Friday, July 29, 2016

In Need of God's Help

I am sure that many of you have, from time to time, felt the way the psalmist felt when he wrote the following, or you know someone who easily could feel this way:

“Those outnumber the hairs of my head
who hate me without cause.
Too many for my strength
are they who wrongfully are my enemies.
Must I restore what I did not steal?....
But I pray to you, O Lord,
for the time of your favor, O God!
In your great kindness answer me
with your constant help” (Psalm 69).

I pray for all those who cry out to the Lord as did David in this psalm: those fleeing their country to save their lives and the lives of their children, those working in sex brothels as victims of human trafficking, those in sweat shops and retail industrial factories unable to escape and secure jobs that pay just wages, those who are slaves of severe poverty and maintained as such by unjust economic systems, those who are victims of persons who engage in  character assassinations and who slander others to reach their goal--in short, those being exploited in any way for another's advantage! 

O God, have mercy!  “I pray to you, O Lord, for the time of your favor, O God! In your great kindness answer me with your constant help!”

Thursday, July 28, 2016

God's Way of Communicating

In today’s first reading, Jeremiah 18: 1-6, the Lord says to Jeremiah: “Rise up, be off to the potter’s house; there I will give you my message.  I went down to the potter’s house,” Jeremiah says.  How often do you and I listen to the Lord in the way that Jeremiah did! Or would we retort God, saying: “What? Go down to the potter’s house? What am I to do there? I’m no potter. I am not interested.” And then we go our own way! Not Jeremiah. God could not have been clearer. “Rise up, be off to the potter’s house.”  But wait a minute. Also think of the times when you did rise up and go to check on your child, your spouse, your friend;  and, luckily, you did because he/she was in danger, was ill, distressed and desperately needed help. Or your loved one was about to do something that would have been harmful to him/her.  I think of the woman who went down to the area where people were rioting against the police in Ferguson, MO, and found her son throwing rocks at police. She grabbed him and sent him home, screaming: “This is not what I taught you. “

Jeremiah finds the potter redoing the pottery he/she was trying to create because it had turned out badly. So the potter reshapes the clay until it turns out to be a masterpiece. That is what God does for us over and over and over again. That is what parents and teachers do every day as they work with their children/students to become their best selves, to become the woman/the man they know God wants of those entrusted to their care!  And we accomplish God’s work of art because, in the words of Psalm 67, God shows kindness and blesses us; God makes his face shine on us.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Where One's Joy and the Happiness Lie

In today’s  first reading, Jeremiah 15: 10, 16-21, the prophet cries out to the Lord: “Woe to me…that you gave me birth!”  He is upset that others are cursing him, though he’s done them no wrong.  He then reminds the Lord that “[w]hen I found your words, I devoured them; they became my joy and the happiness of my heart, because I bore your name, O Lord, God of Hosts….Why is my pain continuous, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?....Thus the Lord answered me: If you repent, so that I restore you, in my presence you shall stand; If you bring forth the precious without the vile, you shall be my mouthpiece….I am with you, to deliver you and rescue you, says the Lord. I will free you from the hand of the wicked, and rescue you from the grasp of the violent.”

What a message!  God is always on our side ready to deliver us from evil, ready to protect us from wicked schemes, waiting for us to repent of our wrongdoing rather than complaining about what we judge as the wrongdoing of others.  Am I doing my part? Am I devouring God Word from the Holy Scriptures?  Is my joy and happiness rooted in the fact that I bear God’s name, that I have been created in the image and likeness of God, that I have been baptized into Christ and will rise with Christ as I die to anything that is not of God within my being: attitudes of pride, hopelessness, faithlessness, prejudice, envy, jealousy, hatred, and so on.  If I do these things, I truly, according to today’s Gospel, Matthew 13: 44-46, have found the pearl of great price, as I will then “sell all” that is not of God and clothe myself in grace.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Waiting for Peace

Today’s readings, Jeremiah 14: 17-22 and Matthew 13: 36-43, are awesome! Jeremiah cries out to the Lord, distraught over the destruction he sees in his country: people are being killed, left to rot in the fields. People are starving in the cities.  Wherever he looks he sees the effects of evil.  Sounds like Jeremiah is living in 2016: every day, on the news, we hear of individuals being gunned down,  stabbed, beaten (whether that be physical, verbal, or emotional).  Every day children are abandoned, neglected,  abused, sold into slavery, become victims of the sex industry or drug traffickers. Every day babies are killed in their mother’s womb. On and on and on we see evil, that is, we witness  people ensnared by Satan’s deceptive maneuvers, lured into becoming wealthy by any means or avoiding inconvenience or sacrifices that are part of life here on earth.

