Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Jesus Comes to Your "House" Today

In today's Gospel, Luke 19: 1-10, Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, who gained his wealth by cheating people, learns that Jesus is passing by his house.  He is a short man so he climbs a sycamore tree to get a glimpse of Him.  Jesus looks up and says: "Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house."  Quickly, Zacchaeus comes down and joyfully receives Jesus into his house, and vows to make restitution to those he has cheated: "'Behold, half of my possessions [and he is a wealthy man], Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.'  And Jesus said to  him, 'Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost."

Jesus sees and knows who is seeking Him even when the person him/herself does not realize that one's frantic engagement in this and that, running here and there, switching jobs and relationships feverishly is actually a search for the Divine, for the Reconciler, for the One who really brings salvation to one's "house."  And as urgent as a person's search for that which he/she believes is the answer to his/her problems, just as urgent is Jesus' invitation:  "Come down quickly," Jesus says to Zacchaeus.  He says the same to us: "Come quickly; salvation has come to your house today"!  Jesus does not want us to delay our coming to Him or letting Him come to us with the gift of salvation!

Am I, are you, willing to step off the speeding "train"of distractions and spend time with Jesus? will you, will I , accept Jesus' invitation today? He truly wants to bring salvation to our "houses."

Monday, November 19, 2018

Jesus Wants to Know What You Want from Him

Today's Gospel reading, Luke 18: 35-43, presents the story of a blind man.  He heard a lots of noise and asked the crowd what was happening. When he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by,  the blind man cried out:  "Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me."  The more the crowd told him to be quiet, the louder he became. Jesus stopped and ordered that the blind man be brought to him. Jesus asked him: "'What do you want me to do for you?' He replied, 'Lord, please let me see.' Jesus told him, 'Have sight; your faith has saved you."

Just as Jesus asked the blind man what he wanted Him to do for him, so, too, He asks each one of us the same question. I encourage you to take the time to tell Jesus what you want Him to do for you, for our loved ones, your spouse, your children.  Tell Him!

Jesus,  I want You to open my eyes to Your presence every day. I want You to draw me ever closer to You, so close that You and I become one heart, one mind, one soul! I want to know you, love you, trust you and rely on You all of the time.  I want to obey the promptings of your Spirit, even in the smallest things you ask of me!  Please, Lord, soften the soil of my heart, remove the "cataracts" from my eyes that prevent me from seeing you and the "wax" from my ears that block me from hearing your voice!  I ask this in Your name, Jesus! Amen!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Setting God before our Eyes

Today's first reading, Daniel 12: 1-3, speaks of the second coming of Jesus, our Savior. "At that time," the prophet Daniel tells us, "there shall arise Michael the great prince, guardian of your people; it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until  that time. At that time....the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever."  For the wicked this event will be a time of "everlasting horror and disgrace," but not so for those who have clung to Christ, lived according to the Gospels and followed the directions of the Holy Spirit day by day--the Holy Spirit sent to us by Jesus upon His return to the Father in His resurrection from the dead.

My heart is saddened when I think of the many people who do not lead people to justice--people who close their eyes to injustice, who, out of fear, do not confront unjust legislature and executive orders, who close their eyes and ears to evil being perpetuated for fleeting gains of glory and accumulation of wealth for the wealthiest people in our nation.

Our inheritance, the psalmist tells us in today's responsorial psalm, (Psalm 16) is the Lord, not material gain! Those who realize that the Lord is their "allotted portion and [their] cup, [that it is the Lord ] who hold[s] fast [their] lot" are not afraid to lose their seats of honor in this world. Why? Because they  "set the Lord ever before [their eyes]; with [God] at  [their] right hand [they] shall not be disturbed." The heart of a person who stands up for justice and does what is  right "is glad and [his/her] soul rejoices." Such a person "abides in confidence; because [God] will not abandon [this person's] soul to the netherworld, nor will [God] suffer [His] faithful one to undergo corruption!"

May you and I be among those who seek justice in all we do and not be colluders with those who deny others their basic human rights for whatever reason or for whatever gain!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Hearing the Cries of the Oppressed

Today's Gospel, Luke 18: 1-8, tells the story of a judge who care about no one, not God nor any human being. A woman persistently approaches him for a just decision and he delivers it to her, saying: "'While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.'"  His response to her is to avoid negative consequences to himself if he continue to ignore her. He wants her off his back--he is, basically, thinking only about himself and does not really care about the woman.

