Wednesday, April 25, 2018

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Seeing the Grace of God at Work

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

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

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

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Lord is my Shepherd

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

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

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

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The New and Eternal Covenant Given by Jesus

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 20, 2018

With Jesus, for Jesus, in Jesus, through Jesus

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

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

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

Thursday, April 19, 2018

God's Messengers

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

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Who Am I in today's Scripture Reading?

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

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Jesus, the Bread of our Lives

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

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

Monday, April 16, 2018

Why Am I Looking for Jesus

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

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

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Jesus, "the expiation for our sins"

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Nearness of our God

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

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

These are my beliefs. What are yours?

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Lord as Our Refuge

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Holy Spirit is Not Rationed

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

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

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

From Whence Does Our Work Originate

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Living for Others

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 9, 2018

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 8, 2018

My Lord and my God!

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

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

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

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Faithfulness, Gratitude, Determination

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Closeness of Jesus

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Called to be Proclaimers of the Faith

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

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

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

Monday, April 2, 2018

Alleluia! The Lord Has Risen from the Dead

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

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

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Alleluia! the Lord is Risen!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, March 30, 2018

The Death of Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Jesus' Obedience and Our Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

God as our Reward, our Recompense

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 26, 2018

Jesus' Servants

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

Imagine the following conversation with Jesus:

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

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

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

Thank you, Lord!

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

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

You are welcome.

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

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

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

Sunday, March 25, 2018

O the Love of our God

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 24, 2018

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 23, 2018

Rescued from "the power of the Wicked"

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

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

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

Thursday, March 22, 2018

God's Everlasting Covenant

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Faith in "Good" Times and "Bad"

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

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

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

Monday, March 19, 2018

Feast of St.Joseph, the Foster Father of Jesus

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

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

Sunday, March 18, 2018

God's Justice

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

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

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

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Presence of Evil

In today's first reading, Jeremiah 11: 18-20,  the prophet realizes that he, "like a trusting lamb led to slaughter had not realized that [his enemies] were hatching plots against [him]."  "I knew their plot because the Lord informed me; at that time you, O Lord, showed me their doings."  As with Jeremiah, so, too, with Jesus.  Men blinded by personal ambitions felt threatened by Jesus and plotted his death.  His wisdom was too much for them. The Truth of his teachings were feared.

What happened to Jesus and to Jeremiah happens to us to this very day. Sometimes we are the one's plotted against and sometimes we are the ones doing the plotting.  Jealousy and pride can continue to consume people as they build  their ego "dynasties" or protect "dynasties" already built! Evil is born in these situations, as we witness our government leaders and leaders of other nations plotting evil against those who they see as threats.  No one is safe in these evil schemes.  People, "like a trusting lamb, [are being] led [to the] slaughter."

With Jeremiah, let us say to the Lord: [T]o you I have entrusted my cause!" Let us, also, entrust to the Lord the cause of those who have become the latest victims of the jealous rage of those building ego "dynasties". And finally let us answer the question: Am I involved in plotting evil against anyone?  Am I, have I, slaughtered anyone by  slanderous, deceitful words that led to unjust job losses or the loss of their reputation?

Friday, March 16, 2018

As with Jesus, so with Us

In today's Gospel, John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30, we learn that Jesus did not want to go to Judea because the Jews were out to kill him.  However, given the fact that his brothers went up for the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, he also went to the city but in secret.  Some people recognized Jesus and raised the question: "Is he not the one they are trying to kill?" Yet no one attempted to seize Jesus. "Could the authorities," the bystanders wondered, "have realized that he is the Christ?" Can't be, they reasoned, because we know where Jesus has come from and, "[w]hen the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from."  Jesus, hearing the conversation, cries out:  "'You know me and also know where I am from.  Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.' So they tried to arrest him, but no one laid a hand upon him, because his hour had not yet come."

"His hour had not yet come."   Whatever Jesus did, He did with the Father, as He and the Father are one.  "I do nothing except what the Father asks me to do," Jesus says to us in another passage in John. And the time of showing the depth of God's love by the ultimate sacrifice of pouring out His life on the cross had not yet arrived.