Like Jeremiah, we could ask God: “Have you cast Judah (us) off completely? Is Zion (insert the name of your city, country, State) loathsome to you? Why have you struck us a blow that can not [it seems] be healed? We wait for peace, to no avail; for a time of healing, but terror comes instead.  We recognize, O Lord, our wickedness,” or do we?

And God says to us, through Matthew 13:  28-30,   Do not pull out the weeds, those doing evil in the world,  because “when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. Let them both grow til the harvest; and at harvest time, I shall say to the reapers:  ‘First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.’”  In Matthew 13: 41-43, Jesus says to us that at the end of the ages:  “The Son of man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of falling and all who do evil, and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. Then the upright will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.’ Anyone who has ears should listen!”

Are we listening? And, what am I doing to bring about healing: to decrease wickedness, to lessen violence (verbal, physical, emotional, spiritual) in my relationships, to bring about peace in the world, that is, in the family, in my religious community, in the parish, in the municipal or civic community in which I live?

Monday, July 25, 2016

Dying and Rising with Jesus

In today’s first reading, 2 Cor 4: 7-15, Paul reminds us that we carry about in our bodies
the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us…”

The life of Jesus and the death of Jesus are always working within us. Paul gives a vivid descriptions of the situations that challenge us to rise with Christ in grace and holiness.  “We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed….”  Like Jesus, we experience affliction but are not held back from proclaiming our faith in Christ Jesus.  Like Jesus, we are perplexed by unbelievers and critics of our faith but are not “driven to despair.”  Like Jesus, we are “persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed.”  Jesus overcame death and we will, too.  Jesus became sin for us, suffered and died for us so that we, too, will rise with Him. 

Paul says, and we say it with him, “I believed, therefore I spoke,…knowing that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and place us…in his presence.”   Therefore we do not shy away from proclaiming our faith in the Lord Jesus  no matter what “dying” is involved! I will die to fear. I will die to pride. I will die to selfishness. I will die to deceitfulness. I will die to idolatry because the life of Jesus resides within me.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

God's Expectations

In today’s first reading, Jeremiah 7: 1-11, we are asked to not put our “trust in…deceitful words: This is the temple of the Lord! The temple of the Lord! The temple of the Lord!’ Only if you thoroughly reform your ways and your deeds; if each of you deals justly with his/[her] neighbor;  if you no longer  oppress the resident alien, the orphan, and the widow; if you no longer shed innocent blood…, or follow strange gods to your own harm, will I remain with you in this place, in the land I gave our fathers/[mothers] long ago and forever.”

That I raise a bible in the air repeatedly and am able to quote myriad of or write eloquently about Scripture passages does not mean necessarily  that I have reformed my ways or my deeds, that I am dealing justly with my neighbor and no longer oppressing the resident alien, the orphan, and the widow.  Nor does it mean that I am not following strange gods to my own harm and the harm of others!

Honestly, how have I reformed my sinful, selfish, arrogant, pride-filled, deceitful attitudes and behaviors this past week? How have I reached out to my neighbor, to the person I do not like, to whom I do not want to listen, to the person who thinks and believes differently than I do, who does not share my enthusiasm about a significant person in my world or a recent book I read and enjoyed? What am I doing to lessen the oppression of the resident alien, the orphan, the widow?  What strange gods am I worshiping. How surprised I was this past week to discover that I was seeking to be honored, glorified, appreciated—yes, to be the center of other people’s lives? Is that not what is due to our God?

