Sunday, May 19, 2019

Making All Things New

In today's second reading, Revelation 21: 1-51, John tells us that he sees "a new heaven and a new earth...I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as  a  bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people and God Himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed way.' The One who sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new.'"

The veil was lifted from John's eyes. It is not lifted from ours.  We know  by faith what John saw in this vision.  The day will come when the veil will also be lifted from our eyes, but not now! You and I will eventually be privy to this "new heaven and new earth."  You and I also know in faith that God dwells here on earth, is always here, and dwells in your very being and in mine! God is my God and yours!  You and I belong to God, as did John!  You and I also know, in faith, that God is making "all things new," including you and me.

As we enjoy spring, we can, in fact, see God making all things new!  What a glorious God!

Monday, May 13, 2019

Who Am I to Question God's Ways

As with Peter in today's first reading, Acts 11: 1-18, God frequently challenges us to rethink issues, to move beyond boundaries to which we might be clinging that actually are not what God desires of us.  In Peter's case it was, for one,  refusing to eat certain meats that the law pronounced as clean. God said to Peter in prayer:  "What God has made clean, you are not to call profane."  Secondly, there was a law not to enter the house of the uncircumcised, which Peter had done when "three men appeared at the house where [he] was...The Spirit told [Peter] to accompany them without discriminating."  As Peter was speaking to these men, "the Holy Spirit fell upon them as it had upon us at the beginning, and I remembered the word of the Lord,  how he had said, 'John baptized with water but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' If then God gave them the same gift he gave to us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to be able to hinder God [by refusing to go into their house because they were uncircumcised]?

We might ask ourselves two questions: 1) Are we clinging to laws that may actually be hindering us from doing what God desires of us and 2)  Do we avoid going into other peoples' houses or speaking to other people because they are different from us or have beliefs that differ from ours?

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Happy Mother's Day to all Mothers

In today's first reading, Acts 13: 14, 43-52, Paul and Barnabas urge the converts to Judaism to "remain faithful to the grace of God."  Both Paul and Barnabas, in turn, are remaining faithful to God's call to them to bring the good news of Jesus to Gentiles. "The Lord has commanded us," Paul and Barnabas tells the Jews who are jealous of the crowds following them, "I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth."  Because of the spread of the Christian faith to all the ends of the earth through the power of the resurrection of Jesus,  you and I know Jesus Christ. In turn, we share the faith with our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, grand nieces and grand nephews and so many others to whom God has "made [us] a light [unto]"!

Today is Mother's Day and it is through our mothers [and fathers] that the majority of us, if not all, have been given the faith!  The strength of our mothers is phenomenal and no wonder it is so because a mother's model is Mary, the Mother of Jesus!   At least, Mary was that model for my mother but I believe that any mother is strong because of Mary's example of motherhood!

Praise to all mothers and to Mary, Mother of God, whom Jesus gave to each of us from the cross when He said to Mary: Mother, behold your son.

Happy Mother's Day to my mother in heaven and to all mothers on earth. May God and Mary shower each of you with blessings beyond all measure.


Friday, May 10, 2019

Saul Awakened to the True Identity of Others

In today's first reading, Acts 9: 1-20, we again encounter Saul, a man bent on finding men and women who believe in Jesus, that is "who belonged to the Way."  Authorized by the high priests with letters to give to synagogue officials in  Damascus, Saul sets out for Damascus to find Christians, whom he would put in chains and bring back to the authorities to be put into prison!  

To say the least, the situation was anything but safe for those who were following Jesus' way. In many parts of the world today, people also find themselves in unsafe situations for variety of reasons: religion, race, foreigners, young women, children, runaways, wives, husbands and on and on.  In some parts of the world, including the U.S., people are being rounded up, locked in prisons, put in cages or detention centers without a hearing!

We are told in today's Scripture passage, that as Saul "was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?' [Saul asked] 'Who are you, sir?' The reply came, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.''

The same encounter with Jesus, I believe, happens with each one of us when we are hurting others, being mean to others, bullying others, deceiving others, or cheating others, in some way, of their basic human rights.  Though not as dramatic as with Saul, still we are challenged, ordered perhaps,  to "get up."  What we do to the least our brothers and sisters, the Scriptures tell us, we do unto Christ cf Mt. 25:40).  So Jesus asks us: "Why are you persecuting me [treating me badly, cheating me, bullying me, putting me down, being mean to me, depriving of my basic human rights]?"


Thursday, May 9, 2019

Attentive to the Spirit's Instructions

In today's first reading, Acts 8: 26-40, we meet Philip, a deacon who had been appointed to oversee the distribution of food to poor widows in the Jerusalem church (Acts 6: 1-7). He was a man familiar with the Scriptures and very open to the Spirit directing his daily life.  His spending time studying the Scriptures and becoming familiar with them led to his ability to discern the Spirit's presence in his life and what the spirit was asking of him.

This particular day, we are told, an "angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, 'Get up and head south on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route.' So he got up and set out!"  Would you, would I, be that obedient?   Would you, would I, have immediately dropped everything and set out on a desert route, no less? To begin with, would we, in the midst of our busy day, even have heard the angel's whispering voice?

When Philip sees ahead of him a chariot in which an Ethiopian eunuch is reading aloud from the prophet Isaiah,  the Spirit said to Philip: "Go and join up with that chariot.' Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said 'Do you understand what you are reading?' He replied, 'How can I, unless someone instructs me?' So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him." The eunuch, then, asked Philip to explain the passage to him, a passage about Jesus being "led to slaughter like a sheep."   Following Philip's explanation and approaching water, the eunuch asked to be baptized!

Note, again, how the Spirit gives Philip clear instructions. "Go...join that chariot!" God is just as direct with  us. The Spirit's instructions in our lives may sound something like this:  "Put the paper down and play with your child." "Turn off the TV and help your son with homework!"  "Help your wife in preparing the evening meal." "Go to your daughter's/granddaughter's basketball game." "Go straight home." "Do your homework!" "Spend more time with your family/community persons/fellow priests." "Don't get involved with that person." "Don't go there!" "You are jeopardizing your marriage (or any commitment)." "You are not living up to your vows (in any vocation)."  And so on!

Am I, are you,  discerning good spirits from bad spirits? Am I, are you,  listening to the Spirit? Am I, are you, doing that which opens your heart to God's instructions: reading the Scriptures on a daily basis, taking time to be quiet and attentive to the Spirit's voice, looking over each day reflectively and prayerfully? Am I, are you, striving to do what is right and avoid that which you know for certain is not what God is asking of you?





Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Apostle's faith in Jesus

Today's Scripture readings, Acts 8: 1b-8 and John 6: 35-40, are awesome! In the first reading we are told that the early Christians are being persecuted and everyone is scattering "except the Apostles!"   The Apostles' faith in the resurrection holds them fast in the face of incredible odds. Nothing stops them from proclaiming Jesus Christ and His resurrection from the dead. He is alive, not dead. Through the power of Jesus, as we hear in Acts 8: 1b-8, Philip goes to the city of Samaria proclaiming Christ, healing the sick, and casting out "unclean spirits."    Death and Satan had no power over Jesus, over the Apostles nor over us who hold fast to the faith and keep our eyes on Jesus, believing in Him, proclaiming Him, trusting Him and looking to the power of His resurrection at work in our lives!

In the second reading, the Gospel, Jesus reminds us that the will of His Father is "that I should not lose anything of what he gave me,....[and] that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day." The Apostles knew Jesus' promises, believed in them and in Jesus, the Son of God, the Incarnate Word of God flesh, who walked among them healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead to life, and proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom among us.  During His last discourse with the Apostles, Jesus said to them: "I tell you solemnly, whoever believes in me will perform the same works I do myself, he will perform even greater works, because I am going to my Father. Whatever you ask for in my name, I will do...."
And for that reason, the Apostles do not flee when things get rough and dangerous! They go on, as Philip did,  doing what Jesus did, not fearing death but eagerly waiting for the day they, too, would be raised "on the last day.".

What is your belief? What is mine?

Thursday, May 2, 2019

A Generous God

In today's Gospel, John 3: 31-26, John states that "God does not ration his gift of the Spirit."  In other God is generous, not stingy!

