Friday, January 31, 2014

The Sower, the Sown and the Grower

Today’s Gospel is about the Kingdom of God.  Just as a person plants seeds and then, each day, runs out to the garden to see if the plant has sprouted and each subsequent day checks on its growth, so, too with planting of the seeds of the Kingdom of God.  We plant the seed and God gives the growth. Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel, Mark 4: 26-34, that the Kingdom of God “is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” Of that Kingdom, we are only the sower. God is the grower.  No wonder “it springs up and becomes the largest of plants.”

You and I may sow seeds of faith,  love,  forgiveness, compassion and understanding, of generosity and  trust,  hope and light, joy and enthusiasm for the Word of God among us and within us. God gives those seeds growth!  We may never know how the seeds we spread grow and even where they take root but, knowing that God is the Grower, we can be confident that our good deeds and good words will make a difference in the world in which we live. Ever see a plant, even a tree, growing out of a mountain, a bed of rock. That is the power of an ordinary seed. Then think of the seed of God’s Kingdom and its power to penetrate and bear fruit even in the most  unlikely of places: a hardened human heart, a turbulent heart, a rebellious heart. No heart is too hardened, too turbulent, too rebellious for God’s Word and the good we do in God’s name  not take root because  God is the Grower of the good we do! Let us continue in our determination to make a difference today by sowing seeds of love and forgiveness, peace and joy, faith and trust.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Sacredness of Each Vocation: A Personal Call from God

This morning I met with 130 children--kindergarten through 8th grade--to talk about vocations: to religious life, to priesthood, to marriage or to the single life.  Each vocation is a call from God that is unique to each of God’s sons and daughters.  75% of our youth are called to marriage and/or the single lifestyle and 25% to priesthood and/or to religious life.   Fulfillment , reaching one’s potential in life as well as being happy, at peace and filled with joy comes with responding to God’s will in terms of vocation and routine decisions that are made every day.  Are you tuning in to that quiet voice at the core of your being to hear God’s call to you and do you have the courage, both in big decisions, such as a vocation in life, and small decisions, like shutting off the TV and doing your homework, to follow that inner call.  It is heard only by you, as God talks directly to each person.   Below is a picture of the newest members of my religious community. Happiness and joy radiates from their faces because have listened to God’s call in the inner depths of their being. T May you tune in—God is calling you all of the time to the path that is right for you in significant and less significant choices that you face each day.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The House that God Built

In today’s first reading, 2 Sam 7: 1-17, David wants to build the Lord a house of cedar.  Earlier, when David voiced that desire, Nathan encouraged him to go ahead: “The Lord is with you.”      However, that was not God’s will for David. He said to Nathan: “Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Should you build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day on which I led the children of Israel out of Egypt to the present, but I have been going about in a tent under cloth…[D]id I ever utter a word to any one of the judges whom I charged to tend my people Israel, to ask: Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”  The house that God intended to build was not made of material things. He built and is building the Body of Christ through His Son Jesus.  God has chosen to dwell within each one of us, the Temples of the Holy Spirit and where the Holy Spirit is, so, too, is the Father and the Son, as they are one God but three divine persons.  God’s plan was to rise up a son from David’s line and “make his royal throne firm forever,” a throne in heaven from whence God reigns as King of heaven and earth.  May the Temple that each of us is give glory to God, whose will endures forever!  See you all in heaven, the inheritance God has secured for all those who believe in Jesus Christ, His Son and our brother,  and who repent of their sins and accept God’s gift of salvation!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Honored to be Jesus' Brother, Sister and Mother

In the Gospel of today,  Mark 3: 31-35, Jesus tells us that all those who do the will of His Father are his brothers, sisters, and mothers.  He extends family beyond the nuclear family.  For all of us, family is a bond that is like no other. If our parents are serious about their promise to us at our baptisms, it is in our families that most of us learn to love, to forgive, to show tenderness, to be compassionate.  At our baptisms, our parents promised to pass on the faith to us, to teach us about Jesus, to model turning to the Lord in good times and in  bad times, to follow God’s will in the routine responsibilities of our lives. It was Jesus’  mother  who taught Him  that doing God’s will is what  binds us to one another as sisters and brothers and mothers to each other.  It was that belief that prompted Him, when he family appeared, to use that moment as a teaching moment, telling everyone listening to His message—God’s will for them at that moment—that they were elevated to membership in God’s family and thus  each of them was  brother, sister, and mother to Him.  May you cherish that honor!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Jesus, the Strong One, who Walks beside Us