Friday, July 22, 2016

Looking for Jesus

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, the first person to witness to, believe and to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  Very early in the morning,  while it was still dark, Mary went to the tomb, the Gospel, John 20: 1-2, 11-18, tells us. She finds the stone rolled away from the entrance. She enters the tomb looking for Jesus’ body and it is missing. Frantically and in tears, she leaves the tomb and rushes back to the apostles, proclaiming: “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” She rushes back to the burial place. Weeping, she looks into  the tomb and sees “two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been….’Woman, why are you weeping?’ …’They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him’” (John 20: 13). She turns around and sees Jesus looking at her but she does not recognize him until he says her name “Mary.”

Imagine having lost your very, very best friend, your spouse, your son/daughter. He/she dies and you go to the gravesite to put flowers on the grave. The burial place has been dug up and the coffin is gone. Imagine, too, your reaction and that you frantically rush to the parish office to announce your findings.  “The grave of my loved one has been desecrated; the body is gone.” Then you return to the cemetery, peer back into the empty grave and at the bottom of the grave site stand two angels, one where the head of the coffin would have been and one where the foot of the coffin would have been. The angels in unison say to you: “Why are you weeping? Why are you looking for the deceased among the dead.  She/he is risen, living a resurrected life.”   You turn around. Behind you stands your loved one. You do not recognize the person until he/she says your name.  

That is the relationship Mary had with Jesus! She never really lost Him. There He is.  In her excitement and joy, she falls on her knees and clasped His legs, hanging on to Him, not ever wanting to let go! He says to her: Mary, “[s]top holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.  But go to my brothers [and sisters] and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”  (John 20:  17-18).  And we know the rest of the story:” I will return to take you to myself.”

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Those Who Have More, More will be Given

Today’s Gospel, Matthew 13: 10-17, Jesus is asked why he speaks in parables to the crowd. He says it is because “knowledge of mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to [the crowd]  it has not been granted.”  Furthermore, Jesus says, “ to anyone who has, more will be given and [that person] will grow rich; from anyone who has nit, even what [that person] has will be taken away.”

What are we to make of Jesus’ explanation?  The crowd, Jesus says, has not received “knowledge of mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven” but you have.  We might interpret that to mean that  God gives to individuals--calls individuals.  The call is personal, individualized.  We might then ask: “Why, Lord, to the one who has,  more will be given and to the person who has nothing, nothing will be given and even the little this person has, that little will be taken away from him/her. “  Is it possible that when we have nothing or very little—and probably are not doing much to grow in our faith, we lose the little we have and, if our “jug” is empty of faith, it stays empty because we are doing nothing to assist in its growth?  On the other hand, when a person has a lot, is it because that person is working and doing all within his/her power to achieve even deeper knowledge. Thus the more one has the more one receives because of the open disposition of that person’s heart, mind, and will?

“Seek and you shall find; knock and the door will be open to you,” 

Jesus says to us in Matthew 7:7.  Are you seeking by engaging in spiritual reading, in reflecting on the Scriptures, in attending religious services and  receiving the sacraments? Are you knocking at the door of  God’s heart, seeking God in the stillness of your own being, in the stillness of nature, in the stillness of a religious service?  Are  seeking to love and be loved, seeking to forgive and be forgiven? Are you seeking that which is true for you?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Garden of My Heart and its Gardener

Today’s Gospel, Matthew 13: 1-9, relates the parable of the sower.  Jesus says to you and me:

You are like a garden, Dorothy Ann (insert your name).  I plant in your garden every day. What do I plant? Seeds of faith, hope, and love.  Every day I till the soil, opening, softening, watering the soil of your heart.  I pull out weeds, remove rocks, and nurture seedlings. I put a “fence” around your garden to keep out evil. 

Yes, I am the gardener of your heart, Dorothy Ann (insert your name), and the hearts of all.  As I tend to your garden, I tend other gardens as well. I break up hardened, rock-like soil in each garden, including yours.  Thistles and thorns I remove.  The nutrients that each soil needs—and that varies with each person—I possess.  Come to me and I will provide what you need. I  also will teach you how to interact with other“gardens” so fruit abounds.  Do not concern yourself when seeds of love, goodness, and forgiveness which you sow do not yield a rich or even noticeable harvest.  I am the One who gives the growth. I am the One who loosens the soil, waters it and cultivates it in cooperation with each individual. Sow the seeds I give you to sow and leave the results to me.

