Saturday, May 20, 2017

Whispers from the Spirit

In today's first reading, Acts 16: 1-10, Paul and Timothy are traveling through various territories and are prevented from going into certain provinces.  The "Spirit of Jesus did not allow them," we are told. In a night vision, Paul is requested to "[c]ome over to Macedonia and help us"and Paul and Timothy do so.

You and  I, like Paul and Timothy, know when the Lord prevents us from doing something we thought was right. We may hear a whisper within us saying: "Don't go in there.""Don't do that!" "Go talk to so and so." "Sit down and be quiet!"  "Ask forgiveness; say you are sorry."  "Volunteer at such and such a place." "Stop seeking revenge," or whatever!  The Spirit now, no less than in the days of Paul and Timothy, guides Jesus' disciples and those who follow God faithfully.

My prayer:  Lord, may I listen to Your instructions, as did Paul and Timothy, and know also when you are preventing me from going in a certain direction when what I am pursuing is not in accord with Your holy will for me or is a choice that will lead me into Satan's trap! Your Spirit, Lord, does not ever mislead me!  May I grow in trusting You, even in the smallest things of life each day: smile, listen to this child, visit this elderly parishioner/Sister, invite so and so to lunch, take time to reflect on today's Scripture readings, pray the rosary, go for a walk out in nature, and so on!  Thank you,Lord for the guidance of Your Spirit. Amen.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Friends of God/of Jesus

In today's first reading, Acts 15:22-31, the apostles and presbyters choose representatives to go to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas to address a serious issue. In the Gospel for today, John 15: 12-17, Jesus tells us that He chooses us and sends us out into the world to bear fruit that will last (that fruit is love).  The God of the Universe chooses us. "It was not you who chose me," Jesus says to us, "but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain..."

Moreover, in this same passage, Jesus tells us that He no longer calls us slaves, "because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard fro my Father."  As a friend of Jesus, you and I can approach Jesus anytime to confide in Him, to seek His counsel, to share the intimacy of our lives with Him.  We are always welcome into His presence.

What an awesome God! What a privilege to be God's/Jesus' friend, His confidante, His beloved son/daughter!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Vine and the Branches

In today's Gospel, John 15: 1-8, Jesus says to us:  "I am the vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you."

Attached to Jesus, the Vine, I am fed with abundance and equipped to do whatever good the Spirit prompts me to do in Jesus' name.  Attached to Jesus, I am able to weather whatever storms I encounter in life this day.  Attached to Jesus, I am able to see through the darkness I may encounter on any given day. Attached to Jesus, I am purified of the lies I "swallow" without being critical of what I hear. Attached to Jesus, I am purified of sin that I may have committed this day.  Attached to Jesus, I am made whole and enlightened. Attachment to Jesus makes me a recipient of Jesus' Wisdom, Jesus' strength, Jesus' courage, Jesus' prudence, Jesus' abundance, Jesus' inheritance and Jesus' divine life! WOW!

To remain attached, I need to seek Jesus above all, drink at the "well" of Jesus' words--the Holy Scriptures, receive the sacraments, and live as Jesus' lived. In short, as we are told in Micah 6: 8, Yahweh asks only this of you: "to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God." When we do these things, we remain attached to Jesus.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Cost of Discipleship

In today's first reading, Acts 14: 19-28, we are told that Jews from Antioch and Iconium arrived to the place where Paul was proclaiming Christ. These Jews won over the crowd and stoned Paul, leaving him for dead. When disciples of Jesus surrounded Paul, he got up.  These disciples with Paul left for Derbe, where they strengthened the faith of others, exhorted them to remain true to the faith. They also reminded the disciples of Jesus in Derbe that they would suffer much for their faith but not to waver.

I am left when several questions: Do I strengthen others in the faith or do I weaken other's faith by my lack of love and compassion, by my impatience, by my judgmentalism? Do I make life difficult by my grumbling or complaining when I encounter difficulties?  Do I realize that discipleship is costly? And, do I realize, that, like Paul, I sometimes need other disciples to help me get up when I am down?

Jesus tells us before returning to the Father that, like Him, our journey of faith will encounter hard times.  Many times, the difficulties we encounter are unexpected: friends and family turn against us or we are shunned because of our beliefs. Doors are closed in our faces when we think that what we are doing is something to be welcomed or appreciated, or, at least, not blocked.

Jesus says to us not to be afraid, for He has conquered the world, that is the ruler of this world, Satan. We, too, empowered by the Holy Spirit, will overcome the world of sin, of selfishness, of fear--of all that is not of God. And, like Jesus, we will learn obedience from what we suffer,as did St. Paul, St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Frances Streitel, the Foundress of my religious community, to name a few.

These are my beliefs! What are yours?

Monday, May 15, 2017

To God Be Glory Given

In today's first reading, Acts 14:5-18, Paul and Barnabas, through their faith in Jesus and the faith of the man needing healing, restore a man to health, saying to him: "Stand up straight on your feet," and he does.  The crowd immediately proclaimed:  "The gods have come down to us in human form," and prepare to "to offer sacrifice" to Paul and Barnabas.  Appalled, the apostles "rushed out into the crowd, shouting, "Men, why are you doing this? We are of the same nature as you human beings?"

How easy to get lured into being worshipped! How easy to want the glory and the honor that belong to God! How easy, in fact, to expect privileges that belong to God alone and only to God, not to ourselves.  In today's responsorial psalm we pray:  "Not to us, O Lord, but to your name give the glory because of your mercy, because of your truth....Our God is in heaven' whatever he wills, he does. their idols are silver and gold, the handiwork of men [human beings]."

Lord, I ask for forgiveness for the times that I worshipped "the handiwork" that the Holy Spirit  created using my hands, my intelligence, my creativity. Forgive me for the times I wanted to be glorified and did not give the credit for the good I accomplished through You.  "Not to [me], Lord, but to your name give the glory."  May I learn this lesson, Lord!  Thank you!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The gift of salvation

In today’s Gospel, Jn 12: 44-50, Jesus tells us that He came into the world, not to condemn it, but to save it.  He also reminds us that the one who rejects Jesus, and does not receive Jesus’ word, “already has a judge: the very word I  have spoken will condemn [that person] on the last day.”   If I do not believe in Jesus, I also do not believe In him who sent” Jesus and my  unbelief in the Word of God is what condemns me, not God Himself.  I believe and continue to believe that the God who created me, saved me in Christ Jesus and continually sanctifies me in the same Lord and Master enters your life and mine to save us, not condemn us. That is why I pray every day for persons throughout the world that their eyes, and ears, and hearts will be open to God’s love, that all will repent of any wrongdoing and turn to the Lord for mercy!

What is your belief?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Hand of God Was with Them and Is with Us

In today’s first reading, Acts 11: 19-26, we learn that those who had been scattered by the persecution that followed the murder of Stephen did not cowl in fear but went forth to other places to proclaim “the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them,” the author of Acts, tells us, and “a great number who believed turned to the Lord.” Barnabas was sent to Antioch and, when he arrived, he “saw the grace of God,” and  rejoiced and encouraged the people to whom he had been sent to “remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart.”

Wow! What testimony! What courage! And what a commitment to the Lord God! Would you and I, I ask, after witnessing a disciple of the Lord being stoned to death and fleeing persecution continue to “proclaim the Lord Jesus”?  Would we, in arriving at a new city/town/country recognize “the grace of God” working in strangers? Do we recognize God at work in those with whom we live? Within those with whom we worship each Sunday? Within our co-workers? 

May we, every day, take time to reflect upon the Scriptures of the daily liturgy, or any other Scripture or spiritually-uplifting reading. Doing so, we will grow in our awareness of God at work in others, and in ourselves. We will awaken our ability to rejoice and encourage others in their faith development and in using their faith to bring others to Jesus!

