Thursday, August 17, 2017

God's Justice

In today Gospel, Matthew 18,  21-19:1,  Peter asks Jesus how many times does he need to forgive those who sin against him: "As many as seven times?"  Peter asks.  Jesus responds: "Not seven times but seventy-seven times," Peter. Jesus then goes on to describe the Kingdom of heaven in terms of a king settling accounts with those who owe him money.  The king has a debtor brought before him  who owes way more than he could ever pay off. The debtor's master, therefore, orders that this person's "wife, his children,  and all his property be sold as payment."  The poor man, totally distraught, begs his master to have pity on him. "Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full." The master dissolves the debtor's entire loan. He owes nothing, nothing at all.

That is us, folks!  Because of our sins, we owe God a debt that, in no way, are we able to pay off. In his mercy, God resolves our debt entirely through the passion, death and resurrection of His only begotten Son, whom He sends into the world to reveal God's love for us! Jesus pays our debt! emus is our ransom!

Will we, by the way we live our lives in justice, love, mercy, and forgiveness accept God's pardon?  Or are we squandering God's gift of salvation by doing what the forgiven man did: treating others mercilessly?  "Should [we] not have...pity on [our] fellow servant[s], as [God] has pity on [us]?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Reconciling with a Person Who Hurt Us

In today's Gospel, Matthew 18: 15-20, Jesus tells us that if someone has sinned against us we are to personally go to that person and tell him or her how we have been hurt by their behavior.  We are also reminded that "whatever [we] bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever [we] loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."  By going directly to the person who hurt us and sharing our feelings, identifying the behavior on the other person's part that has hurt us we then free that person and ourselves.  By not reconciling with the person who hurt us we keep that person, whether a citizen here on earth or in heaven, and ourselves bound.  Jesus did not say that the act of reconciliation would be easy but it is important for our freedom and the freedom of the other person, if that person is open to being reconciled or humble enough to acknowledge his/her wrongdoing. And even if our effort to become reconciled is not accepted, we free ourselves.

What am I willing to do to bring about reconciliation?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Mary's Assumption into Heaven

Today we celebrate the assumption of our Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven body and soul.

In today's first reading from the book of Revelation, chapter 12: 19a; 12: 1-6a, and 10b,  St. John describes the heavens opening and he sees "the ark of [God's] covenant."  Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant. She carried the Son of God in her womb for 9 months and gave Him birth.

Mary is described in this passage as being"clothed with the sun".  She is crowned with "twelve stars" and, for sure, those stars are more brilliant than any diamonds worn by a bride! Under Mary's feet is "the moon."    Take a moment to imagine this picture of Mary.

John sees Mary in pain,  giving birth and near her stands "a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems...The dragon stood before the woman...,[waiting] to devour her child...She gave  birth to a son,...destined to rule all the nations...Her child is caught up to God and his throne [and Mary] fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God. Then [John says that he] heard a loud voice in heaven say:

                     'NOW HAVE SALVATION AND POWER COME,
                     AND THE KINGDOM OF OUR GOD
                     AND THE AUTHORITY OF HIS ANOINTED ONE!'" (emphasis is mine)

From the moment of Jesus' birth "salvation and power" have come, as has the "Kingdom of our God and the authority of His anointed one!"  God rules to this very day in ways that those of faith are able to observe.  May we, in faith, seek to know this "salvation and power." May we look for God's Kingdom among us--the Kingdom of God is within us, Jesus tells us in the Gospels--and may we acknowledge the authority of His anointed one in our midst.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Graciousness of our God

In today's first reading, Dt. 6: 4-13, Moses reminds the people that "[t]he Lord is our God, the Lord alone!"  For that reason, he tells them that they are to "love the Lord...with all [their] hearts, and with all [their] souls, and with all [their] strength."  The Lord God is so essential to their lives of well-being and plenitude, that they are to drill these words into their children minds, wear these words "as a pendant" on their foreheads, "bind them at your wrist" and "write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates."  In other words, never lose sight of this message!

Further on in this passage, Moses reminds the people that the land they possess, the cities they live in, the houses in which they reside are pure gift:  "you did not build"  the cities; you did not "garner the goods" in the houses in which you reside; you "did not dig the cisterns"; you "did not plant" the "vineyards and olive groves," and also remember "the Lord, who brought you out of the Land of Egypt, that place of slavery."

And how true for many of us, most of the time, that the fruits of our lives--the goods we enjoy, the houses in which we live, the food we eat--we did not plant, we did not build, we did not sweat over!  God blesses us every day with an abundance; and, it is the grace of God that brings us out of that place of slavery that threatens to devour us of the peace, the joy and the love that God desires of us each day!  God wants to free us, as Jesus freed the boy in today's Gospel, Mt 17: 14-20, of any "demons" that deprive us of the freedom purchased for us by the blood of Christ.  Do we frustrate Jesus by our lack of faith, as did the disciples in the Gospel of today?

Thank you, Jesus, for saving us, healing and putting at our bestowal every day an abundance of God's graces!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

An Abundance of Graces from our God

St. Paul reminds us in today's first reading, 2 Cor 9: 1-10, that "God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work....The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness." Engaging in good works means dying to selfishness, pride, greed, and so much more that blocks graces that God wants to give us in "an abundance", as we are reminded in today's Gospel, John 12: 24-24, where Jesus says to us:  "Amen, amen, I say to you unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me."

In what good works was I involved today?  In what ways did God supply the seed I needed or multiply the good I did today?  How did God "increase the harvest of [my] righteousness" today? To what, today, did I die in order to produce the fruits of honesty, humility, kindness, compassion and love?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Facing "Giants": What do we do?

