Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Seeking the Pearl of Great Price and the Buried Treasure

In today's Gospel, Mt 13: 44-46, Jesus says to us:  "The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.  Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When...[she] finds a pearl of great price,...[she] goes and sells all that...[she] has and buys it." 

We are on a journey initiated by God, who calls us to discover "a treasure," the "pearl of great price."
St. Paul tells us, in 2 Corinthians 4:7, that we hold "this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us."  God is the buried treasure, the pearl of great price.  Every disillusionment, every disappointment in life--and there will be many--is an opportunity to discover our true treasure, the only One who does not disappoint, is not a disillusionment.  These moments of discovery can be gut-wrenching as we come face to face with things, events and  persons (ourselves included) that do not live up to our idealistic and perfectionistic expectations.  Eventually, we will face the most difficult moment of all: "parting with the last of our jealous possessions: our sense of success, our reputation for holiness, the control of our future, the control of what our future ought to be.  The excruciating pain of a good, maybe [a] very good person called to be
better!" (Stuhlmueller, Carroll, C.P. Biblical Meditations for Ordinary Time--Weeks 10-22, Paulist Press, New York/Ramsey, 1984, p. 148). 

My prayer is, quoting parts of Stuhlmueller's meditation for Wednesday of the 17th week in ordinary time, that at the end of my life I may be ready to climb "the holy mountain, free of all earthly attachments," totally God's. I ask the Lord to rescue me "from evildoers," from my "own selfishness," so that I may, at that moment, be seeking nothing else but the real treasure and the pearl of great price, willing at that moment to sell absolutely everything to be one with my Savior in mind, heart, and soul.  I also pray for the grace to be assuming this challenge in my day to day living in the here and now.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Letting go of our illusions

In this morning’s meditation, I reflected upon “The Teaching of Disillusionment” from Oscar Chamber’s My Utmost to His Highest. I quote: 

 “Disillusionment means having no more misconceptions, false impressions, and false judgments in life; it means being free from those deceptions….[T]he disillusionment that comes from God brings us to the point where we see people as they really are, [including ourselves] yet without any cynicism or any stinging and bitter criticism.  Many of the things in life that inflict the greatest injury, grief, or pain, stem from the fact that we suffer from illusions.  We are not true to one another as facts, seeing each other as we really are; we are only true to our misconceived ideas of one another.  According to our thinking, everything is either delightful and good, or it is evil, malicious and cowardly [and we can easily apply this perception to ourselves, as well].

“Refusing to be disillusioned is the cause of much of the suffering of human life….There is only one Being who can completely satisfy to the absolute depth of the hurting human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ…Our Lord trusted no one, and never placed His faith in people, yet He was never suspicious or bitter. Our Lord’s confidence in God, and in what God’s grace could do for anyone, was so perfect that He never despaired, never giving up hope for any person. If our trust is placed in human beings, we will end up despairing of everyone” [including ourselves] (My Utmost to His Highest, July 30).

May our confidence in God, “in what God’s grace could do for anyone” become so strong that we never, never despair  nor ever, ever give up “hope for any person,” never give up hope for ourselves.  God brings each and every one of us closer to Himself in the sufferings we endure, in the sufferings we bring to the foot of His Cross.   

Monday, July 29, 2013

Falling Down, Falling Upward and Getting Up

In today’s first reading, Exodus 32: 15-24, 30-34, Moses catches the people violating the covenant!  Seeing them worshiping a golden calf, Moses’ anger flared up, so that he threw the tablets down and broke them…” Aaron stands by the people, saying to Moses: “Let not my lord be angry. You know well enough how prone the people are to evil.”  He then goes on to explain how he himself got into the predicament in which he found himself.

All of us have a “Moses,” an “Aaron, and the likes of the Chosen People within us.  Each of us is prone to evil and may register shock—be scandalized—when we encounter sin within ourselves or others.  Each of us, from time to time during our lifetime, will find ourselves in predicaments that lead us into sinful behaviors--we fall and wonder how we got there.  There are no exceptions, though  persons may perceive themselves exempt as they point fingers at others. 

