Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Joy of Salvation

In the response to today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 32, we pray: "I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation."   Have you ever gone to prayer totally disgusted with yourself: the way you may have acted in certain situations, the way you may have ranted and raved about encountering difficult co-workers, the choices you may have made that reveal your weaknesses, are an embarrassment to you, deplete your energy and show that you want nothing short of perfection, thus frustrating yourself and others? And then you open the Scriptures and read: Blessed the [one] to whom the Lord imputes no guilt (Psalm 32) because Jesus has totally atoned for your sinfulness and wiped away all your sins. And for that reason God says to you and me, through Psalm 32: In you, I see no guile." And God assures you that He has taken "away the guilt of [your] sin.  My child, God says, "Be glad" in Me "and rejoice, you just [one]; "exult," you have been made "upright" through the blood of my Son."

This was my experience in prayer this night as I poured out my troubles to the Lord and  laid my frustrations at His feet!  Truly, I have experienced the "joy of salvation." What is your experience when you pour out your troubles to the Lord?

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Sent forth as Disciples of Jesus

In today's Gospel, Luke 10: 1-9,  Jesus commissioned 72 disciples to go forth in His name.
"Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. In whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this household. If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to
you....Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, 'The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.'" 

Jesus is saying to you and me, as disciples of Jesus, that our work as disciples of Jesus will not be easy, as we are being sent as lambs among wolves.  Risks and dangers are part of the terrain! We are sent to build God's kingdom just as Jesus did!  To be effective, it is important that we maintain our personal peace--we cannot share what we do not have! We also need the gift of discernment to recognize when another is not open to the peace we bring in God's name. If there is no openness, we need to move on, maintaining the peace God has given us.  Furthermore,  persons and places we visit are to be left in better shape than before our visit. And, yes, after our visits, those we spent time with should come to know that the Kingdom of God is real!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

According God the Glory God Deserves

In today's first reading, Romans 1: 16-25,  St. Paul gives testimony concerning the Gospel and its meaning in his life: "I am not ashamed of the Gospel," Paul proclaims.  "It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: for the Jew first, and then Greek. For in it is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith; as it is written, 'The one who is righteous by faith will live.'"

Further on in this Scripture passage, Paul states: "...what can be known about God is evident [to the wicked]. Ever since the creation of the world, [God's] invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. As a result, [the wicked] have no excuse; for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened."

We can be other "Pauls," not ashamed of the Gospel and realize that "it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes," or we can choose to court wickedness, that is,  turning away from God and from all that is good in this life, disregarding the needs of others, engaging in bigotry, misogyny, greed, narcissistic pursuits, abusing power and acting out of pride and prejudice or
whatever separates/divides us from one another and from God.  In our claims to be wise, Paul warns us, we actually become "fools and [exchange] the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man..." When we do so, God, in Paul's words, will hand us "over to impurity through the lusts of [our] hearts..."  We will have "exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever."

Paul is talking to us right here in the U.S., I'm afraid! And, personally, each one of us needs to ask ourselves whether we have "exchanged the truth of God for a lie."  In our heart of hearts, we know the truth!  Also, I believe, we need to,  reflect upon whether or not we are worshipping creatures rather than the Creator--that which we most treasure is where our hearts lie.  On what, on whom, each day do I spent the majority of my time?  How angry do I get when a loved one calls me to task, reminding me of my responsibilities to family, to my religious community, to the vows I pledged at the altar?

Monday, October 16, 2017

Belonging to God

St. Paul, in today's first reading, Romans 1: 1-7, reminds you and me that we "belong to Jesus Christ", not to anyone else. No, not even to our parents or grandparents, husbands or wives.  We belong to Jesus, the Son of God, the Creator of the Universe, the Savior of humankind.  What does that literally mean? How do we get our arms around that belief? Or do we? Is it a mystery of God's incredible love in that God, through His Son's death and resurrection, has adopted us as His sons/daughters?  As  adopted sons or daughters of God, that also means that we are heirs of God.  The inheritance awaiting us is heaven itself, that is, eternal life with God: the all Good, the only Good, the ultimate Good, the absolutely Good, infinite Goodness, Compassionate Goodness, Merciful Goodness.   Who does not want to be with that kind of Goodness?

