Sunday, June 17, 2018

Building the Kingdom of God

Today's Gospel, Mark 4: 26-34, speaks about the Kingdom of God and that such is "as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow,  he knows not how."   God's Kingdom "sprouts and grow[s]", day by day, night by night! How? By our loving and forgiving one another! By our honesty with one another. By our mercy! By our caring about one another, seeing other people's affliction,  hearing their cries for food, water, clothes; hearing other peoples' cries for justice and truthful living. We sow seeds of the Kingdom of God by, not just knowing what other people are going through but getting out of ourselves to do something that will enhance the life of a person in need. We see God's Kingdom sprouting, blossoming, growing as we witness husband and wife, a grandmother and a grandfather,  loving one another and pouring out that love in self-sacrifice for their children and grandchildren. We see this Kingdom growing by those who give us medical, dental, physical and emotional help; by those in public service who act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with their God (See Micah 6:8) as they provide honest and just service to others.

In what ways am I contributing to the growth of God's Kingdom: Am I sowing seeds of love and justice, mercy, truth, and forgiveness? Or am I living a life of lies, holding grudges, living a narcissistic life, a life of revenge, a  lustful life, a life lacking justice, a life without mercy or love?

Friday, June 8, 2018

A Heart that Overflows with Love

Today we celebrate the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a heart overflowing with love for all humankind. The Gospel of today's Mass, John 19: 31-37, recalls  the depth of God's love, the death of Jesus on the cross.  The Gospel passage notes that the time is fast approaching when the Jews need to remove the bodies from the cross, so that they do not violate Passover customs! So, executioners break the legs of those being crucified, depriving them of the means to lift themselves up to get any air into their lungs. Jesus is already dead so, instead of breaking His legs, they thrust a lance into His side, from whence flows blood and water. I immediately think of the priest pouring a drop of water into the wine prior to the consecration of the Mass when the Bread and Wine become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus and is offered to the Father in atonement of our sins and the sins of the whole world.  What a moment! Though Jesus does not ever die again, His sacrifice of love, I believe, is always before the Father.  Day and night, Jesus intercedes for us at the throne of God!  He awaits that day when you and I enter eternal life, a gift secured for us on the cross! Will you and I accept this gift in faith and love? Or have we already chosen our own gods, gods that cannot save us?


Thursday, June 7, 2018

Salvation in Christ Jesus

In the Collect of today's liturgy we pray: "Grant all that works for our good."  In the first reading Paul tells his beloved that he "bears all for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, together with eternal glory."   What God did for Paul, that is, using his imprisonment and sufferings for the good of others, so too, does God do for us. Our self-sacrificing love for others, no matter how small, brings about good for others.  Our intercessory prayer does the same.  We might not see how what we do for others "works for [their] good," yet, in faith, we know that  God is always at work in us and through us so that the salvation that is ours, and theirs, in Christ Jesus  is accomplished.

Lord, I pray, continue to show me your ways at work in me and in others.  Continue to transform all in me that thwarts Your will from being accomplished through me, namely, that blocks the good You want to bring into being in another person's life through what I suffer for them, even if that suffering is no more than remaining silent, for instance, when what they are saying is untrue of me or when, i  in another instance, they are being given credit that belongs to me.  May I be willing to hold nothing back in loving others as You love me, knowing that the work we are doing obtains, for them and for us, "the salvation that is in Christ Jesus"!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Facing Truth

In today's Gospel, "some Pharisees and Herodians were sent to Jesus to ensnare him in  his speech!"  Hoping to corner Him, they ask Him whether it is lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not.  "Knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them: 'Bring me a denarius to look at....Whose image and inscription  is this?...Caesar's. So...[r]epay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.'"

Just as Jesus knew their intentions, so, too does He know yours and mine. Hypocrisy,  insincerity, a lack of genuineness and integrity do not escape Jesus! "Why," Jesus asks his interrogators, "are you testing me?"  Do you and I realize when we are testing Jesus? And when we are being testy and insincere in our relationships with others and with therefore with God, Jesus does not condemn us any more than He condemned the Pharisees or the Herodians, in this instance.  He gives them, and us, an opportunity to face truth. He does not leave them, or us,  off the cuff, so to speak, but puts forth a challenge!  In what ways has Jesus challenged you/me today, this past week, this past month?  In what ways has Jesus shown us His patience so as to bring us to repentance, to salvation?

Lord, open my eyes to my hypocrisy!  Show me the truth that is hidden from me when I set out to ensnare another person?

Monday, June 4, 2018

God's Providence in Each Person's Life

In the collect of today's liturgy, we pray:  "O God, whose providence never fails in its design, keep from us, we humbly beseech you, all that might harm us and grant all that works for our good."  We might reword this as follows: "O God, whose providence never fails in its design, keep from (insert any one's name, especially someone with whom you might be having problems) we humbly beseech you, all that might harm (this person's name) and grant all that works for (this person's) good."  Note how praying for this other person in this way changes your heart, and mine!

Let us remind ourselves that God's providence "never fails in its design" for this other person or for ourselves.  God has a plan for the good of other persons and our own good. When we think of others in this way, especially persons with whom we are having some kind of difficulty, our attitude changes from thinking ill of them, perhaps, to seeing them from God's perspective.  Also, when the problem I am having is that I want to help where I am unable to help, God reminds me that He is that person's Savior, not me. And that whatever is happening in this other person's life that I am finding problematic is of God's design and will bring about some good for this person to which I am not privy!  In other words, God is God and I am only one of His created beings just like the person with whom I am troubled!

Friday, June 1, 2018

God: the Center of All We Do

In today's first reading, 1 Peter 4: 7-13, Peter admonishes us as follows: "[L]et your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining."  Each of us, he says, "has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace. Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God; whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."

Am I, are you, a good steward of the gifts God has given to us, that is, do we use our gifts for the good of another?  Are we "hospitable...without complaining"?  Note Peter's comment that however we serve others,  however we make the world in which we live, be that our family or community living space, we do so "with the strength that God supplies"!  Without God's strength, we would not be building up God's kingdom of love here on earth!  Furthermore, Peter tells us, the purpose of what we do here on earth, as father/mother, parent/child, priest/religious women/men,  is "that in all things God be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever."

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Going to Jerusalem with Jesus

Imagine yourself in the scene of today's Gospel, Mark 10: 32-45: You are on the way with Jesus to Jerusalem. On the way Jesus tells you that He is going to be handed over to the chief priests, to Gentiles--unbelievers--who are going to condemn Him to death, mock Him, spit upon Him, scourge Him, and crucify Him and in three days He will rise from the dead!  JESUS, who has become your best friend. You have fallen in love with Him. For three years you have hung on His every word. You witnessed His healings, His raising people from the dead, giving sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf.  You have seen Him cast out demons and challenge those who condemn others. You yourself have been challenged to live a life of service to others, to forgive others, not seven times but seventy times seven times.  You had meals with Jesus. You've seen Him walk on water and calm storms, literal ones and emotional ones!  And He tells you of His impending crucifixion at the hands of unbelievers!  He tells you that His end is near! Life with Him, as you know it, will be over soon!

Imagine your conversation with Jesus following this information. It goes something like this:

No, Jesus! This is not possible.  It will not happen. I will not let it happen.

It will happen.  It is my Father's will.

No! It cannot be Your Father's will. No Father would want this for His Son.

You do not understand.

Yes, I do. It cannot happen. It will not happen! I won't let it happen.

In the midst of my suffering, you will flee out of fright. On the hill of my crucifixion, you will be no where to be found.

Jesus! No, no, no. It cannot be.

It must happen, __(your name),________________. Through my death I will ransom you from eternal death.  Three days after my death, I will rise from the the dead and return to My Father, from where I will send you the Holy Spirit, who will teach you all things.  Then, through the power of the Holy Spirit,  you are to travel throughout the whole world and baptize all peoples in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 

My Lord and My God! 


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

God's Delight in Us

Today's Entrance Antiphon reminds me that the "Lord became my protector. He brought me out to a place of freedom; he saved me because he delighted in me."  Let us personalize this antiphon and use present tense with Jesus addressing us as follows:  "Dorothy Ann (insert your name) , I am your protector. I  bring you to me every day, more than once, from that place that enslaves you or has the potential to enslave you. I bring you often to a place of freedom--freedom from being judgmental, freedom from idolatry (idolizing your will or something you think you must have to be secure), freedom from attachments, freedom from fear and pride and so on.  I save you from the traps Satan sets for  you. I pull you to safety because I delight in you!"

Our response is in today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 98, in which we pray: The Lord has made known his salvation....His right hand has won victory for him, his holy arm....He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness toward [us]. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands, break into song; sing praise."

The Lord makes known His salvation to us in every liturgy, where He offers Himself to the Father in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, during which the priest, through the power of the Holy Spirit,  turns bread and wine into the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus, who, then, comes to nurture, strengthen, sanctify and purify us in Holy Communion! Salvation is also shown to us throughout the day when we follow the Spirit's lead and  when others and we ourselves reveal God's love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness and kindness to one another in how we treat each other.




