Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year

Happy are those who believe in the Son of God, the Word of God made flesh. May our determination to follow His ways deepen in 2019.
All who believe in Jesus and accept the Lord as their Savior are saved!  May our knowledge of needing God as Savior increase in 2019!
Power is given to those who wait upon the Lord.  May our ability to wait upon God be strengthened in 2019!
Power is given to those who rely upon the Lord above all! May we seek God above all in 2019!
Yielding to the will of God is what Mary, the Mother of God, models for us. May we follow her example more consistently in 2019!

Numbered among those who belong to Jesus, may we cherish that belonging more than ever in 2019!
Enlightened by grace, may we, like John the Baptist, point out the Lord to others, as John pointed out the Lord to us.  May our ability to recognize Jesus in others be stretched in 2019!
When we experience an emptiness in our lives in 2019, may we turn to Jesus, who came that we might have fullness of life.

Your success in 2019 depends on whether you keep your focus on the Lord.
Every day of 2019 offers us opportunity to grow in our love for God, others and self. May we seek to deepen this love by our humility, our willingness to forgive and our reliance upon God!
All of us have received from Jesus' fullness, "grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1: 1-18). May our gratitude and awareness of grace grow in 2019.
Remember that the Word of God became flesh and dwells among us!  Seek Him in all of the events of 2019!  He is there to be found by those who seek Him!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Clothe Yourselves in Love

In today's second reading, Colossians 3: 12-21, St. Paul encourages us to clothe ourselves with "compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another...And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly....

I cannot help but think of all the money and fuss we sometimes make over the external clothes we wear, the makeup we put on to look beautiful, and the length to which we will go to have our hair looking awesome.  Do we, I wonder,  go through the same lengths to clothe ourselves with humility and kindness, compassion and understanding, patience and forgiveness?  Do we  go to the Lord each day and ask to be clothed with love or are we too busy clothing ourselves externally? Do we let Christ's peace enter our hearts or are we too busy being critical of others or blaming others for our discomfort, misery or dissatisfaction, or, even, building accolades for ourselves?

Lord, give me a change of heart! Refocus my eyes to see the gifts you give me each day.  Help me, Lord, cultivate a grateful heart. Clothe me in love, Lord. And may I , in cooperation with grace, put forth effort daily to clothe myself with "compassion, kindness humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another...."  Thank you, Lord, for your generous response to this prayer.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Partnering with God, as Mary Did

It is not even a week since Christmas and we are encountering what living the Christian life is all about: surrendering to the realities of life.  In today's Gospel,  Mary and Joseph present Jesus to the Lord and themselves  undergo the purification rites "according to the law of Moses".  They are to "offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.....[W]hen the parents brought in the child Jesus...[Simeon] took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: 'Lord, now let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled: my own eyes have seen the salvation which you prepared in the sight of every people, a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of  your people Israel.'"  Simeon then prophesies, saying to Mary:  "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce)..."

Imagine a young mother and father being given dire news about their child either at his/her birth or at  his/her baptism and also told that their hearts will be pierced with sorrow because of the destiny of their infant.  Now, Mary knows that Jesus is the Son of God, conceived in her womb by the Holy Spirit, not by an earthly father but a heavenly one.  Shouldn't everything be rosy for Mary? Not so! How did she manage the sorrows of her life? Mary surrendered to God, trusting Him throughout her life: at the Annunciation,  at the birth of Jesus, the Presentation in the Temple, the flight into Egypt, the wedding feast of Cana, his public ministry, Calvary, the Resurrection, the Ascension and Pentecost. She let go and let God be God and she always "the handmaid of the Lord"--God's servant!

Life here on earth, as it was for Mary, is like a rose bush: it's beautiful and brings much joy but it also has thorns!  The thorny side of life is what we sometimes resent!  The thorns in a rose bush, however, I think,  keep hungry creatures from devouring it. So, too, the thorns of life are a protection for us, as it is those very difficult times that have the power to turn us away from evil toward the good, away from relying upon oneself alone to partnering with God.  The sufferings of life, I believe, are filled with graces that empower us to rely upon God, not upon ourselves alone. God is a powerful protector and helper as we deal with life's thorns and climb the mountains we encounter on our way to eternal life as God's servants here on earth!

