Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Narrow Gate

In today's Gospel Luke 13: 22-30, Jesus speaks about those who will gather around the banquet table in His kingdom, those who strove, here on earth, "to enter [eternal life]  through the narrow gate." Jesus reminds us that many will not enter that narrow gate because they will not be strong enough to do so!  Strength comes from the Lord, the creator and redeemer of all! Strength comes to those who recognize Jesus as their Savior, as the one who alone can take them through that "narrow gate".

The narrow gate is  the gate through which Jesus journeyed while here on earth--obedient to a Higher Power.  Obeying the Father's will led to Jesus' death by people who were jealous of Him and who were concerned that others were listening to His teachings and worried that so many were following His way of humility, honesty, righteousness, justice and love for all persons and especially for sinners, the oppressed, the poor, and the outcasts of His culture!

Choosing the "narrow gate" of holiness, as Jesus showed us, will lead to conflict with those who choose the broader gate.  "Everyone is doing it," is the reason so many choose to follow the crowd through the broader gate. It's easier!  No sweat! No sacrifice!  "You'll be like God," Satan told Eve and Adam in the Garden!  How many people act as though they are a God, the Higher Power others are to emulate! As with Adam and Eve in the Garden, many fall for Satan's lies and reject the "narrow way."

What choices are you and I making?

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Reverencing the Lord and One Another

In today's first reading, Ephesians 5: 21-33, St. Paul talks about marriage and the need for love and respect for each other. In Genesis, the message is that a man is to leave his mother and father and become one with his spouse.  Both are to grow in mutual love for one another,  become united in mind and heart toward a common goal: that their children grow in their relationship with the Lord, come to know the Lord and embrace their faith and call to become spiritually mature individuals. That maturity needs to be modeled by parents.  Spiritual maturity, a call to self-sacrificial love,  is the same for persons in religious life and/or priesthood. We are here to become one with others in our goal to be one with the Lord Jesus and His will for us.  God wills that we grow to greater unity with God and with one another, that we are fruitful and multiply goodness--the goodness of bearing children in our image and likeness and who grow in their image and likeness of God!  How do we do that? by personally living humbly in our relating to each other, in being reverent of one another,  in forgiving one another, and in being compassionate and understanding of one another!

In today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 128, those are declared "blessed" who fear the Lord, that is, reverence the Lord. Reverencing the Lord begins with reverencing ourselves and one another.  Those who "fear the Lord, who walk in his ways,...shall eat the fruit of [their] handiwork; [they] shall be blessed...and favored."

May you and I grow in reverence!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Bent Over as the Woman in Luke 13: 10-17

In today's first reading, Ephesians 4: 32-5:8, St. Paul admonishes us "to be kind to one another compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. Be imitators of God,  Paul says to us, "as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God..."  Tonight, after praying my experience of being disappointed, frustrated and angry, I realized how much I need help to assume attitudes of humility and submission to the will of God as being revealed in the circumstances of my life. What was I actually doing? Trying to control circumstances and have them go my way, not the way of another person. I was assuming a position of domination, not submission, as Jesus did in His sufferings, death and resurrection.

When I came to reflecting on today's Gospel, Luke 13: 10-17, I realized that I was the crippled woman that Jesus healed--crippled, bent over as she was. From what? my need to be in control or to have others submit to my wishes and not me to theirs!  I spelled out the situation to the Lord, baring my soul to the Lord and asking for help.  And help was given me as it was to the woman who, "for eighteen eyes had been crippled by a spirit; she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect."  When I asked Jesus to set me free, He said to me:  "...[Y]ou are set free by my sacrificial love.  When you fall into a trap that Satan sets for you, I will always set you free when you recognize the trap, acknowledge it, and ask to be set free.  I am always there with you ready to help!"

From time to time, we all fall into traps that Satan sets for us.   Share with Jesus a trap into which you  may have fallen and ask to be freed!  Jesus will respond as compassionately as He responded to the woman in today's Gospel!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Sent on Mission to Proclaim the Kingdom of the Lord

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Luke, the evangelist, who worked along side St. Paul in making Jesus known to the Gentiles.  Both Luke and Paul, friends of Jesus, did what the responsorial psalm, Psalm145, proclaims:  "Your friends make known O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom." The psalmist goes on to say to followers of Jesus: "Let them discourse of the glory of [God's] Kingdom," a kingdom of peace and justice and love.  As disciples of Jesus, we are to make "known [God's] might and the glorious splendor of [God's] kingdom, [a] Kingdom...for all ages."  We are to let people know that God's "dominion endures through all generations," not just Jesus' generation. We are also to reveal the truth that "the Lord is just in all his ways and holy in all his works. [And furthermore,] near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth."