Having been baptized unto Jesus' death and having rose to a new life with Christ,  we are Christ's ambassadors sent into the world, also, by the Father to reveal the depth of God's love.  Like Jesus, we reveal the Father's love by a self-emptying, sacrificial love in our service of others. We reveal who God is by loving others as we love ourselves. God's love radiates through us, also, when we are  patient, compassionate, forgiving,  and obedient to what the Spirit is asking of us each moment to bring forth he best in others and in ourselves.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Merciful, Forgiving God

In today's first reading, Isaiah 49: 8-15, the Lord says to us through the prophet Isaiah: "Along the ways [you] shall find pasture, on every bare height shall [your] pastures be. [You] shall not hunger or thirst, nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike [you]; for he who pities [you] leads [you] and guides [you] beside springs of water. I will cut a road through all my mountains, and make  my highways level...." 

Today I scorched others by my impatience and anger. The "sun" of my hot temper "burned" others, as I found myself in a position of powerlessness and helplessness.  I reacted like a child having a temper tantrum when not getting his/her way. When I entered into prayer this afternoon and told God how frustrated I was with myself, God made my "highway  level."  God "took pity on me and [led me to] springs of water."  He "cut a road mountains" of pride.  The Scripture passage  "Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart" came to my mind.  The Lord also reminded me that He does not condemn me and asked me not to condemn myself either.

What a grace this was for me, as I usually "beat" myself up mercilessly when I do wrong, as my need for perfection rears its head!  Over and over again, I need to come to the "springs of water" and let God smooth out my mountains of pride!  What about you?

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

"Stirring the Pool of Life-giving Water"

In today's Gospel, John 5: 1-16, Jesus goes up to Jerusalem and finds blind, lame, and crippled persons going down to the Bethesda pool. The first person to enter the pool when the waters are stirred up is healed. Jesus notices a man there "who had been ill for thirty-eight  years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, said to him, 'Do you want to be well?'"  He answered: "'Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on the way, someone else gets down there before me.'  Jesus said to him, 'Rise, take up your mat, and walk.' Immediately the man became well, took up his mat and walked."

Jesus noticed the man's inability to get to the pool first and, knowing that he had been ill for a long time, had pity on him. He asks him: "Do you want to be well?"  Jesus asks us the same question. "Do you want to healed" of that which  holds us back from being made whole, of becoming well so that we, too, can participate fully in life around  us!  What is crippling us? Do we know? And do we want to be healed?  Just sitting around, when other options are possible, is an option but there are other ones if we accept Jesus' invitation!

What is holding you and I back from the pool of graces available to us on a daily basis?  What prevents us from "stirring the pool" that will give live to others and to ourselves?

Monday, March 12, 2018

Getting to Know Jesus and Taking One's Needs to Him

In today's Gospel, John 4: 43-54, Jesus returns to Galilee, frustrated that he was not received in his hometown, saying: "...[A] prophet has no honor in his native place."  Experiencing the indifference and hostility of his hometown, Jesus goes to Galilee, where He is welcome. He actually returns to Cana of Galilee, where he performed his first miracle in changing water into wine. A royal official from Judea approaches him and begs Jesus to heal his son who, in Capernaum, is at the point of death. Initially, Jesus responds with a reproach: "Unless you people see signs and wonders you will not believe."  The royal official simply says to Jesus: "Sir, come down before my child dies." Go,  "your son will live."  On his return home, the royal official learns that his son actually began to recover at the very moment that Jesus said: "[Y]our son will live."

There are several learnings here. First of all, we learn that Jesus is a human person like us. Jesus experienced all of the emotions you and I experience when we are rejected, ignored, and/or treated with indifference. Jesus could feel frustrated and, also,  taken advantage of, as when he complained that people just wanted to "see signs and wonders."  Second of all, we learn that Jesus reads hearts, as with the royal official. The royal official did not approach Jesus just to see a sign. He knew that Jesus healed people and would heal his dying son! Third of all,  we learn that Jesus is a God of compassion and love. He cared for and about the royal official and his dying son!  He cares about us and our families, too.  Fourth of all, we learn the importance of approaching Jesus with our needs and doing so with faith!

