Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Lord's Invitation to Follow Him

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

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

New Life from What Looked like a Dead Stump

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

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

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

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Lord's Glory is our Shelter and Protection

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

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

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

Come, Lord Jesus, come and save us!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Another Thanksgiving Reflection

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

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

Words of the psalmist (Ps. 49)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


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

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

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

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

For what are you grateful?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Beginnings and Endings

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

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

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

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Life's Lessons

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Time of Our Jesus' Visitation

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord, our God

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Lamp Stand: Will it Stay or Be Removed

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 11, 2016

Your Redemption is at Hand

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

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

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

I need those graces right now. What about you?

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Standing Up for What Is Right

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

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

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Direct Us, Lord, and Deliver Us

My prayer today is that of the author of Psalm 25: 1-8,  entitled “Prayer in danger”:

Adoration I offer, Yahweh,
to you, my God.

But in my trust in you do not put me to shame,
let not my enemies gloat over me.

Calling to you, none shall ever be put to shame,
but shame is theirs who groundlessly break faith.

Direct me in your ways, Yahweh,
and teach me your paths.

Encourage me to walk in your truth and teach me
since you are the God who saves me.

For my hope is in you all day long—
Such is your generosity, Yahweh.
Goodness and faithful love have been yours for ever,
Yahweh, do not forget them.

Hold not my…sins against me,
But remember me as your faithful love dictates.

Integrity and generosity are marks of Yahweh
for he brings sinners back to the path.”

I offer this prayer for the U.S.A. I am afraid that we have abandoned integrity, goodness, and faithful love. We have left the path, I am afraid, of truth and need God to save us: “Direct [us] in your ways, Yahweh, and teach [us] your paths.”  Also, Lord, “let not [our] enemies gloat over [us]. Be with us, Lord, as we pass through the darkness and chaos that is likely to lie ahead. I ask this in Jesus’ name.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Salvation from a Merciful God

In today’s responsorial psalm, Ps. 37, we pray that “the salvation of the just comes from the Lord.” St. Paul, in today’s first reading, Titus 2: 1-8, 11-14, tells us why this is so.  He says:   “For the grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of the great God and of our savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good.”

You and I have had nothing to do with this. Salvation is a gift freely given.  It is ours to reject or accept. God eagerly awaits the moment when He will open the gates of heaven to all who accepted deliverance “from all lawlessness.”   God eagerly awaits the moment when He will swing open the doors of heaven to rescue us from Satan’s determination to devour us in disobedience.  For those of us who humbly repent and recognize our total dependency upon grace, our “cleansing” is secured by the One who became sin for us. O, how great and loving and caring and merciful is our God! 
 Everything about our being “eager to do what is good” is a gift from God, for “the grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope” of our eternal  salvation .

I accept this gift from God and want to live it humbly, knowing that, apart from God, I can do nothing that is good. And when I experience my sinfulness, I pray for the gift of repentance.

What about you?

Monday, November 7, 2016

Being a Slave of God and an Apostle of Christ

In today’s first reading, Titus 1:9, St. Paul introduces himself to  Titus as “a slave of God and Apostle of Jesus Christ for the sake of the faith of God’s chosen ones and the recognition of religious truth, in the hope of eternal life that God…promised before time began….”   Paul also tells Titus what he wants to see in a presbyter, a bishop, that is, in one who is a steward of God. Such persons, Paul states, must be blameless, humble, gentle, sober, generous, moderate, unconcerned about material gain,  lovers of goodness, hospitable, temperate, just, holy, self-controlled, and persons who hold on to the truth of sound doctrine. 

By our baptism, we are all reborn into persons of righteousness, persons who are to become lovers of goodness, who are to grow in such virtue as being  hospitable, temperate, just, holy, self-controlled and learners of the truth of sound doctrine. We are, in Paul’s words, by virtue of having died and rose with Christ in our baptism, slaves of God and apostles—that is followers, messengers, disciples-- of Jesus Christ .  Some are ordained into these ministries as adults but all are commissioned by baptism to live as disciples and messengers of Jesus, as slaves of Christ. We belong to the Lord. We have been bought by God in the outpouring of His Son’s blood on the cross.

Do I take seriously my baptismal call to be a messenger of Christ by the way I live my life? Do I realize that, by my baptism into Christ, I, too, am called to be generous, just and holy, to live moderately, temperately and hospitably? Or do I shrug off these, and other Christian, challenges as applicable only to ordained bishops and cardinals, ordained priests and deacons?

Friday, November 4, 2016

From Lowliness to Glorification

In today’s first reading, Phil 3: 17-4:1, St. Paul reminds us that Jesus  “will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified Body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.”   This lowly body of mine, and yours as well, will be glorified, that is exalted, deified, elevated!  We have all been made in God’s image and that image will shine forth in a way that will reveal Christ in us!  Our glorified bodies will shine like the stars in the sky, brilliant like our Savior’s!  Sin will no longer have any power over us! The veil will be removed that now hides our true self created in the image and likeness of our God. 

