Friday, May 31, 2013

Mary's Visit to Elizabeth: A Model of a God-centered Life

Feast of the Visitation of Mary:  Inspired to visit her elderly cousin Elizabeth, Mary does so.  Both Mary and Elizabeth recognize the great things God is doing in their lives. Elizabeth greets her 14-or-15-year-old cousin with: “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen… that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greetings reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  Mary responds: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name.”

Neither of these women is self-centered. Both are focused outside of themselves, one praising Mary and standing in awe of what the Lord has done for her cousin and the other praising the Lord and standing in awe of what God has done for her and the implications of that fact.  Both women are affirmative, positive, humble, and overwhelmed with gratitude. Both respond from a faith stance.  God is the center of both women’s lives.

Lessons modeled by both Mary and Elizabeth:

·         The  courage to follow the Spirit’s promptings and going/doing what the Spirit inspires
        us to do, without question
·         Living life from a faith stance—there is always a God-dimension functioning in our lives,
       a dimension made known to those who seek God above all else  and who look for God
       at work in the other and in oneself
·         Acknowledging God’s work in the depth of our beings
·         Being a blessing in our encounters with others and blessing others in those encounters
·         The humility of putting others first and reaching out to meet their need.

To which of those lessons do I need to give serious attention today?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Courage to Approach Jesus in our Need

In today’s Gospel, Mark 10: 46-52, Bartimaeus, a blind man, realizes that Jesus is passing by.  He calls out: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.”  The crowd tries to quiet  him, perhaps believing that he is not worthy of Jesus’ attention.  He cries out even louder.  Jesus says to the crowd: “Call him.”  At Jesus’ command, they say to  him: “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”  Jesus looks upon Bartimaeus with compassionate love and asks him: “What do you want me to do for you?”  In faith, Bartimaeus expresses his need:  “Master, I want to see.”  Jesus tells him that his faith has saved him. Bartimaeus’ sight is restored  at that moment and he follows Jesus.

This story challenges us to ask ourselves several questions:
1.       Will I recognize Jesus in what or who crowds around my space today?
2.       Will I persist in wanting to talk to Jesus even when the crowd discourages me, treats
           me  disrespectfully, in fact scorns me?
3.       Do I realize in what ways I am blind or why I need Jesus to intervene in my life?
4.       Do I even believe that Jesus is God, a God of infinite compassion and love, who wants
           to heal me and fill me with His love and mercy? Do I have faith in Jesus’ willingness
           and ability to open my eyes to what I need to see?
5.       What do I want from Jesus?

No matter how we answer the above questions, Jesus says to us: “Take courage. Get up. I am calling you.”  As today’s first reading, Sirach 42: 15-25, reminds us:  God “plumbs the depths and penetrates the heart; …[our] innermost being he understands….No understanding does…[God] lack; no single thing escapes…[God]. Perennial is his almighty wisdom; he is from all eternity one and the same…How beautiful are all his works.” And, yes, when Jesus gazed upon Bartimaeus, He did so from this stance!  The same is true of his gaze upon you and me! He deeply desires to help us in our need. But we need to articulate that need.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The spiritual journey

In today’s Gospel, Mk 10: 32-45, James and John ask Jesus to grant them the privilege of sitting “one at your right and the other at your left” when they enter His glory.  Jesus gently confronts them, saying: “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” Being a disciple of Christ is about serving others, not about privilege and honors and being served, as Pope Francis would remind us, no doubt.  As servants, we will, like Jesus, be ridiculed, misunderstood, even spat upon at times, sometimes scourged with harsh words. It is our role to “wash the feet of others,” not have “our feet washed.”  Honor will be heaped upon us in eternity, not here.  How difficult it is to learn this lesson.  Like James and John, we will, from time to time, need to be reminded by Jesus that we will drink of the same chalice He did, though probably not crucified literally as He was.  Each time we die, that, is dying to the self-centeredness displayed by James and John, we, too, will rise again.  Each time we endure the crosses of life, as Jesus did, we will experience angels ministering to us as they assisted Jesus in Gethsemane.  Each time we take up our crosses in faith and hope and love, we will be encouraged by His mother and helped by “Simons”, as Jesus was.  We will rise to a stronger, richer life as the power of Jesus’ resurrection flows through us each time we have the courage to “drink the chalice that Jesus drank.”