Friday, May 18, 2018

"Do You Love Me?" Jesus Asks Us

In today's Gospel, John 21: 15-19, Jesus, after preparing breakfast for the apostles and eating with them, says to Peter:  "'Simon Peter, do you love me more than these?' Simon Peter answered him, 'Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.' Jesus said to him, 'Feed my lambs.' He then said to Simon Peter a second time, 'Simon, son of John, do pi love me?' Simon Peter answered him, 'Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.' He said to him, 'Tend my sheep.' He said to him a third time, 'Simon, son of John, do you love me?'  Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, 'Do you love?' ad her said to him, 'Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.' Jesus said ti him, 'Feed my sheep....'"

Jesus is not only asking Peter whether he loves him but he is also asking us that question, not once but many times as we journey through any given day: "Dorothy Ann (insert your name),  do you love me?"  And I think, He adds: "Then, act as though you do in how you respond to difficult situations, in the way that you meet a challenge. Show me your love as you tend to those with whom you live and work!"  If you are married, I think Jesus asks you to tend to your wife/husband, to your children or grandchildren, to your in-laws.  "Show me that you love me in how you speak to others, in how you pitch in to help one another, in how you go the extra mile and not find excuses to not get off the couch!"  "Do you love me?"


Thursday, May 17, 2018

One with Jesus and the Father

In today's Gospel, John 17: 20-26,  Jesus says to the Father:  "I have given them--you and me--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, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me." Let us personalize Jesus' statement to read:  Father, "I have given  [Dorothy Ann]-- (your name)--the glory you gave me." What glory? The glory of being one with Jesus, as Jesus and the Father are one with one another. Jesus explains to the Father why He is asking that you or I be one with Him:  "[T]hat [Dorothy Ann--insert your name] may be one, as we are one, I in [her] and you in me, that [she] may be brought to perfection as one [with me],  that the world may know that you sent me, and you love [her] even as you loved me."

If you are married, I encourage you to read that passage with you and your spouse in mind, personalizes the passage! It then would read, for instance: "I have given Joe and Mary the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that Joe and Mary may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you [love] Joe and Mary even as you [love] me." 



Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Oneness with God

In today's Gospel, John 17: 11b-19, Jesus, shortly before giving up His life to evil persons who killed Him, prayed for you and me.  His prayer, in part, was: "Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me."  You and I are included in the ones the Father gave to Jesus.  Jesus asked the Father to keep us in His name "so that [we] may be one just as [God the Father and Jesus] are one." Jesus reminded the Father that we "do not belong to the world any more that [He] belong[s] to the world. I do not," He said to His Father, "ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the Evil One....Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth....I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth."

There is no way that the Father said "no" to His Son, Jesus. Jesus' prayer, definitely, is being answered day by day as we journey through this "vale of tears," where Satan prowls seeking souls to   devour.  "[K]eep them from the Evil One," Jesus prayed. And God does just that in and for those who seek God, a seeking obvious in those who practice their faith and live by truth. As we look around we see men and women becoming one in love, a possibility made real because Jesus prayed: "May they be one just as we are one."   The ability to give of ourselves in self-sacrificing love each day and the courage to rise when we fall and ask forgiveness of each other is the effect of Jesus' prayer!

May you and I rejoice in the abundant love and mercy that is poured into our lives each day by a gracious God working through our family and friends, fellow religious and creation itself.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Our Soul's Desire

Today's liturgy opens with the antiphon:  "In your strength, O Lord, the just one rejoices; how greatly your salvation makes him glad!  You have granted him his soul's desire, alleluia" (Cf. P:s. 21 (20): 2-3). By making it personal it would read:  "In your strength, O Lord, I rejoice; how greatly your salvation makes me glad! You have granted me my soul's desire, alleluia!"

Often, I would hear my mother say: "Without faith, I don't know how we would  have made it through life's tragic moments."  That comes from a mother who lost her own mother when she herself was 13 years of age.  Because her father suffered from the tragic disease of alcoholism--was physically, sexually, and verbally abusive in drunken states (he was never sober, a 96-year old uncle told me about him)--the state placed two of the children in foster care and another in a orphanage, while my mother raised two of the older children, she herself being the oldest in the family.  She witnessed her father sexually abuse one of her sisters who was not as fast as she in getting away from him. And God knows how much physical and verbal abuse she herself endured! So, basically, she was saying to us: "Without faith, I don't know how I would have made it through the tragedies of my life."

Faith was everything to my parents.  My mother's and father's strength was the Lord's! How greatly the Lord's salvation was desired by my parents.  Now, I believe, both of them are in heaven. Their soul's desire has been granted!

In our lives, do we realize that our strength, day by day, comes from the Lord? And furthermore, do we also realize that our soul's desire is for our salvation, nothing else really! So, in what ways do we co-operate with God in bringing us closer and closer to the gates of heaven already here on earth by the way we live the Gospel in the here and now?




Friday, May 11, 2018

"I Will See You Again"

In today's Gospel, John 16: 20-23, Jesus says to us:  "I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. On that day you will not question  me about anything."

Jesus, I believe, longs for that day, perhaps more than we do,  when the veil will be lifted and we will see one another face to face.  "No one will take that joy away from us."  Some 2000+ years ago Jesus took on human nature and all that such means. He has experienced, as we do, the temporary diminishment of joy when friends disappoint us.  Conflicts between Jesus and His disciples and those who opposed His teaching sometimes left Him in tears and certainly left Him with questions!  Imagine, though, His return to the glories of heaven with His Father and the Holy Spirit! The rejoicing had to be overwhelming for Him and the Father and the Spirit! That rejoicing will also occur every time that Jesus returns to earth to take a loved one back with Him into his/her eternal home!  That day will come for all of us sooner or later. We will see Jesus face to face and our "hearts will rejoice, and no one will take [our] joy away from [us]." And furthermore, we will have no more questions to ask!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Living and Moving in Sync with God

In today's first reading, Acts 17: 15, 22-18:1, Paul reminds us that the "God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything. Rather it is [God] who gives to everyone life and breath and everything....In him we live and move and have our being...."   

"[W]e live and move and have our being" in God as a fish lives and moves and has its existence in water!  Without water a fish dies. Without God, you and I die. In water a fish thrives. In God you and I thrive.

God, Paul tells us, "does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands."  Where, then, does God dwell? If we "live and move and have our being in God," then God, an infinite, eternal Being separate and distinct from us, lives within us.  We are one with God and God is one with us, yet distinctly separate from us! We are not God and God is not us! God does exist apart from us but we do not live apart from God anymore than a fish lives apart from water or a branch cut off from a tree!

Oh, the intimacy of God! This intimate God is Creative Energy that gives life, sustains life, purifies life, transforms weakness into strength, disunity into unity, ugliness into beauty, sinfulness into holiness. And in doing all of this and more, God needs our cooperation, as we have been given a free will by God. We are capable of choosing evil over good, ugliness over beauty, as God will not take away our freedom to choose!  We are capable of being divisive and not cooperating with God's grace.  We are capable of choosing that which weakens our character instead of that which strengthens us as God's offspring!  The choice is always ours!

How did you choose today?


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Lessons from Paul and Silas

In today's first reading, Acts 16: 22-34, Paul and Silas are arrested, "stripped and ordered...to be beaten with rods. After inflicting many blows on them, they threw them into prison and instructed the jailer to guard them securely....About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened.... 

God at work in believers! When we are the Lords and act as such, miracles happen!  In the midst of suffering, Paul and Silas pray and sing songs to the Lord! What do I and you do when we encounter difficulties, when we are "chained," "beaten" down,  not literally but with words or ill health, "imprisoned" in pride, fear, in anger, powerlessness or whatever stops us from doing that which we have been commissioned to do, as Paul and Silas were?  Do we turn to the Lord in prayer, singing songs to the Lord? Do we stay focused on the Lord? Or do we turn our focus on the problems we have encountered, thus losing heart?

May we,  in times of hardship, through the grace of God, be witnesses to the gift of faith that we have been given at our baptisms.


Monday, May 7, 2018

Giving Testimony

In today's Gospel, John 15: 26-16:4a, Jesus tells us that [w]hen the Advocate comes who I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me... I have told you these things so that you will not fall away."

The question that I need to ask myself is: do my words and deeds witness or give testimony of Jesus, of the Gospel way of life, of an authentic married life or religious life?  If a non-believer had shadowed me throughout this day, would that person have come to know Jesus by my humility, my simplicity, my commitment to truth and to the values o the Gospel? Would that person have left my presence praising and thanking the Father for the testimony I gave, for instance, as a religious to the vows of obedience, poverty and chastity (purity of my love and self-giving to others) or, as a married person, the love and respect shown one's wife/husband and children and one's faithfulness to the marriage vows?