In today's first reading, Numbers 13: 1-2, 25-14:1m 26-29a, 34-35, we read about the Israelites being sent into the land of Canaan to "reconnoiter the land." They returned to Moses reporting that truly Canaan is a land flowing "with milk and honey," but that giants live there. "[T]hey are too strong for us....And all the people we saw there are huge, veritable giants."  Moreover, "[t]he land we explored is a country that consumes its inhabitants."  The people wailed all night against God.  Fed up with them, God says to Moses and Aaron:  "How long will this wicked assembly grumble against me? I have heard the grumblings of the children of Israel against me....Forty days you spent scouting the land; forty years you shall suffer for your crimes: one year for each day. Thus you will realize what it means to oppose me...."  So their time in the desert--not in the land flowing "with milk and honey"--would be extended!

We create our own deserts by grumbling against God, by refusing to trust in the Lord and the Lord's promises.  How often do we not exaggerate the difficulties of a job that God asks of us:  "It's too hard." "I can't do that." "All the other kids are giants compared to me."  "There are others far superior to me; much wiser than me; much smarter than me; far more experienced than me," might be our complaints against God on any given day!

Lord, have mercy on us when, like the Israelites, we do not trust you!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Asking for God's Mercy

In today's responsorial psalm, Ps. 51, we pray for God's mercy, asking God, in His goodness and compassion, to wipe out our offenses. We acknowledge that it is against God whom we sin; that we have done evil in God's sight. We also share with God our realization that God is justified in whatever sentence is put upon us for our sinfulness and insistent turning away from God to our idolatrous ways. Standing before God in our sinfulness, we beg God to create "clean hearts" within us and to renew within us, also, "a steadfast spirit." Cast us "not off from your presence and your Holy Spirit take not from [us]."

To triumph over evil  or any destructive force that might overwhelm us, we are totally dependent upon God. In Numbers 12: 1-13, the first reading of today's liturgy, Aaron and Miriam are confronted by God when they level complaints against Moses. Hearing of Aaron and Miriam's complaints, God summons them, along with Moses, to the meeting tent.  He makes it clear to Moses' sister and brother that Moses "bears [God's] trust: face to face I speak to him; plainly and not in riddles. The presence of the Lord he beholds.  Why, then, did you not fear to speak against my servant Moses?"  

As with Aaron and Miriam,  God knows when we sin against one another and will call us to repentance.  Like Aaron, may we have the humility to say to God, at some point, "Ah, my lord! Please do not charge us with the sin that we have foolishly committed!"

Monday, August 7, 2017

God's Got Our Back!

Both readings of today's liturgy, Numbers 11: 4b-15 and Matthew 14: 13-21, speak of God providing food for His people. In the desert God sent manna from heaven each day.   "At night, when dew fell upon the camp, the manna also fell." In the Gospel, the disciples ask that Jesus "dismiss the crowds so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves" as it was getting late. Jesus replies:  "There is no need for them to go away." The disciples discover that someone in the crowd of 5000+ people has five loaves and two fish. Jesus takes "the five loaves and two fish" and feeds the crowd of "about five thousand men, not counting women and children." We are told that "all ate and were satisfied."  In the desert, on the other hand,  the people complained about  God's choice of responding to their hunger by sending them manna to eat. They were angry about having no meat.

In the Gospel, the disciples could not believe that there was anything that could be done to feed a crowd of 5000+ people with only two fish and fives loaves of bread.  God's response to the Israelites in the desert and to the disciples gathered around Jesus, is one of patience. God had a plan then and does now in your life and mine!

In these two stories, we could be like the Israelites in the desert who are fed up with "manna" and complaining that life, in the past, was much better than it is now. Or we might identify with Moses, who goes to God and says:   "Where can I get meat to give to all these people? For they are crying out to me 'Give us meat for our food.' I cannot carry all this people by myself, for they are too heavy for me. If this is the way you will deal with me, then please do me the favor of killing me at once, so that I need no longer face this distress."  Might we be like the disciples in the Gospel who want Jesus to send the crowd away and not be bothered to feed any of them?  Some of us might be like the person in the crowd willing to share the little he/she has, trusting that God will provide. And, finally and hopefully, many of us are like the people who are fully satisfied, at the end of any day, that God has generously met our needs this day so that, in turn, we can meet the needs of others as well.

Whoever you are in these stories, may you humbly go to God and share your story!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Being Led by Jesus "up the Mountains" of Life

Today we celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration. Jesus, we are told in today's Gospel, Matthew 17: 1-9, "took Peter, James and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves." 
Jesus chose them to go with Him; they did not do the choosing. Jesus also did the leading; the apostles did the following.  On that high mountain, apart from the  busyness of everyday life and all that such entails, the apostles witness Jesus being transfigured: Jesus' "face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, 'Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.' While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.'"  The apostles were terrified, but "Jesus came and touched them, saying, 'Rise, and do not be afraid." When the apostles opened their eyes, "they saw no one else but Jesus alone."

Like the apostles, Jesus also chooses us to go apart with him from time to time: to church, out to the woods, to a park, up a mountain, on vacation, visits to special friends or time away with one's spouse, a friend, a child--some place where amazing things happen and we would like the time to never end and we say: "It good that we are here," or "It was right for us to take this time to enjoy nature, to enjoy one another, to get away for awhile."  We come back renewed and ready to face the challenges of our lives, as Jesus was prepared by Moses and Elijah to go up to Jerusalem and where the apostles were equipped, also,  to deal with the hard times ahead for them as well!

