Sunday, September 30, 2018

Weeping, Repenting, Acknowledging our Need for Mercy

In today's second reading, James 5: 1-6, St. James challenges those who have become wealthy by corrupt, deceitful ways:  "Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvest your fields....[you who] have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure [at the expense of the poor]...[who] have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. You have condemned; you have  murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance."

This passage brings to my mind those who, to this very day, have accumulated wealth unjustly or illegally: in the sex trade industry, in dealing in illegal drugs, or who have coerced young boys and girls into forced labor; those who, in fact, have withheld wages from their employees, filed bankruptcy and left those to whom money was owned without being paid for their labors and who have engaged in other corrupt practises.

James goes on to invite those who have gained wealth by engaging in unjust practises to grieve:  "Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away,  your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire."

We know from the Gospels that God does not rejoice in those who choose evil over good and who, for that reason, risk eternal damnation. No, God rejoices more over the one sinner who repents than over 99 persons who are in right relations with their God.  Let us pray for that one person whom we know is making millions and billions of dollars in unjust, illegal, deceptive ways. Because of your prayers and mine, my this one person weep and wail over the miseries he/she has caused and return to the Lord repentant of their sins. And may you and I recognize that for which we, too, need to weep and wail in repentance! God knows that for which we need to repent. May we be open to knowing what God knows about us!

Friday, September 28, 2018

"A Time to Die" to Being Judgmental

In today's first reading, Ecclesiastes 3: 1-11,  the author states that there is "a time to be born and a  time to die."  The thought came to me that, given what is happening in the world of our day,  it is especially the time to die to judging others.  For instance, it is easy to point fingers at those involved in the nomination of a new justice to the Supreme Court, or to judge the President or members of congress or of the  Senate or leaders anywhere in the world or to judge those who do not embrace the political party in which we believe.  However, when we have a finger pointing at others, three fingers are pointing at ourselves.  The sinner that we need to convert, so to speak, is ourselves, not other persons. The Lord rejoices over one sinner repenting of his/her sin; let that one sinner be myself!  May I change from being the publican boasting of not being like that person over there to being the one who is saying to God:  "Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I have sinned."  God's mercy is infinite!  God's arms are open to embrace the sinner, as the father of the prodigal son embraced his son upon his return to him after a life of debauchery and sinful pleasures.  May I be that prodigal son/daughter!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Guidance from the Author of Proverbs

Today's first reading,  Proverbs 21:1-6, 10-13, again instructs us, clearly stating what God expects of us as His sons and daughters, that is, what gives God pleasure. "Like a stream is the king's heart in the hand of the Lord; wherever it pleases [God], God directs it."  My prayer is that my heart and your heart are like streams in the Lord's hands, in that we allow the love of God, God's compassion and forgiveness, God's justice and truth to flow out of us into the hearts of others.  "To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice," the author of Proverbs tells us.  I may think that I need to do this penance or that penance, treat myself harshly, endure strict fasts, and/or, for instance, sacrifice needed sleep to spend hours and hours in prayer in order to be "acceptable to the Lord."  No, Proverbs tells us!  What God wants is that we act justly and do what is right, as also emphasized by the prophet Micah (cf. Micah 6:8).

This passage of Proverbs also clearly speaks of what displeases God:  "Haughty eyes and a proud heart--the tillage of the wicked is sin....Whoever makes a fortune by a lying tongue is chasing a bubble over deadly snares. The soul of the wicked...desires evil; his [her] neighbor finds no pity in his  [her] eyes....A [person] who shuts his [her] ear to the cry of the poor will himself [herself] also call and not be heard."

Some questions that I need to honestly ask myself are:  Would I describe my behaviors as haughty or deceitful? Am I chasing bubbles or desiring evil?  Do neighbors wait in vain for me to show compassion and have pity on them when they are in a crisis situation? Have I shut my ears to the cry of the poor?

Monday, September 24, 2018

Choices in Life

Today's first reading, Proverbs 3: 27-34, clearly spells out the dilemma of the wicked and challenges us not to envy such, as he/she grows wealthy and piles on what looks like one success upon another and another.  "Envy not the lawless [individual]  and choose none of his [or her] ways: To the Lord the perverse one is an abomination, but with the upright is [God's] friendship. The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, but the dwelling of the just [God]  blesses; when dealing with the arrogant, [God] is stern, but to the humble [God] shows kindness."

