Sunday, June 28, 2015

"Creatures of the World Are Wholesome" (Wisdom 1: 13-15)

In today’s first reading, Wisdom 1: 13-15; 2: 23-24, the author says to us:  God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being; and the creatures of the world are wholesome, and there is not a destructive drug among them, nor any domain of the netherworld on earth, for justice is undying.
As I reflect on that passage,  I cannot help but think of my brothers and sisters in Christ who are lesbians, gays, transsexual and bisexual.  They are not, in my opinion , “a destructive drug” among us. No, they are “creatures of the world [who] are wholesome,” and who, like heterosexual persons,  fall in love with one another.  St. John says to us in 1 John: 10: “The man [or woman] who continues in the light is the one who loves his brother [or sister]; there is nothing in him [or her] to cause a fall. But the man [or woman] who hates his brother [or sister] is in darkness. He [or she] walks in shadows, not knowing where he [or she] is going, since the dark has blinded his [or her] eyes.”
God, the author of Wisdom, tells us, does not “rejoice in the destruction of the living.  Have I assumed attitudes, beliefs, that destroy other human beings who are different from me: whose sexual orientation, from birth, is different from mine; whose skin color is different from mine, whose culture is different from mine?  Am I living “in shadows”;  has “the dark…blinded [my] eyes”?  

In the Gospel, Mark 5: 21-43 Jesus heals the woman of a hemorrhage, touched the deceased little girl and tells her to get  up.  According to the law of Moses, both the woman and the deceased were considered unclean and untouchable and, if Jesus touched them, He, too was considered unclean.  Jesus ignores the law and brings life/healing to both the woman and the little girl.  In the early Church, Peter was told in a vision: “What God has purified you are not to call unclean” (Acts 10: 15). A law is challenged that the Jews clung to with heart and soul.  Laws are just laws made by humankind and, therefore, can be changed and will be changed as persons comes to different understandings not known when certain laws were created, as in the case, also, concerning the  the law of slavery, a law that St. Paul promoted in his writings.  The letter of the law kills, the spirit gives life (2 Cor 3:6). Are we holding on to laws that kill other human being’s hope, faith, love?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Barrenness Transformed into Fertility

Today’s first reading, Genesis 16: 10-12, relates the story of Sarai’s treatment of Hagar, her servant whom she gave to her husband Abram to bear her some sons, as she herself  was barren.  Recall that God has promised Abram that he would have descendants too numerous to count.  He makes the same promise to pregnant Hagar when she flees out into the wilderness to get away from Sarai’s abusive, jealous behavior.  God’s messenger intervenes, meets Hagar in the wilderness, comforts her, promises her an abundance, listens to her groans/complaints, instructs her on naming her unborn child and sends her back to being a servant to Sarai for the time being. God takes charge. God will bring His promises to fulfillment. That is not ours to do.  In God’s time, good will prevail, His promises will come to be. Likewise, both “Israelites” and “Ishmaelites” will be blessed.  All nations will be blessed. Yet, how often do we forget the fact that God has no favorites, as Paul tells us in Romans 2:11. 

Who am I in this Scripture passage? Sarai who ingeniously, following the law, gives Hagar, her servant to Abram, to bear the fruit that she was incapable of bearing? Like Sarai, do I look for ways to transform a barren situation into a fertile one? When I become the “fruitful” one, do I, like Hagar, look down on others less fortunate than I and, like Sarai, become jealous of those who are successful in ways that I am not?  Do I, like Hagar, flee into the wilderness  in an attempt to escape God’s plan for me when the going gets rougher than I thought it would? Who do I meet in my wildernesses? Do I recognize God’s messengers in my difficult moments or do I keep fleeing? Do I, like Hagar, brings my pain to the Lord, trusting that God will be listening?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Being Sent and Empowered; Empowering Others

Today we celebrate the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. Each one of us also has a nativity.
To each one of us, as to John the Baptist, God says to us through the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you ” ( Jeremiah 1: 4-10, the first reading of the Vigil Mass for John the Baptist). Jeremiah responds to God: “Ah, Lord God, I know not how to speak; I am too young.” God comes back with: “Say not, ‘I am too young.’ To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Have no fear…I am with you to deliver you…Then the Lord extended his hand and touched my mouth, saying, ‘See, I place my words in your mouth! This is the day I set you over nations and over kingdoms to root up and to tear down, to destroy and to demolish, to build and to plant.” 

I just returned from a meeting at St. John’s University  in Collegeville, MN, where I was introduced  to YTM (Youth in Theology and Ministry), a two- year program for teenagers that includes two fourteen-day summer institutes at John’s University.   The summer program involves 1) theology courses, 2) a prayer component, 3) service projects and 4) a vocational discernment, leadership development and Catholic Social Teaching. Between summers the students return to their parish to complete their service-justice project in their own parishes.  

Three teens presented their project, one of whom was an Hispanic, 17-year-old woman who, on returning to her parish, presented a faith-development program for teens at risk: they had either been suspended from high school, were drop outs, had gotten in trouble with the law and, for all set purposes, were headed down a path that could have destroyed them. At the end of their faith formation, led by this YTM participant, were conducting classes for first communicants and doing a session for confirmants!

“Say not,’ I am too young.’ To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Have no fear…I am with you to deliver you” (Jeremiah 1: 4-10).

What is God saying to you? To whom is God sending you to "root up and to tear down, to destroy and to demolish, to build and to plant" (Jeremiah 1: 4-10). What in you and me needs to be rooted up, torn down, destroyed, demolished so our faith radiates God's presence in our lives? What do we need "to build and to plant" in our lives so that our discipleship inspires and helps others find Christ?

Friday, June 12, 2015

"My Heart is Overwhelmed; My Pity Stirred," Says God

The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

In today’s first reading, Hosea 11: 1, 3-4, 8c-9, the Lord God says to us:

  “When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his [her] cheeks; yet, though I stooped to feed my child, they did not know that I was their healer. My heart is overwhelmed, my pity is stirred. I will not give vent to my blazing anger, I will not destroy Ephraim again; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One present among you; I will not let the flames consume you.”

The Lord says to you and me:

“When you were a child, I loved you, out of that place that enslaves  you I call you, my son [my daughter]. …[I]t is I who teach  you to walk in Truth, in Love, in Justice, in Humility. It is I who take you in my arms.  It is I who draw you with human cords, with bands of love to my most Sacred Heart. I foster you like one who raises an infant to his/her cheeks. Though I stoop to feed you, you do not recognize me as your healer. My pity is stirred when I see you desert Me, reject my Ways, My Truth, my Love, when I see you reject my will and choose your own. Though My heart is overwhelmed, I will not give vent to my blazing anger. I will not destroy you or anyone  bent on violence, those committed to wars, those engaging  in injustices,those perpetuating corrupt practices, those committed to living deceptive lives, for I am God and not a human being, the Holy One present among you, dwelling within you. I will not let the flames of corruption, violence, injustice, deceit, lust, prejudice or any other form of sin to consume you. I am God; there is no other. I am your Savior; there is no other.”

Lord, hide me in your Sacred Heart lest I go astray and fall into the pit that Satan has set for me.