Monday, October 15, 2018

Jesus' Call to Repentance

In today's Gospel, Luke 11: 29-32, Jesus says to the crowd: "This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah,"  that is, the preaching of Jonah and the subsequent repentance of the Ninevites.

The generation of Jesus' time and our current generation are no different from one another.  There is an abundance of evil in both generations.  In Jesus' generation, people plotted for Jesus' death and, out of jealousy, murdered him on Calvary between two thieves.  In our generation, people also plot to kill others who get in their way. People may be killed because they are about to expose evil or because they are blocking others from fulfilling their lustful desires or from acquiring properties by illegal, unjust schemes.

Where evil abounds, grace abounds as well. Jesus' death and resurrection brought about our redemption and, for that reason,  it is possible for evil to be transformed into a good. People committing evil are offered the grace to repent of their wrongdoing.  Eyes of men and women in actual or virtual prisons are opened. Hope is restored. Hatred destroyed. Evil does not triumph ultimately!

However, if people do not  heed Jesus' call to repentance and, thus, do not follow the example of the Ninevites, they will remain in the pit that Satan sets for those who follow the ways of evil spirits.

Where am I/where are you in this scenario? Are we following good spirit or bad ones?  Are we even aware of sin in our lives and our need for Jesus?

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Jesus' Directness

In today's Gospel, Mark 10: 17-30, a man runs up to Jesus, kneels down, and poses the following question to him: "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?  ....You know the commandments," Jesus says to him and spells out what those commandments are. The man answers: "Teacher, all of those I have kept since my youth."  Jesus looks at the man and loves him deeply. He says to him:  You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have  treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."  The man's face fell, and he walked away from Jesus saddened, "for he had many possessions," of which he was not ready to let go!

With some fear, I asked Jesus:  What must I do to inherit eternal life?  With greater fear, I asked Jesus to tell me what was the one thing that I lacked?  And He told me!

What question or questions do you need to ask Jesus? After you ask that question, wait, in prayer, for Jesus' answer!  Be not afraid!  Jesus is gentle but honest. And remember, as with the man in today's Gospel:  Jesus looks at you and loves you deeply!

Friday, October 12, 2018

God's Mercy

In today's first reading, Galatians 3: 7-14, St. Paul reminds us that "no one is justified before God by the law."   Only our faith in Christ Jesus justifies us.  "[T]he one who is righteous by faith will live,"   Paul tells us. "But the law does not depend on faith... Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us,  for it is written, Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree, that the blessings (the gift of faith) of Abraham might be extended to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."

Thank God for the gift of faith, especially on days when our behaviors would be condemned by the law.  God does not condemn; no, God saves! Christ has ransomed you and me from the curse of the law "by becoming a curse" and gives us the grace to forgive those who "curse" us and, yes, defends us from ourselves when we want to stand in judgment of self!

With the psalmist, in today's responsorial psalm, let us  pray:

"Majesty and glory are [God's] work,
and his justice endures forever.
He has won renown for his wondrous deeds;
gracious and merciful is the Lord." 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Smartness or Stupidity: Which Is it for Me/You?

In today's first reading, Galatians 3: 1-5, St. Paul is frustrated with the Galatians who have turned to the flesh and away from the Spirit. "Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?"   Paul is having a hard time comprehending how people can turn away from a God who poured out His love them upon the cross, surrendering to the Trinity's plan of salvation even unto death.   Jesus held nothing back to redeem us from the law, which condemns us, and from the cruel deceitfulness and wickedness of the devil who will go to any length to get us to deny Christ and turn away from our salvation, to deny Truth and Justice, Love and Mercy.  Satan seems to be having a hay day in the world of today. Evil seems to be triumphing over good, as on that first Good Friday.  However, we know that, as black as Good Friday was with the Savior of the world being put to death as a criminal that day, death--evil--was destroyed on that day and resurrection followed.  Good is going to triumph over evil. The wicked will not have the last word. Jesus will! Good people will!

On whose side will I be that day? the side of evil or the side of good? the side of justice or the side of injustice? the side of honesty or the side of deceitfulness? the side of love and mercy or the side of hatred and mercilessness? the side of humility or the side of pride? the side of forgiveness or the side of revenge?

Where do I stand today?  The choice is mine to make in cooperation with Jesus, who comes daily to save us, not condemn us!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Growing in Truth and our Need for One Another's Aid

In today's first reading,Galatians 2: 1-2, 7-14, Paul goes up to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus.  He shared the Gospel that he preached to the Gentiles with Cephas, James and John, whom Paul considered pillars of the faith. Cephas, James and John recognized that Paul was entrusted with the same Gospel to preach to Gentiles, the uncircumcised, that they were preaching to the circumcised. They also recognized the grace bestowed upon Paul.  The Holy Spirit was working in each of these individuals to spread the Good News of Jesus in different parts of the world and to different people of the world in which they lived.

God does the same gifting today, the same work in each of us, using us to build the Kingdom and spread the Good News of Jesus' life, death, resurrection and Pentecost! Just as Paul and his co-workers,both men and women, by the way,  needed one another and so, too did Cephas, James and John need Paul.   It was during this visit, that Paul challenged Peter's hypocrisy.  It is through and with each other that we grow in honest living and preaching of the Gospel, no less than in the days of old when the Church was in its infancy, so to speak!

May I have the courage to name hypocrisy when I see it and to be called when I am being hypocritical.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Consulting the Lord above all else!

In today's first reading, Galatians 1: 13-14, St. Paul tells us that, after Jesus revealed Himself to him,  he  "did not immediately consult flesh and blood, nor did [he] go up to Jerusalem to those who were Apostles before me..."  How often when something amazing or overpowering--good or evil, triumphs or failures--happens to us do we not go to "flesh and blood," or rush to our "Jerusalems" to seek counsel or share our stories.  What if we went first to the Lord and poured out our souls to Him and, after prayer,  consulted "flesh and blood."

A few days ago, I had an experience in which I did not approve of the way I reacted. Tonight I first shared it in prayer with the Lord. In my heart, I heard the Lord say to me:  "Seek Me, Dorothy Ann, not justification or approval from anyone. I am enough for you."  How humbling but how true!

As, in many of my prayer times when I pour out my soul to the Lord, my loved ones in  heaven want "a piece of the pie", so to speak. In my heart I heard my mother say to me:  "Dort, your mom! .... (she then gave me expert advice that applied to the situation).  Other family members also let me know that they love me and were supporting me. Then, in the depths of my heart, I heard my mom say to me: "Dort, [w]e are here for you. Seek our counsel." 

I need to learn, or the Lord is teaching me, to seek Him above all, to trust Him above all, to rely upon His counsel above all.  How much heartache I would spare myself, if I followed this advice!

How about you?

Monday, October 8, 2018

Being a Person of Compassion,Love and Concern for Others in Need

Today's Gospel, Luke 10: 25-37, presents the story of the Good Samaritan.  We may think of the Good Samaritan as Jesus and the wounded person as ourselves. By being caught in Satan's web of constant lies and being slaves of sin--selfishness, greediness, lustfulness, deceitfulness, pride, hatred, racism, judgementalism and other sinful behaviors--we lie in the ditches of life half dead, bleeding, beaten down, wounded, weakened and in need of healing. Jesus, the Compassionate One, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, sent not condemn the world but to save it, is not going to walk by us, ignore us, or be too busy or too holy for us.  No! Jesus stops, binds up our wounds and cares for us so that we may be made whole again, provided that we co-operate with His efforts.  Are we willing to change our behaviors, our attitudes and walk the Way God points out to us through Jesus Christ in the Holy Gospels?

We may also read this Gospel story and see ourselves as the Levite, the priest or the Samaritan.  The Levite and the priest past the wounded man, the person in need--in fact they cross the road and walk on the other side--not wanting to become unclean, according to Jewish law, and not be able to perform their religious duties!  Do we find excuses to not help our neighbors in need? Or are we, in fact, the good Samaritan who renders assistant to the wounded in our midst: in our homes, our streets, our churches, our places of employment?

Friday, October 5, 2018

Freedom or Slavery

Today's Gospel, Luke 10: 13-16,  begins with strong, harsh words spoken by Jesus:  "Woe to you Chorazin! Woe to you,  Bethsaida!  For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have long ago have repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.  But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you."  Jesus is not trying to bully the inhabitants of these two cities. Rather, He is expressing His grief that they have not turned back to God. Instead they remained slaves to their sinful way of life in spite of the many ways in which Jesus revealed God's love and mercy.

To this very day, it is very easy to get caught in a lifestyle dominated by greed, immorality, lust,  resentments, envy, avarice,  and other corrupt activities.  Satan is a Father of Lies, a "professional" at conning people into choosing wrongful actions to the point that people do not even realize when they have been deceived. The scene in the Garden of Eden plays out over and over again in today's reality: Satan entices one person to sin and that person lures another, while both find ways to pass the blame onto another  person or something else, refusing to accept responsibility for the choice one has made.

All of us need to pray with the psalmist the words of Psalm 139, today's responsorial psalm:  Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way and take to heart the words of the psalm:

"O Lord, you have proved me and you know me;
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.  
My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
with all my ways you are familiar."