Whom do I envy and why? Whose goods/wives do I covet? Am I among the upright or the perverse ones spoken of above? How much at peace am I or am I a disturbed individual who seeks to escape his/her troubles by excessive drink, overeating, compulsive shopping or obsessively running after one relationship after another or whatever addiction that enslaves me?

The response to today's responsorial psalm, (Psalm 15) reads: "The just one shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord."  The psalmist goes on to speak about persons who are upright: "[An individual] who walks blamelessly and does justice; who thinks the truth in his/[her] heart and slanders not with his tongue. Who harms not his fellow man [woman], nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor; by whom the reprobate is despised, while...[honoring] those who fear [reverence] the Lord....[An individual] who does these things shall never be disturbed."

Am I a person about whom others would say these praiseworthy things?  Is the psalmist describing me/you? If our answer is "no," what changes do we need to make in our way of living?

Sunday, September 23, 2018

For What Am I Striving?

Today's first reading, Wisdom 2: 12, 17-20,  prophesies the death of Jesus. The author of Wisdom reveals the plot of the wicked to put Jesus to death:  "Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training.  Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him. For if the just one be the son of God, God will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes.  With revilement and torture let us put the just one to the test that we may have poof of his gentleness and try his patience.  Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him."

Note the statement "he sets himself against our doings", not against us!  It's our behaviors with which Jesus is upset.  We have violated the principles of our faith, our upbringing! That offends the Lord, our God, who has come to set us free! Knowing that he will be be  handed over to evil persons and be condemned to death, Jesus, in today's Gospel, Mark 9: 30-37, shares these facts with the apostles.  They do not get it and are too afraid to ask Jesus questions about the facts of His impending death. They resort to fighting among themselves about who is greatest in His Kingdom! How sad but how true it is that, frequently,  we don't understand Jesus' teaching that "if anyone who wishes to be first, he [she] shall be last of all and the servant of all."

What am I desiring? For what positions am I striving? Whom am I serving?

Saturday, September 22, 2018

From corruptibility to incorruptibility

In today's first reading, 1 Cor 15: 35-37, 42-49, St. Paul reminds us that the body that we now possess here on earth is a corruptible one, a weak one, a natural one and, in his words, "a dishonorable" one.  After we pass through the door of death, however, our resurrected body will be incorruptible, strong, spiritual.  Like all seeds which we plant here on earth and "rise" from the soil a totally different reality, so, too,  the "seed" of the incorruptible body rises totally different from our corruptible, natural bodies. They rise bearing the image of the resurrected Christ!

As we pray in today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 56, we are "bound to God,"..., who will rescue us from death that we "may walk before God in the light of the living."  Such walking with God may be here on earth or in heaven after we are buried in the ground following our earthly death and "the seed" of our incorruptible bodies burst forth, so to speak, in our eternal home!


Friday, September 21, 2018

Striving to Live a Mature Life in Christ Jesus

In today's first reading, Ephesians 4: 1-7, 11-13, St. Paul calls you [and me] to "live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace: one Body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." 

We live in one Body, the Body of Christ. The bond of Christ's peace unites us. May we strive "to preserve" that peace, living a life of "humility and gentleness, ...patience, bearing with one another through love," and thus preserving "the unity of the Spirit."  How patient am I/are you? How humble and gentle am I/are you? In what ways today did I/did you create unity by "bearing with ...another through love"?

We have been baptized into the Body of Christ, and, in baptism, Paul tells us, "[g]race was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ's gift."  The gifts we have been given are for "building up the Body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood/[womanhood], to the extent of the full stature of Christ."  Am I/are you growing in maturity or are we, as adults, still having temper tantrums when things do not go our way or when we encounter obstacles to our ego's desire to be in control or to assert its "authority over others"? A person who reflects the "full stature of Christ,"  in no way acts in these ways but lives a humble, patient, gentle life, bearing other people's burdens so as to lighten the load another may be carrying!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

"By the Grace of God, I Am Who I Am" (1 Cor 15: 1-11)

In today's first reading, 1 Cor 15: 1-11, St. Paul hands on to us what was handed down to him, namely, that Jesus died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.  In grappling with his own history of persecuting the Church, he says: "[B]y the grace of God, I am what I am."  In today's Gospel, Luke 7: 36-50, a woman enters Simon's house, having found out that Jesus was dining with this Pharisees. Simon is upset and says to himself: "If this man [Jesus] were a prophet, he would  know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him."  Jesus reads Simon's thoughts and shares with him a story of two persons forgiven a debt, one of the debts is large and the other much  smaller.   Which man, Jesus asks Simon, will love the creditor more? "The one, I suppose, [responds Simon] whose larger debt was forgiven."  Jesus then turned to the woman and says to Simon: "'Do you see this woman?....[H]er many sins have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love'....He said to [the woman]: 'Your sins are forgiven....Your faith has saved you; go in peace.'"

