Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Spiritual realities Different from Natural Realities

In today’s first reading, 1 Cor 2: 10b-16, St. Paul reminds us of the Spirit’s presence and role in our lives.  It is the spirit within each of us who knows  what pertains to me and you and “[n]o one knows what pertains to God except the Spirit of God.”  The spirit that each of us has received is of God, not of the world.  Given that gift from God,  we have the ability to know what God gives us and what is not of or from God.  We have been given the gift to discern good spirits and evil spirits.   Through the spirit within us, we speak of spiritual things spiritually, that is, we use “spiritual terms”.  It is a wisdom of the spirit, not of the world, that inspires us when we speak of heavenly realities, of things of God.

When we speak of spiritual realities, we meet opposition from “the natural man [woman], as the natural and the supernatural oppose one another. Things of the Spirit are not accepted by “the natural man [woman]”.  To such persons, spiritual realities are perceived as foolishness, St. Paul reminds us. There is no way that the natural man/woman can understand the things of God because they are thinking from natural minds; they are judging naturally, not spiritually.  A person who has been given “the mind of Christ” through baptism, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon him/her, knows the mind of the Lord, thinks with the minds of the Lord, responds as God responds to the things, experiences, situations of this world. And people of the world, using natural abilities only, have no idea out of which lens a woman/man of the spirit  (of God)  is looking, perceiving or understanding reality.

For instance, when you and I profess our faith in God, our Creator--His presence in all of life, His power at work transforming our world and our lives one by one; when you and I profess our faith in Christ Jesus and His death and resurrection; when you and I profess our faith in God the Holy Spirit,  in the Eucharist, in the Scriptures as the Living Word of God, and in other spiritual realities, persons who think and function from the perspective of human wisdom, who think only naturally, scoff at us. “How foolish can you get?” “There is no God!”  “Jesus coming to you in a piece of bread or a cup of wine which you say has been changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus in the process of Transubstantiation at your Liturgies, is utter foolishness. You are committing idolatry in your worship services, the natural man/woman proclaims! You are utterly wrong when you believe that God reveals Himself in nature, in other human beings, in life and in death itself: how crazy are you?

I stand by my faith! How about you?

Saturday, August 27, 2016

God's Inheritance

In today’s first reading, 1 Cor. 1: 25-31, St. Paul reminds us that we “are in Christ Jesus” and that Jesus, through a gift from God the Father, became for us “wisdom,…righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.”  Those of us chosen, called to become Jesus’ disciples, to live “in Christ Jesus,”  St. Paul reminds us, were not “powerful.” We were not “of noble birth.” No! God “chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those  who are something, so that no human being might boast before God. [In fact, it] is due to [God] that you [and I] are in Christ Jesus.”

How difficult it may be to absorb the truth that before being  and living “in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from  God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,” you and I were  weak, foolish,   lowly and the despised of the world, counting for nothing and that there is nothing you and I can boast about, nothing!   Then turn this around and realize that Christ Jesus is your strength and mine, your wisdom and mine, your righteousness and mine, your sanctification and mine, your redemption and mine.   Furthermore, the author of Psalm 33, today’s responsorial psalm , tells us that God has “chosen [us] for his own inheritance.” God’s inheritance! What? You and I are “God’s inheritance”?  WOW!

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Cross of Christ: Its Meaning, Power and Wisdom

In today’s first reading, 1 Cor 1¨17-25, Paul reminds us that God has sent him, not “to baptize but to preach the Gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning. The message of the cross,” Paul observes, ”is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the learning of the learned I will set aside….’  [T]he world did not come to know God through wisdom, it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith. For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those are who called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

The pain, suffering and grief that people throughout the world are suffering—fires, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, wars, chronic and terminal illnesses, divorces and the deteriorization of family life, the loss of morals and justice toward the poor and oppressed and minorities in every nation, the prominence of evil in drug trafficking, human trafficking, slave labor and the violence in our streets—reveals the “cross of Christ,” through which salvation has come into the world on that first Good Friday and every “good Friday” since that day 2000+ years ago.  To the unbeliever, this is considered foolishness and does not, in their minds, reveal “the power of God and the wisdom of God.”  “Don’t tell me God exists,” is what we hear from a lot of angry people. “Look at the evil in the world,” they say and then ask “Where is God?”