Thank you, Lord!  Open my eyes to see you at work in my garden and in the garden of others. Help me cooperate with You, as you till my garden. May I plant the seeds you give me to plant and let go of the outcome, trusting and realizing that You are the One who grows the garden!  Give me the wisdom to come to You for the nutrients I need to bear fruit that will last! I ask this in Jesus' name.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

God's Compassion and Mercy

In today’s first reading, Micah 7: 14-15, 18-20, the prophet Micah prays to God as follows: 
Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance.…, as in the days when you came from the land of Egypt, show us wonderful signs. Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance; who does not persist in anger forever, but delights rather in clemency, and will again have compassion on us, treading underfoot our guilt? You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins; You will show faithfulness to Jacob,[Leah and Rachel], and grace to Abraham[and Sarah], as you have sworn to our fathers/[mothers] from days of old.

That message is given to us today as well as to the people of old.  We are “the flock” of God’s “inheritance.”  The land of Egypt symbolizes the places and times when we, like the Israelites, were/are victims of, or perpetrators of, sin:   selfishness, abuse of power and control, the sins of oppression and injustice, the exploitation of the poor and oppressed, persons engaging in deceitful behaviors and so on.  In today’s world slavery abounds, as it did in Egypt when God rescued His people. Today’s slavery includes  slave labor, making children and women slaves of the sex industry, of  drug trafficking, of those abusing their power, and so on.

Micah reminds us that when we lower ourselves to evil schemes and sin against others and against ourselves,  God “will again have compassion on us, treading underfoot our guilt.”  God does not condone our sinful behaviors but He does pardon us, has compassion on us, and, yes, “cast into the depths of the sea all of sins.”  This does not mean that we will not suffer the consequences of our sinful, selfish actions whereby the rights of others are trampled upon.  It does mean that, when we turn to God in repentance, God is merciful and forgiving!

With the psalmist in today’s responsorial psalm, Psalm 85,  we pray: “Restore us, O God our savior, and abandon your displeasure against us….Show us, O Lord, your kindness, and grant us your salvation.”

Monday, July 18, 2016

Being Shown Salvation

In today’s first reading,  Micah 6: 1-4, 6-8, the prophet reminds us what God is asking of us”  “You have been told, O man/[O woman], what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

 We have examples of men and women  throughout the Old and New Testament, in our neighborhoods and parishes, in our families and schools, in our communities,  of people walking humbly with our God, doing what is right, and loving goodness within themselves and others.  Day in and day out, someone reaches out to the needy, clothes the naked, feeds the hungry. Every day a mother and a father do these things in their own family. Many mothers and fathers reach out to other children in need. Many dedicated men and women reach out to the sick, the addicted, the elderly to provide health care. Policemen and women throughout the world risk their lives every day protecting ours. Community workers provide garbage collection, fix our broken sewage systems and our potholed-ridden roads in beastly heat,   repair our battered homes, deliver mail in both pleasant and unpleasant weather, stock our grocery shelves or fix meals in our restaurants and fast-food places for workers “on the run”.  The majority of these people are not seeking praise but humbly doing what they believe God is asking of them, namely to love doing what is right and just, what is the good thing to do in this world.

Let us be grateful and loving in turn, doing good to those who do good to us and being humble in helping those who do not!  “Those who offer praise, [in these ways,] as a sacrifice glorify me; and to those who go the right way, [as persons mentioned above,]  I will show the salvation of God,” says the author of Psalm 50. May you be shown the salvation of God in your life and in the lives of those you serve humbly, justly and kindly.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Childlikeness and Teachability