Who am I/who are you in this Scripture passage?  Simon who is standing in judgment over others? the creditor who forgives the debt that others owe him? the persons owing debts to others? the sinner kneeling at Jesus' feet, kissing them, anointing them with expensive oil, weeping out of love for the Lord and, recognizing her sinfulness, grateful for being forgiven?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Living a Life of Love

 Today's first reading, 1 Cor 12: 31-13:13,  contains the famous passage on the greatest of spiritual gifts, love!  "If I speak in human and angelic tongues," Paul warns me, "but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing."

Paul could also say to me and you: If you make millions and billions and have no love, you gain nothing and are nothing!  Or, if you win the most prestigious awards or secure the most prestigious of positions and have no love, you gain nothing or are nothing!

It's all about love! We have only to look at the love of a mother/father for their child/children, parents willing to sacrifice everything for the well-being of their children, parents who discipline their children, teach them Gospel values,  how to focus on the Living God, and how to live honest, just self-sacrificing love for the sake of others, and we see love at its finest.  Persons who live a life of love are kind and patient, compassionate and understanding, merciful and caring of others. Such persons do not "brood over injury"  or "rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoice with the truth."  Such persons find ways to forgive and let go of past hurts, returning good for evil and kindness for a lack of kindness!  These kind of persons, filled with hope and gratitude, are graced to endure all things in a way that strengthens their loving spirit.  May you and I be such persons!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

"God Has Visited His People" (Lk 7:16)

In today's first reading, 1 Cor 12:12-14, 27-31a, St. Paul speaks about the body of Christ, into which "we were all baptized."  Through baptism we became "individually [a] part of [Christ's body].  Just as with the human body there are many parts and each part has a role to play in the body being healthy and a fully functioning body, so, too, with the body of Christ.   Each member of the body of Christ has been given gifts: the gift to teach, to preach, to heal, to govern, to prophesy, to assist others, to do mighty works, and so on. We are all called to "[s]trive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts."  What might those be?  I believe that the greatest spiritual gift is to know Jesus Christ and follow His Way, the way of self-sacrificing love, the love Jesus showed us on the cross: a willingness to die so others may live--dying to selfishness, doing things to ease the burdens of others, making a difference in peoples' lives, choosing to be honest no matter what the cost, going the extra mile for those in need, especially those in our families and communities.  If we choose to live honestly and justly and give generously, cheerfully, lovingly, humbly, God, I believe, is revealed to others. And others will say of us as they said of Jesus: "God has visited his people" (Luke 7:16).

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Mary, Mother of Sorrows and our Mother

Today, the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, celebrate their patronal feast, the feast of the Sorrowful Mother. The Gospel reading for this feast is John 19: 25-27.  Mary stands beneath the cross as her only Son, Jesus, is crucified, mocked, and dies the cruel death of a criminal.  Following His condemnation to die by crucifixion, He had been brutally beaten and crowned with thorns.  Having lost a significant amount of blood in the scourging, Jesus falls three times as He carried His cross up the hill to Calvary, where He would be put to death for the sins of humankind!  It was the sins of humankind, in fact, your sins and mine,  that crushed Jesus, killed Him.

Mary stands at the foot of the cross watching her Son's agony and hearing Him say: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing."  Standing beneath that cross, Mary,  no doubt, realized what the prophet Simeon meant when he prophesied that her heart would be pieced with a sword, the sword of suffering.

