Saturday, June 29, 2013

"If God is for Us, Who Can be Against Us" (Rom. 8:31)

Today the Church celebrates the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.  We read, in the first reading of the liturgy, Acts 12: 1-11, about the miraculous intervention of Peter being freed from prison.  “He had been taken into custody and put in prison under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each…. [P]rayer by the Church was fervently being made to God on his behalf….Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ The chains fell from his wrists.”  The angel then asked that he follow him out of the prison and they did so in front of all of the guards who were rendered powerless.

We are told in the Gospel of today’s liturgy that Christ built His Church upon “rock,” the rock of Peter and “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”   The Church is built upon God’s plan, a Foundation that will stand forever.  Hell shall never prevail against God’s will!  We need to hear, I believe, what God said so often to the Chosen People: “I am God; there is no other” (Is 45: 5

God’s plans will never be destroyed. Those who attempt to relegate such into oblivion will never succeed any more than did the Egyptians succeed in making powerless God’s plan to deliver Israel from slavery in their day.  The Egyptians certainly tried! Neither was the plan of God destroyed during the Chosen  People’s wanderings in the desert or their mingling with pagan gods or during their exile from Jerusalem, from the Presence of their God in the Temple. God is God; there is no other.  The Chief Priests and Scribes and leaders of the Jewish people attempted to destroy the will of God by putting Jesus to death—God raised Jesus from the dead: the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church, against God’s plan for our salvation.    Neither will the plan of God be obliterated today by the false gods of our times: possessions, pleasure, power.  God’s authority will not be usurped by the authority of those in power today. God says to us, as He did to the Egyptians: “I am God; there is no other.”

Friday, June 28, 2013

Confidence and Transparency

In both of today’s readings, Gen. 17: 1, 9-10, 15-22 and Mt 8: 1-4, we witness two people being transparent with the Lord.  The result is amazing, revealing how God relates to persons who are humble, sincere and open in their communication with the Lord. A mutual confidence and caring exchange occurs. In Gen. Abram laughs when God says that Abram, now 100 years of age, and Sarah, 99, will bear a child. Abram says to God: “Bless Ishmael instead.”  God does so9 but also blesses Abram and Sarah, keeping His covenant with them.  In the Gospel, a leper, an outcast of society, approaches Jesus and says: “If you wish, you can heal me.” And Jesus does just that.

Normalcy is ignored and/or transcended in both cases.  It wasn’t normal for a couple to be fertile in advanced years nor was it, according to societal norms in Jesus’ time for a leper to approach Jesus or for Jesus to enter into a relationship with a leper.  Both the leper and Jesus ignore these norms and God’s compassion to the lowliest of people is revealed.

How confident am I in approaching the Lord and honestly expressing my concerns?  Do I wish to be healed?  Do I ask that others be blessed? If not, why not?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Taking Things into Our Own Hands: The Consequences

In today’s first reading, Gen. 16: 1-12, 15-16, we have the story of Sarai giving her husband permission to have intercourse with her Egyptian maidservant Hagar, because “the Lord has kept me from bearing children.”  Abram and Sarai take things into their own hands instead of trusting and relying upon the Lord,  who promised them that their descendents would be as numerous as the stars in the sky or the sand on the seashore.  Following her pregnancy, Hagar begins to treat Sarai with disdain and lord her pregnancy over Sarai. Sarai blames Abram for Hagar’s abuse. He dismisses it as her problem: “Do with her whatever you like.”  Sarai, in  turn, abuses Hagar, who runs away to get escape the consequences of her bad behavior that Sarai reciprocates.  God communes with Hagar, expressing his concern and counseling her to deal with the situation she has created by returning to Sarai. 

How easily to get ourselves into a mess when we take things into our own hands and then take steps to avoid any responsibility for the mess that we have created.  There are consequences to abusing anyone, to lording it over others, to entertaining and acting upon jealousies.  Note, though, that God does not abandon any one of these persons and He does not negate His promises. The covenant stands that He made with Abram and Sarai.  Hagar, too, is given protection, is counseled, is shown care and concern from on high. 

