Thursday, October 31, 2013

Triumphantly Victorious in Christ Jesus

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Spirit Praying within Us according to God's Will

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

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

God's Kingdom: The "Yeast" within Human Nature

In today’s Gospel, Luke 13: 18-21, Jesus asks the question: ‘What is the kingdom of God like?  What shall I compare it with?  It is like a mustard seed which a man took and threw into his garden: it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air sheltered in its branches.’ Again he said, ‘What shall I compare the kingdom of God with? It is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it leavened all through.’
The seed of the Kingdom is a powerfully creative seed planted within us at our baptism, sealed within us at our confirmation, nurtured within us in the reception of the Eucharist, and transformed within us by all of the sacraments. As the entire dough is effected by  yeast, so, too, the whole of human nature is transformed by the “yeast” of God’s grace until each of us becomes the very image of God, until we become an alter Christus in this world, until, with St. Paul, each of us can say:  “I have been crucified with Christ…it is no longer I, but Christ living in me” (Galatians 2:20).  Think of the fact that everything we do and say and long for reflects this longing to be one with Christ, even when we, or others,  fall miserably short of reaching that goal.  Why? Because Christ has won the victory of our transformation into the very likeness of God. Good will triumph, no longer how long it takes and evil will be overcome by the seed of Goodness within each one of us!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Growing into a Temple Sacred to the Lord

Today’s first reading, Ephesians 2: 19-22 reminds us that  we“… no longer strangers or sojourners, but are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.  Through him,” we are told, “ the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him…[we] also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
That Lord is saying:     (your name),  you are no longer a stranger or an alien. You are one of the family and not an ordinary family but the family of God.  Moses spoke to God face to face, had an intimate relationship with the Lord and so, too, did all of the saints that have gone before you.  “I,” the Lord say to you and me, “have an intimate relationship with you and my heart is in anguish until you discover this intimacy, my nearness to you, my love for you and realize that I desire you above all. I gaze upon you every moment of every day with eyes of love.”
You and I, St. Paul tells us, are God’s temple, “built upon the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone…,” the one through whom  “the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord.”  All of us “are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

All of us have, perhaps, visited churches that have taken our breath away because of their beauty. And those buildings are built by human beings!  The Temple that St. Paul is talking about is being built by the Lord. It is being put together as a “dwelling place of God.”  Its beauty will far outshine the beauty of anything built by human hands. And into that Temple, every day or every week, the Son of God, Christ Jesus, says to us through the priest:  “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, happy those called to the Supper of the Lamb” and we respond: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”  Jesus enters our Temple, as He entered the Temple when he was on His way to Jerusalem and cleansed it. In Holy Communion, He does the same for the Temple into which we that we are being built.
I believe,” Lord, “help my unbelief!”                                             

Friday, October 25, 2013

Spiritual Warfare

In today’s first reading, Romans 7: 18-25a, St. Paul honestly expresses the spiritual struggles we all encounter as disciples of Christ.  We are inspired, passionate, in fact, about doing something good.  We are filled with good intentions only to see them evaporate in short order.  Guilt may even set in and we may even say to ourselves: “Lots of hot air but no action”; or, more painfully, others may say that of us.  Then, too, we may find ourselves doing what we do not want to do: judging another, complaining about another; even ranting and raving about this or that in the world, in the church, in our country, in our government; yes, even in our families, our parishes, and/or our religious communities.

Who, St. Paul asks, will free us from this mortal body with its weaknesses and its sinful inclinations? When will we, once and for all, stay on the path of holiness, seeds of which also exist within us?  When will we actually follow through with our good intentions more often than not?  If we are relying on ourselves alone, the answer is “Never.” If we are relying on Christ, the answer is “Now, in Christ Jesus”.
In faith, we know that we will accomplish the good to which we have set our minds, that which we are determined to accomplished because “God is with us.”  The truth is that we will always encounter difficulties that need to be overcome, weaknesses that need to be strengthened, “hot air” that needs to be dispelled.  Like any athlete, artist, writer, designer, musician; like anyone taking on a task worth doing, the “gold medal” will be won by strengthening our “weak muscles,” overcoming fatigue and meeting whatever obstacles are encountered along the way and do so with the help of Christ Jesus and  many other disciples on the same journey.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Being Prepared for our Bridegroom's Coming