So, I may cover up the truth from my fellow human beings and from myself, but not from God.  God knows me through and through and is deeply saddened when I make poor choices, choices whereby I become more and more a slave to sin and less and less a slave of the truth that makes me free.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Transcending Ego Disturbances

In today's first reading, Job 19: 21-27, Job  speaks of being hounded by his friends "as though [they] were divine."  He complains that they "insatiably prey upon" him!  How easy it is to pontificate against those whose behaviors we abhor and who seem to "insatiably prey upon" us!   Are we not then acting as though we were God?

It is easy to focus on the negative aspects of life, and there are many, and to get stuck on complaining about this or that or the other thing that disturbs our ego self.  I caught myself doing just that today and realized later, in prayer,  that, instead of seeking counsel from the Holy Spirit, I was focusing on an ego issue important to the prideful part of the self and about which another was hounding me.

Job did not cling to the words of those hounding him or complaining about him. No, he turned his focus to God and said to his critics:  "[A]s for me, I know that my Vindicator lives..."  If, like Job, you and I focused on God when things get rough around us, for whatever reason, we  certainly would not be "crying" about issues that naturally disturb the ego self.  May the Lord grant us the graces needed to redirect our thoughts to things of the Spirit self.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Fit for the Kingdom!

In today's Gospel, Luke 9: 57-63, three different persons indicate a desire to follow Jesus. When invited to do so, each has an excuse before making a commitment.  Jesus points out that following Him is not easy. Sacrifice is required. What seems more important than an immediate, direct and complete response needs to be relinquished.  How often, when the Spirit calls, do we not say:  "I've gotta do this or that first." That to which the Spirit called us to give time and attention is then left undone, forgotten.

Jesus uses strong words at the close of this passage when speaking to the person who asked to first say farewell to his/her family at home and then follow Him. Jesus says: "No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God." Experiencing and building the Kingdom of God right here, right now, often depends on our obedience to the Spirit's invitations to do the right thing, the loving thing NOW, not later when whatever we chose to do instead crowds out the opportunity to grow in self-sacrificing love!

Lord, I ask forgiveness for the times that I have excitedly said that I want to follow you but when the rubber hits the road, so to speak, I have chosen my will, not yours!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Dealing with Difficult Times and Depressing Feelings

In today's first reading, Job 9: 1-12, 14-6, Job is so depressed that he cursed the day that he was born:  "Perish the day on which I was born, the night when they said, 'It is a boy!' Why did I not perish at birth, come forth from the womb and expire," Job asks God in his despairing moments. Depression is a horrible experience. Many suffer its ravaging emotions, its darkness, not knowing what to do or to whom to turn. Sometimes medication simply does not seem to work. All seems lost!  To get out of bed in the morning, to put one foot ahead of the other, so to speak, to keep on and stay involved in life in spite of one's lethargy is a monumental task.

Many of us, when going through hard times, are encouraged by the psalms. In today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 88, we pray:

O Lord, my God, by day I cry out;
at night I clamor in your presence.
Let my prayer come before you; 
incline your ear to my call for help.

For my soul is surfeited with troubles
and my life draws near to the nether world.
I am numbered with those who go down into the pit;
I am a [person] without strength.

My couch is among the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave,
Whom you remember no longer
and who are cut off from your care.

You have plunged me into the bottom of the pit,
into the dark abyss [of depression].
Upon me your wrath [seems to lie] heavy, 
and with all your billows you overwhelm me.

That is what depression feels like! Both Job and the psalmist teach us to mince no words in our prayer but to tell the Lord how it really is with us when we are troubled, troubled to the point of death!  Let us not pretend that all is well when all is not well!  God wants honesty from us, not because He does not know what we may be suffering but because honesty sets us free. When we can name an emotion, we are in control. When we are unable to name our emotions, they control us! Let us take control by acknowledging before God what we are truly feeling when we are down or hurt, angry or frustrated.  I have found that sharing my feelings with the Lord in writing and then asking for God's counsel works for me. God always comes through with words of Wisdom that lift my spirits, that give me the courage to go on and stay involved in life, giving the best I am capable of giving!

How about you?

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Weeping, Repenting, Acknowledging our Need for Mercy

In today's second reading, James 5: 1-6, St. James challenges those who have become wealthy by corrupt, deceitful ways:  "Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvest your fields....[you who] have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure [at the expense of the poor]...[who] have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. You have condemned; you have  murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance."

This passage brings to my mind those who, to this very day, have accumulated wealth unjustly or illegally: in the sex trade industry, in dealing in illegal drugs, or who have coerced young boys and girls into forced labor; those who, in fact, have withheld wages from their employees, filed bankruptcy and left those to whom money was owned without being paid for their labors and who have engaged in other corrupt practises.

James goes on to invite those who have gained wealth by engaging in unjust practises to grieve:  "Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away,  your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire."

We know from the Gospels that God does not rejoice in those who choose evil over good and who, for that reason, risk eternal damnation. No, God rejoices more over the one sinner who repents than over 99 persons who are in right relations with their God.  Let us pray for that one person whom we know is making millions and billions of dollars in unjust, illegal, deceptive ways. Because of your prayers and mine, my this one person weep and wail over the miseries he/she has caused and return to the Lord repentant of their sins. And may you and I recognize that for which we, too, need to weep and wail in repentance! God knows that for which we need to repent. May we be open to knowing what God knows about us!

Friday, September 28, 2018

"A Time to Die" to Being Judgmental

In today's first reading, Ecclesiastes 3: 1-11,  the author states that there is "a time to be born and a  time to die."  The thought came to me that, given what is happening in the world of our day,  it is especially the time to die to judging others.  For instance, it is easy to point fingers at those involved in the nomination of a new justice to the Supreme Court, or to judge the President or members of congress or of the  Senate or leaders anywhere in the world or to judge those who do not embrace the political party in which we believe.  However, when we have a finger pointing at others, three fingers are pointing at ourselves.  The sinner that we need to convert, so to speak, is ourselves, not other persons. The Lord rejoices over one sinner repenting of his/her sin; let that one sinner be myself!  May I change from being the publican boasting of not being like that person over there to being the one who is saying to God:  "Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I have sinned."  God's mercy is infinite!  God's arms are open to embrace the sinner, as the father of the prodigal son embraced his son upon his return to him after a life of debauchery and sinful pleasures.  May I be that prodigal son/daughter!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Guidance from the Author of Proverbs

Today's first reading,  Proverbs 21:1-6, 10-13, again instructs us, clearly stating what God expects of us as His sons and daughters, that is, what gives God pleasure. "Like a stream is the king's heart in the hand of the Lord; wherever it pleases [God], God directs it."  My prayer is that my heart and your heart are like streams in the Lord's hands, in that we allow the love of God, God's compassion and forgiveness, God's justice and truth to flow out of us into the hearts of others.  "To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice," the author of Proverbs tells us.  I may think that I need to do this penance or that penance, treat myself harshly, endure strict fasts, and/or, for instance, sacrifice needed sleep to spend hours and hours in prayer in order to be "acceptable to the Lord."  No, Proverbs tells us!  What God wants is that we act justly and do what is right, as also emphasized by the prophet Micah (cf. Micah 6:8).

This passage of Proverbs also clearly speaks of what displeases God:  "Haughty eyes and a proud heart--the tillage of the wicked is sin....Whoever makes a fortune by a lying tongue is chasing a bubble over deadly snares. The soul of the wicked...desires evil; his [her] neighbor finds no pity in his  [her] eyes....A [person] who shuts his [her] ear to the cry of the poor will himself [herself] also call and not be heard."

Some questions that I need to honestly ask myself are:  Would I describe my behaviors as haughty or deceitful? Am I chasing bubbles or desiring evil?  Do neighbors wait in vain for me to show compassion and have pity on them when they are in a crisis situation? Have I shut my ears to the cry of the poor?

Monday, September 24, 2018

Choices in Life

Today's first reading, Proverbs 3: 27-34, clearly spells out the dilemma of the wicked and challenges us not to envy such, as he/she grows wealthy and piles on what looks like one success upon another and another.  "Envy not the lawless [individual]  and choose none of his [or her] ways: To the Lord the perverse one is an abomination, but with the upright is [God's] friendship. The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, but the dwelling of the just [God]  blesses; when dealing with the arrogant, [God] is stern, but to the humble [God] shows kindness."

Whom do I envy and why? Whose goods/wives do I covet? Am I among the upright or the perverse ones spoken of above? How much at peace am I or am I a disturbed individual who seeks to escape his/her troubles by excessive drink, overeating, compulsive shopping or obsessively running after one relationship after another or whatever addiction that enslaves me?

The response to today's responsorial psalm, (Psalm 15) reads: "The just one shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord."  The psalmist goes on to speak about persons who are upright: "[An individual] who walks blamelessly and does justice; who thinks the truth in his/[her] heart and slanders not with his tongue. Who harms not his fellow man [woman], nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor; by whom the reprobate is despised, while...[honoring] those who fear [reverence] the Lord....[An individual] who does these things shall never be disturbed."