God has a plan for all and that plan will not be thwarted because we choose to do things our way instead of waiting upon the Lord.  In what ways, we need to ask ourselves, do we take things into our own hands, arrange to escape the messes we have created in our relationships, act upon jealousies and forget God’s covenant with us?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"How" Lord will your will be accomplished in me?

In today’s first reading, Gen. 15: 1-12, 17-18, we reflect upon Abram’s questioning of God: how is it ever possible that my descendants will be as numerous as the sands on the seashore when “I keep being childless….See, you have given me no offspring.”

Our complaint will vary: “Lord, how can_____________ be; you have not given me _______.”  Abram follows God’s instructions to offer sacrifice and praise.  Not trusting that his offering of sacrificial animals is safe on the altar, Abram stays with them throughout the evening, falls into “a trance” and is enveloped by a “deep, terrifying darkness.”  It was at this occasion that God makes His covenant with Abram. 

At our worst, life, too, at times, becomes this terrifying darkness.  Hopelessness can set in and seem to take a forever hold on our lives.  God seems to have abandoned us to our worst fears.  However, God is faithful even when our hopes seem dead.  God is with us in our despair, just as much as He was with Abram in his agonies.  God triumphs even when we have no inkling how His plans for our well-being or that of our families, our societies, our communities, our church, our world will be realized. In our darkest moments, as with Abram, God makes and/or renews His covenant with us in and through and with Christ Jesus, our God and Savior.

Lord, I pray for the faith of Abram. May I have the courage to "stay with" that of which I am afraid, knowing that you will come through for me.  May I cling to You and your promises in the deepest darkest moments of my life.  You are God and there is no other!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Belief in an Abundance

In today’s first reading, Gen. 13: 2, 5-18, we read the story of Abram and Lot being “very rich in livestock, silver, and gold.” The flock and herds and tents of both were so great that “the land could not support them if they stayed together; their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together.” So Abram says to Lot: “Let there be no strife between you and me, or between  your herdsmen and mine, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land at your disposal?  Please separate from me. If you prefer the left, I will go to the right; if you prefer the right, I will go to the left.”

As I reflected upon that passage, I realized that when I am “fighting” with another, it is a sign of my lack of faith in the Lord’s ability, desire and power to fulfill my needs, to take care of my religious community, for instance, and its needs for new vocations and for whatever else my province needs to thrive. God is a generous God. There is an abundance of graces available to meet our needs for ongoing conversion, for future ministry, for an increase in membership or for new membership (not necessarily in huge numbers but sufficient for the work/ministry to which  God is calling us).  In my personal life, when I am “fighting” with another for whatever I want or believe I need, then, too, I am functioning from a position of lack, not believing in abundance, an abundance readily available to me through God, my Savior and the Creative Energy and Power at work in my life on a daily basis.

If we—the church, the nations of the world, municipalities, governing bodies of all sorts, members of families, corporations throughout the world--are going to work out of our differences, we need the faith of Abram, knowing that there is enough for all and that all can be part of the decision-making process (Abram included Lot and his family, Lot and his herdsmen). We need to be able to let go, as Abram did, be willing to compromise and be concerned that our neighbor’s needs are met, knowing, in fact, that ours will be met as well. What a difference we would make in the world of today, if we functioned with the faith of Abram and practiced his negotiating and compromising skills, in inclusivity of others in the decision-making process! How "rich" my life would be if I operated from the stance of faith in God's abundance.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Preparing the Way for the Lord

Today we celebrate the Feast of St. John the Baptist.  John’s mission was to prepare the way for the Lord, “to turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God” (cf. Luke 1: 5-17). John would go before Jesus and turn people’s “hearts toward their children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.” 

The Lord says to us:

(Insert your name), that, too, is your mission.  As a I turn your heart back to me when you stray in disobedience, so, too,  are you--more so by example than by words—to be an instrument of grace by which others turn back to me as well.

(Insert your name),  just as I was at work in the lives of Zachariah and Elizabeth, who were faithful Jews and were looked down upon by their own people—not having children was considered a punishment for sin—so, too, am I working as Savior and God in the lives of people today who are committed to their faith.