Monday, May 8, 2017

God's Inclusivity

In today's first reading, Acts 11: 1-18, while St. Peter is at prayer, he sees a vision of "something resembling a large sheet coming down, lowered from the sky by its four corners..." "It came to me," Peter says.  In this sheet were "the four-legged animals of the earth, the wild beasts, the reptiles, and the birds of the sky."  Three times, Peter hears a voice that said to him: "Get up, Peter. Slaughter and eat." Peter refuses! No way will he slaughter unclean animals, wild beasts, birds or reptiles.  He then hears a voice that says to him:  "What God has made clean, you are not to call profane."

Who or what do I label profane or unclean, not worthy to be spoken or listened to or invited to my table? Is that person a Democrat? a Republican? a Trump or a Clinton? An Obama? A black person? a white person? a Korean? a Phillipino? a Russian? an Englishman/woman? Anyone from a culture I have been taught to despise?  Anything that I have learnt to shun?

Monday, May 1, 2017

For What and for Whom Am I Looking?

In today's Gospel, John 6: 22-29, the crowd of 5000 men, whom Jesus had just fed the day before with 5 loaves and 2 fishes, went in search of Jesus. They found him on the other side of the sea.  They ask Him: "Rabbi, when did you get here?"  Jesus answers them:  "Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled."

Our motivations are not hidden from Jesus.  He knows what we are up to, all of the time, and easily could say to us when we attempt to pull the wool over his eyes: "Don't give me that. I know why you are here! I know for what you are looking.  Your motivations are clear to me, even is you are not being honest with Me or others or with yourself. Jesus is not being sassy with us but letting us know that we need to be honest and inviting us to be so.  Are we looking for Jesus? Truly? Are we, in fact, looking to do the will of God and how to build up the Kingdom or are we pursuing  self-interests, especially at the expense of others?

May we, through the work of the Spirit within us, grow in awareness of our motivations and come clean with God, with others and with ourselves. May we seek the Truth that sets us free!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Jesus' Message to Us: "Be Not Afraid; It is I"

In today’s Gospel, John 6: 16-21, we have the story of the disciples, after a busy day in ministry, going down to the sea, getting into a boat, and travelling across the sea to Capernaum.  They do this in spite of the fact that it is dark and a storm is ravaging the waters. They are out on the sea about 3-4 miles and see Jesus walking on the waters toward them. They are scared out of their wits! Aware of their fear, Jesus says to them: “It is I. Do not be afraid.” 

 Who is this man, they must have been asking themselves? He’s walking on the rough sea and not sinking!  The disciples want to take Jesus into the boat with them, but the “boat immediately arrived at the shore to which they were heading.”  “Immediately?”  “Really,”  I ask. Did Jesus not only calm their fears but miraculously bring them to the safety of the shore, I wonder.

Jesus shows us the face of our God: a God of mercy and compassion, a God who is concerned about every detail of our life, a God who knows when we are in “perilous waters,” a God who calms our fears—is aware, in fact, when we are afraid  and of what we are afraid.

We may not see Jesus walking on the treacherous waters of our lives, as these disciples did, but He, along with the Father and the Spirit,  is there. The Trinity is always at our sides, walking along side us, dwelling within us, watching over us day in and day out, throughout the “nights” of our lives. God is the light in that darkness, the strength in our weaknesses, the courage in our fearsome moments, the love in our less-loving moments, the forgiveness in our moments of resentment, waiting to be recognized.  God waits, as, in Jesus He was waiting for the disciples in the boat to see Him approaching them on the stormy waters.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Salvation, Redemption, Purification, Wholeness, Glorification

In today’s Gospel, John 3: 16-21, John reminds us that God sent His Son into the world, not to condemn it, but “that the world might be saved through him.”

From the very moment that Adam and Eve walked their own ways, disobeying God, God put a plan of salvation into place.  No way, would God leave humankind to its own devices, to its disobedience and to being subject to rejecting God forever. No!  He would send a Savior to redeem us from Satan.  We belong to God. We are His. His plans that we live with Him eternally would not be thwarted by Satan. Satan has no more power over us, as Jesus took him on by His obedience to the Father unto death.  Jesus destroyed both Satan and the power of death, physical and spiritual by His death and resurrection. In Christ Jesus, we, too, will triumph over death and Satan. Alleluia!

Jesus comes into your life and mine, not to condemn us, but to save us, to glorify us as He was glorified in His resurrection from the dead.  That same privilege is ours, if we believe in the Lord, if we seek God above all else, if we follow good spirits and not evil ones, if we rely upon the Lord in our struggles against Satan, who seeks to devour us, to catch us in his lies. What lies? That when we listen to the Tempter, that is, when we give into temptations to "have some fun," to cheat, lie, steal, engage in sex outside of marriage, to act unjustly, to get whatever we want at the expense of others, by experimenting with illegal drugs, in short, by following our own will and rejecting the will of God,  our "eyes will be opened and [we] will be like gods, knowing good from evil" (Gen 3:5),  as Satan told Adam and Eve in the Garden.

God approaches you and me at those times, not to condemn but to save us from the Evil One. Am I ready to surrender to the One who can save me from death, cradle me in His arms and whisk me away from the Tempter?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Resisting Evil, Taking Risks and Doing What is Right

In today’s first reading, 1 Peter 5: 5b-14, St. Peter prays that we be clothed in humility in how we relate to one another, for “God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble.”  His reasoning: that, by humbling ourselves ”under the mighty hand of God,” we might be exalted by God.  Peter also reminds us that Satan is roaming the world “looking for someone to devour.”

 My heart aches as I think of that reality. Recently I read a book by a young woman, who, as a teenager from a rather affluent suburb of a big city here in the U.S.,  was lured into the commercial sex trade. She was deceived by a smooth-talking, affectionate young man who prowled around the high school “seeking someone to devour.”  As the luring young man primed her, for a time, with loving attention, gifts and affection, he then brought her to the place where the men for whom he himself was working waited. The torturous nights being raped by a number of men who paid “their bosses” was horrendous. Sometimes this prowling man would call her out of classes.  Eventually her grades fell to unusually low standards.  Teachers did nothing. The policemen patrolling the high school did nothing as she left class and met “the charming man” at her locker.  If she did not cooperate, she was warned that harm would come to her family. She also was physically beaten if she resisted.  Every night for two years, the one luring her would also wait for her late at night to secretively leave her home and meet him in an expensive car hidden in the neighborhood. She would then be driven to the designated place where pimps awaited her.

Yes, Satan is prowling this world in disguises! “Resist him,” Peter asks us, “steadfast in faith, knowing that your brothers and sisters throughout the world undergo the same sufferings—the pain, in this case,  of following the Spirit’s nudge to act on behalf of this young teenage girl.  “The God of all graces who called you to his eternal glory through Christ Jesus will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish  you after you have suffered a little. To him be dominion forever. Amen”  Following God’s call to help others in need may be difficult. However, becoming Satan’s slave  to disobedience is far more painful!

To whom/what do I give dominion each day? What will lure me today away from what God is asking of me?

Am I aware of persons prowling our high schools, our city blocks, our neighborhoods seeking young girls--most victims of human traffickers are between 12-14 years of age? Do I see suspicious behavior? If I am a teacher/a parent, do I notice changes in otherwise successful students/children that warrant my attention? At midnight, is my child in her room?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Creative, Life-giving, Life-changing Power of God

In today’s first reading, Acts 3: 11-26, Luke shares the story of the how people responded to the miracle that Jesus performed through Peter and John when they said to a man crippled from birth and who was begging for alms, “…in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk”   (Acts 3: 1-10). He rose and walked for the first time in his life. People were amazed and “looked so intently at [Peter and John] as if [they] had made [the crippled man] walk by [their] own power or piety.”