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Impact of Negative Emotions Left Unexamined

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the male infants and little boys two years and younger slaughtered by Herod, who felt threatened when he heard from the Magi that, Jesus, the king of the Jews, was born in Bethlehem.   When the magi did not return to Herod to let him know where to find Jesus so he, too, "could do him homage" (Mt 2:9), Herod pursued other actions in his determination to destroy Jesus. 

In today's Gospel,  Matthew 2: 13-18,  Joseph is warned of Herod's intentions.  An "angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said 'Rise, take the child and and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.'"  Joseph followed the angel's suggestions!

In our lives, we have choices: 1) to follow the angels' suggestions in our lives and trust God's Presence to keep us safe from Satan's snares or 2) to get carried away by fear, anger, jealousy and an insatiable thirst for power and control and "wealth" of any kind--anything or anyone in our way is then destroyed in some way: infants in the womb, men and women and children seeking asylum from violence in their own countries, men and women of integrity threatening another's corruption deception and unjust pursuits, persons in the way of a romantic relationship outside of marriage, and so on!

 Fear can drive us to do horrible things, including murdering children, killing our spouse, destroying anything or anyone who gets in our way of staying in control, holding on to power, gaining wealth and prestige--pursuing idols that we are convinced we must have.

Lord, open my eyes to what might be motivating me to do what I do!  Open my eyes to your Presence, my ears to the voice of the Spirit, my heart to love you and my will to follow you!  May I have the courage to examine my motivations and recognize negative emotions driving me to act irrationally!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

St. John's Witness to Jesus, the Word Made Flesh

Today we celebrate the feast of St. John, the Evangelist, the one invited to Mount Tabor where Jesus' glory was revealed, the one who leaned on Jesus' breast at the Last Supper and who accompanied Jesus into the Garden of Gethsemane, the one who stood beneath the cross with Mary on Good Friday and to whom Jesus entrusted His Mother,  and the one who, seeing the burial cloths in the empty tomb truly believed that Jesus had risen and that death had no power over Him.

In today's liturgy, John addresses us in his first letter: "Beloved: What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life--for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us--what we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; for our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ" (1 John 1: 1-4).

"What was from the beginning" when the world was made was THE WORD, the Son of God, the one who became the Incarnate God born of the Virgin's womb on Christmas day!  That second person of the Blessed Trinity is the one John had seen with his own eyes, is the one John had looked upon and had touched with his own hands.  John had seen THE ETERNAL WORD of God in the person of Jesus Christ. To this second person of the Blessed Trinity, the Incarnate God, John gives testimony and proclaims Him to us so that, with John, we, too, may have fellowship with the Father and with the Son through the power of the Holy Spirit.

What a gift!  God wants fellowship with us!  He held nothing back so that we would have access to the Divine Word by our lives made holy by Jesus' birth, life, death and resurrection.  John tells us  that he  and the other apostles proclaimed and gave witness to the WORD MADE FLESH "so [their] joy may be complete" (1 John 1: 4).

If you and I are looking for joy, we will experience such when we, too, give witness to the Lord and proclaim Him to the world of our day, when we, too,  are light in the darkness of the world, as Jesus was and is to this very day!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

St. Stephen's Faith and Ours

Today, Dec. 26, we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr.  "Stephen," we are told in Acts 6: 8-10; 7:54-59, "filled with grace and power,  was working great wonders and signs among the people. Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen, Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and people from Cilicia and Asia, came forward and debated with Stephen, but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke...[Stephen's debaters] were infuriated, and...ground their teeth at him.  But he, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God....[Stephen's persecutors] threw [Stephen] out of the city, and began to stone him...As they were stoning Stephen, he called out 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."  Like Jesus on the cross, Stephen asked God not to hold the sin of his executioners again them. WOW! A man unafraid to stand up for what and for whom he believed!

Jesus tells us in the Gospels that, like Him, we will meet opposition, that we will be persecuted for our faith and testimony to the Father, just as Jesus was.  We will encounter the cross--misunderstandings, hatred, and an onslaught of  obstacles on our way to eternal life.  Will we, like Stephen, keep our eyes on Jesus! Will we look up to heaven from whence comes our help, as we are told in the psalms, or will we downplay our faith, water it down, to avoid difficulties that are likely to arise from detractors, unbelievers, or those who have chosen other gods? Will we join the "Synagogue of Freedmen, Cyrenians, Alexandrians" of our day and throw "stones" at those who disagree with us?

