Friday, August 31, 2018

The Cross as the Wisdom and Power of God

In today's first reading, 1 Cor 1: 17-25, Saint Paul reminds us of the meaning of the cross  as "the power of God."  "[W]e proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."

Let's ponder that message, especially the statement that Christ is the power and the wisdom of God, who on the cross appeared as the foolishness of God and God's weakness.  If we stand beneath the cross as unbelievers, we might join those who mocked him and say something like: "The  Messiah who is to save us! Look at him! He does not even appear to have human form. He looks like a worm squirming on that cross!" As Christians with a strong faith, we fall down on our knees, knowing that this is God in the process of saving us. We hear Jesus say: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing." We witness Jesus responding to the thief who asked to be remembered in Jesus' eternal Kingdom:   "This day you will be with me in Paradise."  As we gave upon the cross, we see the weakness of God as incomprehensible strength and the foolishness of God as wisdom! In our own sufferings, when viewed from a position of faith, we experience God's power as we rely upon God to give us strength.  When weak and relying upon God, we come to know the wisdom of God working within us to draw us to Himself upon the cross!

In speaking to someone whose child committed suicide and walking through that horrible darkness with that person, I learnt that through her child's suicide she developed an intimacy with God that she does not believe would ever had been possible without that tragedy--it took years, an abundance of tears, and incredible pain to come to that realization and that closeness to God.  Unbelievers would probably bulk at that testimony, asking how could one ever see a blessing in the suicide of a loved one.  From the perspective of faith, an individual who is leaning on God, trusting God, seeking God, clinging to God, and having confidence in God, will, in bearing the cross of Christ, be given incredible graces.

I believe! Do you?

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Sanctified in Christ Jesus and Clothed in Holiness

In today's first reading, 1 Cor 1: 1-9, St. Paul refers to the people of Corinth and us,  as persons who "have been sanctified in Christ Jesus," persons "called to be holy with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours. Grace to you," Paul prays, "and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."  Paul tells the people that he always thanks God "for the grace bestowed [upon them] in Christ Jesus, that in him [they] were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ." In today's Gospel,Matthew 24: 42-51, Jesus asks us to "stay awake" for Jesus' coming, be that our personal dying to this world and returning home to heaven  with Jesus or Jesus' second coming at the end of this world as we now know it!

What blessing is Paul, perhaps, talking about?  First of all, God's grace and  peace, a peace the world cannot give and what is ours when we seek God in solitude, in prayer, in being true to our call as children of the Most High. Furthermore, Paul speaks about our being enriched in every way and not lacking in any spiritual gifts! What might those be?  The opportunities, I believe,  for discourse of things that matter concerning our faith, our growth in love and in trust; all knowledge necessary for 1) walking with the Lord God through this world in which we now exist and 2) for growing in love!  WOW!  For what else can we ask?

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Cleansing the Inside of the "Cup"

In today's Gospel, Matthew 23: 23-26, Jesus challenges the Pharisees to cleanse the inner "cup" and not just the outer "cup".  He uses strong words, not to shame the Pharisees, but to get their attention: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence."

The questions we need to ask ourselves are: Are we "cleaning" only the outside of our "cups," and neglecting the inside?  Do we look good on the outside while our innermost self is filled with attitudes of hatred, deceit, avarice, greediness, lust, covetousness and other thoughts that separate us from God's designs  and purposes for us?

If our innerself is cleansed, is shining brightly with grace, then we will shine on the outside also.  We will, then, truly be a light to those around us. On the other hand, if our innermost self is filled with darkness-- negativity,  selfishness, narcissism--we will spread that darkness to others.  Misery on the inside leads to misery on the outside. Only we can change our way of thinking so that our lives are filled with peace, joy and happiness. Only then will we be a reflection of God to those around us.

Am I, are you ready to heed Jesus' message and make whatever changes we need to make to be living a live of grace and growing in holiness?

