Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Active Faith and Jesus' Response

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

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

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

Monday, January 30, 2017

Jesus' Compassion and Mercy

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

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

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

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

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Progression of our Salvation

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

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

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

Friday, January 27, 2017

Committing our Ways to the Lord

In today’s responsorial psalm, Psalm 37, we pray: “Commit to the Lord your way; trust in him, And he will act.”

Lord,  I commit the following realities to you, trusting that you will act:

  • The leaders of all nations who push forward  executive actions or legislation that will oppress the poor and line the pockets of the wealthy with privileges they do not need
  • Immigrants threatened with deportation and persons not allowed refuge in the U.S. because of persons judging them as evil and as a detriment to our country without due process
  • The poor, the underprivileged, the unemployed or underemployed whose right for a fair wage is being denied
  • Our nations and nations throughout the world who will be harmed by those who deny climate change and refuse to do what is in our power to reverse damages to the environment
  • Persons insisting on building walls and not bridges whereby we work together for the common good and engage in fair trade practices

Lord, as we pray in Psalm 37, I believe that you will “make justice dawn…like the light” and that “bright as the noonday shall be…[the] vindication”  of those oppressed by  any decision or legislation that violates human rights of any person, born or unborn.  I believe that “the salvation of the just is from [You,] Lord; [that You] are their refuge in time of distress.” I believe, that it is the Lord who”helps them and delivers them; [that it is You, O Lord, who] delivers them from [those engaged in wicked practices] and saves them, because they take refuge in you.”

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Given a Spirit of Power

In his second letter to Timothy,  2 Timothy 1: 1-8, St. Paul reminds Timothy “to stir into flame the gift of God that you have[been given] through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.”  We, too, at our baptism and confirmation and in the sacrament of the sick, have been given “a spirit…of power and love and self-control,” not “a spirit of cowardice”.  However, believing Satan’s lies that we are unable, we can allow fear to control our lives. We can shrink from acting courageously and cooperating with grace. We do just that when, for instance, we avoid asking for forgiveness from God and from those persons we offend by our words or by our coldness, by our harshness and/or  judgments.  When Satan whispers into our ears that “it is too hard,” or that “we are weak,” to do the good to which we are called, we are then being lied to by the Father of Lies.  On the contrary,  as  Paul tells us, we are able to “bear[our] share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.”  God never inspires us to do a good without giving us the grace needed to do that good.

And how do we “stir into flame the gift of God” that we have been given by the imposition of a priest’s hands at our baptism and confirmation?  By doing good, by serving others, by taking time for prayer and reflection upon the Scriptures, by receiving the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation, by engaging in reading that nurtures our spiritual growth, by gazing upon God in the Blessed Sacrament or in other places where God’s peace abounds and by letting God gaze upon us in love from the Crucifix, from the Tabernacle, from the eyes of an innocent child, by looking for God in all of creation, in all of His beloved children, and in all of the events of our lives.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

"Behold, I Come to do Your Will"

In the first reading of today’s liturgy, Hebrews 10: 1-10, we  are reminded that “Sacrifice and offering [God]  did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you took no delight. Then I said, As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do you will, O God.”  Sacrifices and offerings are offered according to the law.  These sacrifices do not take sin away and God does not delight in them. God wants us to follow His will.  In today’s Gospel, Mark 3: 31-35, Jesus proclaims that those who do the will of the Father are mother, brother, and sister to Him.  We enter into an intimate relationship with the Trinity when we seek and do God’s will.  Grace flows abundantly into us and through us to others when we are in harmony with what God asks of us. It was through Jesus carrying out the will of the Father, being obedient unto death, that we have been saved, sanctified, and reconciled to our God.  External sacrifices and offerings do not have sanctifying or reconciling power. Obedience to God’s will does, as Jesus modeled for us.

Lord, may I have the strength to sacrifice my will to you through an obedience  that leads to my giving  loving, caring, compassionate service to others and recognizing you as my Sovereign God, my King and Master, my Bridegroom, the Shepherd of my soul, my God and my All!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Christ, our Mediator at the Father's Right Hand

In today’s first reading, Hebrews 9: 15, 24-28, St. Paul speaks about Christ, the “mediator of a new covenant.”  Jesus, once and for all, shed His blood for the remission of sin. In Paul’s words:   “… now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by his sacrifice.”    On the cross, Jesus was made sin for us.   He sacrificed His life in obedience to the Father to fully atone for the sin of disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, and subsequently by all of us. We have all sinned. And we all are redeemed by the blood of Christ, the unblemished Lamb of God.