This week we lost one of our Sisters who was very much alive and loved. She was fully employed at a nearby parish as a Pastoral Associate in charge of the sick and infirm of the parish. She visited very parishioners who was hospitalized and or sick at home. She was at a family’s side when they were dealing with the trauma of a terminal illness or dealing with chronic diseases.  Persons to whom she ministered describe her with much gratitude, as she personified the compassion and mercy of God for them. Suddenly this past Sunday, while dining out with one of her friends, a Sister celebrating her 97th birthday, she experienced a sudden pain in her head. She died less than 24 hours later from a brain bleed. 
All week long, the Gospels have warned d us to be ready because, “at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come” (Luke 12: 40)—today’s Gospel. Yesterday, Jesus said to us: “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return…, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival” (Luke 12: 35). And the strongest message of all was given to us in Monday’s Gospel, Luke 12: 16-21, which told the story of the “rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest,” so great that he wondered what to do with his abundance.  “This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, ‘Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry.”  God says to him and to those of us accumulating riches only for this world and neglecting those that last into eternity:  “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?”  Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself [herself] but is not rich in what matters to God.”
The Sister who died Monday morning was “rich in what matters to God.”  What about you and me? Are we building up only earthly riches and not those of heaven?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

An Overflowing of Grace

St. Paul reminds us in today’s first reading, Romans 5: 12, 15b, 17-19, 20b-21, that “…just as through the disobedience of one man the many were made sinners, so, through the obedience of the one the many will be made righteous.  Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Wow! What love God has for each one of us. No way, would a loving, compassionate, kind God allow Satan to take possession of us, to drag us down into a pit of sin and sorrow and death, to control our lives or deprive us of eternal life with the Lord.  No!  God sent His Son out of love for us, to  lift us out  of that pit of sin and sorrow and death, to save us from eternal  death, to teach us to love, not to hate; to be kind to ourselves and others , to return good for evil, to forgive rather than holding others and ourselves hostage in anger, resentment and revenge.  God sent His son to teach us obedience, to transform sin in us into holiness, to set us free to serve the Lord and one another.  Yes, where sin abounds, grace abounds even more because our God is a generous, loving, forgiving, reconciling God. “When I am lifted up from the earth,” Jesus said,  “I will draw everyone to myself”  (John 12:32). That means you and me and all peoples of all nations, all nationalities, all walks of life, those we love and those we hate, those of whom we approve and those of whom we disapprove. God is an inclusive God: all who repent  and believe and accept the free gift of salvation in Christ Jesus are saved by Jesus’ obedience to His Father, obedient to the point of death on the cross. I believe that because God’s love is infinite and unconditional.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Called by Name

Today I am conducting a Come and See for women interested in religious life.  One of the activities today is to take time in quiet prayer, reflection and meditation on Moses' call to mission.
We read in Exodus, 3: 4, 10 that "God called to him [Moses] out of the bush, "'Moses, Moses!'  And he said, 'Here I am.' Then the Lord said, 'I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.'"

With every call--be it to marriage, to the single life, to religious life, to priesthood--comes a mission, comes responsibilities.  Carrying out the mission God entrusts to each one of us means that God calls the shots, God is the one who is sending us, and God is the one who matches the person to the mission.

I was deeply touched when I repeated to myself: Dorothy Ann, God matched you to the mission you are now asked to carry out for the sake of the Kingdom.  God matched me. God called me. God has a work for me to do. And when he chose me for the work I am now doing, He chose carefully. God knew, better than anyone, who He needed to do this particular work. That is true for each of you reading this: God chose you.God matched you to the mission, the job, the tasks to which He sent you to perform in His name. No one else but you and you were specially chosen to be the mate in your marriage, the father/mother to this/that child, to do this or that ministry/job as a teacher, a counselor, a plumber, an electrician, a store clerk, an administrator, a physician, a nurse, a technician, a physical therapist (fill in the blanks).  Specially chosen. Sent by God. And God calls the shots!
Source: I HEARD GOD CALL MY NAME, from the National Religious Vocation Conference.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Called to evangelize and be evangelized, to love and be loved, to nurture and be nurtured by friends

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Luke, the evangelist and a physician.  God calls persons from all walks in life to serve Him as priests, as men and women religious, as deacons, as married men and women and as single persons.  All of us, no matter what vocation in life we choose--and hopefully we seek God's will in the choices we make--are called to evangelize, to share our faith with others: parents with each other and with their children, single men and women with their co-workers, neices and nephews and with the children in their parishes as catechists,  as fellow worshippers and participants in parish programs; men and women religious through their ministries (healthcare, education, youth ministry, pastoral associates, catechists and other forms of services that address the needs of the poor and needy, the marginalized; that confront injustices perpetrated in the world of our day).

