Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Value of Heroic Acceptance of Difficult Challenges

The difficulties that Paul and Barnabas encountered may seem overwhelming to us (see today’s first reading, Acts 14: 19-28).  If I had been stoned in one place, or even if I had gotten an inkling that the “Jews” were coming to the cities in order to attack not only my ministry but also attempt to kill me, would I have hung around or returned to those cities?  Paul and Barnabas, in fact, do leave for what probably was safer ground, but returned.  In each place they proclaimed “the good news,” made “a considerable number of disciples,” “strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith,” reminding them that “it is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.”  Sometimes I forget that living the Gospel life entails hardship. In fact, many times, I attempt to avoid that which is difficult—that is the ego in me. My spirit self follows a different path, namely becoming one with the Lord in living life to the full, including dealing with life’s difficulties in ways that leads to my transformation into Christ and making decisions that are not always pleasant to my ego self.  Jesus does not promise that life in Him will be easy. He only promises that He will give me peace. “Not as the world gives do I give it to you,” He says in today’s Gospel, Jn 14: 27-31a.
I learned that recently in that I was out of control in something as mundane as snacking.  I’d have a snack when I was bored. I’d have a snack to reward myself after accomplishing a task.  I’d have a snack to celebrate another person’s success.  Excuses abounded! I denied myself nothing in this regard.  The path from my office to the refrigerator was becoming thin bare.  I put on 5 lbs in one month and that would have added up to being close to 200 lbs by the end of this year.  I resolved to stop the downward spiral and to discipline myself, after all it was Holy Week when I made that decision.  I have not snacked between meals since and have relearned the value of discipline, of saying “no” to self-indulgence and “yes” to an ascetical practice.  This sacrifice, the result of grace at work within my true self,  has not only effected by physical well-being but has affected me spiritually.  Perhaps I will deal differently when difficulties arise in other areas of my life, now that I am relearning the positive effects of self-discipline and have strengthened a spiritual “muscle” that I had allowed to atrophy.

Monday, April 29, 2013

To God Give the Glory!

In today’s first reading we learn of Paul and Barnabas’ encounter with both persons who wanted to stone them to death and those, in another city, who were preparing to worship them as gods, following their intercession for a man crippled from birth. Because the cripple had “the faith to be healed,” Paul and Barnabas called upon the Lord Jesus to heal him. He was healed.  When Paul and Barnabas realized that the people were about to slaughter animals to offer sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas, they stopped them from such idolatry.  How easy for us to allow people to idolize us and for us to allow ourselves to be idolized or for us to divinize others.  It is the nature of the ego to want to be like God (compare Gen.32-4) when Satan said to Eve: Oh, come on!  God knows that you will be like Him if you eat of the fruit of that tree. You won’t die.).  On the other hand, it is also easy for us to demonize others and, unconsciously, use that to make ourselves look like a god, better than others and certainly holier than the person/s we are demonizing.
In the responsorial psalm of today’s liturgy, Ps. 115, we pray: “Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name give glory because of your mercy, because of your truth.”  Do I really mean that? Do I realize that whatever good another or that I do, is done because of God working through us?  Do I realize that when I am demonizing another, what I despise in that other person exists within me, that I am capable, in my worse moments, when I depart from God’s ways, of doing the very same thing I am upset about in the other person/s?
Before God, we are who we are!  In God, we all are redeemed, washed clean of our sins, in need of God’s mercy and made whole by God alone, as was the man crippled from birth!

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Power of Faith in Action

"We are now his witnesses before the people" (Acts 13: 26-33). This is a statement from persons who have suffered much for the sake of Jesus' name.  How is it that these persons are able to make good come out of a situation that plunged them into darkness, that was filled with grief and sorrow, hopelessness and fear?  The obvious answer is their faith in Christ Jesus, their "hanging on" to His every word.  The Scriptures were not simply a book that decorated a shelf in their home. No, it was a Living Word.