In today’s Gospel, Mark 3: 22-30, Jesus, the Son of God Incarnate, is accused by the Scribes that he casts out Satan by the prince of demons, Satan himself.   They refuse to recognize that Jesus’ power over Satan is of divine origin and does not, in any way, originate from Satan.  Satan delights in causing division upon the earth. He is permanently cast out of heaven and will not re-enter the reign of God. Neither does he want us to be one with Christ and certainly not for all eternity.
Jesus tells the Scribes that “…[N]o one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man.” Jesus is that strong man who ties up Satan, not allowing him to “plunder” the property that belongs to God.  Oh, the   greatness and the love of our God, who comes to this earth to take on Satan, a force too powerful for us, on our own, to overcome.  Left to our own weaknesses, we easily fall into the traps Satan sets for us.  God will not allow it. Through Jesus’ obedience to the Father to the point of death on the cross, Satan is rendered powerless over those who seek the Lord above all, who recognize their sinfulness, repent and believe in the Gospel. With Jesus, in Jesus, and through Jesus, we are one with our God and destined to enter His reign for all eternity.
The Lord says to us in the responsorial psalm of today’s liturgy, Ps. 89:   “I have found David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him, that my hand may be always with him, and that my arm may make him strong. My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him, and through my name shall his horn be exalted….”   This can be reread as follows:  “I have found you (insert your name), my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed you, that my hand may be always with you, and that my arm may make you strong.  My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with you, and through my name shall your horn be exalted….”

Thank you, Lord, for your mercy and compassion. Thank you for your companionship, for always being at my side to make me strong!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Kingdom of God is Here

The Kingdom of God is here. Jesus did not establish his Kingdom with military might.  Jesus came in peace to proclaim the Gospel, Good News.  Peace be with you was a frequent greeting of Jesus, especially  after the Resurrection. That same greeting may be gleaned from the Angel Gabriel's greeting to Mary: "Be not afraid; you have found favor with the Lord."  God says the same to us: "Be not afraid; you are favored by the Lord God, who comes, in Christ Jesus, to restore us to the Father, to right our relationship with God, to crush Satan, whose goal is to lure us away from all that proclaims God's goodness, His compassion, His love.  Jesus comes to draw us to the Lord in love by the goodness of God revealed by his good deeds among us.  The blind see, The deaf hear. The sick are healed of all kinds of diseases, the Gospel tells us today. The lame walk. Those possessed of demons are freed.

Yes, come back to God. The Kingdom of God is here making all things new, righting all wrongs. That is God's nature and yours and mine as well in Christ Jesus.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Passionate about Making Jesus Known

Today’s first reading tells the story of Paul’s conversion.  He is on the road to Damascus to arrest Christians, have them imprisoned and put to death.  On his way, a great light knocked him to the ground and  blinded him.  He hears a voice saying: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” “What? Who are you,”  Saul asks.  “I am Jesus, the Nazorean, whom you are persecuting.”  “What do you want of me, Sir,   Saul asks. Jesus instructs him to  “get up, go on to Damascus. A man is waiting for you.”  That man is Ananias, a devoted Christian, who says to Saul: “Saul, my brother, regain your sight….The God of our ancestors designated you to know his will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice; for you will be his witness before all to what you have seen and heard….Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away, calling upon His name.”
From that time on Saul is passionate about making Jesus known. His single purpose in life , following his personal encounter with Christ, is to bring people to Jesus and Jesus to people. He is as passionate about making Christ known as we was about putting Christians to death, as he believed that they were traitors to the Judean faith.

