Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Love, Loving, Beloved!

Today we celebrated a "Resurrection" Mass for a Sister who died a few days ago. This woman religious was full of Jesus, as I and so many others experienced her!  Joy radiated from her very being, no matter what! There is the saying: "So and so did not have a mean bone in his/her body."  I spoke to a the niece of this Sister this morning and she stated her experience of her Aunt, saying: "She did not have any evil in her." At times she was made fun of or spoken to harshly and her friends wanted to return the abuse.  Sister would say: "No; love that person!"

When others interact with us, do they leave us feeling blessed as persons did when they met this Sister?  If not, why not? If "yes," what graces has God given you/me to be a source of blessing to those with whom we live and work, pray and play and give the fullness of life to while  we are on our way to our heavenly home, as she was?

Lord, take possession of our beings, as You did of this Sister. Like her, may each of us be so inundated with You,    being one with the Trinity as each of You is one with each other as lovers, as loving and sharers of your love with every human person here on earth and in heaven above, so that we exude your Love with every one we meet, even those who are harsh with us! As with this Sister, may our response  to those who "trespass against us" be: "Love that person!"

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Faith in Rough Times

In today's Gospel, Mark 5: 21-43, we encounter two persons who seek out Jesus, one a woman who has been "afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years, has suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors, and had spent all that she had" and the other a synagogue official whose 12-year-old daughter is seriously ill.   The woman hears about Jesus and is determined that if she only touches the hem of his garment she will be healed.  She "came up behind him in [a large]crowd and touched his cloak." Immediately she is healed and Jesus knew that power had left Him. "Who touched me," He asked. The woman realizes what has happened to her and approaches Jesus "in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to  her, 'Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.'"  At the same time, people from the synagogue official's house arrive and inform the official that his daughter has died and suggests that he stop bothering Jesus. "It is over," so to speak! Jesus says to the official: "Do not be afraid; just have faith." He proceeds to the official's house, enters the room where the little girl is and says to her:  "Little girl,..., arise!" She "arose immediately and walked around." And Jesus instructs her parents to give her something to eat!

Neither individual gives up!   Nor does Jesus!  In case of the woman, neither despair nor repeated failures stops her from getting close to Jesus and touching His cloak.  In regard to the synagogue official, he does not let the discouraging message from his people get between him and Jesus. Nor does he despair because he's been told that his daughter is dead. In the case of Jesus, the crowd taunts Him, as though saying to Him:  "Who touched you? For heaven's sake,  the crowd is pressing upon you!  Of course, someone brushed against your cloak!  Move on!" Jesus also ignores the people who proclaim that the little girl is dead. "Have faith," He say to the synagogue official!

Do you and I keep our eyes on Jesus? Or, do we let what others think and say dissuade us and lead us into despair? into giving up on Jesus?

Monday, January 29, 2018

"My Ways Are Not Your Ways; My Thoughts Are Not Your Thoughts"

Imagine yourself being frustrated with yourself for not doing something that you believe is important or not having the motivation you used to have,  not having the energy you would like to have because of advanced age or a chronic illness, and so on. And then imagine a conversation with the Lord that goes something like this:

You:  Lord, I am so frustrated with myself?

The Lord:  Why?

You: Because I am not spending enough time in prayer with you.

The Lord: Why is that important to you?

You: I want to grow in my relationship with You.

The Lord: Is that the only way?

You: No!

The Lord: Other ways are?

You: Doing Your Will.

Lord: "You want to be a super person. You are that but not in the ways you think! I do not measure success as you do. You want to accumulate points for what you perceive as great achievements, such as:

          I did my hour of prayer.
          I volunteered at the Senior Center.
          I got involved in the several events at the parish.
          I took my children/grandchildren to the park.
          I bought flowers for my wife/husband.
          I prepared meals for my family this weekend.
          I attended the parish retreat for Lenten preparation.
          I got "employee of the month award."

I don't count the hours you spend in prayer or any other "holy" activity. What I ask of you is to surrender your life to me moment by moment--the good and the bad, the successes and the failures, doing the best you can each day.  Give me all!

I don't need you to win awards. I will showcase you in my Heart. I love you more than you can imagine and I delight in you when:

           --you feel frustrated with yourself
           --you have no energy
          --you feel weighed down by illness or advanced age

I cherish you when:

          --your arms are heavy with fatigue and simply fall limp at your side
          --you feel discombobulated, confused, weak

Your weakness is My strength.  When you can hardly lift your arms, I let them rest on my lap. Today and every day, I only ask that you give me your time, your energy, your desires and efforts.  Give me the little you have, the energy you do not have, your fatigue, your efforts. I am at work in and through you at all times, especially when you think I am not there!  Giving yourself to me when you are at a low point praises me more than you will ever know.  Also, I want you to learn that I am God and you are not.  You are a human being--my work of art. I am putting fine lines into your personality to enhance the beauty of My Art piece that is you as my beloved.  It is not about your prowess. I am teaching you to glorify Me through Jesus, my Son. I am hiding you in Me. Cherish the hidden way of My love."