In today’s Gospel, Matthew 11: 25-27, Jesus gives praise to His Father for revealing the mysteries of the Kingdom--things hidden from the wise-- to those who are childlike.  Things divine are being revealed to those who are teachable, open to learning, eager to listen, whose hearts are filled with wonder and awe as they discover new things about creation, about others, about the universe and all that is in it.  Am I teachable? Or am I a know-it-all?  Am I open to learning or am I the person who does not believe she has more to learn from anyone or anything?  Am I eager to listen or is my hearing blocked because of my prejudices, my arrogant attitudes, my fears, my busyness about “more important” things upon which my eyes are riveted? Do I let go of my agenda long enough to be open to the new, the unexplored, the risky, the uninviting aspects of a given day?  Am I willing, for instance, to hang out with children and teens to learn from them, to listen to them, to get to know them? Am I willing to spend time with the lonely, the elderly, the forgotten, those imprisoned in mental illness, in an addiction, in a chronic, debilitating, terminal disease, to those who feel hopeless and unloved to discover  the mysteries of Kingdom within these populations?

“You have hidden these things from the wise…and revealed them to the childlike” (Matthew 11:25).  Am I one of those childlike persons? If not, what do I need to change within myself to become childlike?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Firmness and the Power of Faith in God

In today's first reading, Isaiah 7:1-9, Ahaz, king of Judah is terrified of Assyria, a threat to all of the Middle East in his time. The Lord God aware of the King's terror, instructs Isaiah to go out and meet Ahaz and say to him:  "Take care you remain tranquil and do not fear; let not your courage fail before these two stumps of smoldering brands the blazing anger of Rezin and the Arameans, and of the son of Remaliah, because of ...the plots against you, saying, 'Let us go up and tear Judah asunder, make it our own by force...."  However, rather than relying on the invisible God whose presence cannot be seen with the naked eye, King Ahaz relies on the power of the Assyrian army and joins them.  The Lord God says to King Ahaz through the prophet Isaiah:  "Unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm!"  Faithless, "the heart of the king and the heart of the people trembled [before the threat before them], as the trees of the forest tremble in the wind."

What causes you to tremble as you listen to the news each night, as you see violence erupting in our streets and throughout the world, as you watch the stock markets rise and fall, as you listen to our politicians? What is threatening to you? How firm are you?   In what do you have faith? External forces: the military? a person who promises to "save" you, to empower you? a position that promises you security? some earthly, material-bound, consumer-purchased entity?  Any of these can give you a sense of security and are not bad in and of themselves.  It is our total reliance upon them as though they truly have the power to save us.  When we give any of these sources God-like powers and "worship" them in place of the Eternal One, we are in trouble, as was King Ahaz.

May you, through prayer and worship,through love and justice, through forgiveness and repentance, through a life of integrity and honesty, through self-sacrifice for the common good,  anchor your faith in the invisible God: the God of Isaac and Rebecca; Jacob, Leah and Rachel; Abraham and Sarah, Mary and Joseph; the God revealed to us by Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High God. "Unless your faith is firm," God says to us through the prophet Isaiah, "you shall not be firm! (Is 7:9).

Monday, July 11, 2016

An Invitation Worth Noting

Today’s first reading, Isaiah 1: 10-17, opens with the following invitation:

Hear the word of the Lord,  princes of Sodom (insert your city, country)!
Listen to the instruction of our God,
People of Gomorrah (insert your city, country)!
What care I for the number of your sacrifices?
says the Lord.
I have had enough of whole-burnt rams
And fat of fatlings;
In the blood of calves, lambs and goats
I find no pleasure.

 May we realize that the prophet Isaiah is addressing us, the people of the U.S. and other nations.
Has God not had enough of the blood of persons killed in war, in our streets, cities and homes and in the wombs of parents murdering their unborn children? Has God not had enough of the “blood” spilled by slanderous accusations and untruths of all kinds proclaimed in order to get ahead of another person and secure power and control  by whatever means?  “I find no pleasure” in your sacrifices or in the “fat” of your wealth and power used to exploit the poor and helpless.   “Trample my courts [others] no more,” God says to us through the prophet Isaiah (Is 1: 12).  “Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow” (Is. 1: 16-17).

 God continues to say to us through the prophet Isaiah (Is 1: 18-20): “’ Come, let us talk this over,’ says Yahweh. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.  If you are willing to obey, you shall eat the good things of the earth. But if you refuse and rebel, the sword shall eat you instead—for Yahweh’s mouth has spoken.’”