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Reading the "Road Signs"

In today's first reading, Acts 16: 1-10,  Paul and Timothy are traveling through Phrygian and Galatian territory because "they were prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching the message in the province of Asia. When they came to Mysia, they tried to go on into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did no allow them, [so they went] to Troas [instead].  During the night Paul had a vision. A Macedonian stood before him [and begged him to come] over to Macedonia and help us."

WOW! How tuned into the Spirit's directions, the Spirit's nudges, were Paul and Timothy!  How perfectly Paul and Timothy read the "road signs"!  The questions that we need to ask ourselves are: How tuned into the Spirit's guiding messages am I, are you?   Do we recognize the "road signs": "Danger ahead," "Falling rocks," "Sharp Curve," "Do not enter," etc.?  

The Spirit of Jesus is as close to us as to Paul. God's "road signs" pop up in our lives as much as in the lives of early Christians!  Are we training ourselves to recognize those "signs"? Are we tuned into the Spirit's voice, sensitive to the Spirit's nudges or are we so preoccupied with the plans we've set up for ourselves that we notice nothing else!  God may send His message through our children, grandchildren, spouses, our co-workers!  The Spirit may nudge us through nurses or doctors, caregivers, fellow men/religious or brother priests (if we are a member of a religious community or of the priesthood).  Are we listening? Have we tuned in?  Are we training ourselves to intuitively sense the Spirit's presence?  Are we willing to turn back, so to speak, when we encounter a subtle or not so subtle warning?

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Standing in the Gospel of Jesus Christ

In today's first reading, 1 Cor 15: 1-8, St. Paul reminds us of "the Gospel I preached to you, which you indeed received and in which  you also stand."

You and I received it!
We stand in it!
We are nourished by it!
We are made holy by it!
We are saved by it!
We are made righteous by it, in it, and through it!
We are strengthened by it.
We are shown the Way and the Truth and the Life by it and in it and through it! When we immerse ourselves in the Gospel, we meet and know Jesus and, in knowing Jesus, we know the Father, Jesus reminds us in today's Gospel, John 14: 6-14: "If you know me," Jesus says to Philip, "then you will also know my Father."

THE GOSPEL:

  • A life-giving Word!
  • A two-edged sword, cutting to the marrow of our bones!
  • A transforming Word!
  • A purifying Word!
  • An Eternal Word!
  • A nourishing Word!
  • A reconciling Word!
  • The Glory of God!
  • The Salvation of our God!
  • The Creative Energy of God!
  • The "I AM"!
  • The Way, the Truth, the Life of God!
  • The Love of God!
Today's responsorial psalm, I believe,  tells us that the message of the Gospel "goes out to all the earth," that "the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims [God's] handiwork. Day pours out the word to day; and night to night imparts knowledge" of God!

WOW! The next time the priest raises up the Gospel, let you and me fall on our knees in reverence, in awe, in gratitude!



Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The True Vine and the Vine Grower

In today's Gospel, John 15: 1-8, Jesus says to us: I am the true vine, and my Father the vine grower.  He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit....Remain in me, as I remain in you.  Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me....[W]ithout me you can do nothing," just as a branch separated from a fruit tree bears nothing!

You and I are attached to the Vine through baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation and other sacraments and thus bear the of fruit of love, which lasts into eternity.  We strengthen our attachment to the Vine through prayer and self-sacrificing acts of love: love of our family members--our spouses, our children, our grandchildren--other relatives, members of our religious community (if religious men/women), and persons we touch through various encounters in person or through others ways of encounter.  We grow in love, Jesus tells us, by the action of His "Father, the vine grower."  However, if we, the "branches",  fail to bear the fruit of love, the Father, Jesus tells us, "will take us away"--we "will be thrown out like a branch and wither." 

What am I, what are you, doing to remain attached, and strengthen our attachment, to the true Vine? What am I, what are you doing to co-operate with the Father, "the vine grower"?

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Peace of God Be with You

In today's Gospel for Tuesday of the fifth week of Easter, John 14: 27-31, Jesus says to his disciples, that is, to you and me, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid...I am going away and I will come back to you....I am going to the Father; ....I will no longer speak much with you, for the ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over me...."

"The ruler of the world is coming"!  The ruler of the world is Satan, who sows discord, jealousy, anger, prejudice, hatred, and division. Jesus says: "He has no power over me!" Neither does he have power over those who stay focused on Jesus, seek Jesus and follow Him unreservedly. We are able to do just that because  Jesus prayed for us.  He prayed that we would be one with Him as He and the Father are one and that we would carry on the work He did.  That is why He gave us His peace, saying: "My peace I give to you.....Do not let your hearts be troubled."  Filled with the peace of Jesus and of the Spirit, we are empowered to overcome fear and hatred, jealousy and anger and division.  Our union with others deepens as we foster our relationship with God in prayer and in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist. Our union with God also deepens as we give our ourselves in  self-sacrificing love to one another throughout a given day!

Monday, April 30, 2018

To God's Name Give the Glory

In today's first reading, Acts 14: 5-18, the people of Lystra were so awed when a crippled man was healed by Jesus through Paul and Barnabas that they attempted to worship them, believing that "the gods have come down to us in human form." Paul and Barnabas were appalled and were able to stop them, saying to them "[w]e proclaim to you good news that you should turn from these idols  [Zeus and Hermes] to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them." 

It is easy to forget that whatever good we do is done by the Lord using us as His instruments. It is not us doing the good or the healing or the whatever. God works through those who believe.  We pray in today's responsorial psalm "Not to us, O Lord, but to your name give the glory," but how often are we not seeking the glory that belongs to God and making idols out of ourselves!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

"Shake the Dust from Your Feet"

In today's first reading, Acts 13: 44-52, prominent women and leading men stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas "and expelled them from their territory." This past week a Catholic priest was fired by Speaker of the House, as his message of passing legislature that benefits the rich and poor alike was labelled "too political." Whatever the reason for the expulsions, Paul and Barnabas "shook the dust from their feet in protest" against their persecutors and moved on.

All of us, from time to time, will encounter those who oppose the good we want to promote, will   reject our stand for justice, and, in fact, will persecute us for our commitment to the Gospel. There will be times when, in spite of having put forth our best, we will need to shake "the dust" from our feet, forgive those who oppose our actions, let go and let God, and move on.  Given the obstacles placed in our way and a clear messages of being  unwelcome and in fact "expelled from [the] territory," we need to open ourselves to God's invitation to move on to other  "territories." This may mean moving on to a different ministry/job, letting go of a certain relationship and/or, in short, changing our determination to get what we want from "soil" that is unproductive, knowing that God has a future full of hope planned for us (See Jer 29:11)! But without letting go of and surrendering the past to God we will not know that future!

Friday, April 27, 2018

"Let Not Your Hearts be Troubled"

In today's Gospel, John 14: 1-6, Jesus says to His disciples: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith in me."  Jesus says this when He is gathered with His disciples at the Last Supper. He knows that Judas will betray him that very night. He knows that He will be arrested and condemned to death and crucified like an hardened criminal because  jealousy will have consumed the leaders of Jerusalem with the disastrous result of murdering the One of whom they are jealous."Do not let your hearts be troubled."

Think of a time when  your worst nightmare is about to occur and Jesus says to you: "Do not let your hearts be troubled."  First of all,  Jesus knows about which he is talking. He has been there, that is, at the threshold of his worst nightmare.  Second of all, Jesus is God and will walk through that nightmare with you, just as the Father and the Spirit were with Him that night and the next horrible days and raising Him to new life in the resurrection on Easter morn.  Jesus, the Son of God with the Father and the Holy Spirit--the three are one--will take you by the hand, hold you in their arms, comfort you, strengthen you and awaken a courage within you that you never knew you had. You will come through the ordeal and be risen to new life in a way you could never imagine, as you trust in the Lord.  Have you ever said of yourself: "I don't know where I got the strength"? Or, "I have no idea how I ever did that?" An Invisible God was with you, guiding you, upholding you, enlightening you, strengthening you, and loving you!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Proclaiming the Crucified Christ as the Power and the Wisdom of God

In today's Gospel Acclamation "[w]e  proclaim Christ crucified; he is the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1 23a-24b).  In that power the apostles left the place from which Jesus ascended into heaven and went about the world preaching the good news of Jesus' life, death and resurrection, revealing the depth, the length, the width and breadth of God's love for us.  Prior to Jesus' resurrection, the apostles were men filled with fear. They fled for their lives and hid themselves behind locked doors, fearing that what happened to Jesus on the cross would be their fate as well.

Just as  God held nothing back to show us the way to salvation, justice, mercy and forgiveness, so, too, following Jesus' ascension into heaven and His sending the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, nothing held the apostles back from preaching the crucified Christ as "the power of God and the wisdom of God." The apostles and the disciples of Jesus were no longer afraid of those who could harm the body.  Their spirits were fortified by the Holy Spirit. Love for Christ cast out all fear.  Focused on the Lord and relying upon the Lord, they became fierce proclaimers,  if you will.  Like St. Francis of Assisi, Jesus was their God and their All!