St. Luke was a friend of St. Paul, one who did not abandon him in his sufferings, including being imprisoned and put to death for the faith. Luke was at his side.  God also sends each of us friends to support us, encourage us, and give us strength to proclaim the message of salvation, to share our faith with others in a variety of ways, but especially by how we live our faith in the daily events of our day.

May we have the courage, the wisdom, the passionate love to fall in love with Jesus over and over again and share that love with those with whom we live and minister in Jesus' name.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Saved by Faith in Christ Jesus

In the first reading of today's liturgy, Romans 3: 21-30, St. Paul reminds us that we--Jews and Gentiles alike-- are saved by our faith in Christ Jesus, not by faith in laws or by the works we do.  Jesus is our Savior.  "God," St. Paul proclaims, "...will justify the circumcised on the basis of faith and the uncircumcised through faith."  Without exception, "all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God."  However, all have been restored to "the glory of God" by Jesus' death and resurrection, when sin was destroyed and Satan's power crushed.  God belongs to all of us--the power of the resurrection is now at work in all believers because, as today's responsorial psalm proclaims, "[w]ith the Lord, there is mercy, and fullness of redemption."  God has been victorious and all of us--Jew and Gentile, peoples of all nationalities and cultures--await the victory that will be ours, in Christ Jesus, for all eternity and that is ours, here and now,  when, on a daily basis, by grace, we overcome sin, dying to our selfishness, our pride, our hopelessness, our lust for power and control; in short our efforts to be like God, as Adam and Eve did in original sin.

May each of us know the power of the resurrection at work within our lives.  May we have the courage and the wisdom to stop long enough from frantic activity to listen in the stillness of our hearts to God quietly at work in our personal, familial, communal, civic, political, and ecclesial dimensions of the world in which we live.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

God's Infinite Patience, Forbearance, and Kindness

In today’s first reading, Romans 2: 1-11, St. Paul confronts us as follows: “You, O man [woman],  are without excuse, every one of you who passes judgment. For by the standard by which you judge another you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the very same things.”  As I reflected upon that message in my morning’s meditation, I made a list of other people’s behaviors upon which  I have passed judgment.  Next to each behavior I could write: “I’ve done that sometimes, too.”  It was a sobering experience, as the list grew and so did my awareness of how those same behaviors/attitudes, from time to time--and sometimes frequently--are a part of my history. 

Paul then goes on to ask us whether or not we are aware of God’s infinite kindness, God’s patience with us, and His forbearance by which He invites us to repentance.  Are we aware of God’s unconditional love, a love manifested in Jesus taking our judgment upon Himself, becoming sin for us, on the cross.  St. Paul tells us  in Colossians 1:22:  “You were once estranged and of hostile intent through your evil behavior; now he has reconciled you, by his death and in that mortal body, to bring you before himself holy, faultless and irreproachable—as long as you persevere and stand firm on the solid base of the faith, never letting yourself drift away from the hope promised by the gospel….”  Repent and believe in the Gospel, we are told on Ash Wednesday when the priest signs us with ashes. May we repent of standing in judgment over others and realize that we, too, have sinned in whatever way we are complaining about our neighbor.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Power of the Gospel

Today’s first readings, Romans 1: 16-25, contains gems of wisdom that each of is challenged to ponder within the depth of our hearts. What are these gems? 