Following His death , Jesus entered the sanctuary, not made by human hands like the sanctuary where the blood of unblemished animals were sacrificed over and over again, but the sanctuary of heaven. There at God’s right hand, Jesus intercedes for us day and night, 365 days a year.  “ Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment, so also Christ offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second  time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.”  Though we do not know the time of Jesus’ second coming, we wait upon the Lord with courage.

The Lord will not disappoint! The Lord keeps His promises forever unlike no other!  And, so, in the liturgy’s responsorial psalm, Psalm 98, we “[s]ing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wondrous deeds; His right hand has won victory for Him, His holy arm. The Lord has made His salvation known: in the sight of the nations He has revealed His justice, He has remembered His kindness and His faithfulness toward the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God. Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands, break into song; sing praise.”

Saturday, January 21, 2017

God, the King over all the Earth

In today's responsorial psalm, we proclaim God's kingship in the words:  For king of all the earth is God: sing hymns of praise. God reigns over the nations, God sits upon his holy throne."  We are asked to "shout to God with cries of gladness, for the Lord, the Most High, the awesome, is the great king over all the earth."

As when Christ walked this earth, proclaiming the Kingdom of God by His words and actions, He was not recognized as the Way, the Truth and the Life. People chose other paths, rejected Him, and, in fact, plotted to kill Him. We are living in a world that, in many ways, rejects Christian values. Women and men of integrity, in many instances, are shoved aside, mocked, "spit upon," "scourged with harsh words,  rejected in many ways and, in some cases, their lives are even threatened.  Many of these women and men, like Jesus, "take the high road," as our late First Lady, Michelle Obama, proclaimed.

Jesus continued doing good and proclaiming the Kingdom, though strong opponents followed Him and planned His demise.  That did not stop Jesus from standing up for what was right and speaking out against what was wrong.  So, too, today, as disciples of Christ, we need to speak the truth, confront injustices and wrongdoing, as Jesus did. And we need to remember to whom we are giving witness: the One who sits on the holy throne,  the One who reigns over all and works through all who choose good, the One who has paid the ransom for our eternal redemption.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

God Governs All Things

In the collect of today's liturgy, we address God as the "Almighty ever-living God, who govern all things both in heaven and on earth."  As I reflected upon that prayer, thoughts came to me that God is God, not so any of our politicians nor our president-elect.  God is stronger than any human being, than the persons our president-elect has chosen for his cabinet.  I also voiced the fact that all of the boasting that has been part of the campaigning is just boasting, not action. The Lord, then, reminded me: "I am God; there is not other" and, as St. Paul says to us in today's first reading, Hebrews 7: 25-8:6: "Jesus is always able to save those who approach God through him, since He lives forever to make intercession for them."  Hear Jesus saying to you:

(Your name), I sit at the right hand of the Father, interceding for you and all humankind. I intercede for all those for whom you and others pray.

I know how tragic it is that the people of the U.S. may have been deceived by Satan at work in this election on both sides of the aisle.  I am aware.  I am ready to save all those who come to me.  All need salvation.  

As St. Paul says: I am "mediator of a better covenant, enacted on better promises" of eternal life where moth does not consume, sin is no more and weapons are melted down into instruments of peace, where those who choose to follow the Father of Lies will be separated from those who follow the Lamb of God. Each will go to the destiny they so choose.

Cling to me and be saved.  

Remember that I govern all things and all peoples.  Anything else is an illusion and a deception. What you see is not what you get anymore than what onlookers who stared at my dead body on the cross is what they got!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Living by the Letter of the Law or by Love within One's Heart

In  today's Gospel, Mark 3: 1-6, Jesus heals a man with a withered hand. It is the Sabbath.  Jesus knows the law. He also knows the Pharisee's adherence to the letter of the law.  He says to them:  "Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?"  The Pharisees stand there stone silent!  Grieved by their hardness of heart, Jesus calls the man to the front of the synagogue and says to him:  "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out and Jesus healed him.  "The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against [Jesus] to put him to death."  Except for their hatred of Jesus, the Herodians and the Pharisees  are political enemies.  Their shared resentment is so strong that it fueled their working together to kill Jesus (See Word among Us, Jan. 2017, p. 38 of the Meditations).

