Saturday, February 13, 2016

Opening my Heart to God's Blessings

Today’s first Scripture reading, Isaiah 58: 9b-14, continues to challenge us to look at our behaviors.  Are they such that God’s light and blessings and mercy  and love have an opening to enter our lives in abundance is the question, I think, Isaiah is asking indirectly.  Through Isaiah, the Lord says to us: If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday; then the Lord will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land. He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails.”

I think it behooves me to ask myself: how have I oppressed others with whom I live and work? In what ways do I entertain others by falsely accusing someone or exaggerating a weakness about them or stretching the truth to get other's attention? Do I  engage in juicy  gossip, some of it, perhaps, malicious in nature?  With whom do I have contact on a daily basis who is hungry for a listening ear, hungry for love, hoping to be understood, starved for affirmation, who wants to feel safe to reveal a hurt that is gnawing away his/her faith in humanity, in oneself, in you or me; or simply wants to talk honestly about something that is on his/her mind?

“If you bestow your bread on the hungry’and satisfy the afflicted, then light shall rise for you in the darkness and the gloom shall become for you like midday.”

Friday, February 12, 2016

God's Request of Us this Lent and Always

“Be merciful to me for I have sinned,” (Luke 18:13) are the words of the tax collector!  These words come to me as I reflect on today’s first reading, Isaiah 58: 1-9a. The people are complaining that God does not notice their fasting and the ways in which they afflict themselves. God responds by reminding them that “on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits and drive all your laborers. Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting, striking with wicked claw….Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?  The Lord then tells us what kind of fast He wants of us, what is acceptable to Him and gets His attention. “This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.”

Who have I bound or imprisoned "in a cold cell”  by  attitudes of jealousy, by anger and resentment, by withholding love, by a lack of gratitude, by distancing myself from them, by setting myself above them, by acting superior and unworthy of them?  Have I placed yokes upon others, expecting them to reach perfectionistic standards and, in pride, to be perfect as I am perfect, and thus refuse to serve them in any way? Who will experience freedom today because of my generosity, my forgiveness, my gratitude, my genuine service? Who will experience relief from their oppression and hunger because of my nonjudgmental  actions and thoughts today? Whose nakedness and shame will decrease or be covered today because I took time to listen to their heartbreak without criticism or without giving advice but showing empathy?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Choices that Lead to Abundant Blessings

In today’s first reading, DT. 30: 15-20, God says to us: “Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom…..Choose life…that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him. For that will mean life….If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen, but are led astray and adore and serve other gods, …you will certainly perish.”

Every day you and I are faced with choosing to listen to the Lord, our God, to heed His voice and follow his ways or follow the ways of the world and get caught in the snares of Satan—secularism, narcissism, individualism and relativism, to name a few, and the gods these serve.   However, when we choose the fullness of life Jesus speaks about in the Gospels and which God offers, we will prosper, not necessarily according to the standards of the world  but definitely according to the Holy Spirit who readily bestows the following life-giving gifts:   inner peace, inner joy, the strength of the Spirit, God’s abundant love active within our choices and God’s light in the dark moments of life.  

The choice of  “life and prosperity, [heeding the voice of the Spirit],  death and doom [ignoring the Spirit’s lead]”  is ours to make. If I choose my will over God’s, my choices will block the blessings God is prepared to give in abundance.

Which choice will you make?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Our God: A Merciful God, a Generous God, a Forgiving God

Today’s liturgy opens with the following entrance antiphon from Wis 11: 24, 25, 27:  “You are merciful to all, O Lord, and despise nothing that you have made.  You overlook people’s sins, to bring to repentance, and you spare them, for you are the Lord our God."
I was reminded that this is true for each of the campaigners and for me as well, as I am deeply troubled by what I see in the campaigns for being our next president.  I asked the Lord to open my eyes to His Way, my mind to His thoughts. He did so in the following feedback:

Dorothy Ann, I know that you are disappointed about the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries, that persons would win who vilify others with words, who attempt to sway votes by publishing obscene messages about their opponents on social media, who attempt to rise up by putting others down. You are seeing humans acting badly. You are seeing ambition at its worst—the search for power and control being out of control. As I said to Samuel when the Israelites wanted a king like other nations around them:  give them what they want.   I will not usurp free will.  If acting foolishly, if making poor decisions, people will suffer the results of those decisions.

Sometimes I allow the worst to happen to teach humankind that they are not God and to each you that you are not God. I right the wrongs. I put people on the straight path when they give me a crooked one!  I am God. There is no other! And I am at work even when you do not recognize me.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

God's Dwelling Here on Earth

In today’s first reading, 1 Kings 8:22-23, 27-30, we ask:  “Can it indeed be that God dwells on earth?”  If the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain you, how much less this temple which I have built!”