We need time alone with Jesus just like the apostles did. We need that time every day, even if it is a 5- minute break from work or from the kids, as we gaze upon an awe-inspiring sunset or relax with a pet or sit in the quiet of the evening with quiet soothing music!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Pressures to Please Others and Abandon our Beliefs

As I bring a week's retreat to close, I am ready to glean the results of that retreat in my daily living--back to ordinary time, so to speak!  Today's Gospel, Mt. 14: 1-12, brings us the story about Herod, Herodias and their daughter, who pleased Herod so much by her dance for him on his birthday that he promises to a give her anything she asks of him. Little did he know that, prompted by her mother Herodias, who wanted John dead, she would ask for the head of John the Baptist, a prisoner of Herod's at the time.  He certainly does not want to kill John but he also does not want to break his promise in front of his friends.  His integrity is at stake!  So he gives in to her!

How often do we betray ourselves, afraid of losing face with our friends, so we do what we really do not want to do, even if that means committing a grave sin.  Doing so, I believe, means that I have been unfaithful in small ways and thus am more vulnerable to committing graver offenses!  Without grace, without God, we are apt to go astray, to betray our innermost self that is one with God. We are likely to do this, not once, but often. St. Paul struggled, just as we do, to do what is right.  He describes that struggle, in part, in Romans 7:21-25: "...[E]very  single time I want to do good it is something evil that comes to hand [as with Herod and Herodias]. In my inmost self I dearly love God's Law [and so did Herod and Herodias, I believe], but I can see that my body follows a different law that battles against the law which my reason dictates. This is what makes me a prisoner of that law of sin which lives inside my body....Who will rescue me from this body doomed to death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord." 

Lord, you know my weaknesses. You know that often I give in to the dictates of sin within me rather than following the guidance of the Spirit within my deepest self. Have mercy on me, Lord, when I fall into sin and give in to pressures outside of me, as did Herod's daughter and Herod himself.  Temptation is everywhere but so, too, are You, O Lord! I ask for the grace to call upon you, especially when I am tempted to follow the voice that opposes at the Holy Spirit at work within me. I ask for these graces in Jesus' name. Amen.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

What St.Martha Teaches Us

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Martha. Her story of complaining to Jesus about Mary not helping her, as well as the story of her grief that her brother died and Jesus delayed in coming, are well known to us.   Martha is very real with Jesus. She holds nothing back, as she and Jesus are very close friends. Martha is a model for us to imitate in developing a close relationship with the Lord.  Like her, we too, at times, might become overwhelmed with meeting our responsibilities to others and, sometimes, resent all we have to do.  Resentment will pile up, as it did for Martha, when we compare ourselves to others and resort to complaining about them not doing their share of the work or, more accurately, not meeting our expectations!

It is the responsibility of each of us to balance our work and our prayer time--alone time with Jesus. No one else can do that for us.  When we begin to feel overwhelmed, we need to look at how well we are taking time to meet our personal needs, especially our need for solitude and reflection, spending time at the feet of the Lord, listening to Him and sharing our concerns with Him, being utterly honest with the Lord about what we are feeling and thinking, what's bothering us and weighing us down and for what we are grateful and leads us to praising God.  Meeting the needs of others must include meeting our own needs as well.  Doing both leads to healthy relationships with others, ourselves and our God.

Friday, July 28, 2017

The I AM in Us

In the Entrance Antiphon to today's liturgy,  we say to God:  "I will sacrifice to you with a willing 
heart, and praise your name, O Lord, for it is good."  God revealed His name to Moses,  telling him that "I AM" sent him to free God's people from slavery.  The name of God, "I AM", is good.  It is a name above all other names! It is a name that saves, blesses, purifies, sanctified, frees us!  The I AM as incarnated is JESUS!  There is power in the name of JESUS.  And there is power in every name, calling us to be respectful of each person, and of ourselves, as an image of God!  JESUS was a total reflection of FATHER/MOTHER GOD. You and I reflect God partially, I believe. We will be a full manifestation of our FATHER/MOTHER GOD, I believe, in eternity, where sin will be no more!

In the meantime, may each one of us "sacrifice" to God "with a willing heart, and praise God's name, for it is good" and we are good. May we, through grace, discover the good within ourselves, within others, and throughout all of creation.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

God, the Sower of Seed

In today's Gospel, Mt. 13: 1-9, Jesus speaks to us about the sower who went out and sowed a bunch of seeds. Some fell on a well-used path and was quickly consumed by hungry birds. Other seed fell on rocky, shallow soil. It sprang up quickly but with shallow roots had no way to survive.  Still other seed ended up in soil populated with thorns. The thorns multiplied and choked off the seedling plants; they died.  And, yes, some seed fell on soil rich and yielded a rich harvest.

As I reflected upon this passage, I thought of many people who, in my mind, do not fit the description of soil  that yields a harvest worthy of the Kingdom.  The soil that these people cultivate does not bear fruit that will last into eternal life.

As I prayed, the Lord reminded me not to judge anyone but to follow Him and that He is God; there is no other.  Furthermore, the Spirit repeated that God sows good seed and that I need to prepare the soil of my  heart to receive it, nurture it, and allow it to bear fruit that will last into eternal life. It is important, I was reminded, that I do not let worries about what is going in the political arena choke off the seeds that the Sower is sowing.  "Trust me," God said to me in prayer, "and cast your cares upon Me. I am God; there is no other. I am a Warrior God, I will fight for what is right. And at the right moment, all those choosing evil will fall into the traps they are setting for themselves. I will not stop them against their wills.  Choose Me, Dorothy Ann. Choose Truth. Choose Love. Choose Life, not death." 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Death and Life of Jesus in Us

"...[W]e who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal bodies." We know "that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and place us with you his presence.  Everything indeed is for you, so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God."  Truly, "we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us"  (2 Cor 4: -15).