What if we remembered that every day as we walk through this valley of tears, as we Catholics pray in the “Hail, Holy Queen.”  Our hope would soar! Nothing would bring us down or lower our spirits! It is mind-bottling, also, to realize that Jesus, at every moment, is bringing “all things into subjection to himself.” He is doing that now. Everything, in my life and yours, Jesus uses to transform us into Himself, to purify us, to make us holy, to exalt us as THE redeemed!

Thank you, Jesus, for the gift of redemption! Thank you, Jesus, for sending us the Holy Spirit to bring us to the Truth, to open our minds and hearts to know you, the one true God! May every  breath I take give you thanks. May every step I take praise you!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Seeking to Know Jesus above All Else

“Let hearts rejoice who search for the Lord,” we pray in today’s responsorial psalm, Psalm 105.  For what am I searching?

In the first reading,  Philippians 3: 3-8a, we encounter Paul at a time in his life when what matters above all else was knowing Jesus. Nothing else mattered to him. “I…consider everything as a loss,” Paul says to us,  “because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” What a grace when, in our lives, we, too, have come to the realization that knowing Jesus is the supreme good. Nothing in this world matches or beats achieving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Nothing! Nothing!

There was a point in Paul’s life when he persecuted Christians, brought them in chains to the leaders of the Jewish religion.   He says in Phil. 3: 3-8a: “…in zeal I persecuted the Church, in righteousness based on the law I was blameless.”   As we read in this same passage, Paul belonged “to the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrew parentage, in observance of the law a Pharisee.”  On his way to seeking out Christians in order to send them to prison in chains, Jesus confronted Paul: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me”  (Acts 22: 7)?  From that moment on, Paul's life changed forever. He was no longer a persecutor of the Christian faith but a believer who gave his life for Christ.

Jesus knew Paul. He created Paul. He watched Paul and saw his passion for what was right. He intervened when Paul was obviously following a path that was contrary to the will of God.  Jesus knows you and me also. He created us. He watches us. He sees our passion for what is right and knows when we are marching down a path that is a dangerous one that leads us far from the Truth.  He knows when we are searching for God where God cannot be found.  He will stop us at the right moment, as He stopped Paul and turned Paul away from evil. He will do the same for us at a time chosen by the Lord!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Feast of All Souls

Today we celebrate the Feast of All Souls, that is, we remember all of those who have gone before us, all who have fallen asleep in the Lord and who, in Christ Jesus, will be brought back to life in eternity.  All of the just are in God’s hands, the author of Wisdom tells us in chapter 3: 1-9.  We certainly grieved their passing and may even have thought that their deaths were a tragedy or absolute foolishness.  Some believe that their loved ones are dead, period!  And that nothing exist after our deaths.   But, no, there is life after death. Jesus died and rose. In our baptism, we died and rose with Christ. Our final resurrection will happen at the end of our lives, as it did for Jesus.  

You and I walk this earth, undergoing a chastisement, a purification, as we grow in intimacy with the Lord.  At the appropriate time, God’s time, we will leave our earthly life for a heavenly one, having been “found worthy” of God, Wisdom tells us. “As gold in the furnace, [God proves us], and, [in death] as sacrificial offerings [God takes us] to himself. In the time of [our] visitation we] shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble…and the Lord shall be [our] King forever....[The] faithful shall abide with [God] in love: because grace ad mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with his elect.”  You and I, through our baptism, are God chosen ones, God’s elect. Death will have no more power over us than it had over Jesus.  St. Paul says to us in Roman s 6: 3-9:  “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.  For we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.”    Yes! With Jesus, we shall overcome death and, like Jesus, rise to new life in our own resurrection!

I believe! How about you?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Feast of All Saints

Today we celebrate the feast of All Saints, those in heaven who have been canonized and the majority of persons who  have not been canonized.  They are, for many of us, our parents, grandparents, siblings and other relatives  who may or may not have preceded us into eternal life. They  are our mothers who live or lived lives of quiet, dedicated, loving service to their families, making birthdays and feast days or holidays special, prepared our school lunches and our morning and evening meals, kept our clothes clean, our beds impeccable and, yes,  even made us shirts and skirts, dresses and vests,  slacks and coats. They canned vegetables, fruit, and, in the olden days, meat. They planted large gardens and harvested everything in them.  They are our fathers who work or worked 40+ hours a week on the farm, in the woods, in  factories, in offices or classrooms or involved in civil service jobs to keep our streets and roads in repair or removing snow in winter, fixing plumbing or heating appliances and so on. They are or may have been doctors or lawyers, teachers and nurses, doctors and medical technicians, firemen or police officers or hard workers in any kind of profession, bringing home pay checks that covered all of our expenses and met all of our needs. They are our fathers and mothers and grandparents caring lovingly for each other, for the children God entrusted to their care, being involved in their  children’s  and grandchildren’s academic and social  lives, and participating  in their parish, faithful to their baptismal call to sharer the Good News of Christ in whatever way possible—preaching the Gospel with the way they live their lives and using words only if necessary.