We see God's generosity in Jesus.  He multiplies the loaves,  changes water into wine, heals all of the sick who were brought to him with a variety of diseases,  meets the apostles in the wee hours of the morning to calm the turbulent waters, forgives the woman caught in adultery, raises Lazarus to life,  forgives Peter, surrenders to those who, out of jealousy of His popularity and believing that the kingdom Jesus speaks of will replace their empire, arrest Him and put Him to death. Even on the cross, God's generosity is revealed when Jesus asks His Father to forgive His executioners and, also, when He promises paradise to the good thief.

The generosity of God revealed in Jesus continues to this very day and hour. Whenever you and I call upon Jesus for the help we need in our weaknesses, He does not disappoint.  If, in faith, we seek Jesus' help in time of weakness or  need,we are given the strength needed to do what is being asked of us! And, furthermore, God is not outdone in generosity.   When you and I are generous with our time and talent, our love and patience, our compassion and understanding, our forgiveness and pardon, our efforts do not go unrewarded. In Luke 6: 38 we are told: "Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back."

Alleluia!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Second Birth: Born of Water and the Spirit

In today's Gospel, John 3: 1-8, Nicodemus goes to Jesus at night and acknowledges that Jesus is from God, "for no one," he says to Jesus, "can do these signs that  you are doing unless God is with him."  Jesus says to him in response: "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God." Jesus explains further:  "[U]nless one is born of water and Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit.....'You must be born from above.'"

In baptism, you and I were born again, that is, we were born of  water and the spirit. Our first birth was of the flesh. Our second birth was of the Spirit. Born of water and the Spirit in baptism, we are recipients of the gifts of the Spirit--wisdom, understanding, right judgment, courage, knowledge and reverence, holy reverence in God's presence--and empowered to bear an abundance of fruits of the Spirit: love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. We live by the Spirit because of this second birth.  The more we renounce ourselves, also, the more we 'walk by the Spirit'" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 736, p. 194).

Nicodemus goes to Jesus at night--he is not yet born from above but is invited to be so!  How strong am I in my faith, that is, do I invite others to be born from above, to be baptized with water and he Spirit? Do I realize that it is because I have been gifted with the sacrament of baptism that I am more likely to act wisely, peacefully, patiently, kindly, gently; that I am therefore  more likely to be faithful to my marriage, religious or priestly vows; and that goodness is more likely to dominate the majority of my choices for that same reason?  Why would I not invite a loved one to choose baptism and seek God above all, to renounce him/herself and thereby walk more in the Spirit than in the flesh?

With the apostles, in today's first reading, Acts 4: 23-31, let us pray for the gift to speak boldly when it comes to proclaiming our faith in Christ Jesus and in what Jesus teaches us in the Scriptures and in the Church.




Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Reality of Jesus' Resurrection

In today's Gospel, Luke 24: 35-48, the disciples who returned from Emmaus were sharing their story of their encounter with Jesus with the other apostles. "While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' But they were startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, 'Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does jot have flesh and bones as you can see I have.' And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. while they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, 'Have you anything here to eat?' They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them."

Do we need any more proof that Jesus is truly risen from the dead?  Not really!   I believe! I also believe that just as Jesus, in His new resurrected body, could pass through closed doors and be here or there wherever He wished, so, too, for us when we pass through death into eternal life.  Our new resurrected bodies, I believe, will have the same powers that Jesus had following His resurrection from the dead. Like Jesus, also, I believe that I will have flesh and bones and will enjoy rich foods and delight in other joys that I experience here on earth but in an expansive way in heaven.

Following his request for something to eat, Jesus "opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. and he said to them, 'Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things."

May the Lord open our minds to understand the Scriptures. May we also acknowledge and repent of  our sinfulness, knowing God's and other's forgiveness, as well as being forgiving of others and of ourselves, as well!

 




Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Jesus Walks beside Us

In today's Gospel, Luke 24: 13-35, we encounter two of Jesus' disciples conversing about what has happened over the past three days, the crucifixion and death of their Master. Bewildered that the Person whom they thought would rebuild the nation of Israel and free them from Roman control, these two disciples are leaving the city of Jerusalem, where the murder of their Master took place. They are on their way to Emmaus.  "And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. He asked them, 'What are you discussing as you walk along? They stopped, looking downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, 'Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?' And he replied to them, 'What sort of things?'"  And the two disciples tell Jesus everything!  Jesus listens!  When the disciples stopped talking, Jesus says to them: "Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?' Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures."

Notice several things about Jesus:  1) He quietly joins the two disciples. No fanfare! No one-up-man-ship. Jesus does not show off. In fact, He hides His identity!  2) He walks beside them, not behind them nor in front of them. 3) He asks questions, wanting and encouraging the disciples to tell Him what is on their minds. He wants to know what is troubling them! 4) Jesus listens. He does not interrupt! 5) Once the disciples finish telling all, Jesus opens the Scriptures for them, explaining  passages that refer to Christ.  He still does not overwhelm them by revealing to them who is walking beside them! 6) He accepts the disciples' invitation to stay with them, as it was getting dark! 7) He shared the Eucharist with them: He "took bread, said the blessing, broken it, and give it to them."  8)  He opened their eyes and they recognized Him. 9) He touched their hearts deeply: "'Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?'"

Jesus is no different today than back then! 
  • He walks beside us!
  • He joins us as a quiet listener in our debates with one another (or with ourselves)!
  • He hides His identity as the God! We do not see Him in His divinity!
  • He wants us to tell all! He wants us to tell Him what is bothering us!
  • Jesus listens without interrupting us!
  • He opens the Scriptures for us!
  • He accepts our invitation to stay with us, "as it is nearly evening and the day is almost over," that is, it is getting dark! 
  • He takes bread, says the blessing, breaks it, and gives it to us in the Eucharist as our nourishment, our strength, our purification, our communion with God made flesh with our flesh!



Sunday, April 21, 2019

Happy Easter!

In today's Gospel, Luke 24: 1-12, Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James went to the tomb at daybreak with spices they had prepared to anoint Jesus' body. They found the tomb empty. While these women,  and others who accompanied them,  were puzzling over the empty tomb, "two men in dazzling garments appeared to them...and said to them: 'Why do you seek seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise from the dead.'"  The women shared their experience with the apostles, who dismissed it as nonsense. Peter, however,  went to the tomb to check the women's story and found only the burial cloths. He returned "home amazed at what had happened."

Death had no power over Jesus. Neither will it have any power us, as St. Paul reminds us in Romans 6: 3-11. "Brothers and sisters: are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life....If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him...." nor over us who believe in Him and live like Him.

Alleluia!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Jesus: Obedient unto Death

"Christ became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every other name" (Phil 2: 8-9).

As a human being, Jesus went through death in His return to His Father in glory. You and I will also go through death on our return to our eternal home. Once we have passed through death, we will be at the gate that opens into heaven. Thinking of death may be scary for us. However, as St. Paul reminds us in today's second reading,  Hebrews 4: 14-16; 5 7-9, we "have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the son of God...[W]e do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin, so let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help...." 

As we struggle with our weaknesses, and especially as we struggle with medical conditions that bring us, it seems, to death's door,  or reminds us of our mortality, let us share our fears with Jesus, as we would with a best friend here on earth!  Let us not be afraid to bare our soul to Jesus!  He knows what we are going through, as He Himself has been tested as we are!  He will empathize! He will understand!  He will be able to help us through the darkness into light!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Institution of two sacraments: The Eucharist and Ordination

[O]n the night he was handed over, [Jesus] took bread and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, 'This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.' For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,  you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes."

In those words, Jesus instituted two sacraments: the sacrament of the Eucharist and the sacrament of Ordination.  The apostles that night, were ordained priests and entrusted with doing in remembrance of Jesus what Jesus did: changed the bread into His body and the wine into His blood.  "Do this in remembrance of me."  At every Mass, the priest consecrates the bread and wine and says to us: "Take and eat; this is the body of Jesus given up for you and the blood of Jesus poured out for you. Yes, at every Mass, when we receive Holy Communion, we "eat this bread and drink the cup...[proclaiming] the death of the Lord until he comes."  

In the responsorial psalm for tonight's Mass, we pray:  ""How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me? The cup of salvation I will take up, and I will call upon the name of the Lord....To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving, and I will call upon there name of the Lord.  My vows to the Lord I will pay in the presence of all his people." We do that at the Mass!











Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Jesus' Hour Had Come!