Monday, August 27, 2018

Intercessory Prayer

In today's first reading, 2 Thes 1: 1-5, 11-12, Saint Paul thanks God for the people of Thessalonia, praying: "[G]race to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."  Let us offer that same prayer for all of the people of the U.S. and throughout the world, persons serving our country in foreign wars, in governmental positions, those who are ministering to us through our churches--any denomination. Let us also pray for parents, children, grandparents,  grandchildren, teachers, students,  counselors, clients, and all health care professionals, public servants in all of our cities and counties, clerks of all kinds and in all professions and states of life.  With Saint Paul, let us "thank God always for [our brothers and sisters in Christ], as is fitting, because [their] faith flourishes ever more, and the love of every one of [them] for one another grows bigger. [Let us] boast of [our fellow travelers on the way to eternal life for their] regarding endurance and faith in all [the]...afflictions [they] endure," especially those who endure afflictions imposed by government officials, by those prejudiced against immigrants, foreigners, persons of other cultures, religions, races and genders.

As with Saint Paul, we pray that God will make all of us "worthy of his calling and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith, that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in [us] and [we] in him, in accord with the grace of our God and Lord Jesus."

Is St.Paul's prayer for the Thessalonians a prayer that I truly pray for others in my time and place and which you pray for persons in your time and space?

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Glory of God in our Midst

In the first reading, Ezekiel 43: 1-7b, the prophet shares the vision with us in which "the angel led [Ezekiel] to the gate which faces the east, and there [Ezekiel] saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east....I, [Ezekiel tells us], fell prone as the glory of the Lord entered by way of the waste which faces the east but the spirit lifted me up and brought me to the inner court....The voice said to me: Son of man, this is where my throne shall be, this is where I will set the soles of my feet; here I will dwell among there children of Israel forever."

May God open our eyes to the glory of God, to God Himself, dwelling in our Churches, in our Tabernacles, in the Holy of Holies in synagogues, in the depth of each person's being, in the innocence of babies and children, in the love and justice, joy and peace which we bring to each other; in the universe itself: in sunrises and sunsets, in flowers and all created things.

"The glory of the Lord will dwell in our land," we pray in today's  responsorial psalm, Psalm 85.  Furthermore, the psalmist prays: Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him, glory dwelling in our land. Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven. The Lord himself will give his benefits; our land shall yield its increase. Justice shall walk before [God who dwells in our land], and salvation along the way of his steps."

Am I, are you, in step with the Lord? Are we aware of the glory of God being revealed to us?

Friday, August 24, 2018

Learning from the Scriptures

Today's Gospel, John 1:45-51, presents the calling of Nathaniel (St. Bartholomew) to become an apostle of the Lord.  God uses Philip to alert Nathaniel to his calling. Philip find Nathaniel under a fig tree and tells him that he and others "have found the one about whom Moses were in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth."  Nathaniel sarcastically asks: "Can anything good come from Nazareth?"  Philip does not get sucked into Nathaniel's sarcasm or dismissal but says to Nathaniel: "Come and see!"

Am I, in this passage, Nathaniel, one who does not mince words, who speaks his mind, who is forthright in speaking to others? Jesus sees the depth of Nathaniel's heart and introduces him as "a true child of Israel," one in whom there is "no duplicity."  How would Jesus describe you/me?  Nathaniel is amazed and says to Jesus: "How do you know me?"  Jesus responds: "Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree."  Jesus sees you and me wherever we are and  in whatever we are doing!  He knows us more than we know ourselves. As God, Jesus knows what we are thinking before we do and what we might say before we have said it!  God knows us through and through. We are a book, so to speak, in the process of being written and Jesus knows us cover to cover!  Are you/am I aware of this fact?

As with Nathaniel, Jesus uses other people to communicate God's will to us, or uses us to bring truths to other people's attention, truths which He wants people to know and to which He wants their response. Are we listening for God's messages sent to us through others and, also, do we allow God to use us to bring His message to other people?

Another very important fact to note in this Scripture passage is how Nathaniel is changed by His encounter with Jesus!  Immediately, he recognizes and acknowledges who Jesus is! His sarcastic, critical attitude is changed from "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" to a stance of appreciation and  awe: "Wow, look at the good coming from Nazareth!"  How am I, are you, changed in the presence of Jesus?

