Thursday, November 30, 2017

Called to follow Jesus and Accept His Invitations

In today's Gospel, Mt 4: 18-22, we join Jesus as He walks by the Sea of Galilee. He sees two brothers, Simon and his brother Andrew.  They are casting a net into the sea, as they were professional fishermen. It was through this profession that they provided for their families. Jesus calls to them: "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of [people]." Peter and Andrew leave their nets and follow Jesus. As we walk along with Jesus, Simon and Andrew, Jesus spots two other brothers, James and John, fishing with their father. He calls to them as well.   "[I]mmediately they,[too,] left their boat and their father and followed" Jesus.

When Jesus calls us to follow Him, do we, also, leave everything behind to follow the Lord? Do we recognize that Jesus is not just an ordinary man but that there is something about this person that we cannot resist accepting His invitation to attach ourselves to Him, to follow His instructions and grow in intimacy with Him and in building up the Kingdom with Him?  Is our faith strong enough to trust the Lord's calls throughout the day? Or are we like those persons who, later, Jesus invites to a banquet and who conjure excuses for not accepting the invitation, as we read in Luke's Gospel (Lk 14: 18-20): "I have bought a piece of land and must go see it. Please accept my apologies."   "I have bought five yoke of oxen and am on my way to try them out. Please accept my apologies." "I have just got married and so am unable to come."  If we refuse  Jesus' call, what excuses do we make? 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Glorifying God with our Lives

"Give glory and eternal praise to [God],"  who created you, breathes His breath into you, guards you as God walks ahead of you preparing the way, as God walks behind you to catch you when you fall, as God walks beside you as a companion on the way to eternal life!  In today's first reading, Daniel 5: 12-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28, we read that the son of Nebuchadnezzar, King Belshazzar, defied God, desecrating the sacred vessels from "the house of God in Jerusalem", using them to drink wine with his lords, his wives, and his entertainers. Not only that, but also he and his companions also worshipped "the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone that neither see nor hear or have intelligence.  But the God in whose hands," Daniel tells him, "is your life breath and the whole course of your life, you did not glorify." The writing that suddenly appeared on the wall of the palace where the king entertained his lords, wives, and entertainers, terrified the king: "his face blanched; his thoughts terrified him, his hips shook, and his knees knocked." 

Daniel did not mince words about what the writings meant. His interpretation:  This writing that was inscribed: Mene, Tekel, and Peres. These words mean: Mene, God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it; Tekel, you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting; Peres, your kingdom  has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians."

We need to, I believe, pray for the grace to realize that God is our Lord and Master in life and in death, that we are here on earth to glorify the Lord and discover His sovereignty, His holiness, His unconditional love and mercy!  And, in turn, we are to be vessels of divine grace for others, obedient unto death as was the Son of Man, Jesus! Nothing else matters!  "Remain faithful until death, and [God] will I've you the crown of life," we read in Rev. 2 10c.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Finiteness of Earthly "Kingdoms"

In today's first reading, Daniel 2: 31-45,  Daniel interprets a dream of King Nebuchadnezzar, in which it is predicted that his kingdom will be overtaken by an inferior kingdom.  In fact three other kingdoms will follow King Nebuchadnezzar's. In the lifetime of each of these four kings, "the God of heaven," Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar, "will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people; rather, it shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end to them, and it shall stand forever."

In the Gospel, Luke 21: 5-11, "[w]hile some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said, 'All that you see here--the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.'"

Only the kingdom of God shall stand forever. All other "kingdoms" or nations, all the riches we might accumulate and obsess about here on earth, all the luxuries into which we put our savings and all of our energies, are finite and will ultimately be destroyed.  All of us will leave this earthly kingdom, wherever it has been built for us or by us.  Naked we came into the world and naked we will leave this world to enter the eternal Kingdom, a Kingdom built on love.

How busy am I in preparing for God's Kingdom, that is, in growing in love with others, with myself, with God? How busy am I helping others, bringing about justice in my world, loving others tenderly, and walking humbly with God (cf Micah 6:8).

Monday, November 27, 2017

Praising God in all of the Vicissitudes of life

Today's praises in place of the responsorial psalm are from Daniel 3: 52, 53, 54, 55, 56. One of the blessings is:  Blessed are you who look into the depth from your throne upon the cherubim, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever."