In today's Gospel, Luke 10, 1-9, Luke tells the story of when Jesus appointed 72 disciples to  proclaim the Kingdom and thus precede him to places which He Himself "intended to visit....[B]ehold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.....In whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this household.' If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in [that] house." 

In order to do God's work, we need to, first ourselves, be at peace. If the persons we are sent to assist, be that family  or community members, members of our parish, or our fellow employees, are not at peace with our presence or message, we need to move on to other places/persons, as Jesus counseled the 72.  When the Lord send us out on mission, we also need to be prepared to encounter "wolves."  Not everyone wants to hear about the Gospel way of life and not everyone lives a life  that brings them to knowledge Jesus, the Lord who, as identified by the psalmist as one who "is just in all his ways and holy in all  his works."  As with Jesus, we will encounter opposition in living the Christian way of life and being true to ourselves!

Are you/am I ready? If we keep our focus on Jesus as we journey through any given day, or come back to the Lord when we lose our focus,  we will always be ready!


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Discernment of Spirits

In today's first reading, Galatians 5: 18-25, Paul clearly describes when we are allowing ourselves to be guided by the spirit or by the flesh.  When guided by the spirit, we are generous, gentle, self-controlled and faithful to the Gospel. The fruits of the spirit are love,  joy, patience, kindness and the like. On the other hand, when we are slaves to the flesh, we are out of control, throwing fits of fury, engaging in  orgies or bouts of drinking, being licentious, impure, idolatrous, envious, divisive and the like.  "Those who belong to Christ Jesus, Paul reminds us, "have crucified their flesh with it passions and desires."

In today's Gospel, Luke 11: 42-46, Jesus further clarifies the difference of living according the spirit or according to the flesh.  When we are following the ways of the flesh,  we "pay no attention to judgment and to love of God."   Our focus is rather on externals: gaining places of honors, being "greeted in...marketplaces," being recognized by the phylacteries or other devotionals we wear, the number of prayers we recite,  and which others notice we recite, and so on. In short, we become our own god! On the other hand, those who focus on the ways of the Gospel, go about doing good for the sake of the Kingdom, to give praise and glory to God's name,  "washing other people's feet," as Jesus did, being servant to others in ways that do not draw attention to oneself and, with God's assistance, dying to sin and rising to new life.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Unsurpassing Love of Christ

In today's opening prayer, the Collect of the Liturgy, we ask God to "pour out on us...the spirit with which [God] so remarkably endowed Saint Margaret Mary, so that [like her] we may come to know that love of Christ that surpassed all understanding and be utterly filled with [the Lord's] fullness."

What  a prayer!  I, you, are asking God to fill us with Jesus' love, nothing else! Full of love! God's love! Look at what Jesus, full of love, did for us, for all! Saved us from the slavery of sin! Purified us white as freshly fallen snow!  Opened the gates of heaven for us! Secured us an eternal inheritance! Shows us the way to the Father! Dines with us every day in the Eucharist! Never leaves our side!

Look at what Mary, full of grace, full of God's love, did for us! First of all, said 'yes' to God's plan for our salvation, and hers! Conceived in her womb the Son of God, giving birth to God Incarnate!  Second of all, taught Jesus to surrender to the will of His Father, called Him forth at Cana to reveal God's compassion to the bride and bridegroom! Noticed the need of the newly weds and brought that need to Jesus' attention, as she continues to do day in and day out for you and me, letting Jesus know our unmet needs. Teaches us, also,  to pay attention to each other's needs!  She stood beneath the cross, supporting and comforting her Son in His sufferings and does so for us! She witnessed, I believe, her Son's resurrection and ascension and was present at Pentecost. Finally, she guided the apostles and early members of the Church to spread the Good News, and is at our side also urging us to be faithful to our calling!

Yes, like Mary, may we be filled with the love of Christ and let that love pour forth from us into others! May we know the fullness of life that Jesus promises us, as did Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque and Mary our Mother.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Jesus' Call to Repentance

In today's Gospel, Luke 11: 29-32, Jesus says to the crowd: "This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah,"  that is, the preaching of Jonah and the subsequent repentance of the Ninevites.