As we reflect upon this Gospel, I also suggest that we ask ourselves the following questions: If I were a resident of Jesus' native town, if Jesus entered my  home, would I be indifferent to Him? Would I want him to leave or, much worse, want to "throw him over a cliff", as the people had attempted to do when he preached in the synagogue he attended as a child?

As we reflect upon the royal official'  faith, however, I suggest we ask ourselves the following questions: How do I relate to God? Do I approach God with a humble faith?  Or am I simply curious, wanting to see "signs and wonders"?  Am I a person who has heard about Jesus and the work He has done and does, but simply remain distant from Him, not taking time to get to know Jesus and His works and His compassion for me and my needs and those I care about?

If you want to grow in your faith, I suggest spending time in prayer, personal and communal, liturgical and familial; picking up the Bible and reflecting on passages that resonate with you. Also helpful is reading books that nurture your hunger and thirst for God.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Heeding God's Words, God's Voice, God's Commands

In today's responsorial psalm, God says to us: "If today you hear [my] voice, harden not your hearts."  In the first reading, Jeremiah 7: 23-28, the Lord says to the Israelites and to us: Listen to my voice; then I will be your God and you shall be my people. Walk in all the ways that I command you, so that you may prosper."  Saddened, God tells us that "they obeyed not, nor did they pay heed. They walked in the hardness of their evil hearts, and turned their backs, not their faces, to me....This is the nation that does not listen to the voice of the Lord, its God, or take correction. Faithfulness has disappeared; the word itself has banished from their speech." Is that also true of you and me? Is that true of our nation, our country, our city, our society, our family, our religious communities, our parishes?

Satan, a fallen intelligent angel, roams the world seeking souls to devour. In no way does He want us to listen to God's voice. He and those angels who followed him did not!  They lost their home in heaven and no way want us to achieve that goal!  May we take heed of God's voice directing us, guiding us, beckoning us to do God's will, keep God's commandments, listening to the prophets in our midst, some of them children used by God to direct us toward the good.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Closeness of our God

In today's first reading, Dt 4:1, 5-9, Moses asks the people:  "[W]hat great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? Or what great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today?" And we, today, can say to our children and grandchildren, our nieces and nephews, our grandnieces and grandnephews: "Who, like us, has a God who walked among us here on earth,  fulfilling the letter of the law in loving his neighbors, eating with outcasts, forgiving sins, raising the "dead" to life, curing illnesses and diseases of all kinds, who accepted all peoples as equals?   Who, like us, has a God (Jesus Christ, the second person of the Blessed Trinity) who showed us how to love God unreservedly, trust God totally and say yes to God even to the point of death on the cross?  Who, like us, has a God who walks with us, talks with us, counsels us, guides us, lives within us, and who strengthens us on a daily basis to follow His ways of justice and peace, forgiveness and mercy and unconditional love for all peoples regardless of their race or creed, gender or nationality, or cultural backgrounds? Who, like us, has a God who fulfills the law and brings each one of us to fulfillment, as well?

Do I, do you, know this God personally? Do we take time to get to know God by reading and reflecting upon the Scriptures, by spending time in personal, communal, familial prayer? Do we take time to dwell in solitude listening to the Lord speak to us, flooding us with peace, calming our fears, purifying our hearts and enlightening our minds?

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Living for God Alone

In today's first reading, Daniel 3: 25, 34-43, Azariah stands up in the fire, into which he and two others were thrown because they refused to obey the king's order that would have violated their beliefs, and prays: "For your name's sake, O Lord, do not deliver us up forever, or make void your covenant. Do not take away your mercy from us, for the sake of Abraham, your beloved, Isaac your servant, and Israel your holy one, to whom  you promised to multiply their offspring like the stars of heaven, or the sand on the shore of the sea. For we reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation, brought low everywhere in the world this day because of our sins....[W]ith contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received....[L]et our sacrifice be in your presence today, as we follow you unreservedly; for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame....Deliver us by your wonders, and bring glory  to your name, O Lord."