I am reading the book "Led by Faith: Rising from the Ashes of the Rwanda Genocide" by Immaculee` Ilibagiza.   In moments of impending danger or personal despair, Immaculee` calls upon God. For instance, when evil men duped her into a situation that could have led to rape, she prayed: "Please send Your angels to help me, God! I swear that I'll help other women avoid these situations, but don't let them touch me, Lord, please" (p. 117).  From the window of that hotel room (another man blocked the exit door), she prayed: "What beauty You have created, Lord. You truly can do anything...please make these men look beyond themselves, beyond their own lust and contempt. Make them see the beauty in all You have created.  And if they refuse to see, then give me the strength to fight them in Your name. I am Your daughter. I know You will protect me"  (p. 117).    She tries to distract the man who wants her to get in bed with him.  He says to her:  "I'm not  interested in God or Rwanda, Immaculee` I'm interested in you. I could take you now if I wanted, but I'm trying to be a nice guy.  I can be generous, very generous. I am a good-looking man, and I am very rich.  I will make you rich, too; all you have to do is say yes. Now decide."  The Lord answered Immaculee`'s prayer by giving her the courage to fight them.  She firmly and resolutely said "No."  The man was furious, picked up his jacket and left the hotel room!

Immaculee` reports other examples of her faith in God and the incredible results of believing in God's power to save her from evil as well as to meet her every need as she strove to rise above the ashes of the Rwanda Genocide.  Like the early disciples, she truly witnessed to the power of Christ's resurrection at work in her and around her.

The miracles that the first disciples witnessed and those that Immaculee` experienced can and do occur in the life of believers today!  How strong is my faith? How real is the Scriptures in my life or is the Bible simply a book decorating a shelf in my home?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Set Apart for the Lord and to Do God's Work

In today's readings, Acts 12: 24-13: 5a and Jn 12: 44-50, we are told of the communion that exists between Jesus and His Father and between the disciples and the Holy Spirit.   Jesus, though equal in wisdom and power to the Father,  does not speak on his own (cf Jn 12: 44-50). The  disciples do as the Spirit directs them:  "'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off. So they, sent forth by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and from there sailed to Cyprus..."

Our goal as baptized Christians and Jesus' prayer for us the night before He died is that we "all be one, just as, Father, you are in me and I am in you, so that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me, that they may be one as we are one" (Jn 17: 21-22).  The union of both Jesus with the Father and the early disciples with the Holy Spirit is obvious in their obedience. 

Do my actions reflect the union between myself and the Lord, between myself and the Holy Spirit? Am I obedient to the Spirit's directions in my life?  Is it obvious to others that I am on a mission, set apart to do the work of the Lord in the world in which I live?  Am I even aware that I, like the early disciples, am also in the process of becoming one with Jesus and the Father? Am I even aware that I, too, am on a journey whereby, like the early disciples, I am obedient to the voice of the Holy Spirit directing me here and now to do that for which I have been set apart"?  Furthermore, is that my goal in life or am I following someone other than God; to whose voice am I listening?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Hand of the Lord Was upon Them

In today's first reading, Acts 11: 19-26, we learn that the disciples of Christ fled the region where followers of Christ were being persecuted and moved on to places far away as Pheonicia, Cyprus and Antioch, proclaiming the Lord Jesus "to no one but Jews."  Non-Jews were among their listeners and these persons, in turn, made Jesus known to Greeks as well.  "The hand of the Lord was upon them and a great number who believe turned to the Lord." 

The Church in Jerusalem heard the good news and sent Barnabas to the region.  Barnabas "saw the grace of God,...rejoiced and encouraged...all to remain faithful to the Lord in the firmness of heart, for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith."
When I walk i8nto a situation, what do I see? God's grace at work? Or do my prejudices, anxieties and preconceived ideas block my vision?

Monday, April 22, 2013

From darkness to light: who will show us the way?

This past week was a week of terror for Bostonians, a week that thrust many into the darkness of tragedy.  Lives were lost. Individuals were maimed and others seriously injured in other ways. In West, TX, an explosion at a fertilizer plant claimed a significant number of lives, as well,and destroyed properties. In Chicago and in the Midwest floods inundated cities, cars were swallowed up in sinkholes. In China an earthquake rocked a city, claiming more than 160 lives and leaving thousands homeless.  This week's news begins with just as much violence and turmoil and dark, dark realities as last week's. Today's AOL news headings contain the following:    Myanmar Authorities Accused Of Organizing Ethnic Cleansing Campaign Against Muslim Groups.. 125,000 People Displaced In Wake Of Attacks.. In Deadliest Incident, At Least 70 Killed In Day-Long Massacre.. 'They Killed Us Very Easily'.  Another heading reads: Hundreds Feared Dead In Damascus. And in still another,  Michael T. Klare, author and professor of peace and world-security studies, Hampshire College warns us of two nightmare scenarios -- a global scarcity of vital resources and the onset of extreme climate change -- [that] are already beginning to converge and in the coming decades are likely to produce a tidal wave of unrest, rebellion, competition, and conflict.