Tonight is night before Jesus gathers His apostles together to celebrate the Passover meal with Him, to institute the Eucharist, and to announce that one of them is going to betray Him that very night. Tomorrow night Jesus will be arrested in the Garden of Olives, betrayed by one of his close followers, one who followed Jesus closely day by day for three years and was chosen to be a part of an elite group referred to as the apostles. Tomorrow night Jesus will be arrested. I feel sad but I must remember how Jesus foretold his death and subsequent glorification.

In John 12: 23-28,  Jesus says to he apostles: "Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  I tell you, most solemnly, unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies it yields a rich harvest. Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for the eternal life. If a [person] serves me, that [person]  must follow me, wherever I am, my servant will be there too. [Those who] serve me, my Father will honor...Now my soul is troubled. What shall I say: Father, save me from this hour? But it was for this very reason that I have come to this hour. Father glorify your name."

WOW!  Lord, when my hour approaches, may I be graced to remember that through my death your name is being glorified, as it will be the moment that a place has been prepared for me in the eternal kingdom. that moment will be the moment that you have been waiting for: the moment to take me home to heaven to live with you forever! May I, Lord, through grace, "keep [my life] for the eternal life."



Tuesday, April 16, 2019

False Witnesses Rose up against Jesus

Our liturgy today opens with the following prayer: "Do not leave me to the will of my foes, O Lord, for false witnesses rise up against me and they breathe out violence" (Cf. Ps 27 (26): 12).  How many people are being left to the will of their enemies, victims of crimes committed by persons of little or no conscience, persons who think nothing of making up lies or engaging in criminal activity at the expense of others and using others to cover up their crimes.

Jesus, the Son of God,  fully human and fully divine, suffered in all the ways any human being suffers.  Jesus was unjustly accused, as are so many people in our day--our prisons house many people accused of crimes that they did not commit.  Some of these people are also on death's row, awaiting execution. The leaders of Jesus' time felt threatened by Jesus' population and the crowds of people following Him, proclaiming Him as their king. The leaders of the Jewish nation decided that Jesus had to be to death so that Israel would not lose its status as a nation.  So, to have significant data to convince the Romans, who occupied Israel at the time, to put Jesus to death, the chief priests and the leaders of Israel falsely accused Jesus of blasphemy, punishable by death.  When Pilate examined Jesus, he found no guilt in Him yet turned Him over to the crowd who insisted that He be put to death and He was!

However, death had no power over Jesus!  His enemies did not triumph. Jesus did!  In referring to His impending death, in fact, Jesus stated that the time for Him to be glorified had come.  As we approach the time of our deaths, we, as Christians, believe that we, too, are about to be glorified with Jesus in the kingdom of heaven.  

Monday, April 15, 2019

Consequences of Making Choices, Good or Bad

In today's Gospel, John 12: 1-11, Mary and Martha invited Jesus to dinner--possibly in gratitude that He raised their brother Lazarus from the dead.  Martha served, Lazarus reclined at table with them and Mary lavishly anointed Jesus' feet with expensive perfumed oil prior to the meal, I assume.  Judas Iscariot, one of the invited guests, strongly objects to Mary's use of expensive oil to anoint Jesus' feet: "'Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days' wages and given to the poor?' He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions. So Jesus [rebukes Judas, saying] 'Leave her alone.'"

Corruption, deception, thievery are evils that anyone of us, in any lifestyle or in any vocation is capable of falling into as we follow Jesus!  For Judas, the choices that he had been making all along led to a tragic end. We do not all of a sudden commit grave sins. Such are preceded by lesser evils, but evils none the less. They weaken our resolve and our efforts to do good.  Spiritual muscles, like physical muscles, if unused, atrophy!

What are we doing to strengthen our spiritual "muscles"?  Daily prayer, reflection upon the Scriptures, attendance at weekly and, if possible, daily liturgy, faithfulness to our vows--religious, priestly or marriage vows--in how we choose to love others for their own sake and for God's sake are important ways to become strong spiritually! Allowing ourselves to do as little as possible,  being slovenly in how we meet our responsibilities, cheating here and there, telling "white"lies, making choices that we know are wrong but "no one will know," seeing what we can get away with without being caught or confronted,  is much like what Judas did with the money bag: the results could be disastrous, or certainly not pretty!






Sunday, April 14, 2019

Truly being Jesus' Disciple!

Today's gospel  is a reading of the Passion of Jesus according to Luke! The gospel, Luke 22: 14-23:56, begins with Jesus celebrating the Passover with the apostles and ends with Jesus being crucified between two criminals.  At the beginning of the Passover meal, Jesus says: "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for, I tell you, I shall not eat it again until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God." Jesus then takes a cup and says: "'Take this and share it among yourselves; for I tell you that from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.' Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.'  And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, 'This is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.' And yet behold, the hand of the one who is to betray me is with me on the table; for the Son of Man indeed goes as it as been determined; but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed.' And they began to debate among themselves who among them would do such a deed."  

The twelve apostles absolutely had no idea who among them who walked with Jesus for three years, talked with him, listened to His preaching, healed in His name could ever betray him to the very persons who were seeking to take his life.  Later that night when Jesus, with three of the apostles, were in the Garden of Olives, "...a crowd approached and in front was one of the Twelve, a man named Judas." And they knew!

How could this possibly have happened? How could a follower of Jesus betray Jesus? Could it be that Judas was only a hearer of the Word but not one who understood Jesus' teaching or lived it truthfully? Could it be that Judas knew "religion" but really had no relationship with Jesus?  The same could be true of you and me!  Do we understand, internalize and live the teachings of Jesus or do we simply hear and not understand, hear and not apply the words of the Scriptures?  If so, we are vulnerable to betraying Jesus, as was Judas.  Do we know religion but not know Jesus, that is, we have not developed a relationship with Jesus, as one would with a best friend? If so, again, we are vulnerable to betraying Him, as was Judas.




 

Saturday, April 13, 2019

God Chooses Us

In today's first reading, Ezekiel 37: 21-28, the Lord tells His chosen people through the prophet that He is going to bring them back from exile, that they will no longer be two nations, but one, that the Temple will be restored; in fact, God's sanctuary will be with them forever. "No longer shall they defile the selves with their idols, their abominations, and all their transgressions. I will deliver them from all their sins of apostasy, and cleanse them so that the may be my people and I may be their God...[T]here shall be one shepherd for them all....My dwelling shall be with them; I will be their God, and they shall be my people." 

WOW! God is not only speaking to the Israelites. He is speaking to you and me!  You and I, by virtue our baptism, when we died and rose with Christ, belong to God. We were delivered from becoming slaves to sin. We were cleansed of our sinful inclinations--sin has no ore power over us. Like Jesus, who fell many times and got up and continued on to Calvary where He triumphed over Satan and destroyed the power of death, so, too, we, through Christ and in Christ and for Christ get up when we fall into sin, rise to new live in Christ over and over again. God dwells in us, just as God dwells in the land of Israel, in the sanctuary restored in Jerusalem when the people returned from exile.

God in us; we in God, just as Jesus lives in the Father and the Father lives in Him!  We are God's dwelling place!  As "possessions" of God, God changes us, redeems us, transforms us, cleanses us, purifies us, makes us holy, as He Himself is holy.  Every time we fall into sin, God picks us up and restores us to Himself! Never does God abandon us.

Lord, may I not abandon You. May I stay close to You always, taking time out of each day to seek Your face above all, to be restored to grace, to be strengthened by You in the Eucharist, in basking in Your love in quiet time with You, in times of quiet prayer and reflection upon the Scriptures and in growing in love of my neighbor, my family members, the members of my religious community and fellow sojourners on the way to everlasting life with You. I ask this in Jesus' name! Amen!



Friday, April 12, 2019

God my Champion; Union with Jesus/God

In the first reading of today's liturgy,  Jeremiah 20: 1-13, the  prophet  cries out to the Lord: "All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine. 'Perhaps he will be trapped; then we can prevail, and take our vengeance on him.' But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph. In their failure they will be put to utter shame, to lasting unforgettable confusion...." Jeremiah, of course, was speaking about his own situation but also prophesying, I believe, about Jesus!  The Pharisees, the Scribes and the leaders of the Jewish people were seeking ways to trap Jesus, to find a fault for which they could, in their minds, justify having Him put to death by crucifixion. In today's Gospel, John 10: 31-42, they were convinced that they found that one thing: they accused Jesus of committing blasphemy when he said: "I am the Son of God." How, Jesus asks His accusers, "can you say that the one whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world blasphemes because I said, 'I am the Son of God'?  If I do not perform my Father's
works, do not believe in me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father." 