Thursday, January 25, 2018

God Redirects Saul's Life and Ours

Saul, a zealous Jew, was on a mission to arrest Christians, men and women the Jews believed were traitors to their Jewish faith.  God saw his zeal, his determination, his commitment to his Jewish faith.   It was like god said to Himself: "I need that man to spread the Word about who My Son truly is, to proclaim the death and resurrection of My Son Jesus.  Saul was on his way to Damascus to arrest Christians when Jesus stopped him: "Saul, Saul, why are go persecuting me?"  The bright light knocked Saul to the ground. Saul responds to the voice of Jesus, asking: "Who are you, Sir?"  "I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting." "What am I to do, Sir?"  "Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told about everything appointed for you to do."  Blinded by the light, he needed to be led into Damascus. There God had arranged for a committed Christian to reveal God's will to him.

Notice how Jesus gets Saul to reflect upon his actions, leads him to where he needs to go and gives him the instructions he need to change the course of his life and come on board with Jesus.  Jesus does the same for for you and me!  He does not come to condemn when He finds us off track.  He uses people ad events to redirect us, as He did for Saul. He saves us from choices that are contrary to the will of God for us.

God knows you and me through and through, as He knew Saul.  He has a mission for us to fulfill in building up God's Kingdom and spread the Good News of our redemption, to bring hope to those who are hopeless and faith to the despairing by introducing them to Jesus and His Way of Life, the Gospels.

To know God's mission for us, we need to take time to sit at Jesus' feet,  especially when we know that we are off track.  Especially at those times, we need to come to Jesus, listen to His voice, and be open for His instructions. I had to do that tonight when I ranted and raved about a meeting that was called and that I felt interfered with what I wanted to accomplish tonight. In the solitude of prayer, Jesus asked me: "Why were you against that meeting?"  My response: "I was afraid that I would not get my hour of prayer in."  Jesus' response to me:  "My desire for you is that you do my will, not yours. And my will is that you co-operate with those who have the authority to call a meeting."  Jesus did not condemn me but he definitely redirected me!  Like Saul, I need to be redirected from time to time.  What about you?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

God as Builder and the One in Charge

In today's first reading, 2 Samuel 7: 4-17,  God reminds David of all that He has done for Him and specifically tells David that he does not need him to build him a house. "In all my wanderings everywhere among the children of Israel, did I ever utter a word to any one of the judges whom I charged to tend my people Israel, to ask: 'Why have you not built me a house of cedar?'"
Then, through Nathan, God reminds David, further, that God is the One in charge of his life, that He is the One who called him to shepherd the Israelites, that He is the One who has "been with you wherever you went, and I  have destroyed your enemies."  I am the One, God tells David, who "will make you famous like the great ones of the earth."  In other words, God is saying to David: You do not have to make a name for yourself by building Me, your God, a Temple.

Neither do you and I need to make a name for ourselves. God is doing that for us. God brought us into His Body, the Church, in Baptism.  God has given us an inheritance, His eternal Kingdom, through the blood of the Cross.  God feeds us  with the best of wheat in Holy Communion,  the Body and Blood of His Son Jesus Christ, by whom our redemption continues. For those who live justly, love tenderly, walk humbly with God (cf Micah 6:8),  repent and believe in the Gospel, the Kingdom of heaven awaits them on the last day.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Dancing with Abandon

"Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord," we pray in today's responsorial psalm.  My mind goes to today's first reading, in which King David went to Obededom to bring the Ark of God back to the City of David.  David is so excited that he "came dancing before the Lord with abandon," as mentioned in today's first reading, 2 Sam 6: 12b-15, 17-19.  Not too long ago, a little child, at the end of the Mass, danced throughout the entire closing song. I said to her later: "You were dancing with the Lord!"  Her response: "No, I was dancing with my daddy."  In the Scriptures, Jesus calls his Father "Abba," which translated means "daddy."  Who is this king of glory who dances in our midst? It is the Lord, our "Abba."  The Lord, as we pray in today's responsorial psalm, is "strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle." In what battle is God engaged? the battle of winning our affection, gaining our attention, drawing us to Himself!  God "dances" in out midst, engaging Satan who roams about the world seeking souls to devour. That is why God waltzes ahead of us, behind us, and along side us!  He is protecting us from Satan's snares! Our response is contained in today's Gospel Acclamation:  "Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth; you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom" that God is always with us!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Champions and Warriors

In today's responsorial psalm, God says to us about David:  "On a champion I have placed a crown; over the people I have set a youth.  I  have found David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him, that my hand may be always with him, and that my arm may make him strong. My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him." 

God has also found you and me, His servants and His handmaidens!  To God, we, too, are champions upon whom has been placed the crown of redemption. Like David, we have been singled out and anointed for God's purposes. When? at our Baptism and in the sacrament of Confirmation. Many of us have also been anointed in the Sacrament of the sick. Why has God anointed us? For the same reason that He anointed King David: to assure us that His hand is always with us and that His arm is making us strong and, most importantly, because His faithfulness and His mercy is always with us!

David grew as a military leader and king.  How? by co-operating with God, following God's instructions!  On our way to God's Kingdom, we, like King David, are also warriors,  fighting a war against Satan, who wants to keep us out of "the Promised Land" of heaven. Like David who, in  his journey to the Promised Land, encountered Israel's enemies,  we will encounter enemies.  We will win our battles over Satan if we listen to the Lord, seek the Lord, let the Lord lead us, acknowledge our need for guidance and wisdom, recognize our pitfalls, and trust the Lord to lead us through the darkness and around the traps set for us.