Who will lead us out of this darkness? Who will calm our fears? The answer to Christians is clear.  Jesus alone is our Savior!  Jesus alone will lead us out of darkness into light. Jesus alone will show us the way to new life when what we knew and loved is taken away from us. "Come to me, all you who...are overburdened, " Jesus says in Mt 11:28.  Rest, at peace, we will clearly recognize the path that will lead us to "new pastures." We also have Jesus' example when He, too, faced the hatred of those determined to destroy Him; when He, too, faced the ugliness of evil in this world.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

New Vocations to religious life

Today was a day in which I presented a workshop to my Sisters on how we might promote new vocations to religious life and in particular to the congregation of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother. After all, each of us has experienced unbelievable blessings as women religious and, in particular, as members of this community. That does not mean that life has not, at times, been challenging or difficult. That is live in any vocation, be it marriage, the single life, priesthood or religious life. Following the workshop, I was looking at “New Vocations” and created the following reflection:
Nearly all who are attracted to religious life are inspired by joy of present members,

Every authentic vocation originates from God.

When God calls, those who hear His call and response are truly blessed!


Victorious are those who say “yes” to God’s will.

Openness to God’s will brings peace.

Come and see the fruit of giving one’s whole heart, soul and mind to Christ.

Always trust God’s Spirit to guide you on the right path.

Truly, growing in intimacy with God and with others in Christ is the essence of religious life.

Inviting others to religious life can spark a vocation waiting to be called forth by another.

Only those of strong faith and a deep trust say “yes” to God’s call and continue that “yes”

         every day of their lives as women and men religious.

Never doubt that God will not see you through to the end.

See, “I am with you always.”

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Directed by "angels"

In today's first reading an angel of the Lord instructs Philip to "get up and head south on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route" (Acts 8: 26-40).  He meets up with "an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, that is, the queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury, who had come to Jerusalem to worship" and on his way back was reading the Scriptures but not understanding a thing he was reading. God's plan was that Philip explain the Scriptures to him. He catches up with his chariot, asks what he is reading and proceeds to proclaim Jesus to him, as all of Scripture is really about God's plan of salvation and the role of Jesus as Messiah, King, and Savior of the entire world.

What would you and I do when, out of the blue, God instructs us to "get up and head south" to "the desert route." When anything "goes south," or when anyone is in a desert, parched, dried up, unable to generate life and be productive, human nature has a tendency to bulk and not want to be a part of that experience.  "It's not my fault that she/he is struggling." "He/she made his/her own bed; let them sleep in it. It's not my problem and I do not want to get involved."  It is easy to dismiss what is problematic in another person's life and stay in our comfort zones. "I don't want to be bothered; I have no time for that foolishness" may be the tune of our rhetoric when hard times strike another person, especially the life of a "eunuch," a man who is regarded as lacking power or effectiveness.

Philip takes no such position. He gets up, catches up with the eunuch's charioteer and takes time to listen. The life of the eunuch is transformed!  Through Philip's generosity, he's found the Lord and continues his way rejoicing in that new found joy.

To whom  is the Lord calling me to listen? In whose life am I being called to make a difference? Will I listen? Will I leave my comfort zone when the Spirit calls?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Encountering Christ and Becoming Christ

“Everything the Father gives me will come to me and I will not reject anyone who comes to me…” (Jn 6: 35-40). What a mind-boggling thought that the Father has given me/you to Christ, the Son of God and Savior of humankind. Why would the Father do that? Because the Father loves us, wants us to be safe from the Evil One and desires us to live for Him here on earth and with Him eternally. Eternal life begins here on earth, however, with each of us doing the Father’s will. That will is that all of us, all with whom we have contact, are saved and experience the Spirit’s transformative powers within us and through us. Jesus wills that we become one with the Father as the Father and He are one (cf. Jn 17:21).  We see this will accomplished in St. Paul, who, in today’s first reading is a persecutor of the Church and, later, through God’s intervention in His life, becomes a disciple of Christ.  We, too, who encounter the Lord, are meant to be as transformed by that encounter as Paul was.