Dying with Jesus and rising with Jesus--all for the sake of others in order that "thanksgiving" will
overflow for the glory of God!  What a treasure and what a gift to be  an instrument in God's hands for "abundance" to be outpoured upon others, to be the "cause" of "thanksgiving" to gush forth from others in glory of God's holy name!

What a sacred mission! And as difficult as it is to be "given up to death for the sake of Jesus," what a grace to rise with Christ to new life in the dying to selfishness, to impatience, to pride, to fear, to avarice and greed and whatever blocks grace from flowing through us!  May we, each day, see patience, humility, courage, love, generosity, wisdom and all the gifts of the Spirit rise in us to the glory of God forever and ever. Amen!  

Monday, July 24, 2017

In Hot Pursuit!

In today's first reading, Ex 14: 5-18, the Egyptians regret having allowed the Israelites to leave their country.  "What have we done!  Why, have we released Israel from our service!"  Angry, they go in pursuit of the Israelites with full force:  "Pharaoh's whole army, his horses chariots and charioteers, caught u[ with them as they lay encamped..."  The Israelites see the Egyptians coming at them in to pursuit. Terrified and angry, they turn on Moses: "Were there no burial places in Egypt that you had to bring us out here to die in the desert? ....Fear not! Stand your ground, and you will see the victory the Lord will win for you today." Through Moses, God parts the Red Sea and the Israelites pass through it on dry ground, while Egypt's whole army parishes in the middle of their attempts to cross over and return the Israelites to being their slaves!

How challenging it is for us to leave the "Egypts" of our lives--those environments or attitudes or behaviors or  people that enslave us to evil or deprive us of the freedom God desires for us.  When we resolve to do what is right, the evil one does not give up. He pursues us just as the Egyptians pursued the Israelites. Do we "stand our ground"  until we "see the victory the Lord will win" for those who are faithful to His commands, seek is help and long to see His face.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Call to Be Merciful, not Sacrificial

In today's Gospel, Matthew 12: 1-8, the Pharisees confront Jesus about his disciples picking grain and eating it on the sabbath.  Your "disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on sabbath," they complain.   Jesus tells them that he "desires mercy, not sacrifice" of his followers.  Yes, the disciples could have sacrificed themselves and not satisfied their hunger, but that is not what God was asking of them in Christ Jesus.  At other times, throughout His earthly  ministry, Jesus performs acts of mercy toward the sick and, then, too, the Pharisees rebuked Him.

In our spiritual or religious formation, many of us had it drummed into us that sacrifice is very important--in fact, I believe that I was led to perceiving sacrifice as far more important than mercy. "Mortify yourselves," we have been told.  "Make sacrifices for Jesus," was an oft repeated refrain. How often did we hear: "Be merciful," toward others. "Be understanding!"  "Be compassionate." And, as importantly: "Judge not!"

As I was bearing down upon myself for not spending more time in prayer, putting off meditation as I chose to relax in other ways and pray later, a friend said to me: "Dorothy, be gentle with yourself."  In other words: "Dorothy, God desires mercy, not sacrifice."  If I am harsh with myself, forever demanding more and more and more of myself, how am I am to be understanding, compassionate, merciful toward others?  How about you?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

God's Calling

Today's first reading, Ex 3: 1-6, 9-12, gives us the story of Moses' call to free his people from the oppression of the Egyptians.  He is out tending his sheep near Mt. Horeb and sees a bush on fire but not being consumed.  He decides to check it out: why isn't this bush being consumed, he must be asking himself. As he is approaching the burning bush, he hears a voice saying to him: "'Moses, Moses'! He answered, 'Here I am.' God said, 'Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your father,' he continued, 'the 
God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. The cry of the children of Israel has reached me, and I have truly noted that the Egyptians are oppressing them. Come, now! I will send you to Pharaoh to lead my people, the children of Israel, out  of Egypt."

I can imagine the following dialogue between Moses and God: 

Me? I'm a murderer.  I fled Egypt to get away from Pharaoh, who had every right to kill me for killing an Egyptian.  No way can I go back there!

Moses, I am sending you back to Egypt to free my people. They are oppressed.

I will be killed if I return to that place. 

I will protect you!

Find someone else, God! I will not go!

Moses, I am God! Go free my people. You are under my protection.

Oh, Lord, okay! If you say so!  Please help me. I am vulnerable. I will be  depending upon  you.

And, under God's protection, Moses, scared to death, begins his journey back to Egypt!

You and I, also vulnerable and dependent upon God, are sent into "Egypts," big and little, to free others from whatever oppresses them, to lift burdens we ourselves may even have placed on other people's shoulders.  God goes with  us! God protects us. And, yes, God equips with the tools we need to do His bidding!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

God's Providence

Today's first reading, Ex 2: 1-15a, tells the story of Moses' birth, his being placed in "a papyrus basket, daubed...with bitumen and pitch," and hidden in some reeds on the river bank. The baby was found at age three months by an Egyptian woman who recognized the boy as very special and belonging to an Israelite woman. He is rescued and eventually adopted by Pharaoh's daughter as her own son and given the name "Moses," meaning "I drew him out of the waters." When Moses grew up and saw an Egyptian fighting with one of his own kinsmen, he killed him. Fearing that Pharaoh found out about the murder, Moses fled to Midian.

