Thursday, June 30, 2016

Healing, Forgiveness and Mercy

In today’s Gospel, Matthew  9: 1-8, people bring a paralytic person lying on a stretcher  to Jesus. This person is dependent upon others to bring Him to the Lord.  Jesus sees their faith and says to the paralytic: “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.”  Bystanders are disturbed and, in their thoughts, are accusing Jesus of blasphemy, that is of profanity, sacrilege, wickedness, and/or irreverence.  What an accusation. Jesus knows their thoughts and asks them: “Who do you harbor evil thoughts?”  To prove a point of His authority, he says to the paralytic: “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”

You and I are both the paralytic and a bystander. We are paralyzed by our sinfulness, our selfishness, our pride, our judgments against others and other sinful behaviors and attitudes.  Our unresolved hurts and angers towards persons who harmed us throughout our lives, easily and many times unknowingly,  blocks our ability to rise to new life and new opportunities to be a source of new life deeper trust, and renewed faith for others.  As bystanders, we are prone to judging others, not helping them, empowering them or ourselves to incarnate God in our midst as Jesus did.

Lord, I bring to you my own paralysis, my own evil thoughts and ask for healing.

“Courage,” Dorothy Ann (insert your name), your sins are forgiven. Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home” to spread the Good News of your salvation and to be a source of saving graces for others by your work, your faith, your love and your merciful forgiveness of others and yourself on a daily basis."

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Our Journey of Faith

In today’s first reading, Acts 12: 1-11, King Herod, after killing James, the brother of John, imprisons Peter, as he believed that he was pleasing the people by murdering James.  He intended, most likely, to put Peter to death also.  God sends angels to free Peter from prison.   In the second reading, 2 Timothy 4: 6-8, 17-18, Paul realizes that his earthly existence is coming to an end and gives testimony that he has “competed well,” has “kept the faith,” and “finished the race.”  A “crown of righteousness,” he states to Timothy, “awaits me, which the Lord the just judge, will award to me on that day….”

You and I are on the same journey as Peter and Paul, whose feast day we celebrate today. God does not promise us that the journey will be easy. Like Peter and Paul we will, at times,  encounter  those who misunderstand us, judge us wrongly and, yes, even mistreat us, and  imprison us in  “cells” of judgment, and disfavor, accusing us of  being unfaithful servants of our God and not measuring up to their expectations.

Peter and Paul kept their eyes on the Lord and on the finish line: their living according to God’s will and their  birth into eternal life through death and resurrection. It was the Lord whom they were serving, not humankind, though fellow men and women on this same journey were part of their loving, caring, nurturing presence and service.

On whom or on what are  we focused: the wrongs done to us, the persons who judge us harshly or the living of the Gospel message and developing a loving relationship with Jesus?  What attitudes or behaviors do we need to let go of that obstruct our understanding of and giving expression to  the Gospel message in our lives as a mother/father, husband/wife, member of a religious community, a member of a parish, at the place of our employment? What attitudes in us interfere with developing an ever deepening relationship with Jesus?

Remember also, that God, as He did for Peter,  sends"angels" to help us and free us from "the prison" into which  we believe others have "thrown" us by their suspicions, judgments and unfavorable attitudes towards us.  If we take other people's impressions of us as true, we are in trouble, as we would be if, like Herod, we try to please others.  Stay focused on Jesus and Jesus alone and you will live a free life!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Favored by the Lord