This prayer as applicable to our nation today, as it was to the nation of Israel. As of old, God looks with mercy and love upon us. With Azariah, we pray: "With contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received. Let our sacrifices to do what is right be in your presence, as we follow you unreservedly; for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame. Deliver us by you wonders from sinking into deceitful ways and corrupt decisions that increase hardships for others around us and beyond us.  We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen."

Monday, March 5, 2018

Openness to God at Work in the Ordinary

In today's first reading, 2 Kings 5: 1-15b, we encounter Naaman, the army commander of the king of Aram and a man afflicted with leprosy.  We are told that Naaman is highly respected by his master, for through him the Lord brought victory to the Arameans.   In that military victory over Israel,  a little girl was captured and made a servant to Naaman's wife.  This little girl says to Naaman's wife: "If only my  master would present himself to the prophet in Samaria, ..., he would cure him of his leprosy." The faith of a little girl!  Do I have the faith of a child?

The little girl's master sends Naaman to the king of Israel. The king reacts angrily when Naaman approaches him. His fear and his pride get in his way--what will he say? will he fail? will he look like a fool? "Am I a god with power over life and death,"  he asked.  Is the king of the Armenians "looking for a quarrel with me!" Where is this king's faith?  In reflecting on my responses to challenges, how does my fear and pride block me from acting in positive ways?  Are there times when I conclude that people are just out to pick a fight with me when that is absolutely not  true?

The prophet Elisha hears that the king tore his garments in anger and confronted him. "Why have you torn your garments? Let him come to me and find out that there is a prophet in Israel."  Then there is Naaman who reacts angrily when the prophet sends a messenger to him and he is given the following instruction: "Go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will heal, and you will be clean."   
Naaman is insulted that 1) the prophet did not come out of his house and talk to him in person and 2) that he is asked to wash seven times in the Jordan River.  Ever bulk that you were not treated as "royalty," as someone of importance deserving a personal interview and a dramatic response to your need for help? "Wash seven times in the Jordan?  You kidding me! We have rivers in my own country!"  Ever walk away from a situation out of pride, refusing to follow a suggestion that, as for Naaman, could have brought you amazing results of God's mercy and compassionate, understanding love? Without humility, we easily deny ourselves hidden graces and blessings such as Naaman experienced.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Our Bodies: Temples of the Holy Spirit

In today's Gospel, John 2: 13-25,  Jesus goes up to Jerusalem.  As Jesus enters Jerusalem, He approaches the Temple area and is outraged that the people have turned it into a marketplace and are also cheating people who are purchasing animals for sacrifice. He "made a whip out of cord and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, 'Take these out of here, and stop making my Father's house a marketplace.'"  When the Jews challenged Jesus' authority and asked "'What sign can you show us for doing this?' Jesus answered: 'Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.'"

The Temple to which Jesus is referring is His body, which they will crucify on Good Friday. Three days later, Jesus will rise from the dead. Like Jesus, we, too, are to treat our bodies as sacred. Our bodies, Temples of the Holy Spirit, will also be risen from the dead, as death has no power over us anymore than it had power over Jesus' body.

As with the material Temple in Jerusalem, our bodies are not to be abused. They are not to be sold for pleasure or for profit. We are holy in God's sight! We are His dwelling place, out of which flows graces that transform us and others so that God's presence in us radiates through our actions in such a way that all things are made new and give the honor and glory of God!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

God's Delight in Us

In today's first reading, Micah 7: 14-15, 18-20, Micah prays as follows, asking God to reveal Himself as our Shepherd: "Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance, that dwells apart in a woodland, in the midst of Carmel.  Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old; as in the days when you came from the land of Egypt, show us wonderful signs." Micah then asks: "Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance; who does not persist in anger forever, but delights rather in clemency, and will again  have compassion on us, treading underfoot our guilt."  In today's Gospel, Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32, Jesus reveals the nature of God in the parable of the Prodigal Son.  He reveals a God who "removes guilt and pardons sin," "delights in clemency", is compassionate, loving, and caring, a God who waits for our return when we go astray, when we choose a path that leads to destruction, even death of the body and the spirit.  With great delights, God receives us back into His Presence, rejoicing and celebrating our coming back to our senses and living a life of justice, love, peace, honest and right relationships with others, ourselves and our Creator God.  No one is more excited when we choose rightly by turning away from evil to do good than God, our constant companion, our Guide, who lives within us, works through us, and hovers over us with Love!