Am I a person about whom others would say these praiseworthy things?  Is the psalmist describing me/you? If our answer is "no," what changes do we need to make in our way of living?

Sunday, September 23, 2018

For What Am I Striving?

Today's first reading, Wisdom 2: 12, 17-20,  prophesies the death of Jesus. The author of Wisdom reveals the plot of the wicked to put Jesus to death:  "Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training.  Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him. For if the just one be the son of God, God will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes.  With revilement and torture let us put the just one to the test that we may have poof of his gentleness and try his patience.  Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him."

Note the statement "he sets himself against our doings", not against us!  It's our behaviors with which Jesus is upset.  We have violated the principles of our faith, our upbringing! That offends the Lord, our God, who has come to set us free! Knowing that he will be be  handed over to evil persons and be condemned to death, Jesus, in today's Gospel, Mark 9: 30-37, shares these facts with the apostles.  They do not get it and are too afraid to ask Jesus questions about the facts of His impending death. They resort to fighting among themselves about who is greatest in His Kingdom! How sad but how true it is that, frequently,  we don't understand Jesus' teaching that "if anyone who wishes to be first, he [she] shall be last of all and the servant of all."

What am I desiring? For what positions am I striving? Whom am I serving?

Saturday, September 22, 2018

From corruptibility to incorruptibility

In today's first reading, 1 Cor 15: 35-37, 42-49, St. Paul reminds us that the body that we now possess here on earth is a corruptible one, a weak one, a natural one and, in his words, "a dishonorable" one.  After we pass through the door of death, however, our resurrected body will be incorruptible, strong, spiritual.  Like all seeds which we plant here on earth and "rise" from the soil a totally different reality, so, too,  the "seed" of the incorruptible body rises totally different from our corruptible, natural bodies. They rise bearing the image of the resurrected Christ!

As we pray in today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 56, we are "bound to God,"..., who will rescue us from death that we "may walk before God in the light of the living."  Such walking with God may be here on earth or in heaven after we are buried in the ground following our earthly death and "the seed" of our incorruptible bodies burst forth, so to speak, in our eternal home!


Friday, September 21, 2018

Striving to Live a Mature Life in Christ Jesus

In today's first reading, Ephesians 4: 1-7, 11-13, St. Paul calls you [and me] to "live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace: one Body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." 

We live in one Body, the Body of Christ. The bond of Christ's peace unites us. May we strive "to preserve" that peace, living a life of "humility and gentleness, ...patience, bearing with one another through love," and thus preserving "the unity of the Spirit."  How patient am I/are you? How humble and gentle am I/are you? In what ways today did I/did you create unity by "bearing with ...another through love"?

We have been baptized into the Body of Christ, and, in baptism, Paul tells us, "[g]race was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ's gift."  The gifts we have been given are for "building up the Body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood/[womanhood], to the extent of the full stature of Christ."  Am I/are you growing in maturity or are we, as adults, still having temper tantrums when things do not go our way or when we encounter obstacles to our ego's desire to be in control or to assert its "authority over others"? A person who reflects the "full stature of Christ,"  in no way acts in these ways but lives a humble, patient, gentle life, bearing other people's burdens so as to lighten the load another may be carrying!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

"By the Grace of God, I Am Who I Am" (1 Cor 15: 1-11)

In today's first reading, 1 Cor 15: 1-11, St. Paul hands on to us what was handed down to him, namely, that Jesus died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.  In grappling with his own history of persecuting the Church, he says: "[B]y the grace of God, I am what I am."  In today's Gospel, Luke 7: 36-50, a woman enters Simon's house, having found out that Jesus was dining with this Pharisees. Simon is upset and says to himself: "If this man [Jesus] were a prophet, he would  know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him."  Jesus reads Simon's thoughts and shares with him a story of two persons forgiven a debt, one of the debts is large and the other much  smaller.   Which man, Jesus asks Simon, will love the creditor more? "The one, I suppose, [responds Simon] whose larger debt was forgiven."  Jesus then turned to the woman and says to Simon: "'Do you see this woman?....[H]er many sins have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love'....He said to [the woman]: 'Your sins are forgiven....Your faith has saved you; go in peace.'"

Who am I/who are you in this Scripture passage?  Simon who is standing in judgment over others? the creditor who forgives the debt that others owe him? the persons owing debts to others? the sinner kneeling at Jesus' feet, kissing them, anointing them with expensive oil, weeping out of love for the Lord and, recognizing her sinfulness, grateful for being forgiven?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Living a Life of Love

 Today's first reading, 1 Cor 12: 31-13:13,  contains the famous passage on the greatest of spiritual gifts, love!  "If I speak in human and angelic tongues," Paul warns me, "but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing."

Paul could also say to me and you: If you make millions and billions and have no love, you gain nothing and are nothing!  Or, if you win the most prestigious awards or secure the most prestigious of positions and have no love, you gain nothing or are nothing!

It's all about love! We have only to look at the love of a mother/father for their child/children, parents willing to sacrifice everything for the well-being of their children, parents who discipline their children, teach them Gospel values,  how to focus on the Living God, and how to live honest, just self-sacrificing love for the sake of others, and we see love at its finest.  Persons who live a life of love are kind and patient, compassionate and understanding, merciful and caring of others. Such persons do not "brood over injury"  or "rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoice with the truth."  Such persons find ways to forgive and let go of past hurts, returning good for evil and kindness for a lack of kindness!  These kind of persons, filled with hope and gratitude, are graced to endure all things in a way that strengthens their loving spirit.  May you and I be such persons!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

"God Has Visited His People" (Lk 7:16)

In today's first reading, 1 Cor 12:12-14, 27-31a, St. Paul speaks about the body of Christ, into which "we were all baptized."  Through baptism we became "individually [a] part of [Christ's body].  Just as with the human body there are many parts and each part has a role to play in the body being healthy and a fully functioning body, so, too, with the body of Christ.   Each member of the body of Christ has been given gifts: the gift to teach, to preach, to heal, to govern, to prophesy, to assist others, to do mighty works, and so on. We are all called to "[s]trive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts."  What might those be?  I believe that the greatest spiritual gift is to know Jesus Christ and follow His Way, the way of self-sacrificing love, the love Jesus showed us on the cross: a willingness to die so others may live--dying to selfishness, doing things to ease the burdens of others, making a difference in peoples' lives, choosing to be honest no matter what the cost, going the extra mile for those in need, especially those in our families and communities.  If we choose to live honestly and justly and give generously, cheerfully, lovingly, humbly, God, I believe, is revealed to others. And others will say of us as they said of Jesus: "God has visited his people" (Luke 7:16).

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Mary, Mother of Sorrows and our Mother

Today, the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, celebrate their patronal feast, the feast of the Sorrowful Mother. The Gospel reading for this feast is John 19: 25-27.  Mary stands beneath the cross as her only Son, Jesus, is crucified, mocked, and dies the cruel death of a criminal.  Following His condemnation to die by crucifixion, He had been brutally beaten and crowned with thorns.  Having lost a significant amount of blood in the scourging, Jesus falls three times as He carried His cross up the hill to Calvary, where He would be put to death for the sins of humankind!  It was the sins of humankind, in fact, your sins and mine,  that crushed Jesus, killed Him.

Mary stands at the foot of the cross watching her Son's agony and hearing Him say: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing."  Standing beneath that cross, Mary,  no doubt, realized what the prophet Simeon meant when he prophesied that her heart would be pieced with a sword, the sword of suffering.

It was from the cross, that Jesus gave us Mary as our mother. We are as much her sons/her daughters, as Jesus was her Son. She feels for us, as she felt for her Son. And, just as she stood beneath the cross of her Son and supported Him in his agony, so, too, does she stand with each of us in our moments of suffering.  She could not stop the pain her Son, nor can she stop the pain we are in.  However, she intercedes for us, as she interceded for Jesus.  She wipes away our tears as she wiped away the tears of her so many times in His life time. And beneath that cross, she gave Him the strength He needed to suffer on our behalf, showing us the infinite love God has for us!And she gives us the strength we need, as well!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Living a Life Full of Love

St. Paul, in today's first reading, 1 Cor 7: 25-31, writes to the people, encouraging them to be ready for the second coming of Jesus, which he believed was near.  "[T]ime is running out,....[T]he world in its present form is passing away," he tells them.  Though we do not know the time or the hour when the world, as we know it, will pass away, we can be ready. How? By conversion! By living pure lives! By living for eternity and bringing a little of eternity to the place where we live! What does that mean? Creating "heaven"here on earth for the people with whom we live!  Making love the essence of our lives, of our relationships!  How kind and forgiving am I, are you? How merciful and caring? How honest and just? Can others depend upon us to be there for them in hard times? How willing am I to rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep? In other words, what am I, are you, doing to lift others' burdens and to enhance their successes?  Or am I too wrapped up in my own little world to notice others around me, especially when they are carrying heavy crosses?

