Thursday, June 22, 2017

Commitment to Christ, to the Gospel

In today's first reading, 2 Cor 11: 1-11, St. Paul voices his fear that those to whom He preached Christ Crucified and shared the Good News of Christ will allow themselves "to be corrupted from a sincere and pure commitment to Christ," as Satan is very cunning. Just as he deceived Eve, St. Paul is afraid that he will deceive those who have come to a believe in Christ through his preaching.

Satan works as hard to deceive you and I as he worked to lure Adam and Eve away from God's commands. Adam and Eve gave into Satan's lies. You and I are also vulnerable to the lies of "the serpent" who slithers into our lives luring us into believing that "anything goes," that it is okay to tell white lies, to gossip about others, to bend the rules to fit our fancy, to do whatever because everyone is doing it, and on and on!  "It's okay to cheat on our marriage vows, on the vows we confessed as men and women religious, as priests. It's okay to give in a little to temptations to get even, to seek selfish ambitions to be above others, to lord it over others", and so on and on and on!

Have I allowed my "sincere and pure commitment to Christ" to become corrupted? "Oh, only a little, my ego says!" Corruption is corruption! Lord, I pray, that I will return to you in repentance and seek Your help to return to being sincere and purely committing myself to You again! I pray, Lord, for the humility to admit my vulnerability and to  repent of the times  I made excuses for becoming lukewarm in service of You, the times I lost my first fervor, my first love!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Sowing Bountifully or Sparingly

In today's first reading, 2 Cor 9: 6-11, St. Paul reminds us that "whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully."  How challenging it can be at times to sow bountifully. If you are like me, sometimes you cut corners by letting the other person do what we easily could do ourselves or do for others. Or we let the other do our share of the chores that need being done. Or, we know what our responsibilities are as partners in marriage, as members of a religious community, as children, as employees but shun them. For instance, a child may say to him/herself: "If mom and dad don't notice, I will get away without practicing the piano or spending time reading", or whatever.  Or, a husband or wife might say:  "Mom/dad can do that; I am tired; I've worked hard all day" and don't lift a finger to help. When we sow sparingly, we also reap sparingly:  we feel depleted, dissatisfied, less loved, less compassionate, less fulfilled.

Those who sow bountifully give the 100-150%.  Nothing is too much for them.  They notice things that need to be done. They look for ways to be helpful. They do not wait to be waited upon but are the waiters. They do not wait to be served, but are the servers.  These persons  "have an abundance for every good work...," St. Paul reminds us in this passage. They are "being enriched in every way for all [their] generosity." 

Are you satisfied with yourself? Are you sowing bountifully or sparingly? The choice is yours and so are the results!


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Jesus Becomes Poor for Us

"For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich so that by his poverty you might become rich."

Oh, the greatness of our God, who says to each one of us that He chose poverty--anything on this earth is poverty compared to living in eternity--so that you and I would become rich in grace. He left heaven for earth for each one of us. He took on human nature and all of its weaknesses, expect sin, to save us from eternal death. He assumed death at the hands of wicked men, knowing man's inhumanity to man so that you and I would be redeemed by His generous love, compassion, and mercy.

We recently witnessed a man being brought back to the States in a coma after 15 months of treatment that led to such a horrible fate. Every day, we witness man's inhumanity to man--beatings of toddlers to death because of a bed-wetting problem, children  and youth sold to human traffickers as sex slaves,  children starving to death because of greed that leaves a huge populations without the means to provide adequately for their families, persons condemned to hard labor for stealing a poster and other unjust sentences that leave individuals suffering cruel treatment, and on and on and on as government leaders pass legislation that favors the rich at the expense of the poor.

Jesus, the Son of God, assumes human nature to redeem it, to know human suffering at its worst--being tortured with the scourging, the crowning with thorns, and the crucifixion! Being condemned to death as an innocent man, He knows the pain of persons falsely imprisoned and falsely condemned, punished beyond reason for wrongs committed.  He knows man's lack of compassion and lack of mercy. He came to show us God compassion God's mercy, and  God's love.  Yes, Jesus "became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you [and I] might become rich" in mercy, love, and compassion in how we treat others and that man's inhumanity to man will someday be stopped!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Blessings and Encouragement

In today's first reading, 2 Corinthians 1: 1-7, Paul greets the people of Corinth by saying: "[G]race and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."   That same greeting is given to us today wherever we are and whoever we are.  Also in  this passage, Paul proclaims that our God is a God "of all encouragement," a "Father of compassion," one  who "encourages us  in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God."