May we come to this realization and work unceasingly to become our best selves, reaching our potential to live like Jesus lived!  Our goal here on earth is to be totally transformed by grace so that our being made in the image and likeness of God is never in doubt!

Friday, March 2, 2018

An Instrument in God's Hands

In today's first reading, Genesis 37: 3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a, we are presented with the story of Joseph, the youngest son of Israel whom Israel loved above all his sons and treated him as his favorite child.  Joseph's brothers grew to hate Joseph and, when Israel sent him to join them in the pasture where they were tending the sheep, they plotted to kill him. Reuben talked them out of doing so and suggested they sell him to Ishmaelites passing by on their way to Egypt. In the Gospel, Mt 21: 33-43, 45-46, we are given the parable of a landowner who planted a vineyard and leased it out to tenants.  At the time of the harvest he sent his servants to collect the produce.  The tenants beat some of the servants and killed others. So the owner sent his only son, believing that he would be respected and the produce given to him. "No!" They also killed the son.

We may respond in disbelief! However, how often have we, behind another's back, spoken ill of another person. Though we may not have plotted to commit murder, we may have "murdered" that person with harsh words and and damning judgments!   Concerning today's Scriptures, we know that God brought good out of both situations. Ruben saves Joseph from being put to death by his brothers and, in turn, Joseph, who was sold to the Israelites on their way to Egypt,  saved his brothers and his father from dying of starvation during a severe famine that hit that area. The son killed by the tenants in the parable Jesus tells the Pharisees is a foreshadow of Jesus being put to death on Calvary.

The questions I need to ponder are: Who am I in these Scripture readings? Israel playing favorites? Joseph who is given special treatment and thus hated by others denied the same favors? one of Joseph's brothers jealous of others, speaking ill of others, plotting against others? Am I a Reuben who intervenes for the sake of others? Am I one of the tenants intent on stealing the produce entrusted to me by another and resorting to whatever it takes to get what I want?  Or am I an upright, honest person, following Jesus' example?

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Listening and Responding Caringly

In today's Gospel, Luke 16: 19-31, Jesus tells the Pharisees the story of "a ricman...dressed in purple garments and fine linen [who] dined sumptuously each day. ...[L]ying at his door was a poor man Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the craps that fell from the rich man's table."  Both men died. The rich man ends up in eternal torment while Lazarus entered heaven.  The rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his five brothers to pay attention to the poor. Abraham refuses, telling the fallen rich man that his five brothers have Moses and the prophets. They should listen to them. "Oh, no, Abraham," the rich man responds, "if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent."  Abraham responds: "If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead."

Someone has risen from the dead who is Jesus the Lord. Am I listening to Him? Do I pay attention to the small, whispering voice within me guiding me, urging me, encouraging me to respond to the needs of the poor in my midst? The "poor" could be the homeless man/woman standing on a street corner, a fellow parishioners suffering from a terminal or chronic illness, the helpless child in one's home, an infant who is crying out of hunger or sleeplessness or needing a diaper change, a spouse who is exhausted from the demands of caring for toddlers all day. The Spirit may alert me to stop for groceries on the way home from work or some other errand on behalf of the family. Am I listening? Am I responding or do I simply ignore that small, quiet voice, as, most likely, the rich man did when he passed Lazarus by the gate of his mansion!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Taking All of our Concerns to the Lord

In today's responsorial psalm, David says to God: "You are my God. In your hands is my destiny; rescue me from the clutches of my enemies and my persecutors."  That is Jeremiah's plea, also, as he realizes that the people are out to kill him. He goes to the Lord in his distress and says to Him: "Heed me, O Lord, and listen to what my adversaries say. Must good be repaid with evil that they should dig a pit to rake my life? Remember that I stood before you to speak in their behalf, to turn away your wrath from them."