Today we celebrate the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary, a woman "full of grace," who lived a live full of grace! May you and I do likewise!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Called to bear the everlasting fruit of love

In today's Gospel, Luke 6: 12-19, we are told that Jesus went up to the mountain to pray. He spent the entire night there.  Coming down from the mountain, he called his disciples to himself and named the twelve persons who were to carry on His mission after His return to the Father. Jesus continues to call us to be disciples of Good News, the news of His death and resurrection, the news of His presence as Eucharistic food, His presence within us and all around us.  God is closer to us than our very breath. God sustains us, encourages us, strengthens us, counsels us and, yes, continually purifies and sanctifies us through the situations of each day.  The antiphon of the responsorial psalm of today's liturgy, I believe, tells us why: "The Lord takes delight in his people." God delights in you. God delights in me! And, as we pray in the Gospel acclamation of today's liturgy: "[God] chose [us, as He did His twelve apostles] from the world that [we] may go and bear fruit that will last,"and that fruit is love!

Saturday, September 8, 2018

God Comes to Save

In tomorrow's first reading, Is 35: 4-7a,  God asks the prophet Isaiah to "[s]ay to those whose hearts are frightened:  Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared....Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe. The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground springs of water."

Imagine the day when "the eyes of the blind"  and "the ears of the deaf" throughout the world--in our  own country, in our government, in Congress, etc.--will actually be opened to truth and to the cries of the poor, the oppressed, the abused of our societies.  That day is coming, Isaiah tells us!  God will come "with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save [us] from all kinds of oppressors, within and without: pathological lying, corruption, thievery, murder, avarice, narcissism, covetousness and so many other ways in which we are deceived by Satanic forces.

Know, too, that our own ears and eyes will be opened.  "Streams [of grace] will burst forth in the desert [of our hearts]." Our thirst for God, for Truth itself and for truth within ourselves, will be quenched!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Ready for Solid Spiritual Food?

In today's first reading, 1 Cor 3: 1-9, St. Paul regrets the fact that the people are still infants spiritually, not ready for solid spiritual food but needing to be fed "milk."  He asks them the question: "While there is jealousy and rivalry among you, are you not of the flesh, and walking according to the manner of man/human beings" only and not spiritual beings? Furthermore, St. Paul points out to them, you are bickering among yourself about to whom do you belong: "Whenever  someone says, 'I belong to Paul,' and another, 'I belong to Apollos,' are you not merely men?"  Fighting, bickering, jealousy, greed, avarice, covetousness, prejudice, hatred, bigotry, racism, unjust practises, violation of human rights--and so much more that causes division among us--indicate that we are infants in the spiritual life and totally blind and deaf to Jesus' Gospel message and to following the way that Jesus pointed out to us.

How do I perceive myself in regard to my spiritual growth: am I an infant, a child, an adolescent, an adult?  When I think of men or women who model spiritual adulthood, persons ready for solid spiritual food, I think of a Martin Luther King, a Coretta King, a Barbara Bush, Princess Diana, Oscar Romero, a Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Mother Frances Streitel--the foundress of my religious community--my own mother who modeled forgiveness and strength of character and so many mothers and fathers who sacrifice everything for their children's well-being and character development, teaching their children the virtues of honesty, self-sacrifice, love and forgiveness, mercy and justice, compassion and kindness to those less fortunate than themselves.

Am I living a life of self-sacrificing love, of justice and mercy, compassion and understanding, of caring and faithfulness to the message of the Gospel?  If so, I am growing spiritually and "eating" solid spiritual food, as did my parents.

Friday, August 31, 2018

The Cross as the Wisdom and Power of God

In today's first reading, 1 Cor 1: 17-25, Saint Paul reminds us of the meaning of the cross  as "the power of God."  "[W]e proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."

Let's ponder that message, especially the statement that Christ is the power and the wisdom of God, who on the cross appeared as the foolishness of God and God's weakness.  If we stand beneath the cross as unbelievers, we might join those who mocked him and say something like: "The  Messiah who is to save us! Look at him! He does not even appear to have human form. He looks like a worm squirming on that cross!" As Christians with a strong faith, we fall down on our knees, knowing that this is God in the process of saving us. We hear Jesus say: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing." We witness Jesus responding to the thief who asked to be remembered in Jesus' eternal Kingdom:   "This day you will be with me in Paradise."  As we gave upon the cross, we see the weakness of God as incomprehensible strength and the foolishness of God as wisdom! In our own sufferings, when viewed from a position of faith, we experience God's power as we rely upon God to give us strength.  When weak and relying upon God, we come to know the wisdom of God working within us to draw us to Himself upon the cross!

In speaking to someone whose child committed suicide and walking through that horrible darkness with that person, I learnt that through her child's suicide she developed an intimacy with God that she does not believe would ever had been possible without that tragedy--it took years, an abundance of tears, and incredible pain to come to that realization and that closeness to God.  Unbelievers would probably bulk at that testimony, asking how could one ever see a blessing in the suicide of a loved one.  From the perspective of faith, an individual who is leaning on God, trusting God, seeking God, clinging to God, and having confidence in God, will, in bearing the cross of Christ, be given incredible graces.

I believe! Do you?

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Sanctified in Christ Jesus and Clothed in Holiness

In today's first reading, 1 Cor 1: 1-9, St. Paul refers to the people of Corinth and us,  as persons who "have been sanctified in Christ Jesus," persons "called to be holy with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours. Grace to you," Paul prays, "and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."  Paul tells the people that he always thanks God "for the grace bestowed [upon them] in Christ Jesus, that in him [they] were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ." In today's Gospel,Matthew 24: 42-51, Jesus asks us to "stay awake" for Jesus' coming, be that our personal dying to this world and returning home to heaven  with Jesus or Jesus' second coming at the end of this world as we now know it!

What blessing is Paul, perhaps, talking about?  First of all, God's grace and  peace, a peace the world cannot give and what is ours when we seek God in solitude, in prayer, in being true to our call as children of the Most High. Furthermore, Paul speaks about our being enriched in every way and not lacking in any spiritual gifts! What might those be?  The opportunities, I believe,  for discourse of things that matter concerning our faith, our growth in love and in trust; all knowledge necessary for 1) walking with the Lord God through this world in which we now exist and 2) for growing in love!  WOW!  For what else can we ask?

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Cleansing the Inside of the "Cup"

In today's Gospel, Matthew 23: 23-26, Jesus challenges the Pharisees to cleanse the inner "cup" and not just the outer "cup".  He uses strong words, not to shame the Pharisees, but to get their attention: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence."

The questions we need to ask ourselves are: Are we "cleaning" only the outside of our "cups," and neglecting the inside?  Do we look good on the outside while our innermost self is filled with attitudes of hatred, deceit, avarice, greediness, lust, covetousness and other thoughts that separate us from God's designs  and purposes for us?

If our innerself is cleansed, is shining brightly with grace, then we will shine on the outside also.  We will, then, truly be a light to those around us. On the other hand, if our innermost self is filled with darkness-- negativity,  selfishness, narcissism--we will spread that darkness to others.  Misery on the inside leads to misery on the outside. Only we can change our way of thinking so that our lives are filled with peace, joy and happiness. Only then will we be a reflection of God to those around us.

Am I, are you ready to heed Jesus' message and make whatever changes we need to make to be living a live of grace and growing in holiness?

Monday, August 27, 2018

Intercessory Prayer

In today's first reading, 2 Thes 1: 1-5, 11-12, Saint Paul thanks God for the people of Thessalonia, praying: "[G]race to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."  Let us offer that same prayer for all of the people of the U.S. and throughout the world, persons serving our country in foreign wars, in governmental positions, those who are ministering to us through our churches--any denomination. Let us also pray for parents, children, grandparents,  grandchildren, teachers, students,  counselors, clients, and all health care professionals, public servants in all of our cities and counties, clerks of all kinds and in all professions and states of life.  With Saint Paul, let us "thank God always for [our brothers and sisters in Christ], as is fitting, because [their] faith flourishes ever more, and the love of every one of [them] for one another grows bigger. [Let us] boast of [our fellow travelers on the way to eternal life for their] regarding endurance and faith in all [the]...afflictions [they] endure," especially those who endure afflictions imposed by government officials, by those prejudiced against immigrants, foreigners, persons of other cultures, religions, races and genders.

As with Saint Paul, we pray that God will make all of us "worthy of his calling and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith, that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in [us] and [we] in him, in accord with the grace of our God and Lord Jesus."

Is St.Paul's prayer for the Thessalonians a prayer that I truly pray for others in my time and place and which you pray for persons in your time and space?

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Glory of God in our Midst

In the first reading, Ezekiel 43: 1-7b, the prophet shares the vision with us in which "the angel led [Ezekiel] to the gate which faces the east, and there [Ezekiel] saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east....I, [Ezekiel tells us], fell prone as the glory of the Lord entered by way of the waste which faces the east but the spirit lifted me up and brought me to the inner court....The voice said to me: Son of man, this is where my throne shall be, this is where I will set the soles of my feet; here I will dwell among there children of Israel forever."

May God open our eyes to the glory of God, to God Himself, dwelling in our Churches, in our Tabernacles, in the Holy of Holies in synagogues, in the depth of each person's being, in the innocence of babies and children, in the love and justice, joy and peace which we bring to each other; in the universe itself: in sunrises and sunsets, in flowers and all created things.