Are we listening?

Friday, July 8, 2016

Earthly or Material Strongholds Will Not Save Us

In today’s first reading, Hosea 14: 2-10, the prophets prays that God will “forgive all iniquity, and receive what is good, that we may render as offerings the bullocks from our stalls [whatever we offer in sacrifice and praise to our God].   Assyria,” Hosea reminds his fellow Israelites, “will not save us, nor shall we have horses to mount; we shall say no more, ‘Our god,’ to the work of our hands; for in you [in God] the orphan finds compassion.”  The people are then reminded that God “will heal their defection,… [and that God] will love them freely.”

Hosea says the same to us today.  We are in need of being forgiven our iniquities—whatever they may be—and receive what is good for us as individuals, as a society, as a family,  as a church.  For what good do we long?  Is it something that will bring the best out of ourselves and out of others?  Is it a good that builds up the Kingdom of God—a kingdom of justice and truth, a kingdom of righteousness and joy? Is it a good that makes us stronger in God’s love, in loving ourselves as children of God and thus loving others? Is it a good that leads us to be respectful of ourselves and our neighbor? Or is it a false good, an inauthentic good, namely that which promotes disharmony and hatred, that pits us against them, that feeds attitudes of superiority and inferiority, that alienates us from others and from our God?

Do we realize that “Assyria” will not save us, that we do not have horses to mount but that we need to come off our “high horses” and mingle with the poor and the lowly, the needy and the orphans of our land, realizing that we are not different from other human beings in need of salvation and mercy, love and forgiveness?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

"Break Up for Yourself a New Field" (Hosea 10:12)

In today’s first reading, Hosea 10: 1-3, 7-8, 12, Hosea says to us:  “Sow for yourselves justice, reap the fruit of piety; break up for yourself a new field.”   Every spring farmers plow the fields, breaking up the hard soil, softening it with fertilizer, removing rocks; in short preparing the soil for planting and providing a rich harvest.

The prophet Hosea is challenging us to be spiritual gardeners, asking that we  soften our hearts, break up the hardness of our hearts, prepare our hearts to receive the seeds of the Word of God and bear abundant fruit that will last into eternity.  What hardens the soil of our hearts: attitudes or behaviors governed by selfishness or egoism, pride or arrogance, fear or worry, deceit or cheating,  gluttony or greediness, hatred or loathing, prejudice or injustice. We also toughen our hearts by staying away from the sacraments and by frantic activity that pushes God out of our minds and hearts.  Obviously our hearts are softened and made ready to bear everlasting fruits by the very opposite kinds of behaviors and attitudes: altruism or self-sacrifice for the sake of others or for the sake of the common good,  humility or modesty, courage or valor, temperance or self-control, justice or integrity, truthfulness or faithfulness, love or compassionate tenderness, openness or sincerity, forgiveness of self and others,  reception of the sacraments, and spending quiet time with the Lord: reflecting on the Scriptures, doing spiritual reading, and spending time in quiet prayer.

Am I softening or hardening my heart?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Jesus' Heart Was Moved to Pity

In today's Gospel, Matthew 9: 32-38, Jesus drives a demon out of a mute man. He also goes around to "all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned."

Jesus does the same today in our world. He drives out demons when you and I are mute and unable to speak the truth or engage in the lives of others in meaningful and caring, loving ways, in ways that lead to reconciliation and forgiveness, in acceptance and understanding, not in judgment and criticism . When Jesus looks upon you and me, "his heart" is also  "moved with pity. Jesus knows when you and I  are troubled, upset and ready to take things into our own hands without relying upon Him for the wisdom and the help we need to do what is right or to seek the good and do good for ourselves and thus for others.

Am I willing to bring my troubles to the Lord? Am I willing to seek the Lord above all when I feel abandoned, misunderstood and judged or misjudged?  Or, when I slip into behaviors and attitudes that leave others feeling troubled and abandoned, do I go to the Lord and to the person I am offending, asking for enlightenment and forgiveness? Do I realize that when Jesus looks upon me that his heart is moved with pity and wants to right the wrongs within me and lead me to the truth that will make me free and empower me to free others from the kind of judging that the Pharisees in today's Gospel engaged in?