In  today’s first reading, Amos 3: 1-8; 4: 11-12, the Lord says to us through the prophet:
“You alone (the Chosen People of Israel) have I favored, more than all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your crimes…..I brought upon you (allowed) such upheaval when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah: you were like a brand plucked from the fire (not all of Israel was destroyed in the burning lava); yet you returned not to me, says the Lord. …[P]repare to meet your God, O Israel.”
Those words sound so harsh! A merciful, loving God, we ask! 
Let us personalize the passage.  Hear God saying:  “You…,” [Dorothy-- put your name here], have I favored…; therefore I will punish [chastise] you for all your crimes [sins/transgressions].”  Is God a punishing God? I don’t think so. I believe that God is my parent who loves me. Any good, responsible, loving parent, I believe, will chastise his/her child, let that child know when he/she is doing wrong and place consequences on poor behavior. Why? Because any parent who loves his/her children wants them  to grow up strong and trustworthy, adherents of good, at peace with themselves  as the result of making good decisions, satisfying themselves by doing good in the world around them, making the world they live in a better place pleasing to their Creator God, to others and to themselves. 
Do I realize that when I make poor choices that consequences follow accordingly, as when I make good choices. That is true for individuals, for society, for governments, municipalities, civic and ecclesial authorities and so on; in short for all humankind!  Am I learning from the evil that I experience when I follow evil spirits? Am I grateful for the good I experience when I make wise choices in accord with the good that exists within me?

We are here to carry on the work of the Lord—contributing to God’s Kingdom here on earth as modeled for us by Jesus in the Gospels. How faithful am I to the purpose for which God put me here on earth?

Monday, June 27, 2016

God's Message through Amos

Today’s first reading, Amos 2: 6-10, 13-16, speaks of how offensive it is to God that we worship idols and forget the commandments of love, justice and mercy; how offensive to God that we renege on the commitments we made to God through the sacraments of baptism, First Communion, First Confession, marriage, ordination or first profession of vows as religious.    You “sell the just…for silver, and the poor…for a pair of sandals.  [You] trample the heads of the weak into the dust of the earth (through physical  death or abusive behaviors in word (gossip) and deed)  and force the lowly out of the way. Son and father go to the same prostitute, profaning my holy name….”

That reading applies as much today as in the day of Amos. Children and women are sold for sex, for body parts, for slave labor in sweat shops; babies are slaughtered in the womb—their aborted fetuses “trampled” upon, so to speak.  Those labeled “lowly,”—minorities, handicapped, chronically ill, the elderly, immigrants, the homeless, the mentally ill--are pushed “out of the way,” some are  put in nursing homes and forgotten by many. Members of the LBGT community are gunned down. 
 Some ‘fathers and sons” continue the same promiscuous behaviors before or after marriage.  In today’s responsorial psalm, God says to us: “When you do these things, shall I be deaf to it. Or do you think that I am like yourself? I will correct you… Consider this, you who forget God.”

“Beware,” God says through the prophet Amos, “I will crush you into the ground as a wagon crushes when laden with sheaves.  Flight shall parish from the swift, and the strong [person] shall not retain his strength; the warrior shall not save his life, nor the bowman stand his ground. The swift of foot shall not escape, nor the horseman save his life. And the most stouthearted of warriors shall flee naked on that day, says the Lord.”

All of what happens in our day is a message from God, as in the day of Amos. Will Jesus say to you as he said to the disciples:  “You know how to read the face of the sky, but you cannot read the signs of the times”  (Mt. 16:3)?

What is God saying to you through the suffering and pain in your life or through the joys and satisfactions of your life? Both contains a message from the God who saves you

Friday, June 10, 2016

Calmness and Solitude: Prerequisites to Hearing God

In today’s first reading, 1 Kings 19: 9a, 11-16, Elijah is fleeing for his life!  God finds  him hiding in a cave at Mt. Horeb and tells him to come out of the cave and “stand on the mountain before the Lord,” as God “will be passing by.”

Elijah comes out of the cave, as God asks of him and waits for the Lord to pass by.  Hurricane or tornado-like  winds pass by, “rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord.”  The earth quakes,  shaking it to its very foundations. A fire erupts. God is in none of those terrifying disasters.  Following these scary events, everything becomes calm.  In the quiet,  Elijah hears a “tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.

Note, that it is when the storm subsided, that Elijah hears God’s voice. God wants to know why Elijah is in hiding and from what is he fleeing.  Elijah answers the  Lord: “I have been most zealous for [you] Lord, the God of hosts. But the children of Israel have forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to the sword. I alone am left, and they seek to take my life.”  God responds to Elijah: “Go, take the road back to the desert near Damascus.” He then gives him instructions of what to do for the people of Israel, against whom he had complained. And from whom he is fleeing for his life.