The first stanza of today's Responsorial Psalm, Ps. 69, describes Moses' plight: "I am sunk in the abysmal swamp where there is no foothold; I have reached the watery depths; the flood overwhelms me."

You and I--in our sinfulness, in the weaknesses to which we give in when we lord it over others, when we  need to have things work out our way and we refuse to compromise, when we are obnoxious and prideful, when we do not follow the Spirit's lead--can also sink  into "the abysmal swamp where there is no foothold; [we can then reach] the watery depths; the flood [then can overwhelm us]."

With today's psalmist, I "pray to you, O Lord, for the time of your favor...In your great kindness answer me with your constant help....I will praise the name of God in song, and I will glorify him with thanksgiving...."

As we prayed yesterday at the liturgy,  "our help is in the name of the Lord" (Psalm 124).  With God at our sides, we will not sink into the "abysmal swamp where there is no foothold."

Monday, July 17, 2017

God's Unfailing Help and Rescue

In today's first reading,  Ex 1: 8-14, 22, we are told the story of how the Egyptians enslaved the       Israelites, oppressing them "with forced labor," reducing them to "cruel slavery, making life bitter for them with hard work in mortar and brick and all kinds of field work--the whole cruel fate of slaves."   Every boy born to an Israelite was drown at birth, to limit increased population of the Israelite nation.

In today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 124, the Israelites pray: "Had not the Lord been with us...when men rose up against us, then would they  have swallowed us alive, when their fury was inflamed against us.  Then would the waters have overwhelmed us; the torrent would have swept over us; over us then would have swept the raging waters. Blessed be the Lord, who did not leave us a prey to their teeth."  

We know the story of how God freed the Israelites from the oppression of the Egyptians, how they escaped through the Red Sea, in which the pursuing Egyptians' horses and charioteers and the whole Egyptian army drown. We also know the story of how God brought the Chosen People to the Promised Land, being with them in all the battles that ensued in route!

We, too, encounter many a hardship on our journey to the Promised Land of eternal life: wars, domestic violence, oppression by the cruelty of some bosses and/or employees; hard labor, natural disasters, unemployment, chronic illnesses, the "loss" of children who get lured into drugs and those who become victims of sexual predators, and on and on!

God is right there with each one of us when hard times come our way! We may not see God or feel His Presence, but God has a plan to free us, make us whole, and restore us to the life He intends for us.   It is God who "does not leave us the prey" of the teeth of "predators." "Broken is the snare, and we [are] freed. Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth," the psalmist prays, and so do we!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Being Fertile and Fruitful

In  today's first reading, Isaiah 55: 10-11, the Lord reminds us that "[j]ust as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but it shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it."

As a parent, imagine that each instruction that you give to your children bears fruit, that is,  it does not return to you void but accomplishes the good for which you intended it. Imagine, also that, because of your guidance--the words of wisdom you speak to them-- you see your children grow in grace and wisdom, in strength to do what is right, especially when peers are pressuring them to make choices that will bring them harm!  Your words, as stated in the Gospel of today, Matthew 13: 1-23,  "fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold." And you are truly proud of you sons and daughters, your grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Now, apply this to your relationship with God. God instructs you every day, sending His Word to you through the Spirit who dwells within you, through the Scriptures read at a Sunday liturgy and explained in the priest's homily, or in your reflection on a cherished spiritual resource which we read each day.  The word "fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold." And God is truly proud of you!

Friday, July 14, 2017

"Here I Am," God

In today's first reading, Ge 46: 1-7, 28-30, God calls Jacob in a nightly vision:  "Jacob! Jacob!"  Jacob answers: "Here I am."  God then asks him to not be afraid to go down to Egypt, "for I will make you a great nation. Not only will I go down to Egypt with you; I will also bring you back here, after Joseph has closed your eyes." In today's Gospel, Mt 10: 16-23, Jesus says to his apostles:  "Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves."

Jacob is asked to a go to a foreign country and to trust that his needs and the needs of his family and relatives will be provided for. He is promised that he will grow into a great nation, as well!  When Jesus sent His apostles out during his three-year ministry and afterward, following Jesus' return to His Father in heaven, He provides them with the strength and the courage and the wisdom they need--He baptizes them with the Holy Spirit!  The Kingdom of God spreads throughout the world--a great nation of believers is developed through their obedience to God. And the Church continues to grow to this very day.  Men and women, today, are also sent out "like sheep in the midst of wolves."  We are to be as "shrewd as serpents and simple as doves," guided by, empowered by, made "shrewd" by the Holy Spirit, who equips us with wisdom, courage, and strength to say "yes," "here I am," Lord, to do your will just as Mary did, just as You did when God sent you to redeem us.  Yes, we are sent to by God to be His heart and voice in a world that is corrupted by greed and power--a world that has become enslaved to idols, false gods,  and substitutes for God.

God comes to set us free!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Mystery of Suffering

In today's first reading, Gen. 44: 18-21, 23b-29; 45: 1-5, Joseph reveals himself to his brothers.  He forgives them for selling him into Egypt, saying: "I am your brother Joseph, whom you once sold into Egypt But now do not be distressed, and do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here. It was really for the sake of saving lives that God sent me here ahead of you."  Joseph, a man of faith, interprets what was an harrowing experience as a blessing from God, a part of God's providence.  In Egypt, he was the victim of false accusation and thrown into prison: "They weighed down with fetters, and he was bound with chains, till his prediction came to pass and the word of the Lord proved him true" (Psalm 105). When that happened, "[t]he king sent and released him, the ruler of the people set him free. He made him lord of his house and ruler of all his possessions" (Psalm 105).

