Saturday, November 30, 2013

Come, follow me

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Andrew , the Apostle.  Jesus spots him in his boat with his father and calls out to him: “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of people.”  Andrew immediately drops everything, leaves his father and his fishing industry to follow the Lord. He is so excited about Jesus that he finds his brother Peter and says to him: “We have found the Messiah.”  Peter, also, immediately leaves  his fishing boat to follow the Lord.

What was it about Jesus that attracted the apostles? What was it about his voice, his demeanor? 

Ever meet someone whom you could not wait to introduce to your siblings, your friends, your family?  That excitement pales, no doubt, in face of the experience of Andrew. It was the Lord, the Son of God, the Anointed One sent to this world to bring us the Good News of our salvation.  He was the one born of the Virgin Mary, of whom Mary said to the servants at the wedding feast of Cana: “Do whatever He tells you,” when she invited her Son to respond as only He could. By her invitation, Mary reveals who Jesus is to all those attending the wedding. Mary knew that her Son was no ordinary person.  He was the one sent into the world to transform it, to reconcile all humankind to His Father. He was the visible manifestation of God the Father, a God of compassion and love, a God of mercy and forgiveness—a forgiveness that would be won for us by Jesus’ obedience to the Father unto  death.

Yes, Jesus was the revelation of God, our Creator, whose plan for our salvation and the salvation of the entire world was being revealed right before Andrew’s eyes.  Come, Andrew said to his brother, I have found the Messiah!
How excited am I about Christ? Do I see in Christ the redeemer of the world? Do I see the Father reflected in the Son? And, as a baptized Christian, do I, in fact, reflect God to the world? Or are my attitudes and behaviors such that God’s light does not shine through them?

Friday, November 29, 2013

His Dominion is an Everlasting Dominion

In today’s first reading, Daniel 3: 68-74, Daniel shares his vision of four “immense beasts,” one more frightening than the other, each warring against one another until each one of them lost their power and are slain.  It may seem baffling to us as we read Daniel and/or Revelations. “Such gory detail of violent struggles, “we might say to ourselves; “I can’t stand reading about these things. Why, in fact, are such stories in the bible?  Bloodshed? Violence? Killing? Crushing, trampling, and torturing each other? Ugh!”  The vision Daniel sees is nothing less than what has been happening between the nations of his day, against Israel and Israel against other nations, believers against non-believers.  

As in the past, so now.  Nations, countries, states, tribes, municipalities, churches, governing bodies, families, individuals arrogantly speaking out against each other , like “the horn,” in Daniel’s vision, that “had eyes like a man, and a mouth that spoke arrogantly.”  In this vision, Daniel witnesses the “beast” being “slain and its body thrown into the fire to be burnt up. The other beasts, which also lost their dominion, were granted a prolongation of life for a time and a season.  As the visions during the night continued,” Daniel watched:

“Thrones were set up
And the Ancient One took his throne.
His clothing was snow bright,
and the hair on his head was white as wool;
His throne was flames of fire,
with heels of burning fire.
A surging stream of fire
flowed out from where he sat;
thousands upon thousands were ministering to him,
and myriads upon myriads attended him….

One like a son of man coming,
on the clouds of heaven;
when he reached the Ancient One
and was presented before him,
He received dominion, glory, and kingship;
nations and peoples of every language serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not be taken away,
His kingship shall not be destroyed.”

The son of man presented to the Ancient One is Christ. The Kingdom is the Kingdom of Christ; “His kingship shall not be destroyed,” no matter how hard we try to obliterate God living among us and within us. 

