Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Living the Gospel by our Lives

In today's first reading, 1 Thes 2: 9-13, St. Paul reminds his brothers and sisters that they "proclaimed to [them] the Gospel of God" with much "toil and drudgery. We "treated each one of you as a father treats his children, exhorting and encouraging you and insisting that you walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into his Kingdom and glory."

As I reflected upon that passage, the thought came to me that each one of us could paraphrase this in terms of how our parents  and how they passed on the faith to us. They preached the Gospel to us by their limitless effort to clothe us, feed us,  and provide opportunities for our education.  Yes, they passed on their commitment to the Gospel with much "toil and drudgery".   They exhorted and encouraged us and insisted that we "walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls [us to this very day] into his Kingdom and glory."

Thank you, mom and dad. Thank you, grandparents. Thank you, teachers. Thank you, pastors and fellow parishioners.  Thank you, God!

May we,  like those before us, continue to live the Gospel by our lives!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

God's Knowledge and Love of Us

Today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 139, opens with us acknowledging that God has "probed me and...[knows] me."  We go on to pray:   "O Lord, know when I sit and when I stand; you understand my thoughts from afar. My journeys and my rest you scrutinize, with all my ways you are familiar. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know the whole of it. Behind me and before, you hem me in and rest your hand upon me." 

God probes me! God knows what I am thinking.God knows what I am pondering. God knows my desires.  God know what motivates me to do what I do or not do what I do not do. God knows me more than and better than I know myself.   And yet God loves me beyond all telling! Why? Because God sees me as one redeemed in the blood of Christ. In Holy Communion, God visits me: "Take and eat," God said to the disciples at the Last Supper: "This is my body given up for you. Take and drink; this is the blood of the New Covenant" (cf Luke 22: 19-20)--the blood which saves us from Satan's pursuit every day. The Blood of Christ marks us as God's redeemed, as ones saved by Christ, just as the blood of goats sprinkled on the door posts of the houses of the Chosen People saved them from physical death.

Thank you, Lord, for this gift of faith!

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Power of the Gospel That Is Ours Each Day

In today's first reading, 1 Thes 1: 1-5, 8b-10, St. Paul, praises the Thessalonians for their "work of faith and labor of love, and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, [they] are loved by God, how [they] were chosen."  The Gospel, Paul says to them, has come to them "in power and in the Holy Spirit."  He thanks God that they have "turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to await his Son from heaven,...Jesus, who deliver[ed them] from the coming wrath" of Satan and Satan's followers.

May you and l also praise and thank God for the "work of faith and labor of love, and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ"  that has been given to us through our parents and so many other faith-filled men and women, who to this very day, lead us to Jesus.  Like the Thessalonians, we, too, have been given the " power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction." That conviction grows as we stand in awe of God each day,  pondering the readings of each liturgy or seeking God in the events of our lives as they unfold each day.  Through grace, as with the Thessalonians,  we are given the choices each day to turn "to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to await his Son from heaven,...Jesus, who delivers [us] from the coming wrath" of Satan and his followers!  Every day, God is at work in  our lives, delivering us from Satan's lies. How aware are we of this gift of God's love, this concern on God's part, to redirect us to the right path--the path that Jesus modeled for us while here on earth and to this very day.


Friday, August 25, 2017

Learning to Love Others beyond the Family in Which I Grew Up

In today's first reading, Ruth 1:1, 3-6, 14b-16, 22, we meet Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth.  Naomi's husband, a man from Bethlehem, and her two sons die. One daughter-in-law returns to Moab while Ruth insists on staying with Naomi:  "Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you! For wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God." What love and what loyalty.  Ruth will not abandon her mother-in-law!

Jesus, in today's Gospel, Matthew 22: 34-40, is asked which commandment of the law is the greatest. It is the commandment lived out by Ruth.  "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind," Jesus responds.  Those loyal to their husbands and wives, to their mothers/fathers-in-law, to their daughters/sons-in-law are witnesses to the love Jesus about which Jesus talks.

How loving and loyal am I to the persons God puts in my life, whether married, single or a member of a religious community? Am I willing to leave my  homeland for another, as Jesus left heaven for earth to reveal God's love for us? Would I, like Ruth,  say to another: "Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you" when I know in my heart of hearts that that is the right thing to do?

Friday, August 18, 2017

God, our Defender

In today's first reading, Joshua 24: 1-13, God repeatedly reminds the people that whatever successes they achieved was not of their own power but because God intervened when they called upon Him.  "Because they cried out to [Me, I] put darkness between hour people and he Egyptians....[It was I who] delivered [the Amorites] into your power....Balak, son of Zippor, king of Moab,...summoned Balaam, son of Beor, to curse you; but I would not listen to Balaam. On the contrary, he had to bless you, and I saved you from him."

Enemies rise up on all sides. However, with God on our side, we need not be afraid. As of old, God will deliver those who call upon Him!  God will save those who depend upon Him for their salvation.

Upon whom do I depend? To whom/what do I look for the help I need to overcome evil in my life, within me, around me, to do the good that I am invited to do every day?

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.