We know the ending of this story! Jesus is put to death by crucifixion. His denouncers, his persecutors, his executioners, to this very day, carry "utter shame," and their actions have caused "lasting unforgettable confusion" for those who do not believe that Jesus truly is God in human form who, as a human person died on the cross but rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, securing our resurrection to eternal life, as well.

Upon further reflection, I suggest that we ask ourselves the question: Who am I in these Scripture readings? In the first Scripture reading,  am I "Jeremiah" at my wit's end because my every move is being scrutinized to  to see whether or not I make a serious mistake that confirms their suspicions that I am, or have been in fact, involved in criminal activity?  Am I the "Jeremiah" who believes, beyond a doubt, that he is innocent, that God is his champion, and that his persecutors will be put to shame as he himself celebrates his exoneration? Or am I the one persecuting others, looking for something that will justify my desire that the other be brought down?  In the Gospel, am I the person looking to trap Jesus and confirm my belief that Jesus is not who He says He is?  Am I the person who does not see Jesus' works and words revealing that the Father is in Him and He is in the Father?  Am I, like Jesus, doing works and speaking words that reveal the Father in me and in the Father, Jesus in me, and me in Jesus?




Thursday, April 11, 2019

Never Seeing Death (See Jn 8: 51)

Jesus says to us in today's Gospel, John 8: 51-59 that "whoever keeps my word will never see death." The Jews are perplexed by that statement and reply: "Now we are sure that you are possessed. Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, 'Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.' Are you greater than our father Abraham , who died? Who do you make yourself out to be?'....'Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM"  (the caps are mine)." The Jews are so angry that he claimed that he is the I  AM, that they tried killing him by stoning but Jesus went into hiding.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the  covenant God made with Abraham and the chosen people!  The Jews, God's chosen people, will have none of it and thus they throw stones at Jesus, hoping to kill Him.  they do not succeed at this point so they continue plotting against Him.  When later they crucify Him on Calvary,  they believe that they have, in fact, destroyed Him. As Christians, we know otherwise. Jesus overcame death. He rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, when we celebrate His and our resurrection.

As Jesus overcame death, so, too, will those who keep His word, as Jesus says to us in the beginning of today's Gospel: "[W]hoever keeps my word will never see death."  Death, for those who believe in Jesus and live the Gospel way of life that Jesus modeled for us here on earth, is the gate through which we enter eternal life, our inheritance from God!

Thank you, Jesus!


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Needing to be Saved

Today's first reading, Numbers 21: 4-9, the Israelites are angry about having been brought out into the desert where food and water are scarce.  In their anger, the people complain against Moses and God: "Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food! In punishment the Lord sent among the people saraph serpents, which bit the people so that many of them died".

As we reflect upon this passage, let us note that the people admit their sinful behavior and ask Moses to intercede for them.  God instructs Moses to make a saraph and mount it on a pole. Anyone who has been bitten and looks at this mounted saraph will live.  This obviously reminds us of what God asks of us as well; namely, that we, too, acknowledge and/or admit our sinful behaviors to others, ask forgiveness of others and look to Jesus upon the cross for healing.

Upon further reflection, I am challenged to look at how we identify with this Scripture passage. Complaining against God and others is a common human experience--evil spirits delight in our choosing to complain. When we enter a complaining mode, we set ourselves up to sink deeper and deeper into a rut of discontent!  However, if, on the other hand, we follow the lead of good spirits and choose an attitude of gratitude, look for ways to resolve whatever the problem is, and accept our responsibility to do so, we take power away from spirits that wants us to be divisive.

May you and I become "Moses" in the world of our day and also follow the example of the Israelites in acknowledging our sinful behaviors, repenting of such and looking, not to a mounted saraph but to Jesus upon the cross to save us!


Saturday, April 6, 2019

The Power of Faith

In today's first reading, Jeremiah 11: 18-20, the prophet tells us that he knew about the plot against him "because the Lord had informed" him. And  yet, he says, "I, like a trusting lamb led to slaughter, had not realized that they were hatching plots against me: 'Let us destroy the tree in its vigor; let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name will be spoken no more.'" 

I was reminded of the efforts being made, especially by leaders in our country today, to plot out the names and good works of persons who have gone before them. What prompts us to want to erase another's good name or good works? If we personally are doing so, we need to take notice and examine our motivations.  That being said, we know, from the Scriptures, that the scribes and Pharisees and the leaders of the people in Israel attempted to do just that concerning Jesus,  but Jesus' works and message continues to touch people deeply to this very day!  Jesus continues to transform us into the persons God desires us to be. No one attempting to destroy His message or presence will be able to do so. Good will always triumph over evil. It did in Jesus' day and it will happen in the world of today, as well!

I believe this! My belief strengthens me to strive to do good and to strive on a daily basis to bring my will into harmony with God's will! What is your belief and how does it impact your life?

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Growing Close to or Distancing Oneself from God?

Today's first reading, Exodus 32: 7-14, tells us the story of the chosen people's worship of the golden calf, believing that it was through the power of this molten image that they were brought out of Egypt, where they had been treated as slaves. Concerning the molten image, Aaron says to the people: "This is your God,  O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt." 

Imagine God's anger! How insulting to God, who had worked multiple wonders to free them from being slaves to the Egyptians.  How could they abandon God so quickly?  How could they turn away from Him and sacrifice to a molten image? In His anger, God says to Moses, His confidante and personal friend: "I see how stiff-necked this people is. Let me alone, then, that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them. Then I will make of you a great nation." Moses intervenes! So God relents "of the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people."

To this very day, God is abandoned, turned away from, in a variety of ways.  Who, today, invites you to turn away from God, to worship false gods?

With what, I need to ask myself, do I occupy my time in such a way that I abandon building a relationship with God, nurturing my faith life, growing in love with both God and my spouse, my children, my community members?  What dominates or controls my life, to what am I a slave, to the degree that I abandon being a responsible spouse, parent, grandparent, community member, family member, priest, deacon, student, employee?




Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Jesus and the Father Working as One

In today's gospel, John 5: 17-30, Jesus speaks about his oneness with the Father and how the two of them work in harmony.  "'My Father is at work until now, so I am at work....Amen, amen, I say to you, the son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for what he does, the son will do also. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything that he himself does, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes. Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to the Son.... [H]e gave him power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man.... I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.'"

One of the statements in Jesus' description of his relationship with His Father that touched me deeply is that Jesus' judgments are just because he does not seek his own will "but the will of the one" who sent Him. You and I have also been sent to earth to do the will of our Father!  Is it that our judgments are at times unjust because we are seeking to impose our own wills and are not acting in accord with the will of God for the other person? Most likely in those times, we have  not even consulted God to show us His will!  We may have simply barged ahead to dominate or control the other person!

Notice the opening statement of this Gospel passage: "My Father is at work..., so I am at work!" Do you and I approach our work in that way, with that belief and that attitude? Are you, am I, aware that, as with Jesus, the Father also wants to "show us everything that he himself does"  because of His love for us?




Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Wading in the Waters of Faith

In today's first reading, Ezekiel  47: 1-9, 12, and angel brought the prophet to the entrance of the temple, from which the prophet sees water flowing east from beneath its threshold.  The angel has Ezekiel wade into the water, measuring off 1000 cubits three times and each time the water gains depth until Ezekiel is unable to wade it in. The angel shows Ezekiel the produce growing by the river and tells him that this river flows into the salt waters of the Arabah, making these waters fresh, thus supporting an abundance of fish.  "Along both banks of the river," the angel says, "fruit trees of every kind shall grow; their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail. Every month, they shall fear fresh fruit, for they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary. Their fruit shall serve for food, and their leaves for medicine!"

This abundance of God's gift of live is also spoken of the today's Gospel, John 5: 1-6, where, in Jerusalem at the pool of Bethesda, Jesus encounters a man who had been ill for 38 years.  Anyone who gets down to the pool while the waters are stirred up is healed. This man is too crippled to reach the pool before someone else does. Jesus says to him: "Do you want to be well?" The crippled man explains his situation and Jesus says: "Rise, take up your mat, and walk." He is made whole!