I believe that and am unafraid as we witness horrible things happening in our world, as I hear about “beasts” trampling the innocent. Those “kingdoms” of evil will be slain eventually. Only the Kingdom of Christ is eternal. You and I are part of that kingdom, having died and rose with Christ in baptism, having been sealed for Christ in confirmation and delivered from evil by Christ on the cross. Halleluiah! Praise and thanks to our God forever and ever. Amen!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Happy those who wait upon the Lord

And who place their trust in the Lord, their God, who are

Pleasingly engaged in living out their baptism by loving others and themselves,

Pleasantly embracing God’s will as it is revealed to them through the Church, the Spirit speaking within them, around them, and in others with whom they live and work and play;

Yielding their wills to the will of God!


Those who trust in the Lord shall be


Ardently committed to seeking the Lord in all things,

Never living in fear but trusting God’s provident care,

Keeping open their minds and hearts and wills to the Lord’s truth,

Savoring the Word of God in the Scriptures, the Eucharist, and as it is spoken through the events of their lives;

Giving God praise in all they do,

Interested in growing in their faith and helping others do the same,

Vivaciously expressing their gratitude to the Lord in all things,

Inviting others to do the same,

Never lacking anything because they belong to the Lord, their

God and Savior and Sanctifier.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Writing on the Wall

 In today’s first reading, Daniel 5: 1-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28, we read about King  Belchazzar, Nebuchadnezzar’s son who, like his father, worshipped gold ,silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone as gods.  In a drunken state, he ordered that the sacred vessels of silver and gold  from the house of God in Jerusalem be brought to him so that his lords, his wives, his entertainers and he himself could drink wine from them. As they were marrying and worshipping their gods, a hand began to write on the wall. The King was terrified and called for Daniel to interpret the writing. He did so. Mene meant that God had numbered the king’s kingdom and would bring it to an end. Tekel meant that the king was found wanting in God’s eyes. He was worshipping pagan gods but not glorifying “the God in whose hand is your life breath and the whole course of your life.”  Perez meant that Belshazzar’s kingdom would be divided and given to other nations.

Do you and I read the writing on the walls of our lives when we, too, are worshipping false gods, when we have violated the sacred vessels from the Temple?  We are that temple of God.  In 1 Cor 6: 19-20 St. Paul asked “Do you know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? “  Do we glorify the God in whom we “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28) or are we engaging in idolatrous worship of material things?

Just as God alerted King Belshazzar, son of Nebuchadnezzar, of his waywardness and the consequences of violating the vessels of the Temple, so, too, does God alert us when we stray from the right path. Am I listening? Am I paying attention?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Kingdom of God Triumphs

In today’s first reading, Daniel 2: 31-45, Daniel interprets Nebuchanezzar’s dream in which the Lord reveals to the king that all of the kingdoms of his world—and ours, by the way—will eventually be destroyed.  All are fragile.  All are temporary. Only one Kingdom will last and that is the Kingdom of Christ established on Calvary, when Jesus  offered atonement for  the sins of the world. It is on Calvary that we have been guaranteed forgiveness of our sins.  And how great the sins of the world are! How horribly ugly is sin—so ugly that Jesus was unrecognizable on the way to Calvary and on the cross. He looked like a worm, not like a Son of Man.  The blood of the New Covenant, unlike the blood of the Old Covenant, will never be shed again. Death will be no more. Jesus died once and for all to atone for our disobedience to the Father’s will.

At every Catholic liturgy the death and resurrection of the Lord is celebrated. God descends from heaven and we ascend to heaven in every Eucharist; our earthly liturgies become one with the heavenly liturgy in which Christ takes on Satan and evil, destroying them, triumphing over them every second of every day.  Acknowledging the heavens opening up and Christ descending upon our altars, we cry out:  “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!”  We recall Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem and being greeted in the very same way, palm branches laid at His feet and the crowd shouting: Hosanna in the highest.”  Before going to Calvary and before celebrating the Last Supper, Jesus entered the Temple and cleansed it. So, too, in the Catholic liturgy, Jesus, in Communion, enters the Temple of our bodies and cleanses them. Truly, the Kingdom of God has come. All other kingdoms will be destroyed, as Daniel prophesied to King Nebuchanezzar!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Standing Up for What I Believe

