Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Living in God

In reflecting upon Sarah Young's meditation for Feb. 20 in Jesus Calling, in which she writes as though Jesus Himself were speaking directly to us and I believe that He is. God says to us in this meditation: "I reside in the deepest depths of your being, in eternal union with your spirit....I am Christ in you, the hope of Glory."  I am reminded of what the author of Acts  17: 28 says to us: ...in God we live and and move and have our being."  Years ago I was given a pencil with a fish wired to the top of it.  I was told that the meaning of this is that we live in God as fish live in water. A fish in water? It is totally dependent upon its being in the water. Apart from water, a fish dies! Its life is then over here on earth! In applying this idea to us as living in God, we, too, apart from God are nothing. Everything we are is of and in God: without being in God, we do not exist anymore than a fish out of water!

God is our sustenance! God is our life! God is our hope. Our potential to live and generate life, to expand our existence by creating new life is in God!  We can expand our life by developing our talents, fine-tuning our talents, sharing our talents--human connectedness is essential to this process.  We also expand our life by expanding and entering more deeply into relationships. Without our connectedness to others (and to God, of course) we also die, shrivel up developmentally. An infant deprived of the tender loving touch of a human being is negatively effected and, yes, will die without human intervention and loving care!

O, the wisdom of our God, in whom we live and move and have our being!  God, I believe,  is Power and Glory and positive, creative Energy, which is shared with us.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The "Sheep"/"Goat" Population

In today's Gospel, Matthew 25, 31-46, Jesus tells us that, "when the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him."  Some of us will be "sheep" and some "goats."  The "sheep" and the "goats" will be separated--the "sheep" on the Lord's right and the "goats" on His left.  The "sheep" will have inherited "the kingdom," for, as Jesus says to them:  "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothes me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me." To the "goats" on His left, He will say: "Depart from me...into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and is angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me."

In the first reading, Leviticus 19: 1-2, the Lord says to Moses: "Speak to the whole assembly of the children of Israel and tell them: Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy."  The Lord then spells out what it means to be holy.  In the Gospel, Jesus also spells out what it means to "[b]e holy," as the Lord God is holy.

To whom did I/you give food today? Whom did we nourish and/or nurture by our words or actions?
Whom did we clothe with words of love, understanding, patience, kindness? Or whom did we  actually physically clothe? Were we a welcoming, caring presence to anyone imprisoned in despair, fear, grief or other difficult emotions?  Was I, were you a "sheep" or a "goat" today?

Sunday, February 18, 2018

A Covenant from God, our Creator, our Savior, our Sanctifier

In today's first reading, Gen. 9: 8-15, God tells Noah that he is establishing his covenant with humankind. The sign of that covenant--never to again destroy the earth and all that is in it by a flood--is the rainbow.  In the New Testament, the sign of God's covenant is Jesus dying on the cross once and for all: "the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead [us] to God," St. Peter  says to us in the second reading of today's liturgy (1 Peter 3: 18-22).  "Put to death in the flesh," Peter goes on to remind us, "he was brought to life in the spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water."In Christ Jesus all are saved.

Jesus took on sin, nailed it to the cross--all sin--so that, through Christ Jesus we may know our holiness in God! When God looks at us He sees the righteous persons we are in Christ Jesus.  He delights in us, as He knows us in Christ Jesus, His Son, who redeemed us in His blood!  Do I know myself--do you know yourself--in that way?  Are we so focused on sin and weakness that we forget who we truly are in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior?  Or do we see both our holiness in Christ Jesus and our sinfulness apart from God?   Do we seek God above all?  Do we cling to God, the
Rock of our salvation?

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Heeding the Voice of our God

In today's first reading, Isaiah 58: 9b-14, the Lord says to us through the prophet Isaiah:  "If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness and the gloom shall become for  you like midday; then the Lord will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land. He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails...."  In the responsorial psalm we acknowledge our human situation, saying to the Lord: "I am afflicted and poor....Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call upon you all the day....[Y]ou are good and forgiving, abounding in kindness to all who call upon you...[A]ttend to the sound of my pleading" for all enslaved by sin, selfishness, greed, lust, leveling false accusations at others, engaging in malicious speech, and oppressing the poor and needy of this land --all who are enslaved in Satan's lies, who have fallen into his traps!

