Saturday, December 31, 2016

Some Challenging, End-of-the-year Questions

In today’s first reading from 1 John 2: 18-21, we are told that “it is the last hour; and just as [we] hear that the antichrist was coming, so now many antichrists have appeared” (1 John 2: 18). In 1951, Fulton J. Sheen, a Roman Catholic bishop, wrote [51][52]  that “the Antichrist will not be so called; otherwise he would have no followers...he will come disguised as the Great Humanitarian; he will talk peace, prosperity and plenty not as means to lead us to God, but as ends in themselves...He will tempt Christians with the same three temptations with which he tempted Christ... (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).

Are we being tempted?

St. John says to us in 1 John 2: 20-21: …[Y]ou have the anointing that comes from the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you not because you do not know the truth but because you do, and because every lie is alien to the truth.”

Are we being lied to?

If we are going to discern wisely and skillfully, we need to ask ourselves those questions always and do so in prayer.

Friday, December 30, 2016

What St. Joseph Teaches Us!

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The Gospel of today, Matthew 2: 13-15, 19-23 gives the account of how God directed the Holy Family, counseling them in ways that kept them safe and in ways in which their needs as a family were met.  Shortly after Jesus’ birth and after the Magi left to return to their perspective countries, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and warned him to make an immediate departure in the middle of the night for the land of Egypt. Herod would be searching for the child Jesus to kill him.  When in Egypt and those who wanted to kill Him had in fact themselves died, an angel again appeared to Joseph instructing him to return to Nazareth.  A third time, again in a dream, Joseph is counseled concerning the  place in Judea  to settle that would be best for the Holy Family.

Joseph is alert to heavenly messages. He listens to the good spirits guiding him as foster father of Jesus.  All along, Joseph is fulfilling the prophesies concerning Jesus. As with the Holy Family, God has a plan for our lives as well. If we follow the promptings of “the angels,” the messengers of the Lord speaking to us, guiding us, protecting us, we, too, will experience God’s overwhelming love and intimacy in our lives, day in and day out.  As with Joseph, so, too, with us: we are guided day and night. Warnings are given to us and  God’s instructions are shared with those who have developed ears to hear.   Do we heed God’s guiding  voice? Do we see God’s guiding hand? Do we trust “our dreams”? Joseph did!  We can, too!

Lord, may each of us develop the kind of intimacy with you that Joseph had developed  and that enabled him to hear your voice, trust the messengers You sent to him and the dreams given for his benefit and those  for whom he was to provide sustenance and protection from  the evil of his day.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Being in the Light

“Sing a new song to the Lord,” we pray in today’s responsorial psalm, Psalm 96.  A Savior has been born for us.  God has taken on flesh and dwells among us.  A Light has entered the darkness of our world, a world made dark by sin, specifically by our lack of love for our brothers and sisters. St. John says to us in today’s first reading, 1 John 2: 3-11, “Whoever says he [or she] is in the light, yet hates his [or her] brother [or sister] is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his [her] brother [or sister] remains in the light, and there is nothing in him [or her] to cause a fall. Whoever hates his [her] brother [or sister] is in darkness; he [or she] walks in darkness and does not know where he [or she] is going because the darkness has blinded his [or her] eyes.”

As I reflect on John’s messages, I need to seriously examine to what extent I fulfill the commandment to love my fellow human beings.  The love I show to any brother or sister is the love I show to God. The love I withhold, I also withhold from God. To the extent that I lack love, I also lack the light. I then walk in darkness and do not know where I am going “because darkness has blinded” my eyes.  When surrounded with darkness, within or without, I am likely to be overcome with fear and hopelessness.  My words and actions then spread a darkness.   The solution? Basking in the Light Who is Christ the Lord and being rejuvenated by God’s grace that comes to me through the Scriptures, the liturgy, the sacraments, and through acts of humility, repentance and, yes, love and reconciliation with those I am called upon to show love on a daily basis!

To whom do I need to reach out in love, asking forgiveness? In what ways am I called upon to walk in the light, that is to walk humbly with my God, to do what is right and to love tenderly (See Micah 6:8)?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Feast of the Holy Innocents

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents, those little boys two years and younger who Herod slaughtered in hopes of killing Jesus. Herod was a jealous, ambitious man, narcissistically pursuing power and control at other people’s expense.  Deceptively, he asked the Magi, on their return from worshiping the new born King, to let him know where to find him so he, too, could worship him. That was not his intent. He wanted Jesus killed so that his position of power and prestige would not be in jeopardy.  He would do whatever he heeded to do to remove the threat!

There are many reasons, even today, that infants and children are at risk, whether they are slaughtered in their mother’s womb,  disposed of by being sold to human traffickers, handed over for a profit to those who are seeking body parts or looking for children to sacrifice to Satan, or, in fact,  being used and abused by adults wanting to produce products  cheaply  to guarantee their factories’  billions of dollars in profit.  Children are also at risk of being victims of physical, emotional, sexual abuse within the confines of their homes and, in some cases, in their schools.

 God weeps for children of today as much as he wept for the children Herod killed in Bethlehem. God also mourns today for those who engage in deceptive activities, as Herod did, in order to, presumably, secure a powerful position in the world or in order to profit personally in some way and not be thwarted in achieving narcissistic dreams of greatness. Not only children but adults also, especially women, become victims of the “Herods” of today.

So, what is our challenge personally? What am I/what are you doing to remain cognizant of ways in which powerful figures in our societies are being deceptive?  Am I/are you aware that what someone says he/she is going to do to promote rightful relationships,  and which sounds terrific, could,  in fact,  be laced with evil intent?  What about my/your own intentions? Are they rooted in selfishness, narcissism, pride, greed or do they stem from humility, generosity, a willingness to sacrifice for the good of all?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

St. John, the Evangelist, and the Beloved of the Lord

Today we celebrate the feast of St. John the Evangelist.  St. John is known as the “beloved” disciple, the one who rested his head on the chest of Jesus at the Last supper, the one who repeatedly pointed out Jesus’ presence. One of those times was after the resurrection and Jesus was on the shore of Lake Tiberias, preparing breakfast for the disciples who had been out fishing. John looks up from the boat, sees Jesus and says to Peter, his companion fisherman: “It is the Lord” (John 21:7).  When Peter and John ran to the tomb after the women told them that the tomb was empty, it was John who, seeing the burial cloths lying there and no body, believed (John 20: 8).

John and his brother James were nicknamed “Sons of Thunder” by Jesus. Both had explosive tempers when provoked.  In fact it was James and John who wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy a Samaritan town that did not welcome Jesus on one occasion (Luke 9: 51-56). John was changed by Jesus’ unconditional love and he learned how to control his anger. His love for Jesus grew to enormous depths.  His faith also grew strong. Nothing was too much for John. It was John who did not go into hiding during the crucifixion. No John accompanied Mary to the foot of the cross and offered her his support. It was to John, whom Jesus, as he died, said: “Son, behold your mother,” and to Mary, “Woman, behold your son.”  John represented you and I beneath that cross and the ones to whom Mary was given as mother and as mother of the church (the church being the People of God, not a building).

May we cherish John and each other as brothers and sisters and Mary as our Mother!  And may we develop the courage, the faith and the love St. John did as he grew in love for Jesus!