Just as I sent John into the world to “prepare a people fit for the Lord,” so, too, do I send people today into the church of today, into families, into government, into all segments of society to prepare a place for Me.  I continue to raise up prophets today.  I continue to send “John the Baptists” into today’s wilderness to prepare for my coming, my presence in the world in order that my Father’s  will is accomplished.

I call you to be a significant part of this mission.  How you live--what you say or leave unsaid, what you do and do not do, prepares the way for Me to enter into another  person’s life. You are a means of salvation, a light that shines in the darkness, a voice that sounds in the wilderness of today, as much as  John the Baptist was in his day.

What is my response to the Lord’s invitation?

Friday, June 21, 2013

God, our Deliverer

In the antiphon of today’s responsorial psalm, Psalm 34, we are told that  “From all their distress God rescues the just.”  Our journey here on earth is one of learning that fact by seeking  the Lord above all else: to seek the Lord in our joys and sorrows, in our triumphs and failures, in our anxieties and our moments of confidence, in sickness and in health.  We need to discover that to which the psalmist gives witness, namely, that when we seek the Lord, the Lord answers us and delivers us from all our fears.  The psalmist reminds us that “[w]hen the poor one called out the Lord heard and from all his distress he saved him.” 

 Do  I approach the Lord as “a poor one”?  Do I even recognize my poverty (my spiritual poverty, that is)?  Do I come to the Lord in my distress or do I medicate my distress with addictive use of drugs and alcohol, food and sweets, gambling and shopping, Internet surfing or watching TV, running from one relationship to another and another and another, or whatever addictive behavior I use to numb out?  It is easier to run from our discomfort than to examine it in prayer.  The choice is ours: to call upon the Lord of hosts, a warrior, a comforter, a redeemer  or to seek comfort in ways that simply repress the pain, a pain that resurfaces with a vengeance the next time we are hurt.

What is your choice?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Rythm of Falling and Rising

In today’s first reading, 2 Cor 11:1-11, Paul states that he “betrothed…[the Corinthians] to one husband to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But, [he says,] I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts may be corrupted from a sincere and pure commitment to Christ.” 

In my meditation this morning I was bemoaning my infidelity to the Lord in small things: not being totally honest, giving in to gossip from time to time or at times exaggerating a point to make a point,  to be noticed or presumably to be accepted; giving in to pride or whatever. 

The Lord then let me know who He is in my life. “Dorothy Ann, I, not Paul betrothed you as a chaste virgin to Christ. I am not afraid, as Paul was, that Satan, the Father of Lies, the Great Deceiver, will corrupt you.  I am your Redeemer. I live in you to protect you from Satan’s deceitful ways.  Will you fall from time to time? Yes! That is sin in you.  Will you rise after a fall? Yes! That is grace in you.  Your honesty with me in prayer is a grace that purifies you every time you come to me in prayer, in the Eucharist and in the sacrament of reconciliation.”

Who is God for you?  What do you do when you are discouraged after a fall?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Every Grace Made Abundant for Us

In today’s first reading, 2 Cor 9: 6-11, we are reminded that “God is able to make every grace abundant” for us, “so that in all things, always having all” we need, we “may have an abundance for every good work.”  Wow! What if we lived off that belief every day. What a difference that would make. Doubts would be diminished. We would “attack” the day with vim and vigor. We would believe in God’s power overpowering our doubts, our weaknesses, our lethargy, our cynicism, our pessimism or whatever else holds us back from accomplishing the good that we are called to be instrumental in bringing about in our families, our communities, our employment situation, our parishes.  And what if we truly believed that every one of our needs will be met every day, this day!  How differently we would approach a given situation. The fretting and anxiety would also be diminished because of this belief. Yes, God provides, beyond any doubt and over and above any limitation that we believe will thwart our abilities to come through, even in a difficult environment. 

St. Paul goes on to say to us: “The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” And furthermore, he says: “You are being enriched in every way for all generosity, which through us produces thanksgiving to God.”