What is your passion in life?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Mercy and Generosity

In the first reading of today’s liturgy,  1 Samuel 24: 3-21, Saul, with three thousand men is on a search for David with the intent to kill him.  Saul stops at a cave, rests and falls asleep. Further back in that cave is David and his men hiding from Saul.  David spares Saul’s life that day out of respect that Saul is the Anointed King of Israel and is also that he is like a father to him. As Saul and his men leave the cave David comes out and yells to Saul: “My lord and king!...why do you listen to those who say, ‘David is trying to harm you’?  …[T]he Lord just now delivered you into my grasp …I had some thought of killing you, but I took pity on you instead….May …[God] see this,…and grant me justice beyond your reach.” Saul  acknowledges his wrongdoing, calls upon the Lord to bless David, the future king of Israel.  His jealous rage is defused by David’s mercy and affection for him and his own repentance.

Both men, Saul and David, are blessed by the Lord! You and I, in our best and worst moments, are still precious to the Lord, our God, our Creator and Redeemer.  God’s mercy knows no bounds and His love for us is unconditional.  To communicate that message God needs you and me to be His spokesperson by how we relate to one another both in good times and in bad, when feeling threatened and when being shown mercy. As God’s communicator by my thoughts, words and actions, do I, in fact,  reflect God’s mercy and compassion, His love and forgiveness, His wisdom and fortitude?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Power of Friendship

In today’s first reading, 1 Samuel 18: 6-9; 19: 1-7, we read of Saul’s jealous rage toward David and his fear that he would take over his kingship.  Upon his return of slaying the Philistine, David and Saul are approaching the city and are greeted by women “from each of the cities of Israel…singing and dancing, with tambourines, joyful songs, and sistrums. The women played and sang: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands’. Saul was very angry and resentful of the song, for he thought: ‘They gave David ten thousands, but only thousands to me. All that remains for him is the kingship.’ And from that day on, Saul was jealous of David” and planned to kill him.

Each of us has a Saul, a David, and a Jonathan within us.  For instance, at times, like Jonathan,  as friends of another, we may be called upon to intercede for that person, making efforts to bring sense to a raging member of the family, a parishioner, a coworker, a neighbor, a person in authority who is determined to harm a friend of ours.   We can learn a lot from Jonathan, who says to his father:  “Let not your majesty sin against…David, for he has…helped you very much by his deeds.  When he took his life in his hands and slew the Philistine, and the Lord brought about a great victory for all Israel through him, you were glad to see it.” Jonathan  does not approach his father in  anger but in wisdom. He’s thought things through before confronting Saul.  Saul listens and Jonathan's friend is saved. 

 May we, too, when called upon to do so, have the courage to stand up for our friends, for anyone in trouble. May we, like Jonathan,  bring about peace by first pointing out the good in the person “at war” with  the other, ready to act out his/her jealous rage or out-of-control anger. May we have the courage to speak up to authority on behalf of another who will harmed if the contemplated action is not  thwarted.  Gently, caringly and firmly, may we challenge choices that could lead to disaster, pain and hardship, and, yes, even death.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Needed: God's Healing of a Legislative Arm

Today is a Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children.  As in the first reading of today’s liturgy,  1 Samuel 17: 32-33, 37, 40-51, where David confronts Goliath, a Philistine who’s been a warrior since his youth and David a mere  youthful shepherd’s boy with a sling, so, too, we are faced with this monster legislative action that proclaims that parents have a right to kill their unborn child for any reason.  David approached the Philistine, saying  “You come against me with sword and spear and scimitar (a sword with a curved blade), but I come against you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel that you have insulted.”  Promoters of abortion come against us with piercing words and curved rhetoric but, I believe, we can win this fight because, like David, we have God on our sides, the Creator of these children.

In today’s Gospel, Mark 3: 1-6, Jesus, during a worship service on a Sabbath,  asked the man with the withered arm to come up to the front of the synagogue. He then asked the Pharisees: “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” He then ordered the man to stretch out his hand. He was healed. That day, as on many others, Jesus challenged the Pharisees’ arrogance, shortsightedness and rigid application of their laws. Right now in the United States of America,   a rigid law  exists that  permits parents to destroy their child in the womb.  Jesus asks us to stretch forth this withered legislative arm. He will heal it, lives will be saved, not destroyed, and infanticide (infant homicide) will cease.  Let us today, also, stretch forth our arms in prayer, never giving up until this evil act of legalization is reversed. It is our duty as Christians to persist in the same way as we persisted in praying for the conversion of Russia and witnessed that miracle many years ago. Through the power of intercessory prayer, we will also  witness the miracle of the reversal of laws that legalize the murder of the unborn.  Let us never give up the fight!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Importance of God's Instruction

Today’s first reading, 1 Samuel 16: 1-13, opens with the Lord’s question to Samuel: “How long will you grieve for Saul, whom I have rejected as king of Israel?” God then goes on and says to Samuel:  “Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way.  I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen my king from among his sons.”