We will be champions, as was David, or is any athlete, if we practice and practice and practice the skills needed to become successful spiritual warriors!  Practice what? what is needed to win our battles: humility, repentance, honesty, forgiveness, spending time at the feet of the Lord on a daily basis, acknowledging where we are weak and seeking reinforcements from the Lord on a regular basis,  and praying for courage and wisdom!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

God's Mercy to Repentants

In today's first reading, Jonah 3:1-5, 10, Jonah goes to Nineveh and begins a three-day journey through the city sharing God's message: "Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed."  At the end of the first day, the people of Nineveh "believed God...proclaimed a fast and...put on sackcloth".
In the Gospel, "Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: 'This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe the gospel'".   In  the first reading, we are told that "[w]hen God  saw by their actions how they [the Ninevites] turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out."

We, in this day, I believe, are being called to repentance of both social and personal sins, of evils being committed against women, against immigrants, against children by eliminating the CHIP program, against the poor by the "tax reform" program that will steal millions from the poor to line the pockets of the rich and that will deprive millions of health insurance.  "Repent and believe in the gospels."  

In what ways am I violating the rights of others? In what ways am I being deceitful, greedy, using more of this world's goods and thus depriving others of basic needs (wasting food or water, polluting the air)? In what ways am I lining my pockets at the expense of others less fortunate than I?

"Repent and believe in the gospel," living as Jesus lived!

Am I a repentant?

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Life and Its Demands

In today's first reading, 2Sam 1: 1-4, 11-12, 19, 23-27, we are told of David's losses of Saul and his son Jonathan, who are both slain in war with the Amalekites.  Saul and Jonathan were dear to David. David endured many personal hardships in his relationship with Saul, who preceded him as King of Israel and, at one time, sought to kill David, of whom he had grown jealous. Many times, Jonathan defended David to his father Saul.  Because of Jonathan's interventions on David's behalf, issues between Saul and David were resolved.  Saul and David became close friends and confidantes. Both highly respected each other.

In the Gospel, Mark 3: 20-21, we hear of how distraught Jesus' family is about Jesus. They are very concerned that Jesus is neglecting himself to the point of risking his health and his sanity.  They go in search of him, wanting to rescue Him and bring him back home under the caring eyes of His family and relatives.

All of us face times when we need to let go. Family members and friends leave us to engage in activities that we may think unsafe or too demanding. We may even think, as Jesus' relatives did, that some of our family members or friends have lost their senses.  In Jesus' case, He does not return home by His own choice.  Saul and David did not return home as the result of losing their lives in war.

Our recourse when letting go of that which is beyond our control is difficult.  At our disposal, however, is the same recourse that David and Jesus' relatives had: prayer.  David cries to the Lord:  How can the warriors have fallen--in the thick of the battle, slain upon your heights! I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother! Most dear have you been to me....How can the warriors have fallen, the weapons of war have perished." In the case of Jesus' relatives, we are not told how they responded in their grief but, knowing Mary's faith, we can conclude that she and her relatives sought God's help to grow in their understanding of Jesus' call to ministry and to the reasons He gave His all, sometimes not taking the time to eat or sleep that they considered essential for Him to maintain His strength and sanity. No doubt, however, they heard Jesus, directly or indirectly, say to His disciples: "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me" (John 4: 34).

How do you deal with grief?  What sustains you when you barely have time to eat or sleep in caring for others or carrying out your ministry to those in need?

Friday, January 19, 2018

Called to Know Jesus and Live as He Lived

In today's Gospel,  Mark 3: 13-19, Jesus goes up to a mountain to pray and, while there, summons those he wanted to join him as His first apostles.  He appoints twelve men to this position, affectionately nicknaming some of them. Among the twelve is impetuous Peter and the doubting Thomas as well as a traitor, a tax collector who cheated people of their money and, each of them, men thinking that Jesus will become an earthly king saving them from the ruling Romans. They are also men who clamour for position, arguing, at one point,  who among them is the greatest and who will sit at Jesus' right or left in His kingdom!  These are very ordinary men with strengths and weaknesses yet chosen to carry on the work of Jesus once He returns to His Father. They are men who, in the company of Jesus, learn who Jesus is--the Son of God--and learn what He is asking of them. Their faith is so strengthened at Pentecost that they are no longer afraid to speak openly and boldly about Jesus' death and resurrection and spread the Gospel that Jesus taught and lived.  They risk their very lives in carrying on Jesus' mission of building the Kindom of God (right relationships with all) here on earth to the point of dying for what they believe!

Jesus prayed you and I into this kingdom/kindom as well.  At our baptisms we died and rose with Jesus and were given a special mission here on earth in spreading the Gospel by how we live, the words we say or leave unsaid, the behaviors we choose to bring justice to all peoples, to lift others up to their greatest  potential as a human being, and to show God's love, mercy,  generosity, and forgiveness.

How am I doing as a disciple of Christ? Howe are you doing?