As I encountered the difficulties of this day and lost my "cool," I did not, for sure, pray a blessing or praise God.  I felt anything but blessed nor did I feel like blessing the person who "got under my skin."  I do know, however, that God sees into the depth of this person. He sees what I do not see and He loves her unconditionally.  He reads her heart--a heart that overflows with love for all and for whom she will go to any length to show her love.

The other lesson that God may be trying to teach us when "turbulence" appears is that it is important to praise God in both the pleasant or unpleasant situations of any given day! Truly we need to say: Blessed are you who look into the depths from your throne upon the cherubim, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.  

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Jesus, the Good Shepherd

In the first reading of today's feast, Christ the King, God reminds us that he himself "will look after and tend [His] sheep. As a shepherd tends is flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep. I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark.... The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, 
the sick I will heal, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy, shepherding them rightly" (Ezekiel 34: 11-12, 15-17).

Notice that God does not condemn anyone. Compassionately, God says that He walks in the places where we have been "scattered when it was cloudy and dark."  People, during dark and cloudy times of their lives, may have gone astray and lost their way in treacherous ways, ways that may even have thrown them into our prisons.  During the "cloudy and dark" times of one's life, a person may have lived in such a way that their marriage was destroyed, that their children abandoned them, that they lost jobs by which they were able to provide sufficient financial support for their families. What does God say:  "[T]he strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal..."  When will all this happen? In God's time, the right time.  God waits for humankind to turn back to Him and, sometimes, that first happen on one's death bed, as it did with the thief on the cross who turned to Jesus and said: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom" (Luke 23: 42) and Jesus responded: "Indeed, I promise you,...,today you will be with me in paradise." 

Truly, God tends His sheep to their last, dying breath, bringing "the strayed...back," whenever they call upon Him!  Let us pray for each other that we, too, will have the humility to call upon God anytime, asking to be remembered by the King of Kings, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  He will not disappoint us or turn us away ever!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

God Is on Our Side

In today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 9, we "give thanks" to the Lord for all of His "wondrous deeds".  We tell God that we "will be glad and exult" in the Lord, sing God's praises "because [our] enemies are turned back, overthrown and destroyed before [God]." We acknowledge that it is the Lord who "rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked; their name, you blotted out forever and ever.  [We have realized, we tell God,  that the] nations are sunk in the pit they have made; in the snare they set, their foot is caught. For the needy shall not always be forgotten, nor shall the hope of the afflicted forever perish." 

What a prayer, as true today as in the times of the Israelite's battles with their enemies, as reported in today's first reading, 1Maccabees 6: 1-13, in which we hear of King Antiochus' attempt to "capture and pillage the city"  of Elymais, "famous for its wealth in silver and gold, and that its temple was very rich, containing gold helmets, breastplates, and weapons left there by Alexander, son of Philip, king of Macedon, the first king of the Greeks."

The rich and famous, to this very day, are out to pillage wealth from other countries, wealth that is not theirs.  Some of the rich and powerful are also out to increase their wealth by exploiting the poor, the sick and the needy. Labor and human traffickers are bent on increasing their wealth by forcing children and young adults, women and girls and young boys into the sex trade and into forced labor with little or no pay and atrocious living situations.  In faith, we know that, eventually, those who engage in crime will sink "in the pit they have made."  Their own feet will be "caught in the snare they set" for others.  These enemies of a just society will "be turned back, overthrown," for "the needy shall not always be forgotten, nor shall the hope of the afflicted forever perish."

The questions that each one of us faces is: Am I involved in activities that bring suffering to others? Or, what can I do to alleviate those who are victims of crime?  Am I educating myself about human trafficking, slave labor and those at risk to be exploited by criminals involved in these situations, some also victims of persons who have exploited them!  Information is available on the Internet. Your parish may have a social concerns committee, from whom educational materials could be sought, as well! And, above all, prayer for victims and perpetrators of these crimes is desperately needed. God is  
still God--the same today as in the time of the Israelites, whose enemies were destroyed!  And, yes, we all have a Savior, Jesus Christ, who destroyed death and will do so in whatever form it takes today! Prayers are needed individually and communally, in private and in public!