Like Elijah, we, too, have got to come out of hiding and  face that from which we  are fleeing. We need to come before the Lord with our fears. We need to be honest with the Lord in prayer!    And, yes, we need to become quiet in order to hear the gentle, loving, caring voice of the Lord. The Lord cares about what is happening in our lives, as he did for his prophet Elijah,  and will  help us move on in accord with God’s holy will.  As in the case of Elijah, God’s will is not that we be destroyed by the disasters around us or within us.  Neither does God want us to withdraw from life.  “Go, take the road back to the desert,” God says to us, as He did to Elijah.  In the desert, unlike our expectations, we will, with God’s help, find or create new life, discover  or create new opportunities. Why? Because, it is when we are powerless that we are strong in the Lord . It is when we are at our lowest that  we realize our dependence upon the Lord and that, apart from God, we can do nothing (compare Jn 15:5)!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Faith at Work!

Today’s first reading, 1 Kings 18: 20-39, presents the story of the challenge Elijah puts to the 450 prophets of Baal. He says to them: “I am the only surviving prophet of the Lord, and there are four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. Give us two young bulls. Let them choose one, cut it into pieces, and place it on the wood, but start no fire. I shall prepare the other and place it on the wood, but shall start no fire. You shall call on your gods, and I will call on the Lord,” the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel. Nothing happens with for hours while the 450 prophets call upon Baal. But when Elijah calls upon God, fire comes down from heaven within a brief moment and consumes his sacrifice.  “Seeing this, all the people fell prostrate and said, ‘The Lord is God! The Lord is God!”

Elijah lived his faith in the one true God.  He was the witness whom Isaiah speaks about in Is 44: 8:
You are my witnesses. Is there any God except me?” Elijah knew the answer to that question. He lived it! In verse 6 of Is 44, Isaiah says:  “Thus says Yahweh, Israel’s king, Yahweh Sabaoth, his redeemer: I am the first and I am the last; there is no God except me.”

In what ways do you and I witness to the one true God, the One to whom, at every Eucharistic celebration, we offer the sacrifice of praise in memory of the Lord’s expiation for our sins on Calvary?  “You yourselves are my witnesses, declares Yahweh, and the servant [Jesus] whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that it is I. No god was formed before me, nor will be after me. I, I am Yahweh, and there is no other Savior but me…” (Is. 43: 10).

Thank you, Lord, for our faith and hope in You!  May such grow to the depth, the breadth, the height and width of Elijah’s faith!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Do what? You Gotta Be Kidding!

In today’s first reading, 1 Kings 17: 7-16, we learn that the place where Elijah was hiding dried up.   Elijah is directed to move on to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. "...a widow...[will] provide for you."   Elijah had the choice of following those directions or of  ignoring them.  “Oh, I will manage right here,” he might have argued.  “I will be fine,” might have been another way of resisting the voice within him telling him that it was time to move on. Furthermore, Elijah might have bulked on depending on a poor widow!

The Lord is always giving us directions throughout the day. These directions may seem so mundane
that we simply ignore them and choose otherwise only  to regret that we did not listen to the
suggestions rising within us. Or, what we are hearing may sound outright ludicrous. Our response: "No way; I will do it my way!" Or we might argue: “What will others think?” Or, “let me check this out with so-and-so first,” not trusting ourselves as having the wisdom from within the core of our being, where the Spirit resides, to be making a right choice.  This is not to say that consultation is not important, but how often do we not live to please others and not ourselves and not our God!

No one was around but Elijah, you say. He had to trust God. “No, he didn’t,” is my response. He had a choice, because God will not coerce us to follow the Spirit within us. He gave us a free will and will
always allow us that freedom.  God does not force us to follow His directions or to be His servant or handmaiden. He gives directions freely all of the time;  and, yes, all of the time, he respects our free will to say “yes” or to say “no.”