Joining persons filled with hatred and resentment toward anyone fuels our own resentments and hatred.  Before we know it, we could be embroiled in a situation that easily could erupt into gunfire and death!  Our anger escalates when we surround ourselves with others who are also angry. Furthermore, the passion of anger blinds us.  We no longer are able to think clearly nor are we, then,  in fact, free to act according to our own spiritual values or hear Jesus redirecting us away from evil.
I may seek out persons in person or on the internet or on Facebook who are venting their fury toward someone. Either way, I put myself in a situation that can lead me more and more deeply into my own anger.

When I am doing that, I am not, in fact, seeking counsel from Jesus. Jesus alone is my Savior. Jesus alone can lead me to do what is right and just.  It is far better to be praying for my "enemies", or for those with whom I disagree in principle than to be embroiling myself in protest.  And, who knows, it may be me who has the most to improve to be like Christ than the person with whom I am at odds!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Today's first reading, Hebrews 6: 10-20, reminds us that "God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love you have demonstrated for his name by having served and continuing to serve the holy ones."   God knows the good you and I do each day in your work as a parent, as an employee, as a husband/wife, as a fellow Sister to your companions in religious life and/or priesthood.  God also sees our efforts to do good. When we fail or fall, God is there, not to scold, but to pick us up, show us compassion and encourage us in moving on.  God does not rejoice when we fail to reach our ideals as a Christian, as a person,  as a member of our families, as mother/father, as husband,wife or as a fellow religious or fellow priest, as a pastor or as a parishioner.

As a fellow human being, Jesus knows our weaknesses and sympathizes with us. He knows the difficulties we face as human beings.  God is always assisting us in the "baby steps" we take in our efforts to love as He loves, to forgive as He forgives, to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with Him as our Guide, our Comforter, our Sanctifier!  Paul encourages us "who have taken refuge [in Christ Jesus]...to hold fast to the hope that lies before us," the hope of eternal life. Jesus has already, Paul reminds us, "entered on our behalf as forerunner, becoming high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek."  Our salvation is guaranteed by Jesus' life, death and resurrection. And our salvation begins here as we struggle to grow in holiness!

Monday, January 16, 2017

A Marriage with God

“Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?” Jesus asks the Pharisees, who complained that Jesus’ disciples did not fast like those of the Pharisees or of John the Baptist’s (today’s Gospel, Mark 2: 18-22). Is Jesus not saying that a marriage is in process between God and human kind?  God’s love for us and His marriage to us, so to speak, is being formalized through Christ Jesus.  And just as a human bridegroom will do anything to protect his spouse and children, so, too, will God sacrifice everything to protect us, nurture us, enhance our lives and provide for our needs.

God is committed to us 100 %. How committed are you/am I to the Lord? Am I/are you giving 100% to this marriage? Or are we dragging our feet? Have we divorced God and chosen other partners? If so,  for what reasons do we pursue a different path or choose other partners?

Lord God, may we choose You as our bridegroom, as You have chosen us as Your Bride.  May we remain faithful to You, as You are to each of us!  Never do You walk away from us, Lord, not even when we seriously breach our relationship with You when, for instance, our actions are supported by pride, selfishness, greed, narcissism, racism, prejudice and other attitudes that violate our call to act in love and justice.  When we separate ourselves from You, Lord,  in these ways, we have walked away from You, not You from us. Have mercy on each of us when we pursue selfish ambitions, engage in that which is wrong, having been deceived by Satan, and/or court other gods for the same reason!  Bring us back to You, O God, especially now when “the world” is promised to us by persons who acts as gods!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

"Made Glorious in God's Sight" (Is 49:3, 5-6)

In today’s first reading, Isaiah 49: 3, 5-6, God says to us through  the prophet : [You are] made glorious in the sight of the Lord,…God is now [your] strength.” That gift is confirmed in the second reading of today’s liturgy, 1 Cor 1: 1-3, where St. Paul reminds us that we “have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy, with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…”In today’s Gospel, John 1: 29-34, John the Baptist points out Jesus to us, saying: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world….[H]e is the Son of God.”

May you and I ponder the fact that we “are made glorious in the sight of the Lord.  If I truly believe that,  then nothing else really matters!  And if I remember that God is my strength, then, too, nothing else matters.  When I do not remember these realities, I can easily become flustered, even in the face of minor realities affecting my life.