Obviously, the water flowing from the threshold of the temple and in the pool of Bethesda brings to mind the healing waters of baptism. The abundance of fruit trees that grow on the banks of the river and that never fade bring to mind the Eucharistic food with which we are fed at every Liturgy and whenever we meditate on the Scriptures and/or take time to bask in God's love in quiet prayer--all empowers us, strengthens us, restores us to health and purifies us to live the Gospel in our various vocations: marriage, religious life priesthood, single life and the diaconate!

What a glorious God!

Monday, April 1, 2019

Faith and Trust in the Living God

In today's first reading, Isaiah 65: 17-21, the Lord says to us through the prophet: "Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth;the things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind. Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I create; for I create Jerusalem to be a  joy and its people to be a delight; I will rejoice in Jerusalem and exult in my people."

What I believe comes to be! For instance, if I believe that I will fail, failure will be mine. On the contrary, if I believe that I shall succeed, I will succeed in some way, even if that success is how I handle failure!  Living through faith in God's power to "create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight," I will, then, experience God's power to bring good out of what I may have perceived as disaster.  We see this kind of faith at work in the royal official in today's Gospel, John 4: 43-54. The royal official asked Jesus to come down to Capernaum to heal his dying son.  At first it looked as if Jesus was dismissing him with a rebuke when he said: "Unless you  people see signs and wonders you will not believe." The royal official simply repeated his request and Jesus says to him: "You may go; your son will live" and at that moment his son began to recover.

Like the royal official,  if I live by faith,  I will not hesitate to bring my concerns to Jesus, knowing that He has the power to help me in my need, whatever that need might be. As I rely upon God to respond to my requests for help,  my thinking negatively will be changed into thinking positively. And like the royal official,  I will then experience how God delights in me and restores my faith in Him.

Lord, I pray for the faith to believe in what you create and are capable of creating.   Like the royal official, may I grow in my knowledge of who You really are: a compassionate, loving, faithful God, whose love is infinite and generously shared. I ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.



Sunday, March 31, 2019

A God with Arms Always Open to Embrace Us

In today's Gospel, Luke 14: 1-3, 11-32, Jesus tells the story of the loving father, the prodigal son and the elder brother. Who am I in that story? the prodigal son who squanders the inheritance God has given me, living promiscuously, deceptively, corruptly, slovenly; the elder brother who lives by the letter of the law, does everything right, feels justified, superior to others and gets extremely angry when someone who turns from sin and evil is celebrated?   Do I secretively rejoice at another's misfortune or poor choices saying, when things go wrong for this person, that he or she is getting what is deserved? Do I withdraw and sulk when such a person turns from evil to do good and a party is thrown in his or her honor? Or am I the father/ the person eagerly waiting for the return of the "prodigal" person, running to greet him/her with open arms--no questions asked but, instead, arranging for a big celebration!

The father, in this parable, of course, is God! We are both of the children!  When you and I go astray, make poor choices that create a famine in our lives on all fronts--emotionally, socially, physically, financially, psychologically, spiritually--, as did both sons, God waits and waits and waits. God will wait hourly, weekly, monthly, yearly for our return. No matter how long we separate ourselves from God--from Love, Forgiveness, Intimacy, Reconciliation--God waits to embrace us with open, caring, loving arms, showing us compassion, restoring good fortunes to us, and lavishing us with gifts. The inheritance God has for us is intact!

Lord, open my eyes to Your love, Your compassion, Your generosity, Your longing to embrace me! Whenever I fall or wander off to places where I will encounter famine spiritually, socially, psychologically, emotionally, may I have the humility to come back to you, as did the prodigal son in this parable.  Forgive me, Lord, when I stay away and give up, saying something like:  "What use is it for me to make any changes in my life; it is too late. Anyway, I'm lost. I'm no good. What I have done is unforgivable!" Please, Lord, don't let me stay stuck in those poisonous attitudes and in humility return to you!  I ask this in Jesus' name!  Amen!





    
       

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Turning toward God, Not Away from Him

In today's first reading, Jeremiah 7: 23-28, the Lord says to us through the prophet: "Listen to my voice; then I will be your God and you shall be my people. Walk in all the ways that I command you, so that you may prosper. But they obeyed not, nor did they pay heed. They walked in the hardness of their evil hearts and turned their backs, not their faces, to me."

Have you, have I, have we turned our backs on the Lord and walked away from Him? Or do we turn our faces to the Lord and in faith walk with Him and toward Him?  In hope and in faith and in love, do we keep going forward no matter how difficult the journey might be? Or do we return to "the flesh pots of Egypt," to our whims, urges and impulses, walking away from doing what we know is right and choosing the easier path that makes no demands upon us? When challenged to go forward, do we say to people, either in word or action: "Leave me alone. I've done enough! I'm too tired. I'm too old! I'm too young!"

No matter what, God always walks along side us on the journey of faith, giving us the strength, the courage, and the wisdom we need to move forward!  Not only is God with us on our way to heaven, so, too, are all the saints, those who have gone before us and those here on earth making the journey with us to our eternal homes! And furthermore, the angels, especially our guardian angel, walks with us as well!

Lord, forgive us for the times when we have turned our backs to you and give us the strength to turn back to you again and again in faith, hope and love!



Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Jesus: the One Who Shows Us How to Love God and our Neighbor

In the first reading, Dt 4: 1, 5-9, Moses says to he people: "Now, Israel, hear the statues and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may life, and may enter in and take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you....[T]each them to your children and to your children's children." In the gospel, Matthew 5: 17-19, Jesus says to his disciples: "Do not think that I  have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill....[W]hoever  breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will e called least in the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven."

The Israelites were on their way to the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey, a place in the Middle East. We are on our way to a better place, our eternal  home, heaven, a place of eternal peace, a place where Satan and evil does not exist!  Statues and decrees and commandments are guideposts along our way to help us meet our goals of entering eternal life to live with God forever by living a life of love and service to others. Woe to those, Jesus warns us, who teach little ones to ignore or trample upon the commandments by a life of disobedience!

How am I an example of one who obeys God's commandments, the commandments of love, loving God--the first second and third commandments--and loving one's neighbor--the 4th through the 10th commandments?

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

God's Mercy as Role Modeling our Call to be Merciful

Today's readings are about mercy, being shown mercy by our God and being called to be merciful in relation to other human beings.  The Gospel, Matthew 18:21-35, reveals God's infinite mercy towards us in the parable of the king who forgives a debtor an amount of debt that he absolutely has no way of resolving.  Rather than following the king's example, this pardoned debtor exacts payment from someone who owes him a much lesser amount. He has him thrown into prison until he pays up!  That leads to the king revoking his pardon and exacting payment from the debtor, who in turn is also imprisoned until he pays the huge amount that he also owes.


We have choices! Forgiving others leads to personal, inner freedom. Exacting payment--holding on to resentments, harboring grudges, and punishing others for their "debts," however we choose to do that--leads to enslaving or imprisoning ourselves in our own anger states.  Furthermore, in the Our Father, we ask God to forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us. By not forgiving others who hurt us or owe us an apology, or whatever, we subject ourselves to God's justice, which is also infinite--what we mete out to others will be meted out to us!

In the responsorial psalm of today's liturgy, Psalm 25, we pray:  "Remember your mercies, O Lord."
That does not exonerate us from doing our part in acting mercifully toward others! Let us remember how merciful God is towards ourselves and, in turn, show mercy to our neighbors, near and far!


Monday, March 25, 2019

Announcing God Assuming Human Nature

Today we celebrate the Annunciation of the Lord. Two thousand plus years ago, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, announcing to her that she had found favor with God and was to become pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. The child that would begin to grow in her womb would be God Himself assuming human nature through her and coming to live among us as a human being. This child, the Incarnate Son of God, would be like us in all things but sin.

The opening antiphon of today's liturgy tells us that, as the Lord entered the world, he said: "Behold, I come to do your will, O God."   In today's responsorial psalm, Psalm  40,  the Lord says: "Sacrifice or oblation you wished not, but ears open to obedience you gave me. Holocausts  or sin-offering you sought not; then said I, 'Behold I come. In the written scroll it is prescribed of me, to do your will, O my God, is my delight, and your law is within my heart.'"

