad”, we will know all these things!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

God Comes with Power

In today’s first reading, Isaiah 40: 1-11, Isaiah reminds us that our God comes with power; that he “rules by his strong arm.”  We are about to celebrate Christmas, the birth of our Savior. God came to us as a powerless infant, was subject to Mary and Joseph as a child, assumed his public ministry at around the age of 30, clashed with authorities of his day and was put to death.  Where is the power, we may wonder.  Our God rules very differently than the kings of this world. God does not use power in the same way we do. Jesus’ power  is His humility and his obedience to the Father’s will.   The mounds of evil were leveled on Calvary, where Jesus, in His obedience to the Father’s will unto death, destroyed Satan, crushed His head.
 God continues to enter our lives humbly in the Eucharist and through the quiet voice of the Spirit speaking and working in the depths of our being and in the depths of the hearts of others as well. We don’t see God at work most of the time because we are looking with eyes other than those of our deepest God-self.  We see as the world sees, not as God sees.  Most of the time, like Peter,  who rebuked Jesus for making it clear “that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day” (Mt. 16: 21),  we think, “not as God thinks but as human beings do” (Mt. 16: 23).
Yes, the “Lord Yahweh [is] coming with power, his arm maintains his authority,” (Is. 40: 10), the authority that put Satan to death on the cross, that put Satan to death by His obedience to the Father unto death, that put Satan to death by His humility.

By whose power to I overcome evil? By whose power do I triumph? Certainly not my own but God’s grace quietly transforming me from within and empowering me to “love tenderly,  act with justice and walk humbly with our God” (compare Micah 6:8).  God is transforming the world one person at a time by our cooperation in His work of redemption. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Blessed with Every Spiritual Blessing in Heaven

The second reading of today’s liturgy is from Eph. 1: 3-6, 11-12.  I invite you to read it, addressing the Lord and reading it in the first person, inserting  your name. I did and it reads as follows:
“Lord, God, You have blessed me in Christ with every spiritual blessing in heaven, as You chose me in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and without blemish before You.”  You “clothe me with a robe of salvation” (Is 61:10).  The price You paid for that robe was the death of Your Son on Calvary.  “In love You destined me for adoption to Yourself through Christ Jesus in accord with the favor of Your will for the praise of the glory of Your grace that You granted me in the beloved.”
“In Christ [you, Dorothy Ann, were]… chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplished all things according to the intention of his will, so that you might exist for the praise of God’s glory.”
Wow, what a loving God! What generosity! What a gift!

I thank you and praise you, Lord, God.  May my awareness of Your love deepen. May I not take the gift of salvation for granted!  You sacrificed your Son that I might have life and have it eternally!
And this Christmas we celebrate your birthday—the day your entered into our way of life to transform it, to redeem it, to bring us back to God by your death upon the cross, when you were crucified on Calvary, being obedient to the Father unto death to undo our disobedience, our choosing our own wills in place of Yours.  O God, have mercy upon us each time we rebel and go our own ways.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Jesus' Heart Was Moved to Pity

In today’s Gospel, Mt 9: 35-10: 1, 5a, 6-8, we read that Jesus “went to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.”
Jesus, I believe, is very much moved with pity when he sees children abandoned, left without guidance and expected to make right decisions without parental  or adult supervision or direction; when parents  and adults are bent more on increasing their wealth  or accumulating material things than on nurturing a child’s or each other’s faith, building a child’s or one another’s confidence in themselves and trust in the Lord. I believe that God is moved with pity when we are so engrossed in ourselves that we do not spend time listening attentively and respectfully to others, when we do not take time to assist others in problem solving and/or being with them in times that are troubling to them.  Jesus, I believe, longs for us to seek His help in living as He did, engaged with those in need of healing, sharing meals with each other in our poverty as Jesus  invited Pharisees  and the poor to a meal with him. I believe that Jesus is moved with pity when we fail to share other people’s joy in events that are significant to them, as Jesus participated in the wedding feast of Cana.

Jesus spent his time here on earth doing good to all who were receptive to His generosity.  He rejoices when we do the same, when we do all in our power so that another is not abandoned or left in troubling situations.  Yes, we are here to be “shepherds” to abandoned “sheep”, to be sisters and brothers to each other in need and to allow others to respond to us in need as well.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Nelson Mandella: A Person Faithful to the Spirit's Guidance

