Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Resisting Evil, Taking Risks and Doing What is Right

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

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


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

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

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

Thursday, April 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Jesus's Lesson on Intimacy

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

God: Our Shield and Our Help

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

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


Monday, April 17, 2017

This Risen Christ

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

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

I believe!  Do you?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

HAPPY EASTER!

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


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

"Woman, why are you weeping?"

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

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

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Jesus' Obedience Saves us from our Disobedience

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Jesus Confronts Judas, Peter and Us

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

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

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

I believe!  Do you?



Monday, April 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

A couple of questions with which we might grapple:

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

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Justice and Saving Graces of our God

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

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

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

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