God worked marvels in Joseph's life, as He does in the life of all of us. God had a plan for him that initially looked horrible and which, in fact, was  a criminal act on the part of his brothers.  God wrote straight with crooked lines, so to speak, bringing God good out of evil and continues to do so for us today. You and I are the strong persons, the women and men of faith that we are today, because of the sufferings we have endured and which we survived, as was Joseph. In the midst of such suffering, however, we usually do not see God's hand at work. That does not mean that God is sleeping or does  not care.  He is very much molding, melting, and transforming us through the cross, just as our lives were made holy through the sufferings of Jesus on Good Friday. Clothed in faith, we are transformed by what we suffer for the sake of God! Joseph was and so were his brothers!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Justice to a Fallen World

In  the entrance antiphon to today's liturgy, we pray:  Your merciful love, O God, we have received in the midst of your temple.  Your praise, O God, like your name, reaches to the ends of the earth; your right hand is filled with saving justice."

God's right hand is filled with saving justice for the U.S.--for all nations.  Right now, given the probability of  immoral, unethical and possibly criminal activities surrounding the presidency of the U.S., some members of the President's cabinet as well as of our Congress, we desperately need God's saving justice to be brought upon those who are violating the values of our Constitution, the commandments of God and the teachings of Jesus given in the Gospels.

In today's first reading, Gen. 41: 55-57; 42: 5-7a, 17-24, in which Joseph demands justice of his brothers who come down to Egypt seeking food for their family, we are given an example of God's justice. In fact, when Joseph threw his brothers into prison for three days, they believed it was God's justice being meted out to them for what they had done to their brother. Justice, in our day, will also come to those in powerful positions who are treating others cruelly so they can line the pockets of the rich at the expense of the poor--yes, even possibly to the unnecessary loss of lives.

"O God," we pray in the Collect, "who in the abasement of your Son have raised up a fallen world, fill your faithful with holy joy, for on those you have rescued from slavery to sin you bestow eternal gladness."  Raise up our President, members of his cabinet and of our Congress from their "slavery to sin"--the sin of greed, the idolatrous worship of wealth.  Raise all us  up from that which enslaves us to Satan's allurements.  I ask this in Jesus' name. Amen

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Wrestling with Good and Evil

In today's first reading, Gen. 32: 23-33, Jacob, in the course of the night, takes his family across "the ford of the Jabbok." Once across, his family leaves him alone. "Then some man wrestled with  him until the break of dawn. When the man saw that he could not prevail over him, he struck Jacob's hip at its socket, so that the hip socket was wrenched as they wrestled. The man then said, 'Let me go, for it is daybreak.' But Jacob said, 'I will not let you go until you bless me.'  The man asked, 'What is your name?' He answered, 'Jacob.' Then the man said, 'You shall no longer be spoken of as Jacob, but as Israel, because you have contended with divine and human beings and have prevailed....Jacob named the place Peniel, 'Because I have seen God face to face,' he said, 'yet my life has been spared.'" 

In today's Gospel, Mt 9: 32-38, Jesus Himself also "contended with divine and human beings"; in fact, He contended with evil spirits and overpowered them. Amazed people proclaimed: "Nothing like this has never been seen n Israel."

We, too, wrestle with God and with demons, who prowl the earth seeking someone to devour, St. Paul tells us in  one of his letters.  We struggle/wrestle with good and evil, with that which is ugly and that which is beautiful. With God, with Jesus, we shall prevail.  Grace will triumph in our lives, as it did in the life of Jacob (Israel), as long as we keep our focus on Jesus, walk and talk with Jesus, relying on Jesus, on our guardian angels and our patrons saints to protect us, to help us, to guide and direct us in all of our ways.


Monday, July 10, 2017

God's Messengers: Are We Listening?

In today's first reading, Gen 28: 10-22a, Jacob leaves Beer-sheba and proceeds toward Haran. He comes upon a shrine there and stops for the night. He has a dream: "a stairway rested on the ground, with its top reaching to the heavens; and God's messengers [angels] were going up and down on it. And there was the Lord standing beside him and saying: 'I, the Lord, am the God of your forefather Abraham [and foremother Sarah] and the God of Isaac [and Rebecca]; the land on which you are lying I will give to you and your descendants. These shall be as plentiful as the dust on the earth, and through them you shall spread  out east and west, north and south. In you and your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing. Know that I am with you; I will protect you wherever you go, and bring you back to this land. I will never leave you until I have done what I have promised.'"

To this very day, I believe, that angels continue to descend and ascend from heaven to earth and from earth to heaven, bringing messages to us from God and from us to God, as well! Are we listening? Are we tuned into heaven or too busy with messages from our iPods, iPhones, Internet, and other electronic devices to hear God speaking to us through His messengers?  Quietly, the angels instruct us to make that phone call, to do this or not do that, to close the iPad, to shut down the iPod, to turn off the TV or radio or the Internet and become quiet.  Only then will we be prepared to hear the Holy Spirit or one of God's messengers revealing God's will to us.

"Know that I am with you," God says to Jacob and to us. God is also with us, standing beside us, walking on our  left and our right!  God never leaves us anymore than He left His chosen people as of old. His promises to us--as shared with us through His Son Jesus and written down by the evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John--God will never break!

Those are my beliefs! What are yours?