In today’s first reading, Isaiah 29: 17-24, Isaiah prophesies that Lebanon shall be changed into an orchard, and the orchard be regarded as a forest! On that day [of salvation] the deaf shall hear the words of the book [the book of life itself]; and out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see.”
Out of the 27 years spent in the darkness of an 8’ by 8’ prison cell, Nelson Mandela’s efforts to confront the injustice of apartheid in South African were finally realized.  Out of gloom and darkness, the injustices  imposed by wealthy whites upon the people of color, a light had shown. The justice of God shown through Nelson Mandela.  As the prophet Isaiah prophesied, the “lowly” found “joy” in the Lord working through Mandela. The “poor” were led to rejoicing in the Holy One of Israel at work in South African through a faithful son, a beloved brother, who was willing to die for justice, integrity and right relationships between whites and blacks, between the rich and the poor.  Through Nelson Mandela, the people of his country witnessed the power of reconciliation and forgiveness, in that Mandela forgave his oppressors, his jailers, those who condemned him to life in prison. Why? Because he stood for truth, justice and right relationships. Grace triumphed over the evils he fought against because of Christ’s victory on the cross where Satan’s head was crushed, where evils were rendered powerless. Because Mandela cooperated with the Spirit of God directing him from within, “Lebanon” was “changed into an orchard, and the orchard [is now] regarded as a forest—an “orchard”, a “forest”  where the dignity and the rights of all people, black and white, are respected.

In cooperation with the absolute and limitless graces of salvation won for us by Christ on the cross in His triumph over death, physical and otherwise, and out of respect for Nelson Mandela ,  may we, too, stand up for the rights of  all people.  May we, like Nelson Mandela,  turn our weapons into plowshares, using reconciliation and forgiveness as weapons  instead of nuclear bombs, drones, and threats of violence. May we have the courage to stand up for truth, justice and the rights of all people even to the point of dealing with the opposition of those who are oppressors of the poor and lowly in the world, in the church, in our societies, in our workplaces; in short, in our personal, familial, ecclesial, social, civic and governmental realities.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A New Jerusalem Being Built by God

In today’s first reading, Isaiah 26: 1-6, Isaiah prophesies that God is building a New Jerusalem. This New Jerusalem will be a home for the poor and lowly and for those who trust in the Lord.  In Isaiah’s words:

“A strong city have we;
He sets up walls and ramparts to protect us.
Open up the gates
to let in a nation that is just,
one that keeps faith.
A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace;
in peace, for its trust in you.”

That nation of firm purpose is the nation of God’s Kingdom built upon Jesus Christ, the cornerstone, built upon the powerful foundation of eternal life won for us by Jesus’ giving of His life for the salvation of the world.  God’s Kingdom is strong.  Satan will not prevail against the walls and ramparts of a city built by our God.

What does that mean for you and me? 

What it means, Dorothy Ann, is that this City already exists.  You have a choice to enter it—the gates are open.

How do I enter in, Jesus?

You enter it whenever you choose to do good and resist evil. The choice is yours to make.

And if I do not make those kinds of choices?

Then, you delay experiencing the power of my resurrection assisting you to make right choices and avoid the temptations that weaken your will and dull your senses.

I delay the experience of how You have redeemed me?

Yes, you delay experiencing your ability to choose good and resist evil.  The grace awaits you. Eventually you will experience My Kingdom within you and around you. Eventually you will come through the open gate because I never close it!  The choice is yours to come through it.  I will wait for you to make those kinds of choices by which you experience the strength of the walls and ramparts by which I protect you from that which is not in your best interest from God’s perspective. And remember, I never let you go.  I paid a great price for your salvation and I will not be denied.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A God of Abundance

“On this mountain,” we read in today’s first reading, Is 25: 6-10a, the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples…”   In the Gospel, Jesus ascends a mountain.  A great crowd brings the sick, the deaf, the blind, the lame, those with deformities and many other forms of illness to Him. He heals them all!  Imagine the excitement of that crowd! They stay with Jesus for three days.  Jesus “is moved with pity” and is worried that if they are sent away without something to eat that they will collapse on the way. So He inquires of the disciples if anyone has any food.  He is told that one of the persons in the crowd has a few fish and seven loaves (seven in biblical parlance means an abundance—enough for everyone). With those seven loaves and few fish, Jesus feeds the crowd and has seven baskets leftover!  Jesus is the generosity of God, the compassion of God, the abundance of God.

God is no different in our lives today than He was when He walked the streets and roads of Galilee, Capernaum, Nazareth, or Jerusalem as God Incarnate in Christ Jesus, our Lord.  As then, so now.  He walks among us, beside us, and behind us. He has pity on us as He did on the crowd. He feeds us with an abundance of the finest wheat and the choicest wine in every Eucharist and in our sharing of our “bread” and “wine”  when we, in turn, break open our lives in loving service, when we are being attentive to the needs of others.  God knows when we are ready to collapse along the way. He responds to our needs in a way  that outweighs our response to the needs of others. It is for that reason that we are able to be good stewards in sharing our goods with others.

Every time I  am ready "to collapse" and when I ascend the mountain of the Lord to lay my "deformities"at the Lord's feet, I experience His pity.  Every morning, also, I wake up restored.  Throughout the night, the Lord has pity on me and restores my drooping spirits and replenishes my weary body. Yes,  the Lord of hosts is moved with pity but not only moved emotionally but takes action on our behalf day and night.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Earth Filled with the Knowledge of God

"There shall be no harm or ruin on all of  my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord, as water covers the sea, " we are told in today's first reading, Is. 11: 1-10.