It is easy to live in the past, to not let go, to resist moving on, especially when we are asked to trust completely on what God is asking of us.  When we have lost something/someone upon whom we trusted and whom we have grown to love, it is very difficult to be sent elsewhere.  God sent Samuel to Bethlehem to choose a replacement for Saul.  Jesse presented seven of his sons to Samuel.  All of them were impressive men. Surely, one of them was the right choice.  But God said “No." "Do not judge from...appearance[s] or from...lofty stature[s]”.  An eighth son, just entering puberty, was attending the flock. Samuel instructs Jesse to send for him.  When David arrived, the Lord said: “Anoint him; he is the one.”

David was the most unlikely of Jesse’s sons to be chosen as the next king of Israel and was not the one Samuel would have anointed if left to his personal preferences.  Many times you and I find ourselves in the same plight as Samuel, that is, our choices are not the choice God would make. At times we are foolish enough to make our own choices without consulting the Lord. At other times, we have more sense and seek the Spirit’s enlightenment, the Spirit’s wisdom. Appearances can blind us to the point that we look no deeper.  How important it is for us to step back and ask: Is there anyone else I should consider? Is there another option that needs to be examined?
Help me, Lord, look beyond externals, to not get tripped up by appearances.  I pray for the grace to step back, look deeper, and, above all, to ask for your guidance in the choices I make each day. And may I remember that the least likely of choices may be the right one! When I say to myself "Oh, it can't be," the truth may be "Oh, yes, it can!"

Monday, January 20, 2014

Holding Nothing Back from God

In today’s first reading, 1 Samuel 15: 16-23, Samuel asked Saul, “Does the Lord so delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obedience to the command of the Lord?”  Saul, the first king of Israel, had  been asked “ to exterminate all of the Amalekites, including their king, and that none of the plunder would be taken for personal use (The Word Among Us, Daily Meditations for January 2014, 7115 Guilford Dr Ste 100, Frederick , MD 21704-5234). However, Saul, following his defeat of the Amalekites, takes some of the spoil, the best of the herds and sacrifices them to the Lord. He also spares the King. He is not totally obedient. He follows part of God’s will and part of his own will.    This is not what the Lord wanted. He wanted total obedience from Saul.  Saul’s lacked the humility of surrendering his will completely to the will of a Higher Power, to the One who saves us from our enemies.  In a sense, he was glorifying himself, not God, taking pride in the sacrifices he chose to give God.

It is so easy to be worshipping the service we offer the Lord and not be worshipping God alone.  God wants our humble obedience; he wants our all, not just a portion of our giving.  Jesus, the Word of God, God’s only begotten Son, obeyed the Father in all things, first leaving the glory of heaven and taking on human nature and then offering His life on the cross for the salvation of humankind: humility to follow the will of another and obedience in responding totally. Jesus held nothing back for personal gain.  What about me? What about you?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A love story!

When I told this morning that I loved Him, the following dialogue ensued:

Jesus, I love you.

And I love you to the point that I gave my life as ransom "money."

And they tortured You so horribly.

The price I paid to rescue you was high. Satan was not going to surrender his will easily.
I battled Satan all the way through my passion and death. I triumphed in the resurrection. So, too, will you in my name.

My Lord and my God!

Jesus, my Lord and my God!

This is my belief. What is yours?

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Paralyzed Person and His Friends

In today’s Gospel, Mark 2: 1-2, four men carry their paralyzed friend to Jesus. Not able to get near the door, they devise a plan; namely,  to lower their friend through the roof.Their faith in Jesus’ ability to heal their friend never wavers. They do not flinch when they meet obstacles to their self-determined mission to get their friend to Jesus so that He can heal his paralysis and return to him his ability to walk.  
There are times in our lives that the healing power of Jesus becomes available to us through the faith of others. At other times, it is our faith that will be essential for other people to realize who Jesus is and to be healed by Him.