Monday, July 4, 2016

Independence Day: Its Spiritual Dimension

IN You, O Lord, is our independence from the evils of the world in which we live, where Satan prowls seeking the ruin of souls.
No other way are we safe from Satan’s deceitfulness but in the Lord Jesus.
Deliver us, O Lord Jesus, from compulsively pursuing ideologies that replace our freedom and the freedom of all peoples.
Examine our minds and our hearts, Lord, and cleanse them of that which enslaves us to non-loving, non-caring, non-compassionate thoughts and behaviors.
Please, Lord, show us the way that leads to true freedom.
Expurgate/cleanse our hearts of hatred and prejudices; give us clean hearts, O Lord.
Never let us depart from You, O God, in pursuit of worldly pleasures as a God-substitute.
Deliver the world, Lord, from the evils of human trafficking, slave labor, drug trafficking, abortion and all kinds of criminal behaviors.
Enlighten our minds, O Lord, to know Your ways of love and mercy and compassion toward all and, first of all, towards ourselves.
Never allow us, O Lord, to boast of our accomplishments, as any good we do is done by You at work within our being.
Cancelling the debt we owed You, O God, because of our disobedience to You, we are now free to serve You in love and service to our neighbor, addressing wrongdoing and making right injustices that enslave the world in which we live.
Expand our hearts to embrace the poor and needy of this world: immigrants  and anyone fleeing persecution, abuse (physical, emotional sexual), and death (including death of the spirit by verbal and emotional abuse).

Day in and day out, Lord, the poor and needy cry out to You for deliverance; may we be your hands and feet and heart that offers them deliverance from extreme poverty that deprives them of their basic human rights.
Always precious in Your sight, O Lord, are your sons and and daughters; You wait for each of us to turn to You as our Savior and God.
Yearning for You like a deer yearns for running water, we, your sons and daughters await the day of salvation gained for us by Your death and resurrection: our true independence!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Jesus' Association with, and Transformation of, Sinners

In  today’s Gospel, Matthew 9: 9-13, Jesus calls Matthew to become an apostle. Matthew is despised by his people. He is a tax collector, working for the Roman government, the occupiers of Israel. He not only is on the side of Israel’s oppressor, he is also overcharging the people the taxes owed to the government and lining his own pockets with extra cash.  In the words of the first reading, Amos 8: 4-6, 9-12, he is cheating.

How can Jesus, the Pharisees wonder, choose such a man and even sit down with him at table, feasting.   Why, they ask, is He associating with sinners?  Jesus knows what the Pharisees are thinking and responds:  “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice.  I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

We, too, have Pharisaical thoughts and are baffled by the choices Jesus makes.  “She, a nun, we ask. He,  a priest!  How come so and so was chosen for that position.  Why do you want to marry him/her?  Of all people!  And on and on goes our list of objections to choices being made that we do not understand or accept.

Let u, also, imagine ourselves being a Matthew. God sees us at work in ways that are in opposition to who we really are and what He really wants of us. In fact, God sees us cheating here and there. He also reads our hearts. He knows of what we are capable. He wants us working for the Kingdom, His Kingdom here on earth and to be a part of His Kingdom in eternity. And, to the amazement of those who know us, chooses us to walk closely with Him, to sit at table with Him (the Eucharistic banquet here on earth and later in heaven), to be ones who recognize Him, follow Him, and proclaim His death and resurrection. He calls us, not because we are righteous,  but because we are sinners in need of a Physician like no other. 

Wow! Thank you, Jesus, for recognizing my need of You. Thank you, Jesus, for calling me to walk closely with you, to sit down at the Eucharistic table with You, to get to know You intimately and to serve You faithfully in building up the Kingdom with You and through You and for You. Give me the grace each day, Lord, to sit at Your feet, reflecting on the Scriptures, the Living Word of God, and being transformed by this Word that never returns to You without doing the work for which You sent it.