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Feast of St. Stephen, Dec. 26

Today we celebrate the feast of St.Stephen, the first martyr.  Stephen, like every Christian, sought to acquire the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Holy Spirit is a free gift from God given to us in our baptism and is one that needs to be nourished and nurtured throughout our lives.  In fact, it is a gift that needs "watering," "cultivating," and '"fertilizing" every single day to grow to the stature that St. Stephen enjoyed!  How do we do all of this? The gift of the Spirit grows in proportion to the time we devote to this divine gift: taking time to spend alone with the Lord in silent prayer each day, participating in the Eucharist on a regular basis, reading the Scriptures (the Bible) every day (such as the daily readings of the liturgy in such a resource as Word Among Us (Complete Catholic Mass and Daily Meditations), frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly, taking time for spiritual reading (reading that speaks to the deepest parts of ourselves where God reigns, reaching out in love to others, showing our love in actions, being able to ask for forgiveness when we have wronged another, making sacrifices for the good of others and of the world.

At one point Steven assumed a public role of healing and preaching and, finally, he faced death courageously, forgiving his executioners for killing him, as Jesus did upon the cross!  We may not be called to die for our faith in the way Stephen was called, but yet, every day we are called to die to selfishness, to those activities that are not healthy for our spiritual well-being.  The "sacrifice" in which we are called to engage may be as simple but complex and difficult as allowing a family member to watch a TV program that means I will not be able to watch what I want to watch!

How much am I willing to do to "water," "cultivate," or"fertilize" the budding plant of my faith?  Or have I returned it "to the store," as what happens to many Christmas presents or has it simply been tucked away on a shelf never to be touched again! We know what would happen to a Christmas plant treated that way!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

God Beckoning Us as a Lover Beckons His Bride

In today’s first reading, Song of Songs 2: 8-14, we encounter our Lover God and God, our Beloved,  beckons and  encounters us:  “Hark! My lover—here he comes springing across the mountains, leaping across the hills. My [L]over is like a gazelle or a young stag. Here [God] stands behind our wall, gazing through the windows, peering through the lattices. My [L]over speaks; he says to me, ‘Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one, and come!....O my dove in the clefts of the rock, in the secret recesses of the cliff, let me see you, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and you are lovely.”

Today we buried one of our Sisters and I could not help but think of Sister seeing her Beloved “springing across the mountains, leaping across the hills,” coming to take her into Paradise. I also imagined the Lord saying to her: “Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one, and come! O my dove in the clefts of the rock, in the secret recesses of the cliff, let me see you, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and you are lovely.” And vice  versa, I would hear Sister saying the same thing to the Lord.

Are you and I ready for that day or night when our “Lover…comes springing across the mountains, leaping across the hills…like a gazelle or a young stag”?  Yes, I believe, that God stands behind the walls we build to protect ourselves from taking risks to love as God loves, to forgive as God forgives, to be His hands, His feet, His mouth caring for others in need.  I believe that God holds out His hands beckoning us to take that step that we are afraid to take, to trust that we will be given the graces we need to meet whatever challenge frightens us, including the challenge of death itself. I believe that God gazes through the windows, peers through the lattices of our souls, seeking to enter our hearts and minds and lives with an abundance of graces we most need. He says to us, as we say to God: “O my dove in the clefts of the rock, in the secret recesses of the cliff, let me see you, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and you are lovely.”

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Mary: Chosen to Give Birth to the Son of God

In today’s Gospel, Luke 1: 26-38, we read about the Annunciation. The angel Gabriel announces the good news that Mary has “won favor with God,” and has been chosen to give birth to the Messiah, the long-awaited One who is to “rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”  “Behold,” the angel says to Mary, “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father…”  How[, you ask?] The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

Gabriel is saying:  Mary, the child you will conceive is God taking on the nature of a human being through your body.  The child you will conceive in your womb is the Son of God made flesh.  You are to call him “Jesus,” for He is the Savior spoken of by the prophets throughout the Hebrews Scriptures!

Through our baptism, God enters our very being, as He entered Mary womb. God dwells within us as within a sacred Temple.  Mary, in the Franciscan tradition, is hailed as God’s Tabernacle, God’s Palace (cf. the Common of the Blessed Mother in the Franciscan Breviary).  Like Mary, who brings Jesus into the world physically, we are commissioned at our baptism to give “birth” to Jesus spiritually in all that we do and say and desire. How? By our works of love and compassion, mercy and forgiveness, generosity and peace, joy and hope. May we respond to this baptismal call, not only on Christmas Day, but throughout the year.  Overshadowed by the Holy Spirit at our baptism, confirmation, through the sacrament of reconciliation and at every Eucharist, we are empowered to give birth to Jesus in our world each day, transforming darkness into light, hatred into love, violence into peace.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Changing Barrenness into Fertility; Changing Bondage into Freedom

In the first reading  of today’s liturgy, Judges 13: 2-7, we meet “a certain man from Zorah, of the clan of the Danites, whose name was Manoah.”  Manoah  is visited by an angel and told that, though he and his wife are barren and have no children, “yet you will conceive and bear a son.” This son, Samson, consecrated in the womb and a servant of the Lord until his death, was the last judge of the Israelites.  He ruled the Israelites through twenty years of conflict with the Philistines. The Israelites lost several battles with their enemies, fellow human beings  who  engaged in fierce wars to secure material things, properties, fertile lands, livestock and beautiful women , after whom men lusted and sought to possess as  cherished sexual objects. Judges 14-16 show us the emptiness and pain of a lust-filled life.  

It is not Samson, however, who saves the Israelites or us. Being loosed from Satan’s snares, being freed from sin in all its forms, both in the O.T. and in the N.T., up to this very day,  will only happen for us through  the intervention of  God Incarnate,  whose birth as a human person we are about to celebrate.

  Though God certainly was/is concerned about human beings reducing life itself to the acquisition of material riches above all else, worshiping false gods as the Israelites did in foreign lands,  sinking as low as using women and children as sex objects and  slaves, God is equaling  concerned about us losing eternal life to the jealousy of Satan, who sets snares to deprive us of eternal life.   So God sent His only begotten Son to save us from the one we should fear above all else: Satan himself and his fallen angels, who will do whatever it takes to keep us from becoming  citizens of heaven.

The Israelites fell into traps that the Philistines set up for them, worshiping many false gods. The world of today also offers false gods.

Am I looking to the one true God for salvation? Do I call upon God  for help  or am I using a god substitutes to save me from that which makes my life miserable right now?

Saturday, December 17, 2016

In today's liturgy, Matthew presents us with the genealogy of Jesus' historical existence.  The list includes both men and women of heroic pasts and those whose past lives include murder, rape, idolatrous and other destructive behaviors; in short those dominated by selfish, narcissistic, greedy  violent pursuits. All persons  listed in Jesus' genealogy were part of our salvation history, then and now!  Each of us, now as well, has a role to play in bringing about our own salvation and the salvation of the world. Sometimes, our choices are those by which others are appalled or simply embarrassed and which bring people, including our self,  to their knees. At other times, our behaviors are inspiring and bring people to the Light.  Our salvation history, in 2016, as prior to Jesus' birth,  includes leaders of reputable characters who inspire us and leaders whose behaviors are deceptive, repulsive and morally questionable.  God uses the good and the bad within us  and others to show us the way to the Father--choices that lead us to eternal life with Christ and those which could lead us to an eternity that excludes Christ and thus is an eternity of suffering!

What choices am I making each day?  What appalls me? What inspires me?