What a promise, especially given the fact that the family of Jesse, David's father, has been reduced to "a stump," and appears dead.  How possibly will God's promise of an everlasting Kingdom, where "there shall be no harm or ruin," come about from David's royal lineage?  And happen, it does in Jesus' birth!  The Son of God comes into this world to remind us that God's Kingdom is rooted in human nature, will survive death and last eternally. That Kingdom, through the Spirit at work in the world, at work in each one of us, is removing the obstacles that appear to thwart God's plan of salvation, that seems to be delaying the time when the earth will "be filled with the knowledge of God." 

Blessed, Jesus says in today's Gospel, Luke 10: 22-24, are those who see God's plan coming to fruition, who believe in God's promises and know, in faith, that God's faithfulness has no limitations and no end.  Yes, the day is fast approaching when "justice" will be granted to "the poor," and "the ruthless" will be crushed "with the rod of...[God's] mouth" and the wicked will be slain "with the breath of...[God's] lips" (See Is. ll: 1-10).

O, the greatness and the power and the love and the justice of our God!  Blessed are those who believe when they do not see. Blessed are those who wait and trust in God's coming and acting on behalf of the poor and distraught, the marginalized and the oppressed of this world, of our governmental, societal, ecclesial, familial, and legal systems, for "nothing is impossible for our God" (Luke 1: 37).  Mary believed  and got involved in this Plan in the face of risking her life by stoning.  To what point do you and I believe in God's plan and to what point are we willing to say "yes" to the Lord and assume the mission God has entrusted to us to work along side of and with God, until the time comes when "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as water covers the sea"?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Advent: Some Reflections

As parents, filled with hope, gratitude, and excitement, await the birth of a child, so, too, do we await the second coming of Christ.

Divinely ordained, Jesus leaves heavenly glory to become human.

Vividly obedience to His Father’s will, Jesus enters Mary’s womb to take on human nature,

Even though becoming human meant experiencing the best and the worst of humanity’s treatment of one another, Jeus was obedient to the Father even unto death.
Nobody, not even the Son of God made man escaped suffering and loss; neither will we. Jesus, though, shows us the way to deal with life’s tragedies in faith, in hope and in love.
Today, and every day, may we walk in the way of Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life that will set us free. May we rely upon Christ, whose help we need to remain faithful.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Come, follow me

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Andrew , the Apostle.  Jesus spots him in his boat with his father and calls out to him: “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of people.”  Andrew immediately drops everything, leaves his father and his fishing industry to follow the Lord. He is so excited about Jesus that he finds his brother Peter and says to him: “We have found the Messiah.”  Peter, also, immediately leaves  his fishing boat to follow the Lord.

What was it about Jesus that attracted the apostles? What was it about his voice, his demeanor? 

Ever meet someone whom you could not wait to introduce to your siblings, your friends, your family?  That excitement pales, no doubt, in face of the experience of Andrew. It was the Lord, the Son of God, the Anointed One sent to this world to bring us the Good News of our salvation.  He was the one born of the Virgin Mary, of whom Mary said to the servants at the wedding feast of Cana: “Do whatever He tells you,” when she invited her Son to respond as only He could. By her invitation, Mary reveals who Jesus is to all those attending the wedding. Mary knew that her Son was no ordinary person.  He was the one sent into the world to transform it, to reconcile all humankind to His Father. He was the visible manifestation of God the Father, a God of compassion and love, a God of mercy and forgiveness—a forgiveness that would be won for us by Jesus’ obedience to the Father unto  death.

Yes, Jesus was the revelation of God, our Creator, whose plan for our salvation and the salvation of the entire world was being revealed right before Andrew’s eyes.  Come, Andrew said to his brother, I have found the Messiah!
How excited am I about Christ? Do I see in Christ the redeemer of the world? Do I see the Father reflected in the Son? And, as a baptized Christian, do I, in fact, reflect God to the world? Or are my attitudes and behaviors such that God’s light does not shine through them?

Friday, November 29, 2013

His Dominion is an Everlasting Dominion

In today’s first reading, Daniel 3: 68-74, Daniel shares his vision of four “immense beasts,” one more frightening than the other, each warring against one another until each one of them lost their power and are slain.  It may seem baffling to us as we read Daniel and/or Revelations. “Such gory detail of violent struggles, “we might say to ourselves; “I can’t stand reading about these things. Why, in fact, are such stories in the bible?  Bloodshed? Violence? Killing? Crushing, trampling, and torturing each other? Ugh!”  The vision Daniel sees is nothing less than what has been happening between the nations of his day, against Israel and Israel against other nations, believers against non-believers.  