God’s love is so magnanimous, so selfless, so giving that He created an entire universe to reveal His beauty, His love, His magnificence. The crown of creation is His creation of humankind in the image and likeness of God, male and female He created them—He shares Himself in that each of us reflects the Godhead as much as a child reflects his/her parents.  All of creation God proclaimed good; humankind “very good.”  No part of creation is made for itself. All is made to glorify God!  Churches and temples, also, are not made for themselves but are places in which, through prayer and worship, we are reconsecrated to the Lord and sent forth to proclaim God’s glory by our works of love and selfless giving to one another, to the world, and, yes, the universe itself, beautifying it to glorify its Creator.

In the Gospel, Jesus points out that laws and traditions are not above integrity of persons, of the call to honor the Lord with hearts open to respect, love,  and service to one another  through the commandments, summed up as loving God with our whole hearts, our whole mind, and our whole soul and our neighbor as ourselves.

“Can it indeed be that God dwells on earth?”  Look around!  Do you see God reflected in your neighbor? Do you reflect God to your neighbor?

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Holy of Holies

The readings of today for Cycle I and II  are linked by the presence of the Lord. First, God resides within the universe.  When the Word of God created the Universe, He said: "It is good, very good."  Everything in the Universe reflects the beauty and the glory of our God or is calling out for redemption. Second, God resides in our Temples, Churches, and Synagogues: in the Word, in the Eucharist, and in the Ark of the Covenant.  Third, Jesus, the Son of God,  walked this earth, going about healing, forgiving, setting "prisoners" free, raising the dead to new life.  He then sent us forth as His disciples. In Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist, we become one with Christ, Temples of the Holy Spirit, sent into the world of our every day to proclaim Christ, to live Christ, to be Christ for others.

The human and divine are as closely connected as our physical and spiritual beings are connected. The Holy and the profane, likewise, are linked.  At every liturgy, at each Eucharist, we reconsecrate ourselves and our world. Every time we utter a find word, offer forgiveness to self and others, are compassionate and understanding, we are a source of healing, as Christ was. We set others free and bring new life to others by these living a virtuous life, as Christ did.  The "dead"  are raised to life when we love them as Christ loves them.

The Holy of Holies does not just reside in our Temples, Synagogues, or Churches. No, we bring God out into our world by our actions of love, forgiveness, understanding, compassion and kindness. Otherwise there is a disconnect between what we do at a liturgy and what we do when we leave "the Holy of Holies."

These are my beliefs? What are yours?

Friday, February 5, 2016

A Life Centered in God

In today’s first reading, Sirach 47: 2-11, the author enumerates David’s victories over the enemies of the Israelites and his practice of praising God and offering thanks to God every morning. “With his whole being he (David) loved his Maker and daily had his praises sung; He set singers before the altar and by their voices he made sweet melodies. He added beauty to the feasts and solemnized the seasons of each year so that when the Holy Name was praised, before daybreak the sanctuary would resound. The Lord forgave him his sins and exalted his strength forever; He conferred on him the rights of royalty and established his throne in Israel.”

How does that passage reflect in your life and mine?  At the end of our lives, would anyone enumerate our victories over our enemies?  Do you and I, at the end of any given day, enumerate the victories we may have achieved that day through Jesus Christ over the enemies we encountered that day, whatever they may be:  pride and envy, jealousy and avarice, deceit and stinginess, corruption and the eruption of anger, judgmentalism and condemnation, revenge and resentments, unforgiveness and lack of mercy and compassion and so much more?

Moreover, do we begin each day praising and thanking God or joining those who do?  Do we solemnize our feasts, the seasons of each year of our lives, our successes and failures with prayers of petition, thanksgiving, and praise, or join those who do?

Without our asking, God has conferred “the rights of royalty” upon us, that is, God adopted us as His sons and daughters and, through the blood of His Son shed on the cross, established our thrones in heaven!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Trusting in the Lord

In today's Gospel, Mark 6: 7-13, Jesus sends his Twelve Chosen apostles out to spread good news of the Kingdom, healing the sick, casting out demons and sharing peace to all with whom  they came in contact. If their message was not received, if they were not welcome, they were to move on to another place.  Jesus also instructed them to take nothing with them: no food, no money, no sack, no extra clothing but only a walking stick.

Sometimes God seems to make the decision for us; that is, that we enter a given day with nothing to take with us. Simply stated, we do not have the strength to participate in an active ministry or to be productive in the ways we would like to be productive.

As I complained to Jesus about this reality in my life--not having the energy or the motivation to accomplish what I want to accomplish--God instructed me as follows:

     "Your powerlessness is My strength. I don't ask for productivity from you. I ask for surrender.
     You are not the minister right now but the one to whom I am ministering.

     "Where you are weak, I am strong--a strength that is invisible and most times unfelt.
     Faith is all you have.  
     Faith in my love for you.
     Faith in my presence (invisible).
     Faith in my mercy.

"Where you feel powerless, I am powerful!  My power is not power in the human sense but in the divine sense: the power of Jesus surrendering to His executioners (your executioner right now is loss of energy), Jesus surrendering to physical death and to resurrection from the dead (resurrection from energy loss will be forthcoming for you--trust me), Jesus believing in Me, hoping in Me, loving Me and being obedient to My Will. That is what I ask of you in the circumstances of your life  right now!"