Thursday, August 23, 2018

At Home with the Lord, Clothed in Righteousness

Today's first reading, Ezekiel 36: 23-28, the Lord says the following to the nation of Israel, and to us: "I will prove my holiness of my great name, profaned among the nations, in whose midst you  have profaned it.  Thus the nations [the world] shall know that I am the Lord God, when in [its] sight I prove my holiness through you. For I will take you away from among the nations [that are profaning my name], gather you from all the foreign lands [places in this world and peoples in this world who are profaning the name of God by evil actions against others], and bring you back to your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols will I cleanse you. I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you...."

On the cross and through the cross, Jesus clothes us in righteousness and puts a robe of salvation on  us.  We have been brought back to God, gathered from "foreign lands" by Jesus' obedience unto death,  His resurrection on Easter morning and His return to glory on the day of His Ascension into heaven!  In our baptism we have been sprinkled with "clean water" and cleansed "from all [our] impurities."  "A new heart and...a new spirit"--the Spirit of Jesus--has been put within us, our stony hearts turning into hearts of flesh!

In today's responsorial psalm, we pray:  "A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.  Cast me not out of your presence,and your Holy Spirit take not from me. Give me back the joy of your salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me...."

May we sincerely desire those graces and return to the Lord, to our true home, we have strayed off into "foreign lands."

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Queenship of Mary, our Model of Faith

Today we celebrate the Queenship of Mary, the mother of God Incarnate!  Mary, Queen of heaven and earth, describes herself in Luke 1:  38 as "the handmaid of the Lord," as God's servant.  When the angel Gabriel announced that she would "conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus" (Luke 1: 32), for he "will be great and will be called be Son of the Most High" (Luke 1: 32), Mary asks how this will come about. She is told that "the Holy Spirit will come upon you...and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God" (Luke 1: 35-36). Mary's response: "Nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1: 37).

Truly, nothing is impossible with God. He choose a young peasant woman, a girl of 13 or14, to become mother of His Incarnate Son, sent to become one of us and to show us the depth of God's love for us.  Mary cooperates fully with God's plans for her and for us. Her obedience is complete, as was the obedience of her Son Jesus. Unlike the first man and first woman, Adam and Eve, of the Old Covenant,  this new Adam and new Eve, of the New Covenant, are one with God's plan for our salvation. Both now sit at the right had of the Father in heaven as King and Queen of humankind, of heaven and earth, interceding for us day and night, so that, we, too, will accept God's plan of salvation for us!

Are we aware of God's efforts to save us on a daily basis as we walk hand in hand with God  throughout the day in the challenging, the difficult and the awesome realities of each day?  Are we following the Lord's lead to reveal His Presence and/or discover His Presence in the events of the day, tasting a bit of eternity in the here and now?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Recognizing When we Think We Are God

In today's first reading, Ezekiel 28: 1-10, the Lord again has strong words for us through the prophet. The prophet is asked to give the prince of Tyre the following message, a message that I believe is applicable to many today who see themselves as gods and to each of us when we assume the position of a of a god over others:  "Because you are haughty of heart, you say, 'A god am I!...'And yet you are a man, and not a god, however you may think yourself like a god....[Y]ou have heaped up your riches; your heart has grown haughty from your riches--therefore thus says the Lord God: Because you have thought yourself to have the mind of a god, therefore I will bring against you foreigners, the most barbarous of nations....They shall thrust you down to the pit, there to die...Will you then say, 'I am a god!"

Those may sound like very harsh words.  Yet you and I need to pray for the grace of humility. There is no other god but God alone.  We need God's mercy, as does everyone else.  When we become haughty as did the prince of Tyre,  we need to be transformed by grace.  When we assume power that is not ours,  as did princes or rulers of old and, more closely to home,  as did St. Paul on his way to persecute Christians, we need to be knocked off our "horse".  When we assume the attitude of being over others and better than others; when we grow self-sufficient to the point of not realizing our need for a Savior, then we, too, need God's intervention in our lives.

Will we make efforts now to know who we are and who God is, or will we wait until we are dying to realize that we are not a god?

What do I, what do  you, need to do to grow in humility?

Monday, August 20, 2018

Consequences of Worshipping Idols

In today's first reading, Ezekiel 24:  15-23, the Lord prophesies to Ezekiel that his wife, "the delight of [his] eyes" will die and that he should not publicly mourn her death.   The people want to know what all this means to them and the prophet tells them that they, too, shall lose the delight of their eyes, the Temple in Jerusalem. They, also, are told not to mourn: "[Y]ou shall rot away because of your sins and groan one to another." 