We "will rejoice in [God's] salvation"  (Psalm 9).

Friday, November 24, 2017

Choosing Wisely

In today's Gospel, Luke 19: 45-48,  "Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things....The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile, were seeking to put him to death, but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose because all the people were hanging on his words."

Have you ever been about to do something that you did not want anyone to know about--in fact, something you should not have been doing, in the first place--and someone walks into the room and, sheepishly, you walk away hoping no one noticed? How often the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people experienced just this in their attempts to snare Jesus.

This kind of behavior is part of the human condition. We are not always about doing good or planning to do what is proper. And, foolishly, we attempt to hide our wrongdoing.  God, not to punish us, is always aware of what we are about.  God only wants what is right for us. God wants us to be filled with joy and peace, which we deny ourselves when we take the easiest path and reject the way that leads to experiencing the fullness of life that Jesus promises.  And many times, I believe, God is disappointed when we choose poorly and suffer the consequences of our foolhardy choices, depriving ourselves of the joy of following the least-chosen path, the narrow way that leads to an abundance of life in Christ Jesus.  God, then, I believe, awaits our return, as did the Father of the prodigal son. God waits eagerly to restore us to a right relationship with ourselves and others, because it is then that we are also in right relationship with God Himself.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

Thank you, Lord, for all of the graces and blessings of this past year.
How wonderful, Lord, are the blessings you send us every moment of every day, beginning
with waking us up to new life after strengthening us through a good night's sleep.
And, thank you, Lord, for the gift of your Presence that envelopes us throughout the day.
Never may we forget that You wrap your arms of love around us as we journey through life here  on earth.
Kindly, Lord, continue to walk beside us, behind us, and in front of us, even when we forget our need of your protection. 
So in need of you throughout the day, especially as we encounter obstacles and difficulties, we call upon you for your protection on a daily basis.
Grant us, Lord, a heart full of gratitude, knowing that without you we will go astray, giving in to temptations too forceful for us to overcome alone.
In your mercy, Lord, save us, especially when internal enemies wage war against the good within us.
Very often, Lord, our weaknesses have had the best of us, when, like Peter on the waters, we have taken our eyes off you.
In times when we foolishly believe that we can journey through difficulties on our own powers, send someone into our lives to redirect us to the Truth.
Never, Lord, may we abandon our trust and faith in You as our Lord and Savior.
Grateful for your Love and Mercy, we pray with Mary: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit finds joy in you, O God....God, you who are mighty, have done great things for me. Holy is your name" (cf Luke 1: 46-49).

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Faith Tested in the Fires of Purification

In today's first and second readings we encounter two men:  Eleazar, who is willing to give his very life in order to remain faithful to Yahweh and Zaccheaus, a chief tax collector,  who is willing to risk ridicule and the resentment of the crowd in his desire to see Jesus. Eleazar suffers martyrdom at the hands of the king who orders that he submit to a sacrifice ordered by the king's decree that violates the Law of Moses.  Zacchaeus, who climbs a sycamore tree to see Jesus as He passes by, is spotted  by Jesus and asked to "come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house."  The crowd grumbles about Jesus, saying: "He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner." Zaccheaus repents of his wrongdoing, as he cheated the people in his collection of taxes and says to Jesus: "Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over."  Jesus assures Zacchaeus, saying: "Today salvation has gone to this house...For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost."

A couple of questions to consider: Would I be willing to sacrifice my life and refuse to violate the law of God, to break the ten Commandments, in the face of being scourged to death by not following a crowd taunting me to do so, as Eleazar was taunted to give in to the king's decree?  Would I, like Zaccheas, risk being ridiculed by a crowd of people, by my family and friends, who know how I have violated other people's rights, or even ridiculed the faith,  and here I am seeking Jesus, even going to extremes to see Him?  Am I willing to do anything it takes to right restore my relationship with Jesus and seek Him above all, no matter what people say of me?  Am willing to reconcile with "an enemy" even when others are taunting me to remain hostile with another person who may have hurt me in some way?  May we have the courage of Eleazar and Zaccheaus in living our faith!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Persons of Value "Far Beyond Pearls"

Today's first reading, Proverbs 31: 10-13, 1-20, and 30-31, speaks about a worthy wife. "When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls. Her husband, entrusting  his heart to her, has an unfailing prize. She brings him good, and not evil, all the days of her life....She reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy.  Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fear the Lord is to be praised. Give her a reward for her labor, and let her works praise her at the city gates."