The Lord is a merciful God, slow to anger and quick to kindness.   Through His forgiveness, His kindness and our own, we fall "upward" into grace.  At a workshop a few years ago, the featured speaker presented us with the following guidelines for living life fully:
1. Sit in the front row of your life--get involved, participate.  First,  depend on yourself and not on others; then collaborate, negotiate!
2. If you make a mistake, say "How fascinating!"  What can I learn here? What opportunity is this affording me?
3. Stop the voices in your head. Say to them:  "Thank you for showing up; I'm busy"  and follow your dreams of making a difference, contributing.  What do you want to make happen and go for it!
4. Live in the current/wind/fire of radiating possibilities.  Connect with others in this way, not by focusing on what's wrong, not by criticizing the other person, life, events, etc.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dying and Rising with Christ

Yesterday we had the Gospel of the sower going out to sow some seeds (Mt 13: 1-9).  In today’s first reading we have Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, 4: 7-15, in which he speaks to us about “carrying about in…[our bodies] the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested…” Both readings are significantly linked.  Most seeds, to bear fruit, need to be buried, need to die to one form of being and rise to another, lest they return to the dust of the earth without bearing the fruit it contains within it.  That is true of many of the seeds planted in our souls by the Word of God or by God speaking and acting in the events and relationships of a given day.  To rise to new life in Jesus, a dying often needs to occur. What do I mean?  In 2 Cor: 4: 7-15, St. Paul speaks about experiences that afflict us.  Perhaps our pride is stressed. Possibly, we strain to be kind when treated unkindly.  When I reflected upon the parable of the sower, I wrote the following prayer, which you might find helpful in your struggles to die and rise with Christ when “life throws you a curve ball,” so to speak:

 Lord, may I, in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, not let the “birds” of anger, selfishness and pride eat the Word You are sowing on the soil of my heart.  May my heart be porous, not hardened by hatred, selfishness and pride, by cynicism and hopelessness, by narcissistic behaviors and judgmental attitudes.   May the seed not be scorched by these weaknesses either.  Rather, may the seed fall on rich soil, soil made fertile by humility and faith in You.

What is your prayer and hopes as you battle with life’s difficult moments?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

God's humble and generous response to our grumbling

In today’s first reading, Exodus 16: 1-5, 9-15, the Israelites are complaining to Moses that he brought them out into the desert to die of famine. God hears their grumbling—how quickly they forgot that God was delivering them from slavery—and responds with raining “down bread from heaven.”  He instructs Moses to give the people the following message:  “Present yourselves before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.”  He also instructs Moses to “[t]ell them: In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread, so that you  may know that I, the Lord, am your God.”

When people grumble against me, treat me scornfully, turn against me, the last thing I want to do is “rain down bread from heaven” upon them.  How unlike God I can be! God teaches me in this passage that there is another way that leads to freedom and grace: that of generosity, humility, and understanding.  Humans can be cantankerous individuals. God knew that but does not stoop down to their level.  I pray that I, too, will rise up to the occasion and, in humility, respond to others as the Spirit in me wants to respond, not in accord with the ego’s desire for revenge. May I also have the humility to “present myself to the Lord,” for He knows that when I am in grumpy mood and need “refueling.”

How about you?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Salvation from the Pursuing Enemy

In today’s first reading, Exodus 14: 21-15:1, we read about the mighty hand of God protecting the Israelites from the pursuing Egyptian army.  The Israelites, who just passed through the Red Sea on dry land, see the Egyptian warriors coming to take them back into slavery.  As they panic, God says to Moses:  “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may flow back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and their charioteers.”  Moses does so and the Egyptians  die in the rushing waters. 

 In the Gospel of today, Matthew 12: 46-50, Jesus is told that his mother and brothers are outside wanting to speak to him.  Jesus stretches out his hand toward his disciples and proclaims that all who do the will of His Father is His newly formed, close-knit family of mothers, brothers and sisters, a family as significant to Him as His Mother Mary and his biological “brothers”.

You and I entered this family at our baptism, entering the “Red Sea,” of baptismal waters, in which God becomes a powerful warrior in our lives, warding off the “Egyptians” of our lives that want to enslave us to a life of sin and selfishness, slaves of evil forces that lure us into doing our own wills over the will of God, following our own plans and ignoring God’s plans, as did Adam and Eve, as did the people gathered at the Tower of Babel, and the Israelites worshipping pagan gods.

As then, so now, God does not abandon us.  He sent His only begotten Son, who is obedient to His Father throughout His life, death and resurrection, modeling for us perfect trust in the Father’s will for our salvation.    In whom do I trust? To whom am I obedient?  Am I mother, brother, sister to Jesus? Am I included in Jesus’ proclamation:  “Here are my mother and brothers [and sisters]. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

Monday, July 22, 2013

Seeing the Victory the Lord Wins for You Today

In today’s first reading, Exodus 14: 5-18, the Israelites are triumphantly leaving Egypt when the Egyptians regret letting them go and pursue them with their armies.  Seeing their pursuit, the Israelites are terrified and complain to Moses: Why didn’t you leave us alone? We’d rather be slaves to Pharaoh than perish in this desert!  Moses replies: “Fear not! Stand your ground, and you will see the victory the Lord will win for you today….The Lord Himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still.”