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Need for Holy Mentors and Holy Mentoring

"In God I trust; I shall not fear," we pray in today's responsorial psalm.  In the first reading, 1 Sam 18: 6-9;  19: 1-7, Saul's son Jonathan cautions David to hide--"[m]y father Saul is trying to kill you.  ...[P]lease be on your guard tomorrow morning." So David hides! Jonathan positions himself close to his father that morning so that he can intercede on behalf of David. Jonathan knows that his father is jealous of David, whom, upon his return from killing Goliath and 10s of thousands of Philistines out to harm the nation of Israel, is lauded for his accomplishment.  In the process, the people credit Saul for killing less of Israel's enemies.

Jealousy is a powerful force and gone unchecked can lead to disastrous results. People can lose their lives and murderers their freedom. Chaos abounds for all in this web of jealousy. God protects his servant David as well as his servant Saul, using Jonathan, Saul's son, to challenge him.  "Let not your majesty sin against his servant David, for he has committed no offense against you, but has helped you very much by his deeds."  Saul listens and David is now safe in his service to Saul.

Like Saul, you and I may, at times, need someone who will intervene for us when  jealousy or other unruly passions consume us and we are out to berate another: bring harm to them by verbally   For some of us that is a spiritual director, a confessor, a dear friend, a sibling, a school counselor, a teacher). For all of us, thank God, Jesus is that person. Jesus is always on our side. Jesus will destroy "death" in us and "bring life to light [within us] through the Gospel"  (Today's gospel Acclamation).

God, forgive me when I let jealousy or any other human passion get the best of me and rule my thoughts and actions. I pray for the grace to be open to the person/s You send to me to challenge my thinking when I am off base.  May I also be open to holy reading that will redirect my thinking, to taking time to sit in Your holy  presence in a church or chapel or in my room gazing into your face upon the cross and allowing You to gaze upon me in love and mercy, transforming whatever disorder has taken hold me and purifying my heart of sinful inclinations!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Blessed by the Lord, my Rock

In today's first reading, 1 Sam 17: 32-33, 37, 40-51, David goes to Saul, proposing that he go and fight Goliath.  Saul is initially appalled. "You can't do that. You are merely a youth; Goliath "has been a warrior since his youth."  In other words, Saul belittles David, puts him down, and discourages him strongly!  David does not back down. "The Lord, who delivered me from the claws of the lion and the bear,  will also keep me safe from the clutches of this Philistine."

If you and I, in the face of opposition from others, are relying only upon ourselves, arrogantly believing in our strength and have not gone to the Lord, knowing that only in God will we be successful in overcoming "Goliath" situations that we encounter, we are likely to crumble both under others' disbelief in us and in handling difficulties beyond our native strength.  It is in God, with God and through God that we are strong and no other way!  In it is humility, not pride, that we are armed with grace!

Jesus, whose aim here on earth was "to do not [His] own will, but the will of him who sent [Him]", tells us in John's Gospel that He "can do nothing by myself" (John 5:30). Relying on His Father, one with His Father, Jesus confidently went about His Father's work. In today's Gospel, Mark 3: 1-6, Jesus enters the synagogue and is met by scheming Pharisees, who look upon Jesus with the same contempt that Goliath looked upon David.  Strong in the Father, Jesus calls up the man with a withered hand and, in the front of those plotting to kill him, heals the man of his disability.

How strong is your faith? my faith?  What happens to me/you when we face opposition, when people treat us with contempt? Do we continue to carry out the command we know is coming to us from the Father, from God, the Rock of our Salvation?  If we believe that that Rock will destroy any "Goliath" that threatens us, we shall be unafraid to do what God is calling us to do!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Facing Challenges

In today's first reading, 1 Samuel 16: 1-13,  God sends Samuel to Jesse of Bethlehem, as He has chosen the successor of Saul from one of Jesse' sons. Samuel's initial reply is: "Lord, if I go in search of Saul's replacement and he hears of it, I am a dead man!" Samuel could have fearfully ignored God's request and spent his lifetime running away from God.  Some of us do that when we encounter difficulties: simply walk away from the situation that holds a challenge to our faith. We do not take God's request seriously, no matter what it is! But not Samuel. He asks the Lord "How can I go?"  In other words, he asks: "How can I handle this according to your holy will?" In the New Testament, when God asks Mary to be the Mother of God, becoming pregnant at age 13 or 14 during her betrothal to Joseph (before marriage) and not knowing man (also risking death)  she, too, asks God "How?" She does not walk out of the difficult situation. She converses with the person who can help her!

When you and I face difficult situations, which of the following options do we choose:  1) going to the Lord and asking God how we are to accomplish what He is asking of us, 2) ignore God's requests by walking away from God or 3) plunge into doing what God asks without seeking Divine help?

Lord, may we, like Samuel and Mary, have the wisdom to 1) share our fears with you, 2) ask the "how" questions and 3) set out to do what you are asking of us, knowing that You go before us and will give us the courage, the strength and the wisdom we need to accomplish Your holy will in the NOW moment!