Following in the footsteps of Jesus is totally opposite following the footsteps of the rich and famous!
And far more enriching. This way of life endures into eternal! life

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Gifts for the Most High

In today’s first reading, Sirach 35: 1-12 we are encouraged to offer sacrifices of praise to the Lord in the form of helping our neighbor, doing acts of justice, and giving alms.  “…be not sparing of freewill gifts,” Sirach says to us.  “Give to the Most High as…[God] has given to you, generously, according to your means.”

 As I reflected upon this passage in my morning meditation, I was touched by the example of parents everywhere, giving generously of their time and gifts to their children, not sparing anything for the welfare of those God entrusted to their care.  Every act of kindness to another, no matter how small it might be, is a sacrifice of praise offered to the Lord. Sirach reminds us that “the just one’s sacrifice is most pleasing, nor will it ever be forgotten” by God.  “With each contribution,” even a smile given to a neighbor, a diaper changed on an infant, a bandage put on the scraped knee of a youngster or whatever, “show a cheerful countenance, and pay your tithes (not necessarily money) in a spirit of joy.”  All of us witness that kind of generosity every day.  All of us, too, can recall the “sacrifices of praise” given to us by our own parents. Yesterday we commemorated the men and women who served our country. Their service, their sacrifices,  were/are pleasing to the Lord and will never be forgotten.  “For the Lord,” Sirach reminds us, “is one who always repays and…[God] will give back to you sevenfold…For …[God] is a God of justice…”

You and I are called by our baptism to follow God’s example given to us in Christ Jesus, who did not spare anything for our welfare. What am I going to give unsparingly today for the well-being of another in my family, in my workplace, in my religious community? And what am I willing to give unsparingly to myself for my own well-being, so that I truly enhance my ability to be generous in my service to others?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Thank you to Veterans of any War for Your Sacrifices

Thank you to the veterans of any war!  You gave of yourself generously for the sake of those of us enjoying the freedoms of this great nation: you gave your energy, your training, your selflessness, in service of your country. May God now give back to you in the measure that you gave of yourself and continue to give of yourself to your families, to the civic and church communities in which you live.
For your sacrifices, may God give you an inner strength and continued courage to meet the everyday challenges of your life; for your selfless service, the gift of ongoing generosity by which you receive as much or more than you give.  May you know the depth of God's love for you by the love of family and friends and by the love you continue to share with those facing difficult moments in their daily lives.

To those still serving, may God keep you safe and bring you home to your families a stronger, wiser, and more compassionate person than when you left. May your family also have grown in these virtues as they grieved your absence and longed for your return.

God bless you!

"Sell All"--Let Go, Let God and a Richness Will be Yours

This morning I needed to come to the Lord and share the disappointment in myself, an internal poverty of spirit when something I was doing was not working and another suggested another way that I believed would not work either and then getting huffy about it.  It is the poverty that manifest itself in my reactions when a person suggest I do something that contradicts affirming that I know what I am doing and when I do not want to be contradicted or when I am entrenched into “I’m in charge here,” or I want it my way!

Then I opened today’s Scripture.  In the Gospel, Jesus says to the rich, young man: “Go sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me” (Mk 10:17-27). So what is the Lord saying to those of us who insist on being right, on having it our way, of needing to be in charge, no matter what, of wanting affirmation and approval of what we are doing, even when it is not working?  Perhaps the answer lies in what Abram said to Lot concerning which land would be his and what would be Abram’s:  “If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or if you take the right, then I will go to the left” (Gen. 13:9).  A richness will be ours when we say “Okay” or simply let go instead of attempting to win the argument.  Letting go and letting be without imposing our way upon the situation, especially when our way is not working, can lead to a richness the world cannot give: peace within, even if the other person’’ way does not work either or is not what we would have done!

 This spiritual journey, Lord, is challenging. Show us the way and give us the strength to persevere in our efforts to “sell all” or, at least, to sell being right so something new can possibly develop, even when it may not have be the way we would do it.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Glorifying God on Earth

Today is a Friday and the mantra that is resounding over and over again in my mind are the words of Jesus on the cross: “It is finished.” Also coming to mind is the proclamation in His priestly prayer:  “I have glorified You on earth and finished the work that you gave me to do. Now, Father, it is time for you to glorify me with the glory I had with You before ever the world was” (Jn 17:4-5).