As in the past, so now.  Nations, countries, states, tribes, municipalities, churches, governing bodies, families, individuals arrogantly speaking out against each other , like “the horn,” in Daniel’s vision, that “had eyes like a man, and a mouth that spoke arrogantly.”  In this vision, Daniel witnesses the “beast” being “slain and its body thrown into the fire to be burnt up. The other beasts, which also lost their dominion, were granted a prolongation of life for a time and a season.  As the visions during the night continued,” Daniel watched:

“Thrones were set up
And the Ancient One took his throne.
His clothing was snow bright,
and the hair on his head was white as wool;
His throne was flames of fire,
with heels of burning fire.
A surging stream of fire
flowed out from where he sat;
thousands upon thousands were ministering to him,
and myriads upon myriads attended him….

One like a son of man coming,
on the clouds of heaven;
when he reached the Ancient One
and was presented before him,
He received dominion, glory, and kingship;
nations and peoples of every language serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not be taken away,
His kingship shall not be destroyed.”

The son of man presented to the Ancient One is Christ. The Kingdom is the Kingdom of Christ; “His kingship shall not be destroyed,” no matter how hard we try to obliterate God living among us and within us. 

I believe that and am unafraid as we witness horrible things happening in our world, as I hear about “beasts” trampling the innocent. Those “kingdoms” of evil will be slain eventually. Only the Kingdom of Christ is eternal. You and I are part of that kingdom, having died and rose with Christ in baptism, having been sealed for Christ in confirmation and delivered from evil by Christ on the cross. Halleluiah! Praise and thanks to our God forever and ever. Amen!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Happy those who wait upon the Lord

And who place their trust in the Lord, their God, who are

Pleasingly engaged in living out their baptism by loving others and themselves,

Pleasantly embracing God’s will as it is revealed to them through the Church, the Spirit speaking within them, around them, and in others with whom they live and work and play;

Yielding their wills to the will of God!


Those who trust in the Lord shall be


Ardently committed to seeking the Lord in all things,

Never living in fear but trusting God’s provident care,

Keeping open their minds and hearts and wills to the Lord’s truth,

Savoring the Word of God in the Scriptures, the Eucharist, and as it is spoken through the events of their lives;

Giving God praise in all they do,

Interested in growing in their faith and helping others do the same,

Vivaciously expressing their gratitude to the Lord in all things,

Inviting others to do the same,

Never lacking anything because they belong to the Lord, their

God and Savior and Sanctifier.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Writing on the Wall

 In today’s first reading, Daniel 5: 1-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28, we read about King  Belchazzar, Nebuchadnezzar’s son who, like his father, worshipped gold ,silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone as gods.  In a drunken state, he ordered that the sacred vessels of silver and gold  from the house of God in Jerusalem be brought to him so that his lords, his wives, his entertainers and he himself could drink wine from them. As they were marrying and worshipping their gods, a hand began to write on the wall. The King was terrified and called for Daniel to interpret the writing. He did so. Mene meant that God had numbered the king’s kingdom and would bring it to an end. Tekel meant that the king was found wanting in God’s eyes. He was worshipping pagan gods but not glorifying “the God in whose hand is your life breath and the whole course of your life.”  Perez meant that Belshazzar’s kingdom would be divided and given to other nations.

Do you and I read the writing on the walls of our lives when we, too, are worshipping false gods, when we have violated the sacred vessels from the Temple?  We are that temple of God.  In 1 Cor 6: 19-20 St. Paul asked “Do you know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? “  Do we glorify the God in whom we “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28) or are we engaging in idolatrous worship of material things?

Just as God alerted King Belshazzar, son of Nebuchadnezzar, of his waywardness and the consequences of violating the vessels of the Temple, so, too, does God alert us when we stray from the right path. Am I listening? Am I paying attention?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Kingdom of God Triumphs

In today’s first reading, Daniel 2: 31-45, Daniel interprets Nebuchanezzar’s dream in which the Lord reveals to the king that all of the kingdoms of his world—and ours, by the way—will eventually be destroyed.  All are fragile.  All are temporary. Only one Kingdom will last and that is the Kingdom of Christ established on Calvary, when Jesus  offered atonement for  the sins of the world. It is on Calvary that we have been guaranteed forgiveness of our sins.  And how great the sins of the world are! How horribly ugly is sin—so ugly that Jesus was unrecognizable on the way to Calvary and on the cross. He looked like a worm, not like a Son of Man.  The blood of the New Covenant, unlike the blood of the Old Covenant, will never be shed again. Death will be no more. Jesus died once and for all to atone for our disobedience to the Father’s will.