The generation of Jesus' time and our current generation are no different from one another.  There is an abundance of evil in both generations.  In Jesus' generation, people plotted for Jesus' death and, out of jealousy, murdered him on Calvary between two thieves.  In our generation, people also plot to kill others who get in their way. People may be killed because they are about to expose evil or because they are blocking others from fulfilling their lustful desires or from acquiring properties by illegal, unjust schemes.

Where evil abounds, grace abounds as well. Jesus' death and resurrection brought about our redemption and, for that reason,  it is possible for evil to be transformed into a good. People committing evil are offered the grace to repent of their wrongdoing.  Eyes of men and women in actual or virtual prisons are opened. Hope is restored. Hatred destroyed. Evil does not triumph ultimately!

However, if people do not  heed Jesus' call to repentance and, thus, do not follow the example of the Ninevites, they will remain in the pit that Satan sets for those who follow the ways of evil spirits.

Where am I/where are you in this scenario? Are we following good spirit or bad ones?  Are we even aware of sin in our lives and our need for Jesus?

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Jesus' Directness

In today's Gospel, Mark 10: 17-30, a man runs up to Jesus, kneels down, and poses the following question to him: "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?  ....You know the commandments," Jesus says to him and spells out what those commandments are. The man answers: "Teacher, all of those I have kept since my youth."  Jesus looks at the man and loves him deeply. He says to him:  You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have  treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."  The man's face fell, and he walked away from Jesus saddened, "for he had many possessions," of which he was not ready to let go!

With some fear, I asked Jesus:  What must I do to inherit eternal life?  With greater fear, I asked Jesus to tell me what was the one thing that I lacked?  And He told me!

What question or questions do you need to ask Jesus? After you ask that question, wait, in prayer, for Jesus' answer!  Be not afraid!  Jesus is gentle but honest. And remember, as with the man in today's Gospel:  Jesus looks at you and loves you deeply!

Friday, October 12, 2018

God's Mercy

In today's first reading, Galatians 3: 7-14, St. Paul reminds us that "no one is justified before God by the law."   Only our faith in Christ Jesus justifies us.  "[T]he one who is righteous by faith will live,"   Paul tells us. "But the law does not depend on faith... Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us,  for it is written, Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree, that the blessings (the gift of faith) of Abraham might be extended to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."

Thank God for the gift of faith, especially on days when our behaviors would be condemned by the law.  God does not condemn; no, God saves! Christ has ransomed you and me from the curse of the law "by becoming a curse" and gives us the grace to forgive those who "curse" us and, yes, defends us from ourselves when we want to stand in judgment of self!

With the psalmist, in today's responsorial psalm, let us  pray:

"Majesty and glory are [God's] work,
and his justice endures forever.
He has won renown for his wondrous deeds;
gracious and merciful is the Lord." 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Smartness or Stupidity: Which Is it for Me/You?

In today's first reading, Galatians 3: 1-5, St. Paul is frustrated with the Galatians who have turned to the flesh and away from the Spirit. "Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?"   Paul is having a hard time comprehending how people can turn away from a God who poured out His love them upon the cross, surrendering to the Trinity's plan of salvation even unto death.   Jesus held nothing back to redeem us from the law, which condemns us, and from the cruel deceitfulness and wickedness of the devil who will go to any length to get us to deny Christ and turn away from our salvation, to deny Truth and Justice, Love and Mercy.  Satan seems to be having a hay day in the world of today. Evil seems to be triumphing over good, as on that first Good Friday.  However, we know that, as black as Good Friday was with the Savior of the world being put to death as a criminal that day, death--evil--was destroyed on that day and resurrection followed.  Good is going to triumph over evil. The wicked will not have the last word. Jesus will! Good people will!

On whose side will I be that day? the side of evil or the side of good? the side of justice or the side of injustice? the side of honesty or the side of deceitfulness? the side of love and mercy or the side of hatred and mercilessness? the side of humility or the side of pride? the side of forgiveness or the side of revenge?

Where do I stand today?  The choice is mine to make in cooperation with Jesus, who comes daily to save us, not condemn us!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Growing in Truth and our Need for One Another's Aid

In today's first reading,Galatians 2: 1-2, 7-14, Paul goes up to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus.  He shared the Gospel that he preached to the Gentiles with Cephas, James and John, whom Paul considered pillars of the faith. Cephas, James and John recognized that Paul was entrusted with the same Gospel to preach to Gentiles, the uncircumcised, that they were preaching to the circumcised. They also recognized the grace bestowed upon Paul.  The Holy Spirit was working in each of these individuals to spread the Good News of Jesus in different parts of the world and to different people of the world in which they lived.