Friday, December 16, 2016

Living the Gospel: Fighting the Oppression of Human Trafficking

As disciples of Christ, who reached out to the poor and oppressed, we, too, are called upon to create just conditions for all, especially for our children.  That means that we do not support slavery in any shape or form.  The following article, entitled "Take Slavery out of Shopping," from FL Logus November 2016, was published in my religious community newsletter. I am sharing parts of  it with you for your information, as you strive to follow  Christ more closely and bring your will in harmony with God's.

The relationship between our everyday purchases and modern day slavery seems improbable. But the connection is very real. It just remains hidden from public view.

In poor regions of the world impoverished families are targeted by traffickers with promises of a better life for their children. Unsuspecting parents give up sons and daughters who end up in forced and abusive work situations on farms,  factories and brothels.

A look inside the chocolate industry illustrates the problem.   Cocoa beans, from which chocolate is manufactured, are encased in heavy pods that hang from trees.  Their harvest is back-breaking work for adults; brutal for children.  Yet 284,000 children, 64% of whom are under 14 years, work in forced and abusive conditions on cocoa farms in West Africa.  An investigative report details 13 hour work days on the plantation--filled with harsh physical labor, punctuated by beatings, and ending with a night of fitful sleep on a wooden plank in a locked room filled with other slaves. Most of the 15 billion dollars of chocolate that we consume in the United States each year is tainted with this forced and abusive child labor.

Parallel stories of both child and adult exploitation are found in the supply  chairs of coffee, tea, sugar, bananas, jewelry, clothing, and the list goes on.

But it doesn't have to be this way.  Fair Trade, the business model that monitors and assures that small producers are treated with dignity, is changing the lives and futures of millions of small farmers, producers and their children.....


Being Blessed and Being a Blessing

“John was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice  in his light. But I have testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me,” we read in today’s Gospel, John 5:33-36.  Are you and I  burning and shining lamps?  Do our works testify that the Father has sent us? If not, from where to our works originate?  Whose voices are we following? Who is inspiring us to do what we do or  avoid what we avoid?

With the psalmist in today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 67, we pray:

May God have pity on us and bless us;
may he let his face shine upon us. 
So may your way be known upon earth;
among all nations, your salvation. 
May the nations be glad and exult
because you rule the peoples in equity;
the nations on the earth you guide.
The earth has yielded its fruits;
God, our God, has blessed us.
May God bless us,
and may all the ends of the earth fear (reverence) him!

Yes, may God rule you in fairness. May God guide you in all of your ways so that you yield fruits of the Holy Spirit: kindness, patience, charity, joy, peace, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, goodness, and chastity.  May the blessings of God, truly, be poured out upon you so that others come before God in reverence.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

God Multiplies Those Who Have Faith in God's Covenant

In today’s first reading, Is 54: 1-10, we read about a deserted wife, one whose womb is barren.  The Lord God tells her “to enlarge the space for her tent”, as her offspring shall be numerous. “…[Y]our descendants shall dispossess the nations and shall people the desolate cities.”  We are on our way to the heavenly Jerusalem and all who believe shall be saved!

Here on earth, we may be barren, desolate, abandoned, feeling hopeless and neglected, left to die, ignored by many, but not by God!  God sees the plight of the poor. He sees the plight of those sold to or kidnapped  by human traffickers, those fallen into the hands of  sexual predators and violent criminals,  those involved in slave labor, being used by their unjust employers to produce a product at a cheaper price to increase their bottom line. God sees the unborn about to be slaughtered in the womb. He sees the innocent children and men and women killed in our streets. He sees  orphans in war-torn countries with on one to protect them from the violence of war.  God sees it all and, I believe, weeps with us in our powerlessness.

Is it possible that God is fed up with nations, countries, cities, individuals given to unjust and immoral practices, driven by greed, hatred, prejudice, and involved in worshiping false gods.

God comes to save us, we are told in Luke 19: 10, remembering His promise of mercy!  In today’s first reading, the prophet Isaiah tells us, “This is for me [for God] like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah should never again deluge the earth; so I have sworn not to be angry with you, or to rebuke you.  Though the mountains leave their place and hills be shaken, My love shall never leave you nor my covenant of peace be shaken, says the Lord, who has mercy on you.”

God came to us in human form 2000+ years ago. God came in the disguise of  a helpless infant, one devoid of hatred  and full of mercy and love,  for the fallen world, in no way, can save itself from the snares of Satan.  Satan, who roams the world seeking someone to devour, shall be cast back into hell. Our Savior has come!

I believe that God is a Warrior God who will strike at Satan’s head, taking his power away from him and all of the fallen angels who, with Satan,  work so hard to deceive humankind and bring us down into hell with them.  Evil will not triumph in the lives of those who hear and heed the call of John the Baptist: “The time has come near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15).

I believe in the good news of our salvation! Do you? I believe that evil will be exposed and destroyed. Do you?

What evil in you and me needs to be destroyed? What sin needs to be forgiven? What graces do we need from our Savior God?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Questioning Jesus' Identity

In today’s Gospel, Luke 7: 18b-23, John the Baptist, who is in prison, asks his disciples to go to Jesus and ask whether he truly is “the one who is to come, or should we look for another,”  Jesus’ response is: “Go and tell John what you have seen and hear: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk , lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.  And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” 

Jesus is quoting the prophet Isaiah, who  tells the Jewish people that, when the Messiah comes, the “the eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed, then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb will sing for joy….”  (Isaiah 35: 5). In other words, people recognize God’s presence in us by the good we do.  Blindness and deafness are lifted in the presence of a God-centered person, a person who radiates the light of God. When another speaks of peace, is just and kind, “the lame will leap like a deer” (Is 35:6). The “dead” are raised to new life by “good-news” persons, by persons who are take time to affirm others, acknowledge another's presence, greet them with care and/or recognizing the good they do by saying “thank you”. In the Common Sense Parenting Course out of Boys and Girls Town, the first skill parents are taught is that of praising their children, catching them doing something good and pointing that out: “Johnny, Mary, I should saw you share that toy with your younger sister. That was very kind of you," or "good job, Johnny/Mary."

How would people recognize you as a son/daughter of God, as a disciple of Christ?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Coming of Our God and Savior

In today’s first reading, Zephaniah 3: 1-2, 9-13, the prophet Zephaniah issues a warning to us, saying: “Woe to the city, rebellious and polluted, to the tyrannical city!  She hears no voice, accepts no correction;  in the Lord she has not trusted, to...God she has not drawn near.  A time is coming when God "will...change and purify the lips of the peoples, that...all may call upon the name of the Lord, to serve [God] with one accord; from beyond the rivers of Ethiopia and as far as the recesses of the North, they shall bring [the true God] offerings.”  We could insert the following: "From north to south, from east to west, from one end of the world to the other, "they shall bring [the true God] offerings" and give up their "rebellious and polluted," in short their idolatrous, ways.

Zephaniah is speaking to each one of us. In what ways have I been rebellious, refusing correction? In what ways have I polluted myself with selfishness, narcissistic pursuits, pride-filled resistances, deceptive ways and other means of saying “no” to God? To whose voice am I listening:  God’s voice, the voice of the Holy Spirit, the voice of truth, justice, mercy, understanding, compassion and love? Or am I responding to voices that promote hatred, judgment, condemnation, hopelessness, faithlessness, mercilessness, and violence (spiritual, physical, emotional, verbal) that pollutes the blossoming spirits of the young, of children and the poor?