Jesus finished His work. Now it is our turn to finish the work that we have been given when sent here by the Father.  We know from the Scriptures that our work is this: to know Jesus Christ, to proclaim the presence of the Kingdom here on earth and to do even greater work than Jesus did here on earth: “I tell you solemnly, whoever believes in me will perform the same work as I do myself; he [she] will perform even greater works” (Jn 14: 12). 

In what ways today will I meet this challenge?  How, to this point in my life, have I carried on the work Jesus did while here: not crushing the broken reed, not quenching the smoldering wick, being just and caring toward the poor and needy, welcoming the little children, healing the leper within and without, tending the lame, casting out demons (within myself and elsewhere); preaching the gospel, not so much by my words as by my actions? 

When others observe me, do I give them reason to proclaim: “The Kingdom of God is here in our midst"? If yes, what am I doing/saying? If not, why not?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Jesus' Gentle but Profound Reminder

Today’s reading may, at first glance, be experienced as repulsive. How can Jesus say, I asked, if you sin with an eye, gouge it out. If your hand or foot causes you to sin, chop it off. “Better to go to Gehenna maimed than with both hands and feet and eyes.”  Granted,  Jesus is overstating a point because sin is a serious offence against God. An insult, in fact! God came to earth, assumed human nature, subjected Himself to humankind’s inhumanity toward each other in order to save us from sin and all of its effects.  How is it that I could possibly take sin lightly!

As I ponder both the first reading, Sirach 5: 1-8, and the Gospel, Mk 9: 41-50, the following prayer surfaced from the depth of my being:

Lord, how easy to use my ears to listen to gossip, my lips and tongue to spread gossip, my feet to walk away from a beggar, my hands to withhold that which would ease the pain of another, my eyes to look away from a desperate person hoping for mercy  May that not be so today and less and less so as time for me progresses toward eternal life. I want to see as You see, hear as You hear, speak as You speak, use my hands and feet as You used Yours to heal people and to approach people as one who cares about and for them, as persons who are my sister and brother in Christ Jesus.

Lord, forgive me when I used my hands, feet, eyes, ears and any other of my senses in selfish, sinful ways. Transform me, Lord into a vessel of grace this day and every day.

The Lord then reminded me that God saves, God heals, God sanctifies, God makes us whole.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Walking with "Lady Wisdom"

Wisdom, Sirach tells us in the first reading of today’s liturgy, “walks with…[us] as a stranger and at first …puts …[us] to the test. Fear and dread she brings upon…[us] and tries…[us] with her discipline” (Sirach 4: 11-19).

The choices that take us into Wisdom’s abode are challenging ones.  One of the reflections I pondered during my morning’s meditation made the comment that “Sirach compares ‘Lady Wisdom’ to a teacher who is more concerned about teaching us valuable lessons and less concerned about being our friend. She teaches us that the way of wisdom is not always an easy road. Sometimes, in fact, it’s a narrow, rocky, even dangerous path (Mt. 7:14),” as it was for Jesus (The Word Among Us, I May 2013, p. 41).

The ever-present temptation is to choose being popular or being another person’s friend or to blend in with the crowd at the expense of embracing Wisdom,  disciplining ourselves in her ways, embracing opportunities to teach valuable lessons that lead to oneness with our Savior Jesus Christ.  Jesus teaches us the Way. His mission was to be obedient to the Father’s will by teaching wisdom to all who would listen.  He will teach you and me to do the same.  And if we ask for the grace to choose Wisdom’s way, He will give it to us, as He promises in Jn 14:13:  “…ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

May we have the courage to 1) ask and 2) to follow through, disciplining ourselves to follow in obedience to God’s holy will.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Trusting the Lord in Times of Disaster

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the apostles that He will be handed over to evil persons who will kill him.  In three days, He says, He will come back to life. They do not, at all, comprehend what  He is talking about. In fact they immediately begin arguing who is the greatest among them in what they thought was a kingdom here on earth  of which Jesus would become King.  Jesus then describes that to be a participant of His Kingdom, we are called to be servants of all, not persons who lord it over others, and that we are to assume the attitude of a little child. A child is completely dependent upon one’s parents to meet all of his or her needs. How utterly dependent upon God am I? To what extent do I assume being a servant of all?  Today’s first reading, Sirach 2: 1-11,  spells out in detail what it means to a servant of the Lord:


My child, if you aspire to serve the Lord,

prepare yourself for an ordeal.