God does the same gifting today, the same work in each of us, using us to build the Kingdom and spread the Good News of Jesus' life, death, resurrection and Pentecost! Just as Paul and his co-workers,both men and women, by the way,  needed one another and so, too did Cephas, James and John need Paul.   It was during this visit, that Paul challenged Peter's hypocrisy.  It is through and with each other that we grow in honest living and preaching of the Gospel, no less than in the days of old when the Church was in its infancy, so to speak!

May I have the courage to name hypocrisy when I see it and to be called when I am being hypocritical.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Consulting the Lord above all else!

In today's first reading, Galatians 1: 13-14, St. Paul tells us that, after Jesus revealed Himself to him,  he  "did not immediately consult flesh and blood, nor did [he] go up to Jerusalem to those who were Apostles before me..."  How often when something amazing or overpowering--good or evil, triumphs or failures--happens to us do we not go to "flesh and blood," or rush to our "Jerusalems" to seek counsel or share our stories.  What if we went first to the Lord and poured out our souls to Him and, after prayer,  consulted "flesh and blood."

A few days ago, I had an experience in which I did not approve of the way I reacted. Tonight I first shared it in prayer with the Lord. In my heart, I heard the Lord say to me:  "Seek Me, Dorothy Ann, not justification or approval from anyone. I am enough for you."  How humbling but how true!

As, in many of my prayer times when I pour out my soul to the Lord, my loved ones in  heaven want "a piece of the pie", so to speak. In my heart I heard my mother say to me:  "Dort, your mom! .... (she then gave me expert advice that applied to the situation).  Other family members also let me know that they love me and were supporting me. Then, in the depths of my heart, I heard my mom say to me: "Dort, [w]e are here for you. Seek our counsel." 

I need to learn, or the Lord is teaching me, to seek Him above all, to trust Him above all, to rely upon His counsel above all.  How much heartache I would spare myself, if I followed this advice!

How about you?

Monday, October 8, 2018

Being a Person of Compassion,Love and Concern for Others in Need

Today's Gospel, Luke 10: 25-37, presents the story of the Good Samaritan.  We may think of the Good Samaritan as Jesus and the wounded person as ourselves. By being caught in Satan's web of constant lies and being slaves of sin--selfishness, greediness, lustfulness, deceitfulness, pride, hatred, racism, judgementalism and other sinful behaviors--we lie in the ditches of life half dead, bleeding, beaten down, wounded, weakened and in need of healing. Jesus, the Compassionate One, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, sent not condemn the world but to save it, is not going to walk by us, ignore us, or be too busy or too holy for us.  No! Jesus stops, binds up our wounds and cares for us so that we may be made whole again, provided that we co-operate with His efforts.  Are we willing to change our behaviors, our attitudes and walk the Way God points out to us through Jesus Christ in the Holy Gospels?

We may also read this Gospel story and see ourselves as the Levite, the priest or the Samaritan.  The Levite and the priest past the wounded man, the person in need--in fact they cross the road and walk on the other side--not wanting to become unclean, according to Jewish law, and not be able to perform their religious duties!  Do we find excuses to not help our neighbors in need? Or are we, in fact, the good Samaritan who renders assistant to the wounded in our midst: in our homes, our streets, our churches, our places of employment?

Friday, October 5, 2018

Freedom or Slavery

Today's Gospel, Luke 10: 13-16,  begins with strong, harsh words spoken by Jesus:  "Woe to you Chorazin! Woe to you,  Bethsaida!  For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have long ago have repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.  But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you."  Jesus is not trying to bully the inhabitants of these two cities. Rather, He is expressing His grief that they have not turned back to God. Instead they remained slaves to their sinful way of life in spite of the many ways in which Jesus revealed God's love and mercy.

To this very day, it is very easy to get caught in a lifestyle dominated by greed, immorality, lust,  resentments, envy, avarice,  and other corrupt activities.  Satan is a Father of Lies, a "professional" at conning people into choosing wrongful actions to the point that people do not even realize when they have been deceived. The scene in the Garden of Eden plays out over and over again in today's reality: Satan entices one person to sin and that person lures another, while both find ways to pass the blame onto another  person or something else, refusing to accept responsibility for the choice one has made.

