Friday, February 27, 2015

What Delights Our God

In today’s first reading, Ez 18: 21-28, the prophet talks about God’s ways, namely that if a wicked person turns away from his wickedness to live a virtuous life, God delights in him or her, as God does not take pleasure in anyone’s death. Also, if a virtuous person, Ezekiel tells us, turns from virtue and chooses evil, that person is choosing death, a death in which the Lord does not delight.  It may be difficult for us to think about any member of Isis, for instance, or any other hardened criminal, turning from his or her wicked ways  and finding favor with the Lord, as did the good thief on the cross.  The conversion of any sinner, no matter what the wrongdoing might have been, delights the Lord. Our wickedness saddens Him.  

Our salvation is the reason Jesus died on the cross. It is the reason Jesus was obedient to the Father unto death.  His intent and the intent of His Father is that every person turns from evil to do good, accepting the free gift of salvation.  That is what gives God joy, a joy in which God wants each of us to participate for eternity.  He will even lengthen our lives in the hopes that we will in time return to Him in holiness before we face our deaths. That is our God: a God of compassion, a God of mercy, a God of love, a God who, on the cross, suffered severe thirst for the redemption of sinners, the least to the greatest.

In light of God’s mercy, may I not stop praying for the conversion of sinners, my own conversion and that of every person sitting in our prisons anywhere in the world; the conversion of every person addicted to evil, every person deceived by Satan's cunning lies and who, thereby, deny people  their right to be born, their right to justice, their right to being treated with dignity, their right to freedom, their right to a just wage, their right to live life fully and to make choices that are live-giving to them.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Facing Evil in our Lives

In today’s first reading, Esther C: 12, 14-16, 23-25, we learn of Esther’s desperate prayer for God’s help. “…[S]eized with mortal anguish, [Esther] had recourse to the Lord. She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids, from morning until evening, and said: ‘God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my hand.’” She was determined to approach the King of Persia. To enter his presence without an invitation could mean death.  She says to the Lord: “Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion and turn his heart to hatred for our enemy [the enemy of the Jewish people], so that he and those who are in league with him may parish. Save us from the hand of our enemies; turn our mourning into gladness and our sorrows into wholeness.” 

How apropos are those words for today.  We, too, face an enemy, a hatred, we alone are not able to overcome. We need divine intervention, as did the Israelites as we face Isis, Al-Quaeda, those bent on destroying Christians and Jews and others whose beliefs differ from their own.  We also need God’s help in facing the enemies of truth and justice, right doing and right being, all of which are being attacked by immoral practices, unjust judgments, and misguided actions by those who promote human trafficking, drug trafficking, abortion on demand, sex trafficking, slave labor and consumeristic, materialistic, and narcissistic pursuits at the risk of destroying the poor, the vulnerable, the helpless and immigrant populations in our midst.

With Esther, let us have recourse to God day and night. Let us ask for persuasive words in the presence of “the lions” of hatred and evil that we may courageously stand up to those forces in our society that will destroy our children and grandchildren and bring all of us to ruin spiritually.  And with Jesus on the cross, let us thirst for good in this world to triumph over evil. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The "Jonahs" and "Ninevehs" of Today's World

In today’s first reading, Jonah 3: 1-10, Jonah reluctantly goes through Nineveh prophesying that in forty days Nineveh will be destroyed unless they repent of their wrongdoing, stop doing the violence they intended to do, cease doing evil and return to the Lord.  As far as Jonah is concerned these are a hardened people bent on evil, wicked to the core and not deserving of God’s mercy.  In fact when they do repent, put on sackcloth and enter into a severe fast—partaking of neither food nor water—and calling loudly upon the Lord for mercy, God relents of the punishment he was going to inflict upon them. Nineveh is not destroyed and, as we know, Jonah vents his  anger at God for being compassionate.  How could He be merciful and kind to such a wicked lot, Jonah must have reasoned.

As we look upon our world this day, we may be today’s “Jonahs,”  saying to ourselves: “How, Lord, can you show mercy to Isis, Al-Quaeda,  Putin, Assad,  those who are engaged in human trafficking, drug trafficking, human slavery of any kind, and/or all forms of violence. How, Lord? Warn them? Why, Lord? They are a wicked people bent on evil.”  We may be thinking that they deserve to be destroyed for all eternity.    God, however, does not give up on no one, not even you and I in our sinful way of thinking. Every human being is a child of God, created to further the Kingdom of God here on earth, sent here to accomplish a good, to carry out, in His name, a specific mission entrusted to no one else. Each of us is precious in God’s eyes, a son or a daughter made in God’s image and likeness.  In agony, Jesus intercedes for each of His Father’s children and asks us to do the same, to never give up. It may be those last moments of life that “the thieves” of this world become the “good thieves” and beg for God’s mercy,  as they “hang” on the cross of their death and turn to God because of the power of your  intercessory prayer.  May it be so! May it be so, is my prayer!  What is yours?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fulfilling God's Purpose

Today’s  first reading, Isaiah 55:10-11, speaks about God’s word going forth from God’s mouth never returning  to Him void, but always doing the will for which the word was sent.  You and I are small words—Jesus is The Word of God--sent forth by the mouth of God to accomplish the purpose for which God put us here on earth.  We will not return to the Lord until we have accomplished that purpose. How  mind-boggling  to realize that God  not only sent us here to accomplish His purpose but also did so in a way that  we possess all of the “tools” needed to accomplish God’s will. Furthermore, God did not send us alone; He has sent His Spirit to direct us, strengthen us, and enlighten us along the way. He also sent His Son to destroy Satan’s power over us.    And, as noted in the liturgy’s responsorial psalm, Psalm 34, as we go through life striving to accomplish God’s will by doing the good we were sent to do, the Lord rescues us from all of our distress, that is, from that which would hamper us from doing the good we are challenged to bring about in God’s name and overcoming the evil that we encounter. Furthermore, the Lord stays close to us when our hearts are broken (Psalm 34) and saves us when we “are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34).