Be sincere of heart, be steadfast,

And do not be alarmed when disaster comes….

[I]n the uncertainties of your humble state, be patient,

since gold is tested in the fire

 and the chosen in the furnace of humiliation.

Trust [God] and [God] will uphold you,

follow a straight path and hope in [God].

You who fear  the Lord, wait for his mercy,….

hope for those good gifts of his,

everlasting joy and mercy….

Love [ God] and your hearts will be enlightened….

Compassionate and merciful is the Lord;

He forgives sins, he saves in time of trouble,

and he is a protector to all who seek him in truth.

How, in the Lord’s name, you might be asking, can you think of God as merciful in light of the tornadic activity tearing across the country.  Why, you ask, would God allow such destruction.   I am to ‘prepare myself for an ordeal”  and “not be alarmed when disaster comes!” Are you crazy, might be the question.

Discipleship is not a piece of cake.  Jesus tells us in the Gospels that in the world we will have troubles, as He did and no servant is greater than his/her master.  God does not cause evil to happen. God does not send tornadoes or earthquakes or tsunamis or any disaster, natural or otherwise.  Those things simply happen on this earth when conditions are in their favor.  God is there to comfort through responders, to show His mercy through neighbors, to reveal His compassion by an outpouring of help to victims, to restore order in the chaos through persons who offer to clean up, through those who give assistance in rebuilding. God weeps with those who weep.  God suffers with those who suffer.   Heros and heroines will come forward in the most devastating of circumstances—God is at work through them.   

Monday, May 20, 2013

Relying on Jesus' Power to Overcome Evil

In today’s Gospel, Mk 9: 14-29,  the disciples are perplexed that they were unable to cast out an evil spirit that had possessed a boy since his childhood, throwing him into convulsions, causing him to foam at the mouth and at times practically tossing him into water or into fire to kill him. The boy’s father is frantic that the disciples were of no help and says to Jesus: “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”  Jesus, exasperated by the statement “If you can,” shouts back: “What do you mean, ‘if I can’. Haven’t I been with you long enough, haven’t you seen the work I do, that you question whether I am capable to casting out Satan?”  The man is just as frustrated and says to Jesus, “Lord, I do believe; help my unbelief!” And Jesus takes over the situation and commands Satan to leave and never, never take possession of the boy again.

Many times, you and I need to be brought that low in realizing our powerlessness, our dependency upon the Lord, that there is nothing we can do to change a horrible situation, a situation out of our control. Until we recognize this, we are likely to keep trying things that do not work.  Stripped bare, we fall on our knees and beg God to help us. God never refuses those who believe that God is God and there is no other.   “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If  you ask Me anything I My name, I will do it” (Jn 14: 13-14).   

Who am I in this Gospel story: the man who is interceding for his son? The son who is out of control of his life? The disciples who are unable to make a difference in this situation? Whoever I am, what is God asking of me?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Gratitude and Growing in Love

“Bless the Lord, O my soul;

and all my being, bless his holy name.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

And forget not all his benefits” (Ps. 103) is the responsorial psalm of today’s Liturgy.

 It certainly behooves us to thank  God for His benefits to us, to consider what they are, to become aware of God’s graces and to appreciate them.  Think of how you feel and the effects of when someone acknowledges who you are, what you have done for them and how much you are cherished by them.  God, too, I believe, appreciates our gratitude, not that His giving to us depends on our response. God is love and showers us with the gifts of his love unconditionally.

In the Gospel of today,  Jn 21: 20-25, Jesus asked Peter three times whether he loved  Him.  God wonders that same about us and one of the ways to express our love is by blessing God for all the great things He does in our lives.  When Peter says: “Yes, Lord, I love you,” Jesus says to him “Feed my sheep.”

Love, if it is to mature, needs the “watering,” the “cultivating,” and the “fertilizing,” that occurs by unselfishly caring for others, meeting their needs, being for the other in a way that they experience their greatest potential as a human being, the potential, in turn,  to give of their lives for and to another, the potential of creating a union of love, of being in communion with another/others. 

The Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—model communion,  a union of love. Does my life reflect the life of the Trinity?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Dealing with Painful Eruptions

In today’s first reading, Acts 22:30; 23: 6-11, Paul is brought into court. When he explains his situation—‘My brothers,…I am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead”—a dispute erupts. Ever been in a situation where you described what was/is going on for you, or you shared a dream of yours concerning something new and exciting,  and strong emotions exploded? My reaction, in those situations, is one of disbelief that I am not understood, not supported, not affirmed.  I feel hurt, discombobulated, confused. “What’s happened here,”  I wonder. “Where did I go wrong,” I question.  “Why are people reacting so angrily at what I said or did?”  In my hurt, I either flee or fight. It takes me time to come back and discuss the situation calmly and when I do and am able to apologize, then the door is open to move toward reconciliation. My point of view may still not be understood or supported or affirmed but the relationship has changed from antagonism, hostility, and rejection to acceptance.  The possibility of moving to even deeper levels of understanding  and reconciliation now exists.  A significant part of coming to this place of forgiveness includes waiting upon the Lord. Restoring of relationships and asking forgiveness (even though I may not see where I went wrong, so to speak) depends on grace. It happens in God’s time and in God’s place.  “Wait upon the Lord and be saved,” the psalmist tells us. And in Isaiah 30:15, the prophet says to us:  “By waiting and by calm, you shall be saved; in quiet and in trust your strength lies.”

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Protection from Satan's Traps

In today's first reading, Acts 20: 28-38, St. Paul tells his fellow Christians that, after he leaves them, he knows that "savage wolves" will attack "the flock."  That message had got to have been terrifying for those whose faith may not have been all that strong.  Jesus, at the Last Supper, less that 24 hours before leaving us in death, prays for us, asking His Father, and ours, to keep us in His name. He reminds the Father that while here he "guarded" us. "But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely" (Jn 17: 11b-19).  He reminds the Father that He has given us the Father's word and that the world hates us, as the world hated Jesus, because neither Jesus nor we belong to the world.  He then says to the Father: "I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the Evil One."

What a promise, a promise that Jesus continues to keep. Yes, you and I are shielded from the Evil One. He has no more power over us. Jesus crushed his head from the tree of the cross.  For those of us who believe and rely upon God, evil will not overtake us eternally and eternity is NOW!  Jesus is NOW and where Jesus is, so, too, is the Father and the Spirit. And where the Trinity is, so, too, is eternity--a life beyond this world's reality. If I live by faith, then, when I encounter evil, I  will ultimately triumph over it, no matter from whence it comes. The resurrection is NOW. Rocks are rolled away from our tombs NOW as we rise with Christ to the new life of grace, to the power of the Spirit at work in the depth of our souls.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Chosen and Appointed by God Himself to Do Great Things

Today is the feast of St. Matthias. He was chosen by lot to replace Judas and to join the other eleven apostles to be a witness to Jesus’ resurrection.  You and I, also, have been chosen to be witnesses to Jesus’ triumph over death.  We were chosen, not by lot, but directly by Jesus. He says to us in today’s Gospel:  “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain…” (Jn 15:6).

 Envision Jesus making this choice! It is you and I He is choosing! It is you and I whom He is appointing to assume the mission of bearing fruit that will never rotten, never disintegrate, never die!  What kind of fruit does not ever deteriorate and turn to rot but blooms into eternal life? The answer, obviously, is love.  The same Spirit whereby Jesus rose from the death is the same  Spirit Who empowers us to love in the face of hatred, to work for peace in the face of violence, to work toward forgiveness and reconciliation in the face of injustices and hurts we endure in this life. “That’s impossible,” you might argue. However,  Jesus returned to heaven, to His Father, in order to send to us the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit at work in us Who enables to do even greater things than Jesus did during his short 33 years here on this earth.  Jesus Himself makes that promise in John 14: 12-14: “In all truth I tell you, whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, and will perform even greater works,  because I am going to the Father….I shall ask the Father and he will give you another Paraclete to be with you forever, the Spirit of truth….[H]e is with you, he is in you” (Jn 14: 12-13, 15-17).

And you and I, from conception , have been chosen to receive the Paraclete, to be a witness to the Resurrection of Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, by the works we do—“even greater works” than Jesus did here on earth! Do we believe this truth? Do we believe Jesus? Or do our mediocre, apathetic lives proclaim our unbelief?