I have  a greater possibility of remaining calm in today’s troubled world when I take time to ponder God’s Word and sit in God’s Presence every day!  When I do not take time to seek the Lord in personal prayer on a daily basis, it is easy to get swept away in frantic activity. Calling upon the Lord’s name is an essential element of growing in holiness—that is my responsibility. God has done His part: He has sanctified me in Christ Jesus. I have to seek God in quiet, personal prayer and devote time to serving the needs of others  for that holiness to grow in me!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Trusting Jesus

In today’s Gospel,  Mark 1: 299-39, Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law. As soon as Jesus entered Peter’s house, the disciples (Peter and his brother Andrew and James and John) told him that Peter’s mother-in-law was sick. Jesus immediately approached her, “grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them….In the evening, after sunset,….  the whole town was gathered at the door.”  Jesus “cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.”

Let us, as the responsorial psalm, Psalm 105, invites us to do: “Give thanks to the Lord, invoke his name; make known among the nations his deeds",  as He is as active today, as in Peter's time.  Let us “glory in his holy name; rejoice” and “look to the Lord in his strength; seek to serve him constantly” because “in the evening, after sunset,” that is, in the darkness of our current events and world, God is at work. The demons will be driven out of those possessed by hatred and bigotry and by misogynistic, narcissistic and prejudicial attitudes that will bring harm to the poor and to this country and the entire world.   
To what extent do you and I share our concerns with God, knowing that God will  heed our requests that sicknesses be healed, “demons” cast out, injustices squelched, sinful behaviors challenged, and wrongs made right.  Just as Jesus, as Mark tells us, “went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee, so, too, today,  does He do so throughout the entire world. Evil shall not prevail!  

Jesus, I trust in you.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Jesus' Authority

Today’s first reading, Hebrews 2: 5-15, speak s of the “son of man” being made, “for a little while lower than the angels,” being “crowned…with glory and honor,” and “all things” being subject “under his feet.”   In today’s Gospel, Jesus visits Capernaum with his followers, enters the synagogues and teaches “with authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit,” who cries out: “What have you do so with us, Jesus of Nazareth. Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebukes the demons and says: “Quiet! Come out of him!” The demon submits to Jesus’ authority.  In other parts of the Gospels, nature submits to Jesus when He orders turbulent weather to cease threatening the lives of His disciples.  Diseases of all kinds also submit to Jesus’ healing authoritative powers.  Death itself submits to God’s authority and Jesus overcomes death in His Resurrection and returning to the Father’s glory!  So, too, will we!

In the responsorial psalm of today’s liturgy, Psalm 8, we pray: “You have given him [your Son] rule over the works of your hands, putting all things under his feet.”  Jesus is  Master of the lives of government leaders, members of Congress and of the Supreme Court. He is Master of the members  of ISIS, of every person sitting in our prisons, of all of those planning good or evil things in this world.  He is Master of your life and of mine.

Am I co-operating with Jesus’ authority or resisting it? Am I submissive or obedient to the authority God has given Jesus or am I rebelling against it. Jesus shows us the way to the Father, as He Himself was obedient to His Father even until death!  Will we follow Jesus’ example? Will we accept salvation in Christ Jesus?

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Baptism and Mission of Jesus and Ours

Today we celebrate the baptism of our Lord. Jesus arrives at the place where John is baptizing, as told to us in today’s Gospel, Matthew 3: 13-17.  He approaches John and asks for baptism.  John resists, saying to Jesus: I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?”  Jesus says to him: “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”  So John allows the baptism. As Jesus exits the Jordan, “the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending, like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
The first reading of today’s liturgy, Isaiah 42: 1-4, 6-7,  presents the prophesy concerning Jesus’ mission. God says to us through the prophet Isaiah that Jesus is God’s “servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations, …A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching….”  Jesus, Isaiah tells us,  is “a covenant of the people, a light for the nations.” He is “to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.”

That prophesy holds  true in 2017 as it did 2,017 years ago.  To this very day, Jesus continues the work for which He was sent until “justice” has been brought forth to the nations,” until “the blind” see, until “prisoners” of Satan’s snares are set free, and until “those who live in darkness” are brought into, and live by, the Light!

As disciples of Jesus, you and I are either among those who, with Jesus set prisoners free, radiate the light of justice, truth, humility, love, reconciliation, and forgiveness, thus being a light in the darkness of our world; or we are among those needing to be set free and brought into the light of living justly, humbly, lovingly, mercifully, and compassionately. As human beings, we can easily vacillate between being true to our baptismal vows or violating them to a lesser or greater degree, repenting and coming back into good graces!