 Jesus is the same now as then.  He makes all things new. He makes the lame walk, raises the dead to life (the physically dead to eternal life, the spiritually dead to new faith, the psychologically dead to new ways of connecting with others and self that brings new life to them emotionally and psychologically).  We see the creative power of the Triune God at work in winter giving way to spring, in plants “resurrecting” from the soil, in buds bursting open on trees and bushes. Flowers of a variety of colors and shapes beautify our environment in myriad of ways, revealing the beauty, presence  and life-giving power of our God. We see God bringing forth new life in the birth of baby chicks and birds and baby animals of all kinds. And of course, we also see God’s creative power at work in the birth of babies being born to families wanting to work with God in the creation of life among us.

May God be praised, honored, glorified through all of creation. May you and I be a significant part of that glorification, honoring, praising and thanking God by our intimacy with Him, with ourselves and with others in renewing life around us and within us, as the sun renews all of the plant kingdom this spring!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Jesus's Lesson on Intimacy

Today's Gospel, Luke 34: 13-35, recounts the story of the two persons on the way to Emmaus. They are discussing all that had taken place in Jerusalem, where Jesus, their Lord and Master, was crucified, died and was buried.  As they are sadly recounting the story and sharing their grief, the Risen Lord joins them but does not reveal who He is. "He asked them: 'What are you discussing discussing as you walk along?' they stopped, looking downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, 'Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?' And he replied to them, 'what sort of things?'"

As with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus joins you and I in our conversations with our loved ones--our spouses, our fellow religious, family members, sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, our grandchildren and grand nieces and nephews.  As with Cleopas and his companion, Jesus feigns ignorance, as He knows what is heavy upon our hearts.  As with the two persons on the road to Emmaus, He knows what is difficult for us to understand as well. He wants to know from us! He wants us to share our sorrows, our concerns, our hurts. He wants to know, from us, what is bothering us. Please don't say "Jesus already knows!"  Yes, He does, but is waiting for us to be honest with Him.

Notice what Jesus also teaches us in how to relate to others so that they are respected, understood, and loved: Listen, ask questions, before speaking.  How difficult that is to do when our egos what to show how much we know!  Acting ignorant is not what the ego does. It wants to be on top. It wants to dominate and let the other people know how informed it is, how intelligent we are. Consequently, it is easy to shut others down, close the door to growing in intimacy, love and understanding.

Help me, Lord, learn to listen, to ask questions, to be silent as the other person is telling his/her story! And speak only after that person has finished pouring out his/her heart. Then share my response, as only then is the other person's heart open to hear what I have to say in love!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

God: Our Shield and Our Help

As we reflect upon today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 33, we might create a prayer out of that psalm as follows:

Upright is Your word, O Lord, 
and all your works are trustworthy!
You love justice and right;
Your kindness, O Lord, fills the earth.
Your eyes, O Lord, are upon those who reverence you--
(may each of us honor, adore, praise, glorify, and thank You all of our days).
Your eyes, O Lord, are upon those who hope for Your kindness--we not only hope for your kindness, we depend upon it, Lord--to deliver us from death--the death of sin or selfish ambitions that bring harm to ourselves and others.
We need You, O Lord, to preserve us in spite of famine--the famine that is draining us of selfless giving of ourselves to help others in need, of welcoming strangers, of using diplomacy, wisdom and and patience in the pursuit of the common good,of disciplining ourselves from greedy ambitions and the need to prove military strength and "be the greatest" of all nations militarily. May we, O Lord, heed your words to Peter in Gethsemane when he used the sword and you said to him: "Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Mt. 2:52). The psalm continues:
Our souls, O Lord, wait for You.
You are our help and our shield.
Your kindness, O Lord, be upon us, 
upon all who put their hope in you, not in any president or politician, not in any world leader, not in money or wealth, not in pleasures, not in power or control. No, Lord, in You alone!  May we put You, Lord, our God, back into the center of our lives, our politics, our families, our relationships, our churches. Only then, will we bear fruit that will last: LOVE, the love you showed us on the cross.

Monday, April 17, 2017

This Risen Christ

In today's Gospel, Matthew 28: 8-15,  Mary Magdalene and the other Mary left the tomb to announce the news to his disciples, namely that they found the tomb empty. On the way to inform the disciples, Jesus meets them, greets them, and tells them to not be afraid and that they are to tell his brothers to go to Galilee, where they will see them there.

Notice that it is Jesus that shows Himself to the women. Jesus knows their fears. He knows that they have just come from His burial place and found the tomb empty. When you and I are looking for Jesus where He cannot found, Jesus knows!  He is always looking for us. He finds us and calms our fears. He also, however, asks us to share the Good News with others of His Presence, His nearness, His love for us.  He wants everyone to know that He is right here with us, walking beside us, watching out for us.  He is risen, as He said.  Though the disciples do not see Him as they did during His public ministry and though we do not see Him, as they did then either, He is still here with us every moment of every day!

I believe!  Do you?

Sunday, April 16, 2017


HALLELUIA! The Lord is Risen. Heaven has been open to us. Sin is destroyed! Alleluia! Satan’s power taken away from him. He will not be victorious in turning us away from our God and Savior, unless, like Judas, we do not seek His mercy and love.
Pardoned, forgiven, saved by God’s love for us and His mercy toward us! Alleluiua!
Pardoned by the Lord’s love shown to us by Jesus’ obedience to the Father unto death. Alleluia!
Yet, for our sins was Jesus put to death! Alleluia, praise to our Savior and Lord!

Every woman and man, every child and adolescent, has died with Christ in baptism and will rise with Christ at the end of his or her time here on earth. Alleluia.
Alleluia. O death, where is your sting! Death, for us,  includes the resurrection, as it did for Jesus!
Sting of death, you have been dissolved into the joy of our awaiting for Jesus to return to take us with Him! Alleluia!
Today, Jesus, said to the good thief on the cross, you will be with me in Paradise. Jesus will say the same thing to you and I when we are about to be released from death. Alleluia!
Ever mindful of God’s unconditional love for us, we, too, await our resurrection into eternal life! Alleluia!
Remember that you have been ransomed from sin by Jesus’ death and resurrection! Alleluia!

"Woman, why are you weeping?"

Happy Easter! Imagine this day! The disciples are in deep mourning over the crucifixion and death of their Lord and Master. Its a bla, bleak, dark, empty day. At this point, the disciples still do not believe what Jesus told them that, in three days, he would rise again. Death would have no power over Him.  

He In today’s Gospel, John 20: 1-9,  Mary of Magdala goes to the tomb and finds it empty. Jesus is not there. Frightened that someone stole the body, she runs to Simon Peter and John and reports the empty tomb. Peter and John dash to the tomb, John arriving first but, out of respect, waits for Peter to arrive and enter the tomb. Peter finds it empty as well, the burial cloths in which the body of Jesus was wrapped neatly folded.  From Peter’s perspective, the body of Jesus is gone.

John enters the empty tomb. “He saw and believed.”

Would you be Peter or John? Would you only see an empty tomb? Are you unbelieving, going about your business today, living your life by celebrating holidays, not holy days? Is Easter only about bunnies and Easter eggs and champagne and Easter lambs to be eaten, enjoyed and then life goes on in a secular, detached, unbelieving way? Is your faith dead or dying, in a weakened state, to say the least?

Jesus, our Lord and Incarnate God, crucified, put to death, has risen. He does so quietly, so to speak, breaking the chains of death, destroying Satan’s power and opening the gates to eternal life for each  one of us.   No crowds of people witness the resurrection, as John reports it. Jesus is risen. While Peter and John went into the tomb,  Mary of Magdala stood outside the tomb weeping.  “As she wept, she stooped to look inside [after Peter and John had left], and saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, the other at the feet. They said, ‘Woman why are you weeping?’  ‘They have taken my Lord away,’ she replied, ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’ As she said this she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’  Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.’ Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ She turned around then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’…” (John 20: 11-16).

