Monday, October 31, 2016

Altruistic, Unselfish, Humble Giving

In today’s first reading, Philippians 2: 1-4, St. Paul urges us to complete his joy—anyone’s joy—by “being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing,” he states, “out of selfishness or out of vain glory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his [or her] own interests, but also everyone for those of others.” In the Gospel, Luke 14: 12-14, Jesus challenges us to invite the crippled, the lame, the poor, and the blind to a meal rather than friends and family and relatives, who would be able to pay us back. In other words, love others, not out of our own interests but out of the interests of others. How difficult these challenges can be. By nature, we look for a return now, here on earth!  It is difficult to do something purely out of altruistic attitudes. Our ego wants a reward now. We have a difficult time delaying the reward until we enter eternal life, or in Jesus’ words, until “the resurrection of the righteous.”

Lord, help us grow in doing for others for their sake and not for a reward from them or that they reciprocate our generosity.  May we have the courage to reach out to those who are unable, for whatever reason, to return the favor! And may our craving for that kind of attention decrease, as we seek to please You and win Your approval in secret and in humility!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Members of God's Household

In today’s first reading, Ephesians 2: 19-22, St. Paul reminds us that we “are no longer strangers and sojourners, but …fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God…”   My thoughts went back to daydreams of when I said things to myself like: “It must be nice to have such and such, to be a member of that family, that club, that society. It must be nice to be as successful as….bla, bla, bla!”

And then my eyes went back to: “You are no longer a stranger or a sojourner, but a fellow citizen with the holy ones and a member of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.” Wow! A member of God’s household. It cannot get any better than that! You are among God’s “holy ones.” What? God’s holy ones—numbered among them? Yes, you and I are numbered among God’s holy ones, chosen by God Himself, redeemed, washed clean in the blood of Christ. Jesus took all of our shame and sinfulness, our selfishness and haughtiness, our pride and gluttony, our greed and stinginess, our fears and hopelessness,  our lack of faith and doubts and nailed them to the cross. And when He rose from the dead, we did, too. Jesus waits with anticipation when we will actually come into His eternal presence, His eternal glory forever. Yes, He waits for all of our enemies that can kill the soul and send us to eternal hell to be put to death! That is God’s love, God’s mercy, God’s goodness and kindness to all of His holy ones ransomed from Satan’s snares forever!

I believe that with all of my being even though I do not see it yet!  How about you?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

"Be Not Afraid"--God is with You

In today’s Gospel, some Pharisees approach Jesus and say to Him: “Go away, leave this area because Herod wants to kill you.”  Jesus replies:  “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and I perform healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I accomplish my purpose. Yet I must continue on my way today, tomorrow , and the following day, for it is impossible that a prophet should die outside of Jerusalem.”  Jesus then addresses Jerusalem, saying: “…Behold, your house will be abandoned. But I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

In the thick of a dangerous world, Jesus trusts His Father. He knows that people are plotting to kill Him. His faith in His Father does not waver. He does not flinch in the midst of threats on His life.  He continues doing the work that His Father has given Him to do as He approaches Jerusalem where He will be put to death but rise again in triumph to secure our salvation.

The world today is no different than in Jesus’ times. People are plotting to kill other people, to put Christians to death, to kill those they disdain or whose beliefs differ from their own.  To people whose lives are in danger, Jesus says:  “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell. Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Mt 10: 28-31).

  We live in a dangerous world. That is true! But it is no more dangerous than the world in which Jesus lived. In faith, let us, like Jesus, continue “today, tomorrow, and the following day” performing the works God has given us to do in building God's Kingdom of love, justice, truth, mercy and forgiveness. And no matter what danger approaches the horizon of our lives, may we anchor our faith in the Lord, who alone will save us and give us the strength we need to continue trusting God, our Father.  May we walk in the Light, seek the Light and be the Light in the darkness that surrounds us!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Serving Christ Sincerely

In today’s first reading, Ephesians 6: 1-9, St. Paul exhorts us to stop provoking our children to anger. Rather “bring them up with the training and the instruction of the Lord.”  Paul challenges us  to give service   to others “in sincerity of heart, as to Christ.”  We are asked to do “the will of God from the heart, willingly serving the Lord and not [humans], knowing that each will be requited from the Lord for whatever good he [or she] does…”  “Masters,” Paul emphatically states, “…stop bullying, knowing that both [those who serve you in your businesses—ecclesial or civil, corporate or governmental, familial or social-- or as heads of families] they and you have a Master in heaven and that with …[God] there is no partiality.”