To the haughty and proud of heart, the cross is scoffed at as much today as it was by  persons who stood  beneath the cross on that first Good Friday where angry people were taunting the  dying Jesus, saying:  “’He saved others, he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross now, for us to see it and believe.’ Even those who were crucified with him taunted him” (Mark 15: 30-32).

When you and I face the effects of sin and evil in this world and the suffering it causes, are we among those who speak disdainfully of God and the crucified Lord?  Or do we hold firm to our faith in Christ Jesus even in the most devastating of circumstances in our lives, as did the good thief on the cross when, in his pain and dying, he turned to the Son of God and said: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23: 41).

Thursday, August 25, 2016

God's Generosity and Awesome Promises

Today’s first reading, 1 Cor 1: 1-9, explodes with awesome reminders of who we are in Christ Jesus and the abundant generosity of our God.  Like St. Paul, each of us is called “by the will of God”  to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. By baptism each of us has “been sanctified”—made holy—“in Christ Jesus” and are “called to be holy”. As a disciple, as for an apostle like Paul, our call includes proclaiming--by the way we live our lives-- the Good News” of who Jesus is and of God’s abundant generosity to us in Christ Jesus (spelled out in the Gospels, in the writings of St. Paul, St. Peter, St. Timothy, St. John, in the Acts of the Apostles and in the book of Revelation that describes our Catholic Liturgy or Mass (See The Lamb’s Supper by Scott Hahn).  May God give you the wisdom to ponder these realities, to read The Lamb’s Supper (available through Amazon or Barnes and Noble), to sit in solitude reflecting on 1 Cor. 1:1-9.

St. Paul prays for us, asking that we be given grace , that is a dignity, a beauty, blessings, mercy, kindness, loveliness, an elegance  from God our Father and from Jesus Christ—gifts only God can give.  These gifts,   in their authenticity, their depth, and their breadth, do not come from the world.  St. Paul also prays that we are given peace, that is, a calmness, a serenity, a harmony, a freedom and reconciliation from God our Father and from Jesus--gifts, again, that the world cannot give. May you take time to ponder these truths!

Furthermore, St. Paul reminds us that, in Christ Jesus, we are “enriched in every way…not lacking in any spiritual  gift” as we “wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” God, St. Paul tells us, “will keep…[us] firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”   What promises. God does not lie! An d God is faithful to His promises!

Do you believe? Are your hopes anchored in these promises or are you looking elsewhere for these gifts, that is, in sources not capable of yielding these results?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Mary, our Queen-Mother and Intercessor

Today we celebrate the Queenship of Mary.  Mary is our Queen-mother. As such she brings our petitions to our Lord, intercedes for us, and has our best interests in mind as she approaches her son.  It was Mary at the wedding feast of Cana who noticed the distress of the wedding party as the wine ran out. She it was who brought the situation to the Lord and said to Him: Jesus, they have no wine. Though Jesus responded that His time has not yet come to reveal who He was by working a miracle on behalf of the distressed wedding party, Mary did not walk away by saying to the concerned persons: I’m sorry; there is nothing I can do.  Mary knew her Son and says to the attendants: “Do whatever He tells you.”  

Today, Mary, our Queen-mother, is the same!  She is our Queen-mother and the mother of her Son. She will intercede for us, as she did for the wedding party and the attendants at the wedding. They needed help and Mary knew it. In fact, she saw the need and alerted her Son even before the attendants approached her. So, too, today. She is alert to what is happening in your life and mine and takes her concern to Jesus always! She is not the kind of Queen who simply sits on a throne distant from us and detached from us. No, she is walking among us, paying attention to every detail of our lives and interceding with her Son accordingly. That is what a mother does for her children! Mary is no different than the most attentive and caring of mothers.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Humility versus Showiness

In today’s Gospel, Matthew 23: 1-12, Jesus  tells his disciples to observe all the things the scribes and Pharisees tell you to observe “but do not follow their example.  For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplace and the salutation ‘Rabbi’”.

It is easy for anyone but especially, I think,  for priests and Sisters to fall into that trap. We need to be aware when we are following the behavior of the Pharisees and scribes, when we let authority go to our heads, so to speak. Do we do what we do in order to be recognized? Do we burden other people, expecting them to serve us while we do nothing to lighten the burdens other people bear, burdens the Sisters I live with bear, burdens my wife/husband or my children bear? And, children are you willing to be a servant in your family?  Other questions to ask ourselves:  Do we dress to attract the accolades of others. Are we enamored with “places of honor” that come with the titles we bear?