Monday, January 15, 2018

God as God; God as Bridegroom

My meditation this afternoon began with the phrase "My Face is shining upon you, beaming out Peace that transcends understanding," from "Jesus Calling"  by Sarah Young.  I was regretting some of my behaviors and attitudes that I consider sinful and the Lord said to me: "Your sins are as far from me as the East is from the West.  I see you cleansed of sin by the blood of the cross, when, as I was dying, I poured my purifying blood over you!  I see you in that light day after day, night after night!  You are cleansed, made whole, healed, though you do not yet experience your healing or purification in its entirety. That will only happen when, believing in Me and repenting of your sins,  you enter eternity as my beloved daughter redeemed in my blood and accepting this free gift from a God who loves you and everyone else unconditionally.  As you journey through this vale of tears where Satan roams seeking souls to devour focus on Me, strive to do good every day empowered by My graces and you will be safe, as Sarah Young says in the mediation she offers in Jesus Calling on this date."

In the liturgical readings for today, the second week in Ordinary Time, we encounter a  just God, one who demands that His will be followed, that we do what God asks of us. In 1 Samuel 15:16-23, we are informed of Saul's disobedience when the men of his army, following the defeat of the Amalekites,  took the "best of what had been banned, to sacrifice to the Lord there God in Gilgal."  Samuel says to Saul: "Does the Lord so delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obedience to the command of the Lord?  Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission than the fat of rams. For a sin like divination is rebellion, and presumption is the crime of idolatry. Because you have rejected the command of the Lord, he, too, has rejected you as ruler."  Notice the words:  "rejected you as ruler."  Saul does not say that the Lord has rejected Saul as a person.  Saul as ruler was replaced, as we learn later in the Scriptures.

In today's Gospel, Mark 2: 18-22, Jesus shows us another face of God, one who celebrates life with us.  The Pharisees are troubled by this and asks the disciples of Jesus: "Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?"  Jesus answers: "Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?"  We see a God who joins us in our celebrations, is intimate with us, dances with us when we celebrate, rejoices with us when we are rejoicing, and honors us with His presence.  This is the side of a caring, loving, generous God, a God who is not rigid and demanding.

Yes, God wants our obedience to His commands. He wants us to recognize that God alone is God and we are persons wondrously made by our God:  God's masterpieces but not God Him/Herself.  Unlike Adam and Eve, who wanted to be God and followed their wills that were contrary to the will of God, we are to be submissive to the desires of our Creator God!  God leads; we follow!  Adam and Eve failed in that, as did Saul and so many others.  You and I, at times, also fail in being faithful to the directions God sends us each day. The "sacrifice" God asks of us is the submission of our wills, praise and thanksgiving from our lips,  and love from our hearts.

Help me, God, recognize you as God and myself as your daughter/son, as your servant or handmaiden, as Mary and Joseph, whom we just celebrated this Christ season, did!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

"Behold, the Lamb of God" and Listen to God's Call

In today's first reading, 1 Sam 3: 3b-10, 19, God calls Samuel three times during his sleep. He thinks it is his master calling him, so he goes to Eli each times until Eli realizes that it is the God calling Samuel. So, he instructs Samuel to let the Lord know that he is listening. In the Gospel, John 1 35-42, John sees Jesus passing by and he says: "Behold the Lamb of God."  Upon hearing this, two of John's disciples follow Jesus, who turns around and says to these two disciples: "What are you looking for?"   In turn, they ask Him where he lives and Jesus responds: "Come and see!"  One of these disciples first goes to  his sibling and says  to him: "We have found the Messiah."

Notice the role of others in bringing people to the Lord or in listening to the Lord calling us by name, as He called Samuel. You and I also need others, at times, to intervene so that we learn both to listen and to go to the special places where Jesus lives (in our Catholic Churches where Jesus resides in the Tabernacle, where consecrated hosts are stored--a red light in a church's sanctuary means Jesus is there in person in the consecrated bread). The bread does not look like "the Lamb of God," but is. God's voice, also,  may sound like any other voice--Samuel thought he was hearing Eli call. It was the Lord.  In John's case, as Jesus walked by, the two disciples of John who were standing there probably just saw another man walk by and, not until John said "Behold the Lamb of God," recognized this man as just another person in the area.  Some Catholics, I am told, in receiving Holy Communion, think they are just eating a wafer of bread, not as the Son of God--body, blood, soul and divinity--come down from heaven to visit them in person!

Deepen my faith, Lord,  in your presence, as Eli did that for Samuel and John the Baptist did it for his disciples.  Like Eli  and like John the Baptist, may I take time to grow in the faith by taking time to pray and to reflect upon the Scriptures as well as doing what is right and helping my neighbor in need so as to grow in intimacy with you.  By living my faith may I, at the right moment, be ready to direct young people to make right choices when you call upon them and as you walk quietly among them.  Like John the Baptist, who recognized you passing by, may I grow in my openness to the unseen God in my midst and direct people to follow Him.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

God at Work in Ordinary Circumstances of Life

In the Entrance Antiphon of today's liturgy, the Lord God says to us: "I will look after my sheep,..., and I will appoint a shepherd to pasture them."  In the first reading, 1 Sam 9:1-4, 17-19; 10: 1a, God does just that for the Israelite people. The Lord had asked Samuel to anoint a king for the Israelites, as they had requested. That king was  to be Saul hand-picked by the Lord. We meet Saul at the beginning of the first reading. Saul's father Kish had asked his son Saul to take a servant and go out to hunt for some asses that had wandered off.  So he does so "though the hill country of Ephraim, and through the land of Shalishah. Not finding them there, they continued through the land of Shaalim without success. They also went through the land of Benjamin, but they failed to find the animals!"  Samuel catches sight of Saul, however, and when he does God says to him:  "This is the man of whom I told you; he is to govern my people." Truly, God was behind Kish's request that Saul go on a hunt for the asses.  And God was the one directing Samuel in his search for the person God had called to govern the Israelites.