In the first reading of today’s liturgy,  Daniel 1: 1-6, 8-20, we  are given an example of four young men standing up to evil. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had “laid siege to Jerusalem. Sacred vessels of the temple of God were carried off “to the land of Shinar, and placed…in the temple treasure of [the king’s] god.”   The king asked that the brightest, the most handsome, the most prudent in judgment, those of royal blood and of the nobility, young men without any defect among the Chosen People be brought to him. Over a span of three years, they would be trained, taught the language and the literature of the Chaldeans, and then  be tested in terms of their knowledge, wisdom and prudence.  If they passed the test, they would enter into the king’s service.   Among those chosen for this three years’ training were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.  They were resolved, however,  not to defile themselves with the king’s food or wine, “so they begged the chief chamberlain to spared them this defilement” and, for ten days, serve them only vegetables.  The king’s servant was afraid that they would be weakened by not eating the meat and drinking the wine that others were served during this training period and that his very life would be taken from him as a result.  These four young men, however, after ten days of eating only vegetables,  were in fact stronger than all the others who accepted the king’s meal.  Thus, for the three years of training, they were allowed to follow their conscience and observe the Mosaic Law.  “To these four young men God gave knowledge and proficiency in all literature and science, and to Daniel the understanding of all visions and dreams.” They passed the king’s test with flying colors. The king “found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his kingdom” and they were admitted into the king’s service.
This past week I attended the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis, IN, where 25,000 teenagers were not afraid to proclaim to the world “I am a Catholic.” Like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, who proclaimed to be followers of the Mosaic Law and refused the king's orders, these young people stood up for what they believe.  They were not afraid to let the world know that they were signed for Christ in their baptism, sealed by the Spirit in their confirmation and delivered by Christ on the cross.  They publically  chose Christ and rejected idolatrous worship of other gods.

When I am faced with “worshipping the idols of my day,” when I am tempted to follow my will over and against God's will for me,  how loyal am I to Christ? Or do I, in the face of the temptations to defile myself, abandon my faith?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Who is Your King?

In today's Gospel, Luke 19-28, Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem where He will be put to death.  His disciples are expecting Him to establish His Kingdom, become King, and expell the Romans, giving Israel back its nation.  He tells a parable of a "nobleman [who] went off to a distant country to obtain the kingdsip for himself and then to return....His fellow citizens, however, despised him and sent a delegation after him to announce, 'We do not want this man to be out king.'"

Jesus is addressing this parable to us, to our world, to those persos who, in fact, do not want Jesus to be our King as is obvious in many ways.  The U.S. has banned prayer from our schools, want "in God we trust" taken off our currency, demand that sacred feast honoring Christ, our King, referred to as "holidays," and forbade, in some instances, any display of religious symbols.  There are myriad of ways in which the world is screaming: "We do not want Christ as our King. Crucify Him. Crucify Him. We have no king but "Caesar" (compare Jn. 19:15).

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Preference for the Lord's Ways

In today’s first reading, 2 Maccabees 6: 18-31, Eleazar, a prominent scribe and an elderly man respected for his integrity, his faithfulness to Yahweh, determinately refuses to violate the Mosaic law and thus give scandal to younger generations.  He “prefers a glorious death to a life of defilement.”  Even for a brief moment of earthly fame in the eyes of those who are encouraging him to pretend to be obeying a secular king, Eleazar refuses, asking “Should I thus pretend for the sake of a brief moment of life, they [younger generations] would be led astray by me, while I would bring shame and dishonor on my old age. Even if, for the time being, I avoid the punishment of men, I shall never, whether alive or dead, escape the hands of the Almighty. Therefore, by manfully giving up my life now, I will prove myself worthy of my old age, and I will leave to the young a noble example of how to die willingly and generously for the revered and holy laws.” Oh, how desperately we need the examples of adults in our day and age to stand up to secular governments, secular movements, secular ways of celebrating sacred feasts and refuse to obey laws contrary to the commandments of God and of the Church!