Obedience to the will of God is modeled for Jesus by His mother, who when the angel Gabriel announced God's will for her replied: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." At that moment, as the angel proclaimed, the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and Jesus was conceived in her womb!  Mary would never be the same and neither would the history of the world.

Emmanual--God-with-us!  As Jesus lived in Mary's womb physically, He lives within our bodies spiritually.  In the Holy Eucharist, Jesus comes to nourish us, strengthen us, purify us, as well:  "Take and eat," Jesus says to us through the priest, "this is my body given up for you." "Take and drink [of the chalice]; this is my blood poured out for you."

Jesus lives in you and me as He lived in Mary. He is there always--when we get up in the morning, when we go to work, when we retire for the night!  Jesus never leaves us, never abandons us, and always waits for us to seek His help, to call upon Him in need, and to rely upon Him in all of the circumstances of our lives, especially those that seem overwhelming for us, that leave us with a trillion questions, that baffle, confuse or frustrate us. Jesus also wants us to include Him, look to Him in the joyful, celebratory, exciting moments of our lives.

May we turn to Him and seek Him every moment of every day and night!




Sunday, March 24, 2019

God Partnering with Us and We with God

In today's first reading,  Exodus 3: 1-8a,  13-15, Moses sees a bush burning but not being consumed. he approaches the bush and from it  God calls him: "Moses, Moses!"  He replies: "Here I am!"  "Come no nearer," God says to him. "Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground."   God then proceeds to tell him that he is aware of the suffering of his people as slaves to the Egyptians. "I have...heard their cry of complaints against their slave drivers, so I know well what they are suffering.  Therefore, I have come down to rescue them...and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey."  The catch: God needs Moses to work with Him in leading the Israelites, Moses' people, out of slavery into freedom!

God does not work alone. He partners with us and equips us to partner with Him! Are you ready? Am I?

We know from more of the story, that Moses argued with God, indicated that he was not equipped to do what God was asking of him. God did not accept his refusal and assured him that He would be with him and, in fact, that his brother Aaron would also assist!  Furthermore, God gave Moses detailed instructions of how to proceed!

God does the same with us: He reassures us, sends us help from other people and from Himself, and directs us on how to proceed! He takes us by the right hand, walks beside us, ahead of us and behind us, doing whatever needs to be done for us to accomplish His will!

We are free, of course, to co-operate  and bear fruit, freeing ourselves and others from slavery; or we can choose to walk away and "dry up," as did the fig tree in today's Gospel, (Luke 13: 1-9).  In the Gospel story, a person checks on a fig tree for three years and finds no fruit and instructs the gardener to chop it down. "Why should it exhaust the soil?"  The gardener intercedes and ask that it be spared another year while he cultivates and fertilizes it to see whether it will produce. And so the fig tree is given a second chance to bear fruit, for which it exists.

What are you and I doing with the second and third and fourth chances that God gives us to turn our lives around, to make choices that bear fruit that will last?  What are we doing to walk away from apathy, selfishness, barrenness, sloth, and other behaviors and attitudes that block grace that would empower us to cooperate with God's call to partner with Him?








Saturday, March 23, 2019

God's Delight in His Children's Return to Him

Today's Gospel, Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32, presents the story of the prodigal son, who, after his father "divided the property between [his two sons],...collected all his belongings and set off for a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation..... A severe famine struck the country, and he found himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. Coming to his senses he thought, 'How many of my father's hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you."

We know the rest of the story:  The father sees his son returning and is absolutely elated. He embraces him, kisses him and orders that a feast be prepared to celebrate his son's return. Royal clothing and a ring is put on his finger.  Meanwhile his older brother returns from the fields, hears the music and inquires what is going on. He is indignant and refuses to join the celebration. His father pleads with him and tries to figure out why he is so angry when, all the while, everything the father possesses has been his all along.

All of us can relate to this story in some fashion. We may be the prodigal son/daughter or the one who has been faithful all along but resent a family member who squanders everything and when returning to the family is welcomed back as though nothing happened.  We may say: "No way will I have anything to do with him/her" or, to one's parents or siblings,  "How can you have anything to do with him/her when he/she treated you and us so badly."

Lord, open our eyes and hearts to those who have gone astray, who have caused us, or anyone else, intense suffering, alienating him/herself from others by their sinful behaviors. May we be willing to welcome back those who turned from evil and embrace the good. Let us celebrate their return to grace. Let us not stand in judgment over them but, like the father of the prodigal son, rejoice in their return to You. And, Lord, thank you for treated each of us as the father in this parable treated his wayward son.  Thank you, Lord, for you compassion, love and mercy and for waiting for us to return. Thank you, also, for searching for us when we squander your goodness to us in a life of selfishness and sin. I offer this prayer in Jesus' name! Amen.


Friday, March 22, 2019

God's Hidden Plan Flowing in the Current of our Lives

How often are we blown away by circumstances in our world that are unexplainable, that, in fact threaten our well-being, threaten our faith, shatter our trust: situations, not unlike the situation that Joseph, Israel's favorite son, faced when his father sent him to his brothers, who were tending their father's flock at Shechem. Joseph's brothers hated Joseph  and were jealous of him. Seeing him approach,  they plotted to kill him. Instead, at the persuasion of Rueben, their oldest brother, they sold him for 20 pieces of silver as a slave to Ismaelites, who  happened to be passing through Shechem on their way to Egypt (Genesis 37: 3-4,12-13a1b-28a).  In Egypt, Joseph was thrown into prison, bound with chains, as we are told in today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 105, "till his prediction came to pass and the word of the Lord proved him true. The king, [then,] sent and released him, the ruler of the people set him free. He made him lord of his house and ruler of all his possessions." And it was Joseph who saved his father Israel and his brothers "when the Lord called down a famine on the land and ruined the crop that sustained them" (Psalm 105).  Note the similarities between Joseph and Jesus!

God had a plan in the history of the Israelites, part of which included Joseph becoming a key instrument in his father Israel's and his brothers' being saved from famine. God also has a plan of salvation that, through His Son Jesus,  He is working out in your life and mine, in the life of our family members, in the life of all peoples. That plan may not be obvious; in fact, that God is at work at all may be something we question, as we observe what is happening around us or far from us.

As with Israel, losing his favorite son Joseph, and with his son Joseph in prison in Egypt, we are called to wait upon the Lord, to trust in God's providence. Every day, if faith is our guide, we come face to face with situations that will open our eyes to the fact that God, not ourselves,  is in charge of our lives, the lives of our loved ones--"yes," in charge of our world. We may think that we are the one's in control and then discover that such is not the case!

In circumstances that blow us out of the water, so to speak, do we despair or do we reach out in faith to the Lord, our God? If we choose the latter, we will discover how much God's imminence, His power to save us, His wisdom in guiding us, and His quickness to strengthen us in our weakness. Like Joseph, we will blossom where we are planted, no matter in which condition is the "soil."

Jesus, help us to live as Joseph lived, making the best of our situations, continuing to be women and men of integrity in both good times and "bad" times!  Also give us the wisdom of Rueben, who persuaded his brothers not to kill their brother Joseph but to save His life.  May we live by faith and follow the Spirit's nudges in all of the challenges we face any day. I ask this in Jesus' name!  Amen!





Thursday, March 21, 2019

Responding to the Needs of the Needy among Us

In today's gospel, Luke 16: 19-31, Jesus tells the Pharisees about the rich man "who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and [who] dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would  gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores."  Both men died, one entering heaven and the other hell.  From hell, the rich man "saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side." He begged Abraham to "[s]end Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool [his] tongue, for [he] was suffering torment in [the] flames [of hell]."  Abraham reminded the rich man that on earth he enjoyed good things while Lazarus endured bad things and here in eternity the reverse happened because of the choices the rich man made on earth of ignoring the poor and needy whom he could have helped.  He is now suffering while Lazarus is being comforted.  Then the rich man begged Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his five brothers, "lest they too come to this place of torment."  Abraham responded that if his five brothers did not listen to the prophets neither could "they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead."

Am I, are you, responding to the less fortunate when we easily could do so, or are we ignoring them, too busy or too complacent to be bothered with anyone but ourselves?