What will I choose today?

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Do Whatever He Tells You

Today’s Gospel,  John 2: 1-12, features  the wedding feast at Cana. Jesus, his disciples, and Jesus’ mother were guests at this wedding. Mary notices that the bridegroom ran out of wine and brings this to Jesus’ attention. “They have no wine,” Mary says to Jesus.  Jesus’ response seems harsh. He says to her: “Woman, what do you want from me? My hour has not come yet.” Mary then says to the servants: “Do whatever he tells you.”  Jesus says to the servants: “Fill the jars with water.” So they did just that. Jesus then says to them: “Draw some out now and take it to the president of the feast.”  Jesus had turned the water into wine. “The president of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him:  Everyone serves good wine first and the worse wine when the guests are well wined, but you have kept the best wine till now…. This was the first of Jesus’ signs, [through which He] “revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.”

This whole scenario connects with Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection.  At the Last Supper Jesus turns the wine into His blood and says: “Take and drink of this. This is my blood poured out for you.”  On the cross, water and blood gush forth from Jesus’ side when He is pierced with a lance.  And from the cross, Jesus gives Mary to us as our mother, when He says: Woman, behold your son; son, behold your mother.”   Mary is the new Eve, the mother of all humankind, not just Jesus’ mother.

As Mary notices the need for more wine and interceded at Cana, so, too, she is observant of our unmet needs and alerts Jesus.  Jesus did not  immediately respond with an affirmative answer but it is Mary who directs us to listen to Jesus, to go to Him and to do whatever Jesus tells us to do.  Jesus follows the will of His Father and does not act on His own. It is always the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit working together to reveal God’s love, compassion, understanding and mercy toward us, even in the embarrassing moments of our lives when we, too, run out of “wine.”

Friday, January 6, 2017

Victory in and through and with Christ Jesus

Today’s first reading, 1 John 5: 5-13, opens with the question: “Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”   In the Gospel, Mark 1: 7-11, St. John the Baptist baptizes Jesus. When Jesus came “out of the water [John the Baptist] saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon [Jesus].  And a voice came from the heavens, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’”  In this same passage, John the Baptist proclaimed:  “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus, truly, is God, the Son of God who took on human nature to save us from sin. I encourage you today or anytime to ponder deeply that the babe at Bethlehem is truly God. Imagine the humility of the Almighty to come to us as a helpless infant, totally dependent upon human beings—one’s parents--to provide for all of his needs, like any other infant.  God, in His love and humility, stays with us: “I am with you always until the end of time.”  God dwells in the consecrated hosts at every Eucharistic celebration. God dwells with us in the core of our beings. O, the greatness of our God, the humbleness of our God, the intimacy of our God, the gentleness of our God, the omnipresence of our God!

Believing and trusting in the Son of God makes us victors over the world! What a gift!

I believe! Do you? And if we do, what difference does that belief have in how we encounter the challenges of any given day?  Do I lose it, so to speak, when I meet roadblocks? Or do I “keep it together,” so to speak when the going gets rough, when I enter “turbulent waters” or encounter “stormy weather”?

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Being Found by the Lord

In today’s Gospel, Jesus goes to Galilee and there finds Philip. Jesus says to Philip: “Follow me.”   Philip, in turn, finds Nathaniel and says to him: “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth. Nathaniel asks Philip: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip does not argue but says: “Come and see.”  Jesus sees Nathaniel coming “toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There I no duplicity in him.”  “How do you know me,” Nathaniel asks.  “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel,” Nathaniel responds.  “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this…Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of man.”

Just as Jesus found Philip, so, too, does He find you and I. He says to us, as He said to Philip: “Follow me.”  What do you and I need to leave behind to be truly following the Lord. And once we have begun that journey, do we, in turn, invite others? Do we, like Nathaniel, ask: “What good can come out of Nazareth?”  What  good, do we ask, is there in following the Lord: going to church, practicing the faith, saying prayers as a family, teaching our children the faith, reading the Bible, speaking up for justice and right, reaching out to a needy neighbor, volunteering at a food pantry or a soup kitchen, being involved in parish activities? 