How often is that not the case for us, namely, that we need to remember that God takes our side when we are oppressed in any given situation, being taken advantage of, being abused, mistreated.  Rather than obsessing about something that, in no way, I have the power to change, I need to surrender to the Lord. In that surrendering, the Lord Himself will fight for me. I have only to keep still.  The temptation is to keep obsessing about the issue, proclaiming my anger and voicing my fears.  “Fear not! Stand your ground (when you are innocent and powerless to change what has happened or is happening), and you will see the victory the Lord will win for you today….The Lord himself will fight for you; and you have only to keep still.”  Do I turn a situation over to the Lord when, in truth, I have no control over it? When I am helpless—I’ve done everything in my power--to change something that needs to be changed or to address something that needs to be addressed, do I turn it over to the Lord and ask for His help, knowing that I “will see the victory the Lord will win for me,…[that] the Lord Himself will fight” for me?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Jesus: God's servant

In today's Gospel, Mt 12: 14-21,   Jesus withdraws from the area where He had been doing ministry because the Pharisees were plotting "to put him to death."  He continues elsewhere quietly going about the work His Father had given Him to do.  "I have come, not to condemn the world, but to save it,"  Jesus tells us in Jn 12:47.  As quoted by Matthew in today's Gospel, Isaiah prophesied about the Messiah, saying that He "will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not contend or cry out, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.  A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench,  until he brings justice to victory. And in his name the Gentiles will hope."

Jesus comes as our servant, showing God's love, compassion and mercy as we see in His response to the woman caught in adultery, in the parable of the prodigal son, from His first words on the Cross ("Father, forgive them"), and his response to the good thief ("This day you will be with me in Paradise") as well as through His total ministry here on earth.

You are I are called to follow Jesus, to do as Jesus did, to serve others, to show others God's compassion, mercy, love and forgiveness; in short, to carry on His mission of reconciliation.  Do I protect the "bruised reed," the "smoldering wick," show mercy to the sinner (including myself), welcome back a prodigal son/daughter (including being welcoming to myself when I make a mistake), bring "justice to victory," and hope to the situation in which I live?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Staying Mindful of God's Presence in our Lives

In today’s first reading, Exodus 11: 10-12:14,  the story of Israel’s deliverance from slavery continues with detailed instructions of how to prepare for that day.  The blood of the slaughtered lamb—a  lamb  with no blemishes (a symbol of Jesus, whose blood will set us free from sin)— is to be sprinkled on “the two doorposts and the lintel of every house in which they partake of the lamb.”  The angel of death will pass over these homes.  To this day, the Jewish people hand a Mezusah on the doorpost of their homes to remind them of God’s prominence in their lives, that the Lord their God is one and that they are to keep God in the forefront of their minds and hearts throughout the day.

It behooves each of us, also,  to have reminders that also keep us mindful of God’s role in our lives, of God’s gift of salvation through the life, the death and the resurrection of His Son, through whom we, too, are delivered from death: the death of sin and selfishness, of pride and lust, of slothfulness and hatred.

One of the ways that I keep God at the center of my life is by beginning and ending each day with  communal prayer:  “Morning Praise” and “Evening Praise”.  Personally, I follow “Morning Praise” with an hour of personal prayer before starting work at 8-8:30 a.m and I close the day with “Consciousness Examine,” a Jesuit practice of thanking God, in a journal entry,  for the blessings of the day, looking at where and how I experienced God’s presence or absence throughout the day and why. 

What helps you keep God at the center of your day?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Loving Unconditionally

This  morning in meditation, I went through my retreat notes.  The director to which I was assigned asked each of her directees to begin each prayer hour by telling God what grace we wanted from that prayer hour but to also ask God what grace He wanted for us during that time.  In all of them I asked the Lord for the grace of intimacy.  Other gifts for which I asked were a deepening of my faith and trust.  Many times, the graces which God asked for me were similar to what I was asking.