In today’s reading, who am I? the paralyzed man, or one of the persons who finds a way to get others to experience Jesus’ love, compassion and willingness to heal their infirmities, their paralysis of mind, body, spirit? Or am I the person who needs others to bring me to Jesus? Or,on the other hand, could I be one of the scribes who is biffed at what Jesus does and who challenges Jesus’ authority to forgive sins.
May I recognize who I am and bring that person to Jesus to be touched by God's mercy, love and compassion; for a deepening of my faith and a firmer trust in who Jesus can be for me in my infirmities, my weaknesses, and vulnerabilities!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Speak, Lord, Your Servant Is Listening

In today’s first  reading, 1 Samuel 3: 1-10, 19-20, young Samuel is asleep when he hears his name being called.  He goes to Eli, his superior and mentor, thinking Eli called him. He does this three times.  Eli then realizes that it is the Lord who is calling Samuel and instructs him to go back to sleep and if he hears his name called again that he should answer: “Speak , Lord, your servant is listening.”  Until that point, Samuel “was not familiar with the Lord, because the Lord had not revealed anything to him as yet.”  Note the statement “as yet.”  You may not, yet, be familiar with the Lord.  However you will be, that is part of our call as baptized Christians to get to know the Lord and His ways, to put on His thoughts, to recognize His will and follow it.  “I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her” (Hosea 2:14). Sometimes, as we say in the addiction’s field, people have to hit rock bottom before they cry out: “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”   Somehow we need to experience the absolute emptiness of the promises of this world and in that desert come to realize that it is the Lord whom we  seek, and need, that it is His voice for which we need to be listening. Out of our sleep, the Lord calls us to be His instrument in a world darkened by sin, led astray by ego-demands to accumulate material things and to climb the corporate ladder of success while neglecting those of the Spirit. 

Am I ready to be awakened? Do I have a wisdom figure, a spiritual director,  like Eli whom I trust, who encourages me to listen for the Lord’s voice amid the darkness of night?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Courage, Truth, and Liberation

In today’s first reading, 1 Samuel 1: 9-20, Hannah pours out her soul to the Lord, telling the Lord of her agony in being barren and the pain of repeatedly being insulted and disrespected by Peninnah, her husband’s other wife, who has borne him children.  She is devastated by her inability to conceive and begs the Lord to grant her a male child. Eli, the priest, observes her prayer, hears her sobbing inconsolably, sees her lips moving and concludes that she is drunk.  Brashly, he says to her: “How long will you make a drunken show of yourself? Sober up from your wine.”  Hannah, a courageous woman, a women of integrity and inner strength, stands up to him, not allowing him to get away with abusing her verbally and emotionally.  She puts right his wrong, telling him that she has “had neither wine nor liquor; I was only pouring out my troubles to the Lord.”
Who am I in this Scripture story? Penninah, Hannah, or Eli?  Do I insult and degrade others, speak down to them, treat them with disrespect, “step upon” them with rude words, drive them to the depths of despair?  Am I Hannah, a person of integrity, a woman of faith, a person who takes his/her sorrow, his/her agonizing moments to the Lord, asking for God’s help, trusting in the Lord, knowing God personally and intimately in such a way that I keep nothing from Him? Or am I Eli, who misjudges others, looks down upon them, verbally and emotional abusing them without knowing or seeking the truth from them?

May I have the courage to acknowledge when the Penninah and the Eli in me. And, like Hannah, may I have the strength and the wisdom to develop an intimate relationship, a friendship with God, that holds nothing back from Him.

Monday, January 13, 2014

"Repent and believe in the Gospel" (Mk 1:14)

“This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” As I was at prayer this morning, I shared with the Lord how frustrated I was with myself, as I  had fallen into Satan’s trap of looking at the weaknesses of another. Luckily the person with whom I was about to unload my story challenged me,  stating her belief that everyone does the best he/she can do given the circumstances with which he/she is dealing.

I asked the Lord for His counsel and He reminded me that I was looking into a mirror. The weakness I was about to complain about in the other reflected that weakness in me.  The other was a mirror image of myself. The fact that I was perturbed by the other’s behavior indicated that that inclination existed within me as well.   Jesus “caught” me, just as He invited Simon and Andrew  (see today’s Gospel, Mark  1: 14-20) to “come after me; I will make you fishers of men [women].”