All of us need to pray with the psalmist the words of Psalm 139, today's responsorial psalm:  Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way and take to heart the words of the psalm:

"O Lord, you have proved me and you know me;
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.  
My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
with all my ways you are familiar."

So, I may cover up the truth from my fellow human beings and from myself, but not from God.  God knows me through and through and is deeply saddened when I make poor choices, choices whereby I become more and more a slave to sin and less and less a slave of the truth that makes me free.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Transcending Ego Disturbances

In today's first reading, Job 19: 21-27, Job  speaks of being hounded by his friends "as though [they] were divine."  He complains that they "insatiably prey upon" him!  How easy it is to pontificate against those whose behaviors we abhor and who seem to "insatiably prey upon" us!   Are we not then acting as though we were God?

It is easy to focus on the negative aspects of life, and there are many, and to get stuck on complaining about this or that or the other thing that disturbs our ego self.  I caught myself doing just that today and realized later, in prayer,  that, instead of seeking counsel from the Holy Spirit, I was focusing on an ego issue important to the prideful part of the self and about which another was hounding me.

Job did not cling to the words of those hounding him or complaining about him. No, he turned his focus to God and said to his critics:  "[A]s for me, I know that my Vindicator lives..."  If, like Job, you and I focused on God when things get rough around us, for whatever reason, we  certainly would not be "crying" about issues that naturally disturb the ego self.  May the Lord grant us the graces needed to redirect our thoughts to things of the Spirit self.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Fit for the Kingdom!

In today's Gospel, Luke 9: 57-63, three different persons indicate a desire to follow Jesus. When invited to do so, each has an excuse before making a commitment.  Jesus points out that following Him is not easy. Sacrifice is required. What seems more important than an immediate, direct and complete response needs to be relinquished.  How often, when the Spirit calls, do we not say:  "I've gotta do this or that first." That to which the Spirit called us to give time and attention is then left undone, forgotten.

Jesus uses strong words at the close of this passage when speaking to the person who asked to first say farewell to his/her family at home and then follow Him. Jesus says: "No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God." Experiencing and building the Kingdom of God right here, right now, often depends on our obedience to the Spirit's invitations to do the right thing, the loving thing NOW, not later when whatever we chose to do instead crowds out the opportunity to grow in self-sacrificing love!

Lord, I ask forgiveness for the times that I have excitedly said that I want to follow you but when the rubber hits the road, so to speak, I have chosen my will, not yours!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Dealing with Difficult Times and Depressing Feelings

In today's first reading, Job 9: 1-12, 14-6, Job is so depressed that he cursed the day that he was born:  "Perish the day on which I was born, the night when they said, 'It is a boy!' Why did I not perish at birth, come forth from the womb and expire," Job asks God in his despairing moments. Depression is a horrible experience. Many suffer its ravaging emotions, its darkness, not knowing what to do or to whom to turn. Sometimes medication simply does not seem to work. All seems lost!  To get out of bed in the morning, to put one foot ahead of the other, so to speak, to keep on and stay involved in life in spite of one's lethargy is a monumental task.

Many of us, when going through hard times, are encouraged by the psalms. In today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 88, we pray:

O Lord, my God, by day I cry out;
at night I clamor in your presence.
Let my prayer come before you; 
incline your ear to my call for help.

For my soul is surfeited with troubles
and my life draws near to the nether world.
I am numbered with those who go down into the pit;
I am a [person] without strength.

My couch is among the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave,
Whom you remember no longer
and who are cut off from your care.

You have plunged me into the bottom of the pit,
into the dark abyss [of depression].
Upon me your wrath [seems to lie] heavy, 
and with all your billows you overwhelm me.

That is what depression feels like! Both Job and the psalmist teach us to mince no words in our prayer but to tell the Lord how it really is with us when we are troubled, troubled to the point of death!  Let us not pretend that all is well when all is not well!  God wants honesty from us, not because He does not know what we may be suffering but because honesty sets us free. When we can name an emotion, we are in control. When we are unable to name our emotions, they control us! Let us take control by acknowledging before God what we are truly feeling when we are down or hurt, angry or frustrated.  I have found that sharing my feelings with the Lord in writing and then asking for God's counsel works for me. God always comes through with words of Wisdom that lift my spirits, that give me the courage to go on and stay involved in life, giving the best I am capable of giving!

How about you?