For whom or what are you weeping? For whom are you looking? Do you recognize Jesus in your midst? Do you hear Jesus whispering your name? Or is Jesus not someone with whom you have a first-name relationship, a friendship that does not allow you to leave the "empty tombs" of your life until you find Him?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Jesus' Obedience Saves us from our Disobedience

In the opening prayer of today’s liturgy, we pray “to attain the grace of the resurrection,” a grace secured for us by Jesus’ obedience to the Father unto death. Jesus submitted to death for our sake. He accepted His passion with all of its sufferings: submitting to being arrested with chains and clubs, to being betrayed by one of the apostles, to being falsely accused, of being scourged, crowned with thorns, mocked, being hit in the face and spit upon, to His beard being plucked, to being insulted while dying upon the cross for our disobedience.  Jesus did all of this in order to show God’s love and determination to redeem us from our sins against humanity and against God. Jesus did whatever it took to reconcile us to God and to one another in accord with the Father’s will!  Jesus suffered, died, was buried and rose from the dead. Death and Satan had no power over Him.

In Christ Jesus, we, too, will overcome satanic forces in our lives and rise from the dead with Jesus at the end of our trial here on earth.  In gratitude, we offer Jesus’ body and blood in the Sacrifice of the Mass, praising God with all of the angels and saints in heaven and on earth for the "grace of the resurrection,"--the gift of our salvation--and, yes, begging for God’s ongoing mercy upon all of humankind, especially as we choose to worship other gods, ignore the needy, falsely accuse others of wrongdoing they did not commit or let those engaged in evil go scotch free, allowing leaders to enact corrupt decisions that will bring harm to ourselves and others, especially innocent children.  

How appropriate the prayer over the gifts of bread and wine that we prayed today at the liturgy:  “Receive, O Lord, we pray, the offerings made here, and graciously grant that, celebrating your Son’s Passion in mystery, we may experience the grace of its effects. Through Christ our Lord.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Jesus Confronts Judas, Peter and Us

In today’s Gospel, John 13: 21-33, 36-38, Jesus is “reclining with his disciples.” He is “deeply troubled and shares  His pain with them, saying: “…one of you will betray me.”  He confronts his betrayer, saying to Judas:  “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Judas leaves “at once.”  It “was night.”  When Jesus  then informs the disciples that he will He with them “only a little while longer,” and that where He is going, they “cannot come.”  Peter protests:  “Master, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus takes one look at Peter and asks him: “Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.”

What a night for Jesus! He knows that He is about to be turned over to evil men who will condemn Him to death and crucify Him, nailing Him naked upon the cross and leaving Him there to die a torturous death. He also knows that most of His followers, His intimate apostles, will flee for their lives that night and will not risk going up to Calvary with Him. Peter, the one to whom He is entrusting the keys to the Kingdom, will, in fact, vehemently deny any knowledge of Him.

Before we get too angry at Judas and at Peter, let us look at ourselves.   What will we do under pressure, and especially if it means risking our lives?  How easy to deny our faith when we are pressured by those who, perhaps, do not believe in Jesus or in the Eucharistic Presence, or, in fact, in the apostolic succession. What is the apostolic succession, you might ask? It means that we trace our faith all the way back to the apostles who were at the Last Supper, when Jesus  transformed the bread and wine into His body and blood,  and said: “Take and eat; this is by body given up for you” and “Take and drink; this is my blood poured out for you.  Do this in memory of Me.”  That same divine power  to change bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus—the Living, Risen Christ--is handed on to priests—and only to priests--through their ordination by a Catholic bishop. A priest is ordained  as a bishop by the Pope Himself. Peter was the first Pope, given the keys to the Kingdom by Jesus Himself. That is why, at every Catholic liturgy or Mass, we believe that when the priest says over the bread and wine “Take and eat; this is my body given up for you” and “take and drink; this is my blood poured out for you,”  we are receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus, as our salvation, our sanctification, our reconciliation with the Father, our purification and strength to follow Jesus in faithfulness and love, in obedience and peace.

I believe!  Do you?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Jesus: Our Savior, the Anointed One, the Face of God

In today’s first reading, Isaiah 42: 1-7, we are reminded that The Lord has called Jesus, His “servant,” His “chosen one with whom” He is “pleased,” and upon whom He has put His “Spirit,” Jesus will “bring forth justice to the nations.” He will not be “crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching.”   Jesus shows us the face of our God—a God of compassion, a God of patience, a God of mercy, a God of justice. 

In today’s responsorial psalm, Psalm 27, the psalmist proclaims:

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear?
 The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?
When evildoers come at me to devour my flesh,
 my foes and my enemies themselves stumble and fall.
 Though an army encamps against me, my heart will not fear;
 though war be waged upon me, even then will I trust.
 I believe that I shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living.
 Wait for the Lord with courage;
 be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord!”

A couple of questions with which we might grapple:

1.       What is my belief? Do I in fact believe that “I shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living? If that is not be belief, in what do I believe?
2.       For what am I waiting? Am I waiting for the Lord with courage?” Or have I placed my hope on God-substitutes—wealth, materials things, acquisition of personal ambitions, personal power, worldly accolades?  For whom, for what do I seek?
3.       In whom, in what do I seek refuge?
4.       What are my fears?

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Justice and Saving Graces of our God

In today’s first reading, Dan 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62, the elder judges falsely accuse Susanna, an innocent woman, of committing adultery. God raised up Daniel to confront these wicked elders of their unjust sentences that sent many innocent women to their deaths.  The innocent woman is spared and the unjust men, elder judges, face the sentence they had leveled against her, and so many others.

In today’s Gospel, John 8: 1-11, the scribes and the Pharisees bring a woman to Jesus caught in adultery: “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” Jesus bends down and writes in the sand with his finger.  They ignored Him and continued begging the question. Jesus then stands up and says to them: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one, “beginning with the elders,” the men accusing her walk away! Jesus says to the woman: Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She says “No, Lord.” And Jesus says to her: “Neither do I condemn you.”

In Ez 33: 11, we are reminded that God takes “no pleasure in the death of the wicked…, but rather in [a person’s] conversion, that [each individual] may live” (Ez 33:11).   That is God’s attitude toward the wicked.  His attitude, obviously, toward the just is the same.  John reminds us in John 3: 17 that “God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world but so that through him the world might be saved.” B Both Scripture readings, today, witness to these truths! And our faith tells us that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We, too, will encounter Jesus’ justice, a justice secured for us by His death on the cross on Good Friday and His resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday, both of which are celebrated at every Catholic Liturgy! And each of us entered into this Paschal Mystery at our Baptism and in our reception of the Sacraments!

God be praised and honored, glorified and thanked by every breath we take and every beat of our hearts throughout this day God has given us!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Salvation in the Way that Jesus Saves

Today's first reading, Dt 4: 1, 5-9, and the Gospel, Mt 5: 17-19,  speak about the law.  Jesus tells his disciples that he has come, not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.  He challenges the Pharisees for being legalistic, as legalism can kill the spirit. Love and compassion are above legalistic adherence to a law for the law's sake. An example would be a family member encouraging another family member recovering from pneumonia, for instance,  to stay home on a Sunday morning and take care of him/herself, not risking one's recovery by attending a liturgy on a Sunday morning.   A legalistic person might tell the family member that she/he  is well enough to attend Mass and must do so, obeying the commandment to keep holy the Sabbath.

Laws are made for our well-being and safety, not human beings made for the preservation and adherence to laws. The laws are there to protect us, to make us whole, to strengthen us spiritually and morally. Jesus knows the importance of laws and says to his disciples:  I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven."

Every time I obey the commandments, I am glorifying, honoring, praising God and God is strengthening and healing me. By my obedience, I am growing in grace and holiness, in endurance and wisdom, in intelligence and hope. In Dt 4: 1, 5-9, the author of this book encourages us to "observe [the commandments] carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear of all these statues and say, 'This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.' For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? Or what great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today?" 