The rationale for the destruction of Jerusalem is given in the response to today's responsorial verse, Dt. 32: 18-19, 20, 21:  "You have forgotten God who gave you birth." We are given a further  explanation in the verse itself:  "You were unmindful of the Rock that begot you.....When the Lord saw this, he was filled with loathing and anger toward his sons and daughters. 'I will hide my face from them,' he said, 'and see what will then become of them.  What a fickle race they are, sons with no loyalty in them! 'Since they have provoked me with their 'no-god' and angered me with their vain idols, I will provoke them with a 'no-people'; with a foolish nation I will anger them."

This passage, it seems to me,  applies to the world of today with its "no-gods" and "vain idols."  Many races, today, have become fickle, disloyal!  The questions I need to ask myself, however,  are:  Have I become fickle, that is, undependable, irresponsible concerning my relationship with God and my service to others?  Am I worshipping 'no-gods,' that is, am I putting my sole security in accumulating money beyond my means,  seeking pleasures above all, clinging to my own whims at the expense of others, seeking the gods of consumerism and materialism? Am I running from one relationship to another and another, being unfaithful to my marriage or religious vows?  Is success my god? Is being in control and having "power" my god?

I am called to love and be loving, as modeled by Jesus in the Gospels. Jesus was obedient to His Father unto death?  To whom am I obedient?  Whom am I serving: God in loving faithfulness and right relationships with my wife and children; God in faithfulness to my vocation in life?

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Living Bread

Today's Gospel, John 6: 51-58, opens with Jesus saying to Us: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."

"I am the living bread."  I left heaven for you. I have come down to earth to be one with you. When I returned to my Father, I left you the Eucharist, myself as "the living bread."  In every Eucharist  you eat of my flesh and drink of my blood, a gift I gave to you at the Last Supper when I said to my disciples attending that meal: "This is my body given up for you; take and eat." And with the wine served at that meal, I took it in my sacred hands and, as the High Priest of God, blessed the wine and said to the disciples: "Take and drink; this is the blood of the New Covenant which will be poured out of you." My changing water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana prefigured the Eucharist that I would leave with you in the hands of priests to follow my Way.  To priests, I have given the power at every Catholic Mass to change bread and wine into my body and blood for your spiritual nourishment and to fulfill the promise I made at my Ascension: I will be with you always until the end of time and, in this case, in the Eucharist.  Not only am I with you in the Eucharist, but I reside in the depth of your being and in all of creation. As God, I am everywhere sustaining all in existence, strengthening all, governing all, loving all, comforting all, challenging all and transforming all into the Divine, as My Love knows no end. I will draw all persons and all things to Me.  Your transformation will be complete in eternity and so, too, for everyone else open to the graces I pour out upon you an them from the cross every moment of every day!  Do you believe? Do you trust?"

Saturday, August 18, 2018

A God of Justice and of Life

In today's first reading, Ezekiel 18: 1-10, 13b, 30-32, God says to us through the prophet:  "If a man is virtuous...he shall surely live,...But if a thief, a murderer, or lends at interest and exacts usury...[he] certainly shall not live.  Because he practiced all these abominations, he shall surely die; his death shall be his own fault."

Imagine the following  conversation with the Lord in prayer:

"Lord, I turn over to You all those who are involved in what seems insurmountable,  larger-than-life 'mountains' of criminality, deception, and corrupt engagements and decisions that have or will have caused incredible suffering throughout the whole world.  Lord, please have mercy on us and bring those directly involved in evil or those corroborating with the wicked to justice.  May their "empires" collapse and their illusionary power be destroyed.  If you will it, Lord, You can do it, that is, you can bring all people to repentance and to a change of heart, choosing to abandon evil and turn toward the good!"

Of course I will it.  The wicked shall be stripped of all power in My timing.  So, too, will those who collaborate with those involved in evil. I am a God of justice.  I see the evil ways, the ways of untruth, and the corrupt behaviors being enacted by persons throughout the world. I hear the cries of those who are victims of their crimes. I am not deaf to the cries of the poor. 