Lord, open my eyes to the poor and needy whom I encounter, or could encounter, each day and to ways that I am able to help them or make a positive difference in their lives, especially members of my own family or religious community! Also, Lord, have mercy on those who are living as did the rich man, ignoring or despising those who are poor and needy, especially despising children and the elderly who are in need of mercy and love and compassionate responses of those capable of being helpful to them! Also, Lord, may each of us listen to "prophets" in our  lives who point us to what is right and our responsibility to build up your kingdom here on earth!


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Walking in Jesus' Footprints

In today's first reading, Jeremiah 18: 18-20, Jeremiah's enemies are plotting against him, saying to each other: "Come, let us contrive a plot against Jeremiah....[L]et us destroy him by his own tongue; let us carefully note his every word."  The Pharisees do the same toward Jesus, that is, listen to His every word, hoping to hear something that will justify their plot to kill Him.  They believe that they have succeeded, but death has no power over Jesus. He is raised to life on the third day, as He tells His disciples in today's Gospel, Matthew 20: 17-28: "Behold," Jesus says to them,  "we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised [from death] on the third day."

The twelve don't get it. As they are walking along, James and John, through their mother, approach Jesus and ask to be seated on his left and right in His kingdom!  Jesus says to them: "'You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?' They said to him: 'We can.' He replied: 'My chalice you shall indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give...'"

Seeking first and second place is pretty common.Wanting to be privileged is written , it seems, in our genes.  Such desires, even to this day, lead to killing one's competitor or opponent--physical death or death of the spirit, or of the will to live or one's ability to secure jobs that will allow a person to adequately support his/her family.  We see these sinful behaviors and attitudes at work when we watch the evening news!

Applying this Scripture passage to our personal lives, in what ways to we act as James and John and their mother?  Are we arriving to be above others, missing the point of Jesus' teachings that we are here to serve others, not to be served; that we are called to pick up our crosses, as He did, and through the cross, experience resurrection?

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Righteousness and Faith

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Joseph, husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus.  As a righteous man, we are told in today's Gospel, Matthew 1: 16, 18-21, 24a, Joseph faced the dilemma of Mary, his betrothed one, being pregnant outside of their living together as husband and wife.  He was struggling with how to respond and decided to divorce her quietly so as not to shame her publicly when, in sleep, an angel appeared to him and said:  "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins" (Mt. 1: 18-21)Joseph carried out the angel's request, risking his personal reputation in the process, just as Jesus risked His reputation for us throughout His ministry and in His being put to death by leaders of the Israelite nation, who, not understanding Jesus' Kingdom, were afraid that he would would usurp their power and authority.  Threatened by Jesus' popularity, he was crucified, as were others who disturbed their positions!

How often do I, or you, take positions that may put us in a bad light, diminish our influence for the good we seek or our desire to spare others any public shaming? Do we, like Joseph, follow the promptings of the Spirit or of our guardian angels, to make certain difficult choices that, otherwise, we are not considering?

Monday, March 18, 2019

Be Compassionate as God is Compassionate

In today's Gospel, Luke 6: 36-38, Jesus says to us: "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will e pour into your lap. for the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you."

"Just as your Father is merciful!"   God models mercy and reveals his merciful self in Jesus!  Jesus challenges the sinner but does not condemn. In fact, in his own words, Jesus tells us that he came, not to condemn, but to save us, showing us how to love others as ourselves, how to be compassionate as God is compassionate, how, in short, to forgive ourselves and others.

Jesus reveals that His Father, and He himself, is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and quick to forgive. He does so on the cross when the good thief turns to him and says: "Remember me in your kingdom" and Jesus replies: This very day you will be with me in my kingdom.  When a woman caught in adultery is dragged before him and her accusers are ready to stone her according to the law of the nation of Israel, Jesus admonishes them, asking: Which of you is without sin, cast the first stone. No one stoned her! When a deaf man was brought to him for healing, and Jesus was asked "who sinned, the person or his parents", Jesus states clearly that no one sinned.  He indicated that misfortunes are not the result of our sinful behaviors. Jesus shows mercy and heals the deaf person.

God is about mercy, wholeness, and healing. He takes no pleasure  in people suffering in any way. That is not God's thinking but ours!

What attitudes do I need to change within myself? Am I quick to condemn, to judge, to find fault with another when misfortunes occur, when illness same to take possession of another, of myself? How caring am I? How loving am I? How forgiving am I? Does compassion direct my thoughts?

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Jonah's Message: What Might God Say to Us?

In today's first reading, Jonah 3: 1-10, the prophet Jonah goes to Nineveh to announce to it a message God gave to him. That message was:  "Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed."  The people of Nineveh believed God and "proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.  
When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes."  The king and his nobles proclaimed a decree that everyone fast, including animals: "Neither man nor beast, neither cattle nor sheep, shall taste anything; they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water....[E]very man shall turn from his evil way and from the violence he has in hand. Who knows, God may relent and forgive, and withhold his blazing wrath."

What if God, angry at the evil that exists in the world of today, sent a prophet to announce a message which said: "Forty days and the world shall be destroyed,"  would we listen? Would we, from the greatest to the smallest, repent? Would those who sit on "high places" proclaim a fast, clothe themselves in sackcloth and sit in ashes or would they dismiss the message as nonsense and go out to their golf courses, wining and dining with friends, continuing acts of evil toward those in "lowly places,"continuing to build walls and pile up nuclear weapons or any kind of weapons with which to commit acts of violence toward fellow human beings and would they, also, continue negating treaties and agreements that protect the earth from being destroyed?

Looking at ourselves personally, what would you or I do if we were given a message that our time here on earth was drawing to a close?  For what would we need to ask forgiveness? Of what behaviors/attitudes would we need to repent? What changes would we need to make  that would indicate that we realize how we have not upheld the covenant we made with God at our baptisms and God made with us or how we have not lived up to our marriage or religious vows?



Tuesday, March 12, 2019

"Our Father Who Art in Heaven"

In today's gospel, Matthew 6: 7-15, Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray. When you pray, Jesus says to us, "do not babble like the pagans, who think they will be heard because of their many words."  Remember, Jesus says to us, that "[y]our Father know what you need before you ask him."

Pray like this, Jesus says to us:

"Our Father who art in heaven." Stop!  Think of a child running into the arms of his/her loving, caring protective father. Many times, no words are necessary. The child looks up at daddy, raises his or her arms and daddy picks up the child, soothes it, looks into its eyes lovingly and the child's needs are met!  And how delighted the father is that the child trusts him so unhesitatingly and completely!

That is our father in heaven: caring, waiting, eager to pick us up, comfort us, soothe us and meet our needs, whatever they are!

"Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be your name."  Listen to a child boast of its daddy: "My daddy is the best. My daddy is strong! My daddy knows everything" are praises that we hear little children telling each other about their daddy!  Do you and I  have this kind of relationship with our Father in heaven? If not, what do we need to do to develop this kind of relationship with God?  How did we develop this kind of relationship with our own fathers or surrogate fathers?

May we grow in love with God! May we discover God as a loving, caring, compassionate, strong father, a God who gave His life for us!





Monday, March 11, 2019

The Lord, Your God Wills Your Holiness/Wholeness

In  today's first reading, Leviticus 19: 1-2, 11-18, the Lord says to Moses and to us:   "Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy." How, we ask, are we to be holy as the Lord, our God, is holy? Is that not impossible? For us, on our own, yes. For us, with God, no!  God can do all things and that includes putting us on the path to holiness when we stray!

I was getting caught in a pattern of thinking that is detrimental to grace.  As I recognized the pattern, I began to pray the mantra:  "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner."  As soon as my mind drifted back to negative thinking, I returned to the mantra.  I woke up refreshed, consulted a friend, who set me right and reminded me of what my mission is and how I allowed myself to get pulled into issues that are not my responsibility to resolve and over which I was obsessing. How free I felt and grateful for God's grace at work in me as soon as I turned to the Lord for help and realized how right my friend was in her counsel of me! And, yes, God had put me back on the path of holiness and wholeness!

What do you do when you recognize that you are on a dangerous path, one that will lead you away from what God wants of you?  What helps you experience the freedom and the peace that only God can give? What puts you back on the path to holiness, that is, to wholeness and becoming the person God intends you to become?