I thought of my mother and two grandmothers!  What gifts these women were. And then I thought of my sisters and sisters-in-law, my nieces and nieces-in-law and also felt that these words applied to them as well.  I lingered a long time reflecting on the blessings all these women are! The value of each one is "far beyond pearls." And that is why, I believe, that their husbands entrusted their hearts to them. Truly God gave their husbands "an unfailing prize."    Each of these women bring their husbands good, not evil, all the days of their lives.And, I believe, that each of these women have also been given an "unfailing prize" in their husbands.  That is why their love for one another and for their children continues to grow in depth, in breadth, in height and in width!  God be praise!

Husbands, think of your wives.  Wives, think of your husbands. How does this verse from Proverbs touch you?

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Persistency in Prayer

In today's Gospel, Luke 18-18, Jesus tells a parable in which He speaks about the necessity to "pray always without becoming  weary." The parable is about a widow who does not give up in persisting that the judge render her a just decision.  The judge holds out for a long time and then finally says to himself:  "While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver her a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me."  If this dishonest judge will finally respond positively to this widow, will God not respond to us when we call to him, day and night, for justice to also be done in our situations?  Luke emphatically states: "I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for [us] speedily. But when the Son of Man comes," Luke asks, "will he find faith on earth?"

We may find it difficult to continue praying for justice, when, day after day, the evening news repeatedly informs us of people within and outside of our government getting away with one crime after another: mass scale shootings, including children being shot in scho persons of color apprehended--shot and killed (some not even being the criminal that was being pursued)--innocent policemen ambushed and killed, undocumented persons  denied the right to pursue a legal path to citizenship, millions losing affordable health insurance, treaties to protect the earth and its inhabitants being revoked and on and on! I want to cry out:  God, where are you!  I am sure that children being bullied or persons facing terminal illnesses that will leave their children without a parent may also want to scream: God, are you  listening!

The Israelites were in the same position when enslaved by the Egyptians.  We read in today's first reading, Wisdom 18: 14-16; 19: 6-9: "When peaceful stillness compassed everything, and the night in its swift course was half spent, [God's] all-powerful word, from heaven's royal throne bounded, a fierce warrior, into the doomed land, bearing the sharp sword of [God's] inexorable decree....[A]ll creation, in its several kinds [then and in the time of Noah], was being made over anew, serving its natural laws, that  your children might be preserved unharmed. The cloud overshadowed [the camp of the Israelites]; and out of what had before been water, dry land was seen emerging; out of the Red Sea an unimpeded road, and a grassy plain out of the mighty flood. Over this crossed the whole nation sheltered by [God's] hand, after they beheld stupendous wonders."

God can and will do the same for us today!  God is mighty! God is a warrior God, who is on the side of those who, in faith, call upon Him day and night!  Let us, in faith, turn back to God for the help we need today to turn away from the darkness of sin!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Wisdom Who is God

In today's first reading, Wisdom 7: 22b-8:1, we are told that "Wisdom is a spirit, intelligent, holy, unique, manifold,..., unstained, certain, not baneful, loving the good,...,beneficent, kindly, firm, secure, tranquil, all-powerful, all-seeing, and pervading all spirits, though they be intelligent, pure and very subtle.  For Wisdom is mobile beyond all motion, and she penetrates and pervades all things by reason of her purity....

Wisdom, I believe, is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  "[S]he, who is one, [three persons in the one God] can do all things, and renews everything while herself perduring; and passing into holy souls from age to age, she produces friends of God and prophets...."

St. John says to us in 1 Jn 4:4 that  we "are from God and [we] have in [us] one who is greater than anyone in the world.  That "one who is greater than anyone in the world,"  I believe,  is Wisdom, God, our Lord and Savior.  Why is it, I ask, that we encounter within ourselves and others "a spirit, intelligent, holy, unique...not baneful, loving the good,...,beneficent, kindly, firm, secure, tranquil"?  Are we not encountering in ourselves and others God, from all good comes?