Here in this life you and I are an extension of God. We are blessed by God in order to be a blessing to others. We are encouraged by God in our suffering,  pain, and challenges of life in order that we, in turn, will encourage others as they encounter realities of this life that leave them baffled, confused, hurting or traumatized, not because God wills life's calamities but that, in them, we may seek the Lord, discover God's presence and rely on God's power to bring about our salvation.  

The psalmist, in today's responsorial psalm, invites us to "taste and see the goodness of the Lord."  With the psalmist, may we be able to say at the end of the day: "I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears."  May I also accept the invitation of the psalmist to "[l]ook to him [God] that...[I] may be radiant with joy, and ...[my face] may not blush with shame."    May I "glorify the Lord,...extol his name", and take "refuge" in the Lord" in every circumstance of life and especially in the difficult times.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Our Guardian Angels

In today's first reading, Tobit 12: 1, 5-15, 20, the Archangel Raphael reveals himself to Tobit, assuring him that he:

"will conceal nothing all from you...[T]he works of God are to be made known with due honor. I   can now tell you that when you and Sarah prayed, it was I who presented and read the record of your
prayer before the Glory of the Lord; and I did the same when you buried the dead. When you did not hesitate to get up and leave your dinner in order to go and bury the dead, I was sent to put you to
the test. At the same time, however, God commissioned me to heal you and your daughter-in-law
Sarah. I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord.

"So now get up from the ground and praise God. Behold, I am about to ascend to him who sent me;
write down all these things that have happened to you."

Notice the role of our Guardian Angels:

1) To keep no secrets from us concerning ways of the Lord
2) To present our prayers to "the Glory of the Lord"
3) To "read the record of our prayers" (those prayers might also be the good we do on earth--the angels read the record of Tobit's works of charity in burying the dead, of taking risks to do good)
4) To put our faith to the test, as God sometimes requests
5) To heal us, as commissioned by God
6) To encourage us --"So now get up from the ground and praise God"
7) To direct us to praise God

My prayer is the prayer to my Guardian Angel, as I was taught as a child: Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God's love commits you here. Ever this day, be at my side, to light, to guard, to rule and guide. Amen.






Friday, June 9, 2017

God's Faithfulness

In today's first reading, Tobiah and Raphael and  his new bride Sarah visit Tobiah's parents, Tobit, who is blind, and his mother Anna.  Before arriving, Raphael says to Tobiah:  "I am certain that his [Tobiah's father's] eyes will be opened." And instructs him on what to do to restore his father's sight. Following the Archangel's instructions, Tobiah smears fish fall on his father's eyes and peals off the cataracts. Tobit is delighted and sings out a song of praise to God for the ability to see again.  Not only is Tobiah blessed immensely by the Lord God, so, too, are his parents.  And the entire family does not hold back in praising God and sharing their joy with others.

Today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 146, is a song of praise to our God, who "keeps faith forever, secures justice of he oppressed, gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets captives free,...gives sight to the blind. The Lord," the psalmist reminds us, "raises up those who are bowed down;...loves the just. The Lord protects strangers. The fatherless and the widow he sustains, but the way of the wicked he thwarts. The Lord shall reign forever, your God , O Zion, through all generations."

We need to remember that the Lord "keeps faith forever," as we listen to the daily news. My faith tells us that the way of those crippled by Satan's lies and who are worshiping wealth, securing it by unjust means, will be thwarted, brought low and "the fatherless and the widow" who have been made so by unjust wars and violent crimes to secure riches "will be sustained" by grace and helped by those giving them shelter and welcoming them into a secure place.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Power of Prayer

In today's first reading, Tobit 6, Raphael and Tobiah, upon Raphael's suggestion, visit Raguel, a relative of Tobiah's.  They are well received and Tobiah asked to be permitted to marry Sarah, Raguel's daughter.  Sarah has already been given to marriage to seven other men and each, on the night of their marriage, before consummating the marriage, each of the men have died. Tobias is made aware of this but still wants to marry Sarah.  Raguel says to him:  "She is yours according to the decree of the book of Moses. Your marriage to her has been decided in heaven!  Take your kinswoman; from now on you are her love, and she is your beloved." That night the couple pray together and then "went to bed for the night."  The following morning both are very much alive and continue their life together as man and wife.  In their prayer, before retiring, both begged to be delivered from what must have seemed like a curse. Tobias prayed,  saying to the Lord: "Now, Lord, you know that I make this wife of mine not because of lust, but for a noble purpose. Send down your mercy on me and on her, and allow us to live together to a happy old age."