·         That the Gospel “is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…”

·         That in the Gospel “the righteousness of God” is revealed “from faith to faith”

·         That the “one who is righteous by faith will live”

·         That “what can be known about God is evident to… [the impious and to those who have suppressed] the truth by their wickedness”

·         That what can be known about God is evident [to all of us] because God has made it evident [to us]

WOW!  The question is: do I believe that the Gospel is the power of God for my salvation? And if I do, what is keeping me from reading and reflecting upon the Gospels regularly and, yes, even daily?  That is where my salvation lies, that is where I will encounter Christ, who saves me from my own wickedness: from my own sinfulness, my own vulnerability to give in to temptation.  What temptation? Satan’s deceits, Satan’s subtleness in luring me into gossip, into cheating myself and others of the gift of forgiveness and unconditional loving, of respect and openness to the wisdom of God at work within them and within me, refusing to listen to them or to the Spirit directing me; from responding or not responding because of my prejudices, my fears, my hopelessness, my greediness and/or stinginess.  In whatever sin I engage, I am suppressing the truth of who I am in Christ Jesus, of what I am capable of doing because of the Spirit living within me.   My potential for choosing good instead of evil is contingent upon my relationship with Christ and I grow in my knowledge of Christ through the Scriptures, the Word of God! 

What is holding me back from this Source of God’s power?  Have I, in St. Paul’s words, “exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshipped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever”?

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Lesson Jesus Teaches in Today's Scripture

Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites that they had significantly strayed from the Holy One of Israel, that they had offended God and needed to return to Him. God was offering them the opportunity to repent and return to the right path. Jonah is also communicating indirectly that God deeply cared about the Ninevites' eternal welfare, about their well-being.  God did not want to see them lost for all eternity.

In today's Gospel, Luke 11:29-32,  Jesus reminds us that Someone/Something greater than Jonah is here. Something is happening in our midst that is greater than what happened in Nineveh.  The Kingdom of God is here, right here, right now!  God sent His Son Jesus from heaven to earth--does so in every liturgy of the Mass which we Catholics attend weekly/daily.  Truly a greater one than Jonah is here. Yes, someone also much wiser than Solomon, whom the queen of the south "came from the ends of the earth" to hear is in our midst, Jesus reminds us. 

If we are asking for/looking for a sign of God's Presence, no sign will be given us other than Jonah. For what/for whom am I looking?  For what sign am I looking?  Am I seeking Jesus?  Am I seeking Jesus' wisdom in the Scriptures, in the Mass/the sacred liturgy, the Eucharist, in the events of my day, in the innocence of toddlers, the wisdom of children, adolescents, young adults, elderly, the homeless, the sick, the infirm, those living in poverty, those sharing their wealth with others in need, in anyone God sends into my life today?

Have I found God in my life or am I looking elsewhere?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Persistent Knocking, Seeking, Finding

In today’s Gospel,  Luke 11:5-13, Jesus challenges us to be persistent in our praying. He gives the example of a person who, at midnight, goes to his friend’s house asking for bread to share with one of his friends who, unexpectedly, it seems, arrived at his house at midnight.  I have nothing to offer him,” he says.  Imagine this friend refusing to give him anything, saying “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.”  But the needy friend is persistent and keeps knocking.  Jesus suggests that it may not be the friendship that prompts the positive response but the persistence. How persistent am I when I ask God for a favor?

More confusing, perhaps, to the person who has prayed and prayed and prayed and nothing, supposedly, happened is Jesus’ next statement:  “…ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”  So how does one explain this to someone whose prayers seem to go unanswered?

When I was a teenager, I prayed and prayed and prayed that my mother would not die and she did! I still do not have an answer to why God allowed a mother of six children to die of cancer when four of those children were still in grade school. I went through some very trying times, as her death was followed by other family tragedies with no one able to empathize with me, as they had not known such tragedies in their own lives.  Battling an onslaught of anxiety and panic attacks and having fallen into a deep depression during those difficult years, I learned to pray as a child—even had temper tantrums with God, expressing my anger toward Him. God confided to me that it was not He who had trouble with my anger but that I was the one who was bothered by it.  God and I grew very close, as He opened His arms and heart to me in overwhelming ways throughout the years, as I became more and more honest with Him about my feelings and what I was thinking and what I needed from Him that no one else could possibly give me. Yes, I learned to trust the Lord and rely upon Him. I would not trade that relationship with anything in the world!  God, I believed, answered my prayer as my mother intercedes for me and my siblings in ways that have produced miracles in all of our lives.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Lord's Prayer and Ours