How important it is that  we allow Jesus to cast His net over us, pull us in and away from the net of the evil  into which Satan so insistently wants to lure us. Yes,  as stated in the opening lines of today’s Gospel, “this is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Anointed with the Holy Spirit and Power

In the second reading for Sunday, January 12, from Acts 10: 34-38, Luke reminds us that "...God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all...oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him."  At our baptism and confirmation, we, too, were anointed with the Holy Spirit and power.  At every Mass and Holy Communion, God rekindles, deepens, reactivates that power to engage in "doing good and healing all...oppressed by the devil, for God [is] with..[us]".  Anointed with the Holy Spirit and divine power we are capable of recognizing "bruised reeds" and "smoldering wicks" (compare Sunday's first reading from Is 42: 1-4, 6-7) and empowered to treat such with tender love, to act justly toward them and to be a source of goodness to them (compare Mi 6:8).  What is blocking me from being this extension of the heart and mind and hands of Christ? How to I prepare myself each day to activate the power that God has given me? At the end of the day, do I take time to reflect back on the day to ascertain how I cooperated/failed to cooperate with the graces of my baptism and confirmation and reception of the Eucharist? 

To become the best version of myself in line with the graces of baptism and confirmation, to be the best Christian I am capable of becoming, I might heed the advice Matthew Kelly gives in Rediscovering Catholicism.  He speaks about how professional athletes like Michael Jordan practiced making 500 free throws (his weakness) every day for ten years--500 free throws that hit the mark--until he succeeded.  Tiger Woods took a year off golf to practice his swing as it was not up to par. If I fall short of doing good on any given day, of following the guidance of the Good Spirit, do I resolve, as any athlete does, to practice the behavior that revealed a weakness until the good becomes a habit. If not, I might want to make this a practice in praise of God's holy name and in gratitude for the graces of baptism and confirmation and Eucharist. Let's not allow those graces to lie dormant.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Power Jesus' Touch

In today’s Gospel, Luke 5: 12-16, “there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where Jesus was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, ‘Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.’  Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, ‘I do will it. Be made clean.’”  Healing flowed out of Jesus through the entire body of the leper. No longer was he "full of leprosy," but full of grace from a God of compassion and love.
 We live in a world “full of leprosy, the leprosy of sin:  the sin of human trafficking, drug trafficking, corruption, cheating, sexual promiscuity, lying, dominating others, exploiting the weak and the vulnerable, using  violence to solve problems. and so much more.  Sin invades all of life in some way. You and I fall into Satan’s trap, as well.   In every Mass, Jesus stretches out his hand through the Scripture readings and through the liturgical prayers ; He literally touches us in the Eucharist, coming into our beings to cleanse us of our sin.  When we bring the sinful world to Him during the offertory, the consecration and the communion rite of the Mass  and say: “Lord, if you wish, you can make…[the world] clean,” Jesus says “I will do it.”  Jesus is doing it, one person at a time, one day at a time. Jesus is doing it in your life and in mine.
In the first reading of today’s liturgy, 1 John 5: 5-13, John raises the question “Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?.”  The answer: We are! Just as Jesus was not afraid to touch the leper, may you and I be not afraid to touch others with the healing power of Christ, believing in God's power within us. May none of us be afraid of the "leprosy" within ourselves, the dark "spots" that need to be brought out into the open for Jesus' healing. May we have the courage of the leper to approach Jesus and say: "Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean." Jesus is waiting for us!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Going forth "in the power of the Spirit"

In today’s Gospel, Luke 4: 14-22a, Jesus returns to Galilee “in the power of the Spirit.”   He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, as he always did, “stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage that actually spoke about his mission. It reads:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

The same Spirit that gave power to Jesus gives power to you and me.  Like Jesus, we, too, through baptism and confirmation, the Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation are authored to “bring glad tidings to the poor”.  We are sent to “proclaim liberty” to those enslaved to evil, in bondage to sin, corruption, and deceit. We, too, are sent to “give sight to the blind,” to reveal the Truth to those directed by misguided beliefs. We are “to let the oppressed go free,” especially if we are the oppressors. 
Can others with whom I live and work and pray say, as Jesus said, “”Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing”?  When we engage in conversation with others, are they excited because they know that we are bearers of good news, not gossipers, not naysayers or cynics, not manipulators plotting to exploit us or take advantage of us, or others,  in some way?  When we take leave, will others “speak highly” of us and be “amazed at the gracious words” that came from our mouths, as they did of Jesus? If not, why not?  If yes, then let us thank the Lord for working through us and ask for the grace to continue to go forth “in the power of the Spirit”.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The power and effects of love