Our God is not like that judge.  St. Luke says to us in this passage: "Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.  Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"

God sees our affliction. God hears our cries for help. God knows what we are going through. God cares and comes to help  us, as He did for the Israelites when He appeared to Moses in the burning  bush. God cared that the Israelites had become slaves of the Egyptians. It took time to free them but He held nothing back to bring them out of slavery into a land of freedom. Jesus, the Son of God, held nothing back either in securing our freedom from slavery to anything to which we have become slaves: hatred, bigotry, misogyny, prejudice, revengeful feelings and thoughts, promiscuity, jealousy, envy, selfishness, deceitfulness, corruption and any other evil trap into which were may have fallen. God is on our side in the darkest of moments and will not abandon us when the going gets rough and we know not how we will survive or get back on the right track! God knows when we need help--do we know that we need help? Are we calling for God's help. He is right there beside us waiting for us to turn to Him. He also sends people to help us just as He sent Moses to help his fellow Israelites!  Many times, we may be the one God is asking to help a neighbor in distress.  Are we listening?

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Kingdom of God Right Here Right Now

In today's Gospel, Luke 17: 20-25, the Pharisees ask Jesus when the Kingdom of God will come.  Jesus responds: The "Kingdom of God is among you."  The Kingdom of God is not a future but an everyday event brought forth when we are kind to another person, when we smile at someone, when we forgive others, show compassion and are loving toward others.  The Kingdom of God is revealed when others are helpful, useful, caring,  and honest; when persons refrain from gossiping or from hurting  others or themselves in any way. Yes, "the Kingdom of God is among" us, as Jesus told the Pharisees, and those who live by faith and hope and love--those who give "birth" to Jesus in this world--experience it and make it a reality for others and themselves!  A light shines in our darkness when we transform a little bit of earth into "paradise," into the Kingdom of God on earth!

Jesus tells us to not run off looking for Him when people say, "'Look, there he is,' or 'Look, here he is.'  For just as lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation."  We, too, will suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation before entering our eternal glory. In the meantime, it is our challenge to make God's Kingdom a reality right where we are by our love, our honesty, our faith and hope in the Lord Jesus and in following His Way and His Truth, and being His Life here on earth.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Open to Goodness or Maliciousness?

In today's first reading, Titus 3: 1-7, St. Paul asks Titus to remind the people "to be obedient, to be open to every good enterprise. They are," he says to Titus, "to slander no one, to be peaceable, considerate, exercising all graciousness toward everyone. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, deluded, slaves to various desires and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful ourselves and hating one another." 

As I view the news each night, I begin to wonder what happened to righteous living. I ask myself: "How deluded and foolish have we become, "slaves to various desires and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful ourselves and hating one another"?  In faith, I know, and I hope you do, too,  a God who is generous and kind. God comes to save us, not to condemn us, we are told in the Gospels. Though I do not see it now, in the majority of the nightly news broadcasts, I know in faith that we will be saved from our foolishness, our disobedience, our delusions, our slavery to "various desires and pleasures, [from] living in malice and envy, [from]  hating ourselves and hating one another."  However, God has promised salvation to those who believe and who turn to Him in truth and in repentance, recognizing one's wickedness and sinful deeds!  Any one of us will be, or have been, given the graces which were given to the good thief on the cross when he acknowledged who Jesus was and turned to Him, begging to be remembered by Jesus when He entered the glory of the Father!  That grace is available to all who believe!  I do!  what about you?

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Living as God Intends for Us to Live

In today's first reading, Titus 2: 1-8, 11-14, St. Paul enumerates the virtues practiced by those who are faithful to their Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. Such persons, men or women, are consistently true to their faith and to their marriage and religious vows.  They are men and women of integrity, "sound in faith, love, and endurance....reverent in their behavior, ....showing [themselves] as [models] of good deeds in every respect."  Living in this way is possible for all of us, "[f]or the grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires, [enabling and empowering us] to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of the great God and of our savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good."