In today’s Gospel, the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray as John taught his disciples to pray.  Jesus tells them to say “our Father, who art in heaven”.  He is asking us to go to God in prayer as a child would go to a loving, caring, understanding parent, one’s dad, or, in some cases, a surrogate father.  For some children that is a teacher, a coach, a counselor one regards with great trust.    “My Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name.”  As a child proudly speaks the name of his/her loving, caring, compassionate and wise father, or surrogate father, so, too, Jesus asks us to address God as a Father whom we highly respect, whose judgment and wisdom, love and concern, we highly revere.   “Your Kingdom come; your will be done on earth as in heaven.”  Jesus encourages us to approach God desiring that things happen in our lives according to the way God plans them to be. In Jeremiah 29:11, God says to us through the prophet: “For I know the plans I have for you.  They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  From that faith, we pray: “Your will be done on earth as in heaven.”

In the second half of the Our Father, Jesus turns our attention to relationships with others and to our own need for our “daily bread,”  forgiveness, not being led into “temptation”  and deliverance  from evil. For what more can we ask! And we know that God is eager to answer this prayer, as eager as any parent is to protect his/her children from evil, to ward off temptation that will lead a child onto the wrong path—a path that will lead to misery, suffering and pain—and to provide the child his/her daily bread for the day, that is, all that the child needs to realize his/her potential, his/her greatness, his/her ability to make a difference in the lives of others, to bring peace, justice, love and forgiveness to the world that day, one person at a time, including oneself. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Projecting our Problems onto Another

In today’s Gospel, Luke 10: 38-42, Jesus gently rebukes his friend Martha.  Martha is upset that her sister Mary is not helping her. She states that she is “burdened with  much serving” while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet listening to His every word.  Note how Martha addresses Jesus. She says to Him:  “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?  Tell her to help me.”  Truthfully, Jesus does not care.  It was Martha who cared that her sister was not helping her.  Martha was upset with Mary, not Jesus.  Martha is projecting her personal concerns upon the Lord. Consciously or unconsciously, she wants Jesus to rescue her. Wisely, Jesus challenges Martha to look at her own behaviors and take responsibility for them.  Mary is not her problem.  Her problem exists within her because of the messages she may be giving herself, namely: “Mary should be helping me.” Or “it’s awful that Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet and not moving a finger to give me a lift.”    Whenever we “should” others or ourselves or “awfulize” a situation, we will experience anger. Martha could have said many others things to herself that would not have triggered negative feelings. For instance, she could have said:  “I’m glad Mary is sitting with Jesus; I don’t have time right now.”  Or “I have a lot to do but I will manage just fine.”  She also could have asked Mary directly to give her a hand while allowing her the freedom of accepting  or declining the invitation.  Taking responsibility and expressing her needs while allowing Mary to option to say “yes” or “no” would have built Martha’s  self-esteem and self-confidence, not  wear it down.

In what ways to I fall into Martha’s trap of complaining about another, feeling sorry for myself and wanting another to rescue me? When do I project my problems onto another?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Jonah's Lesson

In today’s first reading, Jonah 1: 1-2: 2, 11, we read about Jonah running away from the Lord, who had commissioned him to go to Nineveh,  to “preach against it” because “their wickedness has come up before me.”  Jonah connects with a ship going to Tarshish in an effort to escape the Lord’s will.  A violent storm erupts and the ship is about to sink.  The crew is frantic. Jonah is sound asleep in “the hold of the ship.”  He knows why the storm has erupted and admits to running from the Lord.  To save everyone, the crew tosses Jonah off the ship. Everything calms down. Jonah is swallowed up by a whale for three days and three night.  At God’s commands, the whale coughs him up on the shore of Nineveh!  God’s will prevails! We really do not escape carrying out God’s commands, though we may certainly attempt to do so. 

The United States of America, our elected government officials,   our family members, our law enforcement, our judges, our public servants,  those who commit violent crimes, those who follow corrupt policies, those attempting to obliterate God from public venues, from family  or personal lives, those who serve other gods or no-gods will not succeed in running away from God anymore than Jonah did. 