In this Gospel passage, Jesus defines greatness in terms of service: “The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”  The greatest at a banquet, in Jesus’ description, are not those occupying places of honor but those serving tables and doing dishes in the kitchen!

 Am I seeking to occupy places of distinction or am I content doing the dishes, washing the laundry, cleaning the house, or mowing the lawn? Would Jesus say of me: Observe what she teaches "but do not follow her example"?

Friday, August 19, 2016

God Working in All and through All

In today’s Gospel, Matthew 22:34-40, Jesus is asked which of the commandments is the greatest and Jesus responds:  “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

How many of us truly love ourselves?  How often I find myself being dissatisfied with this and that and the next thing about myself.  I have a tendency to drive myself crazy because of my need for perfection and order. There are times, it seems, when nothing is ever good enough for me. 

I was complaining to the Lord this morning because I did not follow a disciplined approach in organizing my day.  Instead of starting the day with an hour of prayer, I started it by reorganizing the vocation ministry library and looking for a bookshelf to accommodate a significant number of books being brought here from one of our houses. Anxiously, I pondered my options and did not sit down to pray until I felt satisfied with the decision I made to accept an offer from another person to give, not one, but two bookcases from the house she is leaving.

As I spoke to the Lord about my frustration, the following dialogue ensued:

Lord, I get so frustrated with myself when  I do not hold myself to a disciplined schedule, beginning the day with an hour of prayer and ending it with an hour of spiritual reading.

Dorothy Ann, let go of making schedules and disciplined rigidity your idols! And why is that the exploring you did this morning is not ok as the start of your work day?

Because I wanted to begin the work day with prayer.

You did! You prayed the divine office and participated in Holy Mass with your community.

Help me, Jesus, accept my humanness. I admit that I needed to come to a decision about the book-shelf offers that I originally rejected.

At times, you are a ball of nervous energy, Dorothy Ann, driven for perfection and order.

Jesus, I bring that energy to You!

I am always at work in you, Dorothy Ann. Your desire for perfection and order is a gift for you to cherish as is your desire for connection with loved ones and with what is happening in the world you live in and which you reach out to each evening , in part, through browsing Facebook entries and calling a friend. Remember, I am in all and work through all!  Recall what I told Peter:  Do not call anything profane of my creation.  I will speak to you, Dorothy Ann,  through any “vehicle”: disorganized or organized energy, emptiness and boredom or clarity and fullness of life that delights you.  Nothing do I reject or treat with disdain. I ask that you follow my example!  By loving yourself in this way, you will increase your love for your neighbor, the second of the commandments.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

You Shall be My People and I Shall be Your God

In today’s first reading, Ezekiel 36: 230-28, God says to each of us through the prophet Ezekiel:  “I will prove the holiness of my great name… Thus the nations shall know that I am the Lord…when in their sight I prove my holiness through you.  For I will… gather you from all the foreign lands, and bring you back to your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statues, careful to observe my decrees. You shall…be my people, and I will be your God.”

God is at work at this very moment proving His holiness through you/me. He is gathering us from “foreign lands” that do not lead to the holiness of God, that do not reflect God’s purity and goodness, that leads us away from the Truth, the Way and the Life that Jesus is for us.  God, at this very moment, is bringing us back to our own land, that is,  to being who we are in His sight, to being the person God created us to be, men/ women of a nature that is unique, that has the inner strength to make one’s own decisions, decisions that lead to new life, new hope and a deeper faith in the power God  puts within us every morning to be our own persons, not the person someone else wants us to be, a person who seeks God’s approval and the approval of one’s core self that is one with God.  At this very moment God is cleansing us from all of our idols: the idol of self, the idol of needing other people’s approval, the idol of accumulating unnecessary possessions, the idol of selfishness and narcissism, the idol of prideful pursuits, the idol of absolute independence, the idol of sexual pleasures divorced of responsibilities and discipline or any other God-substitute we have chosen as our sole security.

“Let Me be your security,” God says to us. “Place your trust in me, not in things! Believe in Me as your Savior, your God.” 

Our response: Psalm 51!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A Reckoning: Humility or Haughtiness?