Same in our day. We might think God is a distant God. No way!  He is closely involved in our day, week, month, year as it unfolds, making sure that His plans are accomplished and the the person--you and I--whom He wants to carry out a specific mission are prepared for  that role! God is always looking "after [his] sheep....and [appointing] a shepherd to pasture them."  What we set out to do on any given day is being used by God to bring about His Kingdom or to prepare us to bed His faithful servant, though we may be totally oblivious of what  God is doing. I am sure Saul had no idea how his search for the asses would conclude.  God is a God  of surprises!  What He is about in any circumstance--perhaps the most bizarre of circumstances--can and will be used by God to accomplish His will that His Kingdom of peace and justice be realized, as with the Israelites on their way to the Promised Land!

Are you aware that you are an instrument that God will and is using to bring about the Kingdom of God here "on earth as in heaven"?G

Friday, January 12, 2018

Wanting to Be Like Others

In today's first reading, 1 Sam 8:4-7, 10-22a,  the people approach Samuel in his advanced age and ask him to "appoint a king over us, as other nations have, to judge us."  Samuel is distressed at their request. In prayer, God says to Samuel:  "Grant the people's every request. It is not you they reject, they are rejecting me as their king."  Before doing so, Samuel informs the people of the consequences of having a king. No  matter what the burdens, they insist on having a king like other nations do."We too must be like other nations with a king to rule us and to lead us in warfare and fight our battles." Samuel again takes his concerns to the Lord in prayer and God says to him:  "Grant their request and appoint a king to rule them."

We are no  different from the Israelites of old. The criteria used to choose persons "to rule us and to lead us in warfare and fight our battles" is, many times, contrary to the Gospels and a rejection of God Himself as our King/Judge. Consequently, we see evil being exposed, values being eroded, peoples' rights being violated and God, I believe, "being"

Let us, though, come down to a personal level. Have I, not, at times, set my values and my beliefs aside to be like someone else who has chosen an easier path--perhaps even one contrary to loving others as God does? Have I not, at times,  chosen other gods to rule me and, in doing so, have the values and the faith that were handed down to me by my parents and other God-fearing persons--by those who explained the Scriptures to me at home and at school, during Sunday homilies in our churches, by coaches and school counselors, by faith-filled friends and co-workers--been eroded, cast aside?  Have I rejected God as my King for secular rulers like so many others seeking merely power, prestige, "wealth"--not necessarily monetary wealth--through corrupt, deceptive ways of relating to others?

In the opening prayer in the liturgy of each day this week we have said God:

Attend to the pleas of your people 
with heavenly care,  O Lord,  we pray,
they they may see what must be done
and gain strength to do what they have seen....

As I prayed this prayer each day, I have inserted my name and the names of the persons serving us in public office.  Whose names, besides your own, would you insert?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Lord's Compassion

In today's Gospel, Mark 1: 40-45,  a leper approaches Jesus and says to Him:  "'If you wish, you can make me clean.' Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, 'I do will it. Be made clean.'"

First of all, the leper knows that he is a leper. Do I realize in what ways "leprosy" has invaded my being?   When I am ostracized  by  others, do I realize why others prefer to protect themselves from me?

Second of all, notice how the leper approaches Jesus. He says:  "If you wish., you can make me clean."  Such childlikeness, respect and discipline!    No self-pity. No complaining! No whining. No "Why me-s?"  Just: "If you wish, you can make me clean.'  Lord,  may I, like the leper, first of all, recognize my need to be cleansed? Of what? Most of all, Lord, a "leprosy" that leads me, without my apologizing for my behavior,  to degrade a neighbor, to speak sarcastically to or of others; a "leprosy" that mars my beauty as a Christian in such a way that I am not recognized as your child; a "leprosy" that leads me to believe that I am entitled to being served by others rather than serving others.  The question is: Do we even know what "leprosy" within us needs Jesus' healing touch?

Thirdly, notice the leper's humility and simplicity!  Would I characterize my prayer, my relationship with God, as humble and simple?  Is my prayer even honest when it comes to acknowledging my weaknesses, my violation of another person's right to be treated respectfully, kindly, and lovingly or however I have fallen short of my Christian vocation?

And finally, notice Jesus' response to the leper: "Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him: 'I will it. Be made clean.'"  Jesus is always moved with pity toward us as well and wills to heal us. If we approach Jesus, as the leper did, in humility and simplicity and express our need for healing of that which ostracizes or alienates us from our family, friends, community and even from our true selves, we will be healed in time.