God does not enforce this Goodness upon us, however. God does not coerce us to accept His Infinite goodness or our eternal inheritance.  We can  turn our backs on God. We can follow our will and not God's. We can say "No thank you" to God, even though, as the psalmist says in today's responsorial psalm: "His right hand has won victory for [us], his holy arm."  That victory means eternal life with God forever for those who reverence God, acknowledge God, accept God as Lord of the Universe and Master of all humankind!

I accept God's gift of infinite love, mercy and forgiveness. I want to become one with God in all I do and say! How about you?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Eternal Wedding Feast

In today's Gospel, Matthew 22: 1-14, Jesus speaks to us through the parable of a king who gives a wedding feast for his son.  Twice the king sent out servants to invite in wedding guests. The invitation was ignored by some. Others beat and even killed the servants. The king, enraged, sent out troops to destroy the murderers.  When the feast was ready, the king sent other servants out to invite "whomever you find."  Both the good and the bad were invited and the "wedding hall was filled with guests".  One person entered "without a wedding garment" and was thrown out "into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth," as "many are invited, but few are chosen."   

Obviously, Jesus is speaking about the banquet in heaven to which we are all invited. Will you and I 1) ignore the invitation, 2) beat the messengers physically and/or verbally with rebellious words and/or with words that ridicule, 3) kill the messengers, 4) attend the banquet without "a wedding garment" with which we are clothed by good needs, by love and forgiveness of others, by generosity and helpfulness to the poor and needy, by repentance, honest admission of wrong-doing and acceptance of God's mercy, by justice in relating to others?

What choices are you and I making by the way we live our lives?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Abundant Kindness of our God

In the opening prayer of today's liturgy, we state that God, in the abundance of his kindness, surpasses the merits and the desires of those who entreat him, that He pours out his mercy upon us beyond our imaginings, pardons us of dreaded offenses and gives us what we dare not ask.  In today's gospel, Luke 11: 5-13, Jesus reminds us that if someone comes to our door at midnight asking for a loaf of bread, though we may turn him away initially, we would, by this person's insistence, respond positively to his request so that he stops pounding on our door in the middle of the night.  Jesus then asks us: who of us would give our children "a snake when he asks for a fish...a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?" And we need to remember that God, in the abundance of his kindness, surpasses the merits and the desires of those who entreat him, that He blesses us beyond our imaginings, and, yes, gives us what we dare not ask!

What a God!  "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!"

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

God's Mercy

In today's first reading, Jonah 4: 1-11, Jonah describes God as "a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger, rich in clemency, [and] loathe to punish."  Knowing that truth, Jonah is reluctant to carry out God's command to warn Nineveh of impending disaster, if they fail to repent.  Nineveh repents and Jonah is angry with God.  It's like Jonah says to God: "I knew you would relent and not punish Nineveh. That is why I did not follow your command, in the first place. And sure enough, You showed them mercy when they put on sackcloth and sat in ashes, fasting and praying for forgiveness. I knew I should not have delivered your message!"  Angry, Jonah withdraws and pouts.

How often do we not act just as Jonah did!  God is merciful to the persons whom we believe, beyond a doubt, deserve to be destroyed. Those persons repent and go their merry way, rejoicing in the Lord. We were sure that these persons deserved punishment but were spared. And we pout, more often than not, and feel the pain of being embarrassed, as we spouted out the evil against the penitents!

May we have the humility to come to the Lord ourselves and say: "Be merciful to me,  O Lord."