The power of prayer!

The power of love!

The power of humility!

The importance of putting God, including God, in all of our decisions!

Tobiah and Sarah knew all of these important qualities: putting God first and including God, the power of love, the importance of humility, and the essential element of praying together with one another as a married couple. Doing so is not something to be ashamed of! Members of a religious community pray together several times each day. Do you in your marriage pray together? Do you, as a single person, have a prayer partner?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

God Reads Our Hearts; Do We?

In today's Gospel, Mark 12:; 13-17, the Pharisees and Herodians set out to trap Jesus. They begin with flattery: "Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with another's opinion." They then ask Him: "Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?" Jesus know that they are trying to trick Him. He sees right through their hypocrisy, so He asks them: "Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at."  They do so and Jesus asks them: 'Whose image and inscription is them?'...'Caesar's'. 'Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.'"

We need not be surprised that we encounter hypocrisy and that on some days we ourselves are hypocritical!  Human nature is a false human nature. No one is perfect except God alone. If we encounter a person being hypocritical, we need to be patient and wise. If we ourselves become hypocritical, we, too, need to be patient with ourselves, repent of our wrongdoing and be gentle with our weaknesses. We need to come to the Lord and honestly admit our need for help to honest and upright.

We need to remember that we have been created in the image of God. We belong to God. God loves us as a parent loves his/her children. God, like a wise parent, knows when we are being dishonest, we we are trying to trick another person.  He does not condemn us. He comes to save us from being a plaything of the Father of Lies.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Power of the Holy Spirit

Today we celebrate the feast of Pentecost--the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, who were hidden behind locked doors out of fear of being put to death, as was their Master and Savior. "...[S]uddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each of one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim" (Acts 2: 1-11).

In the Sequence for Pentecost, we pray: "....Where you [the Holy Spirit] are not, we have naught, nothing good in deed or thought, nothing free from taint of ill." In a meditation for June 4 written by Sarah Young in Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence, Sarah reminds us that "[without Jesus and His Spirit, we] wouldn't make it past the first hurdle" of any given day.

The power of the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives this day as much as it was at work in the disciples/apostles on that first Pentecost!  Jesus told his disciples then and now that He returned to His Father in order to send us an Advocate, who would teach us everything Jesus teaches us in the Scriptures. Jesus also reminded us that we will do greater things than He because of the Spirit working in and through when we place our hope in Him.





Saturday, June 3, 2017

Personal Ambition Minus God

In the first reading for the feast of Pentecost, Gen. 11: 1-9, we are shown the time when "[t]he whole world spoke the same language, using the same words. While the people were migrating in the east, they came upon a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there.They said to one another, 'Come, let us mold bricks and harden them with fire.' They used the bricks for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, 'Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth.'....The Lord came down.... [and] said: ....Let us...go down there and confuse their language, so that one will not understand what another says.'"

What a familiar scene. Here we are in 2017 and the slogan being tossed around by our leaders is: Let's make America great again."  That goal is not much different from "Let's make a name for ourselves."

What a foolish people we are when our sole goal  is  to "make a name for ourselves," "to make America No. 1." Becoming #1 is not what Jesus teaches us in the Scriptures or by His life here on earth.  Are we not being tempted the same as Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan when Satan said to them: "...[Y]our eyes will be opened and you will be like gods" (Gen 3:5).  What is happening to us, I believe,  resembles what happened to the people in the land of Shinar, that is, many are becoming more and more confused. Like Adam and Eve, however, I hope that  "our eyes [will be] opened [in time] and [we will realize] that we [are] naked, (Gen 3;7),  as the Holy Spirit is poured out upon us anew this Pentecost.

Your thoughts?


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Oneness with the Father and the Son and with One Another

In today's Gospel, John 17: 20-26, Jesus prays that you and I--all humankind--will be one with each other, as He and the Father are one.  "...[M]ay all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us,  that the world may believe that you sent me."  Jesus then reminds His Father that He has given [us] the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one....Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me."