What a grace to be elevated to this kind of exalted living by the grace of God within us!  God not only invites us to do what is right and reverent, He also equips us to live in this way.  Furthermore, God implants an eagerness within our deepest being "to do what is good".  By walking beside us, taking us by the hand, God guides us to complete the good we intend to do. God never leaves our side and, when we call upon Him, He answers us in our weakness, making us strong in weak places!  Praise and thanks to our God!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Things that Cause Sin Are Inevitable But So Is Grace

In today's Gospel, Luke 17: 1-6, Jesus tells the disciples that "[t]hings that cause sin will inevitably occur but woe to the one through whom they occur."   Children watch adults intently, especially their parents, but others as well. Children imitate the good and the bad we do! A child is proud that he/she is like mom or dad.  Adults themselves will engage in evil because a leader--the president, a sport's star, a popular actor/actress--does so. A popular argument is that  "everyone does it."

Jesus issues a warning to us in today's Gospel:  "It would be better for [those who lure others into wrongdoing] if a millstone were put around his [her] neck and [that person] be thrown into the sea than for [one] to cause [another] to sin, [especially a child]."  Am I luring others into sin? Am I being lured into sin by others?  All of a sudden, do I find myself joining group gossip or am I the one being joined?  Am I teaching others to tell "white lies'? Am I cheating and teaching others to cut corners, as well! What example am I giving to others? Let me remember that where sin abounds grace more abounds, because Jesus comes to my aid always!  May I call upon Jesus' name when I am being lured into temptation.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Living for God Alone!

In today's first reading, Philippians 4: 10-19, St. Paul is grateful to the Lord and to the Philippians for being their for him, in good times and bad, in times of abundance and "famine."  Through the strength of the Spirit within him, St. Paul had learned to survive in any circumstance in which he found himself. Out of his abundance and his poverty, he served the people and they helped him. It was a receiving and a giving. Sometimes, Paul  needed the people to give to him out of their abundance and at other times Paul had to give from his abundance.

Like Paul, we are both needy and rich.  At times, out of our richness,  we are able to give and, at other times, in our poverty,  we are the ones who need others to share their riches with us.  We are to learn independence and interdependence, both materially and spiritually! When we learn to take care of ourselves in good times and in "bad," we are then able more efficiently and generously to give to others in their need.

In the Gospel, Luke 16: 9-15, Jesus warns us that, if we are serving "two masters", we will "either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot," Jesus says to us, "serve God and mammon."  We are here on earth to glorify God and to do good to and for others as a means to give glory to our God.  If we divide our attention to glorifying oneself or money, for instance, we will resent the single-minded and single hearted call to give glory to God alone!  As we journey through this life, we are on the way to the realization of our deepest union with God and to become more and more united with others in God!  Our ultimate goal is union with God for all eternity and living in the Kingdom of Eternal Love.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Bounty of the Lord in our Lives

In the first reading, Philippians 2: 12-18, St. Paul is writing from his prison cell, filled with joy as he anticipates being martyred for the faith.  He is encouraging the Philippians to continue working out their salvation in the Lord Jesus. He asked them to do God's work without "grumbling or questioning."  Recall a time in your life when nothing was too much for those you love--nothing was too much for the Lord! May you and I have the courage to continue doing what we are called to do, as husbands/wives, parents/grandparents, employers or employees, members of a parish, a civic community  or a religious community.  "[B]e blameless and innocent children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world, as you  hold onto the word of life [Jesus Christ].... ...[E]ven if I am poured out as a libation upon the sacrificial service of your faith [martyred], I rejoice and share my joy with all of you. In the same way you also should rejoice and share your joy with me [and with each other]."

As in the case of the Philippians, we, too, live "in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation."  Living honestly and morally,  doing what is right for all peoples, I believe, is at an all-time low in the U.S. and likely throughout the world of the 21st century.  Do you, do I, "shine like lights" in this world or are we part of the darkness?  Are we colluders with those spreading darkness in the world of asylum seekers, persons fleeing corrupt and violent dictators in their own native countries? Are we in collusion with those hating others because of their skin color or their sexual orientation or because they practice a faith  other than our own?  Are we among those spreading messages of hopelessness or do we, in the words of the responsorial psalm, "believe that we shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living. [Are we waiting] for the Lord with courage...; [are we] stouthearted"?  Are we ourselves persons whose goodness, honesty, love, and faith bring others to proclaim: I have seen/experienced  "the bounty o the Lord" today? If not, why not? And if not, what behaviors/attitudes do I, do you need to change?

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Putting on the Attitude of Jesus

In today's first reading, Phil 2: 5-11, S.Paul users us to put on the attitude of Jesus, who, "though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in  human likeness; and  found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross."