Tonight it behooves us to reflect on how God supplied “the seed”, multiplied that seed and increased “the harvest” of our righteousness, that is our virtue, our uprightness, our honesty,  our justice.  It also behooves us to reflect on how God enriched us today because of our generosity.  Or have we fallen short today because we were not generous, not honest, not upright in some way. If so, then our evening  prayer needs to include an “I’m sorry, God; I let you down today. Help me turn that around tomorrow when you give me another chance to right the wrongs I committed by my lack of generosity and my unbelief."

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Love the Unlovable

In today’s Gospel, Mt 5: 43-48, Jesus  says to us:  You  have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun to rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.”

“Love your enemies.”   We might tell ourselves to love that which we despise, first in ourselves, and then in others.  Are we having trouble loving our enemies? Is it, I wonder, because we are rejecting ourselves? Perhaps, we need to stop the self-rejection.  Is there something in ourselves that we disdain?  If so,  do we need to, first,  become a friend to the distained parts of ourselves, sob over those parts, if we must; grieve that which we dislike about ourselves . Grieving brings healing and opens the compassionate side of ourselves.  The effect is the same as hugging a hurting child.  That child’s energy is restored, a confidence rebuilt, and he/she finds a way to make choices that rebuild his/her sense of well-being. 

We might want to listen to the Lord say to us: “Seek, insert your name, to love the unlovable in yourself and in others, in this day’s happenings! Seek to love that which appears repulsive to you and notice its transformation into that which is palatable. I did it on Calvary, insert your name,  and Easter followed! I rose to new life and took you with me.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Spiritual Warfare

Today's first reading, 2 Cor 6: 1-10,  opens with: "Now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation," Paul says to the Corinthians.  He commends himself and his companions  "as ministers of God, through much endurance, in afflictions, hardships, constraints, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, vigils, fasts; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in unfeigned love, in truthful speech, in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness at the right and at the left; through glory and dishonor, insult and praise." There is a saying that goes "No pain, no gain." To reach high honors in school or on the athletic field, one needs to put in long hours, endure the pain of endless practice and challenging hours of tedious study.  The same is true of our growth spiritually.  Purity of heart is not a gift achieved by weak hearted, undisciplined persons but by persons of strong character, willing to endure the ridicule of "friends," and risk being bullied by others.  Knowledge of one's faith, of God, of the Scriptures is acquired by those willing to apply themselves to the work of learning, doing the research and hours of reflective study.  Patience and kindness are developed in a difficult circumstances borne gracefully.  "Weapons of righteousness" are drawn in situations that are unjust, unkind, uncaring, abusive: standing up in those kinds of conflicts takes a woman/man of incredible faith in the power of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Yes, we are engaged in a holy warfare day in and day out.    Now is the time to volunteer to be warriors for Christ sake.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Attitudes and Spiritual Wellness

Jesus, in today’s Gospel, Mt 5: 27-32, “perfects the law by insisting upon interior attitudes and strong fidelity, especially in sexual matters” Carroll Stuhmeuller, C.P., Biblical Medication for Ordinary Time—Weeks 10-22, Paulist Press, New York, 1984, p. 21).  Healthy and unhealthy spiritual tendencies exist within my spiritual being as much as healthy and unhealthy cells exist within my physical being.  I have the option of choosing healthy foods to build up healthy cells and to ward off the development of a disease process that exist within me. In the spiritual realm I have that same option. I can choose to entertain thoughts that strengthen by ability to do well and ward off evil, to develop a strong spirituality or to weaken it.   Sin is preceded by thoughts of committing evil, just as cancer is preceded by the presence of cancerous cells in my body and an immune system weakened by poor, unhealthy physical or psychological habits.  If I am thinking of seeking revenge, I am more likely to do so.  If I am thinking of forgiving the person who wronged me, I am more likely to pray for the grace to be forgiving.   If I am lusting after a man or a woman, I am more likely to commit adultery. On the other hand, if my thoughts are focused on loving others respectfully for  who they are and who I am and praying for purity of mind and heart in my ways of loving, I am more likely to strengthen my fidelity to the commandment “You shall not commit adultery”.  If I am entertaining thoughts of hurting another human being, I could be paving a way to inflict harm by what I say about or to that person  or what I do that is hurtful. Likewise, if I am looking for ways to show kindness  and thinking along those lines, I am likely to act accordingly.