Zephaniah says to us that on the day  “that the Lord will change and purify  the lips of the people, that they may call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one accord…you  need not be ashamed of all  your deeds, your  rebellious actions against me; for then will I remove from your midst the proud braggarts, and you shall no longer exalt yourself on my holy mountain. But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord...”

Zephaniah gives us hope, as we face a violent world, a world of hatred, sexism, misogynism, racism, and bigotry; as we face a world of injustice, a world where narcissistic, boastful  men and women seek power and control and wealth at the expense of the poor, willing to destroy anyone in their path to what they define as greatness, publishing false stories, alluring and deceiving  people by their outward charm and preposterous promises.  God is warning us, through the prophet Zephaniah, that He will “remove from your midst… proud braggarts, and you shall no longer exalt yourself on my holy mountain, but I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge [in My name], the remnant of Israel. They shall do no wrong and speak no lies; nor shall there be found in their mouths a deceitful tongue...."

Hopefully you and I will be part of the “remnant” of people who have been purified of our pride, cleansed of our deceitfulness, and humbled and brought low before God; yes, people who have learned to “take refuge in the name of the Lord,” repentant of our rebellious ways!

Monday, December 12, 2016

"Your deed of hope will never be forgotten" (Judith 13: 19)

In today’s liturgy, the responsorial is from Judith 13: 18bcde, 19, which gives praise to God for the Blessed Virgin Mary, who conceived in her womb the Son of God, who took on human nature to save us from sin. We pray: “Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God, above all the women of earth; and blessed be the Lord God, the creator of heaven and earth [who assumed human nature through you].  Your deed of hope will never be forgotten by those who tell of the might of God.”

An angel of the Lord, Luke tells us in today’s Gospel, Luke 1: 26-38, “was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betroth to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.”  The angel greets Mary, saying: “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you….Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.” Mary asks how this will come about because she has not had sexual relations with a man. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, [Mary,] and the power of the Most high will overshadow you….[T]he child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”  The angel adds: “And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing is impossible for God.” Mary’s response: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

As with Mary, you and I are created to fulfill God’s purposes for our lives and to be beacons of hope. Mary’s purpose was to bring into this world Jesus, the Son of God, and care and support Him from birth to His death and spread His kingdom via good works:  works of justice and mercy, works of love and forgiveness. In short, she was to be an instrument in God’s hands, sharing the Good News of our salvation. Mary knew who she was: God’s handmaiden.   Who are you? And what is God’s purpose for your life? Have you asked the Lord or are you simply pursuing a purpose apart from what God may want of you? 

At your death, will people say: “Your deed of hope  (your trust)  will never be forgotten by those who tell of the might of God” (Judith 13:19).

Sunday, December 11, 2016

God Comes with Divine Recompense as Savior

In today's first reading, Is. 35:; 1-6, 10,  we read that "[t]he desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom....[T]hey will see the glory of the Lord, they will see the splendor of the our God." "Feeble hands" will be strengthened." "Weak knees" will be made firm. Those strong according to human standards, whose faith, for instance, lies, not in the Lord, but in being or becoming billionaires will crumble in the dust.  Drug dealers and users whose faith rests in deals made and drugs used will be brought low. Human traffickers and pimps whose delight is in the number of girls/women they "own" will be humbled! Criminals who boasts of the many crimes they have committed or plan to commit shall crash in defeat eventually.

Yes, Satan will eventually lose all power over humankind. "Here is your God," Isaiah tells us,  "he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you."  When the Lord comes and is accepted as Savior, as Messiah, in any one's life, that person's "eyes...will be opened, [their] deaf ears "be cleared"; "then the lame will leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing."

When the Lord returns,  those who have repented of their wrongdoing, those who recognize their sinful ways and fall on their knees before the one true God in repentance will have their blindness and deafness removed--no longer will they be worshipping idols, false gods or god-substitutes.  Yes, when the Lord comes, "those whom   the Lord has ransomed," Isaiah tells us, "will return and enter Zion singing crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee."

May you and I be among the throng of people following the Lord on that last day of our lives!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

God Does Not Grow Weary and We Live and Move and Have our Being in the Lord

Isaiah, in today’s first reading, Isaiah 4: 25-31, God says to us that by “his great might and the strength of his power,” no one person from the Israelites’ army “is missing! Why, O Jacob,” God asks, “do you say, and declare, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God. Do you not know or have you not heard? The Lord is the eternal God, creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint nor grow weary, and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny. He gives strength to the fainting; for the weak he makes vigor abound. Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall, they that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles’ wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.”

It is not uncommon for you or I, or anyone, for that matter, to come to a point in life at times when it seems as though God has forgotten us, that what is happening in our family’s, friend’s or personal life is not known to God, that our rights are being disregarded even by our Creator. When my mother died leaving four primary-school children without a mother, I grew weary. My weariness multiplied when, eight years later, a brother died at age 18 and a few months after his death, the doctors informed my older sister, and us,  that they could not save her from death.  My hope was anchored in the Lord, though I did not feel it. My strength was renewed over time.

Jesus says to us, in today’s Gospel, Mt. 11: 28-30, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” I am so blessed to have been given faith through my parents. They always turned to the Lord in their need and taught me the same. In religious life, also, the center of our lives each day is seeking the Lord above all.  I learned from early on through my parents and later on through my training in religious life to take my burdens to the Lord in prayer on a daily basis and to seek the Lord above all else.

What helps you through the difficult moments of your life? Who taught you to rely upon the Lord and to bring all of your concerns to God in prayer when weariness zaps your energy and strength?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

God Comes with Power to Save Us

In today’s first reading, Is 40:1-11, the prophet shares with us God’s desire to give comfort to us, to “speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated; indeed, she has received from the hand of the Lord double for all her sins.”  Never is sin left without   a price being paid for going astray. There are consequences to whatever sin I commit, whatever sin anyone commits, any sin the nation commits, any sin members of the government commits, any sin Isis commits, any sin committed by those perpetuating human trafficking, slave labor, drug trafficking, abortion, any sin committed by those exploiting the poor for their own profit, and so on.  “A voice,” the prophet Isaiah tells us, “cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland (created by sinful actions) a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill (of humankind’s hardness of heart and pride-filled, greed-driven behaviors) shall be made low; the rugged land (traveled because of injustices) shall be made a plain, the rough country (over which  refugees and immigrants and the poor are forced to walk) a broad valley. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all people shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Are we listening? Are we aware of Isaiah proclamation: “Here comes with power the Lord God, who rules by his strong arm (an arm much stronger than those of the rich getting richer on the backs of the poor; much stronger than the arms of the arrogant).  Here is his reward with him, his recompense before him.” Yes, our God, “like a shepherd…feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs (those too weak to walk on their own, crushed by the oppressor), carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.”

With the psalmist in today’s responsorial psalm, Psalm 96, we “[s]ing to the Lord a new song; [we] sing to the Lord, …, bless his name; [we]announce his salvation, day after day.”   Sin shall not prevail! Satan and all the evil he promotes deceptively shall be destroyed by the One who “comes to rule the earth,” (Ps. 96), who “shall rule the world with justice and the peoples with his constancy” (Ps 96).