In the Gospel Acclamation, God says to us through the prophet Ezekiel, "I take  no pleasure in the death of the wicked,...but rather in his [her] conversion, that he [she] may live!"  May each of us be open to being converted by God's grace to abandon evil and do good and to know when we are being deceived by Satan and embrace the truth.

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Fasting Willed by God

In today's first reading, Dt. 58: 1-9a, the Lord says to us: Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits and drive all your laborers. Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting, striking with wicked claw....[T]he fasting that I wish [is]: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own....

The Lord, I believe, is speaking directly to the U.S. and other nations that are quarreling and fighting about passing legislature that will "release those bound unjustly, untie the thongs of the the yoke; set free the oppressed, break every yoke; share...bread with the hunger, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the name...and not turn your back on your own."  Our government, I believe, is carrying out its own pursuits by oppressing undocumented immigrants brought here to the States as children. They "strike with wicked claw," I believe, by stealing money from the poor to line the pockets of the rich and then lying about the tax reform bill and the health care benefits they promise.

God sees through the lies, the corruption, the crookedness!  God reads hearts! God also sees the tears of the afflicted, the neglected, the sick and needy ones of our nation--those tears and cries of anguish pass judgment on those engaged in wickedness and who "turn their backs on their own."

With the psalmist of today's responsorial psalm, I pray:  Have mercy on me [and on the government of the U.S.];  O God in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense [and that of our government officials and all U.S. citizens].  Thoroughly wash me clean from my guilt and of  my sins cleanse me [also, Lord, thoroughly wash the U.S., its politicians and all U.S. citizens clean of their guilt and of their sins cleanse them. Turn their hearts away from evil toward good. May they repent and do good!]

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Choose Life

In today's first reading, Dt. 30:15-20, we are told that God has set before us life and death. "Choose life,...that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, our God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him."  Yesterday a young man chose death by killing 17 young men and women. This young man is allegedly mentally ill.  He was allowed to legally purchase an automatic weapon and was determined, according to a face book message, to become a professional school shooter.  Why, I ask, are automatic weapons sold to anyone and are we not choosing death by allowing such purchases to occur?  Automatic weapons certainly are not used to kill deer or other animals sought for food!  They are used to kill people! I ask myself the following questions: So what goes here? Is it that producing and selling weapons of mass destruction puts millions of dollars in the pockets of the rich? Is it that allowing every human being to possess a gun, for any reason,  also creates millions of dollars of profits in corporations that produce these weapons? Is it that gun lobbyists promise millions to politicians who, in turn, refuse to pass gun legislation lest substantial donations diminish? I also wonder whether we are refusing to learn from, and listen to, other countries where only those in law enforcement, those in the military and those hunting game for food possess guns and where there is nothing of the violence we see in our country?  I ask: is it that citizens in those countries are a priority, not making millions and making the rich richer at the expense of the poor and at the expense of victims of gun violence,  both those who lose their lives and families and friends who mourn these losses?

In today's first reading, Dt. 30: 15-20, Moses says to us:  "Today I  have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom. If you obey the commandments of the Lord,  your God, which I enjoy on you today, loving him [by loving and protecting others], and walking in his ways, and keeping his commandments, statues and decrees [do not kill and, I would say, do not promote killing],...the Lord, your God will bless you...If, however, you turn away your hearts [from what is right] and will not listen, but are led astray and adore and serve other gods [greed, consumerism, materialism, gluttony, lust, wealth accumulated illegally, through deceit and corrupt choices, and at the expense of the poor, etc.], I tell you now that you will certainly perish...."

Is the United States on the path of destruction, courting death and doom, promoting death, intentionally or unintentionally? Am I, or you, on a path that depletes life by our disobedience, our refusal to follow the voice of good spirits prompting us to do God's holy will,  to love as God loves, to be compassionate as God is compassionate? Are we on a path that shows a lack of concern for the rights of all people, all races, all genders, all nationalities, the rich and the poor, immigrants and non-immigrants, the young and the old? Am I, are you, living lives of rebellion against what we know puts us in right relationship with God, with self and others?

"Chose life...by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him" (Dt. 30:19).)