May we, like Stephen, stand up for what we believe,  especially when others want to debate us. Let us also hold on to God's promise that He will instruct us on what to say when we are dragged before the "tribunals" of our day!  God is with us always!  Let us not be afraid!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

What delights our God!

In the second reading of today's liturgy, Hebrews 10: 5-10, St. Paul reminds us of when Jesus came into the world, God wanted obedience to His will, not sacrifices of thousands and thousands of animals to appease for sin.  As explained by St. Paul to the Hebrews and to us about Jesus becoming human and what God wanted of him: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight. [Jesus' response:] Then I said, 'As is written of me in the scroll, behold, I come to do your will, O God.'....[Sacrifices and offerings, holocausts and sin offerings] are offered according to the law [and the law cannot save anyone]. Then he [Jesus] says, 'Behold, I come to do your will.'"

We cannot save ourselves. Only Jesus can! By His obedience to God's will we are saved and sanctified. The gift of salvation is freely given to us!  As with Jesus, God does not want sacrifices from us. He wants our obedience to the Spirit's promptings to do good and avoid evil, to forgive those who hurt us and not hang on to resentments,  to ask for pardon, to love and not hate, to act in justice and mercy and not out of revenge exacting demands, such as an eye for an eye.

In  today's responsorial psalm, we pray: "Lord, make us turn to  you; let us see your face and we shall be saved" from Satan's lies and the ways he lures us to turn away from You.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Mary's Focus

When Mary entered Elizabeth's home and greeted Elizabeth, the child  in Elizabeth's womb leaped with joy.  The Holy Spirit who overshadowed Mary when Jesus was conceived now overshadowed John in Elizabeth's womb. Elizabeth, also filled with the Holy Spirit, recognized Mary, her young cousin, as the mother of God, and cries out: "How does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you.... (Luke 1: 39-45).  Mary could have focused on  herself following that greeting but does not.  She focuses on God, proclaiming God's greatness: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked upon his lowly servant"  (Luke 1: 46).  She does, however, acknowledge that she has truly been blessed:  From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name"  (Luke 1: 47).  Notice, again, though, that she immediately directs our attention to "the Almighty."

Where is your focus/my focus?  When something great has happened in our lives, do we turn our attention and that of others to ourselves or to the Lord God?

Friday, December 21, 2018

Emmanuel, God-with-us

The Entrance Antiphon to today's liturgy states clearly that our "Lord and Ruler will be coming soon, and his name will be called Emmanuel, because he will be God-with-us."  Yesterday's Gospel was about the messenger of God, Gabriel, visiting Mary and telling her that she was to conceive and bear a son, that her son would be "great and will be called the Son of the Most High...and of his Kingdom there will be no end....The Holy Spirit will come upon you, [Mary,] and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.....[F]or nothing will be impossible for God."

In a few days we will celebrate that great moment when Mary gave birth to Jesus, to "Emmanuel, God-with-us."  God's plan for our salvation would not be thwarted or blocked in any way.  Even now, though it looks as though evil is triumphing in this world of ours, God's will for our salvation will not be thwarted. God will triumph in the world of today, as God triumphed when Herod sought to kill the infant Jesus. God also triumphed in Jerusalem during those three dark days of Jesus' arrest, condemnation, crucifixion and death.Three days later Jesus rose from the dead and continues to dwell among us, having returned to His Kingdom in heaven, from where He sent the Spirit to be our Advocate, to teach us all things that Jesus taught during his ministry here on earth.

Emmanuel, God-with-us, in the Eucharist! Emmanuel, God-with-us, in our sufferings and ultimately in our death and resurrection to new life in Christ Jesus.  Every day when we die to ourselves, to sin and selfishness, we give birth to Jesus and rise to new life in Christ Jesus.  God is with us just as God was with Mary and Joseph and all those who have gone before us, believing in Jesus, in God, living in their midst, dwelling in the core of their very beings.  From our core inner selves, our spirit selves, God radiates to the world in the good that we do, in the faith that we live!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

God: Incarnate, Humble and Intimate

Today's Gospel, Luke 1: 26-38, presents the Annunciation:  An angel appears to Mary, declaring that she has found favor with God, hailing her as "full of grace,"  one with whom the Lord is!  This greeting "greatly" troubles Mary to the point that the angel needs to calm her down: "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God." The angel then goes on to say: "You will conceive in your womb and bear a son....How can this be, Mary asks, since I have no relations with a man?  The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.... for nothing is impossible for God...Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."