Today, I invite you to read the first reading of today's liturgy as God addressing you personally. It would then read as follows:

“(insert your name) , beloved, My dear one, if God so loved you, you also must love others. No one has ever seen Me. Yet if you love one another, especially those whom you find repulsive or obnoxious, I remain in you, and My love is brought to perfection in you.

This is how you know that you remain in Me and I in you, that I have given you of My Spirit.  Moreover, you have seen and testify that I, Your Abba God, sent My Son as savior of the world. When you acknowledge that Jesus is My Son, I remain in you and you in Me. You have come to believe in the love I have for you, my Beloved, My cherished one.

I am love and whoever remains in love remains in me and I in that person. In this is love brought to perfection in you, that you have confidence on the day of judgment because as I am, so are you in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.

But you, (insert your name), are being perfected in love through your faith in My Son, Jesus Christ, and your effort to love, first yourself so you can love others, and, second, others with whom you live and work and play.” (1 Jn 4: 11-18—I made adaptations).

Wow! What love! I am awed by this passage, especially when I think of married men and women growing in love with and for one another and for their children! All of you in marriage are truly blessed.  Those of us in religious life and/or in the single life are inspired by you but also called to grow in love excluding no one!  That, too, is a challenge but one reachable through the power of God’s love at work in us.

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Light Shining in the Darkness

In today’s Gospel, Mt. 4: 12-17, 23-25, Jesus leaves Nazareth and goes to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, the “Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness,…those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death…”  That is us here in the U.S., in Syria, Palestine, Israel, Egypt, Africa, China, Russia, Europe; in fact, the entire world.   Over us, within us, among us a “light has arisen.”  That Light is the Son of God come into the world as an infant, present among us through each one of us who believes in the Incarnate God, God incarnate in each one of us who believes in and are instruments of God’s love and mercy given to us personally in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, Eucharist and Reconciliation, as well as in all of the other sacraments.  The Light of God shines forth in the world through our acts of kindness and forgiveness, our standing up for the Truth, our acting justly and loving tenderly—the tender love parents shown to their children, the love expressed to adolescents having a difficult time growing up, the love expressed to those who are mentally, physically, emotionally challenged, to those who are different from us in race, creed,  and sexual orientation; to the homeless, the alcoholic, the men and women sitting in our prisons, those desperately needy in some way.

Jesus enters our darkness with the message “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” People will know that truth when we reach out to heal all diseases and bridge the gap that separates us from that  and  from those with whom we are ill at ease.   May we welcome Jesus into our thinking and believing so that we do not hold back from the invitation to make the difference that will bring healing to those we meet today.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

"Behold, the Lamb of God"

John was standing with two of his followers when Jesus walked by. He says to them: "Look, the Lamb of God". These two disciples immediately leave John and follow Jesus. Jesus, realizing that someone is following Him, turns and asks them for what are they looking. The disciples of John want to know where Jesus is staying and He invites them to come and see.  One of those disciples is Andrew, the brother of Peter, goes to find his brother and says to him: "We have found the Messiah," and brings Peter to Jesus (John 1: 35-42).

Imagine being one of those disciples! What would you do when John says: "Look, the Lamb of God"! Remember that the Jews are very familiar with the idea of a "lamb, without blemish" being sacrificed and its blood sprinkled on the doorposts of their homes so that the angel of death would know to pass over that house (the tenth plague of the first born of both beasts and humans being taken).  They'd celebrate the Passover very year--being freed from the slavery of Egypt--just as we celebrate Easter every year, celebrating our freedom from the slavery of sin.  "Behold the Lamb of God!"

No wonder Andrew is so excited. For centuries, the Jews are awaiting the coming of the Messiah and here He is!  What excitement for the Jews living at the time of Jesus' birth. Some believed immediately. Others bulked at the idea. Others never came to the point of believing that Jesus was/is the Messiah. 

