Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A Weeping God

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

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

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

Monday, July 30, 2018

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

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

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

Sunday, July 29, 2018

A God of Sufficiency

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 27, 2018

Becoming One as the Trinity is One

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

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

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

O, the greatness and the mercy of our God!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Belonging to a Holy Family

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Being a Disciple of Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Belonging to, and Choosing to Belong to Jesus' Family

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

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

Monday, July 23, 2018

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

In today's Gospel, Matthew 12: 38-42, some of the scribes and Pharisees ask Jesus for a sign. Frustrated, Jesus says to them:  "...no sign shall be given...except the sign of Jonah the prophet. Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights."  Jesus then rebukes the people for their lack of repentance at His preaching. "...[T]here is something greater than Jonah here." Nineveh repented when Jonah warned them of their evil ways while many people to whom Jesus preached, and preaches today, basically ignore His message.  "At the judgment," Jesus says to them and to us, "the queen of the south will arise with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here."

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

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

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Christ as One Who Ends All Divisions

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

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

Saturday, July 21, 2018

A Message from the prophet Micah

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 20, 2018

"Put Your House in Order" (Is 38:1)

In today's first reading,  Isaiah 38: 1-6, 21-22, 7-8,  God sends the prophet Isaiah to Hezekiah to say to him:  "Put your house in order, for you are about to die; you shall not recover."   Hezekiah, we are told, "turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord: 'O Lord, remember how faithfully and wholeheartedly I conducted myself in your presence, doing what was pleasing to you!' And Hezekiah wept bitterly."

What if, tonight, God sent you and me a messenger who informed us that we are about to die and, therefore, we should "put [our] house in order, for [we] are about to die."  How would we react? What would we say to the Lord, our God? Could we, as did Hezekiah, say to the Lord: "O Lord, remember how faithfully and wholeheartedly I conducted myself in your presence, doing what was pleasing to you"?

What would we need to put in order, if we had only a short period of time to live?  Could we say to the Lord: "I have been faithful and I have served you wholeheartedly as a husband/a wife, as a student, as a member of my religious community, as a parishioner, as a citizen?

What changes would I, would you, need to make so that we can say with Hezekiah at the end of our lives: "I have been faithful and have put my whole heart into my marriage, into my role as father/mother/grandfather/grandmother/aunt/uncle/son/daughter? What do I, do you, need to do differently so as to be faithful to my vowed commitment, my baptismal vows, and in carrying out my responsibilities to my parish, my civic community, my county?

In today's Gospel Acclamation, Jn 10:27, the Lord says to us: My sheep hear my voice,...; I know them and they follow me." Hezekiah faithfully followed the Lord!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Seek the Lord above All

Today's first reading, Isaiah 26: 7-9, 12, 16-19, begins with the following statement: "The way of the just is smooth; the path of the just you make level. Yes, for your way and your judgments, O Lord, we look to you; your name and your title are the desire of our souls. My soul yearns for you in the night, yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you; when your judgment dawns upon the world's inhabitants learn justice. O Lord, you  mete out peace to us, for it is you who have accomplished all we have done."

We have a lot to learn from that passage and questions to ask. First of all, how smooth is the way upon which I walk? If not smooth, is it because I am involved in unjust practises or burdened down by pursuits that are fleeting and unnecessary? Second of all, am I looking for God's way and God's judgments or am I busy seeking other people's judgment, hoping to be appraised mightily? Thirdly, what are my desires? "God's name and title"? Fourthly, for what does my soul yearn in the night?

If it is God's judgment that we are seeking, Isaiah tells us, then we will learn justice (and, I add, practice it)!  If we realize that whatever good we accomplish is God at work through us, we will then be filled with peace.