"The glory of the Lord will dwell in our land," we pray in today's  responsorial psalm, Psalm 85.  Furthermore, the psalmist prays: Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him, glory dwelling in our land. Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven. The Lord himself will give his benefits; our land shall yield its increase. Justice shall walk before [God who dwells in our land], and salvation along the way of his steps."

Am I, are you, in step with the Lord? Are we aware of the glory of God being revealed to us?

Friday, August 24, 2018

Learning from the Scriptures

Today's Gospel, John 1:45-51, presents the calling of Nathaniel (St. Bartholomew) to become an apostle of the Lord.  God uses Philip to alert Nathaniel to his calling. Philip find Nathaniel under a fig tree and tells him that he and others "have found the one about whom Moses were in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth."  Nathaniel sarcastically asks: "Can anything good come from Nazareth?"  Philip does not get sucked into Nathaniel's sarcasm or dismissal but says to Nathaniel: "Come and see!"

Am I, in this passage, Nathaniel, one who does not mince words, who speaks his mind, who is forthright in speaking to others? Jesus sees the depth of Nathaniel's heart and introduces him as "a true child of Israel," one in whom there is "no duplicity."  How would Jesus describe you/me?  Nathaniel is amazed and says to Jesus: "How do you know me?"  Jesus responds: "Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree."  Jesus sees you and me wherever we are and  in whatever we are doing!  He knows us more than we know ourselves. As God, Jesus knows what we are thinking before we do and what we might say before we have said it!  God knows us through and through. We are a book, so to speak, in the process of being written and Jesus knows us cover to cover!  Are you/am I aware of this fact?

As with Nathaniel, Jesus uses other people to communicate God's will to us, or uses us to bring truths to other people's attention, truths which He wants people to know and to which He wants their response. Are we listening for God's messages sent to us through others and, also, do we allow God to use us to bring His message to other people?

Another very important fact to note in this Scripture passage is how Nathaniel is changed by His encounter with Jesus!  Immediately, he recognizes and acknowledges who Jesus is! His sarcastic, critical attitude is changed from "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" to a stance of appreciation and  awe: "Wow, look at the good coming from Nazareth!"  How am I, are you, changed in the presence of Jesus?

Thursday, August 23, 2018

At Home with the Lord, Clothed in Righteousness

Today's first reading, Ezekiel 36: 23-28, the Lord says the following to the nation of Israel, and to us: "I will prove my holiness of my great name, profaned among the nations, in whose midst you  have profaned it.  Thus the nations [the world] shall know that I am the Lord God, when in [its] sight I prove my holiness through you. For I will take you away from among the nations [that are profaning my name], gather you from all the foreign lands [places in this world and peoples in this world who are profaning the name of God by evil actions against others], and bring you back to your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols will I cleanse you. I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you...."

On the cross and through the cross, Jesus clothes us in righteousness and puts a robe of salvation on  us.  We have been brought back to God, gathered from "foreign lands" by Jesus' obedience unto death,  His resurrection on Easter morning and His return to glory on the day of His Ascension into heaven!  In our baptism we have been sprinkled with "clean water" and cleansed "from all [our] impurities."  "A new heart and...a new spirit"--the Spirit of Jesus--has been put within us, our stony hearts turning into hearts of flesh!

In today's responsorial psalm, we pray:  "A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.  Cast me not out of 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 we sincerely desire those graces and return to the Lord, to our true home, we have strayed off into "foreign lands."

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Queenship of Mary, our Model of Faith

Today we celebrate the Queenship of Mary, the mother of God Incarnate!  Mary, Queen of heaven and earth, describes herself in Luke 1:  38 as "the handmaid of the Lord," as God's servant.  When the angel Gabriel announced that she would "conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus" (Luke 1: 32), for he "will be great and will be called be Son of the Most High" (Luke 1: 32), Mary asks how this will come about. She is told that "the Holy Spirit will come upon you...and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God" (Luke 1: 35-36). Mary's response: "Nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1: 37).

Truly, nothing is impossible with God. He choose a young peasant woman, a girl of 13 or14, to become mother of His Incarnate Son, sent to become one of us and to show us the depth of God's love for us.  Mary cooperates fully with God's plans for her and for us. Her obedience is complete, as was the obedience of her Son Jesus. Unlike the first man and first woman, Adam and Eve, of the Old Covenant,  this new Adam and new Eve, of the New Covenant, are one with God's plan for our salvation. Both now sit at the right had of the Father in heaven as King and Queen of humankind, of heaven and earth, interceding for us day and night, so that, we, too, will accept God's plan of salvation for us!

Are we aware of God's efforts to save us on a daily basis as we walk hand in hand with God  throughout the day in the challenging, the difficult and the awesome realities of each day?  Are we following the Lord's lead to reveal His Presence and/or discover His Presence in the events of the day, tasting a bit of eternity in the here and now?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Recognizing When we Think We Are God

In today's first reading, Ezekiel 28: 1-10, the Lord again has strong words for us through the prophet. The prophet is asked to give the prince of Tyre the following message, a message that I believe is applicable to many today who see themselves as gods and to each of us when we assume the position of a of a god over others:  "Because you are haughty of heart, you say, 'A god am I!...'And yet you are a man, and not a god, however you may think yourself like a god....[Y]ou have heaped up your riches; your heart has grown haughty from your riches--therefore thus says the Lord God: Because you have thought yourself to have the mind of a god, therefore I will bring against you foreigners, the most barbarous of nations....They shall thrust you down to the pit, there to die...Will you then say, 'I am a god!"

Those may sound like very harsh words.  Yet you and I need to pray for the grace of humility. There is no other god but God alone.  We need God's mercy, as does everyone else.  When we become haughty as did the prince of Tyre,  we need to be transformed by grace.  When we assume power that is not ours,  as did princes or rulers of old and, more closely to home,  as did St. Paul on his way to persecute Christians, we need to be knocked off our "horse".  When we assume the attitude of being over others and better than others; when we grow self-sufficient to the point of not realizing our need for a Savior, then we, too, need God's intervention in our lives.

Will we make efforts now to know who we are and who God is, or will we wait until we are dying to realize that we are not a god?

What do I, what do  you, need to do to grow in humility?

Monday, August 20, 2018

Consequences of Worshipping Idols

In today's first reading, Ezekiel 24:  15-23, the Lord prophesies to Ezekiel that his wife, "the delight of [his] eyes" will die and that he should not publicly mourn her death.   The people want to know what all this means to them and the prophet tells them that they, too, shall lose the delight of their eyes, the Temple in Jerusalem. They, also, are told not to mourn: "[Y]ou shall rot away because of your sins and groan one to another." 

The rationale for the destruction of Jerusalem is given in the response to today's responsorial verse, Dt. 32: 18-19, 20, 21:  "You have forgotten God who gave you birth." We are given a further  explanation in the verse itself:  "You were unmindful of the Rock that begot you.....When the Lord saw this, he was filled with loathing and anger toward his sons and daughters. 'I will hide my face from them,' he said, 'and see what will then become of them.  What a fickle race they are, sons with no loyalty in them! 'Since they have provoked me with their 'no-god' and angered me with their vain idols, I will provoke them with a 'no-people'; with a foolish nation I will anger them."

This passage, it seems to me,  applies to the world of today with its "no-gods" and "vain idols."  Many races, today, have become fickle, disloyal!  The questions I need to ask myself, however,  are:  Have I become fickle, that is, undependable, irresponsible concerning my relationship with God and my service to others?  Am I worshipping 'no-gods,' that is, am I putting my sole security in accumulating money beyond my means,  seeking pleasures above all, clinging to my own whims at the expense of others, seeking the gods of consumerism and materialism? Am I running from one relationship to another and another, being unfaithful to my marriage or religious vows?  Is success my god? Is being in control and having "power" my god?

I am called to love and be loving, as modeled by Jesus in the Gospels. Jesus was obedient to His Father unto death?  To whom am I obedient?  Whom am I serving: God in loving faithfulness and right relationships with my wife and children; God in faithfulness to my vocation in life?

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Living Bread

Today's Gospel, John 6: 51-58, opens with Jesus saying to Us: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."

"I am the living bread."  I left heaven for you. I have come down to earth to be one with you. When I returned to my Father, I left you the Eucharist, myself as "the living bread."  In every Eucharist  you eat of my flesh and drink of my blood, a gift I gave to you at the Last Supper when I said to my disciples attending that meal: "This is my body given up for you; take and eat." And with the wine served at that meal, I took it in my sacred hands and, as the High Priest of God, blessed the wine and said to the disciples: "Take and drink; this is the blood of the New Covenant which will be poured out of you." My changing water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana prefigured the Eucharist that I would leave with you in the hands of priests to follow my Way.  To priests, I have given the power at every Catholic Mass to change bread and wine into my body and blood for your spiritual nourishment and to fulfill the promise I made at my Ascension: I will be with you always until the end of time and, in this case, in the Eucharist.  Not only am I with you in the Eucharist, but I reside in the depth of your being and in all of creation. As God, I am everywhere sustaining all in existence, strengthening all, governing all, loving all, comforting all, challenging all and transforming all into the Divine, as My Love knows no end. I will draw all persons and all things to Me.  Your transformation will be complete in eternity and so, too, for everyone else open to the graces I pour out upon you an them from the cross every moment of every day!  Do you believe? Do you trust?"