It was from the cross, that Jesus gave us Mary as our mother. We are as much her sons/her daughters, as Jesus was her Son. She feels for us, as she felt for her Son. And, just as she stood beneath the cross of her Son and supported Him in his agony, so, too, does she stand with each of us in our moments of suffering.  She could not stop the pain her Son, nor can she stop the pain we are in.  However, she intercedes for us, as she interceded for Jesus.  She wipes away our tears as she wiped away the tears of her so many times in His life time. And beneath that cross, she gave Him the strength He needed to suffer on our behalf, showing us the infinite love God has for us!And she gives us the strength we need, as well!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Living a Life Full of Love

St. Paul, in today's first reading, 1 Cor 7: 25-31, writes to the people, encouraging them to be ready for the second coming of Jesus, which he believed was near.  "[T]ime is running out,....[T]he world in its present form is passing away," he tells them.  Though we do not know the time or the hour when the world, as we know it, will pass away, we can be ready. How? By conversion! By living pure lives! By living for eternity and bringing a little of eternity to the place where we live! What does that mean? Creating "heaven"here on earth for the people with whom we live!  Making love the essence of our lives, of our relationships!  How kind and forgiving am I, are you? How merciful and caring? How honest and just? Can others depend upon us to be there for them in hard times? How willing am I to rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep? In other words, what am I, are you, doing to lift others' burdens and to enhance their successes?  Or am I too wrapped up in my own little world to notice others around me, especially when they are carrying heavy crosses?

Today we celebrate the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary, a woman "full of grace," who lived a live full of grace! May you and I do likewise!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Called to bear the everlasting fruit of love

In today's Gospel, Luke 6: 12-19, we are told that Jesus went up to the mountain to pray. He spent the entire night there.  Coming down from the mountain, he called his disciples to himself and named the twelve persons who were to carry on His mission after His return to the Father. Jesus continues to call us to be disciples of Good News, the news of His death and resurrection, the news of His presence as Eucharistic food, His presence within us and all around us.  God is closer to us than our very breath. God sustains us, encourages us, strengthens us, counsels us and, yes, continually purifies and sanctifies us through the situations of each day.  The antiphon of the responsorial psalm of today's liturgy, I believe, tells us why: "The Lord takes delight in his people." God delights in you. God delights in me! And, as we pray in the Gospel acclamation of today's liturgy: "[God] chose [us, as He did His twelve apostles] from the world that [we] may go and bear fruit that will last,"and that fruit is love!

Saturday, September 8, 2018

God Comes to Save

In tomorrow's first reading, Is 35: 4-7a,  God asks the prophet Isaiah to "[s]ay to those whose hearts are frightened:  Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared....Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe. The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground springs of water."

Imagine the day when "the eyes of the blind"  and "the ears of the deaf" throughout the world--in our  own country, in our government, in Congress, etc.--will actually be opened to truth and to the cries of the poor, the oppressed, the abused of our societies.  That day is coming, Isaiah tells us!  God will come "with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save [us] from all kinds of oppressors, within and without: pathological lying, corruption, thievery, murder, avarice, narcissism, covetousness and so many other ways in which we are deceived by Satanic forces.

Know, too, that our own ears and eyes will be opened.  "Streams [of grace] will burst forth in the desert [of our hearts]." Our thirst for God, for Truth itself and for truth within ourselves, will be quenched!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Ready for Solid Spiritual Food?

In today's first reading, 1 Cor 3: 1-9, St. Paul regrets the fact that the people are still infants spiritually, not ready for solid spiritual food but needing to be fed "milk."  He asks them the question: "While there is jealousy and rivalry among you, are you not of the flesh, and walking according to the manner of man/human beings" only and not spiritual beings? Furthermore, St. Paul points out to them, you are bickering among yourself about to whom do you belong: "Whenever  someone says, 'I belong to Paul,' and another, 'I belong to Apollos,' are you not merely men?"  Fighting, bickering, jealousy, greed, avarice, covetousness, prejudice, hatred, bigotry, racism, unjust practises, violation of human rights--and so much more that causes division among us--indicate that we are infants in the spiritual life and totally blind and deaf to Jesus' Gospel message and to following the way that Jesus pointed out to us.

How do I perceive myself in regard to my spiritual growth: am I an infant, a child, an adolescent, an adult?  When I think of men or women who model spiritual adulthood, persons ready for solid spiritual food, I think of a Martin Luther King, a Coretta King, a Barbara Bush, Princess Diana, Oscar Romero, a Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Mother Frances Streitel--the foundress of my religious community--my own mother who modeled forgiveness and strength of character and so many mothers and fathers who sacrifice everything for their children's well-being and character development, teaching their children the virtues of honesty, self-sacrifice, love and forgiveness, mercy and justice, compassion and kindness to those less fortunate than themselves.

Am I living a life of self-sacrificing love, of justice and mercy, compassion and understanding, of caring and faithfulness to the message of the Gospel?  If so, I am growing spiritually and "eating" solid spiritual food, as did my parents.