How frightening it is to see how low we have fallen. We have listened to bullying for the past year as persons campaigned to become the next president of the U.S.A. We read reports of members of Congress having bullied the president for the past eight years and then complain that he has done nothing good.  Every evening, the nightly news also contains reports of bullying. We see bullying from sexual predators, home invaders,  corrupt politicians, corrupt CEOs of pharmaceutical companies and in the banking industry, on Wall Street and so many other corporations. We hear of drug lords, persons engaged in criminal activity or planning to harm others, to riot and revolutionize the country and on and on! The people doing good in the world—and there are millions--go unnoticed,  for the most part!

 The question is: am I contributing to this world’s darkness or am I among those striving to bring the light of Christ into  the darkness around me? What am I doing to make the world a place where “training and instruction of the Lord” prevails, where persons are taught to give service to others “in sincerity of heart, as to Christ”? Am I “willingly serving the Lord and not [humans]”?

Lord, have mercy on us and help look at ways to make the world a better place, to collaborate with others for the sake of the common good and to resolve problems that need to be addressed. May we sincerely do Your will from hearts turned to You and relying upon You!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Kingdom of God Within

In today’s Gospel, Luke 13: 18-21, Jesus speaks to us about the Kingdom of God being like a mustard seed, which if planted in rich soil, fed appropriate nutrients, and cultivated produces a huge tree that reaches high into the heavens, providing shelter for many a bird and other animals and could be used by humankind to provide shelter from inclement weather as well. The oak tree could also be carved into beautiful furnishings that bring delight to the eye of its beholders.  How is the Kingdom of God like this mustard seed? God’s Kingdom is planted within us at baptism. It  needs to be nurtured, cultivated, shared in ways that give life and comfort and shelter to others in the storms of life.  The Kingdom of God within us is our faith and hope and love that expands throughout our life time, if nourished,  and is transformed as we grow into adulthood and mature into an another Christ:  Jesus made flesh in our flesh and made known through our  faith, hope and love.

Jesus also likens the Kingdom of God to yeast which affects the dough into which it is kneaded.  The dough expands, is baked and becomes a delicious loaf of bread. In this imagery, the Kingdom of God within us effects all that we do, transforms it, delights others who experience God’s Kingdom at work in our lives in ways that make a difference in their lives as well. To flourish, this “yeast” needs to be kneaded—the sufferings and difficulties of life are part of bringing the Kingdom of God to fruition in our lives. The “yeast” needs to be subordinated, so to speak, to the flour into which it is kneaded and in which it makes the bread rise. The Kingdom of God within us is the rising of Christ, who triumphs over death, and in our lives empowers us to triumph as well!

How healthy is “the mustard seed” and the “yeast”—God’s Kingdom--within me?  How is my life being changed as is a mustard seed properly planted and nurtured? How effective is God’s Kingdom within me as is yeast kneaded in dough? Am I maturing into Christ? Is my faith, hope and love expanding?   Am I making a difference as Jesus did while walking through villages in the Far East 2000+ years ago and as Jesus does now walking beside us each day?

Monday, October 24, 2016

Compassion and Forgiveness: God's Saving Gifts

In today’s first reading, Ephesians 4: 32-5:8, Paul states clearly what the Lord asks of us, namely, to be compassionate and forgiving of others as God is of us.  We are asked to imitate Jesus, who gave his life for us. For whom am I giving my life today? Whom will I uplift today through my acts of love and forgiveness? Will I be a source of strength, hope and love for others today or will I burden others today by attitudes of selfishness, stinginess and disdain or  by deceitful ways and speech, through gossip and the like?  Paul goes on to say: “Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones, no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place, but instead, thanksgiving.”  Just in case we do not get it, he says furthermore: “No immoral or impure or greedy person, that is, an idolater, has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God.”