Saturday, August 18, 2018

A God of Justice and of Life

In today's first reading, Ezekiel 18: 1-10, 13b, 30-32, God says to us through the prophet:  "If a man is virtuous...he shall surely live,...But if a thief, a murderer, or lends at interest and exacts usury...[he] certainly shall not live.  Because he practiced all these abominations, he shall surely die; his death shall be his own fault."

Imagine the following  conversation with the Lord in prayer:

"Lord, I turn over to You all those who are involved in what seems insurmountable,  larger-than-life 'mountains' of criminality, deception, and corrupt engagements and decisions that have or will have caused incredible suffering throughout the whole world.  Lord, please have mercy on us and bring those directly involved in evil or those corroborating with the wicked to justice.  May their "empires" collapse and their illusionary power be destroyed.  If you will it, Lord, You can do it, that is, you can bring all people to repentance and to a change of heart, choosing to abandon evil and turn toward the good!"

Of course I will it.  The wicked shall be stripped of all power in My timing.  So, too, will those who collaborate with those involved in evil. I am a God of justice.  I see the evil ways, the ways of untruth, and the corrupt behaviors being enacted by persons throughout the world. I hear the cries of those who are victims of their crimes. I am not deaf to the cries of the poor. 

Just as I did not spare the wicked in Noah's time nor the wicked of Sodom and Gomorrah's time, neither will I spare the wicked of this day and time in any country. Everyone will be given the opportunity to turn from evil and do what is good; everyone will be given the chance to repent and change their lives. Anyone who chooses to continue in his/her evil ways, however, chooses death, not life.   Death, as I said through Ezekiel, the prophet, "shall be his/her own fault".  I choose life for everyone, not death!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Clothed with the splendor of God

In today's first reading, Ezekiel 16: 1-5, 6 63, the Lord makes known to us, through the prophet Ezekiel, the condition of the nation Israel and of all of humankind without God's intervention.  Seeing the pitiable state of His people--born without being washed nor anointed, thrown to the ground, discarded, loathed upon by other nations--God looks upon Israel, and us, with compassion. "....I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you; you are mine, says the Lord God. ...I bathed you with water, washed away your blood, and anointed you with oil. I clothed you with an embroidered  gown, put sandals of fine leather on your feet; I gave you a fine linen sash and silk robes to wear. I adorned you with jewelry....You were exceedingly beautiful, with the dignity of a queen. You  were renowned among the nations for your beauty, perfect as it was because of my splendor which I had bestowed on you, says  the Lord God." 

That description fits us who have been baptized with water and redeemed with Jesus' blood poured out upon the cross for our salvation. In grace, we have been clothed with dignity and made righteous in the sight of our God.  In God's sight, the redeemed, you and I, are "exceedingly beautiful," bearing the dignity of a queen or a king.  We are made perfect in God's sight "because," God says to us, "of my splendor which I had bestowed on you" in Christ Jesus, my Son sent to show you the depth of my love for you!

I believe this!  What is your belief?

Saturday, August 11, 2018

A Plea for Justice

Again, today's first reading, Habakkuk 1: 12-2:4, is applicable to what is happening in the world of today.  Habakkuk is complaining to the Lord concerning the evil that exists in the world of his day. He says to the Lord, God:  "Are you not from eternity, Lord, my holy God, immortal?  O Lord, you have marked [evil men/women] for judgment, O Rock, you have readied [them] for punishment!  Too pure are your eyes to look upon evil, and the sight of misery you cannot endure. Why, then, do you gaze on the faithless in silence while the wicked man devours one more just than himself?"

Habakkuk's complaint is as true now as in his day.  Evil men and women "devour" others more just than themselves; they are, therefore,  marked for judgment--God's judgment.   The psalmist, in today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 9, reminds that "[t]he Lord sits enthroned forever; he has set up his throne for judgment.  He judges the world with justice; he governs; the people with equity," so unlike humankind's way of judging and governing.  Also, as Habakukk emphasizes:  God's eyes are "too look upon evil." This is as true today as then."The sight of misery [God] cannot endure" today  any more than in days of old.  The day of judgment will come. God will intervene in God's time and bring justice to this world, creating a new earth and a new heaven where justice will reign and evil will be no more!

Regarding Habakkuk's complaint, God responds as follows: Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets, so that one can read it readily. For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late. The rash man/[woman] has no integrity; but the just [person], because of his [her] faith, shall live."  That promise will be fulfilled!  I believe that!  What about you?

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Law of Love Written on our Hearts

In today's first reading, Jeremiah 31: 31-34, the Lord says to us through the prophet that "the days are coming...when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah....I will place my law within them, and write it on their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  No longer will they need to teach their friends and relatives how to know the Lord. All, from least to greatest, shall know me,..., for I will forgive their evil doing and remember their sin no more!"  You and I have the law of God--the law of love--written on on our hearts.  We know right from wrong and are reminded by the Spirit every time we ignore what God has engraved on our heart.

To confirm and reinforce this message of love and forgiveness, Jesus became sin for us upon the cross, putting sin to death and clothing us in a robe of righteousness, as St. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5: 21:  God made [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."  In Ephesians, Paul says to us:  "...[P]ut  on [your] new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4: 24).

Have I forgotten God's love? Am I too busy attempting to find salvation elsewhere where God is not? Have the excitements of the world blinded me? Has my heart become so hardened that I no longer sense the spirit nudging me to return to the Lord, to offer Him a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, to give Him my heart in sacrificial love for the life of those with whom I live and work, pray and play?

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

God's Age-old Love

In today's first reading, Jeremiah 31: 1-7, the Lord says to the Israelites through the prophet Jeremiah: "With age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you. Again I will restore you, and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin Israel;....Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; those who plant them shall enjoy the fruits."  Why?   Because the "Lord has delivered his people, the remnant of Israel."

Over and over again Israel prostituted themselves, worshipping the false gods of neighboring countries. And over and over again God restored them and rebuilt "virgin Israel". So, too, with us How many times have we worshipped non-gods or chosen God substitutes, seeking love and security and peace where such cannot be found: in accumulative wealth earned in dishonest ways, promiscuity, avarice, prostitution, dishonest dealings,  human trafficking, drug trafficking, forced labor, cheap labor and so on.  How many times have we not gone astray, abandoning truth and justice and running from the disciplines that will lead us to the Lord, our God. And God says to us: "With an age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you. Again I will restore you, and you shall be rebuilt," O virgin daughter/son!

When we turn back to the Lord, our God, with our whole heart, our whole soul, and our whole mind, God, we are told by Jeremiah in today's responsorial verse, "will turn [the] mourning [that comes from being unfaithful to the Lord]  into joy."  God "will console and gladden [us] after [our] sorrows."

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Keep Your Eyes on the Lord

In today's Gospel, Matthew 14: 22-36, Jesus, while dismissing the crowd,  sends the disciples to the other side of the sea ahead of him.   Once the crowd is dismissed, Jesus goes up to the mountain to pray by Himself.  The disciples are a couple of miles out on the sea and are being tossed around by a strong storm.  "During the fourth watch of the night, [Jesus] came toward them, walking on the sea." They are scared out of their wits, thinking a ghost is approaching them on this stormy sea.  "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid." Peter yells back at the ghostly figure and says: "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." "Come," Jesus responds to Peter. And Peter steps out of the boat onto the rough waters. Realizing what the heck he is doing, Peter becomes fearful, takes his eyes off of Jesus and begins to sink.  "Lord, save me."  And immediately, Jesus stretches out His hand and pulls Peter up drowning.

"Lord, save me," is a prayer all of us, no doubt, say often!  We  may drowning, so to speak, in grief, in financial or  relationship problems, in episodes with our children that we could never dream of, in facing illnesses--mental or physical--that baffle us and fill us with fear!  "Lord, where are you?" we ask!   "Be not afraid," the Lord says to us. I am right here with you. Together we will face these storms flooding  your life. You are not alone. I never abandon you. No matter how rough things become, keep your focus on me. Be not like Peter and focus on turbulent "sea."  With your focus on me, you will make it, because I am the God of life, not of death. I am the God of hope, not despair.  I am the God of power, not despair.  When you are too tired, too weak, to walk, I will carry you. Trust Me.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Building a Relationship with Jesus

Imagine being Peter, James and John, whom Jesus "led up to a high mountain apart by themselves." That, in itself, is an incredible gift! Alone with Jesus, the Son of God, the Most High God!  Every day, you and I are also invited to spend time alone with Jesus in prayer.  Is "the mountain" too high for us to climb? Or do we simply dismiss the invitation, proclaiming to be too busy?

On that mountain, Jesus is transfigured before them. "...his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them."  Seeing Jesus in this way alone was more than enough but that was not all. Moses and Elijah appear and begin a conversion with Jesus.  Flabbergasted and bewildered, Peter does not know what to say and blurts out: "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah!"  Following that suggestion, a cloud covers Peter, James and John and they hear a voice say to them: "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him."  Suddenly, the three apostles are alone with Jesus! As they walk down the mountain, Jesus instructs them to share the experience with no one until He has risen from the dead! "Risen from the dead?"  Their unshared response: "What the heck does that mean?"