This is Jesus, our brother, our Savior, speaking about us, sharing His deepest desires for us. He wants us to reach the perfection of oneness with one another that exists between Himself and His Father.  We may hear that and say: "No way. Look at all the divisions that exists within families, within our political, ecclesial, social, educational, medical communities, between countries, ideologies, philosophies, spiritualities and so on! Unity? No way!" However,   God is all powerful. He brought together Jews and Gentiles in His day. Paul and other early evangelizers witnessed divisions being resolved in big ways. We can too and will because the power of the Holy Spirit is greater than any opposition to unity!

My prayer:  may I work toward unity, Lord, with You and with others. May my will be one with Yours.  May those whose behaviors are corrupted by power and by securing wealth dishonestly have their eyes opened to Satan's deceptive ways. May I know when I have been deceived by Satan, also.
I ask this in Jesus' name.








Monday, May 29, 2017

Happy Memorial Day

M—Memories of Veterans swirl through my mind this day, grateful for the sacrifices each has made on our behalf.
E—Events of war, to this very day, brings up images of fallen soldiers and civilians offering the ultimate sacrifice of their lives for us, just as Jesus did to save us from total destruction and bring us to our eternal home. Veterans, you are awesome!
M—Moons ago, you, dear Veterans, may have fought in a war that maimed you physically or scarred you emotionally. Those scars never really leave you, no more than the scars of the crucifixion have left Jesus. They will shine in glory for an eternity of a life where you will, too, shine brilliantly!
O—Oh, may we never forget the price you Veterans paid for our freedom as a nation.
R—Really and truly, you Veterans are our celebrities, deserving to be memorialized on our sidewalks and highways throughout the U.S.
I—In all truth, you Veterans are the ones who deserve salaries that support you and your families throughout your life times with no worries of how to provide for your families from womb to tomb!
A—All Veterans are to be respected for their loyalty, courage, and self-sacrificing love of country. Thank you!
L—Let your heads be lifted high, as you recall your years of service, your dedication, your bravery, and efforts to save lives while risking your own!

D--During this Memorial Day and always, may the Lord shower down an abundance of blessings upon you and your family.
A—And may you know a peace the world cannot give.
Y—Your reward in heaven, I believe, will be great and will shine with a brilliance that you deserve. Your story deserves to be heard. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

One with Our Creator

In today's first reading, Acts 17: 15, 22-18:1, Paul speaks to us of our origins: In God, Paul tells us,  "we live and move and have our being....[W]e are the offspring of God"!

We spring off of God. God has given "life and breath"  to every member of the human race and has given us the option of dwelling "on the entire surface of the earth."  God also made the entire universe for us: the sun and the stars, the galaxies, each of the seasons--spring, summer, fall and winter.  He set boundaries for each of the seasons, for each of the bodies of water, for all humankind, really, so that we  "might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us,"-- remember that we "live and move and have our being" in God Himself.

WOW! Listen to God say to you personally:

"(Your name)____________, I, your God, made the world for your enjoyment, for your learning about Me.
I, your God, made all that is in the world as a means for you to "grope" for me and "find" Me.
I am not served by any of you because I need nothing from you (See this statement in this passage of Acts).
I serve you, bathe you in grace.
I protect you from the Evil One.
My Son returned to Me on Ascension Day in order to send you the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and He is preparing a place for you in heaven.
I, Your God, am the one who sent My Son to take on human nature. He lives in Me and I in Him. He was sent to show you my love for you by ransoming you from death by His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. By His death and resurrection,  He destroyed death's power over you. So, if you believe in Me, I will see you in heaven, also."


Monday, May 22, 2017

Being Cherished by the Lord

In today's first reading, Acts 16: 11-15, we meet Lydia, a woman who worshipped God and listened intently to Paul and his companions proclaim the Lord Jesus. As she is listening to Paul, the Lord "opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying." Graces poured into her heart and she and her household asked to be baptized in Christ Jesus.

As you and I listen to the Word of God that comes to us in the Scriptures, in our participation in sacred liturgies, or through others witnessing to the Lord, our hearts, too, are opened by Jesus.  Graces pour in and, like Lydia, hopefully, graces pour out onto others with whom we interact throughout the day!  Triumphantly, through the Holy Spirit operative in our lives, we live the Pascal Mystery as the day unfolds, having sat at the Lord's feet in prayer.

Because of the mercy and compassion of the Lord, we experience what the psalmist in today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 149, says to us; namely, that the "Lord takes delight in his people, and "adorns the lowly with victory."


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

HAPPY EASTER!

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?