How clearly do I see the connection between my interior ways of thinking and the actions that flow from them?  Do I realize that if I change a negative way of thinking I also change my negative feelings whether toward myself or another. And if feelings and thoughts are positive, positive behaviors  will follow. In other words a healthy spirituality depends on my attitudinal self!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Glory of God Shining through Darkness

In today’s first reading, 2 Cor 3: 15-4: 1, 3-6, we read:  “…[W]henever Moses is read, a veil lies over the hearts of the children of Israel, but whenever a person turns to the Lord the veil is removed. ”  How true it is that “a veil lies over” our hearts until we “turn to the Lord.”  When Jesus died on the cross, “the veil was torn in two,” (Lk 23:45)  and we now are able to “see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”    

Our faces are unveiled and we are enabled to gaze upon the glory of God when we follow Jesus’ challenges and invitations  in today’s  Gospel, namely, when we refrain from abusive language, when we leave our gift on the altar and go first to be reconciled with our brother and sister and then return to give praise to our God, to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus.  Our eyes are opened whenever we turn to the Lord  and bare our souls to Him, as did the woman caught in adultery, the blind man on the side of the road, the lepers calling out for pity, the hemorrhaging woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, the man by the pool of Siloam, the man born deaf, the woman who encounters Jesus at the well, and so many others.

How am I preparing myself to encounter the Lord and know the freedom that only God can give? Do I even realize that I need to be transformed by the Lord who is Spirit? How often do I sit at Jesus’ feet to experience what it means to gaze upon the face of God and be changed in the process into the image of Christ in today’s world. In fact, I might ask myself today: whose image am I, whose image do I reflect upon the world in which I live?  Does the “glory of Christ,  who is the image of God” shine through my actions?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Jesus' Attitude toward the Law

In today’s Gospel, Mt. 5: 17-19, Jesus says to us: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.”  The law of God—God’s covenant-- we are told in Heb. 10: 16—is written on our hearts: “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord, I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them.”  There are times when we need clear directions and need to make firm decisions, neither wavering one way or the next, neither flip flopping from one side to the other.  There is no way that Jesus is going to take that clarity away from us.  The Holy Family carried out the law of Moses in its smallest of details.  And Jesus warns us not to teach our children to disregard the law under any circumstances, saying in this same Gospel: “…[W]hoever  breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”

 Besides respecting the “smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter…[of] the law,” Jesus also teaches us to live by the Spirit of the law, as in the case recorded in Mt. 12: 1:  “…Jesus went through the cornfields one Sabbath day. His disciples were hungry and began to pick ears of corn and eat them. The Pharisees noticed it and said to him, ‘Look, your disciples are doing something that is forbidden on the Sabbath’….If you understood the meaning of the words Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the blameless.”

There are times when we, too, face the dilemma Jesus and his disciples faced on that particular Sabbath, choosing mercy over a sacrifice the law required.  At other times we may be challenged to obey even the smallest segment of a law that others are pressuring us to disregard for pleasure sake or because “it is only a venial sin,” or, in other words, we may have dismissed a necessary law as insignificant because we wanted to do whatever we were  intent on doing for our own pleasure and “no law is going to stop us.” Still at other times we may have been challenged to let go of rigid observances in order to show mercy and compassion toward ourselves and/or others?

Am I aware of my attitude toward law? Am I teaching others to disrespect law? Or do I show a respect for laws that are there to protect us from danger, spiritual or otherwise?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Blessed are the poor in spirit

In today’s Gospel,  Mt. 5: 1-12, Jesus ascends the mountain, sits down and begins to teach his disciples:

               Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven….