Jeremiah and David both have developed a very close relationship with the Lord. They are not hesitant to pour our their souls to the Lord. They are honest with the Lord and speak to Him as to a best friend!  God has, in fact, become their best friend. May you and I, likewise, take all of our sorrows, our joys, our concerns, anxieties, worries to the Lord, trusting that God will act on our behalf, as we act on God's behalf and the behalf of others!

In the Gospels we, also, see how real the apostles are with Jesus. They keep no secrets from the Lord, even begging for privileged positions in Jesus' kingdom.  James and John go to Jesus, to God, as a child goes to his/her father, asking for whatever they desire. Of course, as with James and John and their mother, they are not exactly seeking what Jesus can give them. Neither do we, at times, realize that our motivations need to be purified.  On this journey, like Jesus, we will "drink the chalice" of suffering. James and John both suffered for the Lord's sake. James, in fact shed his blood for the faith! John was exiled because of his preaching about Jesus!  What we do know that as we go through this valley of tears God is at our side, His hand in our hand, guiding us, strengthening us, encouraging us and, when necessary, carrying us through the "turbulent" waters of life.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Heeding God's Prophets of Old and of Today

In today's first reading, Isaiah 1: 10, 16-20, the prophet is speaking to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, begging them to "cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim," Isaiah says to them: "redress the wronged, hear the orphan's plea, defend the widow. Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord.  Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool."

Those same words are addressed to us, the citizens of today's world: Cease doing the evil of human trafficking. Make justice toward the poor and the oppressed our aim.  Hear the plea of orphans, refugees, and undocumented immigrants brought here to the United States as children. Defend our children. Listen to the outcry of our young people for reasonable laws that ban the use of automatic weapons.  Isaiah invites us to "set things right" with one another and with our God!  Now is the time to turn from evil and do good as individuals, as a nation, as a people whom God is waiting to save for all eternity. Will we heed God's voice expressed above?  Isaiah issues the following warning to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah: "If you refuse and resist,  the sword will consume you: for the mouth of the Lord has spoken."

In today's responsorial psalm God poses the following questions: Why do you recite my statutes, and profess my covenant with your mouth, though you hate discipline and cast my words behind you? When you do these things, shall I be deaf to it? Or do you think that I am like yourself? I will correct you by drawing them up[the sacrifice of goats] before my eyes. He [She] that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies me; and to  him [or her] that goes the right way I will show the salvation of God."

Help us, Lord, heed the voice of the prophets of old and of our day, as well, lest we, too, perish by the sword, by famine and war, by the onslaught of natural disasters!

Monday, February 26, 2018

A Great and Awesome God

Today's first reading, Daniel 9: 4b-10, begins as follows: "Lord, great and awesome God, you who keep your merciful covenant toward those who love you and observe your commandments! We have sinned, been wicked and done evil; we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and your laws."

God is addressed by Daniel, by you and me and all humankind as "great and awesome!"   We sinners are talking to an "awesome and great God!" All of us, like Daniel, have sinned before God. Our ancestors have sinned! Every nation has sinned, has worshipped idols, has sought strength and comfort, not from God, but from material things, earthly things. We have lorded ourselves over others.  We have, as a nation, as individuals, as a church, as a society, as a nationality, resorted to violence even to the point of war, flexing our muscles. We have alienated ourselves from God and one another.  We have engaged in manslaughter, in various forms of violence, in prejudice, and unjust behaviors. We have been merciless, arrogant, greedy, pride-filled and haughty. We have judged others, condemned them, and on and on and on! And, with Daniel, we say: "Lord, great and awesome God,  you who keep your merciful covenant toward those who love you and observe your commandments! We have sinned, been wicked and done evil; we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and your laws."

In today's responsorial psalm, we pray: Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins. Remember not against us the iniquities of the past; may your compassion quickly come to us, for we are brought very low.  Help us, O God, our savior, because of the glory of your name; deliver us and pardon our sins for your name sake....[W]ith your great power free those doomed to death." And God does and wills it!