At every Catholic liturgy the death and resurrection of the Lord is celebrated. God descends from heaven and we ascend to heaven in every Eucharist; our earthly liturgies become one with the heavenly liturgy in which Christ takes on Satan and evil, destroying them, triumphing over them every second of every day.  Acknowledging the heavens opening up and Christ descending upon our altars, we cry out:  “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!”  We recall Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem and being greeted in the very same way, palm branches laid at His feet and the crowd shouting: Hosanna in the highest.”  Before going to Calvary and before celebrating the Last Supper, Jesus entered the Temple and cleansed it. So, too, in the Catholic liturgy, Jesus, in Communion, enters the Temple of our bodies and cleanses them. Truly, the Kingdom of God has come. All other kingdoms will be destroyed, as Daniel prophesied to King Nebuchanezzar!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Standing Up for What I Believe

In the first reading of today’s liturgy,  Daniel 1: 1-6, 8-20, we  are given an example of four young men standing up to evil. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had “laid siege to Jerusalem. Sacred vessels of the temple of God were carried off “to the land of Shinar, and placed…in the temple treasure of [the king’s] god.”   The king asked that the brightest, the most handsome, the most prudent in judgment, those of royal blood and of the nobility, young men without any defect among the Chosen People be brought to him. Over a span of three years, they would be trained, taught the language and the literature of the Chaldeans, and then  be tested in terms of their knowledge, wisdom and prudence.  If they passed the test, they would enter into the king’s service.   Among those chosen for this three years’ training were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.  They were resolved, however,  not to defile themselves with the king’s food or wine, “so they begged the chief chamberlain to spared them this defilement” and, for ten days, serve them only vegetables.  The king’s servant was afraid that they would be weakened by not eating the meat and drinking the wine that others were served during this training period and that his very life would be taken from him as a result.  These four young men, however, after ten days of eating only vegetables,  were in fact stronger than all the others who accepted the king’s meal.  Thus, for the three years of training, they were allowed to follow their conscience and observe the Mosaic Law.  “To these four young men God gave knowledge and proficiency in all literature and science, and to Daniel the understanding of all visions and dreams.” They passed the king’s test with flying colors. The king “found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his kingdom” and they were admitted into the king’s service.
This past week I attended the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis, IN, where 25,000 teenagers were not afraid to proclaim to the world “I am a Catholic.” Like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, who proclaimed to be followers of the Mosaic Law and refused the king's orders, these young people stood up for what they believe.  They were not afraid to let the world know that they were signed for Christ in their baptism, sealed by the Spirit in their confirmation and delivered by Christ on the cross.  They publically  chose Christ and rejected idolatrous worship of other gods.

When I am faced with “worshipping the idols of my day,” when I am tempted to follow my will over and against God's will for me,  how loyal am I to Christ? Or do I, in the face of the temptations to defile myself, abandon my faith?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Who is Your King?

In today's Gospel, Luke 19-28, Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem where He will be put to death.  His disciples are expecting Him to establish His Kingdom, become King, and expell the Romans, giving Israel back its nation.  He tells a parable of a "nobleman [who] went off to a distant country to obtain the kingdsip for himself and then to return....His fellow citizens, however, despised him and sent a delegation after him to announce, 'We do not want this man to be out king.'"

Jesus is addressing this parable to us, to our world, to those persos who, in fact, do not want Jesus to be our King as is obvious in many ways.  The U.S. has banned prayer from our schools, want "in God we trust" taken off our currency, demand that sacred feast honoring Christ, our King, referred to as "holidays," and forbade, in some instances, any display of religious symbols.  There are myriad of ways in which the world is screaming: "We do not want Christ as our King. Crucify Him. Crucify Him. We have no king but "Caesar" (compare Jn. 19:15).

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Preference for the Lord's Ways

In today’s first reading, 2 Maccabees 6: 18-31, Eleazar, a prominent scribe and an elderly man respected for his integrity, his faithfulness to Yahweh, determinately refuses to violate the Mosaic law and thus give scandal to younger generations.  He “prefers a glorious death to a life of defilement.”  Even for a brief moment of earthly fame in the eyes of those who are encouraging him to pretend to be obeying a secular king, Eleazar refuses, asking “Should I thus pretend for the sake of a brief moment of life, they [younger generations] would be led astray by me, while I would bring shame and dishonor on my old age. Even if, for the time being, I avoid the punishment of men, I shall never, whether alive or dead, escape the hands of the Almighty. Therefore, by manfully giving up my life now, I will prove myself worthy of my old age, and I will leave to the young a noble example of how to die willingly and generously for the revered and holy laws.” Oh, how desperately we need the examples of adults in our day and age to stand up to secular governments, secular movements, secular ways of celebrating sacred feasts and refuse to obey laws contrary to the commandments of God and of the Church!