My thoughts immediately went to what we witness during the campaigns for presidency of the U.S.  But that, in itself, draws Paul’s rebuke, as am  I not  engaging in silly talk about our politicians. Am I not then being divisive, looking at a “them versus us” categorization?   Is such talk not dragging others down to the level to which I lowered myself? Today’s Scripture opens with the invitation to be “kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God  has forgiven you in Christ.”  My thoughts then would be: “Lord, forgive me my trespasses as I forgive others theirs.”  I would, like the republican in Sunday’s Gospel, be saying to the Lord: “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18: 14). 

May you and I heed Paul’s admonitions and follow the way that truly leads us to the “inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God,” that Jesus won for us by His death on the cross for our salvation and salvation of the entire world, including the politicians of today and forever!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Reading Signs of Our Need for God

In today’s first reading, Ephesians 4: 1-6, Paul addresses us from his prison cell, urging us “to live in a manner worthy of the call” we have received, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another [and ourselves] through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit though the bond of peace….”  Sometimes the most difficult person toward whom to be patient and gentle is ourselves. We make good intentions and break them. We pledge to do better and break that pledge. We get up in the morning determined to accomplish far more than we may be capable to accomplish  that day and, sure enough, the physical energy or emotional stamina is lacking.  We promised to not be obnoxious or demanding or controlling and, guess what, we are obnoxious, demanding and controlling when we do not want to be. Or we desire to be assertive and to stand up for ourselves and we slide right into being submissive and demeaning of self when we need to be strong on our own behalf. 

The challenge? To realize that our weaknesses are God’s strength, that our failings are a reminder of our dependence upon God, and that, when our fallen nature raises its head, we are to remember that God’s grace is sufficient for us. God, in fact, uses all of the circumstances of our lives to bring us salvation.

May we be graced to read human nature in the light of how God sees us and may we become as proficient in reading human nature as we are in reading the conditions of the weather.  As Jesus says to us in today’s Gospel, Luke 12: 54-59:  “When you see a cloud rising in the west you say immediately that it is going to rain—and it does,”  so when you see how weak and fickle you can be, may you say immediately: “My weakness, O Lord, is your strength!  I need your help, O Lord!”

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Jesus' Desire to "set the earth on fire" with God's Love

In today’s Gospel, Luke 12: 49-53, Jesus says to us: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!  There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished.”  Jesus is talking about His baptism on the cross, on which He secures our salvation, by which you and I are saved.  It is through God’s love poured out by Jesus’ giving of His life as a ransom for our sins that you and I are graced with the graces spoken about by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians 3: 14-21, the first reading of today’s liturgy:  “[M]ay God grant you,” Paul prays, “in accord with the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that…rooted and grounded in love, [you] may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

As you gaze upon the cross today, may these words burn in your heart!  May your heart be set ablaze with the fire of God’s love for you!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Choosing to make Christ known to the World

In today’s first reading, Ephesians 3: 2-12, St. Paul speaks about the “mystery of Christ” made known, first,  to the “Apostles and holy prophets by the Spirit,” and then to the Gentiles, that is to each of us. We are “coheirs, members of the same Body, and co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.”  In baptism, each of us has become “a minister by the gift of God’s grace.” God’s power, the power of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit, were poured forth upon us in baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation, and all of the sacraments. The grace given to each one of us is unique so that you and I are capable of fulfilling the purpose for which God created us. We are his possession, placed here to accomplish God’s will for us: to make the world a better place, to communicate God’s love, mercy and forgiveness, first to ourselves so that we can pass those gifts of God onto others by living an authentic, holy, purposeful life.  We are to be disseminating “the inscrutable riches of Christ” to others in our families, our religious communities, our workplaces, and in all of our relationships. We are to “bring to light for all what is the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God who created all things, so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be known…”