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Turn to the Lord with our Whole Hearts

In today's first reading, Joel 2: 12-18, the Lord says to us through the prophet: "return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping and mourning; rend your hearts," the Lord says, "not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment....Blow the trumpet in Zion! Proclaim a fast, call an assembly; gather the people, notify the congregation; assemble the elders, gather the children and the infants at the breast....And say, 'Spare, O Lord, your people, and make not your heritage a reproach....'  Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?"

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. This Lent, may we as a nation return to the Lord with our whole hearts. Let us acknowledge our sins before God. "Perhaps he will again relent and leave behind him a blessing." No doubt, in my mind, peoples throughout the world are saying of the U.S.: "Where is their God?" as they witness greed, avarice, narcissism, pride and arrogance, deceit and corruption, violence and hatred erode the values upon which this great nation was built by our forefathers and foremothers.

"Be merciful, O Lord," for we have sinned," we pray in today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 51.

May you and I personally return to the Lord, asking mercy for the ways in which we have succumbed to the sins of hatred, greed, narcissism, pride, lust, avarice, gluttony, selfishness, deceit and/or any others ways in which we are not in right relationship with God, self and others.  During this Lenten season, let us heed the Scriptures above and remember what St. Paul says to us in today's second reading, 2 Cor 5: 20-6:2:  "We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us."
St. Paul asks us to "be reconciled to God" and reminds us that God the Father "made [Jesus, His Son] to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him."

Through Christ Jesus, you and I are "the righteousness of God."  Do our behaviors and attitudes, our interactions with others, reveal this truth?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

God, our Protector, our Rock of Salvation

In today's first reading, James 1: 12-18, St.James clearly informs us that God does not lead us into temptation. Our desires do. "Each person is tempted when lured and enticed by his desire. Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death."  That is why in today's Entrance Antiphon we pray:  "Be my protector, O God, a mighty stronghold to save me.  For you are my rock, my stronghold!  Lead me, guide me, for the sake of your name. (Cf. Ps. 31 (30): 3-4). In the responsorial psalm of today's liturgy, Psalm 94, we proclaim "blessed" the person whom God instructs: "Blessed the man [woman] whom you instruct, O Lord, whom by your law you teach, giving him [her] rest from evil days.  For the Lord will not cast off his people, nor abandon his inheritance; but judgment shall again be with justice and all the  upright of heart shall follow it. When I say, 'My foot is slipping,' your mercy O Lord, sustains me; when cares abound with  me, your comfort gladdens my soul."

O, the greatness, the love, the care, the compassion of our God!  God be praised, thanked, glorified, honored and worshipped by you and me every day of our lives.


Monday, February 12, 2018

Faith and Love

In today's first reading,  James 1: 1-11, St. James reminds us that God gives "generously and ungrudgingly."   Therefore, James says to us, "if you lack wisdom, ...ask [and it] will be given [to  you]...[A]sk in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is a [person] of two minds, unstable in all  his ways."

Am I a unstable person, a person "of two minds," one moment believing and the next moment doubting?  Or am I strongly rooted in Christ Jesus, my God and Savior? Knowing who Jesus is, I will stand firm in my faith!

In today's Gospel, Jesus is upset with the Pharisees who begin an argument with Him and want a sign from heaven to test him. "Why," Jesus asks, "does this generation seek a sign?"  Imagine the frustration Jesus is experiencing!  Why a sign? Perhaps we will understand this passage better by likening it to a family situation.  Imagine a family member--spouses and/or children--constantly demanding a sign of love. No matter what the other does or does not do, the demands keep coming! Such demands, such doubts in each other and in God can destroy faith and poison marriage and family relationships!  On the other hand, if I am working at deepening my love for God, others and self--if I am doing all that it takes to deepen love for others, God, and self-- then  I do not need a sign! And for sure, I do not need to test others by arguing with them about who they are, from whence they have come and whether or not their love and intentions are pure, as did the  Pharisees repeatedly challenge Jesus!




Sunday, February 11, 2018

"You Are My Valentine," says the Lord!