The second person of the Blessed Trinity, the Son of God, through the power of the Spirit, assumes our humanity in the womb of Mary, a 15 or 16 year old engaged to be married to Joseph.  Mary becomes the mother of God Incarnate!  God becomes one of us, fully human yet fully divine!  His glory is hidden in the infant Jesus and revealed to only a few persons on earth. God's glory, God's divinity, God's power and infinite holiness hidden in Jesus' birth, throughout most of His earthly life and on the cross, according to God's plan for our salvation! This same God is hidden in the host consecrated at every Catholic Liturgy and given to us as spiritual food in every Holy Communion!

Jesus says to us: "I became human for you. I lived for you. I died for you. I rose for you. I sent the Holy Spirit to you.  It is that Holy Spirit that comes down on every altar during the consecration and changes bread and wine into my body and blood, soul and divinity for your sanctification and salvation. I delight that you participate in this sacred banquet in anticipation of the eternal banquet in heaven."

How humble is our God! How awesome. How intimate! How caring!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Consecrated to the Lord from Baptism

Both readings of today's liturgy, Judges 13: 2-7, 24-25a and Luke 1: 5-25, tell the story of two women who were barren and were about to become fertile.  The stories also reveal that both Samson and John the Baptist will be consecrated in the womb and chosen as key persons in salvation history. Concerning Samson, the messenger of God said that he is the one "who will begin the deliverance of Israel from the power of the Philistines." John the Baptist, Zachariah, his father, is told "will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God."

Every child that God brings into the world,  including you and me, though not consecrated in the womb but first at our baptisms, has a key role in the salvation of the world.  We, too, are called to turn to the Lord ourselves and thereby turn other people to the Lord.  We are also to cooperate with God in our deliverance from that which overpowers and distracts us from the one thing necessary: the Lord our God and His Spirit at work in our lives!

As we pray in today's responsorial psalm, Ps. 71,  God is our refuge, "a stronghold," the One who "rescues [us] from the hand of the wicked".  On God we depended "from birth; from [our] mother's womb [God had been our] strength."  It is God who makes it possible for us to carry out the purpose for which He created us. It is God who consecrates us to be a significant person in the salvation of the world in which we live! It is God who transforms our barrenness into fertility for the good all!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Christ Comes to Set Us Free

The Entrance Antiphon of today's liturgy reminds us that "Christ our King is coming, he is the Lamb foretold by John."  In the Collect of today's liturgy, we lift our voices, saying: "Grant, we pray, almighty God, that we, who are weighed down from of old by slavery beneath the yoke of sin, may be set free by the newness of the long-awaited Nativity of your Only Begotten Son." 

Each one of us, every day, experiences the "slavery beneath the yoke of sin" that weighs down upon us.  We may do things or say things that we regret having said or done, or regret not having said or done things that we knew needed to be done or said. Also, our thoughts may be anything but kind. We, as well, may find ourselves grumbling or complaining about something, resentful of what is being asked of us as a committed responsible member of a religious community or as a father/a mother, a child, a student, an employee.  We may even tell God that what is expected of us is too much to ask of us.

Let us turn to the Lord and ask to "be set free by the newness of the long-awaited Nativity of [God's] Only Begotten Son."  Let us acknowledge our  weaknesses and/or our complaining about the challenges we face in our lives, knowing, in faith, that because of our humanity we need God's help. In graciously, humbly and courageously meeting our responsibilities in life, we need God to infuse us with the graces of the Holy Spirit to be faithful and committed, to hold nothing back, as Jesus held nothing back for us as He gave His life in self-sacrificing love on the cross. On the crosses of our lives, may we do the same for others as Jesus did for us--pour ourselves out for the other's sake, "bread" shared and broken as at every Eucharistic sacrifice of the Holy Mass!

Monday, December 17, 2018

Jesus Enters our Humanity Fully and Lovingly

Today's Gospel, Matthew 1: 1-17, presents the genealogy of Jesus.  His ancestry contains murderers, assassins, adulterers, prostitutes, persons involved in all kinds of deception, corruption, and idolatry!  Throughout all of that history, God's plan of salvation and showing humankind the depth, the length, the height and width of God's love is never thwarted. God, the Creator  of the Universe and of all of humankind enters humanity. Jesus, the Incarnate God, as the God man, was plotted against throughout his public ministry by educated men who saw him as a threat. They became jealous of him to the point of having Him, the Son of God, crucified as a public sinner.