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Road on which the Redeemed Walk

In today’s Gospel, Luke 5: 17-26, people from “every village in Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem,” were coming to Jesus.  “[T]he power of the Lord was with [Jesus] for healing,” Luke tells us.  The people seeking Jesus’ healing were in desperate need of such, as are we.  People came from all over seeking Jesus’ help and did whatever they needed to do to get close to Jesus, like lowing the stretcher of their paralyzed friend through the roof so the y could place him right in front of Jesus!  What are you and I willing to do for our friends and family members, for ourselves, in order to be healed by the Lord?

 In the first reading, Isaiah 35-1-10, the prophet proclaims the coming of our Savior: “Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.”  That means that there is something from which we desperately need to be saved! Is it our blindness, our deafness, our arrogance, our pride, our God substitutes, our divisiveness, our apathy, our greediness, our cynicism, that to which we are enslaved and which keeps us from being responsible, loving, caring, forgiving individuals?  When you and I truly encounter the Lord, when we welcome God into our lives on a daily basis, when we recognize our need to be vindicated by the Lord (that is what Good Friday was and is all about)  then , Isaiah prophesies, our sight will be restored, our deafness cleared, our paralysis healed.  Embracing our salvation and our need to be saved, we will walk on “the holy way,” on the “highway” on which “the redeemed will walk.” We will then be among [t]hose whom the Lord has ransomed,” who are enter[ing] Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; [we] will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee,” says the prophet Isaiah.

Oh, happy day for which I long!  How about you? What are your longings?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

"The Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand" (Matthew 10:8)

In today’s Gospel, Matthew 9: 35-10:1, 5a, 6-8, Matthew recalls his experience of Jesus. He tells us that  “[a]t the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.’ Then he summoned his Twelve disciples [Matthew would have been one of those twelve) and [authorized them] to...go make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”

Jesus is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow!  To this very day, He is “moved with pity,” seeing millions of people without  proper instructors, without sufficient guidance, without being loved or cared for properly. In fact, in this 21st century, Jesus sees millions of children, young adults and, in many cases,  women being abused spiritually, physically, emotionally, verbally. Jesus sees children and adults sifting through garbage dumps looking for something to eat. He sees homeless persons begging for help to survive homelessness.   He sees children and young adults used as sexual slaves and slaves in factories and various industrial sites where clothes and other commodities are produced by cheap labor and sold by companies that makes billions of dollars  of profit selling merchandise produced as cheaply as possible off the backs of poorly paid workers. 

On the day of reckoning, the Lord will bind up “the wounds of his people, he will heal the bruises left” by abusers(see today’s first reading, Is 30: 26); and,   yes,  on that day  “the tyrant shall be no more and the arrogant will have gone. All who are alert to do evil will be cut off,”  the prophet Isaiah warns us in Is. 29: 17-24.

“The time is fulfilled,” Jesus says  to us, “and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent , and believe the gospel” (Mark 1: 15).

May each one of us have the humility to heed Isaiah and Jesus' messages!  May we beg God's mercy for all of us, those doing good in the world and those perpetuating evil.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Transformation of the World and All within It

In today’s first reading, Isaiah 29: 17-24,  the prophet Isaiah gives us the following message of hope: in “a very little while, …Lebanon (insert any city anywhere in the world) shall be changed into an orchard, and the orchard be regarded as a forest! On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book; and out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see. The lowly will ever find joy in the Lord, and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel (Jesus, our Savior). …[T]he tyrant will be no more and the arrogant will have gone; all who are alert to evil will be cut off, those whose mere word condemns a man (a person], who ensnare his defender at the gate, and leave the just man with an empty claim.”

May the tyrant, the arrogant, those courting evil, those whose words condemn others  and who make empty claims beware of the prophet’s warning. May those doing good in the world, acting justly and loving tenderly (compare Micah 6:8)  rejoice in this hopeful message  and call upon the name of the Lord in mercy. May Jesus, our Savior, purify all of us of any tyrannical intentions,  arrogant pursuits, evil motivations, condemnatory thoughts and empty claims—sin within us now and those we have committed in our past. Like the two blind men in today’s Gospel, Matthew 9: 27-31, may we approach Jesus in humble prayer, asking to be healed and freed of our infirmities, spiritual, physical\, or psychological. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

A World in Need of Transformation

In the Collect of today’ liturgy we pray: “Stir up your power, O Lord, and come to our help with mighty strength, that what our sins impede the grace of your mercy may hasten.”  As you pray that prayer, think of the Holy Spirit, who intercedes for us continually according to God’s Holy Will. The Spirit within us, when we do not know how to pray, prays for us and for the entire world, a world which has aggressively impeded the grace of God’s mercy. How? By becoming Satan’s tool, it seems, by ensnaring people in hatred toward one another, toward other religions, other cultures, the disabled, people of other colors, against women, against the unborn,  seemingly doubting God’s power to give them the strength and help they need to raise that child honorably, justly, and lovingly, or not considering the option of putting that child up for adoption for those who desperately want a child and are barren.

 In the first reading of today's liturgy, Is. 26:1-6, the prophet prays as follows: “Open up the gates to let in a nation that is just, one that keeps faith. A nation of firm purpose,” the prophet states, “you, [oh, God,]  keep in peace, in peace, for its trust in you.” My sense is that, in many instances, our country, the people of the U.S. and particularly those in “high” places, so to speak, have lost trust in the Lord and have sought, or are seeking, security in God substitutes: addictions of any kind, accumulation of material things, a piling up of wealth and getting such by any means possible at other’s expense, and also by running from one relationship to another and another, seeking divorces rather than seeking reconciliation with one another and getting whatever help is necessary to restore trust in one another and in oneself, when differences are reconcilable.

Let us remember, as Isaiah says, that “the Lord is an eternal Rock. He humbles those in high places, and the lofty city he brings down; He tumbles it to the ground, levels it with the dust. It is trampled underfoot by the needy, by the footsteps of the poor.” Is that what could be happening to the U.S. and to other parts of the world? Are the neglected poor and needy bringing judgment upon us and, especially, upon those governed and addicted to narcissistic pursuits, slaves to out-of-control egos, and guided by false ideologies?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Lord's Invitation to Follow Him

In today’s Gospel, Matthew 4: 18-22, we are told the story of Jesus walking along the Sea of Galilee.  He sees two brothers fishing and says to them:  “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men [of people].”  He walks a little further and sees two other brothers and He calls them likewise.  All four men immediately leave their boats, their families and friends to follow Jesus.  Wow!  How is that for vocation promotion! A simple “Come and follow me,” and immediately Jesus has four men who join Him in His mission to devote all of their life to building up the Kingdom of God, spreading  the good news of our salvation-- the Messiah has come—and growing in intimacy with the Lord, hanging on to His every word. They stay with Him and learn from Him a new way of living and loving and being: one with the will of the Father, as Jesus was one with His Father’s will. They learn to  surrender to the Spirit, who may, at any time, lead them out into the desert to confront Satan, to the shore of Galilee, or wherever, to share the Good News, or to the cross to die to sin and overcome darkness.  The Spirit is truly their counselor, consoler, and strength builder, as Jesus teaches them by word and example!