 How willing am I to stop pretending to be faithful and, in fact, adhere to what I have been taught from my childhood of what God asks of me.  What pain am I willing to endure when I am faced with choosing a direction the Spirit puts before me when it is contrary to what others may be encouraging me to do.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Jesus, Master, Have Pity on Us

Today's Gospel, Luke 17: 11-19, tells the story of the ten lepers who encounter Jesus and, obviously recognize who Jesus is--the One who can restore them to wholeness, the One who is their "gate" to re-enter society and their "ticket" to leave their isolation.  By recognizing Jesus and calling out for pity, by believing in Jesus as the One who can save them, these lepers are healed. They no longer need to isolate themselves from others. They no longer need to hide from the public.

It was no accident that these lepers encountered Jesus, anymore than it is an accident when we encounter loving, merciful, wise individuals who free us from that which may be "eating" away at our "flesh,"  people who open our eyes to our hatreds, our prejudices, our fears, our sinful behaviors and attitudes by which we distance ourselves from others and from God. Whenever we stand in judgment of another, whenever we condemn another, whenever we enter into gossip of another, we are distancing ourselves from others. Whenever we are dishonest, deceitful; whenever we act out of pride and vent our anger onto others, deliberately hurting them, returning evil for evil, the leprosy of sin within us comes out of remission, so to speak.  Whenever we succumb to "leprous," diseased attitudes and behaviors, we darken our faith vision. At those times, we, like the lepers, have created a wall between us and others and need to cry out:  "Jesus, Master, have pity on us."   Am I aware when I become "the leper" who has distanced her/himself from God and others and are in need of mercy?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

God's gift of imperishability

"God formed [you, Dorothy Ann (insert your name),] to be imperishable" (Wis 2: 23).  That means that this earthly life will come to an end at a time chosen by our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier.  At the moment that our sanctification here on earth is complete, the angel of death will come and we will be born into eternal life, where we will live forever with all of the redeemed.  God has ordained it so in Christ Jesus.  He loves us unconditionally to the point of His son being obedient to the Father unto death in order that the death of sin would have no lasting power over us.  Satan's ability to lure us into choosing our will over the will of God has been completely obliterated by Jesus' obedience to the Father's will--we are in the process of discovering this gift during our sojourn here on earth. We are on a journey to discover that where sin abounded in us, grace will abound even more through the power of Jesus' resurrection and the power of the Spirit interceding on our behalf  24/7. Our warrior God fights beside us, within us, ahead of us, behind us as God takes on Satan.  God wins ultimately in our battle with our disobedience, that is, our choosing our will over God's will.  And when our purification here on earth is complete, when we are ready to pass through death into eternal life, I believe that God comes to walk before us as we pass through the door of death into eternal life--a life prepared for us from the beginning of time.  God is faithful even in our unfaithfulness and His will will not be denied.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Waiting upon the Lord

In today’s responsorial psalm, Psalm 27: 1, 4, 13-14, the psalmist reminds us that we “shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living.”  He then encourages us to “[w]ait for the Lord with courage; be stouthearted and wait for the Lord.”    Waiting can be very challenging for those of us who have a difficult time when things do not happen in our timing, when answers are not forthcoming at the moment that we want them to be or in the manner that we think the answers should be revealed to us.  “Come on, Lord,” we may say. “Where are you? I can’t wait any longer!” So, what do some of us do? Take charge! Do our own thing or jump in and try to fix what seems very wrong, not that “fixing the wrong” is not the right thing to do but sometimes we jump ahead of God.  When we do that, either in  “fixing a wrong” or making a choice prematurely, we are likely to cause more problems.  Readiness is important. Timing is important. God’s time, many times, is not our timing.