 How willing am I to stop pretending to be faithful and, in fact, adhere to what I have been taught from my childhood of what God asks of me.  What pain am I willing to endure when I am faced with choosing a direction the Spirit puts before me when it is contrary to what others may be encouraging me to do.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Jesus, Master, Have Pity on Us

Today's Gospel, Luke 17: 11-19, tells the story of the ten lepers who encounter Jesus and, obviously recognize who Jesus is--the One who can restore them to wholeness, the One who is their "gate" to re-enter society and their "ticket" to leave their isolation.  By recognizing Jesus and calling out for pity, by believing in Jesus as the One who can save them, these lepers are healed. They no longer need to isolate themselves from others. They no longer need to hide from the public.

It was no accident that these lepers encountered Jesus, anymore than it is an accident when we encounter loving, merciful, wise individuals who free us from that which may be "eating" away at our "flesh,"  people who open our eyes to our hatreds, our prejudices, our fears, our sinful behaviors and attitudes by which we distance ourselves from others and from God. Whenever we stand in judgment of another, whenever we condemn another, whenever we enter into gossip of another, we are distancing ourselves from others. Whenever we are dishonest, deceitful; whenever we act out of pride and vent our anger onto others, deliberately hurting them, returning evil for evil, the leprosy of sin within us comes out of remission, so to speak.  Whenever we succumb to "leprous," diseased attitudes and behaviors, we darken our faith vision. At those times, we, like the lepers, have created a wall between us and others and need to cry out:  "Jesus, Master, have pity on us."   Am I aware when I become "the leper" who has distanced her/himself from God and others and are in need of mercy?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

God's gift of imperishability

"God formed [you, Dorothy Ann (insert your name),] to be imperishable" (Wis 2: 23).  That means that this earthly life will come to an end at a time chosen by our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier.  At the moment that our sanctification here on earth is complete, the angel of death will come and we will be born into eternal life, where we will live forever with all of the redeemed.  God has ordained it so in Christ Jesus.  He loves us unconditionally to the point of His son being obedient to the Father unto death in order that the death of sin would have no lasting power over us.  Satan's ability to lure us into choosing our will over the will of God has been completely obliterated by Jesus' obedience to the Father's will--we are in the process of discovering this gift during our sojourn here on earth. We are on a journey to discover that where sin abounded in us, grace will abound even more through the power of Jesus' resurrection and the power of the Spirit interceding on our behalf  24/7. Our warrior God fights beside us, within us, ahead of us, behind us as God takes on Satan.  God wins ultimately in our battle with our disobedience, that is, our choosing our will over God's will.  And when our purification here on earth is complete, when we are ready to pass through death into eternal life, I believe that God comes to walk before us as we pass through the door of death into eternal life--a life prepared for us from the beginning of time.  God is faithful even in our unfaithfulness and His will will not be denied.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Waiting upon the Lord

In today’s responsorial psalm, Psalm 27: 1, 4, 13-14, the psalmist reminds us that we “shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living.”  He then encourages us to “[w]ait for the Lord with courage; be stouthearted and wait for the Lord.”    Waiting can be very challenging for those of us who have a difficult time when things do not happen in our timing, when answers are not forthcoming at the moment that we want them to be or in the manner that we think the answers should be revealed to us.  “Come on, Lord,” we may say. “Where are you? I can’t wait any longer!” So, what do some of us do? Take charge! Do our own thing or jump in and try to fix what seems very wrong, not that “fixing the wrong” is not the right thing to do but sometimes we jump ahead of God.  When we do that, either in  “fixing a wrong” or making a choice prematurely, we are likely to cause more problems.  Readiness is important. Timing is important. God’s time, many times, is not our timing.

Think of parents  with young children. One of the children lies down on the floor and proceeds to have a temper tantrum in the middle of a store.  If the child is not hurting anyone, wise parents wait until the child is finished screaming, kicking; those parents let the child vent. When the child is finished, a parent picks up the child, comforts him or her and moves on.  Another parent may interfere, demand that the toddler’s temper tantrum cease, yell at the child to stop the screaming and kicking, even hit the child or call the child names, labeling him/her a bad child. Consequently, the temper tantrum escalates and the calming down takes longer, not to mention the long term effects of the name-calling: a memory that can stay with the child long into adulthood.  God is like the wise parent. When we “lose it,” He simply looks on and watches us with patience, waiting for us to calm down before intervening. He knows that we are not capable of hearing Him while we are ranting and raving.  He also knows that getting one’s anger out without hurting another person or ourselves is an important step in being open to counsel and to experiencing “the bounty of the Lord”.