Thank you God for your intimacy with us!  

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Living according to God's Will

In today's first reading, Wisdom 6:1-11, God admonished those given authority over others, saying:
Hearken, O kings, and understand; learn, you magistrates of the earth's expanse! Hearken, you who are in power over the multitude and lord it over throngs of peoples [and over creation itself]!  Because authority was given you by the Lord and sovereignty by the Most High, who shall probe your works and scrutinize your counsels. Because, though you were ministers of his kingdom--[both humankind and the universe itself], you judged not rightly, and did not keep the law, or walk according to the will of God, terribly and swiftly shall he come against you, because judgment is stern for the exalted--For the lowly may be pardoned out of mercy but the mighty shall be mightily put to the test."

Each and every one of us, though we may not be in the highest positions of authority, have authority. We may be parents or teachers,  doctors or nurses, counselors or lawyers, public servants, foresters or environmentalists, ordinary citizens  involved in ordinary jobs, persons cultivating the earth and so forth.  Are we truly caretakers of those over whom we have authority? Are we truly caretakers of creatures that roam the earth with us? Or are we persons who exploit the earth and creatures who live upon it? We may think we have a right to treat others "under" us poorly--they are smaller than us, we may reason.  Or we may believe that we have a right to dominate and abuse the earth and earthly creatures--birds of the air, fishes of the sea, animals that roam our forests--not recognizing that all of the inhabitants of the universe carry out an important aspect of God's purposes and have not been put here to be exploited or abused  by humans. All of creation is to be appreciated as an important part of God's creation, as important as that of humankind itself.  

We are ministers of this "kingdom". We have been given " the Lord." When we do not judge rightly in how we relate to others and to the universe and all that is within it, when we do not keep the law that respects all persons, all animals, all plants, all created things "according to the will of God, terribly and swiftly shall he come against [us], because judgment is stern for the exalted--For the lowly may be pardoned out of mercy but the mighty shall be mightily put to the test."

Is God's judgment revealing itself in the natural and manmade disasters pounding the earth and its inhabitants across all continents?  Is reconciliation with God's plan for humankind and for the earth way past due? We are, after all, co-creators with God and have the potential to be one with God in His plan to build a Kingdom of love and peace, forgiveness and mercy--a place where all--men and women, plants and animals, all systems of the universe--experience the fullness of life Jesus came to give us.

Lord, have mercy on us for violating the covenant you made with us to be co-creator, sustainers, and protectors of all of creation and creative energies!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The gift of Imperishability Awaiting Us

In today's first reading, Wisdom 2: 23-3:9, we are reminded that we have been formed "to be imperishable" and that we were created in God's "own nature"."Our souls, when we die, we are told will be "in the hand of God and no torment shall touch" us.  When we leave this world, some people may think that we are dead. However, we will, very much so, be alive, living with God, our King, forever in His love.  Those of us who live life from this faith-filled perspective possess the "hope of full immortality." Yes, here on earth we will have been chastised a little, yet we "shall be greatly  blessed, because God tried [us] and found [us] worthy of himself, because in Christ Jesus and through Jesus' death and resurrection we are clothed with a robe of salvation. As gold in the furnace, [God] proved [us[ and as sacrificial offerings he [will take us] to himself [as we pass through the door of death into eternal life]."

May we be grateful to God for this incredible gift of mercy and love!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Discerning Good and Evil Spirits

In today's first reading, Wisdom 1; 1-7, we are told that God "is found by those who test him not, and [that God] manifest himself to those who do not disbelieve him. For perverse counsels separate a [person] from God, and [God's] power, put to the proof, rebukes the foolhardy; because into a soul that plots evil, wisdom enters not, nor dwells she in a body under the debt of sin. For the holy Spirit of discipline flees deceit and withdraws from senseless counsels;and when injustice occurs it is rebuked."  

Truly, believe,  God is at work in those involved in the presidency of the U.S. and in all those involved in our governing body.  The foolhardy are, I believe, being rebuked. Those who plot evil are being denied wisdom. In those "fleeing discipline" and following "senseless counsels" wisdom has withdrawn its presence.  And, finally, "justice is being rebuked" over and over again. When will we wake up to God at work in our world? Or are we blind because we, too, are "fleeing discipline" and following "senseless counsels", disbelieving in our God, and "plotting evil"?  Are we deaf and blind because we dwell "in a body under the debt of sin" ourselves? Have we separated ourselves from God by believing in "perverse counsels"?