Just as the plan of God to save humankind from Satan's snares and to show us the depth of God's love for us was never thwarted throughout the history of the Jewish people, so, too, today, God's love for you and me and for every member of our ancestral history  is never thwarted. God's plan to save us will prevail!  God's love for us is not fickle or inconsistent.  He waits for us to return to Him,  if we have gone astray. He waits for our return as the father of the prodigal son waited for his son's return from a life of debauchery and wasteful living. God does not give up when we give up on ourselves or on a family member or anyone else! God waits because God's love for us is eternal and unconditional.

Will you, will I, come back to the Lord in repentance when we have lost our way and got caught in Satan's lies?

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Transformation through Emmanuel with Us

In today's first reading, Isaiah 41: 13-20, the Lord speaks through the prophet, saying to us:  "I am the Lord, your God, who grasp your right hand; it is I who say to you, 'Fear not, I will help you.' Fear not, O worm Jacob, O maggot Israel; I will help you, says the Lord; your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. I will make of you a threshing sledge, sharp, new, and double-edged, to thresh the mountains and crush them, to make the hills like chaff. When you winnow them, the wind shall carry them off and the storm shall scatter them. But you shall rejoice in the Lord, and glory in the Holy One of Israel."

Reading this, I am, at first, offended by the Lord describing Jacob and Israel as worms and maggots. What? a worm? a maggot?  Then the thought came to me of the transformation of each of us when, as Isaiah says later in this passage, we are made "a threshing sledge, sharp, new, and doubled-edged, to thresh the mountains [of sin] and crush them, to make the hills chaff."   What are we, in Christ Jesus, threshing and turning into chaff which the wind blows away?  Mountains of pride and selfishness, of deceitfulness and corruption; in short, sin in us is transformed, by grace, into holiness! All of this leads us to "rejoice  in the Lord, and glory in the Holy One of Israel."

Through the shedding of His blood on the cross and His resurrection from the dead, Jesus clothed us with a mantle of justice and put a robe of salvation on us. In our baptism we died with Christ and rose with Him; hence the "mountains" are crushed and the "hills"turned to chaff, rough ways are made smooth and the heavens are opened for the redeemed!

That is why God became human!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

God's Design and God's Purpose

Today we celebrate the feast of  Our Lady of Guadalupe--Mary's appearance to Juan Diego, a Native American belonging to the Aztec tribe!   As with Jesus, Mary's love for the poor and oppressed are revealed in this visit to Juan Diego.  Because the bishop did not at first believe Juan Diego that Mary wanted a cathedral built on the spot where she appeared to him, he asked Mary to choose someone else. And Mary said "No, I have chosen you."  The Bishop wanted proof, so Juan Diego asked for such and was told that there would be roses on a snowy hill nearby. He found the roses and wrapped them in his cloak and took them to the bishop. When Juan Diego opened his cloak and gave the Bishop the roses, there on his cloak was an imprint of our Blessed Mother clothed as an Aztec woman. Many miracles have occurred  for the Mexican people through the intercession of Mary in the cathedral built at her request.

Like Juan Diego and like Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe,  and like so many others who have gone before us, each one of us has been called to fulfill God's design and purpose that only we, with God's help, are able to do.  If we refuse, that particular purpose is not accomplished. God designed it so! We might, as was the case with  Juan Diego, want God to choose someone else whom we believe is better equipped to carry out what God is asking of us; however, God choose you and me for a specific purpose and equips us to carry out His design no less than He equipped Juan Diego and Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to do what was theirs to do.  When what is being asked of us seems too difficult, and we encounter our weaknesses, that is when God intervenes for us. At times like those, we also know much we depend upon God to empower us to do the good that is ours to do. May you and I humbly step up to the plate and embrace God's will for us as Mary and Juan Diego did!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

God Rules with His Strong Arm

In today's first reading, Isaiah  40: 1-11, Isaiah asks us to "comfort, give comfort to my people. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated.  Indeed, she has received from the hand of the Lord double for all her sins....A voice...[cries] out [that] [a]ll flesh is grass, and all their glory like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower wilts, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it. So then, the people is the grass. Though the grass withers and the flower wilts, the word of the God stands forever....Here comes with power the Lord God, who rules with his strong arm; here is his reward with him, his recompense before him. Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms her gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care."