How "beautiful you are, my love, how beautiful you are" (Song of Songs 1: 15)!
As "a lily among thistles, so is my love among the maidens (Song of Songs 2: 2).
Pleasantly, "In his longed-for shade I am seated..." (Song of Songs 2: 3).
Pleased am I that "the banner he raises over me is love" (Song of Songs 2: 4).
Yes, "My beloved lifts up his voice, he says to me, 'Come...my lovely one, come'" (Song of Songs 2: 10).


Vineyards "are in flower." "Come, then, my love, my lovely one, come" (Song of Songs 2:15 & 13)
Alas, "let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet and you face is beautiful" (Song of Songs 2: 14).
Lo, I ask you to "be my beloved," says the Lord (Song of Songs 2:17).
Enclosed, are we, in a garden of love--God's love! "Let my beloved come onto his garden, let him taste its rarest fruits" (Song of Songs 4: 16)!
No way will I give myself totally to anyone but to my Beloved:  "I am my Beloved's, and His desire is for me" (song of songs 7:11).
To me, Jesus says: "Open to me...my love, my dove, my perfect one...." (Song of songs 5: 2).
I "am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine. He pastures his flock among the lilies" (Song of Songs 6": 2)
Now, again, hear the Lord say to you: "How beautiful you are, how charming, my love, my delight" (Song of Songs 6: 7).
Every day, I ask God to "set me like a seal on your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is strong as death,...The flash of it is a flash of four, a flame of Yahweh Himself. Local no flood can quench, no torrents drown" (Song of Songs 8: 6-7).
'So, I will seek the Lord who seeks me, His beloved!

Daily awakened, I will listen for my Beloved's voice of love!
Always in need of love, I know that my Beloved lives within me, walks beside me, and behind me, hemming my in and keeping me from harm.
Yes, my Beloved is always with me as Lover, as Redeemer and Sanctifier!







Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Power and Need of Intercessory Prayer

In today's Gospel, Mark 7: 24-30, a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, begs Jesus to heal her daughter, who is possessed of "an unclean spirit."  Initially, Jesus dismisses her, calling her a derogatory name given to non-Jews of His time, much like, in our days, foreigners are dismissed and help is first given to U.S. citizens, not to undocumented immigrants.  The woman, however, is not put out. She insists that Jesus help her daughter. When Jesus says to her: "Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs," she retorts with "Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children's scraps."  She is not put off! It is like she says to Him: "Please, Lord, have some pity for humankind. My daughter deserves a healing as much as Jews do!"  Jesus is amazed at the faith of this woman and her persistence.  He heals her daughter, making her whole, freeing her of the "unclean spirit"!

Do you and I believe in the power of intercessory prayer, as did this Syrophoenician woman?  Do we have the self-confidence of this woman who is not deterred by derogatory remarks to persistent in what we believe is our responsibility to stand up for another and/or for ourselves?

We have many examples that testify to the power of intercessory prayer: persons healed at the shrines of Fatima and Lourdes, people like St. Augustine who are converted through the prayers of a mother/father, and many others miracles that have taken place throughout history.

As we reflect upon this Gospel, we might also ask ourselves:  Of what "demons" do you and I need to be freed? What healing do we need from Jesus? Are their persons in our lives in need of healing and do you and I realize how important it is to prayer for them?


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Wisdom Admired and Recognized

In today's first reading, 1 Kings 10: 1-10, the queen of Sheba visits King Solomon to see for herself this King, of whom people spoke so highly.  She had heard about his wisdom and came to see for herself.  She was amazed. Every subject about which she inquired, King Solomon's explanation gave witness to the wisdom with which God had blessed him.  "Your wisdom and your prosperity surpass the report I heard. Blessed are your men, blessed these servants of yours, who stand before you also and listen to your wisdom. Blessed be the Lord,  your God whom it has pleased to place you on the throne of Israel. In his enduring love for Israel, the Lord has made you king to carry out judgment and justice."

First of all, whom do you consult for wisdom, for insight, for knowledge of subjects in which you are interested?  Do you have the humility of Queen Sheba to seek out wisdom greater than yours? Notice Queen Sheba's response! First of all, she recognizes King Solomon's wisdom and blessings. Are you able to affirm others for the gifts God has given them or does pride or jealousy hold you back?  Secondly, Queen Sheba gives praise to God, from whom Solomon received his wisdom and riches. Do you recognize all good--that of other persons and your own--as coming from God?

