Monday, August 31, 2015

Stumbling Blocks to Faith in Christ Jesus

In today's Gospel, Luke 4: 16-30, Jesus returns to his home town and participates in the synagogal services.  He opens the scroll to the book of Isaiah, where it is written: "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 people are astounded by His explanation of the Scriptures.  He spoke with authority, unlikes the Scribes and Pharisees.   They say to one another: we know this man's brothers and sisters and mother. We know that he is Joseph's son. Where does he get all this wisdom and the power to heal the sick and raise the dead to life and restore sight to the blind--miracles they know he has done in other places.  He then tells the people that he cannot do these things here in Nazareth, his home town,  because of their lack of faith.

Imagine Jesus visiting you or me  and saying to us: I am unable to proclaim liberty to you, am unable to restore your sight or free you from  that which oppresses you because of your lack of faith.  And then tells us that He has been able to do so among those people whom we consider inferior to us, less worthy than us and certainly not the ones we recognize as God's beloved. Faith in Christ Jesus demands absolute surrender to the Lord, a sincere acknowledgement that we are totally dependent upon God, that God is our Lord and Savior, the Creator of our being, the One who sustains us, mentors us, prepares the way for us to do good in this world.

Faith also demands that I recognize Jesus in others.  Jesus' home town folks rejected Jesus, wanted to throw Him off the cliff.  He slips out of their grasp.   The people said of Him: "Who does He think He is? We know his mother and brothers and sisters. We know he is Joseph's son."  Who do I reject because "I know who he or she is?  I know from where he or she comes?  No way will I listen to him or her."  

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Being a Source of Encouragement to Others

In today’s first reading of Ordinary Time, 1 Thes 3: 7-13, Paul says to the Thessalonians:  “Brothers/ [sisters], your  faith has been a great encouragement to us in the middle of our own distress and hardship.”  I ask myself:  Do I radiate faith and trust when the waters around me are turbulent?   In the midst of hardship,  am I a source of strength to others because my faith is strong and my trust in the Lord unwavering?

Paul also says to the Thessalonians:  “…[W]e can breathe again, as you are holding firm in the Lord.” He also reminds them that they “shall continue to flourish if [they] stand firm in the Lord.” The question is:  Am I holding firm in Christ Jesus?  Is my religious community, the parish community, the family unit holding firm in the Lord?  Is my faith, I ask, firmly rooted in the Lord or in the accumulation of gadgets, in the next book I will read, in material things, accolades, being popular, being more “successful” than the person to whom I compare myself?

We learn in this passage that Paul is anxious to return to the people in order to “remedy any shortcomings in [their] faith.” Who remedies the shortcomings in your faith or mine?  Would others be eager for my return because, by my very presence, I “remedy any shortcomings” in their faith? Or am I a hindrance in the growth of another's faith because of my negativity, my anger and resentment, my cynicism, my critical attitudes, my competitiveness, my jealousy and misguided motivations?

Things to think about!  As you reflect upon 1 Thes 3: 7-13, what questions rise within you?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Walking in a Manner Worthy of the Lord

Today’s responsorial psalm, Psalm 139, acknowledges that God has searched me and knows me and that there is nowhere or  way, in the long run, that  I can actually flee from God’s presence.  However, I can spend a lifetime closing my mind to God’s messages and refusing to look for God in my experiences.  Yes, I can spend my life’s energy avoiding the “empty tombs” of my life, avoiding the darkness to find the Light, climbing “Mount Tabors” and refusing to come off the mount (of pride, self-righteousness, erecting tents for myself and like-minded individuals. I can also spend all my energy making excuses when confronted  by the Lord.  For example, like Jeremiah, I can try to shut out God’s call to be a prophet by saying:  “I am too young, Lord.”  Like Isaiah I can object to God’s will by saying: I can’t do what you are asking; I come from a people of unclean lips.” With  Peter  I can say: “Depart from me, O Lord, I am a sinful [person].”  Like the apostles on the road to Emmaus, I can leave places with which  I do not want to deal, places that rattle my comfort zone.   Like Paul, who persecutes others different from Himself and following other beliefs, I can mount thrones of passionate pursuits that leave me blind, as I resist interventions.  Yes, we can run from our experiences  in whatever ways we choose to run from them even to the point of death. How sad if we turn to Truth only on our death beds!

In today’s first reading,  1 Thes 2: 9-13, Paul confronts the Thessalonians, “insisting that [we] walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls [us] into his Kingdom and glory”—so, too, are we invited to “walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls [us] into his Kingdom and glory.” That means facing our truth, a truth that comes to us in being open to others, especially to those persons, perhaps, whom  we avoid in our personal lives.  In order to walk in a manner worthy of God, we need to bare our souls to the Lord Himself, facing our “demons,” going into the darkness  of our lives to find the Light, coming down from our “Mount Tabors” and walking with Christ to that place where we die to our sinful ways (our  pride, our lusts for power and control, our selfish ways, our self-righteousness, etc.) and resurrect to new life in Christ Jesus. And, finally,  as did Mary Magdalen, we need to  enter  our “empty tombs” to encounter the Risen Christ and risk being fully transformed by Him, no longer afraid to take the message of the Risen Christ to whomever we are sent.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Blessed, Broken and Healed

In today's first reading, Ruth1: 20-2:1=3, 8-11, 13-17,  Naomi and and  Ruth arrive in Bethlehem.  The women of Bethlehem ask: "Is this really Naomi?"  To which she immediately replies: "Don't call me Naomi but Marah because God has made my life bitter.  When  left here, I had plenty but the Lord has brought me back without a thing. Why call me Naomi when God has condemned me and sent me trouble?"