In today’s first reading, Ezekiel 28: 1-10, the Lord has harsh words for the prince of Tyre, and for the haughty of heart.  He says to the prince:
Because you are haughty of heart, you say, ‘A god am I! I occupy a godly throne in the heart of the sea/[and in the heart of the world]!’  And yet you are a man, and not a god, however you may think yourself like a god.  Oh, yes, you are wiser than Daniel[or any current leader]; there is no secret that is beyond you. By your wisdom and your intelligence you have made riches for yourself; you have put gold and silver into your treasuries.  By your great wisdom applied to your trading you have heaped up your riches; your heart has grown haughty from your riches—therefore thus says the Lord God: Because you have thought yourself to have the mind of a god, therefore I will bring against you foreigners, the most barbarous of nations. They shall draw their swords against your beauteous wisdom; they shall run them through your splendid apparel. They shall thrust you down to the pit, there to die a bloodied corpse, in the heart of the sea[and in the heart of the earth]. Will you then say, ‘I am a god!’ when you face your murderers?  No, you are a man, not a god, handed over to those who will slay you….”

God voices this same message to those today who are haughty of heart and who, by their actions, are saying: “A god am I” and “I am wiser than anyone else in the world, I am richer than anyone else, have stored up more gold and silver than anyone else.  I can fix anything!  And God says to these haughty persons:  “Because you have thought yourself to have the minds of god, there I will bring against you foreigners, the most barbarous of nations. They shall draw their swords against your beauteous wisdom; they shall run them through your splendid apparel. They shall thrust you down to the pit, there to die a bloodied corpse, in the heart of the sea/[or in the heart of the earth]!”

Are we listening? Or are we saying:  This will not happen to us. We are beyond such destruction. We will build walls to protect us. We will keep barbarians out of our country. We can do it because we are wiser and wealthier than anyone else! Are we, without realizing it, saying : “We are God; there is no other!”

If  we believe that our wealth will save us, we need to  listen to Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel, Matthew 19: 23-30:  “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven.”  Peter then asked the Lord: “Who then can be saved?” And Jesus says: “For  [humans] this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”  God and God alone is our Savior, not our wealth and not our military. Only the Lord God! Is it time to get on our knees and say: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (See Luke 18:13—the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector, one who boasts about his riches and the other who falls on his knees and begs for mercy)?

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Assumption of Mary into Heaven Body and Soul

“Mary was taken up to heaven; a chorus of angels exults” is the Gospel acclamation of today’s feast, the Assumption of Mary into heaven.  “A chorus of angels exults!” Imagine Mary being taken up into heaven, body and soul, not just her soul, as will happen for us on the day we die. Our bodies will await the resurrection from the dead at the end of time when Jesus “hands over the Kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power [ on earth]. For he [Jesus] must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (1 Cor 15: 20-27).

O what a glorious day—Mary, Jesus’ Mother, who gave the Son of God His human nature, is taken up into heaven body and soul. What a celebration that must have been for Jesus, for God the Father and the Holy Spirit, and all of the angels and saints in heaven!   Mary, who was conceived without sin, joins the Trinity in heaven!  You and I will one day join Jesus and Mary in heaven, as well,  because Jesus gave His life on the cross to free us from sin, from all that would separate us from God!  Because of Jesus’ dying on the  cross, wiping out the effects of sin on those who repent  and then  rising from the dead, overcoming and destroying the power of death, you and I, like Mary, will one day enter eternal life. Yes, the angels will exult over us as well.

Let us celebrate our faith!

Friday, August 12, 2016

St. Jane Frances de Chantal: A Woman of Deep Faith

Today is the feast day of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, a close friend to St. Francis de Sales.  Saint Jane Frances lived an heroic life of virtue as a married woman, a mother and a foundress of a religious community.   Her marriage started out with the possibility of she and her husband losing the home he inherited as a baron.  Under her detailed supervision, the finances of the estate were brought under control.  She and her husband were of one heart and soul!  They were devoted to each other and to their four children.

Faith was Jane Frances’ unwavering approach to life’s challenges, a faith she instilled in her children. Discussions of religious topics were a daily occurrence.    The children were allowed to talk about anything, even topics considered controversial.   Reaching out to the poor who came to her door for food was also a regular practice in Jane Frances' home. No one was turned away, even when they came back repeatedly for the same meal. When employees complained, she said to them: “What if God turned me away when I came back to him again and again with the same request?”