That Lord’s   “bounty” opens up to the person who, when calm,  humbly and courageously reflects upon the “temper tantrum” experience, seeks God’s counsel or counsel from another, and is willing to learn whatever lesson is hidden within the event. Furthermore, the person who bares his/her soul to the Lord, sharing the incident and feelings about the incident that led to the meltdown, prepares the soil of his/her heart to receive the “rain” of grace. By humbly and courageously waiting upon the Lord, the soft, gentle “rain” of grace soaks  the heart’s soil and, yes, God’s bounty burst through the formerly hardened soul.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Jesus Turns to Gaze upon Us and to Address Us

The gospel of today’s liturgy (catholic Mass) opens with the words: “Great crowds were following Jesus and He turned to address them…”  Imagine being a part of that crowd. Jesus turns and your eyes meet! He speaks directly to you nonverbally. Love touches your heart deeply and it is transformed by that look of love.  St. Paul, in today’s first reading, Romans 13, 8-10, tells us that we “[o]we nothing to anyone, except to love one another….Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of” each of the commandments that instruct us to “not commit adultery; …not kill; …not steal; …not covet.”  Imagine being so transformed by Jesus’ loving gaze that your love for yourself and others is set ablaze.  Judgments cease on your part. You begin to look for the good, even the smallest good, in your neighbor, in yourself, in your loved ones, in those with whom you are at odds, in those  whose attitudes sting like salt on an open wound. And you not only look for that good, you name it,  you point it out to that person.  “Love,” St. Paul teaches, “is the fulfillment of the law.”  And yes, you yourself, are fulfilled by that kind of loving!

Lord, may I have the courage and the humility today to be loving, that is to look for good in myself, in those with whom I come in contact, in the world, in the church, in my family and my religious community. May I risk expressing that love, naming the good I see, especially, in situations that seem depraved of any good or in persons who are raging, ranting or pouting, who are depressed or lonely or hurting, who are incredibly annoying, especially if that is me having “a bad day”, if that is me encountering maddening circumstances that seem to arise out of nowhere and that I allow to shatter my peace. In those times, may I turn to you, as you are always turned toward me. May my eyes and your eyes meet in an embrace of love, in an embrace that restores calmness to my troubled soul.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Today is the second day of a busy students' retreat. The Scripture passage that the students are reflecting upon is Mark 10: 17-22, the story of the rich young man who comes to Jesus wanting to know what more he has to do to inherit eternal life. He addresses Jesus as "good" and Jesus asks him why he addressed Him that way, as only God is good. Thus Jesus reveals his true identity to the  young man. Jesus tells him that he needs to keep all of the commandments. The young man says that he's done that all of his life. Jesus tells him that one thing is missing, namely, that he needs to sell all that he has and give the money to the poor and then come follow Him. The wealthy young man walks away sad because he prefers his wealth to following the Lord's directions, to developing an intimate relationship with the Lord and sharing "his wealth" with those less fortunate than himself.  Jesus, too, must have felt very sad, as he "was filled with love" for this man.

Every day, you and I, like this young man, are free to walk away from the Lord's invitation to "sacrifice" for a greater good, to give to "the poor" who want of our time or whose well-being depends upon our willingness to share "our riches" with them.  "Go, sell all that you want to possess exclusively for yourself alone and share with others in love and care and forgiveness. Go, sell all and give of your "wealth"--whatever that "wealth" might be--and give to "the poor, whoever those persons are in your midst today.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The faith journey

Today, I am directing a retreat at UW-River Falls, WI. The theme of the retreat is “Sometimes you have to go to Jerusalem as a Christian.”  The Scripture reading chosen for today’s reflection is 1 Kings 17: 7-16.  Drought has ravished the land. The Lord says to Elijah: “Up and go to Zarephath in Sidonia, and stay there. I have ordered a widow there to give you food.” As Elijah enters the city, he meets a widow gathering sticks to prepare a last meal for her son and herself before they die.  She is asked to share the little she has with Elijah. She is hesitant. Elijah tells her that Yahweh has promised that the “[j]ar of meal shall not be spent, the jug of oil shall not be emptied, before the day when Yahweh sends rain on the face of the earth.”  She does as Elijah suggested and, lo and behold, the “jar of meal was not spent nor the jug of oil emptied, just  as Yahweh had foretold through Elijah.”

 When you and I think we have absolutely nothing to share or  we are at the end of our rope, there are no more choices left to make, we want to give up totally or simply lie down and die, the Lord says: “Up and go. Don’t just sit here.  Don’t give up.  I have ordered so and so to meet your need, to restore you to life, but you have got to be willing to work  for it. You have got to be willing to leave your “poverty” and seek the more from those who can assist you.

The journey to fullness of life always  involves a dying, a letting go, a  giving and a receiving. If we cling to what is when what is is no longer life-giving—the well has run dry, so to speak-- if we wallow in self-pity, we will continue to feel famished, unmotivated, stuck. On the other hand,  if  we assume responsibility in “finding the widow” in relocating to another “place,” be that a physical move or a psychological/spiritual move, following  Elijah’s example, we will thrive in God’s goodness and grow in our trust of Divine Providence.  The faith journey is learning over and over again to trust God’s invitations to get “up and go to ‘Zaraphat in Sidonia’” or to give of the little we have to help others even when we think we have nothing to give.    