May we remember, at all times, that "God is the witness of [our] inmost self and the sure observer of [our] heart and the listener of [our] tongue. For the Spirit of the Lord fills the world, is all-embracing, and knows what [you and I and all humans say]. We are who we are before God and no other!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Kingdom of Heaven is Near

"My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God," we pray in today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 63.   God's reply: I thirst for you more than you thirst for me. God is not putting us down.   Already on the cross, before you and I were born, Jesus, the Son of God, cried out in His torturous death: "I thirst!"  That thirst was for the salvation of each of us. In today's Gospel, Mt. 25: 1-13, Jesus asks us to be prepared for His coming, to be thirsting for Him, to be believers in Him, to be filled with love!  "The Kingdom of heaven," Jesus tells us, "will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps" (the oil of love, wisdom, faith, mercy, generosity, patience, hope, kindness and any other virtue modeled by Jesus and Mary in the Scriptures). Will you and I be prepared, or, like the foolish virgins, will our lamps be empty?

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Wondrous Works of God

In today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 145, we praise the Lord for his wondrous works! These works are revealed to  us in both the Old and New Testaments.  In the first reading of today's liturgy from Romans 16:; 3-9, 16, 22-27, St. Paul tells us about all of the people who had been assisting him in spreading the Good News about Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection; in short, his dying to save us from eternal life and to strengthen us in being faithful to our God and Father in the spread of the faith.  In the responsorial psalm, Psalm 145,  we praise God for his greatness, for the splendor of His glorious majesty, and his wondrous works throughout the ages.  We ask for the grace that we will continue to give God thanks (the greatest prayer of thanksgiving is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the celebration of the Eucharist) and persevere in faithfully blessing the Lord by the good we do in building up the Kingdom, as Jesus did.  We pray, too, that we will "discourse of the glory of [God's] kingdom and speak of [God's] might."

God continues to bless us every day, providing us with the graces we need to be His disciples and spread the good news of salvation. This past week I had the privilege to teach a group of fifth graders about the call to holiness, a call given us at our baptism. The inspiration was given me to help the children see the call to holiness in very concrete ways in choosing good (love, truth, forgiveness, kindness, unselfishness,  generosity, obedience and many other virtuous behaviors) over evil (hatred, revenge, bullying, selfishness, stinginess, disobedience and other sinful ways). We spoke of being spiritual wrestlers, of being on God's team, wrestling with good and evil throughout our lives, as Satan persists in tempting us on a daily basis to choose evil over good. With God on our side, we will win the battle!, one day at a time!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Making God Our First Priority

In today's first reading, Romans 13: 8-10, St. Paul admonishes us to love our neighbor as ourselves. He reminds us that what we owe each other is love. In loving others we fulfill the whole law and in choosing to love others we are choosing to do no evil to anyone! However, it is not enough to do no evil. To fulfill the law of love, we need to do to others what we would want done to us: a kind word when we are down, a lift when we are too weak to help ourselves, assistance when we may have lost our job and have no way to provide for our family and so on.  In the responsorial psalm, Psalm 112, we are told: "Well for the [person] who is gracious and lends, who conducts his [her] affairs with justice."

In today's Gospel, Luke 14: 25-33, we encounter that difficult teaching from Jesus, who says to us: If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple."  Is Jesus literally telling us to hate our parents and siblings and spouses to hate one another?  Of course not!  What Jesus is emphasizing is the importance of having our priorities straight!  We are to let nothing come between us and what God is asking of us! Sometimes we may be asked to do something for God/for Jesus that our family members strongly oppose and put forth efforts to block us from following the course that we know God is calling us to embrace.  That could lead to feelings of hatred on both sides, ours and theirs.  Each of us belongs to God. God has a purpose that we are called to fulfill and sometimes others we love do not understand why we are making the choice we are making. God is to be our first priority at whatever price!