What a great and awesome God, a God of love, a God of compassion, a God of mercy.  We are asked to be merciful, compassionate, merciful and love as is our God!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Faith, Trust,Obedience

Today's first wading, Gen. 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18, we are told the story God testing his servant Abraham.  He asks him to take his only begotten son to the land of Moriah and there "offer him up as a holocaust o a height that I will point out to you.  My initial reaction is one of horror!  Then I read on to realize that God was only testing his servant.  After Abraham had prepared the altar, bound his son, and was about to slaughter him, God intervenes, calling out: "'Abraham, Abraham!....Do not lay your hand on the boy...Do not do the least thing to him. I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.' As Abraham looked about , he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. So he went and took the ram and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son.....[B]ecause you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly ad make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants shall take possession of the gates of their enemies, and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing--all this because you obeyed my command."

Wow! What faith! What trust! What obedience!  You provided the ram for the holocaust! No way did you intend Abraham to kill his only begotten son!  But it seemed like it at first! I was appalled, Lord! Appalled! "How could you?" I asked myself!  And you really didn't! How truly you can say to a me: "My thoughts are not your thoughts nor are my ways your ways."

How many times when things get tough do I not lose faith and trust and, yes, obedience! How often do I not abandon going to the "Moriahs" that God asks me to go to, testing my faith, my trust, my obedience!  And how often I fail the test! I forget at those times who God really is--a God filled with compassion, love, mercy, a God who has got my back! He had a plan for a holocaust that would save me forever: His only begotten Son death and resurrection. As Jesus climbed the hill to Calvary carrying the wood, as Isaac carried the wood up the hill in the land of Moriah,  He was the lamb to be sacrificed. There was no other!  It was Jesus' obedience unto death, Jesus' trust in the Father unto death and into the resurrection, Jesus' love even through death that restores my obedience, my trust, my love of God. In Jesus' death, I, too, die; in His resurrection, I, too, rise to new life!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

God's Unsurpassable Lovde

In Sarah Young's meditation in Jesus Calling for Feb. 24, Jesus says to us: "Be still in the light of My Presence, while I communicate Love to you."  In the liturgy that I attended today, the homilist emphasized God's love for each one of us.  The thought that keeps running through my mind is: "Even if you were the only person, Dorothy Ann, I would have died on that cross on Calvary just for you. I would have given my life only for you. My love for you is that profound, that deep, that wide, that high.  No lengths of expressing my love for you is too much for me. As you ponder the cross, remember that I am loving you beyond measure and always will!"

God is saying the same thing to you, as you read this!  Bask in God's love in the silence of your room, in the silence of a church, in the silence of nature!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Trusting and Loving God to Dying for God's Sake

In today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 130, we pray:  I trust in the Lord; my soul trusts in his word." For me, trust and love are synonymous!  If I trust God, I love God. And if I love God, I trust God.

For me, Jesus, the new Adam,  models trust in God.  He said "yes" to God to the point of death on the cross.  The first Adam, on the other hand, says "no" to God, believing that in saying "no" to God  true freedom would be found. The opposite is true, and Jesus models that opposite, namely, that in saying "yes" to God we find freedom. It is in losing one's live that one saves it, Jesus teaches us, and in saving one's life that we lose it.  He also  teaches that the grain of wheat must die to bear fruit.  Every day we have opportunities to die to self, to lose ourselves,  to bury the "grain of wheat," for the sake of the other, giving our all for the sake of the common good, as Jesus gave His all on the cross and rose to new life, to wholeness, to ultimate freedom.

Am I willing to say "yes," that is, to die to self, as often as necessary each day and thus rise to new life, to a new sense of freedom?  Or am I a person who sets out each day to say "no," believing as Adam and Eve did, that by saying "no" I am free? Jesus said "yes" to dying on the cross and in that dying rose to new life, to new freedom, and showed us the depth,  the height, the width, and length of God's love. To what lengths, depths, heights, widths will I go to love as God loves?  Am I coming to realize that it is by saying "yes" to "losing one's life" that one "saves it" and that, yes, the grain of wheat needs to die to bear fruit that will last, a fruit that includes authentic freedom and a rising?