You and I are also asked to go out to all the world the proclaim the Gospel of Christ by word and by action.  May we, with the author of today's responsorial psalm, promise that "[t]he favors of the Lord [we] will sing forever; through all generations [our mouths] shall proclaim [Jesus'] faithfulness" (Ps. 89).

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Seeing the Grace of God at Work

In today's first reading, Acts 11: 19-26,  Barnabas was sent to Antioch.  "When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord  in firmness of heart, or he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith." Barnabas' faith was an active faith, not just a creed that he recited in formal prayer.  He "saw the grace of God" working among the disciples of Antioch!  Do I walk through my day as a person of faith? Do I see grace at work in my life, in the life of those with whom I minister, in my co-workers, in the circumstances of my day?

As I was in prayer this evening, I realized that I want my life to be free of ambiguities and of problems, obvious when I complain about this or that!  My grumbling about a problem is no different from the Israelites in the desert complaining about the manna that fell from heaven or the lack of water. When I am in a grumbling mood, where is my faith and trust in the Lord? And, moreover, if there are no problems in my life, no ambiguities, how do I, in the first place,  develop trust in the Lord?  

Lord, I pray for the grace to live from faith! I ask that my eyes be opened to "the grace of God" at work in those with whom I live and work and play!  I pray  to be "filled with the Holy Spirit and faith," as was Barnabas. And I ask to be forgiven for wanting no problems or ambiguities in my life.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Lord is my Shepherd

"I am the good shepherd, says the Lord; I know my sheep, and mine know me" (Jn 10:14).  Ever watch a child waiting for its parents to come through the doors of an airline.  Immediately, they know the person coming through that door is his/her parent. The child lights up, gets all excited and runs into the arms of its parents.  That is what God does waiting for us. "I know my sheep; and mine know me."  The Lord jumps with delight when we come to Him!  He always recognizes us!  Do we recognize the Lord?

In today's Gospel, John 10: 1-10, Jesus tells us that He is the gate for the sheep and that "the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice."  Recognizing the Lord's voice, following the Lord out to "pasture," we pray in psalm 23:  

....In green pastures he makes me lie down; 
to still waters he leads me;
he restores my soul. 
He guides me along right paths
for the sake of his name.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for you are with me; 
your rod and your staff comfort me.
You set a table before me
in front of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; 
my cup overflows.
Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me
all the days of my life; 
I will dwell in the house of the Lord 
for endless days.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

The New and Eternal Covenant Given by Jesus

In the last three Gospels of this week, John 6: 44-51, John 6: 52-59 and today's, John 6: 60-69,  Jesus tells the people that He is "the living bread that came down from heaven" (Jn 6: 57). Whoever "eats this bread," Jesus says, "will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my Flesh for the life of the world" (John 6: 51).  In John 6: 52-59, the Jews are quarreling and asking: "'How can this man give us His Flesh to eat?' Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the  Son of man and drink His Blood you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my Flesh is true food, and my Blood true drink. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him'....These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum" (John6: 54-59).

In today's Gospel, John 6: 60-69, many of the disciples of stopped following Jesus, saying: "This saying is hard; who can accept it" (John 6:60)? Jesus knows what the people are quarreling about and says to them: "Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before.  It is the Spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.  The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe" (John 6: 60-63).  To this very day many people walk away because they do  not believe the words of Jesus  concerning the Holy Eucharist celebrated by Catholics.

The Spirit that overshadowed Mary when the second person of the Blessed Trinity took on human nature is the same Spirit that overshadows the bread and wine at Mass when the priest utters the words of consecration: "This is my Body; this is my Blood". The ordinary bread and wine become the body and blood, the soul and divinity of Jesus.  Just as many of the disciples of Jesus stopped following Him when he said to them "unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink  his Blood, you do not have life within you" so, too, today do many people abandon their Catholic faith, saying: "I won't believe" or "I don't believe!"

May my faith, and yours, remain strong in Jesus' words, said by Jesus Himself in the person of the priest.  "Take  this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my Body given up for you....Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me" (Eucharistic Prayer II--The Word Among Us, May 2018, p. L15).

Friday, April 20, 2018

With Jesus, for Jesus, in Jesus, through Jesus

In today's first reading, Acts 9: 1-20, we are given the story of Saul's conversion as well as the conversion of Ananias.  Saul is on the way to Damascus and knocked down when "a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him and [he] heard a voice saying to him: 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?'...'Who are you, Sir? ... '  ...'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.'"  A similar situation takes place in the city.  Ananias, a disciple of the Lord, is visited by the Lord, also.  Jesus says to him:  "'Ananias.' ....'Here I am, Lord.' ...'Get up and to the the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul.'"    Ananias had to be floored. Saul is out to arrest disciples of Jesus!  So Ananias initially objects to what the Lord is asking of him. "But the Lord said to him, 'Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name."  And Ananias goes to Straight Street!

The power of Jesus! Saul is set straight! He is converted from a persecutor of Jesus to a proclaimer of the Lord Jesus. Ananias is converted from fear and resistance of what is perceived as evil to one who is an instrument in converting a man who was a persecutor of the disciples of Jesus.

When God is with us who can be against us, we pray in one of the psalms!  Both Saul and Ananias become instruments in the hand of God to bring about a good willed by God!  You and I, too, can become those instruments when we let down our defenses or, better put, God puts down our defenses! God is always at work in the world doing for us what He did for Saul and Ananias! May our realization of God's presence grow and may our ability to hear the voice of Jesus grow, as well!


Thursday, April 19, 2018

God's Messengers

In today's first reading, Acts 8: 26-40, we are told the entire episode of an angel speaking to Philip and directing him to "[g]et up and head south on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route." On the way he sees a chariot ahead of him. And the angel says to him: "Go and join up with that chariot."   Philip does so. The person in the chariot, a eunuch,  is reading the book of Isaiah and has no idea what he is reading and asks Philip to explain the passage, which read "Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opened not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who will tell of his posterity? For his life is taken from the earth."   God uses Philip to explain this Scripture passage to him. Philip proclaims Jesus to the eunuch. As they come upon a body of water, the eunuch requests that the chariot be stopped so that he could be baptized!

God works in your life and mine in the same way.  Out of the blue, we are instructed to do this or that: "Stop and visit so-and-so." "Go see how so-and-so is!"  "Make that phone call to your mother/father, brother/sister, friend." "Ask forgiveness for what you just said!""Stay awhile with this person; the work on your desk can wait"  and so on!  God sends messengers all of the time. Am I listening?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Who Am I in today's Scripture Reading?

In today's first reading, Acts 8: 1b-8, while "[d]evout men buried Steven", Saul was going from door to door arresting men and women who believed in Jesus.  He handed followers of Jesus over to the authorities to be thrown into prison.  In spite of the danger of being arrested, "Philip went down to Samaria and proclaimed Christ to them." Demons were being cast out, the sick were being healed, paralyzed and crippled people were being cured of their disabilities.  "There was great joy in that city."

Who am I in this story?  One of the believers in Jesus willing to risk my reputation, yes, even my life, in proclaiming Christ and living a faith-filled life? Am I a "Saul" who persecutes those of a religion different from my own, those who disagree with my beliefs or of my way of thinking?  Am I one from whom "demons" are being cast out, my life being transformed in Jesus' name, my "paralysis" being healed, that is, I am being freed from that which paralyzes me from doing what is right and just, kind and loving?  Am I one who brings "great joy" to the world in which I live?  The choices are mine to make!


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Jesus, the Bread of our Lives

In today's Gospel, John 6: 30-35, the crowd asks Jesus for a sign that will help them to believe in Him, as they believed in Moses. Moses, they tell Jesus,  "gave them bread from heaven to eat."  Jesus sets them straight, saying:  "Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."  Obviously, he is talking about Himself. "Sir, give us this bread always."  Jesus then reminds them that He is the "bread of life; whoever comes to me," Jesus says, "will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst."  How true!

May you and I always go to Jesus in all of our needs, in all of the circumstances of our lives. It is with Jesus and through Jesus that our lives take on the characteristics of our Lord and we, too, give "life to the world" around us!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Why Am I Looking for Jesus

In today's Gospel, John 6: 22-29, the 5000+ people who had been fed by Jesus go looking for him.  His disciples had left to go across the sea to Capernaum but Jesus had not gone with them.  When these people find Jesus, He reads their hearts, knowing that they simply  want more to eat. "Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not look for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him, the Father, God, has set his seal."  The people then inquire of him what they can do "accomplish the work of God".  Jesus replies: "This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent."