Perhaps we do not realize that everything we do in the name of the Lord and for and with the Lord prepares us to see “the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of man,” and on us at our last hour!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Righteous and the Unrighteous

Today’s first reading,, 1 John 3: 7-10,  gives a clear description of those who choose good, following Jesus’ example  and those who choose evil, following and being deceived by Satan, the Father of Lies:  “Children, let no one deceive you. The person who acts in righteousness is righteous, just as he {Jesus] is righteous. Whoever sins belongs to the Devil, because the Devil has sinned from the beginning. Indeed, the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the Devil. No one who is begotten by God commits sin, because God’s seed remains in him [or her]….[N]o one who fails to act in righteousness belongs to God, nor anyone who does not love his [or her] brother [or sister].”

Those are strong words and could be very confusing.  All of us sin! Does that mean that all of us belong to the Devil?  We need to read further, realizing that “the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the Devil.”  By our baptism, we have become children of God, begotten by God. Through our baptism we belong to Jesus and through our baptism and the other sacraments, the works of the Devil in us have been destroyed and the seeds of holiness planted.  Therefore, within us is the power to grow in holiness, in goodness, and in grace.  We are not doomed to be slaves of Satan, to act dishonestly, unjustly, or immorally nor out of hatred, prejudice, or bigotry. No!  We will, through grace and in Christ Jesus, become free of sin, free of Satan, free to act justly, honestly, and morally and to love tenderly (cf. Micah 6:8). Through the overpowering of the Holy Spirit in baptism and confirmation and any other sacrament, Jesus in given birth in us.  Through this birth, by Jesus dwelling within us, by our faith in Christ Jesus, sin has no more power over us. Hatred,  bigotry, prejudice, greediness, slothfulness, deceitfulness, or other immorality within  us is deprived of its power  by God’s Presence.

I believe this!  What is your belief? Does your life, and mine,  reflect our belief in Christ Jesus as redeemer and sanctifier

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Power and Sovereignty of the Name of Jesus

Today we celebrate the feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, a name above all other names (cf. Phil. 2:9). Most, if not all of our prayers, end with:  “We ask this in Jesus’ name.” In the “Our Father” we pray: “Hallowed be thy name.”  In the Magnificat, Mary gives praise to God, praying: “…the Almighty has done great things for me, Holy is his name…”  In Psalm 11, we pray:  “Deliverance he sends to his people, his covenant he imposes for ever; holy and awesome his name.”

There is power in the name of Jesus. Paul, in Ephesians 1: 20-22 proclaims “how extraordinarily great is the power that he has exercised for us believers; this accords with the strength of his power at work in him at his right hand, in heaven, far above every principality, ruling force, power or sovereignty, or any other name that can be named, not  only in this age but also in the age to come.”   Simply and prayerfully repeating the name of Jesus with reverence has powerful effects upon us, planting within us seeds of joy, peace, healing, and reconciliation.  The faith, trust and love of believers is deepened when we reverently repeat the name of Jesus in the depth of our hearts.

May you know the power of this holy name in your prayer for others and for yourselves.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Personal Identity and One's Unique Purpose

In today’s Gospel, John 1: 19-28, Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to John to find out who he was and why he was baptizing; in other words, to give an account of himself.  When asked “Who are you,” John the Baptist replied: ‘I am not the Christ.’ So they asked him, ‘What are you then? Are you Elijah?’ And he said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ So they said to him, ‘Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?’ He said: ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.’”

John the Baptist knew why he was here.  The answer for him was voiced by the prophet Isaiah.  You and I, too, will find the answer to the question “who are you” written in the Scriptures and then on our hearts.   God says to us, as He said to John the Baptist, “In the wilderness [of life here on earth] prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert [of your life] a highway for our God” (Is 40:3).

 A mother said to me this morning that whenever her daughter came to her with a question, confused about a situation, she would counsel her. After taking the time to truly listen to her and at the end of their conversation, this wise mother would say to her daughter:  “Take your concerns to God.”   In other words, she was saying: “Go talk to God and tell Him everything you just told me.”   How wise! As a teenager, the young lady wrote her mother, this Christmas, a letter thanking her for her wise counsel and voiced her love for her. Truly, this mother knows that she is here on earth to “make straight the way of the Lord,” and direct her children to the Lord, introduce them to God, and teach them to confide in God.

Why are you here?  What is the purpose for which God created you?  May you have the courage, in the beginning of this New Year, to answer those questions and, if necessary, to make key changes in your perspective of why God sustains you in existence each day!  Truly, then, as John says to us in today first reading, 1 John 2: 22-28, you will have “confidence and not be put to shame by him (Jesus) at his coming” (1 John 2: 28).