We belong to God. Because we are God's creation, God's cherished children, God did not hold anything back in His love for us.  His recompense is our salvation secured for us by the death of
God's only begotten Son, by God in human form put to death as a criminal!  As on Calvary, so, now, God "rules with his strong arm." God gathers us in his arms, carries us in his bosom, leads us with care now and always until that moment with "the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken....A voice....[that] says...."Here is our God! Here comes with power the Lord God, who rules by his strong arm."

My faith tells me that God is always in work in our world: in the earthquakes, the fires, the disasters, the mud slides, the floods, the rescues, the surfacing of truth, the generosity of persons reaching out to help those in need, the divisions caused by greed, dishonesty, injustice.  What looks like disaster, as on that very first Good Friday, will at some point give rise to new life!  Why? because God "rules with his strong arm."

Monday, December 10, 2018

God's Desire for His Healing Power to Flow into and out of Us

In today's first reading, Isaiah 35: 1-10,  Isaiah says to us: "Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save [us]. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing....A highway will be there, called the holy way; no one unclean may pass over it, nor fools go astray on it. No lion will be there, nor beast of prey go up to be met upon it.  It is for those with a journey to make and on it the redeemed will walk. Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will  meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee."

I read that with intense gratitude for God's graciousness to us, His immense love.  God held nothing back to secure salvation for those who believe!  God showed His love to us in Jesus' life, death and resurrection!  In today's Gospel, Luke 5: 17-26,  the love of God for His people is shown in Jesus' healing all those  who personally sought Him out or of those brought to Him by others, including the paralyzed man dropped in front of Him through the roof of the house in which Jesus was sitting. The people who brought this paralyzed man to Jesus would let nothing stop them from getting this man the help for which he longed. They were as persistent to receive God's gift of healing as God is persistent to give us this gift, be it physical, psychological, or spiritual healing.

I believe! What about you?

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Glory of God's Voice within our Hearts

In the Entrance Antiphon to today's liturgy, we are reminded that "the Lord will make the glory of his voice heard in the joy of [our] heart[s]."  Am I hearing that voice? And, if not, what is blocking me from hearing it? Am I keeping myself too busy? Are my thoughts clouded with the noise of anger, jealousy, or worry?  Have I shut God out in my pursuit of security in material things? Have I hardened by heart by a lack of gratitude, by pride, by hatred and prejudice?  Have I chosen people, possessions and power as my gods?

It is never too late to turn back to the Lord, to seek the Lord above all else, to repent and be saved! If we have gone astray, God, like the father of the prodigal son  (Luke  15: 11-32), waits for our return with arms open in mercy!  His love for us never wavers! God who, as St. Paul says to us in today's second reading, Philippians 1: 4-6, 8-11,   "began a good work in you [and me on the day that we were baptized and He] will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus."  Yes, it is God's will that we enter into His glory when we die, that is, that we accept the free gift of salvation!  Is that your will/my will? Let us prove it by living lives of integrity, honesty, purity, love, mercy and justice.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Mary's Immaculate Conception

Today the Catholic Church celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception--yes, we believe and the Catholic Church has proclaimed that Mary was free of sin from the moment of her conception!  Jesus took on humanity in  her pure body!

Mary was conceived without sin. You and I were redeemed from sin.  We open today's liturgy with a prayer of praise concerning the gift of salvation:  "I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation, and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bride adorned with her jewels."  How generous is our God!  God's intent is that we are one with Him forever. Satan's intent is to bar us from eternal life with God. He began his pursuit of that goal in the Garden of Eden, where he tempted both Adam and Eve. Both fell to his lies of becoming like God and that the limits of not eating of a certain fruit were foolish.  God's instruction: "You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil; when you eat from it you shall die."   Cunningly, Satan approached Eve and asked:  "Did God really say, 'You shall not eat from any of the trees in the garden?"  After placing that doubt in Eve's mind, Satan says: "You certainly will not die!  God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil.'  The woman saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and the tree was desirable for gaining wisdom, so she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with  her, and he ate it." The rest of the story is history and Satan has been at work ever since, doing to us what he did to Adam and Eve and every day people get caught in Satan's trap!