I suggest that we ask ourselves the question: For whom/what am I looking? Am I truly looking for the things of heaven, for the strength I need to be God's co-worker here on earth in building a Kingdom of love, mercy and peace?  Am I looking for the wisdom to make a difference in the world and to bring forth new life out of that which depletes life, out of the stirred-up chaos, the "muddy messiness" of our lives so that new life emerges?  Or do I go running to Jesus simply to relieve my physical hunger  and not to be empowered as co-creator,  as peacemaker, as one who makes the new happen and who turns weapons "into plowshares"(cf Joel 3:10).

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Jesus, "the expiation for our sins"

We continue to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus, who, in the words of the second reading, 1 John 2:1-5a, "is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world."  In the first reading, Acts 3: 13-15, 17-19, Peter gives witness to the people that God "has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and denied in Pilate's presence when he had decided to release him. You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead, of this we are witnesses."

Jesus, the Risen One, sits at the right hand of His Father, and ours, in heaven, making intercession for us.  He is the one about whom Peter reminds us "is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world." Jesus became sin itself upon the cross for us! In the shedding of His blood, Jesus destroyed sin and death for all. In every Eucharist, we drink the blood of Jesus and eat of His Body, as the bread and wine are transformed into Jesus through the words of consecration by the priest. In coming to us as food and drink, Jesus destroys sin and death in us as well!

Oh, the greatness of our God.  Jesus, the Son of God, held nothing back in reconciling us to the Father and showing us how much God loves each one of us: unto death!  And just as Peter said to the crowd to whom He was giving witness,  I know you acted out ignorance, just as your leaders did"  in killing Jesus on the cross, so, too, Jesus says to us in our sinfulness that we act out of ignorance. If we truly knew what we were doing, for instance, when we act violently toward one another,  in to the point of using weapons of mass destruction, we truly would have a change of heart, as did Paul on the road to Damascus when Jesus asked him: Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?

Oh, the goodness and the greatness of God's love for us!


Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Nearness of our God

In today's Gospel, John 6: 16-21, the disciples of Jesus decide to  get in a boat and row across the lake to Capernaum.  They go without Jesus. It is a dark stormy evening and the waters are turbulent. When get 3-4 miles out, they see Jesus walking on the water toward them.  Immediately He says to them: "It is I. Do not be afraid."

It is not unusual for the "waters" of our lives to become turbulent for many reasons: a sick child, a threatening illness in ourselves or any family members, economic problems, job-related issues, the trauma being played out in our politics and so on.  Everything, so it seems, looks "dark" for us. Hear Jesus say to you through a loved one, a concerned relative, a parish priest or the minister of the church you attend: "Do not be afraid".  Jesus is always present no matter what might be frightening us.  He takes us by the hand and will walk with us through the turbulence, calming our fears and assuring us that He will not abandon us, no matter what. Darkness is not dark to the Lord. He will, therefore, show us the way and guide us through the turmoil in a way that strengthens our faith and our hope and draws us closer together to our loved ones. When God seems far away, He is especially close to us, even if our eyes and ears remain closed.

These are my beliefs. What are yours?

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Lord as Our Refuge

In today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 27, we pray:  The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The Lord is my life's refuge; of whom should I be afraid?"

Yet we know that there is much to be feared for some in the world of today.  Many people are fleeing persecution--religious and other forms of persecution, beginning with children being bullied in school and on social media. People in many parts of the world are running for their lives from terrorist regimes, cruel actions on the part of their government officials. There are also those fleeing from domestic and street violence.  Some people plan escape possibilities from pimps and human traffickers while others try to stay safe from sexual assaults in the work place.  A person's refuge may be their car, a fast food restaurant, a homeless shelter, a church, a trusted neighbor's house or that of a relative, and, in some cases another country.

In the midst of these and other situations, we encounter men and women, young adults and children of incredible faith. I remember a little girl, about 9 years of age,  having fled from Isis and living in a refugee camp in the Middle East.  She was grateful and spoke of God's help shown her in camp-- a story on the news this past year.

From where does such strength come? From being taught to take refuge in the Lord. The darkness in this little girl's life was not dark to the Lord.  Nor so in our lives.  May all of us seek the Lord above all in whatever situation we find ourselves and teach our children to do the same.  May we live from the belief that we "shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living." May we "wait for the Lord with courage [and] be stouthearted and wait for the Lord," as  we also pray in Psalm 27.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Holy Spirit is Not Rationed

In today's Gospel, John 3: 31-36, we are reminded that God "does not ration the Holy Spirit." God is a giving God.  In his showing us God's love, Jesus held nothing back. He gave everything He had, His very life. God continues to hold nothing back from any one of us. The question is: Are we open to the Lord's generosity? Do we trust the Lord?  For concrete example of being open to receiving all that God wants to offer us in terms of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of at the Holy Spirit, all we need to do is look at the Apostles. Before Pentecost, they were frightened individuals who, except for John, hid from the Jews when Jesus was being crucified. Peter, the "rock" upon which Jesus built the Church,  went so far as to deny that he even knew the Lord.  After Pentecost, Peter boldly proclaimed Jesus' death and resurrection and continued doing so even after several arrests. Nothing held Peter back, as God "does not ration the Holy Spirit."  He gave his all as Jesus did!

What about you and I?  Do we give our all, knowing that God meets us on our way and even goes ahead of us preparing the way for us to gather an abundant harvest of the "seeds" of love that we sow along the way of life? As we journey through a day, do we expect God to be generous or do we perceive God as being stingy, one who withholds His gifts and thus we sow sparingly?

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

From Whence Does Our Work Originate

In today's first reading, Acts 5: 17-26,  the Sadducees threw the Apostles into prison out of jealousy.  They were furious that the Apostles' popularity was spreading and that they were having success in witnessing to the resurrection of Jesus and the spreading of the faith!  No way were they going to allow this to happen, if possible. They did not realize that the origin of the work of the Apostles was of God, not of human orig

From whence does my work and yours originate?  Is it of God or am I/are you functioning merely from a human perspective?  If of God, the results will prove its origin. When I am functioning merely from a human perspective, it is easy to become jealous of another or to react angrily when the results of my work are not what I expected or wanted. However, if I am allowing the Spirit to lead me and I am doing that which the Lord is asking of me, I will experience what the Apostles experienced: "prison" doors become unlocked! Those unlocked "doors" may be the doors of my heart or of the hearts of others!

Let us remember, as we pray in today's responsorial psalm: "The angel of the Lord encamps around those  who fear [reverence] him, and delivers them. Taste and see how good the Lord is; blessed the [one] who takes refuge in the Lord," as did the Apostles.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Living for Others

In Acts 4: 32-37, we are told how the first believers were "of one heart and mind."  That is the goal of persons who take their marriage vows and/or religious vows seriously. Like the first believers,  many married men and women "claim" nothing as their own, "but....[hold]  everything in common...."   to be used to support one's family: clothe them, feed them, educate them. The same is true of members of religious communities. We vowed to live poorly. Whatever we use belongs to the religious community and is not personal property.   Our salaries are pooled together for the sake of serving others in ministry and used also to support our sick and infirm members--for many religious communities in this 21st century the number of sick and infirm members outnumber those in active ministries bringing in a salary.

Many of us use our small monthly stipend in ways that also benefit the poor in some way, giving monies to our missions where desperate families are served. Some of us also contribute to local food shelters, homeless shelters, and/or parish programs that provide faith formation to our young people.

As Christians, we are called to be aware of and help the needy in whatever ways we can! Jesus set His earthly ministry doing just that: reaching out to those in need of assistance! Jesus continues doing so to this very day and calls us to live the Gospel-way of life as well! As St. Francis says to his followers,  "Preach the Gospel and use words only if necessary."

 At the end of every day, each of us needs to ask the questions:  How did I preach the Gospel today? In what ways did I reach out to those in need--those  with whom I live--members of my immediate family/religious community--those whom I serve in my ministry/place of employment as well as those beyond my family/religious community?


Monday, April 9, 2018

The Feast of the Annunciation: Mary's "Yes"

In today's responsorial psalm we pray: "Here I  am, Lord, I come to do your will.  Sacrifice or oblation you wished not, but ears open to obedience you gave me.   Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not; then said I, 'Behold I come'."

Both Mary and Jesus model this kind of obedience.  Mary, an engaged teenager, and her fiancĂ© Joseph are preparing for marriage when the angel Gabriel visits Mary. "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you" is how the angel greets her.  He then says to her, when it is obvious that she is shaken: "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and  you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David, his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end."  Mary could have said: "Oh, no thank you. Joseph and I have plans! Besides, I do not know man." But, no! She asks how this is to come about.  The angel says to her: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God." And, again, Mary could have responded:said: "Become pregnant through the Holy Spirit? You got to be kidding! Find someone else, Gabriel. Not me!"  The angel then tells her that her elderly cousin, way beyond childbearing years, has conceived a child and is in her sixth month, "for nothing is impossible  for God." Mary's response: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to  your word." And the angel left her.

Oh, my God. What now? Mary is pregnant out of wedlock and risks being stoned to death!  Solid in her faith, however, Mary says "yes" to letting God control her life. Will you and I let God do with us what He wills or are you and I taking things into your own hands, as did Adam and Eve?