 Here is one of the gems of that week spent alone with the Lord:

 The Lord reminded me that His love for me is everlasting, eternal, forever (He really wanted me to understand the “forever”); that He loved me before I was born, created me out of love, that I have been placed here on earth to learn to love and to be loved and loving.  He also reminded me that I am to love others as He loves me, that is, unconditionally.  He asked that I love them through their difficulties and when they are being difficult, as the one suffering the most when they are difficult is the persons themselves. Therefore, it is important, especially at those times, as the Lord prompted me, to be gentle, kind, compassionate and loving.  A difficult person may be unaware of being difficult and it is then that kindness, gentleness, compassion and love are extremely important.  

There are many other retreat gems that I might share with you throughout the year!  I encourage you, if possible, to take time apart to just be with the Lord in prayer and reflections on the Scriptures. I encourage you to watch for opportunities at retreat centers for this kind of space alone with God.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Called to set each other free

Today’s first reading, Ex 3: 1-6, 9-2, tells the story of God calling Moses to be his instrument in freeing the children of Israel from Egyptian oppression.  Moses is pasturing his father-in-law’s flock near Mt. Horeb when he spots an unusual sight, a bush on fire but not being consumed. He decides to go over and examine this sight when he hears his name being called. Immediately, he answers “Here I am.”  God instructs him to come no closer and to take off his shoes because he is standing on holy ground.  God then tells him that He has seen His people’s oppression, has heard their cries for help and that He is asking Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.  Moses, who has fled Egypt to escape being killed by Pharaoh because of his crime, says: “Lord, who am I to lead the people out of Egypt?”  God says: “I will go with you.”

We may object to what God is asking of us, as well. We may, rightly or wrongly, judge ourselves as incapable of doing what the Lord is asking of us.  Are we failing to realize that, if God is calling us to a task that will set us free, that He goes with us?  Are we also failing to realize that God does not hold on to whatever misdeeds we may have committed, holding those against us or judging us unworthy to be instruments of grace in other people’s lives and within our own? We are God’s children, God’s beloved sons and daughters whom He has set free.  That means that God will choose us to be His instruments in bringing fuller life to others, in freeing others and ourselves from whatever enslaves us. God wants us to know the freedom, the joy, the satisfaction of being His chosen ones.

What do I need to do today to recognize God calling me to be an instrument of freedom in the world in which I live? What do I need to do to realize that God goes with me into situations that are oppressive to myself and others, that God empowers me to release others and myself from “prisons” we may have created for ourselves?oHo

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Turning to the Lord in our Need

“Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live” (Ps. 69).  In today’s first reading, Ex 2: 1-15a, we learn of the beginnings of Moses’ life, how he was saved, adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter and raised by her. As an adult Moses sees one of his kinsmen being abused by an Egyptian. Moses intervenes and kills the attacker, thinking no one will see him. The next day he discovers that what he did is, in fact, no secret and he flees for his life.

We may not be fleeing for such serious offenses but we flee nevertheless for less serious ways of bringing distress, hurt and pain into another person’s life. None of us is exempt from doing or saying things that could put us at enmity with another. Sometimes we find ourselves in such a situation because of how an innocent situation is interpreted as “wrong” by the other. As the psalmist says in today’s responsorial psalm, Psalm 69: 3, 14, 30-31, 33-34:

“I am sunk in the abysmal swamp
Where there is no foothold;
I have reached the watery depths;
The flood overwhelms me”

The swamp may be the other person’s anger or one’s own guilt, anger or powerlessness to change what has been done or to elicit understanding from the offended person.  As with the psalmist, we are invited  to recognize our need for God’s help, less we sink into the swamp of our own anger, drown in “the watery depth” of self-pity or be flooded by a desire to retaliate in some way.

“…I pray to you, O Lord,
For the time of your favor, O God!
In your great kindness answer me
with your constant help….
[L]et your saving help, O God, protect me
[from my own sinfulness and selfishness,
my own desire to be right and in control].”

And the psalmist says to me in the same psalm:

“See, you lowly ones [I am one of those lowly ones] and be glad;
You who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the Lord hears the poor,
And his own who are in bonds he spurns not.”

May you discover this fact today and always as you deal with the conflicts of life.

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Vacation with the Lord

Every year, we Sisters are asked to “take a vacation with the Lord,” that is, go on a retreat.  I will be doing just that from July 5-12.  I will be on a directed retreat, a time when I will meet with a retreat director once a day, go over the Scripture passage/s assigned for that day, looking at how the Lord moved me in that passage/s, what the Lord is saying to me personally.  The director, then, attentive to the Spirit at work in me, assigns other Scripture passage/s for another day of prayer.  Usually I spend 4-5 hours in prayer and time in between journaling on how the Lord touched me. 