In the Gospel, Jesus says to us: "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest."  "Come to Jesus" to learn the ways of the Lord! Jesus tells us that He has come that we might have fullness of life (in Him) and that He has not come to condemn the world but save it!  In seeking other people's judgment and looking to the law, we set ourselves up for condemnation! Jesus is meek and humble of heart and relates to us in that way!  Go to Jesus when you are burdened and when you are not!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A Prophet's Warning

In today's first reading, Isaiah 10: 5-7, 13b-16, the Lord God again warns Assyria, saying: Woe to Assyria! My rod in anger, my staff in wrath." As God watches the poor being neglected, truth being scorned  and lies being protected, could God be saying to us: "Woe to you"? As justice is being eroded by persons who have assumed the position of being guiltless and beyond reproach,  I believe that we need to get on our knees and beg Jesus to send the Holy Spirit, opening our eyes to God's presence, our ears to God's voice giving direction, our wills to follow God's precepts and our hearts to love and act on God's decrees!  "Against an impious nation," God sends prophets and prophetesses, warning us of being deceived by the powerful and cunning men of this world! Are we, am I, listening?  Are we, am I, seeing?

De we realize when other people and when we ourselves are, in fact,  saying: "By my own power I have done it [whatever good we project we may be doing, even when that good may actually be harmful for the people we are called to protect]? Do we realize when we, or others, are also saying: "...I have done it,...by my wisdom, for I am shrewd."  Are there times when we rejoice in having "put down the enthroned," by our power, by bullying, by making fun of others, by whatever means to this end?  The prophet points out the wrong being done by people of power in his day, when, in fact, they say:   [L]ike a giant, I have put down the enthroned; my hand has seized like a nest the riches of nations".  It seems that persons in power in our day are "seizing like a nest the riches" of others.   The question, however, that I need to ask myself is: Am I competing to be richer than others and willing to go to any expense to raise myself  above others in material or other kinds of riches?

The prophet asks the questions:  ....Will the axe boast against him [the bully] who hews with it? Will the saw exalt itself above him [the bully] who wields it? As if a rod could sway him [the bully] who lifts, or a staff him who is not wood! Therefore the Lord will send among his fat ones leanness, and instead of his  glory there will be kindling like the kindling of fire."

Is it time for us to heed the prophet's words? Is it possible that we have the "an impious nation" and the bully?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Stand Firm in Your Faith

In today's first reading, Isaiah 7: 1-9, the House of David is informed that the enemies of Judah are encamped in Ephraim and planning to attack the city of Jerusalem.  The heart of the king trembled in fear.  The prophet tells King Ahaz to fear not because his enemies "will not be able to conquer [the city of Jerusalem]."  Isaiah is sent to say to Ahaz: "Take care [that] you remain tranquil and do not fear; let not your courage fail before"  those who are determined to "tear Judah asunder, [to] make  [Judah their]  own by force, and appoint the son of Tabeel king there."  The Lord continued to assure Ahaz: "This shall not be....[W]ithin sixty years and five, Ephraim shall be crushed,  no longer a nation. Unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm."

The response to today's responsorial psalm reminds us that "God upholds his city for ever."  We go on to pray: "Great is the Lord and wholly to be praised in the city of our God. His holy mountain, fairest of heights, is the joy of all the earth. Mount Zion, 'the recesses of the North,' is the city of the great King. God is with her castles; renowned is he as a stronghold...."

Jerusalem is a symbol of the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of God, that stands forever.  As people of God we are part of that heavenly Kingdom, a Kingdom being built here on earth of living stones with God as our stronghold.  Of whom need we fear!  In Jeremiah 29:11, we are promised, that God has a future full of hope for us, not disaster. It seems that is what Isaiah is trying to get through to King Ahaz and us!  Let us stand firm in our faith that God is with us as we stand up to the enemies who seems to be destroying truth and courting evil instead of good for all peoples!  And let us stand firm in our abilities to cooperate with God in building a kingdom of justice and peace for all!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Shown the Salvation of God

In today's responsorial psalm, Palm 50, we read: "[T]o him/[her who] goes the right way I will show the salvation of God."  That is God's promise to us.