Sunday, April 8, 2018

My Lord and my God!

In today's Gospel, John 20:19-31,  the apostles have locked themselves in a building, fearful of the Jews finding them, imprisoning them and putting them to death as they did Jesus. "...Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, 'Peace be with you.'"  Recall the times Jesus said to them: Fear not those who can physically harm the body. Fear those who can harm you spiritually.   In a sense Jesus is reminding them of that fact. "Be at peace! The Jews cannot harm you. Look at me. I am risen from the dead.  The Jews could not harm me and they will harm you neither. Fear not physical death. Follow me! Proclaim my resurrection. You, too, will one day be raised with me." And later when Jesus is about to ascend to His Father and theirs, He tells them that they cannot follow Him at that moment. It's like He said to them: "You cannot come with me now, but you will join Me later. Where I am, you will also be," referring to His eternal Kingdom.

At this meeting, Jesus commissioned them:  "'As the Father has sent me, so I send you.' And when he had said this, he breathed over them, and said to them 'Receive the Holy Spirit...'"  In the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, we, too, received the Holy Spirit.  Though we do to see Jesus with our naked eyes but with eyes of faith, we believe. In today's Gospel, Thomas was not with the apostles when Jesus appeared.  When the apostles told them that they had seen the Lord, Thomas said: "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hand and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." A week later, Jesus appears to the apostles again. This time Thomas is with them and Jesus says to him:   "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe."  Thomas responds: "My Lord and my God."

Notice that Jesus does not condemn Thomas but is very gentle and affirming. He meets Thomas where he is at! He does the same for us!  If we are at a point of disbelief or unbelief and proclaim: "I will not believe unless.......(fill in the blank)," Jesus will invite us at the right moment to a position where, like Thomas, we say: "My Lord and my God."  Jesus is willing to wait as long as it takes for us to open our hearts to His Love.




Saturday, April 7, 2018

Faithfulness, Gratitude, Determination

In today's Gospel, Mark 16:9-15, we learn that the first person to whom Jesus appeared after He rose from the dead was "Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons".  Given the fact that she had "seven demons" cast out of her, we may perceive her as someone to "discard," someone with whom to have nothing to do and certainly not one to a believe that she had seen the risen Christ.  That may have been why the apostles did not believe her but it was also true, at the time of Jesus, that women had no legal backing to be witnesses to anything. In fact in many of the Gospel events/stories, women are never counted.  In our own day, women, also, tend to be dismissed, especially by men in "positions". Look at attitudes toward women being elected to the presidency here in the U.S. or women being ordained priests in the Catholic Church, though Jesus included women in His ministry; in fact, as the first to proclaim the resurrection.

Cultural and ecclesial positions cemented in minds for centuries do not, however, dismiss the fact that all persons--men and women, young and old, gay and straight, children and adults, persons of all races--are called, by their baptism, to proclaim Christ, to stand up for their faith just as all the women did in Jesus' time and as did Peter and John and all the apostles.  The culture in which Mary Magdalene lived did not stop her from seeking Jesus in life and in death. The violence she could have faced did not deter her from being close by when Jesus was condemned to death. She followed Him up the hill to Calvary, stood by the cross with Mary, Jesus' mother, and was the first at the tomb Easter morn, unafraid of the guards or anyone else. Fear did not stop her. She became her best self in spite of her culture and its stance toward women.

What about you and I? How strong is our faith? How strong is our desire to draw close to Jesus and be of service to Him?  What gets in our way of becoming our true selves?

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Closeness of Jesus

Today's Gospel, Luke 24: 13-35, presents the story of two disciples leaving Jerusalem following Jesus' crucifixion and going to Emmaus. They are getting away from where so much pain descended upon them in the cruel death of the one they were hoping would "redeem Israel".  Weighed down with sorrow, they are discussing all that happened. "And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him."  "What are you discussing," he asks them.  Startled at the question, one of the disciples asks him: "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?" Jesus remains incognito: "What sort of things," He asks. Jesus  listens to them tell the whole story--the crucifixion,  the finding of the tomb empty, the vision of the angels and the reports of the resurrection.  When they conclude their view of what happened and how upset they are, Jesus says: "Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke."  Jesus then opens the Scriptures to them, "beginning with Moses and all the prophets,...[interpreting] to them what referred to him..."  Jesus shares a meal with them in Emmaus. When be "took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them,...their eyes were opened and they recognized him , our he vanished from their sight."  The two disciples immediately return to Jerusalem and report that "the Lord has truly been raised" from the dead!

At the Mass, that is at every Eucharistic celebration, Jesus takes the bread, says the blessing, breaks it, and gives it to us in Holy Communion!  Are our eyes and hearts opened?

And do we realize that, just as with the two disciples trying to figure out what happened  in Jerusalem, Jesus walks by our side, listens to our debates and our pain and is able to open our eyes to the Scriptures that reveal the spiritual realities that are taking place in the "Jerusalems" of our lives, as well?


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Called to be Proclaimers of the Faith

 In today's Gospel, John 20, 11-18, Mary Magdalene looked into the tomb and "saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been."  They ask her: "'Woman, why are you weeping?...'They have taken my Lord, and I don't know where they laid him.'"  She turns around and sees Jesus but does not recognize Him. He also asks her why she is weeping and for whom is she looking. Thinking Jesus is the gardener, she says to Him: "Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him." Jesus calls her by name: "Mary!" Mary then recognizes Him as her Teacher.  "Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, 'I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"  Mary obeys Jesus and goes off to let the apostles know that Jesus is risen! 

Mary, at the moment, is made an Apostle to the Apostles!  She is the first to proclaim the resurrection the Lord!

I suggest that we ask ourselves several questions:  1) For whom do I weep? Is it that I cannot find Jesus? Or am I weeping for other things that are God-substitutes? 2) For whom am I looking? Am I looking for Jesus? Do I take the time each day to look for Him or am I too busy, too preoccupied with other things that attract my attention more than the Lord? 3) Do I hear Jesus when He calls my name?4) Do I realize that the person I am looking at is actually Jesus disguised in the "gardeners" whom I encounter each day? 5) When I do encounter Jesus, do I share that with others, or do I bury my faith--the "coin", the "talent"-- until my Master returns for me? 6) Do I include women as proclaimers of the faith, as Jesus did, or do I shut women out of such a mission?

Monday, April 2, 2018

Alleluia! The Lord Has Risen from the Dead

In today's Gospel, Matthew 28: 8-15, we are told that "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb, fearful but overjoyed, and ran to announce the news to the disciples. And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage. Then Jesus said to them. 'Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me'".

As you and I leave the "tombs" of our lives, overjoyed at being set free, so to speak, coming out of a dark period of our lives, surviving an encounter with death, perhaps, being healed of a threatening illness, mental or physical,  and a bit scared of what lies ahead for us,  Jesus meets on on the way to share the good news of being restored to life!  He greets us lovingly, kindly and sensitively. He acknowledges the trauma we have just survived and is aware of our feelings. Compassionately and lovingly, He addresses our emotional state, asking us to "not be afraid," as He is with us, takes us by the right hand and goes with us into our future.  He also encourages us to share our good news with others. God's work in our life is not something to keep secret but to be proclaimed to those we trust.


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Alleluia! the Lord is Risen!

Alleluia!  Jesus has risen just as He said He would!

Let's reflect upon that first Easter morn. On Friday, the women watched the Son of God, Jesus, their Master, die a torturous death on the cross. They were probably present in the crowd when Pilate had Jesus scourged and crowned with thorns; when Pilate asked the crowd whom he should release to them: Barabbas, a hardened criminal, or  an innocent man Jesus, King of Jews? The crowd shouted: "Barabbas!" "Crucify Jesus".  These same women probably met Jesus on the way to Calvary and stood beneath or near the cross with Mary, Jesus' mother.

It is now Sunday morning, the third day after Jesus' crucifixion  The women rush to the tomb to anoint Jesus body. On the way, they wonder who will roll back the huge stone in front of the grave.  To their amazement, they find the stone rolled back, the tomb empty, and the clothes in which Jesus' body was wrapped in burial neatly folded. Their fear: someone stole the body! Suddenly an angel appears and says to them:"Why are you looking for Jesus here? He told you that, on the third day, he would rise again. Go tell Peter that Jesus is risen and will meet him and the other apostles in Galilee!"

Peter tells us in today's first reading, Acts 10: 34a, 37-43, "We are witnesses of all that he[Jesus] did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man (Jesus) God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible...to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead."

Imagine losing someone you love--a beloved spouse, a dear parent, a cherished sibling, an incredible son, a darling daughter--in a horrible crime, a crime you witnessed. And imagine three days later that someone who witnessed the death with you, comes to you and says: Your parent or sibling or your son or your daughter, or your spouse is alive and will meet you at such and such an address!  How would you feel? And how fast would you run to the designated place!