 I stopped with that first Beatitude and asked myself: “What does that truly mean?”  The inspiration that came forth was the following:

Blessed are those who recognize God as God,
who believe in and rely upon a Power greater than themselves,
who do not lord themselves over others,
who are respectful of the Spirit at work in themselves and others,
who are humble of heart,
who are merciful and compassionate toward weakness in themselves and others,
who are interdependent upon God and others,
who repent of their sinfulness,
who are forgiving of themselves and others,
who seek justice and truth and rely on God to open their eyes to injustice and deceitfulness and inflame their hearts and wills to address wrongs.

And the Lord says:  “Blessed are you,   insert your name,  when you assume these attitudes and do these things through the grace and peace of God your Father and your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

As I reflected upon that rethinking of what it means to be poor in spirit, I needed to admit that when I do those things and assume those attitudes, I do taste a little bit of heaven here on earth! And when the opposite is true of me, I create a little bit of hell on earth! I then make life miserable for myself and others.  Lord, have mercy on me when I do those things and assume those attitudes; set me right in your eyes.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Mary's Faith Journey: Her Questioning and Ours

Today we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  The Gospel tells the story of Mary and Joseph taking Jesus up to the temple on his 12th birthday. Jewish boys, at that time, become a bar miszvah, "literally a 'son of the commandment(s).'   He can then perform all the mitzvoth and is required to do so with full responsibility for his religious behavior. When the boy is first 'called up' to the Torah, symbolic of his attainment of majority, the father utters a blessing commemorating this transition to adulthood."  Following the ceremony, Jesus stays behind in the Temple. Mary and Joseph leave Jerusalem, thinking that Jesus is in the caravan with the other parent.  He is not!  Mary and Joseph spend three terrifying days looking for him, Mary no doubt recalling Simeon's prophesy that Jesus is destined to be the cause of the rise and fall of many in Israel and a sword [of sorrow] will pierce her heart.

We read about the terror any parent goes through when a child is abducted, kidnapped, lost.  Mary and Joseph are no exception.  They find Jesus after a three-day search and Mary says to Jesus: "Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety" (Luke 2: 41-51).  And Jesus responds: "Why were  you looking for me?"  That response must have baffled Mary and Joseph, I would think. The Scriptures tell us that "they did not understand what he said to them."  He left the Temple and returned to Nazareth with His parents, and "was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart."

We next meet Mary in the Scriptures when she and "his brothers come looking for him"(Mt. 12:46). Rumors  were such that his relatives wondered whether Jesus had lost his mind--had he gone crazy, being so involved in his ministry that he did not take time to eat. And finally, the next appearance of Mary is beneath the cross, where Jesus says to her: Woman, behold your son; Son, behold your mother"--all of us are entrusted to her care and she becomes the Mother of the Church!

Mary's faith journey was anything but simple or easy. Every parent knows Mary's pain and the burden  and responsibilities of parenthood--they do not disappear when a child enters adulthood.

The question we may want to ponder is: what does Mary teach us about parenthood, about being there for a  child, or anyone,  in trouble, about dealing with life on God's terms?

Friday, June 7, 2013

An Attending, Caring, Rescuing God

Today’s first reading, Ez. 34: 11-16, opens with the Lord saying to us: “I myself will look after and tend my sheep….”  I am touched by the humility, the love, the caring, and the commitment of our God.  Unlike so many parents today who turn their children over to guardians or nanny’s while they go off to do whatever, not even around to prepare meals for their children, to offer a shoulder to cry on, to provide guidance in the midst of overwhelming confusion,  or, simply, to  tuck them in bed at night, God says “No, I am going to tend my sheep. I’m not turning them over to anyone else.” 

When I personalize that message, the Lord God says to me:  “Dorothy Ann, I am taking care of you. I am tending to your needs. I am going to be at your side when disaster strikes.  Your safety is my safety. Your well-being is my well-being. Your healing is my healing.  Your daily needs are my daily needs.  That you are safe from the Evil One is my concern.  I am in charge of your safety and I will never leave you at anytime on your life’s journey.”

I encourage you to personalize this message as well. What is God saying to you?