We are told that when Ruth and Naomi arrived in Bethlehem, it was harvest time. The barley crop was ready!  Riches await Naomi, but, in her brokenness, she sees only that which is bitter.  She is unable to imagine a plentiful life again.  Yet, God is her care-giver, as He is ours.  All of us will experience troubles in our lives. All of us will experience brokenness. It will seem as though God has condemned us; that the troubles of life have been sent to us by God Himself. At times, like Naomi, we will identify ourselves as bitter men and women, even so slightly or for long periods of time.

That which is broken, however, is capable of being put back together. Deserts can become fertile again. Assumed condemnations turn into blessings.  We know that in faith! And as Ruth did when they returned to Bethlehem,  encouraged by Naomi--going out in the fields and reaping the harvest, not sitting back feeling sorry for herself--we, too, can take action, however small.  In taking initiative as prompted by the Spirit, we are readying ourselves for a plentiful harvest.

Like Naomi, whom Ruth would never abandon and whom Ruth trusted as well, we, too, need persons we can trust and who encourage us to take action. That trust in another human being leads us to trusting God.  Who is that person in your life?

Friday, August 21, 2015


As I reflected upon today's first Scripture readings, Ruth1:1, 3-6, 14-16 ,   I am touched by Ruth's loyalty to her mother-in-law.  Naomi, from Judea,  and her two sisters-in-law, Moabites, are on their way back to Judah when Naomi says to them: "Go back home and stay with your mothers."  Ruth says to Naomi: "Don't ask me to leave you! Let me go with you. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live.  Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.  Wherever you die, I will die, and that is where I will be buried.  May the Lord's worst punishment come upon me if I let anything but death separate me from you."

Wow!  Have you and I, in following our vocations in life, be that marriage,  religious life, or priesthood not said the same thing. We all left our homes to carry out what we know is God's will for us. Husbands and wives have said to each other: "Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and that is where I will be buried." "Nothing but death [will] separate me from you!"  We religious and priests say the  same to our religious communities/dioceses, to our vocation, to God's call to serve in the way we hear the Spirit calling us through our superiors, our Church, our community's charism and mission in the world.

What  a God who leads us in the path to salvation: surrendering to God's will as it is revealed in the  circumstances of our lives, as it was revealed to Naomi and her daughters-in-law.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Praising God, Seeking God, Looking to God

Today’s responsorial psalm, Ps. 34,  is filled with wisdom, giving us direction on how to, truly, be filled with the Lord.  “Bless the Lord at all times,” the psalmist says to us.  May God’s “praise…be ever in my mouth. Let my soul glory in the Lord.”  We are then asked to invite others to “extol [God’s] name.” The psalmist then gives personal witness: “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” The author of the psalms is King David, who had to flee from his son Absalom, who was seeking to kill him.  David says to us: “Look to [God] that you may be radiant with joy, and your faces may not blush with shame.”  When, in our own poverty, we call out to the Lord, the Lord hears our cry, and “from all [our] distress [God] saves [us].” Not, necessarily, removing that which is disturbing to us  but calming our spirits, strengthening our  innermost beings, filling us with a divine power the world cannot give. It is the same power, for instance, that gave martyrs of old, and those of today,  the courage they needed in the face of martyrdom.

When I encounter disturbing events, do I focus on the Lord or on the disturbance?  Whichever I choose determines my disposition or my attitude. If I choose to focus on the disturbance, my anxiety, my confusion, my anger mushrooms. If go to the Lord and share my concerns, my frustration—especially if I do so in writing and ask for the Lord’s feedback, also in writing, I will be comforted, strengthened, made whole, uplifted.  What is your choice?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Mary's Triumph over Death: The Feast of the Assumption

Today we celebrate the Assumption of our Blessed Mother into heaven.  Imagine going to heaven body and soul, not just soul!  Our bodies will join our souls/spirits at the end of the world, when Jesus comes in His second coming and all is restored to the Father.  The fullness of redemption will occur at that time.  However, today we celebrate the face that, at the end of her life here on earth, Mary was taken up to heaven body and soul. No way would God allow the body of the mother of His Son to undergo corruption.   Imagine the rejoicing in heaven when Mary comes through the eternal gates, so to speak. Imagine Mary’s joy as well as Jesus’  and that of the entire Trinity and all of the angels and saints. What a celebration!  But you know what, the Trinity and Mary and all the angels and saints in heaven rejoice, also,  when  our spirits/souls enter  heaven.  

Though I am here on earth right now enjoying the many ways in which God reveals Himself to me, I am eager for that moment when I will be born into eternal life. What a glorious day that will be for me, for those of my family—both my family of origin and my religious community family—when Jesus leads me through those “gates!”  Of course, I know that I have a lot of work to do in cooperation with grace before that great day of rejoicing. I also know that God is at work in me, in you,  every day to bring about the fullness of redemption in us, transforming sin in us into holiness, selfishness into generosity, deceit into honesty, pride into humility.

With Mary, we pray: “M soul proclaims the greatness of th4e Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant” (cf Luke 1: 39-56).