What am I making known?   Am I making God known or (insert your name) known? Am I communicating God’s love for those with whom I live and work and pray and play? Or am I a source of positive or negative energy; that is, am I dampening spirits, demeaning others, making fun of others, humiliating others, bringing others down to the level of ugliness that ungodly behaviors spew forth from sin within me?  Or am I disseminating the good, the beautiful,  that which is sanctifying and purifying, that which brings hope and radiates love: powers that reside in the core of my being where I am one with God and God with me? Am I bringing light or darkness into the world in which I live? The choices are mine to make!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Glorious Splendor of God's Kingdom

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Luke, the Evangelist and the author of St. Luke’s Gospel and the Act of the Apostles.  St. Luke was the one who stayed with St. Paul and assisted him in his ministry to the Gentiles at a time when several others abandoned Paul in pursuit of those things of the present world that captivated and charmed their worldly ambitions and secular appetites.

You and I also have a choice of following the Spirit’s call to assist those in Church ministries, to spend time building up the Kingdom of God in our families, with our friends and in our workplaces. We, too, are called by our baptism to be ambassadors for Christ, to nurture and share the faith or, like those who abandoned Paul, can choose to abandon our baptismal call and pursue only those things which the secular world offers.

 The psalmist of today’s responsorial  psalm, Psalm 145,  says to God: “Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.”  Am I a friend of the Lord’s? Am I proclaiming God’s glorious Kingdom by works of love and compassion as husband/wife, as mother/father? Am I proclaiming God's Kingdom by lifting burdens off the oppressed, marginalized and the poor of this world? Or am I too taken up with secular, narcissistic, selfish ambitions and thus neglect the goods that are eternal? Am I too preoccupied with the glamor the world offers to be bothered with those things God offers through the Church, through the Scriptures, through readings that nurture the spiritual life?  Am I blinded by what my ego wants and oblivious to the spirit within me that begs to be nourished and that challenges me to reach high ideals and help others do so as well? Am I even aware when the choices I make are  contrary to God-centered values which Jesus-- the  Way, the Truth and the Life-- models for us in the Gospels?

Monday, October 17, 2016

God's Immeasurable Riches

Today, in Ephesians 2:1-10, we are blessed with another one of St. Paul’s messages of God’s awesome generosity, mercy and love.  Bluntly, St. Paul tells the followers of Christ, that is, each one of us: “You, [Dorothy Ann,] were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you once lived following the age of this world,… the spirit that is now at work in the disobedient.”  [Dorothy Ann] you “…once lived among them in the desires of [your]flesh [and of your ego], following the wishes of the flesh [and of your ego] and [your] impulses, were by nature [a child] of wrath, like the rest.” 

St. Paul puts it on the line, so to speak.  Nothing in that passage is something of which to be boastful or proud. Without redemption, you and I were a mess and in deep trouble, resistant to following the will of God and cooperating with grace. No way, however, would God allow you or me, masterpieces of His hand, His possessions, to perish, to remain “dead.”  No, says St. Paul. “God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved), raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus….[Y]ou have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works,…For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.”

How awesome! We live on this earth doing good that God has prepared for us do to ahead of time: everything we need to live a good life has been secured for us by a loving, caring, faithful God! Why has God done this? So that “he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”

Today, Lord, may my eyes, and yours, be opened to the “immeasurable riches” of God’s grace bestowed upon me “in Christ Jesus” and may I not choose death by following “the age of this world,…the [evil] spirit that is…[always] at work in the disobedient”:  the arrogant, the deceitful, the corrupt, the greedy, the unjust, the proud, the abusive  persons of our societies. And, Lord, when I do fall into Satan’s snares, may I recognize and acknowledge my failures, my sinful ways, and come to you and those I offended, asking for pardon and forgiveness.  

Saturday, October 15, 2016

An Enlightened Heart

In  today's first reading, Ephesians 1: 15-23, St. Paul prays that "the God of  our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened," Paul prays, "that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe...."