Friday, May 10, 2013

"Be not afraid; I am with you"

The Lord said to St. Paul: “Be not afraid. I am with you” (Acts 18: 9-18).  When brought before the tribunal, his accusers said “This man is inducing people to worship God contrary to the law” (Acts 18¨9-18). The Lord did not take away the reality that Jewish leaders saw him as a traitor of their faith and believed he would destroy their long-held traditions and had to be stopped. What the Lord did promise was that He would be at Paul’s side, just like the Father was always with Jesus in the sufferings He endured for our salvation.  Paul clung to that belief and never lost sight of the joy that would be his for all eternity if he persevered in the faith until the end of his pilgrimage and mission here on earth. 
The Lord has made the same promise to you and me.  No matter what tragedies or traumas, no matter what losses we endure in life, Jesus is at our side, as is His mother. She is as much with us as she was with her Son when he was being tortured to death for His faithfulness to the Father’s will.
Mary and Jesus did not escape life’s horrors. Neither will you and I.  However, like them, a divine power and an eternal light will be with us, giving us the strength to endure for the Lord’s sake and transforming the darkness around us into light.  In the end we will inherit an eternal home where there will be no more tears, no more sorrow, no more evil. Sometimes that  trust in God’s promise will be all we have to cling to when we are experiencing  this life’s tragic realities, no matter what those may be or from whom they are handed down to us. I believe that, do you?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Living, Moving, Existing in God

“… it is God who gives to everyone life and breath and everything.  He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions, so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us. For ‘in him we live and move and have our being’” (Acts 17: 25-28).
As I reflect upon the beauty of all of nature coming to life this spring, I stand in awe of God who has given life to all that is blossoming, all  of  that which is producing tiny leaves and buds. Those buds will burst forth into full bloom within a short time. Every living thing is given all that it needs to develop into maturity, to produce fruit, and to reflect the beauty of its creator.  You and I, also, have been given life by our God, who breathes His breath of life into us, gives us all we, too, need to become fully mature human beings reflecting the beauty of our Creator as well. God, St. Paul tells us in this same passage, is not “dependent on anything that human hands can do for him since he can never be in need of anything; on the contrary, it is he who gives everything—including life and breath—to everyone” (Acts.17: 25-26).
God, our provider, needs nothing from us. We, His offspring and all created things, need everything from Him!  What a relationship of love!
And what an awesome God. He "fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions," so that you and I might seek Him, "even perhaps grope for him and find him, 'though indeed he is not far from any one of us. For 'in him we live and move and have our being'" (Acts 17: 26-28).

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Salvation: Believing in Christ Jesus

In today’s first reading, Acts 16: 22-34, we read about Paul and Silas being arrested, beaten with rods, and chained to the prison floor.  God intervenes. The prison doors are blown open by an earthquake and the chains that securely restricted Paul and Silas’ movements are shattered, pulled right out of the cemented floor.  Frightened of the punishment that would be inflicted upon them, the jailers decide to kill themselves. Paul and Silas stop them. Falling down before them, the jailors ask:  “What must we do to be saved?” Paul and  Silas respond:  “Believe in the Lord Jesus.”
Each of us, from time to time, find ourselves chained, that is unfree to act justly, to love tenderly, to walk humbly with his/her God (Compare Micah 6:8).  Sometimes, we engage in actions which we would not otherwise do or refrain from actions which we would, when free, do. In other words,  at times  we are no different from the jailers  who beat Silas and Paul with rods and chained their feet to the prison floor.  Whom, I ask, have I beaten, not with rods, but with words? Whom, I ask, have I put in chains by my efforts to control them, by  denying them their rights to be respected, loved, and honored when I did not have the courage or, for some reason, did not feel free to speak up for them when others were treating them harshly or speaking unkindly about them or about to impose their will upon them unjustly?
“What, Lord, must we do to be saved in those situations?”  The answer is the same that Paul and Silas gave to the jailors. We need to believe in the Lord Jesus and His power to set us free. If we do believe in Jesus, then, we need to bring our situation to the Lord. Yes, we need to describe what is going on within and around us that is depriving others and us of our freedom to act in accord with God’s holy will. God’s will is our peace, our happiness, our wholeness, our holiness, our becoming one with Him and with one another in love.  When we invite Jesus into our reality, then, and only then, as in the case with Silas and Paul, will we be set free.

