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.