What a prayer! Again, I encourage you to insert your name in that passage, so that it reads, and I  paraphrase:  "Dorothy Ann (insert your name),  God the Father gives you a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of Him."  What gifts: wisdom, revelation, and knowledge of God Himself!  Knowing God, believing in God, surrendering to God, loving God with our whole mind, our whole heart and our whole will is all we ask of You, O God. That is enough for us! But Paul adds: "May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened."  The eyes of our hearts are our inner eyes. Maywe see and know God within the very core of our existence.  And why does Paul ask that the eyes of our hearts be enlightened? So that we may know "the hope that belongs to [our] call "to praise his glory,"  ( See Ephesians 1: 11-14) here on earth and in eternity when we possess the inheritance of our redemption.  Paul also wants us to be enlightened regarding the "riches of glory in [our] inheritance among the holy ones. and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe."  The wealth and the greatness Paul alludes to is beyond our imagination and reduces anything on this earth to rubbish, as Paul also exclaims in his preaching.

Jesus, have mercy on us, when we think and act otherwise!

Friday, October 14, 2016

God's Possession and What It Means

In today’s first reading, Ephesians 1: 11-14, Paul again reminds us that we are God’s possession, “chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory….[I]n  Christ],…[we] were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,…the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption [and sanctification] as God’s possession.”

Wow!  The impact of Paul’s message is even more powerful when we insert our names in this passage: Dorothy Ann (your name), you are chosen! Why me? Why you?  Because you and  I are sinners  in need of redemption and sanctification.  And chosen for what? To realize our destiny as designed by God, who “accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will.”  We may question whether or not we are truly accomplishing “all things according to the intention of God’s will. However, that is God’s promise to us and God does not break His promises.  When we fail to follow the Spirit’s lead, God uses those circumstances to reconcile us to God, to make right our wrongs, so to speak.  God’s intention is that, “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, …the first installment” of our “inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession,  that we lead lives that give “ praise of [God’s glory]!”—that we are glorifying our God by how we live the Gospel.

God’s gift of being chosen comes with a price: the death of His only begotten Son. God  sent His only begotten Son to pay the ransom for our sins. For our sake, Jesus bore the curse of sin, dying  a horrible death on the cross to reconcile us to the Father. Jesus gave His life that you and I, all of us,  might fully realize the gift of redemption and sanctification here on earth by the way we follow the Lord as  faithful disciples.

Am I, are you, on a daily basis, making choices that glorify our God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit? God Almighty? God, who, in the words of St. Francis of Assisi, is all good, totally good? Do I, do you,  reflect God’s goodness in our attitudes, in our actions each day?  If not, why not? If not, how am I, are you,  betraying God's trust?

Thursday, October 13, 2016

God's Creation of Us and the Purpose for Which God Created Us

In today’s first reading, Ephesians 1: 1-10, St. Paul praises God as follows:  ”Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.”

To understand the impact of this statement, we might think of something that we have created or purchased to serve us in a particular need.  We possess that purchase or created object. It is to meet our need, to fulfill our purpose. It exists for no other reason. The object is ours, no one else’s possession. God created us for His purpose, not for our own purpose or for the purpose others dream up for us. We are God’s, “blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as [God] chose us in [God], before the foundation of the world to be holy and without blemish before him.”

We have been created to live a life of holiness, to accomplish the good for which we have been created. In living according to God’s design, we will receive, in abundance, “the fruit of the Spirit,” which is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control” (See: Galatians 5: 18-25).  The other choice, living according to the flesh, leads to the following consequences:  “immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like” (See Galatians 5: 18-25). 

Which way of life have I chosen? Whose purpose am I fulfilling?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

What's on the Inside of our "Cups"

In today's Gospel, Luke 11: 37-41,  Jesus confronts the Pharisees for cleansing the outside of the cup while the inner self is filled with evil!  God sees what is inside of each one of us! As I was meditating my mind went to asking: what's on the inside of so-and-so and so-and-so?  "Wait a minute," I said to myself! Jesus is talking to you! What evil exist within you? Pride? Envy? Jealousy? Prejudice? Any hatred? any sexism? Any racism? Selfishness?  Cleanse your inner self, Dorothy Ann (insert your name)!  God alone is judge! God alone sees what is in each person's heart! The task and work that each of us needs to do is repent--come to the Lord repentant and humble of heart, knowing that God alone saves us and knows what our motivations are, even before we do!

Lord, have mercy on each of us, especially when we act as judge of someone else!