 God promises fullness of life to those who believe: “I have come that you may have life and have it in abundance” (Jn 10:10).   He gives fullness of life to all those who come to Him and believe in Him, just as He did to Peter and all of the apostles, to Mary Magdalen, the woman at the well, Veronica, St. Paul and the women and men who spread the Good News with him and to all of His disciples since His death and resurrection.  Am I, in turn, a source of life for others? Do others leave an encounter with me experiencing new life, being filled with a divine power that prior to our encounter seemed dormant? If not, why not? If not, what in me needs to change?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Looking and Perceiving: Their role in Putting on Christ

The key words in both of yesterday's readings, Acts 6: 8-15 and Jn 6: 22-29, is "look."  In
Acts, people looked upon Stephen whose face looked like the face of an angel but was perceived as an evil man. As reported in the first reading of today's liturgy,  Acts 7: 51-8:1a, Stephen was stoned to death.  In yesterday's Gospel,  the crowd is looking for Jesus. Immediately, He  sees that they are really looking for another meal and are not at all interested in His teachings or that He is the Holy One sent by the Father to show them, by His service to the poor, the oppressed, the sick and marginalized of his society,  the way to eternal life. 

For what and for whom am I looking? Am I looking for salvation, truth, redemption? Am I seeking Jesus as my Savior? Or am I looking for something else of less importance?  Is my seeking about me or about the Kingdom of God, about God's will "here on earth as it is in heaven"?

In looking at others, through which "set" of eyes is my perception formed? Do I see the divine or do I see shortcomings, weaknesses and evil? Do I, like Stephen's executioners in today's first reading, turn others into objects of scorn, subject to judgment and condemnation? Or do I see others as God sees them: as his beloved sons/daughters, images of the divine, persons whom God has called to become one with the Father as Jesus and the Father are one? Do I see others as perfect in Christ Jesus, as persons loved unconditionally by God and in the process of being sanctified by the circumstances of their lives?  Whichever perception I choose, one will lead me to life with Christ; the other will alienate me from knowing and loving as Christ does and will blind me to Christ's love for me.

Friday, April 12, 2013

God's Power and God's Design: Essential Elements of Reality

Today's Scripture readings, Acts 5:39 and Jn 6: 1-15, remind us of two very important spiritual realities: one, that anything that is of divine origin will persist, thrive and bear fruit that will last into eternity; that whatever is of human origin will destroy itself.  If I live with that truth in mind, would I not be less worried  about situations that I would otherwise fret about?  Would I not function differently, be less angry, less frustrated, less belligerent , less resistive if I were convinced that what I am, or others are called to bring into existence, will in fact happen only if of divine origin, and not come to pass if merely of human origin? Think about it!  Is God not in charge of our lives and of our accomplishments to do good and avoid evil?

In today's Gospel Jesus uses two fish and five loaves of bread to feed 5000 people, reminding us by His actions that whatever little we have the Lord can and does use to bring about a good, if I rely upon Him.  Nothing I, or another offers or has  is too small for His work in this world. If I believe in Jesus' power to take the little I or another has--be it education, natural gifts and talents, creative energies, faith, trust, love, wisdom--would I be saying: "I can't do that, Lord! I'm insignificant, powerless, helpless. I don't have the educational background, the talent, the energy to do that. I am not the right person for that task."  Would I be saying the same thing about another person whom God may be calling to do something that I believe he/she is not capable of doing? Or, in faith, would I believe that "nothing is impossible for God" and that, if it is of God the good desired will be realized through anyone God chooses, including me and you!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Holy Spirit is Not Rationed

God "does not ration the Holy Spirit" (Jn 3: 31-36).  Ever admire the work of others and wonder how they accomplished what the did in their life-times--people like your own parents, for instance, or people life Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, Pope
Francis or Pope John Paul II or Pope Emeritus Benedict XVi, or the pastor of your parish or the Sisters who taught you in gradeschool, high school, college? Ever wonder how hour favorite author did what he/she did?  The answer, obviously, is through the power of the Holy Spirit.

In today's Gospel, St. John tells us that God "does not ration the Holy Spirit" (Jn 3: 34). Jesus says to Philip in John 14:12-13: "I tell you most solemnly whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself; he [she] will perform even greater works, because I am going to the Father....I will send" (John 16:8) the Advocate, the Holy Spirit to you.

Do I realize that no matter what I want to do in carrying out the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, whatever I want to do in my vocation to further God's Kingdom, I am capable of doing by the power of the Spirit within me?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Wearying God

In today's first reading, Os 7: 10-14; 8:10, the Lord asks Ahaz to request a sign from God. He refuses.  Isaiah confronts Israel and says, in effect, "Isn't it bad enough that you weary each other? Must you also weary your God?" 