May you and I have the wisdom and the intelligence to follow God closely, fulfilling the law as Jesus did, bringing it to fulfillment by our love, our compassion, our mercy, our forgiveness of ourselves and others.  It is through our obedience that we will grow in our knowledge of the Lord, our God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit--and truly grow in bringing the law to fulfillment for the good of others and our own good.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Prayer for Deliverance

In today’s first reading, Daniel3: 25, 34-43, “Azariah stood up in the fire and prayed aloud: ‘For your name’s sake, O Lord, do not deliver us up forever, or make void your covenant. Do not take away your mercy from us, for the sake of Abraham, your beloved, Isaac your servant, and Israel your holy one, to whom you promised to multiply their offspring like the stars of heaven, or the sand on the shore of the sea….So let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly; for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame. And now we follow you with our whole heart, we fear you and we pray to you. Do not let us be put to shame, but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy. Deliver us by your wonders, and bring glory to your name, O Lord.”

Lord, today, I stand up in the “fire” of a cancer ravishing the body of a loved one.  I cry aloud to You, O Lord: “For your name’s sake, do not deliver this young woman to the cancer within her that is aggressively taking possession of so many areas in her body. For the sake of her parents, her siblings, her grandparents and great grandparents—living and deceased—and all of her relatives, both living and deceased, show her your mercy.  “Let the sacrifices [she and her family have made in dealing with this uncaring disease] be in your presence today, as [she has, throughout her short lifetime] followed you with her whole heart, [as has each of her family members].  [She and her family] reverences you and prays to you. Do not let [her] be put to shame, but deal with [her] in your kindness and great mercy. Deliver [her from this cancer, according to God’s will] by your wonders, and bring glory to your name, O Lord.”

Monday, March 20, 2017

Nudged by Angels, God's Messengers

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus and husband of Mary, Mother of God. Joseph, like Mary, is specially chosen to be Jesus earthly foster father, as Mary is specially chosen to be Jesus’ Mother, having conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Mary becomes pregnant with Jesus during her betrothal to Joseph and before she and Joseph lived together.   Joseph agonizes over what to do, as he does not want to expose her and risk that she be stoned to death by the authorities of his day. So, being a just man, kind and compassion ate, he decides to divorce Mary quietly. “Such was his intention,” Matthew tells us in today’s Gospel, Mt. 1L: 16, 18-21, 24a, “when, behold, the angel of the Lord appear to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’”  On awakening, Joseph does as the angel commanded.

Joseph witnesses to the faith of a righteous man, a man willing to sacrifice for the sake of others!  How willing am I to make sacrifices for others or how attentive am I to the messengers God sends into my life to alert me to an action I need to take to protect others in danger of being harmed by another, whether that harm is death itself or the result of decisive action that could lead to an unnecessary death. Why? Because they might die of an otherwise treatable illness for which they cannot afford recommended medication or treatment for lack of insurance lost by the appeal of the ACA. Or a message to do that which would reconcile one to one’s spouse or children but which is ignored because it “cost” too much for one’s pride to swallow!  Or a choices I regret not making: “If only I had been there for her/him,” “if only had been more attentive, perhaps my son/my daughter would not have run away,” “if only I had helped my son/my daughter get the help he/she needed, things might have turned out differently.” “If only I would not have enabled my son/my daughter to act irresponsibly (I assumed responsibilities that were theirs, as adults to assume), he/she would have begun to make adult choices.”  Is it possible, that, at the end of the day, these regrets, or any others, are part of having ignored the Spirit’s nudges, unlike Joseph?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Gospel Challenge

In today’s Gospel, Luke 16: 19-31, the evangelist presents the story of Dives and Lazarus. Dives,  a rich man,  ignores the needs of Lazarus, a poor, very ill man who sat outside the gates leading to the rich man’s property.  Dives  is deaf to the cries of the poor and blind to their needs, using all of his wealth for himself and his family. Both men die! Dives, by his sins against the poor, has shut the door to enjoying God’s presence in eternity and ends up in eternal torment, while Lazarus enjoys eternal bliss at Abraham’s side.  Dives begs Abraham: “’Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’  Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus…received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’”

Who am I in this story? Dives or Lazarus? Am I rich financially and using those riches only for myself or am I financially strapped, not knowing how I will provide for my family’s needs for food, shelter, medical care, education, clothing and thus dependent upon those who are better off to be generous in sharing of their riches? Also, am I rich or poor spiritually, socially, and intellectually? With which talents has the Lord blessed me?  Do I share my riches—my joy, my faith, my hope, my love, my caring, my compassion, my  upbeat personality? Do share my talents—whatever I am good at because of professional training or natural talent? Do I share my giftedness—and we are all gifted--with others, or hoard my gifts and blessings for personal use only, for my own comfort here on earth,  ignoring the needs of others, not caring that their rights are being violated by me or anyone else?

Furthermore, I might ask myself:  Am I building  “a kingdom” for myself here on earth and for
me alone?” Or am I concerned that everyone has what he or she needs to provide for their families and for themselves and that I, when possible, share of my wealth, whatever that might be? In other words,  am I preparing myself to enjoy God’s kingdom in heaven that is reserved for those who are mindful of the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized of our societies and who use their gifts to serve others and to make the world around them a better place? Am I a “Dives” or a “Lazarus”?  

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Being a Disciple of Jesus

In today’s first reading, Jeremiah 18: 18-20, we are told about the people of Judah’s plot to kill Jeremiah: “Come, let us contrive a plot against Jeremiah. It will not mean the loss of instruction from the priests, nor of counsel from the wise, nor of messages from the prophets. And so, let us destroy him by his own tongue; let us carefully note his every word.”   Jeremiah asks God to spare him this kind of suffering:

                Heed me, O Lord,
                And listen to what my adversaries say.
                Must good be repaid with evil
                that they should dig a pit to take my life?
                Remember that I stood before you
                To speak in their behalf,
                to turn away your wrath from them.
Obviously, Jeremiah is a prefiguration of Jesus. Throughout Jesus’ public ministry, the scribes and the Pharisees plotted to put Him to death by his own words.  ”Carefully, [H]is every word” was noted.   Like Jeremiah, Jesus begs His Father to take note.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, “he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, this hour might pass him by. ‘Abba, Father! For you everything is possible. ‘Take this cup away from me. But let it be as you, not I, would have it.”

How willing, when I encounter suffering, am I to pray: “Abba, Father! For you everything is possible. Take this cup away from me. But let it be as you,  not I, would have it”?

In today’s Gospel, Matthew 20: 17-28, Jesus tells the Twelve that they are on their way up to Jerusalem. “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”

You and I, throughout our life time, also are on our way to Jerusalem.  And, like the Twelve, we don’t always get it (See today’s Gospel)!  Sadly, we could, like them, still be clamoring for first place, for places of privileges, for special favors that put us above others, as in the case of James and John, who, through their mother, begged to be given special privileges in Jesus’ kingdom, which at that point they still believed would be an earthly one!

For what am I clamoring? Do I realize that, as a follower of Jesus, I, too, am going up to Jerusalem, where, through the process of dying and through death itself, I will be raised to a new life of grace, a life where good triumphs over evil, where I am put in right relationships with God, self and others, where there are no more tears or suffering,  and where sin will not prevail?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Call to Conversion

In today's first reading, Isaiah 1: 10, 16-20, the prophet says to us and to the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, "Listen to the instructions of our God...Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good.  Make justice your aim; redress the wronged, hear the orphan's plea, defend the widow."

Isaiah is speaking to us as individual persons, as individual families, as church,  as a nation, as civic and as social entities. As an individual, whom have I wronged? What are the misdeeds, the evil, that I have done that needs correction?  Whose pleas for mercy, for understanding, for forgiveness and help in time of need have I ignored?

As a family, are there individuals who are being wronged, abused--verbally, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually?  What wrongs within the family need to be addressed? Whose pleas within the family need to be acknowledged and dealt with patiently, compassionately, lovingly?  Who within the family needs to be accepted, forgiven, welcomed?