Please remember me in prayer during this time that I will be open to the Lord, hear His voice and atune my life more deeply with what the Lord is asking of me.  I certainly will pray for all of those for whom I have promised to pray.

You can imagine that this is a special time for retreatants, a time to grow in one’s faith and trust of the Lord, a time to deepen one’s intimacy with the Love of our lives, Christ Jesus. 


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth of July

I received the following email and am passing it one here:

Happy 4th of July!....     
Let' s get this started ,NOW! 

For all of our other military
personnel, where ever they may be. 

Support all of the troops
defending our Country. 
And God Bless our Military 
who are protecting our
Country for our Freedom. 

Thanks to them, and their
sacrifices, we can celebrate the 4th of July. 
We must never forget who gets
the credit for the freedoms we have, 

of which we should be eternally
I watched the flag pass by one
It fluttered in the breeze.     
A young Marine saluted it, 
And then he stood at ease.    
I looked at him in uniform; 
so young, so tall, so proud.
With hair cut square and eyes

he'd stand out in any crowd.    
I thought how many men like him
had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign

how many mothers' tears?     
How many pilots' planes shot

How many died at sea? 
How many foxholes were
soldiers' graves? 

I heard the sound of Taps one

when everything was still. 
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.     
I wondered just how many

That Taps had meant 'Amen.' 
When a flag had draped a coffin
of a brother or a friend.     
I thought of all the children, 
of the mothers and the wives,
of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.     
I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea. 
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
Enjoy Your Freedom 
God Bless Our Troops.     
When you read this, 
please stop for a moment    
and say a prayer for our

Of all the gifts you could
give a U.S. Soldier, prayer is the very best one.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Companions on the Journey

In today’s first reading, Eph 2: 19-22, St. Paul reminds us that we “are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone [and] that through him, “the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him…[we] are also being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

My mind is filled with awe as I think of the fact that I am a companion on a journey to life in Christ Jesus, each of us individually and all of us together, being built into a Temple for the Lord.  I share this journey into God’s Kingdom being built here on earth and within each of us with those with whom I live, with those with whom I have difficulty, with those I love in Christ Jesus but actually do not like, with those whom I perceive as my enemies, as enemies of the U.S., of the Church, of my religious community.

Do I truly realize what this means? And if did, would I be less bothered by those whom I would love to change into “my image,” yes, my image, though I might believe that I want them transformed into the image of Christ!  If I truly believed that God is holding “the whole structure…together” and that it is, by the action of the Holy Spirit within it, growing “into a temple sacred in the Lord,…a dwelling place of God in the Spirit,” would I not be more free, less afraid, less worried and anxious when I come face to face with sin in myself, in others, in the world, in the church, in society? Would I not be more willing “to let go and let God,” as the people in AA and in Al-Anon are encouraged to do?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Lord's Intervention

The first reading of today’s liturgy, Gen. 19: 15-29, tells of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the angel of the Lord urging Lot to leave before it was too late.  “‘On your way! Take with your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of Sodom.’ When he hesitated, the men, by the Lord’s mercy, seized his hands and the hands of his wife and his two daughters and led them to safety outside the city.”

Sometimes, the Lord has to say to us through his “angels,” “On your way!”   The Lord may be saying: “Don’t say that. Move away from this way of thinking, leave this situation, separate from this crowd or this couple or this relationship before poisonous fumes suffocate you, consume you, burn you.”  As with Lot, at times we may hesitate and need someone to grab us and walk us away from situations that are not spiritually healthy for us.  There may be times like these when we strongly react, saying “Leave me alone. I know what I am doing.  Don’t tell me what to do or where to go!” 

Spiritual warfare takes place frequently, if not daily.  Without a large dose of humility, lots of courage, a “bowlful” of wisdom we, like Lot, will resist the call of the Spirit to move on in our lives, to separate ourselves from unhealthy environments, unhealthy relationships, spiritually-famined attitudes and destructive behaviors.

As with Lot, who said to the Lord “You have already thought enough of your servant to do me the great kindness of intervening to save my life,” the Trinity also thought enough of each of us to intervene by the Son of God becoming one of us, to live and die for us, to show us the Trinity’s love for us.  We, too, are being saved from that which could destroy us spiritually:  selfishness and pride, covetousness and jealousy, envy and sloth that are capable of consuming us as the sulphurous fire consumed Sodom and Gomorrah.

Lord, may I allow your “angels” to lead me to safety when I am unwilling to do so on my own!