What will my choice/your choice be? 

Monday, June 6, 2016

A Non-slumbering God is the Lord

 In the first reading of today’s liturgy,  1 Kings 17: 1-6, Elijah tells Ahab that as long as he was serving the people, “there shall be no dew or rain except at my word.”  Imagine the uproar once the people heard Elijah’s proclamation. And what might have been their reaction at hearing that Elijah was  nowhere to be found.  The author of 1 Kings tells us that the Lord commanded Elijah to leave and “go east and hide in the Wadi Cherith, east of the Jordan.” There, God tells him, “[y]ou shall drink of the stream, and I have commanded ravens to feed you there.”  Elijah follows God’s command. As he settled by the Wadi Cherith, ravens “brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening and he drank from the stream.”

How can this be, I ask myself!  I may rant and rave:  “How unfair to the people he was serving!  And God protects him! What about the people whose land is being ravaged by drought?” 

Life is unfair, so it seems! Like Ahab and his people, we sometimes face drought (or flooding or fire) that destroys the land's ability to produce or, we ourselves are in an accident that deprives us of our ability to provide for ourselves or our families. At other times, like Elijah, we, too, have to relocate to protect ourselves and our families.  Sometimes, we do not know from where our next meal will come, yet it does. Someone reaches out to help us when we least expect it.  Sometimes, we are the ones helping others who have encountered tragedy.  When disaster strikes out of nowhere, it seems, God provides, as He did for Elijah.   As today's responsorial psalm says, the “guardian of Israel” neither slumbers or sleeps” (Ps. 121).

Lord, may I look upon life through the eyes of faith, knowing that you are beside me at my right hand (see Ps. 121). And may I remember this truth especially in "bad" times.  And, as important, may I remember that you have no hands or feet but mine. At times I am the "raven" you command to "feed" the hungry!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Mary: A Model of Faithfulness

“Blessed is the Virgin Mary who kept the word of God and pondered it in her heart,” is the Gospel acclamation for today’s liturgy.  The grace to ponder God’s word day in and day out  and adhere to it comes to us through Mary, a model of faithful obedience to God's Word and God's Word alone. Once Paul encountered Christ, the Word of God, on the road to Damascus, his life was changed forever.  From prison, he writes to Timothy: “…the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, Jesus, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.”

Will we be able to say at the end of our lives “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith”?  Paul warns Timothy:  “…the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will be diverted to myths.”  None of us escapes Satan deceitfulness. He has ways to divert our thinking, our longing, and our pursuit of “myths,” to untruths about Jesus and His teachings, to “myths” about the Catholic Church and its teachings as well.

O, how easy to be deceived. We are not unlike Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden:   “God caused to grow every kind of tree, enticing to look at and good to eat, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…..The woman saw that the tree was good to eat and pleasing to the eye and that it was enticing for the wisdom that it could give; so she took some of its fruit and ate it. She also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate it”  (Gen.2: 9 and3:6). 

How many people are seduced into sex before marriage, into aborting their child, into selling children into slave labor, into using drugs? How many people are enticed into achieving wealth dishonestly because these activities, at the moment, are  “enticing for the wisdom that [they promise to] give!  So, too, of entering into gossip or telling lies!

What “tree”  do I perceive as “good to eat and pleasing to the eye and that it…[is] enticing for the wisdom that it could give”?  About what "myths" am I curious and which are "enticing to look at" and which are luring me into tolerating them "for the wisdom that [they promise to] give"?

O God, open my eyes before I fall into accepting and tolerating "myths" that lure me away from You and Your Truth, Your Way, and Your Life.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Jesus: The Good Shepherd with a Heart Full of Love

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a heart that is full of love for all of humanity. Today’s readings, Ez 34: 11-16 and Luke 15: 3-7, speak to us about God as our shepherd.  We are  the sheep of God’s flock.  The Lord claims us as His own.    “I myself,” God tells us through the prophet Ezekiel, “ will look after and tend my sheep.   As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep.  I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark….I will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest, says the Lord God. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy, shepherding them rightly.”