It is being at one with the will of our God that is the core of any vocation: religious life, marriage, priesthood, the diaconate or the single lifestyle.  To which vocation in life is God calling you? God’s call goes further! To what ministry/job/career is God inviting you to do the good for which you were created and for which God gave you the talent to thrive and do the most good?  To and in what task today does God invite you to be His loving Presence, His compassionate understanding, or His reconciling Voice?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

New Life from What Looked like a Dead Stump

Today’s first reading, Is 11: 1-10, opens with the statement that “[o]n that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.”  Ordinarily when we see a stump in nature we think of a dead tree. We do not expect anything to grow out of it.  What I ask you and me, has “died” within us and is now like a dead stump yielding no new life? Has a relationship gone dead, so to speak, because of lack of contact or because of a past offense or because of selfishness, jealousy or anger that has gripped our soul? Has my faith and trust in the Lord and in my loved ones or self become dormant, as a tree stump?

Ever seen new life growing from a tree stump or from a potted plant you thought dead? The same can happen with virtue within you and me. That which seems dead can come back to life with a little TLC (loving tender care). My patience, faith, hope and love—if seeming to have died or withered—can grow again with the right conditions, namely, taking time to “exercise” them.  Wilting relationships can become strong if I take time to nurture them.  Practices that energized my spiritual life will be strengthened if I take the time to engage in such activities as spiritual reading, meditating upon the Scriptures, participating in Sacred Liturgy (the Mass) and sacraments,  taking time for personal prayer, sitting in God’s presence looking at God with love and letting God lovingly gaze upon me;  praising God as I seek God in the solitude of my heart, in the beauty of nature, in the refreshing love of a friend (if you are married, in the love of a spouse or a child; enjoying one another ‘s presence with no expectations, delighting in each other).

What do you or I  need to do to bring forth life from that “stump” or from that “potted plant” we thought was dead within us?

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Lord's Glory is our Shelter and Protection

In hope, today’s first reading, Is 4: 2-6, speaks about the Lord’s coming.  Isaiah makes the following proclamation: When the Lord washes away the filth of the daughters [and sons] of Zion, and purges Jerusalem’s blood from her midst with a blast of searing judgment, then will the Lord create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her place of assembly, a smoking cloud by day and a light of flaming fire by night. For over all, the Lord’s glory will be shelter and protection: shade from the parching heat of day, refuge and cover from storm and rain.”

Our faith tells us that God will destroy all that is evil in the world, not just in the middle East or anywhere else in the world but in the U.S., as well.  The wickedness that brought down Jerusalem (it was destroyed in 70 A.D. because of the evil within it) will also bring down any other city or country in the world of today. Our courtship with idolatry, adultery, greed, jealousy, hatred, misogyny, sexism, racism, violence and corruption, deceitfulness and gluttony, pride and selfishness invites the “searing judgment” of our God.  The blood that has been poured out upon the earth will be purged as “a smoking cloud by day and a light of flaming fire by night” envelops the world. When that time comes, “the Lord’s glory will be shelter and protection: shade from the parching heat of day, refuge and cover from storm and rain” that is the result of humankind’s sinful choices, whether those choices are personal, familial, social, civic, ecclesial or corporate.

 In less than a month, we will celebrate the Incarnation of the Son of God, who left the glory of heaven to come to earth. During His earthly pilgrimage, the-Son-of-God-made-man encountered everything that any human being encounters. In fact, as St. Paul reminds us in 2 Cor. 5:21, God "made the sinless one a victim for sin, so that in him we might become the uprightness of God." Yes, through Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, where sin was destroyed, we have been reconciled to God. Truly, Jesus came, not to condemn the world but to save it and, for that reason, out of that love, “the Lord’s glory will be shelter and protection,”  especially when the “blast of [God’s] searing judgment” purges the world of sin and the gates of heaven are opened for all of those cleansed in the blood of the Lamb and who recognize Jesus as their Savior. As John the Baptist says to us: "Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand" (Mt. 3: 2).

Come, Lord Jesus, come and save us!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Another Thanksgiving Reflection

Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine Sisters, reflected upon the state of our country following the election. I share with you her  Thanksgiving Prayer, remembering the U.S. prior to this election  She writes:
Creator God, we thank you and praise you
for the opportunity to have lived in a country open to the community of nations and their gifts to us rather than espousing a national political goal of living in isolation from them.
We thank you and praise you
for the memory of a United States where difference, it seemed, was finally seen as the lifeblood of our future, rather than a threat to the present;
We thank you and praise you
for a government that strove to embrace the new while keeping the best of the old rather than seek to revive a past long gone;
We thank you and praise you
for a country in which the role of religion was to grow our spirits rather than feed our fears or capture and control our politics.
We thank you and praise you
for a people of many colors and cultures and gifts who enriched one another's understanding of life rather than set out to set one against the other.
We thank you and praise you
for a country that sought to treat both women and men as equals rather than continue to shape a society in which men were to be privileged and women were meant to be preyed upon;
We thank you and praise you
for a country that attempted to help those who could not help themselves rather than abandon the needy for the sake of increasing the profits of the wealthy;
We thank you and praise you
for a nation that sought by reaching out to others, by defending the oppressed and supporting the defenseless to become a real moral leader of the free world rather than exploit the weak and reject the desolate for the sake of national aggrandizement.
Finally, we thank you and praise you
for those who have led us with noble vision and compassionate hearts. We give thanks for their great respect for democracy and deep commitment to the common good rather than to partisan politics. It is to them we owe the ongoing unity of differences in this land. It is in their names and through their spirit that we seek unity again in our now divided country.
From where I (Sister Joan Chittister) stand, it is on those things that the future of this already great nation depends.
She writes: Happy Thanksgiving. May the memory of the past great vision of this country give us all the energy and strength it will take to revive that vision again. It is those ideals and that kind of community covenant that dries my own tears.

[Joan Chittister is a Benedictine sister of Erie, Pa.]

Words of the psalmist (Ps. 49)

Today, I was deeply moved by Psalm 49, which priests and religious prayed in the Divine Office.  This psalm speaks to me of realities in the forefront of the news of today here in the U.S. of A.  The psalmist prays:

“Hear this! Listen, all people, everywhere,
both great and small alike, rich and poor together.

“My heart is full of insight; I will speak words of wisdom.
I will turn my attention to a proverb and unravel its meaning as I play the harp.

I am not afraid in times of danger, when I am surrounded by wicked enemies--
those who trust in their riches and boast of their great wealth.

People can never redeem themselves, cannot pay God the price for their ransom,
because the payment for their life is too great.

What they can pay will never be enough to keep them from destruction,
to let them live forever.

They see that even the wise dies, as well as the foolish and senseless.
They leave their riches to others.

Their tombs are their homes forever;
There they stay for all time—even though they once had lands of their own.

Don’t be afraid when people become rich,
when their wealth grows even greater.

They cannot take it with them when they die;
Their wealth will not go down to the grave with them.

Even if they are satisfied with this life
and are praised because they are successful (according to human standards),
They will join all their ancestors in death,
where the darkness lasts forever.

Riches cannot keep them from death; they will die like the beast of the field.”