As a nation, as politicians, as governors, as senators, as members of the Department of Justice, as members of the Pentagon, as members of the President's Press Core, of the Cabinet, of the National Security Advisory Team, as the President himself, Isaiah says to each of you: "Wash yourself clean! Put away your misdeeds...; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim; redress the wronged [immigrants, refugees, uninsured], hear the orphan's plea, [the pleas of vulnerable males and females forced into the sex trade, into slave labor, into drug trafficking] defend the widow [defend minorities, the vulnerable, the uninsured, the poor, oppressed and marginalized of our societies]."  

God, through Isaiah, goes on to say: "Come now, let us set things right,...Though your sins be like scarlet, they may  become white as snow; though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool. If you are willing, and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land; but if you refuse and resist, the sword shall consume you; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken!" That sword could be the sword of selfishness, narcissism, envy, jealousy, greed or any other sin that ultimately brings us death: the death of love and generosity, the death of honesty, the death of forgiving, the death of mercy and compassion. A hardness of heart sets in. A blindness and a deafness takes possession of us and we are then unable to tune into the voice of the Lord.  We then live in darkness. Is that what we truly desire?

ARE WE LISTENING TO THE PROPHET ISAIAH? And, if we are, what changes need to take place so that each of us and each entity of our nation, family, church, civic community becomes an obedient servant of God?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Acknowledging our Wrongdoing

Today's first reading, Daniel 9: 4b-10, presents the following prayer:  Lord, great and awesome God, you who keep your merciful covenant toward those who love you and observe your commandments!  We have sinned, been wicked and done evil; we have rebelled and departed from our commandments and laws.  We have not obeyed your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, your [ancestors], and all the people of the land. Justice, O Lord, is on your side; we are shamefaced even to this day: we, the men  [and women] of Judah [of the U.S.A.], the residents of Jerusalem [citizens of the U.S.A.] ...."    

Without knowing it, perhaps, we are sinning by our choice to build walls between ourselves and other nations, by deporting undocumented immigrants, separating children from their parents, by increasing the wealth of the wealthy at the expense of the poor, possibly denying 10s of millions of people health insurance, by perpetuating lies in efforts to hide our own sinful behaviors, by pushing forth our own promises to assumedly  win accolades for keeping our promises when those violate the rights of others.

Daniel goes on to say in later verses of today's first reading:  O Lord, we are shamefaced, like our kings, our princes, and our [ancestors], for having sinned against you! But yours, O Lord,  our God, are compassion and forgiveness! Yet we have rebelled against you and paid no heed to your command, O Lord, our God, to live the law you gave us through your servants the prophets.

Those laws still hold today! The lack of compassion on the part of those governing this nation and those who support their executive orders and legislation is a disgrace.  Have mercy on us and on them, Lord, for "they know not what they are doing" (Jesus' words from the cross)!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Choice of Virtue or Sin

Today’s readings,  Ez 18: 21-28 and Mt. 5: 20-26, both address the importance of choosing virtue, of righting the wrongs we have done towards others and ourselves, of turning away from sinful attitudes towards others and ourselves—of letting go of our resentments and our grudges that we hold against one another or against ourselves, of no longer holding others or ourselves in disdain.  Ezekiel tells us that if a sinner, turns away from all the sins he [she] has committed, if he [she] keeps all [God’s] statues and does what is right and just, he [she] shall surely live, he [she] shall not die.”  On the other hand, if a virtuous person “turns from the path of virtue to do evil, the same kinds of abominable things that the wicked…does, can he [she] do this and still live? None of his [her] virtuous deeds shall be remembered, because he [she] has broken faith and committed sin….”

Those are strong words and, from time to time, each of us is both the sinner and then, again, the virtuous and repentant one. From time to time, each of us turns away from sin to virtue and then, again, away from virtue to sin.  With the psalmist in today’s responsorial psalm, we pray:

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication.
If you, O Lord, mark iniquities,
Lord, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness,
that you may be revered.
I trust in the Lord;
my soul trusts in his word.
My soul  waits for the Lord
more than sentinels wait for the dawn.
Let Israel [let each of us] wait for the Lord.
For with the Lord is kindness
And with him is plenteous redemption;
And [God] will redeem Israel [and each of us]
From all their [our] iniquities.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

What Esther Teaches Us about Prayer

In today’s first reading, Esther C: 12, 14-16, 23-25, Esther prostrates herself from morning until evening,  first acknowledging God as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob and then blessing God.  Do I, when I come into prayer, first acknowledge who God is and bless God, praising and thanking God for who God is? Or do I begin prayer telling God what I want from God?  If the latter, that approach to God is significantly different from what Esther teaches us about prayer!

Esther comes to God at one of the lowest points in her life.  She is an orphan, having been taken away from her family and forced to join the king’s harem.  Her people, the Jews, are about to be systematically killed by the king’s orders and she feels responsible to intercede on their behalf (Word Among Us, Lent 2017, p. 29).  However, the king has not invited her to enter his presence and she will need to do so minus that invitation. She could be risking her life in doing so and also because the king does not know that she is a Jew! 

Esther turns to God in prayer in this darkest of moments in her life. To what do you and I turn when at the lowest points of our lives? And when we turn to God, do we do so by first acknowledging who God is and second by blessing God with words of thanksgiving and praise?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Message from Jonah

In today’s first reading, Jonah 3:1-10, Jonah enters the city of Nineveh.  He delivers God’s message to this city, telling the residents that “[f]orty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed.”  The people took heed of Jonah’s message, believing that, in truth, God would destroy their city because of its wickedness. A fast was proclaimed.  The “great and small put on sackcloth.” The king and his nobles issued a decree, saying: “Neither man nor beast, neither cattle nor sheep, shall taste anything; they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water. Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God; every man shall turn from his evil way and from the violence he has in hand. Who knows, God may relent and forgive, and withhold his blazing wrath, so that we shall not parish.” And God “repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.”

The U.S.A. is Nineveh!   Do we, as a nation, not need to repent of and turn away from “evil…and from the violence” being leveled upon immigrants, refugees,  the unborn, and persons who are victims of human traffickers, drug traffickers, and of the slave industry?  Do we not need to rethink government proposals to line the pockets of the rich, to create more billionaires and to perpetuate the arms race? Is it possible that millions of people may be without health insurance and millions of immigrants may be deported (a deportation that may separate children from their parents) all because of the high probability of false information upon which many legislative actions are being promulgated? Are we citizens of the U.S. not in danger of believing lies that are broadcasted over and over again and which will likely bring disaster to ourselves and our neighbors?

Is it possible that unless we sincerely repent of our wrongdoing, cry out to the Lord for mercy and forgiveness and right our wrongs, that we, like Nineveh, could be destroyed?

Monday, March 6, 2017

God's Instructions of Being Holy/Whole in His Sight

Today’s first reading, Leviticus 19: 1-2, 11-18, begins with the Lord asking us to “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy” and then spells out ways in which we are not holy, namely, when we:

·         Steal, rob others of their rights, engage in fraudulent behaviors
·         Lie in any way, swear falsely, spread slanderous statements against anyone
·         Use God’s name disrespectfully
·         Curse the deaf and put stumbling blocks in front of the blind
·         Render unjust , dishonest judgments towards anyone
·         Show partiality toward the rich and famous as well as toward the weak and vulnerable
·         Do nothing when another’s life is in danger
·         Bear hatred in our hearts  towards anyone
·         Seek revenge and hold grudges

Lord, how unholy am I, how much in need of your mercy and forgiveness from you and others.
Dorothy Ann,   (your name), as “the height of heaven above earth, so strong is [God’s] faithful love for… [you] who [reverence the Lord].  As the distance of east from west, so far from [you] does [God] put [your] faults. As tenderly as a [loving, caring, forgiving] father treats his children, so Yahweh treats [you, his daughter/son]; [God] knows of what [you] are made, [God] remembers that [you] are dust."

Thank you, Lord, for your merciful, caring restorative justice, loving me into eternity, loving me into right relationships with you, others and myself.  Thank you for being merciful and understanding of my human nature, its downfalls and weaknesses, its sinfulness and efforts to do what is right before you, to “be holy as You are holy.”