Jane Frances’ happiness was shattered when her husband Christophe was killed in a hunting accident. Before taking his last breath, Christophe forgave the person who accidently shot him: “Don’t commit the sin of hating yourself when you have done nothing wrong.” Brokenhearted, Jane Frances had a more difficult time with forgiveness but eventually was able to forgive the person who killed her husband.  Her struggles led her to an insatiable thirst for God and a deeper spiritual life. She sought direction from Saint Francis de Sales, who encouraged her to found the Visitation order for women who were rejected by other religious orders because of poor health or age. She strongly believed that people should have a chance to live their religious calling regardless of ill health.

Many sought spiritual direction from Jane Frances. She was always gentle and loving in her approach to living the spiritual life.  She’d say to a distraught directee:  “Should you fall even fifty times a day, never on any account should that surprise or worry you.  …[G]ently set your heart back in the right direction and practice the opposite virtue, all the time speaking words of love and trust to our Lord…Once we have humbled ourselves for the faults God allows us to become aware of in ourselves, we must forget them and go forward.”

Source: St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Catholic Online

Thursday, August 11, 2016

God as Our Inheritance

The response to today’s responsorial psalm is “You are my inheritance, O Lord.”  Today we celebrate the feast of St. Clare of Assisi, who comes from a very wealthy Assisian family.  Her inheritance would have been huge.  She left it all, escaping the family dwelling at night to join St. Francis of Assisi to live a life of poverty.  She says to the Lord: “You are my inheritance, O Lord,” not the wealth of my family.  You are all I need in life, not earthly riches, not a life of luxury, not expensive pearls or other attractive jewelry and expensive clothing. You are enough for me. I need nothing else in this life but you.

How many families and/or marriages are stressed out over the inheritance being left them by their wealthy families.  How many wealthy families fight over their wealth.  Not Clare. God was all she wanted and needed. She left everything, even the wealthy suitor her parents secured for her marriage.”My Lord and My God, you are enough for me.” And she lived her entire life of consecrated poverty that way.

Those who have discovered the wealth of dependence upon God above all are truly wealthy, whether married, single or being members of a religious congregation!  Those who trust in God above all are truly secure.  Nothing on this earth can provide the security of our Lord and God! The Lord says to you and to me:   “Trust in Me and you shall be saved. Serve Me above all in your neighbor and you will know true joy.  Seek  Me above all and you will know a  peace the world cannot give you. Truly,” God says to us, "I am enough for you.”  Jesus, the Son of God,  says to us  in Matthew 6: 25-27: “…Do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more important [ to Me] than they?

 St. Clare knew that and lived that! What about you and me?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

God's Generosity

In today’s first reading, 2 Cor 9: 6-10, Paul reminds us that “God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for ever y good work.”  We could paraphrase that to read: “God makes every grace abundant for you and me, so that in all things,  always having all we need, you and I may have an abundance for every good work.” Or hear the Lord speaking directly to you, saying: “I make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you do have an abundance for every good work.”

I encourage you to sit with, ponder, reflect upon, soak in the following words:  “I make every grace abundant for you.”   Also bask in the words: “…So that in all things, always having all you need, you may have [will have, do have] an abundance for every good work” I ask of you to do!  What do we sometimes?   I’m afraid that we often find one excuse after another  and another  not to do the good God is calling us to do!  Lord, have mercy!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Crucifixion of Jesus in the World of Today

Today, August 9th, we celebrate the feast of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein, a Jew who turned Christian and then entered a convent. The Nazis hunted her down, found her and shipped her to one of the concentration camps with other Jews headed for the gas chambers or to being starved to death over time, subjected to hard labor when hardly able to stand.  Not doing the required physical labor because of physical weakness or illness, any prisoner could be shot on the spot. 
Cruelty of the nature orchestrated by Hitler continues to this day by Isis and many others, known and unknown to us. Much of humankind’s inhumanity toward  men and women—adults, adolescents and children--of any race is not totally known today  any more than the common citizen knew  what Hitler, their leader,  was doing to Jews in his day.  The ordinary citizen only knew that Jews disappeared and were no more.