How do the words of the psalmist touch you? What phrases stand out for you? Pay attention, as that is where the Spirit is speaking to your heart!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of life and love.
Highly to be praised are You, O God, for holy is your name
And holy are you, O Lord, in all of creation, within which Your being dwells.
No other god is holy or worthy to be praised, honored, or glorified.
Kindness and love and goodness flow from you, O God, into all creatures.
So beautiful and radiant are you that all of creation reflects your beauty.
Giving totally of yourself, You, O God, as the God-man, gave your life for us upon the cross and rose again to set us free from anything that separates us from You.
In all of us, great and small, you pour out the Holy Spirit, to sanctify us and make us whole and to teach us Truth.
Vivifying is the life of the Spirit that sustains us and strengthens us every day to allow ourselves to be transformed into You!
In and through you, O Lord, we give glory and honor and praise to you through our love for others and ourselves, doing only what pleases You.
Never, Lord, let us depart from You.
Going forth from your Being, in which we live and more and are, may we know the gift of redemption, freely given through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


 Tomorrow we celebrate the feast of Thanksgiving here in the U.S.  In today’s first reading, Revelation 15: 1-4, John’s vision reveals the main reason for us to be grateful. It is “the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb” being song by those victorious over “the beast” that roams this earth, seeking souls to devour:

 “Great and wonderful are your works,
Lord God almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
O king of the nations….
[Y]ou alone are holy.
All the nations will come
And worship before you,
For your righteous acts have been revealed.”

What are those great and wonderful works? For me, they are the gift of life itself, the gift of the faith that my parents handed on to me, the gift of God’s unconditional love for us revealed by the Son of God becoming man and dying for us on the cross and rising from the dead in obedience to the Father’s will that we be reconciled to God through the blood of His Son poured out as our ransom.  God’s great works are His promise to be with us always until the end of time, the gift of the Eucharist by which He nourishes us, sustains us, strengthens us, purifies us, reconfirms His oneness with us in body, mind and spirit and makes us one with one another in love and forgiveness. God’s wonderful works are the gift of creation, the gift of one another, the gift of family and friends, of religious communities, of the church and the sacraments, the gift of the Scriptures. His awesome gifts include the sufferings of my life by which God purifies me, makes me humble in my dependence upon Him, and strengthens my endurance.

It is more difficult for me to say “thank you” for the corruption, the deceitfulness, the hatred, the injustices, the wars and violence, the divisiveness and disunity in our world. Yet, I know that God will use evil to reveal Himself and His power to save us, to bring us to authentic worship and to reveal His righteousness. Yes, I believe that God “alone is holy,” and that “all the nations will come and worship before [God], for [God’s] righteous acts have been revealed.” Evil will not triumph; grace will!

For what are you grateful?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Beginnings and Endings

Today’s readings, Revelation 14: 14-19 and Luke 21: 5-11, speak of the end time and what will precede that time. We are warned not to be deceived into thinking that the end time is now. Rather, believe that, yes, the end times will come but preceding such a time, there will be wars and threats of war. There will be natural as well as man-made disasters,  chaos and disorders of every kind.  We have a choice of focusing either on the darkness or the Light, on the disasters or ways to help those who are victims of a disaster. We can choose to be people of the Light or of the darkness, people of hopefulness or hopelessness, people filled with love or hatred of any of its forms . 

As we approach the end of the Church year and begin Advent this coming Sunday, we are challenged to take stock of our lives.  Are we personally ready to begin anew? All of life, as we know it,  is about endings and beginnings. Every morning the Lord gives us another day to begin anew in making the world a better place, in bringing light into darkness, hope into despair, love into hate-filled situations.  Each day we have new opportunities to right wrongs we may have done or to forgive wrongs others may have done against us. Each day  we are given opportunities to have our eyes and ears and hearts and minds and wills open to the Lord at work in the midst of our lives and the lives of others and to use us as His instrument of doing good in our world.

What choices will you and I make today?  What will be our focus? In what ways are we being challenged to begin anew?

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple

Today we celebrate the presentation of Mary in the Temple.  According to Father Edward Looney, who gave today’s  homily at the place where I worship, she was presented to the Lord at age three and remained in the Temple until age twelve when, he said, she was betrothed to Joseph.  Father Ed believes that she may have vowed virginity to God during her time in the Temple.  We are told that, when becoming pregnant with the Son of God by the power of the Holy Spirit, she did not lose her virginity. 

Whenever I ask Mary to intercede on my behalf, I think of the wedding feast of Cana. There she notices that the bride and bridegroom have run out of wine.  She alerts Jesus, who said to her:  “My hour has not yet come” (John 2: 5).  She simply tells the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them. Jesus says to the servants: "Fill the jugs with water' (John 2:8).  They did so. He then said to them: "Draw some out now and take it to the president of the feast (John 2: 8). The water had been changed into wine. "This was the first of Jesus' signs: it was at Cana in Galilee. He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him" (John 2:22).

My confidence in Mary’s intercessions is rooted in her intercession on behalf of the wedding party. First of all, Mary notices the need and, second of all, alerts Jesus.  The miracle follows. Whenever I am in need, I pray the following prayer over and over again:

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgin of virgins , my mother, to you do I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate,  despise not my petitions, but in your mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Life's Lessons

Today’s first reading, Revelation 11: 4-12, is difficult to get one’s arms around.  John  is asked to pay attention to two of the Lord’s witnesses: two olive trees and two lampstands which “stand before the Lord of the earth. If anyone,”  the Lord says, “wants to harm them, fire comes out of their mouths and devours their enemies.”  These witnesses give testimony on the Lord’s behalf. “When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the abyss will wage war against them and conquer them and kill them….The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and be glad and exchange gifts because these two prophets tormented the inhabitants of the earth. But after the three and a half days [think also of Jesus in the tomb for three and a half days], a breath of life from God entered them….[A] loud voice from heaven [says] to them, ‘Come up here.’ So they went up to heaven in a cloud as their enemies looked on.”

We live in a world filled with wars and violence against God’s people.  Messengers of the Lord are seen as tormentors, as persons with whom we want nothing to do.  Many times we do not pay attention to “prophets” in our midst, to men and women of our own or of other religions speaking to us of the importance of justice, peace and love, of reconciling with our enemies, with those whom we do not understand, with those we judge as “unfits for the kingdom.”  We may turn our eyes and ears away from life’s tragedies and episodes of pain, not wanting to see the qualities those experiences contain for our redemption, for the transformation of our attitudes, bringing our way of thinking into the way God thinks about the persons involved.

As I was dealing with a painful episode in my life, the thought of the Foundress of my religious community suddenly came to mind. She went through periods in her life where she took refuge at the foot of the cross, pouring out her complaints to the Lord. At one of those times she said to herself as she complained to the Lord: “Enough of this. God is preparing me for something I do not yet understand.”  At another time, having difficulty with relationships, she says:  “I learnt to pray again as a child and came to realize that I have the most to improve.” As I was dealing with a challenging situation, I also, in prayer,  came to realize that I have more to improve within myself than another person. The obsession of needing to be right with this person vanished and peace returned!

What do you do when you encounter the little “wars”  that are part of the realities of learning to live in harmony and respect of one another and self?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Time of Our Jesus' Visitation

In today’s Gospel, Luke 19: 41-44, we are told that, as “Jesus drew near Jerusalem, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If this day you only knew what makes for peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.  For the days are coming upon you when your enemies… will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. They will smash you to the ground…and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.’”  Jesus is forewarning them of dangerous times approaching the area.

The world, today, is a dangerous place for many, if not all. Violence has erupted in most, if not all, parts of our world. The times we live in are filled with danger. Yes, we are capable of siding with evil forces.  Do we, I wonder, recognize “the time of [our] visitation,” the time of grace and holiness, the time of our salvation. 