Lord, help me come to you honestly and humbly, knowing and acknowledging my need for healing!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Trusting God's Messages or Messengers

In today's first reading, 1 Samuel 3: 1-10, 19-20,  God calls Samuel three times during his sleep. Each time, not familiar with the Lord, "because the Lord had not revealed anything to him as yet," Samuel gets up and goes to his master Eli and says: "Here I am; you called me." After the third time, Eli, realizing that the Lord is calling Samuel, counsels him to go back to sleep and if you are called again, say: "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening."

How often do you and I not recognize the Lord calling us, as He "had not  [yet] revealed anything" to us.  It is God's desire to communicate with us, as He did to Eli and so many others through time. That God calls to each of us is no secret. Age is not a factor.  God has spoken to children, adolescents, young and older adults, as well as persons advanced in age.  What we need to realize is that God speaks to you and me.  We need to ask the Lord for the grace to be listening. Sometimes God communicates to us directly.  At other times God sends an intermediary: a friend, a spouse, a son or daughter, a co-worker, a counselor, a teacher, someone in the medical field--in short, anyone He so chooses.  Are we listening? Or is our mind made up? Do we dismiss the message because of the messenger? Do we play God?  

In the responsorial psalm for today's liturgy, we pray:  Blessed the man [woman] who makes the Lord [one's] trust; who turns not to idolatry or to those who stray after falsehood." How does one learn to trust the Lord? By asking for that grace and asking the Lord to teach us to trust Him above all else.! By saying to the Lord: "Lord, I place my trust in you."  We also learn to trust the Lord by learning to and practicing trust of ourselves and of others!  Grace builds on nature. If I am unable to trust people whom I see, how will I trust God whom I do not see?  Start with self!  When you promise  to do something for yourself, for another, do you follow through? Can your spouse, your children trust you and you them?

Trust takes work! And it is important to not put yourself down when you fail yourself! Acknowledge the broken trust issue, forgive yourself or the other person and ask God for the strength to do better tomorrow!  Build the virtue of trust one day at a time and do not be afraid when you have to rebuild that strength, as being human makes us vulnerable to failing others or self or to be a subject of another person not following through on a promise or expectation. Failing is an invitation to continue trying (just remember how often you failed when learning to ride a bike as a child).  Riding the "bike of trust" is more challenging! God is at our side to raise us up and help us begin again, just as an adult helped us as a child get back on that bike and try again!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

What Hannah Teaches Us

In today's first reading,  1 Samuel 1: 9-20, Hannah enters the Temple to pray. She "presented herself before the Lord...In her bitterness she prayed to the Lord, weeping copiously, and she made a vow, promising: 'O Lord of hosts, if you look with pity on the misery of your handmaid, if you remember me and do not forget me, if you give your handmaid a male child, I will give him to the Lord for as long as he lives...."

Notice that Hannah does not pick up a book of traditional Jewish prayers when she entered the Temple to pray. No she presents "herself before the Lord"; she prays from the heart!  She teaches us to go to the Lord with our problems,  to be honest with the Lord, that is, share our feelings and express our needs openly, honestly and humbly. With God in prayer,we need to be like a small child speaking to its parents! No pretensions.

If you and I are honest with ourselves and with another trusted individual, it is more probable that we will be honest with God as well.  Grace builds on nature!  So, if we have not developed an openness and an honesty with ourselves or others, it is less likely that we will be truthful when we communicate with God.  Without being honest, vulnerable, and humble, we will leave any relationship--God's or that of another person--as disconnected and dry as when we sat down with God or another person.

Lord, please give me a humble, open, honest heart so that I can let my guard down and be vulnerable in how I relate to others, to myself and to you in prayer, as was Hannah! Thank you, Lord!


Saturday, January 6, 2018

"Victors Over the World"

In today's first reading, 1 John 5: 5-13, St. John asks us the question: "Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?"  In the Gospel, Mark 1: 7-11, St. John the Baptist, proclaims that "[o]ne mightier than I is coming after me....I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." John, in fact, baptized Jesus with water. "On coming out of the water he [John] saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit...descending upon him [Jesus]. And a voice came from the heavens, 'You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."  Yes, John baptized with water and God did so with the Spirit, as does Jesus, as the Father and the Son are one God!

John, who believed in Jesus, was, as he says in the first reading, "the victor over the world."  So, too, are all the saints in heaven and on earth--those doing good in the world; those living pure, just, honest loving and humble lives, those helping the poor and oppressed, those teaching others to faithfully follow Jesus' example, doing what He did here on earth in revealing a loving,  compassionate, merciful Father by the way  we give "birth" to Jesus in their lives.

Am I a "victor over the world"? f not, what beliefs, behaviors and attitudes do I  need to change in order that I, too, with the saints in heaven and those on earth, will reveal the face of God to all with whom I live and work and worship God as Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier?

May your faith, and mine, grow deeper throughout 2018 so that we, too, hear God saying to us throughout the day: "This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; listen to Him," as did the disciples on Mount TaborAnd at the end of each day, as we reflect back on the choices we made that day, may we hear God say to us: "You are my beloved daughter/son in whom I am well pleased"! May we, also, at the end of the day, discern the times we truly were a "victor over the world" and when, on the other hand, we succumbed worldly allurements that did not give "birth" to Christ.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Behold the Lamb of God

In today's first reading, i John 3: 7-10, St. John says to us: "Children, let no one deceive you. The person who acts in righteousness is righteous, just as he [Jesus] is righteous. Whoever sins belongs to the Devil, because the Devil has sinned from the beginning. Indeed, the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the Devil. No one who is begotten by God commits sin, because God's seed remains in him [her]; he [she] cannot sin because he [she] is begotten by God.  In this way the children of God and the children of the Devil are made plain; no one who fails to act in righteousness belongs to God, nor anyone who does not love his brother [sister]."