How easy for us human beings to weary God! God asks us, through the prophet Micah, for instance, to love tenderly, act justly and do good (cf Micah 6:8).  Through Jesus, just prior to His Ascension, we are asked to go out to the whole world and proclaim the good news.  In doing God's will, Jesus assures us that if we ask anything in His name, He will give it to us. 

Do I truly believe Jesus? do I ask for the help I need to love tenderly, act justly and do good?  Do I believe that Jesus will truly send me the Holy Spirit so that I will be empowered to "preach" the Good News by how I live life as modeled by Jesus in the Gospels?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Our "Emmaus" Journeys

The journey to Emmaus was preceded by a series of events that were intensely emotional:
  • Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem
  • Jesus proclaimed as king on that triumphal entry
  • Jesus perceived as the one who would free the Jews from Roman occupation and return their nation to prominence
Hopes were high, to say the least.  Jesus' disciples were in a state of elation, confidence. They spent three years being taught by the Master, witnessing Jesus healing all kinds of diseases, casting out demons, raising the death to life, confronting hypocrisy, being inclusive of everyone, especially women and children.  Life could not have been better for them.  Then, a week later, all hopes were dashed, shattered, crushed.  Jesus is handed over to the enemy and was put to death.

Think of times in your life when everything was going right for you.  You found your life's partner. You fall in love, dream together of raising a family and being each other's soul mate into old age and until death.  Then suddenly the bubble burst.  Your partner "falls out of love". A bitter divorce follows.  Or your spouse succumbs to a serious addiction, loses a lucrative job and you "fall" into dire poverty, alone, a single parent. Or a sudden illness takes your partner from you.  In religious life and/or priesthood the dream of perfection is pricked, the "balloon" deflates; or the same happens in your personal, professional life. All seems lost. To whom do you go for help? Who accompanies you on your "Emmaus" journey as you attempt to walk away from the painful memories? Who helps you make sense of it all? Who redirects your thinking and shows you the Scriptures and their meaning in your life, restoring your "vision", renewing your hopes, putting you back on a path that strengthens your resolve to start anew with the "Stranger," Christ at your side all of the way?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Difference Jesus Makes

The Gospel today, Luke 24: 13-35, recounts the incident of two of Jesus' disciples walking a 7-mile trek from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  On the way they discuss the events that had just occurred three days ago: Jesus crucifixion and death, the seemingly tragic end of their Master and Teacher.  As they are talking Jesus, unbeknowst to them,  joins them and asks them what they are discussing.  Saddened, they ask in bewilderment: Don't you know what has happened these past few days; are you a visitor here that you are unaware? "What things?" He asks.  So the two disciples explain everything. Jesus says to them: "How foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke. Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory? Then, beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures." When they arrive in Emmaus, the disciples beg him to stay with them as it was getting late. He does so. At the meal he takes the bread, breaks it and gives it to them. Then he vanishes from their sight. Their eyes are open and they say to one another: Weren't our hearts burning as He spoke to us?

As you and I discuss serious, troubling issues in our personal lives, Jesus also joins us in our discussion and most times we, too, do not recognize Him.  He is always ready to explain "the Scriptures" of our lives and our sufferings, too, are a necessary part of our own transformation from that in our lives that cause "death" to that which is life-giving. To what do I need to die if others are to be made whole, survive and thrive as happy, productive, joy-filled individuals? What do I need to let go of--what attitudes, behaviors--in order that I, too, will realize my potential to be "Christ" to others and for myself to be truly happy, joyfilled, God-centered individual who make the world a better place?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Mistaken Identity

In today's Gospel, Jn 20: 11-18, Mary Magdalen goes to the tomb. Two angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the feet where Jesus had been laid, ask Mary: "Woman, why are you weeping? They have taken my Lord, and I don't know where they laid him."  Mary turned around and there was Jesus, though she did not recognize Him, thinking He was the Gardener until He called her by name.

Many times messengers "from heaven" ask us why we are troubled, frustrated, angry, sad, weepy? What is our response?  Have we, too,  lost Jesus? Are we, too, wondering who took Him? Or is it another loss that is significant to us that we are grieving?

Mary found the One Thing necessary, the Love of her life, the One who saved her from demons that had been controlling her and alienating her from herself and others.

Have I found the Love of my life?  Have I found Jesus? Do I hear Him calling my name? Am I, in fact, even looking for Him in my life?