Friday, July 7, 2017

God's Solicitations and Invitations

O, the goodness of our God, revealed to us in today's Scriptures, Gen. 23-1-4, 19; 24: 1-8, 62-67 and Mt. 9: 9-13.  The first reading speaks of Abraham's loss of his wife Sarah, his arrangements for a burial place  for her in the land of Canaan, and his efforts to assure that a wife is found among his own kinsman (he is not a Canaanite) for his son Isaac, according to the oath God made with him.  One of Abraham's servants goes in search of a wife for Isaac among Abraham's kinsmen and both Isaac and Rebecca are looking for each other when the servant returns go Canaan.

God is no less solicitous for our well-being, from womb to tomb!  Just as Isaac and Rebecca, a kin-person of Isaac's, find each other, so, too, I believe, does each of us find the right persons to accompany us in our lives, either as spouses, friends, co-workers, or members of a religious community and/or priesthood.  God's will is established forever for  each one of us and, if as with  Abraham and Sarah and Isaac and Rebecca, we are searching for that will, we will truly find it and be blessed.

In the Gospel, Jesus finds Matthew at his "customs post" collecting taxes and and says to him: "Follow me!" Matthew follows Jesus and Jesus dines with him in his house...."  Where were you when Jesus called you to your vocation in life? How often do you invite Jesus to dine with you,  to share your home, to share your family and friends?

If not now, when?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

God's Question to Us: What is the Matter?

In today's first reading, Gen 21: 5, 8-20a, Sarah demands that Abraham "[d]rive out that slave [Hagar] and her son [Ishmael]. No son of that slave," she declares, "is going to share the inheritance with my son Isaac!"  Abraham is upset, as Ishmael is as much his son as Isaac.  But God makes it clear to Abraham that he is to listen to his wife Sarah and give her what she wants and He will bless Ishmael and make of him a great nation, also. Both Isaac and Ishmael, God assures Abraham, will be blessed by the Almighty.  So, the next morning he sends Hagar and Ishmael packing, out into the desert they go!  When Hagar and Ishmael run out of water and death is likely--no one can survive in the desert without water--God intervenes. God's messenger hears Ishmael crying and calls Hagar from heaven: "'What is the matter, Hagar?Don't be afraid' God has heard the boy's cry in this plight of his.  Arise, lift up the boy and hold him by the hand; for I will make of him a great nation.' Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water.  She went and filled the skin with water, and then let the boy drink.God was with the boy as he grew."   

What might we learn from this passage? Number 1: God takes care of everyone! Number 2: There are situations that blow our minds, that make no sense to us, but God shows us the way to sanity--trust Him! Number 3: When we have no out, God is the "in."  God watches over us and knows when His intervention is paramount to our survival!  In other words, God has our backs, so to speak!  I believe that!  What about you?

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Jesus' Compassion

The centurion in today's Gospel, Mt 8: 5-17, approaches Jesus and says to Him:  "Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully." And Jesus replies: "I will come and cure him." The centurion responds immediately and humbly: "Lord, I am to worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant shall be healed."

Several things to which we need to pay attention.First, the centurion's attitude toward his servant, an employee of his.  He treats that servant as his own child. He is empathic, concerned and wants the best for him. He is moved by his servant's suffering and acts on his behalf.  He does not take his servant for granted and does not treat him as inferior to himself. They are equal in God's eyes and in the eyes of the centurion.  He does not lord his authority over him.  Second: The centurion's respect of Jesus. He addresses Jesus as Lord, that is, as one having authority.  He's probably heard, and may have even seen miracles which Jesus has performed on behalf of the sick, of those burdened with long-term debilitating illnesses.   The centurion's faith and trust in Jesus is unshakable. He simply states the problem: "My servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully."  Third: Jesus' immediate response to the centurion's trust and faith: "I will come and cure him."  No hesitation!
Fourth: the centurion's humility and recognition of who Jesus is!  O, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter my roof; only say the word and my servant shall be healed!"

What about you and me? How respectful are we of others? How concerned about them when they are in pain? Do we act on behalf of others, going the extra mile, leaving our comfort zones to help
another person?  What about our trust and faith in Jesus as one who heals, as one who has our best interests in mind?  Do we even go to Jesus with our concerns or is He the last person  we think of when facing problems among ourselves, our family, our co-workers and/or employees, or personal problems?

Friday, June 30, 2017

God's Promises

The incredible love of our God! In the first reading, Genesis 17: 1, 9-10, 15-22, God appeared to Abraham, who is 99 years of age,  and asked that he and his descendants keep His covenant. He also promises Abraham that, a year from that day, his wife Sarah, who is 91, will bear him a son (Isaac):  "Him ...will I bless; he shall give rise to nations, and rulers of peoples shall issue from him." Abraham  laughs and objects, like saying: "Us, at our ages? You got to be kidding."  "Let...Ishmael live on in your favor." And God says: "As for Ishmael, I am heeding you; I hereby bless him," also.

 God cares about and directs the lives of all: those we treat  poorly as Ishmael and Hagar were treated by Sarah, as lepers were treated in Jesus' day (see today's  Gospel, Mt 8:1-4), as immigrants and the poor and the  vulnerable are being treated in our day by members of Congress and by the president of the U.S., as children and women are being treated by adherents of human trafficking, drug trafficking and those involved in the forced labor industry. All  are God's children. And all are here for a purpose designed by their Creator.

What is your purpose?  And, yes, we need to ask ourselves: whom am I treating poorly? About which of God's promises to me or anyone else am I laughing?  