There are lots of mysteries in our faith. And like Peter, James and John, we find it difficult, many times, getting our arms around them, so to speak!  What we do know is that, like with the apostles, Jesus will and does prepare us for what is to come. That is why He took Peter, James and John up this mountain before going up to Jerusalem for His passing through death into eternal life, where the Father would bestow upon Him "dominion, glory, and kingship" (See today's first reading:  Daniel 7: 13-14).  

Peter, James and John had developed a very close relationship with Jesus and, therefore, were open to Jesus' invitations to send special times with Him alone.  What about you and me?  Are we willing each day to set time aside with the Lord to get to know Him, listen to Him, share our secrets with Him and He with us?  I hope so!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Generosity of Our God

In today's first reading, Exodus 16: 2-4, 12-15, we read about the Israelites having been freed from the slavery of the Egyptians and are crossing the desert on their way to the land promised to them by their God.  Food is scarce. In anger, they grumble against Moses and Aaron: "Would that we had died at the Lord's hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and had our fill of bread!" God, of course, who is always present, leading  us, walking beside us, behind us and ahead of us, hears their complaint! He does not get sucked into their anger and respond angrily. No! He says to Moses: I will now rain down bread from heaven for you. Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion...I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them: In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread, so that you may know that I, the Lord, am your God."

WOW!  That is our God then and now!

The bread that God sent down to the Israelites in the desert was perishable food, not food that lasts. The Bread set down to us now is bread that lasts into eternal life: that Bread of Life is Jesus, as we read in today's Gospel, John 6: 24-35. Jesus tells the people: Do not work for food that perishes but for food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you....[T]he bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world....I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst."

Are we aware of this Truth? Do we come to Jesus in the Eucharist, in the daily Scriptures, in our personal, communal and liturgical prayer seeking to know Jesus more deeply and more personally, to grow in our faith and trust and love?  Do we even pray for  these graces each day, recognizing our need for the Lord's help?

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Building God's Kingdom

In today's Gospel, Matthew 13: 47-53, Jesus likens the Kingdom of heaven  to "a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind."  When Jesus called the apostles from their fishing boats, He told them that He would make them fishers of men.  During His time here on earth in a physical body, Jesus, the Son of God, also went about "fishing" for men and women in need of a physician, persons needing healing of body, mind and spirit.  He ate with sinners, spoke with sinners, raised sinners from the dead, promised Paradise to a thief dying on the cross next to  him when he asked to be remembered by Jesus when He got to His Kingdom.

The Son of God was the transformation of God roaming throughout all of Galilee and the surrounding area. He was the Divine Potter reshaping people into the image and likeness of God in which each was made and about which each was commissioned to bring to fullness during their sojourn here on earth. Jesus showed the way to accomplish his work. He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life of God in our midst then and now!

May you and I realize ever more fully our mission to build God's Kingdom, as Jesus did and does!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

God, Our Refuge in the Day of Distress

Today's first reading, Jeremiah 15: 10, 16-21, the prophet expresses his despair.  He is deeply depressed and expresses anger at his mother for giving him birth. He describes himself as "a man of strife and contention to all the land! I neither borrow nor lend, yet all curse me."  He can't figure out how this can be! "When I found your words," Jeremiah reminds God, "I devoured them; they became my joy and the happiness of my heart, because I bore your name, O Lord, God of hosts. I did not sit  celebrating in the circle of merrymakers; under the weight of your hand I sat alone because you filled me with indignation." God does not let Jeremiah off the hook.  "If you repent, so that I restore you, in my presence you shall stand. If you bring forth the precious without the vile, you shall be my mouthpiece. Then it shall be they who turn to you and you shall no turn to them.  And I shall make you toward this people a solid wall of  brass. Though they fight against you, they shall not prevail, for I am with you, to deliver and rescue you...I will free you from the hand of the wicked, and rescue you from the grasp of the violent."

What is true for Jeremiah is also true for us.  As God's mouthpiece, we need to stand up to evil. Doing so will not win us brownie points among others. In fact, as with Jeremiah, we may be cursed by others.  Devouring God's words, however, is not enough. We need to live a pure, holy life as well as stand up to evil, knowing that God is with us "to deliver and rescue" us!  God will free us, as He did Jeremiah, "from the hand of the wicked, and rescue [us] from the grasp of the violent," including the violence of Satan prowling the world, seeking someone to devour.

Remember, as we pray in today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 59, that "God is [our] refuge on the day of distress."

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A Weeping God

In today's first reading, Jeremiah 14: 17-22,   God, through the prophet Jeremiah, tells us that He sobs,"without rest, over the great destruction which overwhelms the virgin daughter of my people, over here incurable wound.  If I walk out into the field, look! those slain by the sword..."  What God sees today, I believe, are those slain by automatic rifles, machine guns, chemicals, and war machines of all kinds.  God goes on to tells us through the prophet that, as He walks around, He sees "those consumed with hunger"--hunger, I believe, for justice,  honesty, integrity; for compassion, patience, reconciliation, acceptance; hunger for hope and love and forgiveness! 

Humankind, Jeremiah says,  also responds to God in desperation:  "Have you cast Judah (put in the name of any nation on earth) off completely? Is Zion (or other peoples) loathsome to you? Why, [we complain,] have you struck us a blow that cannot be healed? We wait for peace [and justice and integrity], to no avail; for a time of healing, but terror comes instead."   Every night, as we watch the news with you, Lord, we hear of ongoing corruption, destruction, violence and hatred spreading across our land, our country and other countries!

With Jeremiah, we "recognize...our wickedness, the guilt of our fathers [and our own guilt]; that we have sinned against you," O Lord.  Have mercy on us, Lord. Open our eyes to the evil in which we may be involved.  Also deepen our awareness of colluding with others in their evil intent, especially when another's eyes are blind and ears deaf to the wickedness of their ways.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Created to be God's People, God's Beauty, God's Renown, God's Praise

"...[A]s close as the loincloth clings to a man's loins, so had I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the Lord; to be my people, my renown, my praise, my beauty. But they did not listen," we read in today's first reading, Jeremiah 13: 1-11.  That passage also speaks of the nation to which you and I belong.  As a nation, as a country, as a city, as a family we are created to be God's people, God's renown, God's praise, God's beauty. Are we?  The people of Israel and of Judah did not follow God's ways, did not cling to God but sought their security in other gods, idols, worshipped by other countries, other nations, other tribes, other kingdoms!  They, in fact, rejected God as the only true God! Have you? Have I?

In the responsorial verse of today's liturgy, taken from Dt. 32: 18-19, 20, 21,  God very clearly voices His anger, saying to the people of Israel and of Judah: "You have forgotten God who gave you birth."  When God saw their unfaithfulness, the author of Deuteronomy says, "he was filled with loathing."  Angered, God said: I will hide my face from them...and see what will then become of them.  What a fickle race they are, sons [and daughters] with no loyalty in them!"  Is God saying that of our nation, of the country to which you and I belong? Is God saying that of you and me?

Sunday, July 29, 2018

A God of Sufficiency

In today's first reading, 2 Kings 4: 42-44, a man brings the prophet Elisha "twenty barley loaves made from first fruits and fresh grain in the ear."  Elisha directs him to give the food to the people to eat.  How, the man objects;; I don't have enough to feed the hundred people gathered here.  "Give it to the people to eat. For thus says the Lord, 'They shall eat and there shall we some left over."  Sure enough! They ate and there were leftovers. That is the kind of God who serves us and is there for us!

Jesus reveals these same attributes of God!  A huge crowd followed Jesus and the disciples across the Sea of Galilee. Jesus sees the crowd approaching and says to Philip:  "'Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?'  He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do."  In the crowd, there  was a little boy who had five barley loaves and two fish. Andrew, the brother of Peter, raised the question:  "...[W]hat good are these for so many?"  There were about 5000 men in the crowd besides women and children.  "...Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them...and also as much fish as they wanted. When they had their fill, he said to his disciples, 'Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.'  So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with the fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat."

God is a generous God, a God of plenitude, a God of sufficiency!

How trusting are you and I, especially when we believe that we do not have enough to reach out to others in their need?  Do we believe that, with God's help, we will have what it takes to lift a burden from another person, to offer our help by assisting them financially or materially, giving of the little energy we do have,  knowing that by being there for others the little strength we have will be multiplied a "hundredfold"?  Your "two fish" or "five barley loaves" of love, of generosity, of patience goes a long way if we distribute such in faith!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Becoming One as the Trinity is One

Today's first reading calls us to faithfulness, to abandon positions of rebellion and follow the Lord. With Him, we are on a journey to the New Jerusalem, to the everlasting city of our God!  "I am your Master," says the Lord.  "I will take you, one from a city, two from a clan, and bring you to Zion. I will appoint over you  shepherds after my own heart, who will shepherd you wisely and prudently...."  On this journey through this world, you and I  will eventually come to the point in our lives when we "will call Jerusalem the Lord's throne; there all nations will be gathered together to  honor the name of the Lord at Jerusalem, and [we] will walk no longer in...hardhearted wickedness."  