In the case of Easter morning, it is the Incarnate Son of God, God made man, Jesus crucified cruelly on the cross on Friday who rose from the dead and is alive on Sunday. "Go meet Him in Galilee,  the angel says, "just where He said He would meet you!" Crushing sorrow immediately changed into ecstatic joy!

Our Lord and God, Jesus, our Savior, is alive and dwells among us! The night before Jesus went to his death, Jesus left us the Eucharist, saying to those at the Last Supper and to us: "Take and eat! This is my body given up for you." "Take and drink! This is my blood poured out for you!" At every Catholic Mass, we have the privilege of receiving the body and the blood of Jesus, our sins washed clean by Jesus' blood and our spirits strengthen and nourished by His body!

JESUS IS RISEN! ALLELUIA!








Friday, March 30, 2018

The Death of Jesus

Today we commemorate Jesus' death upon the cross.  The first reading of today's services is from Isaiah 52: 13-53:12, in which Isaiah reminds us that: "it was our infirmities that he bore..."--yes, mine and yours,  my sins and yours.  It was "our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted."  It was my sufferings and yours--sufferings we deserved for our sins, for our rebellion, for our disobedience to the Lord.  Jesus "was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed. We had all gone astray, like sheep" Isaiah reminds us, "each following his [or her] own way; but the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all."

That guilt, the offenses of all humankind, including mine and yours--past, present and future offenses--crushed Jesus beyond words. The pressure was so great that Jesus' sweat in the Garden of Olives was actually blood oozing from his pores, leaving the slightest touch to cause Him great pain. The scourging was horrible, gouging chunks of skin from his back. Mocking Him and pushing a crown of thorns on his head and driving those thorns through His head--blood everywhere--was also torturous and inhumane treatment!

Being incredibly weak from the scourging and crowning with thorns, Jesus must have fallen many times on the way up to the hill where He would be crucified. Fearful that Jesus would not make it up the hill to Calvary, Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry the cross up to the place of crucifixion. Then Jesus was stripped of his clothes, thrown upon the cross beam and nails driven through His wrists. He was then hoisted upon the wood anchored in the ground waiting for the crossbeam. Once the crossbeam was in place, nails were also driven through Jesus' feet, one on top of the other.

To breathe, the crucified ones had to lift themselves up by their painful legs/feet. When the crucified could no longer lift themselves up, they died of asphyxiation.  That is why the legs were broken. The executioners did not break Jesus' legs because he had already died.

"When [Jesus] was cut off from the living," Isaiah prophesies, "and smitten for the sin of his people, a grave was assigned him among the wicked and a burial place with evildoers, though he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood....If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life, and the will of the Lord shall be accomplished through him.....[H]e shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses"--yours and mine. That is how much God loves you and me!  He held nothing back!  Will you? Will I?


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Jesus' Obedience and Our Challenge

We open today's liturgy with the following antiphon: At the name of Jesus, every knee should bend of those in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, for the Lord became obedient today, death on a cross: therefore Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father"(cf. Phil 2: 10, 8, 11).

As Adam and Eve said "no" to God's design, Jesus and Mary said "yes" to God's plan.  Jesus left heaven and took on human nature and was like us entirely, except for sin.  That did not mean that sin would not impact his life and that He would not experience the effects of sin, of evil, rampart in the world, as Satan spares no one his taunts and jealousy, luring us into sin just as he lured Adam and Evil into sin.  He did not have that power over Jesus and Mary, who unequivocally said "yes" to God!

Jesus became sin for us and nailed it to the cross. In his death and resurrection sin was destroyed--it does not have the power to take away our freedom to say "yes" to God's love and plan for our eternal life with Him for all eternity.  In Christ Jesus, we will triumph over evil just as Jesus did, if we follow the Spirit's lead in our life, obedient to "small" and"big" invitations and not to the allurements of evil spirits at work in the world as well!  Small acts of evil lead to bigger and bigger acts of evil, as in he case with Judas.

Judas was caught in a web of sin throughout his following of Jesus. As treasurer, one who guarded the purse, Judas repeatedly stole money from throughout those three years. In the end, his greed and obsession with money lured him into betraying Jesus so as to add some money to the treasury.  He was led into a trap from which he did not escape.  In despair, after realizing that Jesus, this time, would willingly go to His death and not escape those who arrested Him, Judas despaired. Often, he had seen Jesus escape those out to trip Him up and probably expected the same to happen this time.

When you and I are careless with playing with the "fire" of sin, --"oh, it's just a little lie," or "I only shoplifted a small item," or "oh, I was mean a little--it's no big deal," do we realize that Satan is preparing us for one of his bigger traps out of which we might be unable to escape, as, it seems, was the case with Judas?  Let's not play with the "fire" of sin! May we not take lightly the Holy Spirit's nudges to not do certain things! Instead,  may we follow the Spirit's lead to make right choices, choices we are  capable of because of being baptized into Jesus' death and in His resurrection to new life in the Spirit through this sacrament!

As we pray in today's Collect, "O God, who willed your Son to submit for our sake to the yoke of the Cross, so that you might drive from us the power of the enemy, grant us, your servants, to attain the grace of the resurrection.  Through  our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen."

A Blessed Holy Week, as you contemplative the Pascal Mystery.



Tuesday, March 27, 2018

God as our Reward, our Recompense

In today's first reading, Isaiah 49: 1-6,  Israel shares the following realization with us: "Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God.... ...I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord, and my God is now my strength!"

Think of a time when you felt this way. For instance, you went out of your way fulfilling your responsibilities as a parent, a teacher, a counselor, a leader of your company, a supervisor and your efforts are met with sarcasm, rudeness, and/or meanness.  The person whom you were guiding gently, calmly, and honestly turns against you, lashes out at you, and turns the table on you, accepting no responsibility for the behavior that needs changing.  Imagine yourself leaving that situation and talking to the Lord about your frustration. Imagine also that you providentially open the Bible to Isaiah 49: 1-6 and read: "Though I thought I had toiled in vain and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God.....I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord, and my God is now my strength."

Whenever we encounter difficulties and come away  wondering whether our efforts were for nought, weather we toiled uselessly, we need to remember  that our "reward is with the Lord, [our] recompense is with God." In difficult encounters, it is our responsibility, as Christians, to imitate Jesus' behaviors of compassionate, caring and honest communication. No matter the outcome, if we remained respectful of the other person, kept our cool and were honest about what needs to be addressed, we then can be assured that  "our reward is with the Lord and our recompense is with God." Any desire to retaliate or to angrily force our feedback in efforts to make the other person acknowledge inappropriate behavior dissipates when our focus is on the Lord.

I hope that this has been your experience, also, when encountering challenging episodes in guiding others under your supervision or leadership. May God bless you!


Monday, March 26, 2018

Jesus' Servants

Isaiah 4: 1-7 speaks of Jesus.  Isaiah prophesies, saying:  "Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my Spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out,  not showing, not making his voice heard in the street.  A bruised reed he shall nor break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the eared; the coastlands will waist for his teaching."

Imagine the following conversation with Jesus:

(Insert your name),  just as I am the Father's servant made so by Him, so, too, are you my servant designed so by the Father.  I delight in you as the Father delights in me.

You: But I am a sinner, Lord, far from you.

Your sins are as far from Me as East is from West, North from South.  I have destroyed sin in you when I poured out my blood for you upon the cross and do so every day in the Eucharistic celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Your sins may be scarlet.I wash them clean in my blood daily.

Thank you, Lord!

You are my servant.  Every day I awaken you to serve Me in little ways: a smile, a kind greeting, a prayer for another in need, your love for those you serve, your taking time to talk to one who is downtrodden.

Thank you, Lord, for doing this good work through me.

You are welcome.

Lord, you reached out and touched everyone I touched today with Your love.

Thank you, (insert our name)  for the many ways today that you touched other people with your love your caring concerns, your kindness.

I ask that you continue to fan into flame the smoldering wicks and to carefully tend to bruised reeds. of those who feel downtrodden.  Thank you when you do that!  I love you, (insert name) and delight in you, my servant!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

O the Love of our God

A reflection on today's reading from Isaiah 50: 4-7.  In this passage, Jesus says to you and me:

Because I love you, (insert your name), I did not flee  from my persecutors.  I deliberately, willingly and courageously entered Jerusalem this day. I knew what lay ahead for me, even though palm branches were strewn on my path and people shouted "Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord."  I went to Jerusalem for you,  (insert your name). I have not rebelled against suffering. I have not grumbled against my persecutors.  I gave my beard willingly to  those who plucked it. I gave my face to those who spit upon  me, mocking me, making fun of me: "Look at him. Spit running down his his face. How disgusting is this man."  I gave my head to those who pushed a crown of thorns upon it, mockingly saying "Behold the King of the Jews." I gave my back to those who viciously beat me with whips laced with razor blades. I cried out in pain but not in curses toward those torturing me.

