Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Lord God: Our Fulfilment and our Salvation

In today's first reading, Dt. 4: 32-34, 39-40,  Moses  asks the people whether, "ever since God created man upon the earth, did anything so great ever happen before? Was it ever heard of? Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?  Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, with strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors, all of which the Lord, your God, did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?"

The answer for us is "yes!"  God took the entire world for Himself, snatching it away from Satan's kingdom when, on Calvary, the Son of man, God's Son, was crucified, died, was buried and rose from the dead,  when the earth quaked and was covered with darkness and the Son of God prayed: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing," when He turned to His mother and John, saying: "Woman behold your son; son behold your mother" and a new community was formed, a community of believers; when Jesus said to His Father "It is finished," and our salvation was secured,  Satan's head crushed.   Jesus now sits at the right hand of His Father in heaven as He awaits the destruction of evil in this world and all become subject to the One True God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit., when the unity of the Trinity will be realized on earth.  At that point, Jesus will hand over the Kingdom He established on earth--a Kingdom of love, justice and peace--to His heavenly Father and ours.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Barren Fig Tree

Today’s  Gospel reading, Mark 11¨11-26, is filled with symbolic meanings.  Jesus’ anger toward the barren fig tree symbolized his anger at the Jewish people, who had just sung Hosanna’s to Him as He entered Jerusalem.  (Karris, Robert, O.F.M., ed., The Collegeville Bible Commentary, New Testament, The Liturgical Press, 1988, p. 926) .  Jesus’ anger at the those who had turned  the Temple into “a den of thieves” was not only about violating holy, sacred space, it was also about their rejection of Jesus as the One sent into the world to save the world . The blood of the New Covenant was about to be poured out as expiation for the sins of the world—the Sacrifice of the Lamb of God was/is above any other sacrifice established by humankind and alone would restore Israel and us to the glory God intends for us. Jesus is the “Fuller’s Lye,” the One who purifies, glorifies, justifies and sanctifies us, not any external form of sacrifice. And, yes, the Kingdom God established through Jesus would last eternally. All other kingdoms, that of Herod and future kings,  will wither as did the fig tree.

What “kingdom” do I hope will last forever?  To what human structures have I sworn allegiance and lost sight of Jesus?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

All of God's Creation

In today’s first reading, Sirach 42: 15-25, Sirach is filled with awe at God’s creation:  At God’s word were his works brought into being; they do his will as he has ordained for them.” As I meditated on the phrase , I thought of humankind. Of all of God’s creation, we are the ones to whom God gave freedom. We can choose to do the will of God or to follow our own will. As I grappled with the reality that I often choose my own will over God’s and then thought of the disasters in the world because of our ability to make choices contrary to God’ will, the Lord broke into my musings and said to me through His Spirit within me:

My will is that you have free will. I delight in that creation of you. Yes, I know that you choose your will over mine many times. In that, you learn to be obedient to my will. The suffering that follows your refusal to love sacrificially, to live the life of a disciple, teaches you to follow your Master. I built that dynamic within you. Grace will ultimately triumph over nature. I made it that way. Am I sad to see you, or anyone else,  choose your will over mine? Yes, but I love you unconditionally and will not take away your freedom. It is in learning to  choose  rightly that you will become truly free.  I cherish that dynamic in my creation of humankind.

Jesus, you delight in each member of Isis, in those perpetuating human trafficking, drug trafficking, slave labor, abortion and so many other corrupt practices?  I delight in every  person I created.  Each is my son/daughter. I gave each free will, as I did you. Each who chooses as Isis does or any other person making poor or sinful choices saddens me, especially if they choose to go their own way as Judas did. I don’t delight in anyone making choices that lead to perdition but I delight in the person I created, even when their potential of becoming the person I intended them to become is thwarted. So, too, when the person I intended you to become is thwarted when you choose pride over humility, selfishness over generosity, deceit over truth, prejudice over openness, nastiness over kindness, I am saddened but my love for you remains unconditional. I always delight in you. And ultimately grace will triumph over evil in you!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Jesus' Promise of Eternal Life

In today’s Gospel, Mark 10: 28-31, Peter complains to the Lord:  “We have given up everything and followed you.”  This statement follows the passage in which Jesus says how “hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”  For a Jew that statement was mind bottling.  In their minds having riches was a sign of being blessed. “What do you mean that it is hard for a wealthy person to enter heaven. If a person who is blessed will, with difficulty, enter heaven, who will?  is the apostles’ reaction.” And then Peter says:  “We have given up everything and followed you.”  Jesus responds: “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.”

Truly, with Jesus, we are on the road to Calvary, to “persecutions,” to losses, to situations that will demand a dying within us on a daily basis: a dying to selfishness, a letting go of demanding that things be the way we want them to be, the acceptance of our routine being shattered by a kid having a tantrum, by an adult wanting us to be more generous with our attention, our time, our talent, in the reality of “being last instead of first,” and so on. Then, too, there is the dying within everyone when they are called to leave home for marriage, for religious life, for priesthood, to pursue the single life style and give one’s all to one’s career or other demands of discipleship. There is also a dying with the person when leaving home for college (or even when leaving home to attend kindergarten and the years of school that follow).  There’s also the dying in the hearts of parents when their children leave. None of us escapes the “persecutions” of life, the annoyances, if you will, of these kinds of “deaths.”