Every day, every hour, every yearGod is leading us toward union with Himself, with one another, all nations with all other nations, all peoples with all other peoples. Becoming one with the Lord,  one  with one another and one with our innermost self where God dwells are our goals here on earth.   Every day, every hour, every moment, God "appoints over [us, over you and me] shepherds after [His] own heart, who will shepherd [us] wisely and prudently,"  teaching us the ways of communion with one another and with our God! It is God who does the gathering, the coming together in unity, as in the Trinity, where Father, Son and Spirit are one.

In place of today's responsorial, we pray from Jeremiah 31: 10, 11-12abcd, 13.  We pray that "[t]he Lord shall ransom Jacob, he will redeem him from the hand of his conqueror, [Satan who seeks division, not unity]. Shouting, they shall mount the heights of Zion, they shall come streaming for the Lord's blessings: The grain, the wine, and the oil, the sheep and the oxen. Then the virgins shall make merry and dance, and young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into joy [as they enter into greater communion with one another],  I will console and gladden them after their sorrow [of being divided, of following wicked ways]."

O, the greatness and the mercy of our God!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Belonging to a Holy Family

Today we celebrate the feast of Saints Joachim and Anne, grandparents of Jesus!  Under the cross, Jesus gave us His mother. Her parents, therefore, are our grandparents and her Son, Jesus, is our brother!  What a holy family to which we belong!

In what ways am I, are you,  growing in our relationships with this, our family?  Grandparents are very special. They "spoil" us--Joachim and Anne would "spoil" us in a good way, bestowing graces that lead us into the life of the Spirit, into a deeper relationship with their grandchild Jesus and their daughter Mary!  Have I, have you, ever thought of praying to Saints Joachim and Anne for the graces we need to deepen/ grow/nurture our faith? Have we ever prayed for eyes that see the Presence of their grandchild in our lives? Have we ever prayed for ears to hear Jesus' voice more clearly as Jesus directs us to do the good we are called to do?  Have we ever prayed to Saints Joachim and Anne for the grace to develop a heart that loves Jesus and grows in understanding Jesus' teachings and ways of relating?

In today's Gospel, Mt 13: 10-17, Jesus rebukes those who do not see, do not hear, do not understand His ways of teaching in parables and blesses those who do: "...[B]lessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. Amen,  I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it."  Faith is a gift that, like any physical gift, needs to be exercised or otherwise it atrophies. What am I, what are you, doing to build the faith we have been given as members of the holy family?

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Being a Disciple of Jesus

The entrance antiphon of today's liturgy, describes the call of James the Apostle, whose feast we celebrate today:  As he walked by the Sea  Galilee, Jesus saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother mending their nets and called them" (cf. Mt. 4: 18, 21). And they followed the Lord and never left Him.

James and John were ordinary fishermen.  Nothing out of the ordinary, like all of us.  We are common folk whose hearts God knows!  He sees what we are made us--He is our Creator--and He knows of what we are capable, in spite of our shortcomings, our weaknesses, our fears, our misguided ambitions.  In the case of James and John, they commanded Jesus through their mother, that, in heaven,  one sit at his right and the other at his left in the Kingdom. Jesus replies:  "You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink"  (Matthew 20-28)?

Following Jesus, in any vocation, is not about being treated to special positions above others. Service, after the example of Jesus, means a self-emptying, a giving of ourselves for the sake of the other. In Jesus' case, self-emptying entailed being a victim of other people's jealousy, a jealousy that led persons to succumb to the evil of putting Jesus to death, getting Him, so to speak, out of their way of the power they coveted!

Power struggles are part of life. In fact, prior to their total conversion into what it means to be a disciple of the Lord, James and John and the other apostles strove for power over one another. Jesus says to them in today's Gospel:  "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many"  (Matthew 20: 20-28).

Whom are you serving? For whom are you willing to give your life?

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Belonging to, and Choosing to Belong to Jesus' Family

In today's Gospel reading, Matthew 12: 46-50, Jesus' mother and brothers come looking for Jesus. When alerted of their presence and their desire to speak to Him, Jesus asks the question: "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?" He then points to his disciples and says: "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother."  Jesus broadens the definition of family beyond our biological families. Everyone who does the will of His Father are His mother, brother, and sister  are a part of Jesus' family. In this passage, Jesus also elevates all of us who follow the Spirit's direction, to the level of His mother, who, in fact, is the model of obedience to the Father and taught Jesus obedience to His heavenly Father as well.

Obviously, the most important fact is that we do what the Father wills of us. At times that might mean being in opposition to our family members, our relatives and our friends, as they might not support us when we make a choice we believe God is asking of us.  Are we willing, then, to follow the Spirit's lead?

Monday, July 23, 2018

No Sign is Needed: We Know What God Wants of Us

In today's Gospel, Matthew 12: 38-42, some of the scribes and Pharisees ask Jesus for a sign. Frustrated, Jesus says to them:  " sign shall be given...except the sign of Jonah the prophet. Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights."  Jesus then rebukes the people for their lack of repentance at His preaching. "...[T]here is something greater than Jonah here." Nineveh repented when Jonah warned them of their evil ways while many people to whom Jesus preached, and preaches today, basically ignore His message.  "At the judgment," Jesus says to them and to us, "the queen of the south will arise with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here."

Among the questions that I need to ask myself are:  1) Do I realize that Someone greater than Jonah or Solomon lives in my midst, invites me to the Banquet of the Eucharist, lives in the very core of my being, directing to do good, calling me to repentance, nudging me to avoid the evil ways of dishonesty, gossip, greed, revenge, pride and other sinful ways?  2) To whom/what do I seek wisdom while avoiding an ever deepening relationship with Jesus in communal, liturgical and personal prayer, in living a life of love, mercy, and forgiveness; in holy reading and helping family members, one's neighbor and the outcast, a refugee, a homeless person in need?

It is not that you and I do not know what God asks of us, because the law of God, of love, is written on our hearts.  We have also been told what to do, as Micah, in today's first reading reminds us: You have been told..what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right [act justly], and to love goodness [love tenderly], and to walk humbly with your God"  (Micah, 6: 8).

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Christ as One Who Ends All Divisions

In today's second reading,  Ephesians 2: 13-18, St. Paul reminds us that Jesus "came and preached peace to [us] who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we [all] have access in one Spirit to the Father."   Paul was speaking to Jews and Gentiles, peoples who were at odd with one another, divided by different faiths. In Jesus, divisions cease between persons, cultures, nations.  Jesus "is our peace, he who made both [parties-- whether individuals or nations, different races or nationalities] one and  broke down dividing wall/[s] of enmity, through is flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create  in himself one new person [nation, race, culture, religion] in place of the two [or three, four, five, etc.] thus establishing peace, and might reconcile [all] with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it."

God sees us at war with those we consider inferior to us; He witnesses us at odds with different cultures, races, nationalities, countries. God, not only sees the divisiveness and the animosity that exist among us, but also takes action, sending us the graces we need to end divisions, to reconcile with one another as persons, as countries in opposition to one another, as persons  hostile toward those who may worship God differently than we do.  We have God on our side to help us accomplish the mission of reconciliation and to move toward greater union and deeper love in our relationships on all levels of existence: familial, interpersonal, societal, ecclesial, national, international.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

A Message from the prophet Micah

Today's first reading, Micah 1: 1-5,  I believe, applies to us today, as it did to the people of Micah's time.  The prophet Micah utters a warning to us in all segments of society in any part of the world:  Woe to those who plan iniquity, and work out evil on their couches [or behind closed doors]; in the morning light they accomplish it when it lies within their power. They covet fields, and seize them; houses, and they take them; they cheat an owner of his house, a man [woman] of his [her] inheritance.  Therefore thus says the Lord: Behold, I am planning against this race an evil from which you shall not withdraw your necks; nor shall you walk with head high, for it will be a time of evil. On that day a satire shall be sung over you, and there shall be a plaintive chant: 'Our ruin is complete, our fields are portioned out among our captures, the fields of my people are measured out, and no one can get them back!' Thus you shall have no one to mark out boundaries by lot in the assembly of the Lord."

Are we listening to the Scriptures?  Is it possible that persons whom many applaud and trust may, in fact, be planning "iniquity, and work[ing] out evil"?  Is it possible that people's inheritances may be in the process of being squandered by levying heavy tariffs on imported and exported goods--an action that may ultimately result in businesses and farms going  bankrupt?  Is it possible that building walls, demonizing our allies and the canceling of important legislature and treaties that protect our environment and our security may, in fact, result in evil "from which [we] shall not withdraw our necks"?

In today's responsorial psalm, we pray: "Why, O Lord, do you stand aloof? Why hide in times of distress? Proudly the wicked harass the afflicted, who are caught in the devices the wicked have contrived. For the wicked [person] glories in his [her] greed, and the covetous blasphemes, sets the Lord at nought. The wicked...boasts, 'He will not avenge it'; 'There is no God,' sums up his thoughts".

Lord, may we heed the warnings of the prophet Micah and take seriously the prayer of the psalmist!