Thursday, June 29, 2017

God Plans Being Fulfilled

As we celebrate the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, we are given the powerful Scripture passage from Acts 12: 1-11, in which we are told of Peter's imprisonment and the miraculous intervention of an angel.  Herod has Peter shackled hands and feet, secured by double chains and guarded by "four squads of four soldiers each."  On the very night when he is to be brought to trial, an angel taps Peter on his side, awakens him and says: "Get up quickly." We are told that the chains then fall off Peter's wrists and he is further instructed to put on his belt, his sandals and his cloak and follow the angel out of the prison, past a series of guards and through a locked gate that suddenly opens all by itself. Imagine being Peter! He must have wondered: "What the heck is happening to me? Am I dreaming? Is this real?" And suddenly, he finds himself a free man and the angel is no where to be found!

St. Paul also experiences in his life a powerful intervention that confirms that God has plans for him that he, also, never dreamt of--he is knocked down on his way to Damascus, blinded by the light and given back his sight miraculously by Ananias, who the Lord instructs to assist Paul, the man who was on a mission to imprison Christians! Ananias initially resists, saying: "No way, Lord. This man is a dangerous person. I want nothing to do with him."  The Lord prevails!  God's plan will become a reality for Paul, as for Peter! And it will for you and me and the world, as well!

God works in your life and in mine and in the world of our day, as He did in the time of Peter and Paul.  Unfortunately, the news media focuses mostly on the presence of evil in our world and so we may be less aware of the presence of good, the presence of angels and the interventions our God.

I might ask myself:   What is your focus? For what are you looking?  I can look for the good and focus on it or I can focus mainly on the evil, on sin, on the negative within myself and within others. Upon what do you focus?

Monday, June 26, 2017

Trusting and Focusing on the Lord

In today's first reading from Genesis 12: 1-9,  we encounter  75-year-old Abram, whom the Lord has just asked to take leave of his father's house and go forth to a land that God will show him.  It's like God said to Abram: "Just leave! Just trust me and start out on a journey. I will reveal your destiny. I know where  I want you to settle!"  Not only that, but God says to Abram: "I  will make of you a great nation--Abram and Sarai are childless--and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you." 

Abram, we are told, "went as the Lord directed him" and "journeyed on by stages...." Along the way, Abram is accompanied by the Lord--the Lord reveals himself and speaks with his servant throughout the journey. At certain points on the journey, Abram builds altars to the Lord and worships Him.

We are not unlike Abram. As with Abram,  God directs us along our faith journey, as well.  At one time or other, each of us has been asked to leave "our father's house".  We did so when we married or entered religious life or set out on a career as a single person to follow a dream that we believed was a calling from God.  God went with us, walking behind us or in front of us, at our right and left side, never leaving us alone. Along the way, God has blessed us and, without us knowing it, stopped others from "cursing" us or tripping us up.  Whatever obstacles we encountered, God helped up over the hurdles and continues to do so.  Like Abram, hopefully, we have special places where we set up , or seek out, altars to worship the Lord.

Truly, we are walking on holy ground as the Lord sanctifies it and us as we journey to our eternal home in imitation of Abram, who has gone before us!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

God, our Refuge and our Strength

The Entrance Antiphon of today's liturgy reads:  "The Lord is the strength of His people, a saving refuge for the one he has anointed."  We then pray: "Save your people, Lord, and bless your heritage, and govern them for ever."

Let us put that in personal terms:  "The Lord is my strength, a saving refuge for me, His anointed one." Let us pray:  "Save me, Lord, and bless me, your heritage and govern me for ever."

When were you and I anointed? When we were baptized and confirmed. Some of us have also been anointed with the anointing of the sick.  We became God's heritage at our baptism. We were adopted by God as God's daughters/sons; our adoption was finalized at our baptism!

From what do we want God to save us? From Satan's snares, power, and deceitfulness. Where there are lies, Satan is working. The person who lies has fallen into Satan's trap. In that trap, Satan has power over the person who is lying.  That is why we pray in today's responsorial psalm, Ps.69:  I pray to you, O Lord, for the time of your favor, O God!  In your great kindness answer me with your constant help."  We need God's constant help because Satan is always roaming the world seeking someone to devour by his lying ways.  We pray to God:  "Answer me, O Lord, for bounteous is your kindness; in your great mercy turn toward me."   

We pray also for those who serve our country, as they seem to be functioning from Satan's trap, lying to the people frequently.  Corruption seems to surround them and seems to have taken possession of them. May God have mercy and open their eyes to Satan's lies.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Feast of God's Love Revealed in the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In today's first reading,  Deuteronomy 7: 6-11, Moses reminds the Israelites, and us, that we are "a people sacred to the Lord," our God!  God "has chosen" us,  to be "a people peculiarly his own."  God "set his heart" on Israel, not because it was the greatest of nations but because it was "really the smallest of all nations,"  hardly noticeable!  So too with you and me.  God sets his heart on each one of us, not because of our greatness, but because of our smallness,  not because we are awesome or great, but because, in slang, we are nothing to shake a stick at! It is because God loves us and because of God's "fidelity" to the oath sworn to our ancestors, to those who have passed the faith on to us!  In his faithfulness, Moses reminds the Israelites, God has "brought you out with his strong hand from the place of slavery, and ransomed you from the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt."  Faithful to the promises God made to our first parents, God has ransomed us from slavery to the Father of Lies, Satan, by dying upon the cross, nailing sin to the cross and taking Satan's power away from him. We are redeemed in Christ Jesus. Forever, God loves us even unto death on the cross, when from His heart blood and water flowed and continues to flow in baptism and in Eucharist and from all of the other sacraments that purify us and strengthen us in God's love.

May you and  know God's love today as we follow God unreservedly, seeking His presence in the events of our day and listening to His voice in those we encounter today and within the depths of our ow hearts!

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, 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.