Monday, October 9, 2017

Following God's Lead or My Own

In today's first reading, Jonah 1: 1-2:2, 11, Jonah flees from God much like a small child dashes away from its parents when they want the child to do something that is unpleasant or difficult to do.  In Jonah's case, God asks him to "[s]et out for the great city of Nineveh, and preach against it; their wickedness has come up to me."  In an attempt to get away from God, Jonah boards a ship going in the opposite direction away from Nineveh.   On the sea, a terrific storm arises,  The turbulence is so horrific that the ship is about to sink.  The crew members determine that the problem is Jonah and,  in an attempt to save their own lives, throw Jonah overboard. A quiet comes over the waters and all is well for the crew but not so well for  Jonah. He is swallowed up by a huge fish which coughs Jonah up on the shores of Nineveh!

The theological message of this story is quite obvious. God is in charge of our lives and has sent us here to carry out His will both in small things and not-so-small things. When we rebel and choose our own will above God's, our lives are thrown into turmoil!  We lose our peace of mind, tossing and turning at night, for instance, unable to sleep.

When was the last time I refused to follow God's plan for my life? How have I rebelled? What kind of turbulence has my disobedience caused others in my life?  We might also ask ourselves what needs to be "thrown overboard," so that we restore our relationship with God and one another!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Our Relationship with God

In today's first reading, Baruch 4: 5-12, 27-29, the prophet says to the people of Israel: "Fear not, my people! Remember, Israel, [that] you were sold to the nations not for your destruction; it is because you angered God that you were handed over to your foes. For you provoked your Maker with sacrifices to demons, to no-gods; you forsook the Eternal God who nourished you and you grieved Jerusalem who fostered you.  She [Jerusalem], indeed, saw coming upon you the anger of God...."

Is it possible that we, too, today, have "angered God"?  Is it possible that we, too, today have "provoked [our] Maker with sacrifices to demons, to no-gods"--to money, to wealth, to power, to domination, to militarism, materialism, consumerism, sexism, hedonism, relativism and, any other "isms,"?

To what, I ask myself, have I turned for the "life in abundance" that Jesus promises us in the Gospels and, as a result, have "provoked" my Creator God, forsaking "the Eternal God who [nourishes me]?  Do I seek happiness, comfort, love, wisdom, counsel only in "no-gods"?  Or do I seek God in the solitude of my heart, in the Scriptures, in communal worship, in personal and familial prayer times, in honest dialogue with fellow disciples of "the Eternal God," who nourishes us with "the true bread that comes down from heaven"?

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Rejoicing in the Lord

In today's first reading, Nehemiah 8: 1-4a, 5-6, 7b-12, Ezra, the priest, gathered all of the men, women and children old enough to understand to an assembly. "From daybreak until  noon, he read "the book of the law of Moses which the Lord prepared for Israel."  At every liturgical celebration the priest or minister also read from the Scriptures,  a "law," prepared for our instruction, inspiration and strength. As in the O.T. gatherings when "the scroll" is opened "so that all the people might see it (for he was standing higher up than any of the people)...," our priests, from the raised sanctuaries in our churches,  bless "the Lord, the great God, and all the people..." As in Old Testament gatherings, we, by our attendance at liturgical celebrations, are reminded that each day "is holy to our Lord" and that "rejoicing in the Lord must be [our] strength."

How true is this for you, for me? Is "rejoicing in the Lord" our strength or do we bypass the Lord and seek strength in places and in persons are who unable to lift us up and, in no way, are God substitutes?

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Challenge of Discipleship

In today's second reading, Philippians 2: 1-11, St. Paul admonishes us to do "nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his [her] own interests, but also for those of others."  Paul's statement--"but also for those [the interests] of others," implies that it is important to meet one's own needs and the needs of others. Self-neglect will lead to anger and resentment.

In terms of doing "nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,"  we have Jesus as an example of these behaviors. "Christ Jesus,...though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped [vainglory]. Rather, he emptied himself [for our sakes]  taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" [regarding us more important than himself].

In today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 25, we pray:  "Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior."  Jesus teaches us, by example, to follow God the Father's way, as He, in fact did throughout his life for our sakes.  As a disciple of Christ, you and  I are challenged to set aside our pride and selfishness and, with the courage, wisdom, humility, and generosity of Jesus to do as He did--give our lives for others! May God give us the graces today to follow Jesus' example.