 Cruelty to humans—the crucifixion of Jesus-- continues in our back alleys where one gang member does not hesitate to “crucify” another gang member. Cruelty happens by police takedowns and “executions” and by retaliatory actions on the part of citizens toward police officers. Inhumane actions towards infants in the womb happen behind closed doors in some of our abortion clinics. Abuse of children also happens behind the closed doors of some of our homes, where men or women whose minds are poisoned by the abuse of alcohol and/or other drugs or who are addicted to anger plunge into murderous rages.  The same action occurs to young women jogging in beautiful parks and overtaken by a person whose mind is being driven by irrational impulses.  Humankind’s cruelty toward other human beings is rampant, as well, in the world’s war zones , in the industries of drug traffickers, human traffickers and those who force the young into slave labor.

 As God looks upon the earth today,  He sees what I described above. He weeps! He prays! And He says to us: “The days are coming… when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah [with the world of today and all who live in it].  It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers: the day I took them by the hand to lead them forth from the land of Egypt; for they broke my covenant, and I had to show myself their master, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord. I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people….All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the Lord, for I will forgive their evil doing and remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31: 31-34).

This is as true today as back in the days when God made that promise to the house of Israel and the house of Judah!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Jesus' Transfiguration: What We Learn from Jesus

Today we celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration.  Jesus takes Peter, James and John with Him as He goes up to a mountain top to pray.  In prayer he encounters Moses and Elijah and the three of them speak about His upcoming death and resurrection, His exodus from his earthly sojourn, whereby we are freed from the slavery to sin.  Jesus is transfigured in that encounter. His face and clothes glow in ways beyond anything here on earth. The glory of the Godhead shines through His whole being.  The three disciples are frightened when they hear the voice of the Father, saying: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased. Listen to Him.”  Peter pipes us and says to Jesus: “Let us build three tents here: one for you, one for Elijah and one for Moses.”  Peter has no idea what he is talking about.  Jesus leaves the mountain top  with the three apostles and goes on to Jerusalem to complete His mission here on earth, to return to His Father in heaven and send us the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to accompany us and to open our eyes and hearts to the meaning of His Words and Mission, and ours!

What would I do if I had been Peter, James or John? How would I have reacted? Would I, too, have wanted to stay on the mountaintop? We may go apart from time to time but always need to return to where life really happens. We do not live everyday life on mountaintops, on places removed from the vicissitudes of life, life’s painful realities, suffering and death itself.  We live, for the most part, as Jesus did, in the valleys where jealousies can lead to treacherous ends, where neighbor rises us against neighbor, where individuals are sacrificed for another’s perceived gains.  It goes on to this very day, not only in Jesus’ time.

To live in peace in the midst of this world’s turmoil, we need to maintain a relationship with God the Father as Jesus did. We need to come to Jesus, as Jesus went to His Father, sit at Jesus’  feet often and learn from Him. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life,”  Jesus tells us in John 14:6.  Let our “mountaintop” be the times  we listen to Jesus in the midst of life’s difficult and rewarding moments, talking to Him as He talked with Elijah and Moses and found the strength to go on to “Jerusalem”!

Friday, August 5, 2016

"Take up Your Cross and Follow Me" (Mt. 16: 24)

In today’s Gospel, Matthew 16: 24-28, Jesus says to his disciples, that is to you and me:  “ If ..[you] wish to come after me [you] must deny [yourself], take up [your] cross, and follow me. For [if you wish]  to save[your] life, [you] will lose it, but [if you lose] your life for my sake, [you] will find it.”
Am I willing to take up a cross that is repulsive to me, that I would never choose for myself?  How would I treat someone who treats me coldly, for instance? How would I respond to persons who avoid eye  contact with me, who would walk away when  I am approaching? How would I respond to people who seems to be ignoring me, whose attitude toward me seems filled with hostility and disdain? 

If I am carrying such a cross, I need to think of Jesus. He was treated with hostility.  People treated Him disdainfully, coldly, walked away from Him. They yelled “Crucify Him,” “Crucify Him!” Whom am I crucifying by my coldness, my attitudes of disdain and hatred? I may hate being treated coldly. I may hate it when I am not treated respectfully and kindly.  Jesus says to me: Remember, people hated me and they will hate you as well (John  15:18). We all stand before our God as sinners. We all stand before God needing God’s mercy. No one is exempt from this position. God says to His Father: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing” to one another. And when we turn to Him in our dying to urges to retaliate, to return evil for evil, and acknowledge our need for mercy and forgiveness,  Jesus says to us: “This day you will be with me in Paradise.”