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Kind of Fasting God Asks of Us

In today’s first reading, Isaiah 58: 1-9a, the prophet puts forth challenges concerning our fasting.   We may give up this or that, priding ourselves on all that we are sacrificing while continuing our “quarreling and fighting, striking with wicked claw.”  “The fasting,” which the Lord wants, Isaiah tells us, is “releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.” Who am I, for instance,  holding in the bonds of oppression: not talking to them, not acknowledging their presence, holding a grudge against them, gossiping about them, withholding forgiveness?  Who within my family am I scorning? With whom, in my family, am I fed up and about whom I am saying:   “I’ve had enough of your _______________________"?  Have I treated anyone unjustly? Have I damaged relationships by being selfish, deceitful or jealous?

With whom do I need to reconcile?  How might I improve relationships with those with whom I live the closest? How might I make a difference in my marriage, in my relationship with my children or grandchildren, nieces and nephews, in-laws,  in my relationship with my fellow religious or fellow priests and/or religious brothers, with the priests serving in my parish? 

When we fast from that which makes life difficult for others, then, Isaiah tells us, “your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer, you shall cry for help, and [God] will say: Here I am!”

What are you doing special during this Lenten season that corresponds to what the Lord wants of you?

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Making Right Choices

Choose life, we are asked in today’s first reading, Dt. 30: 15-20, by turning your hearts to the Lord, listening to God and not allowing yourself to be “led stray and adore and serve other gods.”  Moses reminds the Israelites that he has “set before[the]  life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.  For that will mean life for you, a long life for you to live on the land that the Lord swore he would give to your fathers/[mothers] Abraham [and Sarah], Isaac [and Rebecca], Jacob [and Leah and Rachel].”

The questions you and I need to ask ourselves are: Am I choosing life? Am I choosing blessing? Am I choosing to love the Lord, our God, with my whole heart, mind, soul and will?  Am I heeding God’s voice and holding fast to the Lord? Or am I making choices that are not life-giving? Am I holding fast to promises that are not in line with what God is asking of me?  Am I serving idols, non-gods, God-substitutes? Am I seeking security in wealth, money, an accumulation of material things, sex—running from one relationship to another and another and giving sacrificial love to no one? 

In today's Gospel, Luke 9: 22-25, Jesus says to us:  If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily..."  Am I refusing to take up the cross of serving others, making sacrifices for others in my love for them,  of being faithful to the vows I have taken in marriage or in religious life?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Jesus Saves All Who Call Upon Him, Jews and Gentiles alike

In today’s Gospel,  Mark 7: 24-30, a Syrophoenician woman approaches Jesus, asking that He heal her daughter, that is, to “drive out the demon” that possesses her.  Jesus says to the woman:  “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Sounds harsh; doesn’t it?  Jesus was sent first to the children of Israel, not to Gentiles—that is what He is telling her.e is telling her   .  The woman is not deterred in her request and says to Jesus:  “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” Jesus then commends her for her faith and immediately heals her daughter. “For saying this, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.”
Jesus is teaching His disciples that God reaches out to both Jews and Gentiles, that  is, that God has come to save all people, not just the Jews. 

As we pray over upon this passage, we may reflect upon our own faith in Jesus and the “demons” from which we need to be healed. What weaknesses within us keep us from doing the good that God has planned for us today? And who in our families and among our relatives needs Jesus’ healing touch so that they, too, live up to their potential as children of God, created to let their light shine for all to see and from which others can benefit, being drawn , also to living a life of faith in God, in oneself and in others who need us to show the way to the Father?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

God's Infinite Generosity

Today’s first reading, Genesis 1: 20-2: 4a, is a continuation of the creation story, whereby God creates an abundance of every living thing upon the earth: birds of the air, fishes of the sea, creeping things, cattle and all kinds of wild animals and says after creating all of them: “Be fertile, multiply,” populate the earth with more of your kind, seeing that all that He had made was good.  Then, God created humankind in His image; the image of the Divine He created us, in God’s likeness, “male and female He created [us]” and said: “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over…all living things that move on the earth.” God also gave us “every seed-bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be [our] food [along with] all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air,” the fishes in the sea, and “all the living creatures that crawl on the ground.”  Then God rested and enjoyed all of His creation.

What a generous God, providing everything for us to exist in peace, enjoying fullness of life and delighting in all of God’s creation!  And, moreover, in His creation of us, God made us like Himself. We are created in God’s image. Think of the Trinity, a community of three persons (though one God) relating equally to one another. No one person of the Trinity dominates the other. All share equally the gifts of divinity: the power, the creativity, the Wisdom, the Prudence, the Counsel, the Reverence, and the Courage. And you and I are created in the likeness of the Trinity, of God.  When we live the Trinitarian life, each of us relates respectfully to each other. Each of us relates prudently, lovingly, creatively, courageously, wisely in meeting each other’s needs and being one with the other in holiness and grace, in power and majesty, in love and forgiveness. 

What a generous God, who shows us in the Trinity how to live according to God’s likeness!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Let It Be according to God's Creative Word

In today's first reading, Genesis 1: 1-19, we are presented with the beginning of God's creation of our world, a world covered with darkness, "a formless wasteland," prior to God's intervention. God spoke "Let there be light," and "there was light."  He then "separated the light from the darkness. God called the light 'day,' and the darkness he called 'night.'"  He spoke again, saying "Let there be a dome in the middle of the waters, to separate one body of water from the other." And so it was. God spoke again, saying: Let the water under the dome [under the sky] be gathered into a single basin, [which God called the sea] so that the dry land [the earth] may appear."  God then called forth vegetation of all kinds  to cover the earth and lights to appear in the sky, separating day and night and to "mark the fixed times, the days and the years."

To this very day, each created thing functions according to the boundaries and purposes for which each was brought into being. Night follows day every day! The four seasons follow each other every season.  Vegetation of every kind reproduces its fruit year after year. And each of the vast oceans and seas stay within the boundaries God set for them as well!

God spoke, period! God continues to speak to this very day. If God says, "let it be," it is as God commands.  Jesus showed us this side of God during His public ministry. The winds obeyed Him. Storms ceased, when Jesus spoke to them. Diseases were healed.  The dead were raised. Demons fled and came out of anyone of whom they had taken possession.  Through the power of God's Word,  good continues to happen and evil continues to be rendered powerless for those who have faith, as it was, also, for Jesus.  On the cross, darkness and death, also,  had no power over Him. He rose from the dead and the darkness of Calvary gave way to the Light of the Resurrection. The same will be true for us as we give credence to our faith in Christ Jesus, beginning with the good you and I bring forth today and the evil that flees in the face of God's grace at work within and around us--at work because we call upon our God to help us transform darkness into light, chaos into order, sickness into health, hatred into love, evil into goodness and so on!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Jesus Christ is the Same Yesterday, Today and Forever

In today’s first reading, Hebrews 13: 1-8, St. Paul admonishes us to allow “love [to] continue, to “not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels. Be mindful of prisoners,” Paul says to us, “as if sharing their imprisonment, and of the ill-treated as of yourselves, for you also are in the body,” awaiting redemption, as they are.  “Let your life,” he challenges, “be free from love of money but be content with what you have,” for God “will never forsake you or abandon you”.

How fitting for our times, as millions of people seek hospitality, as they flee for their lives and the safety of their children and as they seek refuge in countries not ravaged by war-filled violence of undue proportions.  Millions of people are being ill-treated around the world, including in our own country.  More and more people within and outside of the U.S. face difficult times,  as one nation after another threatens the other with dire consequences if they make choices that threaten the security of us all.  With hatred peppering the speeches of world leaders and threats being hurled toward anyone who challenges leaders from pushing forth their personal agendas, it is likely that hard times lull in our futures. Paul invites us to “[r]emember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.”

Thursday, February 2, 2017

God Sends His Messenger

In today’s first reading the Lord shares the following promise with us through the prophet Malachi: “Lo,” the Lord says, “I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; and suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek, and the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming,…but who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye….He…will purify the sons Levi….”