We may be very concerned about those who  do not choose the right path but instead choose evil over good, deceit over truth, unjust practises over justice, and even betray others, including one's country, for the fleeting, short-term goal of self-aggrandizement, looking popular, and/or being acclaimed as powerful and strong by a "mighty"few.  

We need to do more than simply voicing our concern over evil in the world of our day. If we only voice our concern and do not take action, good remains undone. Words only point to the good.  They do not do the good.  With Jesus, we must act on behalf of truth, of justice, of freedom. We live at a time when morality,  truth and authentic freedom are scorned by the majority.  Many men and women of integrity, it seems, cowl in fear of the repercussions of being honest. They seem to be working to save their lives instead of losing them for the sake of the Gospel. Hence evil continues to gallop across our country as we hide behind our fears! "God save us," we cry.  And God says to us through today's psalmist: "Though  you pray more, I will not listen....Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan's plea, defend the widow."  And  I would add: Stand up to those doing evil: to those acting unjustly toward immigrants, barring"Dreamers" from citizenship, sending asylum seekers back to dangerous situations; denying the truth, putting children in cages and spreading messages of hatred and prejudices toward other races and religions.

If we defend what is right and condemn what is wrong, as Jesus did in his own day,  we will meet opposition as Jesus did.  Jesus tells us plainly in today's Gospel: "I have come not to bring peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one's enemies will be those of his household."  Jesus then adds: "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me, is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."   By taking up the crosses that come with standing up for the truth and doing what is right, we will be shown "the salvation of God."

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Jesus Restores Us to Life-giving Ways of Relating

In the Gospel of today, Matthew 9: 32-38, Jesus casts out a demon that had taken possession of a man, rendering him mute. When Jesus expelled the demon, the mute man was able to speak!  I think of times when I have assumed a muteness, refusing to speak to someone with whom I had been angry, righteously so or in unrighteous ways; or when I myself have been given the silent treatment by another. Either way, the effects are painful and exclude God!

When I abandon God, God allows me to "return to Egypt," the place in which I was a slave to sin (compare today's first reading, Hosea 8: 4-7, 11-13).  One can become stuck in that place where one treats another with angry silence!  In those times, the words of Psalm 15 are applicable: They have mouths but speak not; they have eyes but see not; they have noses but smell not. They have hands but feel not; they have feet but walk not.  [Others] shall be like them, everyone that trusts in them."  Most times, in that frame of mind that leads us to treat others disrespectfully and put the blame on them, we do not see what we are doing that has contributed to the problem. We may be blinded by the tendency to blame others.  When  that happens, we do not assume any responsibility for to take steps toward reconciliation. Our hands seem tied behind our backs and we do nothing to make things right!  Others may join us and applaud us for holding firm in our choice to resort to the silent treatment.

May Jesus drive out the demon that renders us mute!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Jesus' Eagerness to Heal and Restore Life

In today's Gospel, Matthew 9: 18-26, an official, upon hearing that his daughter has just died, falls on his knees in front of Jesus and says to him:  "My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hands on her, and she will live." WOW! What a bold act on the part of this official! Absolutely no hesitation! No doubt! Unwavering faith!  "[L]ay your hands on her, [Jesus,]  and she will live!"  May you and I have such faith, pray for such faith and act upon it for the sake of the restoration of life for others--physical life, spiritual life, the life of a healthy relationship!  "Lay your hands, Lord Jesus, upon________________, and this person will live in the light, in love, in hope, in good health.

In this same Gospel passage, a "woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind [Jesus] and touched the tassel of his cloak. She said to herself, 'If only I can touch his cloak I shall be cured.'" And she was!   What courage and boldness on  her part, as well. By touching Jesus, she made him unclean according to Jewish law, as she was bleeding! So, undoubtedly, she hopes that he does not notice her.  However, Jesus knows that healing power went out from Him, so He turns around, not to rebuke her but to reassure her: "Courage, daughter! Your faith has healed you," not I healed you. "Your faith has healed you!"  The power in her faith releases the gift of healing in Jesus!  Are you and I as bold as this woman? Do you and I have the faith this woman has? If not, let us pray for this gift!