Monday, May 6, 2013

An Open Heart: A "Lydia" Moment

In Acts 16: 11-15, Paul, seeking a place by the river to pray, meets Lydia, a wealthy woman who is a dealer of purple cloth and a worshipper of God.  She “listened” to Paul and “the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying.”  Ever think of the fact that if you, or I, take the time to listen that the only way that we truly hear God’s words coming through the other is when God Himself opens our hearts. That means that my heart, your heart, is closed until God opens it. A prerequisite is that I am listening, truly listening!  I may be outdoors enjoying the beauty and tranquility of nature without any awareness of the divine presence, unless God opens my heart.  I may be at the Sacred Liturgy listening to the homily and hearing nothing—my heart will remain closed until God opens it. I may be reading the Holy Scriptures or a spiritual book or listening to another and hearing nothing, until God opens my heart! Am I willing to have God break open those parts of my heart that I may not even want God to enter? God waits until I am willing to allow Him to enter even the darkest, the most painful, the ugliest, the weakest part of my heart that needs to be healed, that needs to be flushed out by the grace of the present moment. Am I listening for God? Am I waiting upon God?
I might also ask myself whether I am seeking a place to pray, to open my heart to God, as was Paul. And, like Paul, am I willing to enter into conversation  with a part of myself with which  I am uncomfortable, with another whom society scorns, with another with whom I differ (Jewish men were not to speak to women in public)?

Friday, May 3, 2013

"Show us the Father"

Today we celebrate the feast of Sts. Philip and James, the Apostles. In today’s Gospel, John 14: 6-14,  Philip asks Jesus to show them the Father.  Jesus says to him: Philip, to have seen me is to have seen the Father. “…I am in the Father and the Father is in me…”   “The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.”
You and I, through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist and Reconciliation, are filled with the Holy Spirit: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit , one God in three divine persons. Where the Father is, so, too, is the Son. Where the Father and the Son are, so, too, is the Holy Spirit, the Love between the Father and the Son.  You and I can say with Jesus: I am in the Father and the Father is in me!  I am in the Trinity and the Trinity is in me.  Our goal in life as Christians is to grow in our awareness of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit dwelling within the depth of our beings and to allow the Trinity  to do the works of God through us.  Wherever and however love is communicated, wherever and however forgiveness is expressed, wherever and however reconciliation occurs God is there and is at work in that situation.  Parents loving their children, forgiving their children, reconciling with their children is the Father working in them. Spouses loving, forgiving, supporting one another is God at work in them.  Teachers, healthcare workers, counselors, policemen, firemen, lawyers, all those working to improve the lives of those seeking their assistance is God at work through them.
May I grow in respecting this divine phenomena and deepen my ability to recognize the Father, Son and Holy Spirit at work in myself and others!  May I look for that reality in today’s world.  "Be still and know that I am God," the psalmist tells us in Psalm 46.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

God Makes No Distinctions

In today’s first reading, Acts 15: 7-21, Paul and Barnabas and Peter confront the Apostles and Presbyters about burdening the Gentiles with Jewish practices as a prerequisite to being recognized as legitimate Christians, legitimate proclaimers of the Good News!  Who are we, Peter asks, to question the work of God, who baptized the Gentiles with the Holy Spirit just as God baptized the Apostles and recently converted Jewish Christians.  “God who knows the heart,” Peter says, “bore witness by granting them the Holy Spirit just as he did us. He made no distinction between us and them, for by faith he purified their hearts.”
We, too, need to take Peter’s challenge to heart when we pass judgment on another who, by doing good, reaching out to the poor and oppressed, binding up wounds of those hurt in some way, is obviously been “baptized…with the Holy Spirit.” No one does good unless God is performing good through that person.  God makes “no distinction between us and them (whoever we are dismissing as a “them”),  for by faith he purified their hearts.” God makes no distinctions between male or female, young or old, rich or poor, educated or uneducated, between this culture or another,  this religion or r another, this State in Life or another,  but sends all persons out to proclaim the Kingdom by their love, forgiveness, generosity, and graced actions that restores a person’s hope  in humanity, that confronts injustices done to others, that does not blow out a smoldering flame or break a crushed reed (cf Is. 42: 3). 
If we let go of the “us and them” divisions, we are more likely to see “the signs and wonders” God is working through those we refer to as “them.” And we are also more likely to be about the good God calls each of us to perform in  His name.