Satan may be powerfully cunning, a liar who sets traps for us and gets us, many times, in our weakest spot, our desire to be a god, to be subject to no one, to rely totally on ourselves as "know-it-alls" who put our hands over our ears when someone tries to awaken us to the wrong in which we might be engaged.

God knows our vulnerabilities and that is why God clothes us with a "robe of salvation" and wraps us "in a mantle of justice."  Through Mary's intercession and by virtue of Jesus' death on the cross to save us from Satan's power, may you and I, now and forever, be cleansed of our sin and embrace salvation as it is offered to us over and over again, especially when, like Adam, we know our nakedness and hide from God, recognizing that we have fallen for Satan's lies!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Rejoicing in the Lord, our God

In today's first reading, Isaiah 29: 17-24, Isaiah prophesies about a time when "the deaf shall hear the words of a book; and out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind will see. The lowly will ever find joy in the Lord, and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. For the tyrant will be no more and the arrogant will have gone; all who are alert to do evil will be cut off, those whose mere word condemns a man, who ensnare his defender at the gate, and leave the just man with an empty claim." 

On that day, the humble, those alert to do good, those who are ready to forgive, those who show mercy to others, those who support justice and do not set snares to bring down the just "shall have nothing to be ashamed of, nor shall [their faces] grow pale.  [Those who] see the work of...[God's] hand in [their] midst, they shall keep my name holy; they shall reverence the Holy One of Jacob, and be in awe of the God of Israel."

As I listen to the news each evening, I often hear about evil being perpetrated by "the tyrant," by those "alert to do evil," and by "those whose mere word condemns a man [and those] who ensnare [a] defender at the gate and leave the just [person] with an empty claim."  I pray that our Savior comes to all of us, transforming our hearts of stone to human hearts, whereby we become alert to doing good, to supporting justice, to removing "booby traps," and to referencing the Lord, our God!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

God's Parental Love

In today's Entrance Antiphon the Lord says to us:  "I will look after my sheep...and I will appoint a shepherd to pasture them, and I, the Lord, will be their God." Let us personalize this statement to read:  "Dorothy Ann (your name), my daughter, I look after you. I pasture you. I, the Lord, am your God."

Let us ponder being God's daughter/son! Could we possibly have any parent greater, more loving, more compassionate, more understanding, more caring, more protective, more merciful, wiser, more comforting than God Himself?  Often I watch a little child, a preschooler, relate to his/her parent. Little children cling to their parent, want to be picked up, cuddled. That child will lay his/her head on its parent's shoulder, will grasp a parent's leg and hang on. The parent will whisper into the child's ear, caress its face, correct the child, give it instruction--some times received and some times rejected--and even in those latter times the child looks to the parent for comfort or the parent automatically picks up the child and caresses it!  See God relating to you in the way of a loving, caring parent and see yourself relating to God as a toddler relates to its parents!

"Dorothy Ann (your name), I look after you!  I pasture you. I protect you. I love you. I care about you. I, the Lord, am your God, who created you, brought you into existence and sustain you every day. It is I who awaken you very day for another opportunity to know my love, my protection, my compassion, my caring! I love you more than you could ever know and am closer to you that you could ever imagine!"

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

God's Compassion and Ready Response to Human Need

In today's Gospel, Matthew 15: 29-37, Jesus "went up the mountain, and sat down there. Great crowds came to him,  having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others.  They placed them at his feet, and he cured them...." 

Every time we take time for prayer, for participating in the Eucharist, we, too, ascend the mountain of the Lord.  Whenever we "go up that mountain," let us take with us and lay down at Jesus' feet the lameness, the deformities, the blindness and deafness, and any other "diseased" parts of ourselves, of our world, of other people that need healing. Jesus will heal all in need of healing, if we acknowledge our brokenness and the "dis-eases" that cause divisions in our families, our nation, our world and within ourselves.

We are told in the Gospel that when Jesus looked out at the crowd that had  gathered before Him and simply stayed with him he said: "My heart is moved with pity for the crowd,  for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat (think of Jesus in the tomb for three days following his death and then coming back to life)."  He would not not dismiss the crowd without giving them something to sustain them on their journeys back home. The disciples ask Jesus how they could possibly feed so many. Jesus asks: "'How many loaves do you have? "Seven,' they replied, 'and a few fish.'" And we know the rest of the story. Jesus took the loaves and the fishes, "gave thanks, break the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn game them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over--seven baskets full."