Think of parents  with young children. One of the children lies down on the floor and proceeds to have a temper tantrum in the middle of a store.  If the child is not hurting anyone, wise parents wait until the child is finished screaming, kicking; those parents let the child vent. When the child is finished, a parent picks up the child, comforts him or her and moves on.  Another parent may interfere, demand that the toddler’s temper tantrum cease, yell at the child to stop the screaming and kicking, even hit the child or call the child names, labeling him/her a bad child. Consequently, the temper tantrum escalates and the calming down takes longer, not to mention the long term effects of the name-calling: a memory that can stay with the child long into adulthood.  God is like the wise parent. When we “lose it,” He simply looks on and watches us with patience, waiting for us to calm down before intervening. He knows that we are not capable of hearing Him while we are ranting and raving.  He also knows that getting one’s anger out without hurting another person or ourselves is an important step in being open to counsel and to experiencing “the bounty of the Lord”.

That Lord’s   “bounty” opens up to the person who, when calm,  humbly and courageously reflects upon the “temper tantrum” experience, seeks God’s counsel or counsel from another, and is willing to learn whatever lesson is hidden within the event. Furthermore, the person who bares his/her soul to the Lord, sharing the incident and feelings about the incident that led to the meltdown, prepares the soil of his/her heart to receive the “rain” of grace. By humbly and courageously waiting upon the Lord, the soft, gentle “rain” of grace soaks  the heart’s soil and, yes, God’s bounty burst through the formerly hardened soul.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Jesus Turns to Gaze upon Us and to Address Us

The gospel of today’s liturgy (catholic Mass) opens with the words: “Great crowds were following Jesus and He turned to address them…”  Imagine being a part of that crowd. Jesus turns and your eyes meet! He speaks directly to you nonverbally. Love touches your heart deeply and it is transformed by that look of love.  St. Paul, in today’s first reading, Romans 13, 8-10, tells us that we “[o]we nothing to anyone, except to love one another….Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of” each of the commandments that instruct us to “not commit adultery; …not kill; …not steal; …not covet.”  Imagine being so transformed by Jesus’ loving gaze that your love for yourself and others is set ablaze.  Judgments cease on your part. You begin to look for the good, even the smallest good, in your neighbor, in yourself, in your loved ones, in those with whom you are at odds, in those  whose attitudes sting like salt on an open wound. And you not only look for that good, you name it,  you point it out to that person.  “Love,” St. Paul teaches, “is the fulfillment of the law.”  And yes, you yourself, are fulfilled by that kind of loving!

Lord, may I have the courage and the humility today to be loving, that is to look for good in myself, in those with whom I come in contact, in the world, in the church, in my family and my religious community. May I risk expressing that love, naming the good I see, especially, in situations that seem depraved of any good or in persons who are raging, ranting or pouting, who are depressed or lonely or hurting, who are incredibly annoying, especially if that is me having “a bad day”, if that is me encountering maddening circumstances that seem to arise out of nowhere and that I allow to shatter my peace. In those times, may I turn to you, as you are always turned toward me. May my eyes and your eyes meet in an embrace of love, in an embrace that restores calmness to my troubled soul.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Today is the second day of a busy students' retreat. The Scripture passage that the students are reflecting upon is Mark 10: 17-22, the story of the rich young man who comes to Jesus wanting to know what more he has to do to inherit eternal life. He addresses Jesus as "good" and Jesus asks him why he addressed Him that way, as only God is good. Thus Jesus reveals his true identity to the  young man. Jesus tells him that he needs to keep all of the commandments. The young man says that he's done that all of his life. Jesus tells him that one thing is missing, namely, that he needs to sell all that he has and give the money to the poor and then come follow Him. The wealthy young man walks away sad because he prefers his wealth to following the Lord's directions, to developing an intimate relationship with the Lord and sharing "his wealth" with those less fortunate than himself.  Jesus, too, must have felt very sad, as he "was filled with love" for this man.