My Father was there helping me and I felt no shame. I did not feel disgraced, though I took on the shame and disgrace of all sinned against and those abusively sinning against others.  I took all your shame upon me, insert your name, to free you from its burdens!

O Lord, our God, have mercy on us!
O Lord, our God, thank you for your love.

O the Love of our God!
O the tenderness of our God!
O the courage of our God!
O the compassion of our God!
O the strength of our God!

God, be praised!
God be glorified!
God be thanked!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

God's Covenant of Love Sealed by Jesus' Death and Resurrection

In today's first reading, Ezekiel 3: 21-28, God says to the Israelites through the prophet Ezekiel:  "I will take the children of Israel from among the nations to which they have come (some have gone south and some north) and gather them from all sides to bring them back to their land. I will make them one nation upon the land, in the mountains of Israel, and there shall be one prince for them all. Never again shall they be two nations, and never again shall they be divided into two kingdoms....I will make them a covenant of peace; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them, and I will multiply them, and put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling shall be with them; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Thus the nations shall know that it is I, the Lord, who make Israel holy, when my sanctuary shall be set up among them forever."

Those are God's words spoken to the Israelites long, long ago. God has spoken and so shall it be in kairos time--God's time!  Fast forward to today's Gospel, John 11: 45-46,  where Caiaphas prophesies that Jesus will die "for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God"--you and me and everyone dispersed throughout the world, people of all religions! God will create one out of many. There shall be one flock and one shepherd, all gathered into one Kingdom, the Kingdom of God when life here on this earth comes to an end in kairos time--God's time.

You and I are on a journey to that time.  We are on our way to our eternal home, to the eternal Kingdom that God has secured for us by Jesus' death on the cross to show us the depth, the breadth, the height and the width of God's love for us and to free us from sin and Satan's lies. This week--the holiest week of the year--we contemplate the Paschal Mysteries--Jesus' dying and rising. May we make this week a very holy week by the choices we make to remember and contemplate God's love for us that knows no end!  Nothing is too much for God to say: "I love you personally, unconditionally and eternally! For you I died to save you eternally from the darkness of sin and eternal death. I love you! Do you hear me?"


Friday, March 23, 2018

Rescued from "the power of the Wicked"

In today's first reading, Jeremiah 20: 10-13, Jeremiah says to the Lord: "I hear the whisperings of many: 'Terror on every side! Denounce! let us denounce him!' All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine. 'Perhaps he will be trapped; then we can prevail, and take our vengeance on him.' But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph. In their failure they will be put to utter shame, to lasting, unforgettable confusion. O Lord of hosts, you who test the just, who probe mind and heart, let me witness the vengeance you take on them, for to you I have entrusted my cause. Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord for he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked." 

Many of the just, I  believe, are being tested by today's administration. Evil will not triumph. Good will, as it did in Jesus' day. Those who put Jesus to death did not triumph; Jesus did in the resurrection to new life. Those unjustly treated by persons in power will also triumph. Those involved in evil will, I believe,  "in their failure...be put to utter shame" in time unless they change their evil ways.

The questions you and I need to answer are: Are we engaged in behaviors to trip up others, to bring them down and raise ourselves up?  Are we on "watch for any misstep" of another person, hoping that that person "will be trapped"  so that we "can prevail, and take our vengeance" out on them?  How easily in the political environment in which we live it is to take sides and hope that the side we oppose "will be trapped."  God have mercy on us. And God help all of those in public office to be awakened to God's will for justice for all and be given the power they need to engage in just practices and in legislation that promotes the common good for all peoples.  And may the efforts to bring other people down by false advertisements and slanderous statements cease!



Thursday, March 22, 2018

God's Everlasting Covenant

"The Lord remembers His covenant forever," we pray in today's responsorial psalm.  The New Covenant is sealed in Jesus' blood poured out for us on the cross on the first Good Friday.  Just as in the Covenant expressed in the Old Testament to the people of Israel to inherit the land  of Canaan, so, in the New Covenant, we who believe in Jesus and keep His Commandments are promised an eternal inheritance, a home in heaven with God forever, as we past from this life into eternity.

Holy Week is a time to remember the wondrous deeds of the Lord--His total self-emptying love upon the cross to secure our salvation.  On that first Good Friday, we have been redeemed, made whole, purified in Jesus' blood. Jesus gave His life for you and me. Jesus died for you and me. Jesus gave His back to be scourged for you and me. Jesus allowed His head to be crowned with thorns for you and me. Jesus walked the hill to Calvary carrying the cross on which He would be crucified for you and me.

We Catholics believe that every Eucharist recalls these saving acts of our salvation. We believe that Jesus' self-emptying, sacrificial love is made present to us at every Eucharist. The very words of Jesus at the Last Supper, when giving the bread and the wine to the Apostles and saying "'Take it,...,this is my body"....This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out for many," is repeated by the priest at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  We Catholics believe that, when the priest says "This is my body," "This is my blood" that the bread and wine used at every Mass are changed into Jesus' body and blood, just as they were when Jesus spoke those words at the Last Supper.

Today's responsorial psalm reminds us that "The Lord remembers his covenant forever." Let us also always remember the wondrous deeds of the Lord at the Last Supper in giving us the Eucharist for our daily food and on Good Friday offering His life on the cross to secure our eternal salvation.


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Faith in "Good" Times and "Bad"

In today's first reading, Daniel 3: 14-20, 91-92, 95, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego face death if they do not worship a manmade idol--a golden statue molded by King Nebuchadneazar.    All are put to death who do not bow down in worship of this idol. These three men respond to his threat by saying: There is no need for us to defend ourselves before you  in this matter. If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us! But even if he will not, know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue that you set up."

Notice the words "if our God can save us...may he save us" and the phrase ""[b]ut even if he will not..."   There is no manipulation of God by these three men. There is total surrender to what is or can be. There is total trust in God, the trust Jesus teaches us on the Cross. Resurrection and new life with the Trinity follows for the three men and for Jesus.

It is difficult to leave the outcome to God. Many times I am telling God what to do. And it is particularly difficult not to defend myself or my religion when people say "If there is a God, why does this or that happen? Or, being asked the question: "How can you believe in a God who allows evil or in a church that does such and such? Or asks, how can you believe in a God who allowed your mother to die of cancer and leave four small children without a mother"? Can I say: "If God can save so and so of dying prematurely of cancer, may He save her. But even if he will not, know that I will continue to believe in God and in His compassion, love and mercy?"





Monday, March 19, 2018

Feast of St.Joseph, the Foster Father of Jesus

God promised Abraham that he would he would be made the father of many nations.  Paul reminds us in the first reading of today's liturgy, Romans 4: 13, 16-18, 22, that it "was not through the law that the promise was made to Abraham and his descendants that he would inherit the world, but through the righteousness that comes through faith."  In the Gospel, Matthew 1: 16, 18-21, 24a, Matthew calls Joseph a righteous man.  Joseph, in faith, takes Mary home to be his wife after an angel appears to him in his sleep and says to him:  "'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.'"

We, too, are made righteous, not through the law, but through our faith in Christ Jesus and in the Spirit leading us through life's challenges.  Our faith may be tested many times, as was Abraham's when asked to sacrifice his son Isaac and as was Joseph's in discovering Mary's pregnancy, deciding to divorce her privately, and asked by he angel to not let fear dictate his choices. We may find ourselves in many dilemmas, as did Mary and Joseph, as we follow God's will throughout our lifetimes.  To triumph over fears that could block us from following the Spirit's lead, we, like Mary and Joseph, need to recognize God-with-us and develop an intimacy with Jesus.



Sunday, March 18, 2018

God's Justice

Today's liturgy opens with the following antiphon:  Give me justice, O God, and plead my cause against a nation that is faithless. From the deceitful and cunning rescue me, for you, O God, are my strength (cf. Ps 43 (42): 1-2).  In light of those who have recently been stripped of their jobs , I paraphrase this antiphon as follows:  "Give them justice, O God, and plead their causes against faithless leaders. From the deceitful and cunning rescue them, for you, O God, are their strength."

In today's responsorial psalm, we pray to God as follows:  "Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.  Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sins cleanse me. A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me. Give me back the joy of your salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me...."

May God have mercy on those unjustly firing their employees. May God have mercy on the "deceitful and cunning" and "in the greatness of [His] compassion wipe out [the offenses of those doing the unjust firing]."  It is more difficult to apply the rest of the psalm to the persons who dominate our news today, yet we know that Jesus forgave the good thief on Calvary when he turned to Him and asked to be remembered. "Remember me, Jesus, when You get to Your kingdom" and Jesus responded: "This very day you shall be with me in my Kingdom."  Jesus does not rejoice in even one sinner, you or me or anyone else, being lost. All sin was destroyed on the cross and all sinners saved. I pray for this salvation and for God's saving graces to transform the evil we are seeing in our own lives and in the world of today!  God, have mercy on  us all!