Fear of rebuke or fear of consequences does not hold this woman back!  She knows that Jesus has the power to heal people and she, unabashedly, approaches Him, though she is bleeding and would render Him unclean in the eyes of legal authority!  May you and I, when moved by the Spirit to approach Jesus with our needs, do so without hesitation!  Jesus waits, not to rebuke us, but to help us!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

The Promises of the Lord God

In today's first reading, Amos 9:11-15, the  Lord says to the people of Israel and to us, through the prophet Amos:  "I will raise up the fallen hut of David [and the fallen hut of this world]; I will wall up its breaches, raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old....I, the Lord, will do this.  Yes, the days are coming, says the Lord, when....I will bring about the restoration of my people Israel [of the people of the entire world]; they [the Israelites and the people of the entire world] shall rebuild and inhabit their ruined cities, plant vineyards and drink wine, set out gardens and eat fruits. I will plant them [everyone] upon their own ground; never again shall they be plucked from the land I have given them, say I, the Lord your God."

The psalmist, in today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 85, confirms this message, saying: "...[H]ear what  God proclaims; ...peace to his people [to us]. Near indeed, the psalmist says, is his salvation to those who fear [reverence] him...Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss.....Justice shall walk  before him [God], and salvation, along the way of his steps."

God is doing and will do all of this and He also uses each one of us to bring these promises to fruition!  What am I doing, what are you doing,  to restore justice, to rebuild ruined relationships, to see to it that "kindness and truth" shall meet because you and I were involved in a conflictual situation?  What are you, what am I doing, so that people have "a ground" that they can call their own and thrive, able to set out "gardens," literal one and virtual ones, and "eat fruit," literally, spiritually, socially, civilly?

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Prophet's Call of Baptized Christians

In today's first reading, Amos 7: 10-17, the prophet Amos is rejected, asked to leave Bethel, "for it is the king's sanctuary and a royal temple."  He is told that "the country cannot endure all his words." He is as unwelcome in Bethel as Jesus would later be in his own country.  Amos answers Amaziah, the priest of Bethel by saying: "I was no prophet,...' I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. The Lord took me from following the flock and said to me, 'Go, prophesy to my people Israel."  Tell them the following:  "Your wife shall be made a harlot in the city, and your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword; your land shall be divided...and you yourself shall die in an unclean land; Israel shall be exiled far from its land."

Who wants to hear the consequences that shall follow wrongdoing or that result from rejecting God's Covenant? Most times people do not want to hear the truth that there are consequences to making poor choices, to following the way of evil, of injustice and of violating people's rights!  There will be consequences to separating children from their parents as well as to denying the path of citizenship to "Dreamers," children born here in the States or brought here at a young age, knowing no other home but  here since childhood and now being adults.  There will be consequences to destroying treaties that protected Mother Earth and pulling out of the climate agreement with our allies. There will be consequences to belittling our allies and refusing to work with them for the common good!  There will be consequences to trade wars and whatever other ways are being used or considered "to create more billionaires"and "make America great again"!

Just as God called Amos from being a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores, so, too, does God call you and me from backgrounds others may frown upon! God calls the "weak" to confound the "strong."  How and to what is God calling you?

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Gift of Faith

In today's first reading, Eph 2: 19-22, St. Paul shares with us the following good news: "You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through [Jesus] ...you...are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit."

As I read that first that Scripture passage, two things came to my mind:1) the faces of a couple of abandoned children learning that they were being adopted and no longer would be without a family of their own and 2) imagining that I was able to choose to be a member of the family of my dreams--and no family I chose would equal  the love of, the privilege of, the royalty of, the holiness of, the richness of the family of God!  Being part of such a family is beyond my wildest dreams!  I was chosen by God Himself to be a part of this Family.  The Trinity paid a ransom: the cost of the Son's life. Jesus held nothing back to secure my being a part of God's family: the Holy Trinity whose Kingdom is forever and is right here, right now within me and around me and works through me!