What a humble, awesome, caring and faithful God!  There is no other God!  Safety  exists only in God and no other!  We have men and women,  young and old, children, adolescents and adults who reflect this trait of God but no one equals our God! Any rescue accomplished by humankind is God working through those courageous persons!  We see God at work through human beings rescuing persons trapped in collapsed buildings, pinned by fallen debris from fires, tornadic and hurricane winds, drowning in flood waters, or in danger anywhere in the world from whatever threatening force. God is there tending His sheep!

Where do you find God tending His sheep?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

God's Marriage with Humankind

Today’s first reading, Tobit 6: 12-11; 7: 1bcde, 9-17; 8: 4-9a,  continues the story of Tobit and his son Tobiah, who travel to Media, where Tobiah is given his kinswoman Sarah as his wife.  Raguel, Sarah’s father, is delighted but needs to tell Tobiah that the seven previous men to whom he  gave Sarah each died on the first night of their being together.  Raguel says to Tobiah:  “Your marriage to her has been decided in heaven! Take your kinswoman; from now on you are her love, and she is your beloved. She is yours today and ever after….Take her and bring her back safely to your father. And may the God of heaven grant both of you peace and prosperity.”

In my morning’s meditation, the thought occurred to me that this is also about God’s relationship with you and me—a relationship decided in heaven. God, the Father, says to Jesus, His Son:  “Jesus, my Son, “from now on you are…[Dorothy Ann’s—insert your name] love and she is your beloved. She is yours today and ever after….Take her and bring her back safely to…[Me].”  The reverse is true, as well, which reads:  “And, Dorothy Ann (insert your name), from now on you are my Son’s love and He is your beloved. Jesus is yours today and ever after.” 

I was then awakened to the reality as how this story is about Jesus giving His life for us. Jesus, by becoming our spouse, our beloved, our Savior, was tortured by a scourging, a crowning with thorns, a crucifixion, and rose to save us from the Evil One.  Jesus died for us so that you and I, in turn, would die to sin and rise to holiness, die to selfishness and rise to selflessness, die to being unjust and rise to being just in all our dealings with others, die to being deceitful and rise to being truthful, die to being proud and arrogant and rise to being humble in the Lord Jesus, our Savior.

My response: Thank you, Lord, for taking on being my shepherd and all the inherent dangers of that position.  Thank you for choosing me to be your beloved.

Your response?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Grief-stricken in Spirit

In today’s first reading, Tobit 3: 1-11a, 16-17, Tobit, “grief-stricken in spirit,…groaned and wept aloud,” acknowledging the sins of his nation:

We have sinned against you,
and disobeyed your commandments.
 So you handed us over to plundering, exile, and death,
till you made us the talk and reproach of all the nations
among whom you had dispersed us.”

He could be, and is, also speaking about the world of today and, in particular, the United States of America, which recently dedicated its “First Atheist Monument” (Newsmax).   This led me to the following dialogue with Jesus: 

“As a nation, Lord, we have sinned against You and disobeyed your commandments, worshipping the false gods of money, consumerism, materialism, hedonism; adoring power, pleasure, possessions and the “freedom” to do whatever the ego desires in asserting its power.  We’ve scorned justice, honesty and integrity. We’ve stomped on wisdom, prudence, humility and respect of humanity, male and female, and all of creation. Greed guides our steps, not wisdom.  So you handed us over to the consequences of our sinful behaviors, our idolatry, our abuse of each other and of the earth, our unbridled passions.  Our wars as well the earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados, hurricanes, floods, fires are a symbol of human nature’s unbridled use of “freedom,” its abuse of power, pleasure and possessions, upon which our loyalties and idolatrous pursuits are passionately linked.  Consequently, chaos exists in all segments of our society.

“Thank You, Lord, that darkness is not dark to You.  Wherever we hide, whether behind atheistic idols or other God substitutes, you are there.  Whichever addiction or idol we allow to take control of our lives, You are more powerful than that addictive or idolatrous behaviors. Whichever god we worship, You are still the only true God, who created the universe and all that is in it.  You alone sustain us in existence.  You alone secured our salvation by Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, destroying Satan’s power to destroy the Sacred, the Truth and the Way to You.  The gates of heal shall not prevail against the Church.  Satan has no power over believers, over us whom the Father entrusted to You.”