Friday, November 1, 2013

Repent and Believe in the Good News

In my morning meditation,  I continued to bare my distress to the Lord about a recent conversation that what awaits us following death is God’s  punishment for our sinful lives; namely, that we will suffer in the fires of purgatory and not enter heaven when we die.  It’s not that I do not believe in the importance of being purified before entering heaven; however,  there seems to be a contradiction with the following Scripture passages for those of us who repent and believe the Good News. In  Psalm 103:11, the psalmist proclaims: “[as] the height of heaven above earth, so strong is [God’s] faithful love for those who fear him. As the distance of east from west, so far from us does he put our faults”  and,  in Is. 1:18, God says to us through the prophet: “Though…[their] sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Is 1:18).  As explained in a footnote in the Jerusalem Bible on this passage, “the condition on which God insists is avowal of the sin and repentance…and the inner conversion that this implies.”  I believe that one who avows or admits his/her sins and brings his/her sinful behavior into harmony with the Holy Will of God is purified of that sin in the here and now through the sacraments of reconciliation, Eucharist and the Anointing of the Sick.  Furthermore, did Jesus not say to the good thief on the cross “this day you will be with me in Paradise”?  He did not say” You will be with me in Paradise after you suffer in the burning fires of purgatory following your death.”  If his repentance and sincere sorrow, if his admittance of his guilt and his suffering united with the sufferings of Jesus’ on the cross were accepted  as his purification and readiness to be in the presence of God in eternity that very day, why is this not true for those of us  who sincerely repent and believe in Jesus’ words to us in this very moment and on our death beds: “This day you will be with me in Paradise.”  I believe it does. What is your belief?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Triumphantly Victorious in Christ Jesus

In today’s first reading, Romans 8: 31-39, St. Paul raises several questions:   “If God is for us, who can be against us?  Since he did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for the sake of all of us, then can we not expect that with him he will freely give us all his gifts? Who,” Paul asks, “can bring any accusation against those that God has chosen? When God grants saving justice who can condemn? Are we not sure that it is Christ Jesus, who died—yes, and more, who was raised from the dead and is at God’s right hand—and who is adding his plea for us. Can anything cut us off from the love of Christ—can hardship, distress, or persecution or lack of food or clothing, or threats or violence….No; we come through all these things triumphantly victorious, by the power of him who loved us.”

Those words are deeply consoling for me following a recent conversation about the afterlife and the belief of many that we will be separated from God for awhile because of the punishment due our sinfulness and our need for purification following death.  I have a difficult time perceiving God as a judge preparing meticulously to hold our sin against us, just waiting for us to enter eternal life so he can punish us as we deserve.  This is not my God.  And furthermore, I believe that I will come through this life “triumphantly victorious, by the power of him who [loves me]!”

What if, however, I do Ieave this life unprepared to enter into God’s presence? How will I become purified, since, after I die,I am no longer able to prepare myself. That is part of my mission here on earth. Once I die, I am then totally dependent on the prayers that are said for me by the church militant, those still on this earth on their way to heaven.  I do believe I shall be purified—however long that purification period is after I die. It is not God punishing me, however; it is the choice I will have made if I leave earth unreconciled, unrepentant of my sins and not trusting in God’s infinite mercy and unconditional love.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Spirit Praying within Us according to God's Will

In today’s’ first reading, Romans 8: 26-30, St. Paul reminds us that the Spirit prays within us “in inexpressible groanings” when we do not know how to pray.  This truth may be difficult to get our arms around!   Because the Spirit prays within us  according to God’s will it would seem wise for us to let go in prayer and  let God the Spirit make intercessions for us!  Is this why the psalmist asks us to “be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46).
As I tried further to get my arms around this truth, I spelled out what the specifics might look like if I do let go and allow the Spirit to intercede for SSMs, for new vocations, for the church, for my family and relatives, for me;  for abortionists, for human traffickers and victims of human trafficking, for drug addicts and alcoholics and the mentally, physically, emotionally ill and those who assist them in their struggles, for those actively racist and sexist, for those involved in corruption, war and violence of any kind as well as victims of such.  Imagine the Spirit praying for all of these intentions according to God’s will.
I also attempted to understand  this truth by describing it as follows: 
Through the intercession of the Spirit praying within us, God transforms chaos into order, sin into holiness, deceit into truth, fear into courage, emptiness into fullness of life according to God’s holy will. 
Truly, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are warriors who come into our lives, and the lives of the world at large, to conquer sin and death--the death of faith, hope, and love; the death of truth and decency. And does so in a very real way in the liturgical celebration of the Eucharist when we here on earth, as Catholics,  join the angels and saints in a heavenly liturgy when God and all the angels and saints war against evil in our world offering Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection for the salvation of all and when Jesus, in Holy Communion, enters the Temples of our bodies to cleanse them, just as, when entering Jerusalem, He went to the Temple and cleansed it before entering His passion.
How great is the Lord, our God, through all the earth (Psalm 8).