As you apply this reading to yourself, you might ask yourself the following questions: who are the wisdom figures in your life?  When was the last time that you acknowledged the gifts God has given to your spouse, your children, your coworkers, yourself?  And, when you see good in others or in yourself, to whom do you give the credit?

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Faithfulness

In today's first reading, 1 Kings 8:  22-23, 27-30, begins with Solomon "stretching forth his hands towards heaven, [praying:] 'Lord God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below; you keep your covenant of mercy with your servants who are faithful to you with their whole hearts.'"  We then encounter a story in today's Gospel of persons who were not "faithful...with their whole hearts"--the Pharisees who disregarded "God's commandments but [clung] to human traditions." Jesus confronts them: "How well you have set aside the commandment of god in order to uphold your tradition!  For Moses said, 'Honor your father and you mother and whoever curses father or mother shall die.' Yet you say, 'If someone says to father or other, 'Any support you might have had from me is qorban,' [that is dedicated tho God),  you allow him do do nothing more for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition."

It is easy to fall into the trap of nullifying the word of God in order to follow man-made traditions. It is being done before our very eyes by those who dismiss taking care of the poor and needy in favor of the rich and following "party lines"--it's a tradition to do so, some argue.  God's commandments are ignored in favor of the party. The right thing to do is ignored in favor of peer pressure. "Everyone does it," some say and thus justify their actions to break the commandments and love as Jesus loved.

When and how do I fall into this trap, going along with whatever when I know God is calling me to faithfulness to the Commandments and to the teachings in the Gospels!


Friday, February 2, 2018

Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.  We also celebrate World Day of Consecrated Life! Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the Temple, as was a customary ritual in their religion. We may think of it as parents today presenting their child/ren for baptism. As Jesus entered the Temple in the arms of his parents, the prophet Simeon and prophetess Anna recognize Him as the Messiah, the one who will save His people Israel and all of humanity from their sins.  Simeon longed for this day before he died and when it happened he said to God: Now you can dismiss your servant in peace.

May you and I, over and over again, recognize the Messiah in our lives and accept Jesus into our lives each day as well. Then when the time of our earthly pilgrimage comes to an end, we, too, will be able to say to God: Now you can dismiss your servant in peace.

Today, we also celebrate Consecrated Life Day in honor of priests and women and men religious called to consecrate their lives to the Lord forever! As with Abram, the call to serve the Lord unreservedly as His servants meant leaving our homelands. For some that meant leaving their native country for mission territory. For all, it meant leaving home to serve wherever one's diocese or religious community needed one to serve the Lord. Many times, a person was asked to surrender his/her dream to serve God in one's cherished profession and asked to embrace another.   In my religious community, those Sisters who ended up becoming teachers instead of nurses, or vice versa, speak of how blessed they were in following God's will as expressed through their superiors, as we believe firmly that one of the ways God reveals His will was through legitimate authority, be that one's religious superior or the bishop, if called to priesthood.

How did I know that I was called to consecrate my life to the Lord as a woman religious?  One day, at age 14, out of the blue as I was sitting on the grass outside of the elementary school that I attended, the thought came to me: "Become a Sister." I began that journey by entering a high school that was only for girls intending to become a Sister of that religious community. I never regretted answering that call. Many years later, possibly in my 30's, I was in prayer one day and, as sometimes happens, my identical twin, in spirit, joins me. During that hour of prayer, she told me that my religious vocation was a gift from her. She wanted me "to have the intimacy with God that she experiences in heaven."  Wow!  I certainly have a way to go to reach that goal but the greatest gift of religious life for me is the opportunities to grow in that intimacy through daily celebration of the Mass, an annual 8-day retreat (a vacation with God alone), daily spiritual reading, a spiritual renewal day each month with the Sisters with whom I live, learning each day in community life to love and forgive as Jesus teaches in the Scriptures,  pouring oneself out in sacrificial love on a regular basis, as life makes demands upon me as a community member (Trinitarian self-giving).

As I was called to religious life, my siblings were each called to marriage, to pour themselves out in self-giving, self-sacrificing love of that state in life!

What is your calling?