“Dorothy Ann, keep your eyes on me.  Come to me and I will refresh you.  Fear not those who erect false gods. Pity them; do not condemn them. They know not what they are doing. And remember that I am with you always until the end of time.” 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Billy Graham's Prayer for our Nation

From a man the media has never been able to throw dirt on.....amazing!

Billy Graham's prayer fits right in with my reflections on "Putting God to the Test" that I published earlier today. I want to share it with you.  It was an email sent to me. The email message reads as follows:

He has certainly hit the "world" on the head!

Billy Graham's Prayer For Our Nation


'Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to
seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, 'Woe to those who
call evil good,' but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our
spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We have exploited the poor
and called it the lottery. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionists
and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and
called it building self esteem. We have abused power and called it politics.
We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition. We have
polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of
expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and
called it enlightenment. Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today;
cleanse us from sin and set us free. Amen!'

With the Lord's help, may this prayer sweep over our nation and
wholeheartedly become our desire so that we once again can be called 'One
nation under God!'

Putting God to the Test

In today’s Gospel, the Pharisees and Herodians were sent to Jesus to ensnare him in his speech. Their ultimate goal was to find a way to justify their plan to destroy Him.  The world of today is populated with men and women determined to destroy the Sacred in our midst. In every segment of society the will of our Creator is smothered beneath rationalizations of all kinds. Abortions are legalized, as, now, is euthanasia in some States. Just as you questioned  the Pharisees and Herodians, “why are you testing me?” I hear you asking that same question of humankind today.  And just as you amazed those in authority in your day, so, too, will you amaze us when justice is meted out to the hypocrites in the social circles of our day.

Lord, I pray for mercy  for all of us, especially when we are hypocritical in how we relate to one another.  Expose the truth, Lord, as only You can.  Bring our wills into harmony with yours and make us one with You and with one another as You and the Father are one.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Cornerstones in Living according to God's Will

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the chief priests, the scribes and the elders a parable of “a man who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenant farmers and left on a journey. ” At the proper time he sent servants to the tenants to obtain the produce. The tenants beat some of them and killed others. Then the farmer sent his only son, thinking that they would respect him and give him the produce for which the farmer sent him. Instead of respect, they treated his son worse than the servants and, in fact, killed him as well.  Jesus reminds the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of the Scripture passage that states: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes.” Then and there, they wanted to arrest Jesus but didn’t dare because of their fear of the crowd. So they simply walked away in sad and anger.

Ever find yourself in a situation where someone brings you a message that you do not want to hear? And when that happens, have you ever felt tempted to lash out, to attack that person to his/her face or behind that person’s back, attempting to prove his/her message false?  The person God sent may very well be “the cornerstone,” upon which we are able to build a firm foundation in the faith, live in the truth, transforming our lives into lives worthy of the Kingdom.

Lord, open my eyes to the messengers you send my way, especially those whom I am tempted to dismiss and/or even abuse verbally.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Importance of Honesty in Relationships

In today’s Gospel,  Mk 11: 27-33, the chief priests, the scribes and the elders pose a question to Jesus: “By what authority are you doing these things?” He comes back with a question for them and tells them he will respond to their questioning,  revealing  Himself to them, if they are honest with Him. His question to them is:  “Was John’s baptism of heavenly or of human origin?” Their response “we do not know” is a cover-up of their truth. So the discussion ends and so does any possibility of getting to know Jesus as Savior and Lord.

 Without honesty, God cannot relate to us; our relationship with God is stymied.  God is truth; He deals in reality, not in fantasy or denial.  How honest am I with God and others?  Or do I hide what I am thinking and feeling?  If so, the relationship freezes in that time and place.  Love and authentic intimacy on a spiritual, emotional and intellectual plane is contingent on how transparent we are with one another.  If I am being dishonest, I need to look at what am I hiding and  of what am I afraid?  To “thaw out” and become fully human, I need to answer those questions with God and with others!