What about you and I? Do we believe that Jesus dwells in our midst? Do we believe in the Risen Christ present in the consecrated Host, present in the Scriptures, present in our midst, dwelling, in fact, in our very being, awaiting our acknowledgement of who He is, believing that He is God made flesh come to set us free and make us whole?

Friday, January 3, 2014

Moving Over for Christ to Reign

In today’s Gospel, John proclaims Jesus’ identity.  When John saw Jesus coming toward him, he said to the people gathered around:  “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me….I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”
In John 3:30, St. John says:   “He must increase but I must decrease.”  Many of those who were following John left him and became disciples of Jesus.  How do I react when another person’s ministry is growing and mine is shrinking? When other people bring forth ideas that grab others’ attention, am I eager to support  those ideas or do I become jealous? What do I do when another person is chosen over me, when another is recognized for his/her work and I am left standing in the background?  Am I willing to let go when younger entrepreneurs, younger disciples of Christ;  a son/daughter, if I am a parent, takes over my role in the company; a  newer member of my religious community takes my place in ministry and I am left to  take a back seat, so to speak?  Letting go and relinquishing my place, welcoming other’s into a position I once held, seeing others succeed and being in the spotlight that I once “possessed” can be very difficult.  Like St. John, you and I are called to point people toward Jesus, the Son of God made flesh, the Savior of the world.  We are called to build up the Kingdom of God by getting out of God’s way, so to speak.  How well do I do that in order that the work I do, in Jesus’ name, bears fruit that will last?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Personal Identity: What John the Baptist Teaches Us

In today’s Gospel, Jn 1: 19-28, priests and Levites approach John the Baptist and ask him who he is? They are wondering whether or not he is the Christ, the Anointed of God, the Messiah.  He firmly states that he is not the Christ. They then want to know whether he is Elijah or the Prophet and again he says: “No!”   Exasperated, they say to him, who, the heck, are you? We need to bring back an answer to our superiors. “What do you have to say for yourself?”
John does not become defensive. He does not respond in anger. Simply, he says: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’”  When approached by Pharisees, also sent to find out who John is, who ask him why he is baptizing if he is not the Christ. His response is: “I baptize with water, but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”

John knew exactly who he was and who Christ was. Do I know who I am? Do I know Christ? If the answer is “yes,” to both questions, then why, at times, am I defensive when someone approaches me and asks: “Who are you?”  Why do I tremble slightly inside when asked:  “What do you have to say for yourself?”  Is it that I am not sure of my own identity? Is it that I am not building my life on a firm foundation this day, that of Christ Jesus, knowing that Jesus is my All, my Savior, my Defender, my Protector?  Is it that I am relying exclusively upon self and not upon God?  When those questions disturb me, is it possible that I am in the process of serving myself, enhancing my reputation, trying to draw people to recognize my greatness and not directing people to the Lord?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year


Some things to think about:

How will I nurture my faith and strengthen my ability to love sincerely in 2014?

Am I determined to find and give birth to Jesus  in all of the events of my life in 2014?

Paired with Jesus, do I believe that nothing is impossible  with God when I am faced with the challenge to become a better person in my marriage, in my relationships, in my community?

Planted and rooted in Christ Jesus, do I realize what that means for me in 2014?

Yielding to the will of God, am I ready to surrender my will to the will of God in all I desire in 2014? 


Necessarily saved by God’s love and mercy, do I realize the price Jesus paid for my ransom or do I take God’s sacrifice for granted?
Ever in need  God’s grace to do good, do I take the time to acknowledge my neediness and seek God’s help in my weakness?

Will I, in 2014, seek the Lord above all else or will I forget that I need God?


Yoked to sin and death prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection, how grateful am I for God’s mercy and how will I show that gratefulness in 2014?

Enveloped by God’s love, how will I pass that love on to others in 2014?

Am I determined, in 2014, to make Christ known by my willingness to acknowledge my faults, repent of them, ask forgiveness when I hurt another person, show my love in the little things that make life easier for those with whom I love, work and play?

Realizing that I pass through this life only once, what am I willing to do in 2014 that will make this world—the world of my family life, community life, parish life--a better place?