Just as I did not spare the wicked in Noah's time nor the wicked of Sodom and Gomorrah's time, neither will I spare the wicked of this day and time in any country. Everyone will be given the opportunity to turn from evil and do what is good; everyone will be given the chance to repent and change their lives. Anyone who chooses to continue in his/her evil ways, however, chooses death, not life.   Death, as I said through Ezekiel, the prophet, "shall be his/her own fault".  I choose life for everyone, not death!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Clothed with the splendor of God

In today's first reading, Ezekiel 16: 1-5, 6 63, the Lord makes known to us, through the prophet Ezekiel, the condition of the nation Israel and of all of humankind without God's intervention.  Seeing the pitiable state of His people--born without being washed nor anointed, thrown to the ground, discarded, loathed upon by other nations--God looks upon Israel, and us, with compassion. "....I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you; you are mine, says the Lord God. ...I bathed you with water, washed away your blood, and anointed you with oil. I clothed you with an embroidered  gown, put sandals of fine leather on your feet; I gave you a fine linen sash and silk robes to wear. I adorned you with jewelry....You were exceedingly beautiful, with the dignity of a queen. You  were renowned among the nations for your beauty, perfect as it was because of my splendor which I had bestowed on you, says  the Lord God." 

That description fits us who have been baptized with water and redeemed with Jesus' blood poured out upon the cross for our salvation. In grace, we have been clothed with dignity and made righteous in the sight of our God.  In God's sight, the redeemed, you and I, are "exceedingly beautiful," bearing the dignity of a queen or a king.  We are made perfect in God's sight "because," God says to us, "of my splendor which I had bestowed on you" in Christ Jesus, my Son sent to show you the depth of my love for you!

I believe this!  What is your belief?

Saturday, August 11, 2018

A Plea for Justice

Again, today's first reading, Habakkuk 1: 12-2:4, is applicable to what is happening in the world of today.  Habakkuk is complaining to the Lord concerning the evil that exists in the world of his day. He says to the Lord, God:  "Are you not from eternity, Lord, my holy God, immortal?  O Lord, you have marked [evil men/women] for judgment, O Rock, you have readied [them] for punishment!  Too pure are your eyes to look upon evil, and the sight of misery you cannot endure. Why, then, do you gaze on the faithless in silence while the wicked man devours one more just than himself?"

Habakkuk's complaint is as true now as in his day.  Evil men and women "devour" others more just than themselves; they are, therefore,  marked for judgment--God's judgment.   The psalmist, in today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 9, reminds that "[t]he Lord sits enthroned forever; he has set up his throne for judgment.  He judges the world with justice; he governs; the people with equity," so unlike humankind's way of judging and governing.  Also, as Habakukk emphasizes:  God's eyes are "too look upon evil." This is as true today as then."The sight of misery [God] cannot endure" today  any more than in days of old.  The day of judgment will come. God will intervene in God's time and bring justice to this world, creating a new earth and a new heaven where justice will reign and evil will be no more!

Regarding Habakkuk's complaint, God responds as follows: Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets, so that one can read it readily. For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late. The rash man/[woman] has no integrity; but the just [person], because of his [her] faith, shall live."  That promise will be fulfilled!  I believe that!  What about you?

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Law of Love Written on our Hearts

In today's first reading, Jeremiah 31: 31-34, the Lord says to us through the prophet that "the days are coming...when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah....I will place my law within them, and write it on their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  No longer will they need to teach their friends and relatives how to know the Lord. All, from least to greatest, shall know me,..., for I will forgive their evil doing and remember their sin no more!"  You and I have the law of God--the law of love--written on on our hearts.  We know right from wrong and are reminded by the Spirit every time we ignore what God has engraved on our heart.

To confirm and reinforce this message of love and forgiveness, Jesus became sin for us upon the cross, putting sin to death and clothing us in a robe of righteousness, as St. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5: 21:  God made [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."  In Ephesians, Paul says to us:  "...[P]ut  on [your] new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4: 24).

