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?