Thursday, August 4, 2016

God's Promises and Deep Concern

In today’s first reading, Jeremiah 31: 31-34, the Lord says to the Chosen People, “The days are coming…when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers:  the day I took them by the hand to lead them forth from the land of Egypt; for they broke my covenant, and I had to show myself their master, says the Lord.”

Has the day come when the Lord, our God, has to show Himself the master of the U.S. and of the world? What will it take for us to realize that God has placed His law within us, that God has written His law on our hearts because He is our God and we are His people? As I listen to the news each night I do not get the impression that we act as people of God!  In this passage, the Lord God says: “All, from least to greatest, shall know me,…, for I will forgive their evil doing and remember their sin no more.”  Much of what is broadcast to the world in the evening news  is the evil doing of people rebelling against God and one another. Is it time for God to “show [Himself] the master” of us all, “to take [us] by the hand to lead [us] forth from the land of Egypt,” yes, from that place of slavery into which we have fallen: slaves to satanic behavior, slaves to power and control over others, slaves to idolatrous positions, acting as though we humans are gods, not servants of the one True God?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

"Woman, Great Is Your Faith" (Matthew 15: 21)

In today’s Gospel, Matthew 15: 21-28, a Canaanite woman from the region of Tyre and Sidon approaches Jesus, asking that he heal her daughter who is being  “tormented by a demon.”   Jesus ignores her and when she persists in pleading with Him to have mercy on her daughter, Jesus says to her:  “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” And when Jesus’ disciples complain about the woman, Jesus reminds them that He  “was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  “Lord, help me,” the woman pleads. She is not deterred by the rebuke of the disciples nor by Jesus’ way of talking to her. She knows  that Jesus has healed the sick and can help her.  She lets nothing get in her  way of securing a healing for her daughter.  “Please, Lord, …even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”

This woman approaches Jesus in  faith and in humility, addressing Him as “Lord” and “Son of David,” titles of respect,  expressions of faith and recognition of who Jesus is! She will not be turned away without a positive response from the Lord. Jesus, in fact,  is moved toward compassion and affirms her faith. He says to her:  “’O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed from that hour.”

Is my faith strong enough to ignore sarcasm, rejection, opposition?  When others say things that are offensive to me, do I abandon my faith, walk  away? Or do I persist, as the Canaanite woman did and humbly plead for His help, knowing that God is compassionate and merciful even toward those dismissed as unworthy, “as dogs” by the elite and thus, in their minds,  not entitled to God’s healing power or to be treated with compassion? Am I able, in faith, to stand up to “bullies”, so to speak, especially those hardened by traditional beliefs that differ from my own faith?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Courage and Faith in Jesus

In today’s Gospel, Matthew 14: 22-36, the disciples are out on the sea, buffeted by strong winds.  Jesus had stayed ashore to dismiss the crowd of about 5000 men plus all of the women and children that they had just fed.   “During the fourth watch of the night  [around 3:00 in the morning][Jesus] came toward them, walking on the sea.”  The disciples are terrified, thinking that they are seeing a ghost walking toward the boat.  Jesus, aware of their fright, says to them: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Impetuous Peter says to Him: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus says: “Come.”  So Peter begins to walk on the turbulent water toward Jesus and as the winds whip around him, he becomes frightened, takes his eyes off Jesus and begins to sink.  “’Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him," saying “O, you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

You and I are those disciples!  You and I are Peter.  With Jesus, we do wonderful things, things only God can do—in this case, it was feeding 5000+ people with five loaves and two fishes with 12 wicker baskets of food leftover.  We then go about our “business” and encounter situations beyond our power to guarantee our safety. Jesus is right at our sides but we do not recognize Him.  We hear in the depth of our beings: “Have courage! I am right here.”  Bolstered in our faith, we plunge ahead to take on the “storm.” The “stormier” it gets, the stronger  our fear becomes. We take our eyes off Jesus and feel ourselves sinking. “Save me, Lord,” is all it takes. Jesus immediately reaches out His hand. Do I take it? Do I realize that I need the Lord to survive Satan’s wicked schemes that rise up out of nowhere.

Jesus is not a ghost, as the disciples thought. He is real! He is with us whether it is 3:00 o’clock in the morning or 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon, or any time of the day or night, to catch us, to lift us up, to save us.

I believe that! Do you?