Like Jonah, who knew why the sea had become so turbulent, so, too, we know the source of turbulence in our lives. Like Jonah, we know when we are turning against our God or running away from what God is asking of us.  And just as the crew on that ship sensed that someone on that ship was the cause of the tempest that arose on the sea, so, too, do people around us know when we are off course and not in sync with our God.  Do we have the courage of Jonah and of the ship’s crew to admit the truth and get back on course?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Enduring Joy

In the  first reading of today’s liturgy, Baruch 4: 5-12, 27-29,  Baruch tells the people not to fear but to remember that the reason that they were conquered by other nations was that they had abandoned the covenant God made with them.  This did not happen, Baruch tells them, because God wanted them to be destroyed, but that they had provoked God by sacrificing to “demons, to no-gods; you forsook the Eternal God who nourished you, and you grieved Jerusalem who fostered you.”  Further on in the reading,  the holy city of Jerusalem—where God dwelt, as God dwells in our Tabernacles--says that with “joy I fostered them; but with mourning and lament I let them go.”

I could not help but think of the times the Lord is directing us and we simply ignore the Spirit’s direction and do our own thing. “With joy,” God says, “I fostered them; but with mourning and lament I let them go.”  God deeply respects our free will and does not ever force us to embrace His will.  God lets us  go to experience the emptiness, if you will, or the frustration of not having followed the way to which God was calling us. It may be as simple as calling a friend, reaching out to someone we slighted and saying “I’m sorry,”  spending some leisure time in the evening with family or community members, listening with an open mind and heart or taking time to study the Scriptures or to do some substantive reading that nurtures our spiritual lives. Or, it may be more serious, like not getting involved with the wrong crowd that leads us into selfish pursuits  or that leads us into violating the rights of another person or of doing that which violates our own personal integrity.  Baruch says to us, then:  “As your hearts have been disposed to stray from God turn now ten times the more to seek him; for he who has brought disaster [frustration, emptiness, pain] upon you will, in saving you, bring you back enduring joy.”

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Sharing our Goodness

In today's first reading, Nehemiah  8: 1-4a, 5-6, 7b-12,  Ezra, a priest and a teacher, assembles all of the people to a renewal of their commitment to the one, true God, to learn the meaning of the Torah--the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures or the Old Testament--to worship God and share their goodness with each other.  From daybreak until midday they listen attentively to Ezra.  From the Chosen People--and we, too, are chosen, especially blessed members of the New Covenant that God has made with us through Christ Jesus--we learn the importance of setting time aside to be taught, to listen to God's Word, to worship and share our goodness with each other.  What excuses do I make to avoid doing so or to what extremes do I go to reduce the time I set aside for God alone, for communal worship, for sharing my faith and goodness with other parishioners, family members or members of my religious community?  "I'm too busy!" "Why do I have to go to Church on Sunday; I worship God privately!" "I don't believe in this religion stuff!"  "I'm fine the way I am; don't bother me. Leave me alone."  "Mind your own business and I will mind mine."  Any of those sound familiar?

"Rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength," the prophet Nehemiah tells the people.  May we, too, experience the strength of rejoicing in the Lord in communion with fellow worshippers who gather each weekend to keep holy the Lord's day and, many of whom, gather for daily worship as well.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

God's Favoring Hand Is Upon Me

Today is the feast of our Guardian Angels.  Imagine or put your arms around this fact, if you can, that 24/7 God has assigned an angel to guard and protect us from evil, to guide us to the path that is right for us and equip us with the strength we need to make right choices.  Those of us raised Catholic probably can recall holy cards with the guardian angel walking behind us with his/her wings enfolding us.  That is our God's benevolent protection and loving care! 

We see God's benevolent protection of the prophet Nehemiah in today's first reading, Nehemiah 1: 1-8 and the role that Nehemiah takes in realizing God's protection.   Nehemiah approaches  the king, who is concerned that he seems so sad.  "How can I not be sad," Nehemiah says to the king, "when 'the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been eaten out by fire'"?    Nehemiah requests to be allowed to go to Judah to rebuild his ancestor's graves and that the king provide letters  that he can show to "the governors   of  West-of-Euphrates" for his safe passing  and for "Asaph, the keeper of the royal park," so that he can get wood for "timbering the gates of the temple-citadel and for the city wall and the house that I shall occupy." Nehemiah knows that God's "favoring hand" is upon him, so he neither couches from this formidable task or from approaching the king for his protection.

What am I feeling today and what is the source of that feeling?  Is there something today that I need to rebuild? And if so, whose support do I need and what do I need in order to be prepared and protected to accomplish that task?  Do I, like Nehemiah, realize that God's "favoring hand" is upon me?