Jesus took on humanity, our humanity!  Jesus left heaven, emptying Himself and becoming our slave.  He worked Himself to the bone, so to speak, taking on and destroying death for our sakes.  Nothing was too much for Jesus to show us the depth, the breadth, the height and the length of God's love for us.  As St. Paul says to the Philippians, Jesus, the second person of the Blessed Trinity,  did "not regard equality with God" something to which He had to cling! He chooses humility. He chooses littleness. He chooses total dependence, as any infant, upon His mother and foster father Joseph! God, the Creator of heaven and earth, totally dependent for all of His needs upon a teenage mother, whom He Himself created and sustained in her existence!  He did not bulk. He did not sulk! He did not rebel! He humbly submitted to Mary and Joseph! Not only that! At the age of 33, He humbly submitted to those who rebelled against Him and had Him crucified like a notorious, despised criminal!

St. Paul begins this passage to the Philippians by asking each of us to have "the same attitude" that is ours "in Christ Jesus."  What attitude? A humble, obedient one by which we do not consider it necessary to cling to glory or significant positions of honor and power, being above others! We are asked to let go of entitlements, as Jesus did, and assume positions of humility, submission, and obedience to a High Power at work within our lives!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Jesus Showing Us How to Put Other's Interests ahead of One's Own

In today's first reading, Phil 2: 1-4, St. Paul asks us to do "nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his [or her] own interests, but also everyone for those of others." Imagine a world in which everyone acts out of altruistic motives, not ever "out of selfishness,"  a world where no one's ultimate goal is  one's own glory at the expense of truth or justice!   Furthermore, imagine a world in which every one would be more concerned that the interests and needs of others were met over and above one's own!  Such a world, obviously, exists only in heaven.   However, let's get personal. What if I and you did "nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory"?  How would my world, or yours,  be different from what it now is? Looking back on today, what would I/would you have done differently if, in every circumstance, we had "humbly regarded others as more important" than ourselves?

Jesus lived this way! Never did He do things out of selfishness or vainglory! Any clues there of how you and I need to change our way of thinking and acting?  Jesus, the Son of God, "humbly [regarded] others as more important than [Himself] to the point of dying on the cross to show us the depth of God's love for us--He would hold nothing back to reveal how much God loves us, looking out for us totally!

Friday, November 2, 2018

The Feast of All Souls

Today we celebrate the feast of All Souls--those women and men who have returned to their eternal home before us. For many of us, that means that we have said good-bye to our grandparents, parents, some of our siblings, Aunts and Uncles, some of our cousins, nieces, nephews and grandnieces and grandnephews. All have been "brought to life" in Christ Jesus, we are told in the entrance antiphon of today's liturgy.  The first reading, Wisdom 3:1-9, reminds us that the "souls of the just [our loved ones] are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them.....[T]hey are in peace.....[C]hastised a little, they... [are] greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself. In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble;... the Lord...[is] their King forever."

We do not know the day nor the hour that you and I will be born into eternal life nor do we know the circumstances of our death. God knows! And God will be at our side when we die. God will come to us at that moment and be the light in the darkness of our death. God will take us by the hand and guide us through death's door into eternity, saying to us:  "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Mt. 25:34)! 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Being Children of God

In today's first reading, 1 John 3: 1-3, St. John reminds us that we are children of God.  I am a child of God now, St. John states, and what I "shall be has not yet been revealed. [I] do not know that when it is revealed [I] shall be like [God], for [I] shall see [God] as [God] is. Everyone who has this hope based on [God] makes [him/herself] pure as [God] is pure."

Wow!  Do I, do you, really grasp the depth of St. John's statement. First of all, do we really understand the reality of being God's child?  We know what it means to be the child of Mr. and Mrs. so-and-so! But do we grasp what it means to be a child of God. And if we are God's children, and we are, then we are also God's heirs!   The  inheritance that God has stored away for us, so to speak, is life with God for all eternity in the Kingdom from which Jesus came down to earth and to which He returned following His resurrection.   Second of all, St. John states, that "when it is revealed we shall be like [God], for we shall see [God] as [God] is."  We know that, in His creation of each one of us, we are made in God's image and likeness. From St. John's statement, our being made in the image and likeness of God, it seems,  is amplified/magnified, or could we say, glorified in eternity, when we are given new glorified bodies. And there is no way now to fathom that reality here on earth.  Thirdly, John states that anyone "who has this hope based on [God] makes [him/herself] pure as [God] is pure!"  My prayer is that we do just that with the grace of God at work within us!