Our strength lies in Jesus’ promise: “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive… eternal life in the age to come.” Yes, as we dies with Christ, we also rise with Him into eternal life.

This strengthens me? What about you?

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Challenge of Total Discipleship

"Lord, open my mind to know you, my heart to love you and my will to follow you," is my prayer this morning as I reflect on the Gospel of today's liturgy, Mark 10: 17-27.  A young man excitedly approaches Jesus and says: "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus reminds him of the commandments, which the young man, in turn, says he has observed all of his life. Then Jesus says to him: "You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." The man's face falls in sadness and he walks away. In his mind Jesus is asking too much; he is not ready to take that next step of unmistakable discipleship.

What is it that keeps  us from growing more deeply in our surrender to God's will as it manifests itself in our marriages, in community life, in our priesthood, brotherhood, sisterhood, in our vocation to the single life? What is that something that gets in our way of committing ourselves to being more faith-filled, trustworthy  disciples of Jesus? What blinds us and deafens us to the call to be more loving, forgiving, understanding, compassionate,self-giving?   What draws us away from working for a just society where all men and women, all races and cultures are treated with respect and where each person's human dignity matters?

What is that "one thing" we are lacking?  Open our minds, Lord, to the answer the Spirit is ready to give us as we ponder that question!

And let us, today, salute those men and women who have given their all in defense of this country and those who have returned from service physically handicapped and struggling with PTSD, depression and suicidal tendencies as the result of the trauma of active duty in war zones: being shot at, killing other human beings, dodging land mines and bullets, seeing their buddies/comrades killed, and witnessing the atrocities of war beyond the understanding of those of us spared such misery.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Love Challenged

In today’s Gospel, John 21: 15-19, Jesus asks Peter three times do you love me.  Each time Peter says “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  He is deeply hurt when Jesus asks that question the third time, yet Peter needs to know how painful it was for Jesus to be denied three times by him in the hour of His greatest need for support. The Lord’s response to each of Peter’s “yeses” is : Feed my lambs, Feed my sheep (said 2xs).  It’s  like the Lord is saying: “Feed both the young and the old and everyone in-between.” His service is not to be exclusive, nor is his love. 

When his life got really tough following Jesus’ arrest, Peter falters.  His love wanes or wavers. “I don’t even know the man,” he replies to those challenging him.  When we encounter “rough waters,” it is easy to abandon ship, to walk away from the conflict, deny knowing anything of whatever is painful to process or endure. Like Peter we have both tendencies: fierce loyalty and strong fears  that can lead us to abandon all.

Our dialogue with Jesus might sound something like the following:

Do you love Me, Jesus asks!

Yes, Lord, I do love you.

Do you love Me, Jesus asks, as we shiver in our boots in front of an irate person.

Yes, Lord, I do love you.

Do you love me, Jesus asks, enough to stay in the stormy situation, listening calmly, quietly, compassionately to the person venting his/her anger?

Ugh, Lord, I’ scared. I want to flee.

Do you love Me, Jesus asks, when things go wrong, your patience is worn thin, and your ability to understand is clouded with anger and confusion and hurt?

But, Lord, it is so hard to hang in there, just loving You. Many times I want to fight back, argue, put down  the person or thrash the machine responsible for the mess I am experiencing.

Do you love Me, the Lord asks me.

Yes, Lord, I do love you.

That is all I ask of you. Love me. Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep. Serve others. Do good for others. Anchored in my love, your boat will not be rocked by ranting, raving individuals, by situations that strip the less strong of their patience, their compassion, their understanding, their strength to stay calm, ‘yes, their humility in the face of being powerless to quiet another person or repair a broken down machine instantly.

Just love me; that is all I ask of you in all of the vicissitudes of life, in the good and evil, in the pleasant and unpleasant, in the challenging and the rewarding. Do you really love me?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Being Brought to Perfection by and in Christ Jesus

Oh, the richness of the readings of today’s liturgy and the great love of our God for each one of us.  In the first reading, Acts 22: 30; 23: 6-11,  the Lord says to Paul, who has encountered all kinds of problems in his ministry, “Take courage. For just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome.”  The Lord asks us also to “take courage.” We are to be His witnesses right where we are this moment, this day, this week at work and at home, in our parishes and our schools, with our children and grandchildren, with our spouses and co-workers and with our neighbors around the world.

In the responsorial psalm of today’s Mass, Psalm 16, we say to the Lord: “My Lord are you. O Lord, my allotted portion and cup, you it is who counsels me; …I set the Lord ever before me; with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.”  The Lord is my cup and yours. He fills it and He empties it! Fills it with love; empties it of hatred and prejudice. Fills it with meekness and empties it of anger. Fills it with joy and empties it of sadness, envy and jealousy. Fills it with humility and empties it of pride and arrogance. Fills it with courage and empties it of fear! Fills it with truth and empties it of deceit. Fills it with generosity and empties it of selfishness and on and on and on!

God is a generous God and an initiator. When He sees that my cup, or yours,  is empty, He is there to fill it.  Why?  Jesus gives us the reason in His last discourse to the apostles at the Last Supper and related in today’s Gospel, John 17: 20-26: “…I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as  we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.”

How aware am I, are you, that God is filling and emptying your cup?