Scripturally, seven represents an abundance. It also reminds us of the seven sacraments whereby God's abundant blessings flow into our lives, sustaining us and making us whole, as God, now, as then, "is moved with pity" for us and does not want us to collapse on our way to the Kingdom!  He wants us to arrive safely!  He wants us to be well fed for the journey!

Obviously, this is not just about Jesus reaching out to human needs, it is also a call to us to go and do likewise!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

A Just Judge is God

In today's first reading, Isaiah 11: 1-10, Isaiah prophesies about the Messiah.  "The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a Spirit of counsel and of strength, a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord. Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, but he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide right for the land's afflicted." 

Women, in Jesus' culture, were treated unjustly, oppressed and poor--women and children counted as nothing in Jewish culture and still do in some Eastern countries.  God chose two women to hail the coming of the Messiah: Elizabeth, who gave birth to John the Baptist, the precursor of the Lord chosen to make way for the Messiah, and Mary, who gave a human nature to God Incarnate. Mary recognizes God's openness to the poor and the lowly in the Magnificat when she prays:  "....He [God] has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly [in this specific case, Mary and Elizabeth].  He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.....

In the Gospels, Jesus often points to the poor and lowly, seeks them out, dines with them, protects them.  If we want to enter Jesus' kingdom, He asks us to become like little children (children, along with the poor, such as shepherds, were discounted in Jesus' culture).  Another example of Jesus' openness to the oppressed is his response to the good thief on the cross: "This day you shall be with me in Paradise."  The poor, the oppressed, the outcasts have a special place in Jesus' heart! Do they in yours and mine?  What in me or about me, what in you and about you, do I, do you, oppress or treat unjustly, despise?

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Lord our Justice

Today we begin the season of Advent, a time of waiting for the coming of the Lord.  On Christmas day we will be celebrating the incarnation, the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, as one of us. God stoops down to us to lift us up to God.

In today's first reading, Jeremiah 33: 14-16, the Lord says to us:  "The days are coming...when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land." How badly we need this Savior as individuals, as a nation, as church, as family, as municipalities, as countries, as a society--worldwide and otherwise!  When the Savior comes, there Lord tells us, "Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure; this is what they shall call her: 'The Lord our justice.'" We shall be safe and feel secure in Christ Jesus, our justice, our salvation, no other way and by no other means! You and I cannot save ourselves. Humankind cannot save itself. Our disobedience to our God needs one equal to God to reconcile us to God. Jesus, by being obedient to God the Father into death is our justice!  And for that reason, with the psalmist in today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 25,we beg the Lord as follows:

Your ways, O Lord, make know to me;
teach me your paths,
guide me in your truth and teach me, 
for you are God my Savior,
and for you I wait all the day. 

Good and upright is the Lord;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
and teaches the humble his way.

All the paths of the Lord are kindness and constancy
toward those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
The friendship of the Lord is with those who fear [reverence] him,
and his covenant, for their instruction.

May you and I be among humble, allowing the Lord to lead us to justice and teach us His way.  Only then will we be secure!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Coming of the Lord

In today's first reading, Revelation 22: 1-7, St. John is shown "the river of life-giving weave, sparkling like crustal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb [Jesus Christ, our Risen Savior] down the middle of the street. On either side of the river grew the three of life....; the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations. Nothing accursed will be found anymore....Night will be no more, nor will [we] need light from lamp or sun, for the word God shall give [us] light, and [we] ball reign forever and ever....Behold I am coming soon [to take us to this Kingdom that last forever and in which "nothing accursed shall be found]."

Imagine! Nothing accursed shall be found in the everlasting Kingdom nor in you or me or anyone else allowed to enter that Kingdom!  The gates to that Kingdom were opened for us by Jesus' life, death and resurrection. The blood of the Lamb has purified us white as freshly fallen snow!  Our sins are as far from God's mind as East from West.  They are remembered no more, as we learn from Jesus' response to the good thief on the cross when he asked Jesus to remember him when He entered His Kingdom. Jesus' response:  "This very day you will be with me in Paradise."  Jesus says the very same thing to you and me when we turn to Him and ask to be remembered!

May you and I be ready when our last day on earth arrives, be that today, tomorrow or years to come! God eagerly awaits that day!