Have I forgotten God's love? Am I too busy attempting to find salvation elsewhere where God is not? Have the excitements of the world blinded me? Has my heart become so hardened that I no longer sense the spirit nudging me to return to the Lord, to offer Him a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, to give Him my heart in sacrificial love for the life of those with whom I live and work, pray and play?

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

God's Age-old Love

In today's first reading, Jeremiah 31: 1-7, the Lord says to the Israelites through the prophet Jeremiah: "With age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you. Again I will restore you, and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin Israel;....Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; those who plant them shall enjoy the fruits."  Why?   Because the "Lord has delivered his people, the remnant of Israel."

Over and over again Israel prostituted themselves, worshipping the false gods of neighboring countries. And over and over again God restored them and rebuilt "virgin Israel". So, too, with us How many times have we worshipped non-gods or chosen God substitutes, seeking love and security and peace where such cannot be found: in accumulative wealth earned in dishonest ways, promiscuity, avarice, prostitution, dishonest dealings,  human trafficking, drug trafficking, forced labor, cheap labor and so on.  How many times have we not gone astray, abandoning truth and justice and running from the disciplines that will lead us to the Lord, our God. And God says to us: "With an age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you. Again I will restore you, and you shall be rebuilt," O virgin daughter/son!

When we turn back to the Lord, our God, with our whole heart, our whole soul, and our whole mind, God, we are told by Jeremiah in today's responsorial verse, "will turn [the] mourning [that comes from being unfaithful to the Lord]  into joy."  God "will console and gladden [us] after [our] sorrows."

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Keep Your Eyes on the Lord

In today's Gospel, Matthew 14: 22-36, Jesus, while dismissing the crowd,  sends the disciples to the other side of the sea ahead of him.   Once the crowd is dismissed, Jesus goes up to the mountain to pray by Himself.  The disciples are a couple of miles out on the sea and are being tossed around by a strong storm.  "During the fourth watch of the night, [Jesus] came toward them, walking on the sea." They are scared out of their wits, thinking a ghost is approaching them on this stormy sea.  "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid." Peter yells back at the ghostly figure and says: "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." "Come," Jesus responds to Peter. And Peter steps out of the boat onto the rough waters. Realizing what the heck he is doing, Peter becomes fearful, takes his eyes off of Jesus and begins to sink.  "Lord, save me."  And immediately, Jesus stretches out His hand and pulls Peter up drowning.

"Lord, save me," is a prayer all of us, no doubt, say often!  We  may drowning, so to speak, in grief, in financial or  relationship problems, in episodes with our children that we could never dream of, in facing illnesses--mental or physical--that baffle us and fill us with fear!  "Lord, where are you?" we ask!   "Be not afraid," the Lord says to us. I am right here with you. Together we will face these storms flooding  your life. You are not alone. I never abandon you. No matter how rough things become, keep your focus on me. Be not like Peter and focus on turbulent "sea."  With your focus on me, you will make it, because I am the God of life, not of death. I am the God of hope, not despair.  I am the God of power, not despair.  When you are too tired, too weak, to walk, I will carry you. Trust Me.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Building a Relationship with Jesus

Imagine being Peter, James and John, whom Jesus "led up to a high mountain apart by themselves." That, in itself, is an incredible gift! Alone with Jesus, the Son of God, the Most High God!  Every day, you and I are also invited to spend time alone with Jesus in prayer.  Is "the mountain" too high for us to climb? Or do we simply dismiss the invitation, proclaiming to be too busy?

On that mountain, Jesus is transfigured before them. "...his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them."  Seeing Jesus in this way alone was more than enough but that was not all. Moses and Elijah appear and begin a conversion with Jesus.  Flabbergasted and bewildered, Peter does not know what to say and blurts out: "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah!"  Following that suggestion, a cloud covers Peter, James and John and they hear a voice say to them: "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him."  Suddenly, the three apostles are alone with Jesus! As they walk down the mountain, Jesus instructs them to share the experience with no one until He has risen from the dead! "Risen from the dead?"  Their unshared response: "What the heck does that mean?"

There are lots of mysteries in our faith. And like Peter, James and John, we find it difficult, many times, getting our arms around them, so to speak!  What we do know is that, like with the apostles, Jesus will and does prepare us for what is to come. That is why He took Peter, James and John up this mountain before going up to Jerusalem for His passing through death into eternal life, where the Father would bestow upon Him "dominion, glory, and kingship" (See today's first reading:  Daniel 7: 13-14).  