That messenger is Jesus!  Suddenly, without fanfare, quietly, the Lord will appear in each of our lives.  God may visit us in the beauty of creation, in the sun and moon and stars; in the warmth of spring or the heat of summer and fall, in the smile of a child or the unconditional love of a pet.  God may also appear in the call from a friend or a family member, in a letter or an email that brings good news.  God may also come, Malachi tells us, “like the refiner’s fires, or like the fuller’s lye…He will purify” us.  That kinds of visitation may be in the form of an earthquake or in another violent way. God then comes to us hidden in the storm that could easily shatter our confidence, weaken our knees, bring a tremble to our voices.  God’s visitation may be in news of a serious illness, our own or that of a loved one.  Those kinds of visitations reinforce our dependence upon God, our need of God.  Acknowledging such, we are purified of pride and arrogance. 

Am I looking for God, as God searches for me?  In those situations that frighten me, God is there as anchor, as rock, as Savior, Comforter, and Confidante.  “Come to Me,” Jesus says to us in Matthew 11: 28, “all you who labor and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Seeking Peace and Holiness

In today’s first reading, Hebrews 12: 4-7, 11-15, St. Paul instructs us to “[a]lways be wanting peace with all people, and the holiness without which on one can ever see the Lord. Be careful that no one is deprived of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness should begin to grow and make trouble; this can poison a whole community.”

In this same passage, Paul reminds us that the Lord disciplines his sons and daughters.  The purpose of that discipline is that we may grow in holiness and, thus, not deprive others of the grace of God that gives life to the whole community. That discipline might come from a correction from another or by a disturbance in my relationships or within myself that alerts me that something is not right. I then need to take note and look at what part of the suffering I am causing. And when I discover how I have contributed to the turmoil, I then need to do my part to restore the peace, that is, acknowledge my part and, possibly, apologize.  When I am ranting within myself about something, frustrated and upset and pointing a finger at someone else's role in the commotion, I find it very helpful to say to myself: Dorothy, you have the most to improve.  That helps me let go and embrace the peace God wants to give me.

  At the end of each day, it is also helpful to reflect upon whether or not I have been a source of holiness in the community, that is, have I,  by my love and forgiveness, by my peace and serenity, by my hopefulness and faithfulness to the Gospel, allowed the grace and mercy of God to flow through me into others? Or, on the contrary, have I poisoned the atmosphere by my unresolved anger and bitterness,  by my selfish ambitions and unforgiving stance, by hidden pride lurking in my attitudes or by my hopelessness and disloyalty to the Gospel of Christ?

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Active Faith and Jesus' Response

In today’s Gospel, Mark 5: 21-43, a woman who has been ill for 12 years,  exhausted her savings and experienced painful treatments to no avail, approaches Jesus quietly, hoping to simply touch the hem of His garment, knowing in faith, that she will be healed. And she is!  Jesus turns around and asks: Who touched me?  The disciples think he’s crazy to ask such a question when they were surrounded by a crowd of people so “thick” it was impossible not to rub against one another. Yet, Jesus knew that healing  power had flowed out of Him.  The woman who was healed and who would have been considered unclean because of her condition comes forward and acknowledges that she is the one who touched Him.  In love and compassion, Jesus commends her for her faith, saying to her: “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

Jesus waits, also, for you and I to approach Him in faith, unafraid to come forward. Jesus will not shame us, as others might do for being “unclean,” for being considered unworthy by some, by being ostracized and excluded by many. We may have even been treated badly, such as being told to “get outta here. You don’t belong here.”  This woman knew that she was considered unclean and that anyone who touched her would also be labeled unclean and would need to submit to the legal ramifications of ignoring the Mosaic laws that applied to such individuals. Yet she approached Jesus!
To Jesus, what mattered were love, compassion, understanding and mercy. God is a loving God, a compassionate God, a kind God, a God of understanding and mercy.  Legalism was not part of Jesus’ vocabulary or behaviors. Over and over again, Jesus challenged people of His day who adhered rigidly  to ritual and laws at the expense of responding lovingly to human need. He does so today, also.

How do you and I relate to others? Are we slaves to rigid boundaries? Are we legalistic, denying others the compassion, the mercy, the love of God that dwells within us? Or do we, like Jesus, rise above legalism and challenge the rigid application of set rules/structures, playing it safe to look good in the eyes of authority outside of ourselves?

Monday, January 30, 2017

Jesus' Compassion and Mercy

In today’s Gospel, Mark 5: 1-20, we read and reflect upon the story of the person tortured by a legion of evil spirits.  “The man,” Mark tells us, “had been dwelling among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain.”  As soon as Jesus and his disciples approached the area where this man was roaming, Jesus commanded the evil spirits to come out of him.  The tormenting evil spirits begged Jesus  to let them stay in the region and be allowed to enter a herd of pigs  ”feeding on the hillside.”  Jesus allowed it.  Possessed of the legion of demons, the herd of 2000 pigs ran down the hill into the sea. All drowned.

The man freed of the evil that had taken possession of him wanted to stay with Jesus. Instead, Jesus asked him to “go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you.” The man followed Jesus’ recommendation. He returned to his family and to the people who were hurt by his behavior when he was under the torturous ways of evil spirits.   He “went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.”
This sounds like an incredible story. However, evil spirits are as active today as in Jesus’ time here on earth as the Son of Man, as is Jesus’ mercy and compassion.  Many people, today, neglect their children to engage in promiscuous behaviors or space out in their use of alcohol and drugs. Some men and women are “possessed” by  other addictions that destroy family life and corrode faithfulness to marriage vows.

You and I, from time to time, follow directions that do not come from the Holy Spirit. A streak of meanness or attitudes of hatred and bigotry, prejudice and arrogance may take possession of us.   Unforgiveness may grip our minds and hearts. Pride may hold sway over our actions.  Others may say of us: “He/she is simply impossible to reason with.” Or “He/she is so ornery.  Anger and selfishness dominates his/her thinking and behavior. I can hardly take it anymore! I don’t want to be around this person anymore.”

From what “demon” or “demons” do you and I need to be freed?  In what ways has Jesus healed us of addictions that threatened to destroy that which we once held sacred and led to broken relationships?  What “demons” has Jesus commanded to leave us? And to whom do we owe an apology for the ways we hurt them when tortured by “evil spirits” to which we were slaves?

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Progression of our Salvation

In today’s Gospel, Mark 4: 35-41, we are presented with the story of Jesus’  disciples detaching from the crowd by crossing to the other side of the lake.  It is evening and they take Jesus with them.  Shortly after getting into the boat, ”a violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat so that it was already filling up.”  Jesus, in the meantime, fell asleep in the stern, probably dead tired from a very long day in ministry.  The disciples are frantic as the boat fills up with water and wake Jesus, saying: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus wakes up, rebukes the wind and says to the sea, “Quiet! Be still.” And the wind and the sea obey Jesus’ command and cease their stormy terror!  “Where is your faith,” Jesus asks the disciples. “Why are you terrified?”

We may be entering one of the stormiest times of U.S. history. And Jesus asks us the same question: ´”Where is your faith?” “Why are you terrified?”   Those are the questions  you and I are faced with in the storms of life-- our personal life, the life of our families, our ecclesial life, the political life of our country, the threats from other countries or the actions we take as a nation that could lead to violence toward us from other countries or to other countries abandoning us, as we “vow” to isolate ourselves from our neighbors around the world.

Jesus, and Jesus alone, is our Savior. He is aware of the times we are treading water, when “violent squalls” come up and waves are breaking over the “boat” of our lives. Jesus/God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  What God has done to bring the Chosen People to the Promised Land and what Jesus had done to save the disciples in the boat and us through His death on Calvary is what God will do for us in 2017 and beyond! What is happening, I believe, is not about any political figure or world leader anymore than it was about politics in Jesus’ earthly life. It is about God working out our salvation in Christ Jesus!