Jesus left the glory of heaven and came upon this earth to become one with us and to live among us. He Himself knew dangerous times, fell into the arms of evil forces and was put to death.  Enemies encircled  him, hemmed Him in on all sides, arresting Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He was betrayed by one of his apostles, a man who followed Him closely during His three years’ of ministry. Yes, an insider betrayed Him, “encircled” Him.

Am I that insider? Am I one who betrays truth and justice, kindness and love? Am I one who jeopardizes that which is right and good and holy? Am I one who is blind to the presence of the Lord in our midst? Am I one who turns to forces of evil, running with the crowd even when that crowd is siding with the Father of Lies?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord, our God

Today’s first reading,  Revelation 4: 1-11, concludes with the following proclamation: “Worthy are you, Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things; because of your will they came to be and were created.”

Every one—each of our family members and all of our relatives, every citizen of our country and all countries throughout the world, our president elect and his family members, each of the persons he is choosing for his cabinet, every member of the Senate and the House of Representatives, everyone in public service, all of our clergy from the Pope down to our parish priests and ministers in any religion, persons  we like and those we dislike—has come into being because of God’s will.  Each of us is here to carry out a special mission given to us by our Creator God. Will we carry out God’s purpose for us today or decide to carry our own will apart from God?

In heaven, day and night, God is proclaimed holy:  “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is and who is to come” (Revelation 4: 8).    May  we, day and night, in good times and bad times, in each season of our lives here on earth—spring, summer, fall and winter-- worship God, praise God and give God thanks for our existence and that of all of creation. And  may all that we do and say give glory to our God and carry out the purpose for which God brought us into being!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

"Salvation Has Come to This House" (Luke, 19: 9)

In today’s Gospel, Luke 19: 1-10, we meet Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus hears that Jesus is passing through his town. He wants to get a glimpse of him, so he climbs a sycamore tree so that he can see Him. Zacchaeus is a tax collector, a wealthy man. It is not his wealth that is the problem but his sinful behaviors and attitudes. He has committed fraud. He has deceived people, swindled them of their money. He’s cheated people of what is rightfully theirs.  Sound familiar?

Zacchaeus’ salvation is that he is looking for Jesus and Jesus, of course, is looking for him. Once the two of them meet, Zacchaeus’ life is changed forever. Why? Because he repents and promises the Lord that he will repay “four times over” those of whom he has taken advantage. Jesus says to him: Come down from that tree, Zacchaeus. I must “stay at your house” today. I must dine with you. In response to Zacchaeus’ confession of wrongdoing and promise of paying back what he owes his customers, Jesus says to him: “Today salvation has come to this house,” and reminds us that “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

Have you, have I, met Jesus? Have you and I welcomed Jesus into our houses—into our very beings so as to be purified? Saved? Have you and I repented of the times we have cheated another person, taken advantage of others, especially the poor, the elderly, the disadvantaged, lorded ourselves over others, used our wealth (material or otherwise) to violate another people’s right to be treated fairly, compassionately, kindly, respectfully?

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Lamp Stand: Will it Stay or Be Removed

In today’s first reading, Revelation 1: 1-4,; 2: 1-5, John commends the church of Ephesus for its good works, its labor, its endurance, its intolerance of wickedness, and  its testing of self-proclaimed apostles. “You have endurance and have suffered for my name, and you have not grown weary.”  But, then, the people of the church of Ephesus are confronted for having lost their first love, their initial commitment to Christ. “Repent,” the Lord says to them through John, “and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent;” in other words, you will live in darkness.

What is happening in the U.S. may be that our lamp stands are being taken away from us and given to others who adhere to truth and justice, to what is right for everyone, that is, for the rich and the poor, immigrants and natives, Blacks and Whites, Mexicans and Hispanics, Asians and Africans—all cultures—as well as  heterosexuals and homosexuals, men and women—all who make up the fabric of the U.S. and of the world.

Repent,” the Lord says  to the church of Ephesus and to us, “and do the works you did at first. He says to the American people, repent and do the works you did at first when you, as members of your civic, ecclesial, familial and religious communities, worked together for the common good, to accomplish agreed-upon goals that made your world a better place for everyone; when you as a nation, as a government crossed party lines and enacted legislation that benefited all peoples.  Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” In other words, you will live in darkness. Is it possible that we are moving into a very dark period of our history as Americans, a darkness that will effect the whole world?

Personally, are you, am I, ready to repent and turn away from our idols—from anything that blinds us to God’s Holy Will? Am I, are you, ready to turn away from anything that blocks us from doing that which needs to be done to promote justice and peace, that deepens our love for God, self and others and that leads us to repentance of the wrongs we have done? Like Bartimaeus in today's Gospel, Luke 18: 35-43, am I, are you, asking Jesus to remove our blindness that we are able to see Jesus in all that is happening and follow His ways?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Your Redemption is at Hand

Stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand” (Luke 21:28).  In the face of evil, we need to remember that God is our Savior, and God alone. We need to keep our eyes upon the Lord and look to God for the help we need to remain faithful, to live our faith, to trust in the Lord God. I think of Good Friday, when our Master and Lord was crucified and how dark it looked. That things would be okay was not guaranteed. The apostles fled and hid behind closed doors, terrified that they, too, would be put to death, that the worst would come to them. That did not immediately happen and when it did the gates of heaven opened for them.  On Pentecost, baptized by the Spirit, the apostles left the upper room and boldly preached the Word of God. They were no longer afraid to stand up for Truth. Their message was a message of hope. Their hearts were set on fire with God’s love. The Spirit that was given them was not a spirit of cowards but of courageous disciples of Christ.

In the face of difficulties, I pray, that I, and you, will be filled with the same Spirit that empowered the apostles to live lives of courage, of boldness, of fearless trust in God, strong faith, and a willingness to endure whatever it took to stand up for the Lord, to bring God’s message of the cross and resurrection to everyone! 

Whenever we encounter suffering, as Jesus and the apostles did, our redemption is at hand.  Let us put our hand in the hand of Jesus and ask Him to lead us through our sufferings to new life, as He did on Easter morn.

I need those graces right now. What about you?

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Standing Up for What Is Right

We can learn a lot from today’s first reading, Philemon 7-20, in doing what is right.  Paul sends a letter to Philemon, a slave owner, asking that he accept back a slave who had run away from him. Such an offense back then—slavery was legal—meant being severely punished for running away. The punishment imposed upon a runaway slave was to be a deterrent for anyone thinking of defying a slave owner.  Philemon’s slave had converted to Christianity under Paul. Paul sends the slave back to his owner, which under the law he must do, and writes: “I urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment, ….to welcome him as you would me. And if he has done you any injustice or owes you anything, charge it to me….”  
Both Paul and Onesimus do what must be done under the law. Paul begs for mercy for Onesimus, whom he has grown to love deeply. Like Onesimus, we, too, have and will experience the ravages of slavery, of laws that impinge on our  or others’ freedoms, laws that needs to be taken off the books, so to speak, as slavery has been in some countries. Even though slavery has been formally abolished and is no longer legal in some countries, slavery still exists in many forms today throughout the world and in our own lives as well. Sometimes we are slaves to sin and selfishness. Sometimes, we are slaves to pathologies within, to a lesser or greater degree. At other times we are slaves to our negative moods.

Whatever forms of slavery we encounter, may we, like Paul and Onesimus, have the courage to face truth and stand up for one another, encouraging love and forgiveness, asking that we do not cement other people, or ourselves,  to  past mistakes and thus refuse to acknowledge that they, or we, have grown and have found Christ, our Savior.