Peter, James and John had developed a very close relationship with Jesus and, therefore, were open to Jesus' invitations to send special times with Him alone.  What about you and me?  Are we willing each day to set time aside with the Lord to get to know Him, listen to Him, share our secrets with Him and He with us?  I hope so!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Generosity of Our God

In today's first reading, Exodus 16: 2-4, 12-15, we read about the Israelites having been freed from the slavery of the Egyptians and are crossing the desert on their way to the land promised to them by their God.  Food is scarce. In anger, they grumble against Moses and Aaron: "Would that we had died at the Lord's hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and had our fill of bread!" God, of course, who is always present, leading  us, walking beside us, behind us and ahead of us, hears their complaint! He does not get sucked into their anger and respond angrily. No! He says to Moses: I will now rain down bread from heaven for you. Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion...I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them: In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread, so that you may know that I, the Lord, am your God."

WOW!  That is our God then and now!

The bread that God sent down to the Israelites in the desert was perishable food, not food that lasts. The Bread set down to us now is bread that lasts into eternal life: that Bread of Life is Jesus, as we read in today's Gospel, John 6: 24-35. Jesus tells the people: Do not work for food that perishes but for food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you....[T]he bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world....I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst."

Are we aware of this Truth? Do we come to Jesus in the Eucharist, in the daily Scriptures, in our personal, communal and liturgical prayer seeking to know Jesus more deeply and more personally, to grow in our faith and trust and love?  Do we even pray for  these graces each day, recognizing our need for the Lord's help?

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Building God's Kingdom

In today's Gospel, Matthew 13: 47-53, Jesus likens the Kingdom of heaven  to "a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind."  When Jesus called the apostles from their fishing boats, He told them that He would make them fishers of men.  During His time here on earth in a physical body, Jesus, the Son of God, also went about "fishing" for men and women in need of a physician, persons needing healing of body, mind and spirit.  He ate with sinners, spoke with sinners, raised sinners from the dead, promised Paradise to a thief dying on the cross next to  him when he asked to be remembered by Jesus when He got to His Kingdom.

The Son of God was the transformation of God roaming throughout all of Galilee and the surrounding area. He was the Divine Potter reshaping people into the image and likeness of God in which each was made and about which each was commissioned to bring to fullness during their sojourn here on earth. Jesus showed the way to accomplish his work. He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life of God in our midst then and now!

May you and I realize ever more fully our mission to build God's Kingdom, as Jesus did and does!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

God, Our Refuge in the Day of Distress

Today's first reading, Jeremiah 15: 10, 16-21, the prophet expresses his despair.  He is deeply depressed and expresses anger at his mother for giving him birth. He describes himself as "a man of strife and contention to all the land! I neither borrow nor lend, yet all curse me."  He can't figure out how this can be! "When I found your words," Jeremiah reminds God, "I devoured them; they became my joy and the happiness of my heart, because I bore your name, O Lord, God of hosts. I did not sit  celebrating in the circle of merrymakers; under the weight of your hand I sat alone because you filled me with indignation." God does not let Jeremiah off the hook.  "If you repent, so that I restore you, in my presence you shall stand. If you bring forth the precious without the vile, you shall be my mouthpiece. Then it shall be they who turn to you and you shall no turn to them.  And I shall make you toward this people a solid wall of  brass. Though they fight against you, they shall not prevail, for I am with you, to deliver and rescue you...I will free you from the hand of the wicked, and rescue you from the grasp of the violent."

What is true for Jeremiah is also true for us.  As God's mouthpiece, we need to stand up to evil. Doing so will not win us brownie points among others. In fact, as with Jeremiah, we may be cursed by others.  Devouring God's words, however, is not enough. We need to live a pure, holy life as well as stand up to evil, knowing that God is with us "to deliver and rescue" us!  God will free us, as He did Jeremiah, "from the hand of the wicked, and rescue [us] from the grasp of the violent," including the violence of Satan prowling the world, seeking someone to devour.

Remember, as we pray in today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 59, that "God is [our] refuge on the day of distress."