The questions that I need to ask myself are:

Am I allowing myself to be deceived?
Am I attempting to deceive myself or others by my words or actions or by my silence or failure to act?
Am I acting righteously, as Jesus is righteous? Or am I unjust/unfair in how I relate to people?
To whom do I belong?

This last question is a hard one but one that I need to consider!   When I involve myself in sinful behaviors and attitudes, I am not acting as a child of God but as a child of Satan, as were Adam and Eve in the act of original sin!  Thank God that Jesus has been sent into this world "to destroy the works of the Devil."  For those who cling to Jesus and who return to Jesus in humility and repentance following a sinful act, "the works of the Devil" are destroyed in them. Unfortunately, there are times when we are deaf and blind to our sinfulness and need prayers that we will grow in our awareness of when we have closed our ears and our eyes to sin at work within us. And that is why St. John the Baptist, in today's Gospel,  John 1: 35-42, says to us: "Behold, the Lamb of God."  May we, like the disciples who heard John, follow Jesus and stay with Him as our Savior, ass they did!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Revealing God to the World

In today's first reading, 1 John 2: 29-3:6, St. John says to us: "If you consider that God is righteous--and He is--you also know that everyone who acts in righteousness is begotten by him." John, then, says: "See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God....Beloved, we are God's children; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when  it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him, makes himself 
pure, as he is pure."

 Every time we act righteously, justly, and walk humbly with our God (compare Micah 6:8),  we give "birth" to God in our world.  God is reincarnated in our righteousness, our justice, our purity, our humility, our reverence of self and others. And like John the Baptist, in today's Gospel, John 1: 29-34,  we will recognize God in our midst. John says to us: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world....I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain with him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God."

John recognized Jesus! John saw the Spirit come down upon Jesus at His baptism and remain with Him! That same Spirit came down upon us at our baptisms! Has that Spirit not remained with us? I believe He has and that the Spirit of God, the third person of the Blessed Trinity,  desires to open our eyes, as He did John the Baptist's, to God's presence among us. John,  recognizing Jesus, says to us: "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world! He is the one of whom I said, 'A man coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.' I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel."

Why were you and I sent into this world, into our jobs/ministries, to build the relationships we have built? Why are you and I doing what we are doing? Is it not to make Jesus known in the world of our day by the way we live and what we say or withhold from saying? St. Francis of Assisi says to us: "Preach the Gospel and, if necessary, use words."

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year Lived as Mary Lived

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and the Octave of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Mary.

Mary was about 14 or 15 when she became the Mother of God! It was typical in her day and culture for young ladies to marry in their early or mid teens, though the child born of her was conceived, not via man, but via the power of the  third person of the Blessed Trinity, the  Holy Spirit, "for nothing is impossible for God" (Luke 1: 37), as Mary said to the messenger of God when she uttered her "yes" to being chosen to bring Jesus into existence as a human being, as the Incarnated God made man.

A teen mother! A holy mother! A mother whom the angel Gabriel greeted with the words: "Rejoice so highly favored. The Lord is with you" (Luke 1: 29).   The Lord was with her first in the womb and then throughout her life to the point when she stood beneath the cross of her dying Son, when she witnessed the resurrection of her Son from the dead, and then in the Eucharist given to her and us at the Last Supper when Jesus blessed the bread and "gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body which will be given for you; do this as a memorial of me.' He did the same with the cup [of wine] after the supper, and said, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood which will be poured out for you.'" Jesus, as Mary knew and pondered, is the Lamb of God sacrificed once and for all for the sins of the world,  a sacrifice that does not need to be repeated as was the sacrifice of lambs in the Old Covenant. Jesus died once and for all and Mary was there saying "yes" to God's plan of salvation, yours and mine.

Throughout her life, Mary pondered the mysteries surrounding Jesus' birth and her virginal motherhood, the flight into Egypt and return to Galilee, Jesus' childhood, adolescence and young adulthood, His meeting with top theologians of His day in the Temple at age 12 and baffling them with His Wisdom,  His ministry and teachings, and His sufferings, death and resurrection; and the sending of the Holy Spirit on the first Pentecost, that is, the birthday of the Church that was begun on that date and continues throughout the centuries to this very day!  Mary is "the Church," a sign of the presence of God in our midst, a woman full of grace and a vehicle of grace for all, as is the Church itself.

With Mary, may we grow in the fullness of grace by staying close to Jesus, living a life of faith, hope and love and thus pondering the mysteries of God being revealed in all of the events and relationships of our lives and in all of creation; in the particulars of health and sickness, successes and failures,  moments of peace and unrest, good times and"bad", joy and sadness, ecstasy and love.

With Mary,  may we, in all that 2018 offers, ponder the mysteries of God in our lives, saying in faith: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my Savior; because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid [servant]" (Luke 1:46).

Happy New Year!