What price am I willing to pay to be right with God? Remember the price God paid for us to be in right relationship with Him!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Body of Christ

Today's first reading, Romans 12: 5-16b, speaks to us about being "one Body in Christ and individually parts of one another."  As in our own physical bodies we are many parts and each part needs the other in order to survive and thrive, so, too, the Body of Christ. We all serve a significant part to the healthiness of the one Body of Christ and to the full functioning of the Body according to God's holy will.  Members of the one Body of Christ are each given certain gifts/talents to contribute to the wholeness and spiritual well-being of the whole Body.  If one member fails to contribute his/her gifts or chooses to "digest poison" in the form of wrongdoing, the entire Body of Christ suffers.   Our growth in holiness, in goodness, in love, in humility, in faith, in caring and compassion is effected by the choices each person makes.  If any one person makes right choices, the entire Body is enhanced. If any one person make poor choices, those choices diminish the "wealth" of the Body of Christ. We are made poorer or richer spiritually by each other's choices.

What kind of a member of the Body of Christ am I? What kind of choices am I making?

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Jesus Christ, our Deliverer

In Paul's 11th letter to the Romans, verses 1-2a, 11-12,  25-29, Paul asks the question: "[H]as God rejected his people? Of course not! For I too am a child of Israel, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew."  Remember that Paul was a persecutor of the Christians, an unbeliever in Jesus Christ until his conversion. Paul acclaims that "through their transgression [the transgression of the Israelites and through his own transgression] salvation has come to the Gentiles [to all those not of the race of Israel, the Chosen People]."  Why has God allowed this? Paul believes that it is "so as to make them [us Gentiles] jealous. Now," Paul says,  if their transgression is enrichment for the world, and if their diminished number is enrichment for the Gentiles, how much more their full number?.... [A] hardening has come upon Israel in part," Paul instructs us,  "until the full number of the Gentiles comes in, and thus all Israel will be saved as it is written: The deliverer will will come out of Zion, he will turn away godlessness from Jacob;  and this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins."

And at every Mass, the priest holds up the consecrated Host, "the deliverer" whom Paul speaks about," and  proclaims: Behold the  Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!"

I believe! What is your belief?

Thursday, November 2, 2017

God's Elect

Today we celebrate the Feast of All Souls, all of those who have gone before us passing through the door of death into eternal life. In the first reading of today's liturgy, Wisdom 3: 1-9,  we are told that the "souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them."  Some may look upon the death of their loved ones merely from the viewpoint of being "an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But, the author of the book of Wisdom, tells us that "they are in peace."  You and I might  believe that they were punished here on earth, "yet...their hope [was] full of immortality; chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold tried in the furnace [of life here on earth], he proved them, as sacrificial offering he took them to himself."  Passing through the door of death, our loved ones now "abide with [God] in love: because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with his elect." And we, and they, are God's elect through Jesus Christ, our God and Savior.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Almighty, All-Knowing, All-loving, All-Good God

"Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne and from the Lamb,"  we read in today's first reading, Rev 7: 2--4, 9-14.  Being saved, being made whole, being healed, being restored to the fullness of life is a gift from God, our Savior.  We see this process of being made whole, of striving for a restoration to wholeness, happening when we cut ourselves, for instance.  Our bodies naturally heal.  We see death and dying all around us this fall, as the leaves fall to the ground, disintegrate and become fertilizer for new life to burst forth in spring.  The never-ending cycle of birth and rebirth are daily examples of restoration to new life, to wholeness, to returning to fullness of life as God's gift to us.

It is not, I believe,  just when we enter eternal life and receive a new body that we know God's gift of salvation. We know it now here on earth in situations described above and in relationships that are restored when we co-operate with grace, seeking forgiveness after we have brought pain into another person's life.  Cyclically, beginning with the Trinity in the relationship of Father to Son to Holy Spirit and in the Trinity's relationship with each one of us and us with each other, the creative and healing powers of God flow, bringing us, every day,  to a new level of wholeness, to an ever-expanding level of fruition,  and to a sharing more and more in the fullness of life Jesus promises us in the Scriptures.

Truly, "[b]lessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might..." (Rev 7: 2-2, 9-14) belong to the Almighty,  the all-knowing, the all-loving, the all-good God, who put into existence these creative energies, beginning with the start of creation--humankind part of the ongoing process of creation--and extending to eternal life.