Every day, you and I, like this young man, are free to walk away from the Lord's invitation to "sacrifice" for a greater good, to give to "the poor" who want of our time or whose well-being depends upon our willingness to share "our riches" with them.  "Go, sell all that you want to possess exclusively for yourself alone and share with others in love and care and forgiveness. Go, sell all and give of your "wealth"--whatever that "wealth" might be--and give to "the poor, whoever those persons are in your midst today.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The faith journey

Today, I am directing a retreat at UW-River Falls, WI. The theme of the retreat is “Sometimes you have to go to Jerusalem as a Christian.”  The Scripture reading chosen for today’s reflection is 1 Kings 17: 7-16.  Drought has ravished the land. The Lord says to Elijah: “Up and go to Zarephath in Sidonia, and stay there. I have ordered a widow there to give you food.” As Elijah enters the city, he meets a widow gathering sticks to prepare a last meal for her son and herself before they die.  She is asked to share the little she has with Elijah. She is hesitant. Elijah tells her that Yahweh has promised that the “[j]ar of meal shall not be spent, the jug of oil shall not be emptied, before the day when Yahweh sends rain on the face of the earth.”  She does as Elijah suggested and, lo and behold, the “jar of meal was not spent nor the jug of oil emptied, just  as Yahweh had foretold through Elijah.”

 When you and I think we have absolutely nothing to share or  we are at the end of our rope, there are no more choices left to make, we want to give up totally or simply lie down and die, the Lord says: “Up and go. Don’t just sit here.  Don’t give up.  I have ordered so and so to meet your need, to restore you to life, but you have got to be willing to work  for it. You have got to be willing to leave your “poverty” and seek the more from those who can assist you.

The journey to fullness of life always  involves a dying, a letting go, a  giving and a receiving. If we cling to what is when what is is no longer life-giving—the well has run dry, so to speak-- if we wallow in self-pity, we will continue to feel famished, unmotivated, stuck. On the other hand,  if  we assume responsibility in “finding the widow” in relocating to another “place,” be that a physical move or a psychological/spiritual move, following  Elijah’s example, we will thrive in God’s goodness and grow in our trust of Divine Providence.  The faith journey is learning over and over again to trust God’s invitations to get “up and go to ‘Zaraphat in Sidonia’” or to give of the little we have to help others even when we think we have nothing to give.    

Friday, November 1, 2013

Repent and Believe in the Good News

In my morning meditation,  I continued to bare my distress to the Lord about a recent conversation that what awaits us following death is God’s  punishment for our sinful lives; namely, that we will suffer in the fires of purgatory and not enter heaven when we die.  It’s not that I do not believe in the importance of being purified before entering heaven; however,  there seems to be a contradiction with the following Scripture passages for those of us who repent and believe the Good News. In  Psalm 103:11, the psalmist proclaims: “[as] the height of heaven above earth, so strong is [God’s] faithful love for those who fear him. As the distance of east from west, so far from us does he put our faults”  and,  in Is. 1:18, God says to us through the prophet: “Though…[their] sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Is 1:18).  As explained in a footnote in the Jerusalem Bible on this passage, “the condition on which God insists is avowal of the sin and repentance…and the inner conversion that this implies.”  I believe that one who avows or admits his/her sins and brings his/her sinful behavior into harmony with the Holy Will of God is purified of that sin in the here and now through the sacraments of reconciliation, Eucharist and the Anointing of the Sick.  Furthermore, did Jesus not say to the good thief on the cross “this day you will be with me in Paradise”?  He did not say” You will be with me in Paradise after you suffer in the burning fires of purgatory following your death.”  If his repentance and sincere sorrow, if his admittance of his guilt and his suffering united with the sufferings of Jesus’ on the cross were accepted  as his purification and readiness to be in the presence of God in eternity that very day, why is this not true for those of us  who sincerely repent and believe in Jesus’ words to us in this very moment and on our death beds: “This day you will be with me in Paradise.”  I believe it does. What is your belief?