How great thou art, O God! As with St. Thomas, whose feast day we celebrate today, Jesus calls me forth when I doubt that Jesus is the Son of God made man risen from the dead who poured out His blood for me on the cross and rose from the dead: Come here, (insert your name), "[p]ut your finger here and see my hands and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe" (today's Gospel, John 20: 24-29)St. Thomas, in humility, fell on his knees and exclaimed: "My Lord and my God" (John20:  24-29) and so do I!

Monday, July 2, 2018

God's Faithfulness

In today's first reading, Amos 2: 6-10, 13-16, the prophet Amos is speaking, I believe, directly to us today in the following message:  Thus says the Lord: for three crimes of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke my word; Because they sell the just man for silver,  and the poor man for a pair of sandals. They trample the head of the weak into the dust of the earth, and force the lowly out of the way....Upon garments taken in pledge they decline beside any altar; And the wine of those who have been fined they drink in the house of their god."  Some world leaders, including the U.S., I believe, are doing exactly what Amos states.  Just men and women are being sold for drugs, for sex, for loading the pockets of billionaires. Poor men and women are being sold for whatever some of the rich covet. By lowering taxes on billionaires and easing re taxes of the poor, profiteers "drink in the house of their god," that is unearned wealth, abused power and control. The "head of the weak" are being trampled "into the dust of the earth" and "the lowly" are forced "out of the way," put into cages, detained in detention centers, returned to a country where their lives and the lives of their children are in danger. 

Amos tells us that God "will not revoke" his word. Even though you and I are unfaithful, God remains faithful to His promises. We are told in the Gospels, that Jesus has come, not to condemn the world but to save it.  God does not go back on that promise.  Salvation is ours if we claim it by living in the the Light and in the Truth, cooperating with God's grace, living up to our baptismal promises. Salvation is ours by the choices we make to do good, act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with our God (see Micah 6:8). Salvation is ours when we respect each person's right to freedom and to a just wage; when we help all peoples experience liberty, justice and happiness; when we reach out to the needy and oppressed, the sick and deprived of this world; when, in short, we return evil with good.

What kind of choices am I, are you making? Am I, are you, living in the Light or have we chosen to live in the dark and spread darkness into other people's lives?  One comes leads to an eternity of darkness--not God' choice for you or me. The other choices leads to an eternity of light and love--God's choice for all of us.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

God Desires Life and Wellness

In today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 30,  we thank the Lord because He "changed my mourning into dancing."  In the Gospel, Mark 5: 21-43, Jesus did just that for the woman "afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years" and for Jairus, a synagogue official, whose  twelve-year-old daughter was dying.   Both were healed and restored to life and wellness. The faith of the woman, Jesus tells her, "has saved you." And he says to the distraught father: "Do not be afraid; just have faith."

God does not delight in you or I, or anyone, contracting a disease; nor does he rejoice in any one's death! We are told in today's first reading, Wisdom 1: 13-15; 2: 23-24, that "God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living....But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it." 

Jesus' actions reveal the truth that God desires our well-being and delights in each one of us being fully alive.  Jesus does not hesitate to restore individuals to robust health, physically, emotionally, or spiritually. He delights in inviting us into make choices which lead us to greater wholeness and to deeper communion with one another.  Choices that fragment us or cause us to be separated from one another cause God as much pain as they do us. God weeps with  us when we make such choices and stands by to rescue those who call upon Him.

Lord, do not let my enemies--Satan and his helpers--rejoice over me. "Preserve me from going down into [any] pit" (Psalm 30) that causes me to lead a fragmented, separated life that defies that I have been created to live life in a way that fosters union with others and leads to ever greater and greater wellness and wholeness!

To what choices am I being invited today that will lead to deeper union with others, especially with family members--one's spouse, children, grandchildren, relatives--community members, coworkers, parishioners, persons of other cultures, races religions? Which choices am I making that are causing division and fragmentation?