Who am I in Jesus’ flock? Am I injured  or sickened by sin and selfishness, by pride and lust, by arrogance and abuse of power, by rejection and  hatred (my own or that of others)?  Am I in the dark, confused by what I see around me and hear on the news each night? Have I been scattered—put out to pasture in places that do not really give life or do not make me feel secure?  The Lord knows where I am and will rescue me. The Lord sees my wounds and will bind them up with love and mercy and forgiveness. Have I strayed? “The lost,” the Lord says, “I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back…”

“I tell you,…there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance” (Luke 15:7).

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Remember Jesus' Resurrection and its Significance

“Beloved: Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead,” Timothy asks of us in today’s first reading of Ordinary Time, 2 Timothy 2: 8-15.  There is nothing ordinary in Jesus’ resurrection.  Proclaiming the resurrection in Timothy’s time resulted for many in martyrdom. They were imprisoned and put to death for speaking in Jesus’ name and for proclaiming their belief in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, as it contradicted the story that circulated among the Jews at the time, and to this day,  namely that Jesus’  body was stolen from the grave during the night while the guards slept.  In their minds there was on resurrection. There was no Easter morning.

We might have a difficult time comprehending the seriousness of the charge against those thrown into prison, suffering, as was Timothy, “even to the point of chains, like a criminal.”  In his pain, Timothy proclaimed that “the word of God is not chained.” Nothing would deter Timothy from preaching God’s Word.  Salvation came from the Word of God who died upon the cross and rose three days later so that we, too,  would rise from sin and death to new life in Christ Jesus.  No way would Timothy stop proclaiming that truth “for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, together with eternal glory.”   Timothy goes on to remind us that:

                “If we have died [to sin] with him
                we shall also live with him;
                If we persevere [in being faithful to Jesus]
                we shall also reign with him.
                But if we deny him         
                he will deny us.
                {Even if] we are unfaithful
                he remains faithful,
                for he cannot deny himself.”

Jesus, the Word of God, is faithfulness itself.  He cannot not remain faithful to the Father’s will, namely , that you and are saved from sin and death. 

 For this I was chosen and so were you! What a gift! What love! There is no suffering you and I might undergo  in our efforts to live as Jesus lived that is too much to ask of us given Jesus’ faithfulness to the Father’s will.  Jesus will never, never abandon His mission to save us from sin and death.         How about us?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Fulfilling God's Purpose, God's Intention, God's Idea

In today’s first reading, 2 Tim1: 1-3, 6-12, we are challenged to “fan into a flame the gift of God that…[we] possess through the laying on of…[the bishop’s] hands” when we were confirmed.  God, St. Timothy tells us, “did not give us a spirit of timidity but the Spirit of power and love and self-control.” Over and above these gifts, God has saved us and called us to be holy—not because of anything we ourselves had done but for his own purpose and by his own grace.”

Each one of us possesses “the gift of God.” We possess it, that is, it is ours. But it is not ours for our own sake. It is “for God’s own purpose and by his own grace.”  The “gift of God” that has been given us is “the Spirit of power and love and self-control,” which, by the grace of God, we are empowered to fulfill the purpose for which God put us here on earth, placed us in the family that is ours and in that part of the world where a purpose of God is not yet achieved and will not be achieved unless you and I carry it out according to God’s plan and “by the grace” of God because it has been given to us to accomplish!

That is mind-bottling!  I am not here for myself. Never was! And the purpose for which I am here is God’s purpose.   I am God’s idea, so to speak. I am who I am, I am where I am, for God’s reason, God’s intention. God has a g in mind  to achieve and that goal will only be achieved if I co-operate with Go in accomplishing it.   That is true of every day of my life: one day at a time.  May I, through the grace of God, fulfill the purpose for which God has given me this day.  May I accomplish the objective that God needs fulfilled today through me.  If  I do not achieve the objective that is God’s for me today, it will remain unfulfilled. He has given that objective of His to no one else but me.