Monday, June 18, 2018

Choices of Good or of Evil

In today's first reading, 1 Kings 21-1-16, we read about Ahab, king of Samaria, and his  wife Jezreel. Ahab wanted Naboth, his neighbor,  to give him his vineyard  to use as a garden, as it was next to the king's palace. Ahab, in turn, would give him another vineyard or simply pay him cash for the vineyard.  Naboth refused, as his vineyard was his own children's inheritance. Angry, Ahab refused to eat. His wife Jezreel engaged in actions of deceit, conniving to have Naboth murdered in order that her husband could take possession of the desired vineyard. She succeeded in her evil maneuverings!

Sound familiar?  Deceitful, wicked plotting to get what one desires goes on to this very day and many times such connivance leads to the loss of life--physical death, death of the spirit of an individual or mental demise! And though we may not be the actual person doing the evil, we may be an accomplice in the evil that is being planned, as were Ahab and Jezeel!

We are reminded in today's responsorial psalm that God does not delight in wickedness and that no evil person will stand in God's sight (Cf. Ps.5).  "God hates all evildoers," the psalmist reminds us, and destroys "all who speak falsehood; the bloodthirsty and the deceitful the Lord abhors."

All of us face choices every day of our lives!  In what kinds of choices am I engaged: choices that enhance life for others or those which destroy or diminish life for others?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Building the Kingdom of God

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

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

Friday, June 8, 2018

A Heart that Overflows with Love

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

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Salvation in Christ Jesus

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

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

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Facing Truth

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

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

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

Monday, June 4, 2018

God's Providence in Each Person's Life

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

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

Friday, June 1, 2018

God: the Center of All We Do

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

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