Saturday, March 9, 2019

Translating "Ifs" into Actions that Radiate God's Presence

In today's first reading, Isaiah 58: 9b-14,  God says to us through the prophet: "If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday; then the Lord will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land. He will renew your strength, and you will be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails...."

Let us, with God's strength, remove the "ifs" and do what God asks of us, especially in our families and religious communities, that is, stop speaking maliciously of anyone, if we are doing that. Let us relieve family members or community members hungry for love and kindness, forgiveness and honesty. Let us respond to our children's or a community member's need for quality time--perhaps help with homework or saying "yes" to their request that a parent play with them or a spouse--or community member--hungry to hear "I love you," "I appreciate you," "Great job showing that you care."  When we heed God's call to live in this fashion, we live in the Light. We bear fruit that will last and are lifted out of gloom into joy and peace of heart, mind and soul!  Yes, our strength in renewed and so is that of others!  We become "like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails" to quench the thirst of others for a glimpse of God in their midst!


Friday, March 8, 2019

The Kind of Fasting that God Asks of Us

In today's first reading, Isaiah 58: 1-9a,  the prophet Isaiah spells out clearly the kind of fast God asks of us:  This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:  releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own."

We might choose one of the following ways of fasting for ourselves and also include one or more of these in our Lenten prayers:


  • Fast from corrupt ways and choose integrity in all of our dealings with others
  • Fast from deceitful ways and choose to be honest in our relationships
  • Fast from violating the basic human rights of anyone and promote that which is right for all
  • Fast from being ignorant of the industry of human trafficking and learn how to protect our children from this crime
  • Fast from being blind or deaf to the dangers of illegal drugs and abuse of alcohol and encourage a healthy lifestyle among our children/youth
  • Fast from ignorance of forced labor or labor trafficking; take time to learn about this criminal reality and protect innocent children from this curse,
  • Fast from judging persons who are incarcerated; take time to learn about unjust incarcerations and work for justice
  • Fast from judging homeless people and take some time to learn about the causes of homelessness,
  • Fast from judging victims of sexual abuse--incest, sexual assault, rape--and work for justice for victims of these crimes 
  • Fast from viewing pornographic materials, if so involved, and work to educate others about this dangerous addiction
  • Fast from addictions--all addictions have the potential to destroy healthy relationships and thwart our growth in love; if necessary, seek support from groups that help each other become free of addictive behaviors
  • Fast from discriminating against people whose sexual orientation, religion, culture, race, background is different from one's own; befriend a person who is different from yourself 
  • Fast from treating others as inferior to oneself and acknowledge the other person's giftedness
  • Fast from ways in which humankind treats human beings inhumanely, beginning with oneself

Reread Isaiah 58: 1-9a.  What kind of fast is God asking of you this Lenten season?




Thursday, March 7, 2019

Being Vulnerable in Prayer

In today's Entrance Antiphon, we pray:  When I cried to the Lord, he heard my voice; he rescued me from those who attack me. Entrust your cares to the Lord, and he will support you."

Wow! I had just poured my soul out to the Lord in personal prayer, complaining about a phrase in Sarah Young's book, Jesus Calling, in which, through  her, the Lord says to the reader:  "Let me help you through this day. The challenges you face are far too great for you to handle alone. You are keenly aware of your helplessness in the scheme of events you face" (March 7th).  I felt humiliated by those statements and told Jesus just that! What I heard back in prayer was: Trust me. I am with you. I hold you by your hand. I am at your side. Pause to remind yourself of that fact. Rely on Me. I am standing by waiting for you to seek my help."  I said "thank you," and, in my prayer, the Lord then continued:  Do not put yourself down! Everyone is helpless in face of the day's events in their lives.  You are no exception!  I am your strength. Remember that fact and that I come to you every morning in the Eucharist to give you the strength you need each day, one day at a time."

Then, I read the Entrance Antiphon for today's liturgy and realized that, by trusting my cares to the Lord,  God not only supported me but also rescued me, not from outside attackers, but from myself!

Your experience of God in prayer today?



Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The Lenten Journey Begun This Day

Today we celebrate Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the holy season of Lent. Lent is a time of special graces, a time to heed the words of the prophet Joel. God speaks to us today through Joel 2: 12-18: "Return to me with  your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning. Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God." The question I need to ask myself is: Why is God asking me to return to Him? I also need to take heed of the call to return to him with my whole heart! How am I, I need to ask myself, serving God halfheartedly?  sluggishly? Do I give God only my leftovers and give the best to other gods, to my idols, to things I treasure more than God? What, in my life each day, do I devote most of my energy, most of my time, especially time when I am free of the responsibilities of my profession, my career: the kids have been put to bed, the dishes and other chores are done, my community or priestly responsibilities are met, I've spent quality time playing with or listening to my children and communicating with my spouse or the members of my religious community with whom I live or fulfilling my duties as priest! Wow, I am free finally, I say to myself!    Is this a time that I am being called to turn my attention to the Lord in prayer, in reflecting upon a Scripture passage, the readings of the day's liturgy, a spiritual reading book that lifts my mind and heart and soul to God?

Maybe the fasting God is asking of me this Lent is to participate more fully in my children's life, in the life of my spouse or the members of my religious community, giving more of myself in sharing responsibilities around the house, in the parish, in meeting the needs of an elderly parent/fellow Sister, a needy parishioner,  listening to another person's story or concerns, especially that of one's spouse, one's fellow religious or priest, or, if married, in playing with or doing homework with my children.  "Rend your hearts, not your garments!"

Lord, help me know and do what it is, each day, that you ask of me in rending my heart so as to enhance the life of those with whom I live and for whom I have committed my life as a married person or a member of a religious community or a priest or as a single person. All of us are called to rend our hearts in some way! Let us pray for the grace to do so!


Tuesday, March 5, 2019

God Delights in Us: Do We Delight in God?

In the antiphon of today's liturgy we pray: "The Lord became my protector. He brought me out to a place of freedom; he saved me because he delighted in me" (cf. Ps 18 (17): 19-20). In the entrance of antiphon of tomorrows liturgy we pray: "You are merciful to all, O Lord, and despise nothing that you have made. You overlook people's sins, to bring them to repentance and  you spare them, for you are the Lord our God" (Wis 11: 24 25, 27).

WOW!  What a kind God, a God of love and compassion, a generous God.  No way do I, or you, deserve God's protection or to be brought to a place of freedom. But that is our God!  He held nothing back to free us or protect us from the snares of Satan, a fallen angel, one who lost Paradise, was thrown out of heaven by St. Michael, the Archangel, and thus works tirelessly, cunningly and deceitfully to keep us from entrance into our heavenly home!  Our God, though, is a Warrior God, a powerful God, One far more powerful than Satan.  Like a mother bear protects her cubs, so, too, does God protect His children.  God delights in us, we pray in today's entrance antiphon. He will not lose us to Satan and hopefully you and I will truly embrace this free gift of salvation and, with God, let nothing come between us and God, let nothing separate us from God, our Savior!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Seeking, Serving, Loving Wisdom

Today's first reading, Sirach 4: 11-19, speaks to us of Wisdom and enumerates its riches and gifts. what are those gifts:

Wisdom:


  •  "breathes life into her children." 
  •  "admonishes those who seek her." 
The person who loves wisdom, "loves life."  The person who seeks wisdom, "will be embraced by the Lord." The one who holds wisdom "fast inherits glory; wherever [such a person] dwells, the Lord bestows blessings. Those who serve [wisdom] serve the Holy One; those who love [wisdom] the Lord loves." 

Whom do you and I serve?  Looking at the facts above, would you, would I, say, in truth, that we are persons who love Wisdom, seek Wisdom, serve Wisdom, love Wisdom? We obviously have choices to serve Wisdom or reject her! When we do not serve Wisdom, drawing from Sirach 4: 11-19, we experience a deficit of blessings, withdraw ourselves from God's love, and, in fact, are not then serving the Lord!

Lord, give us the spirit to discern whom we are serving!  When we have gone astray, please admonish us and bring us back to the way of life that comes from you!






Monday, February 25, 2019

Wisdom: A Gift from God's Bountifulness

In today's first reading, Sirach 1: 1-10, we read that all "wisdom comes from the Lord and with him it remains forever, and is before all time....The word of God on high is the fountain of wisdom and her ways are everlasting....There is but one, the Most High all-powerful creator-king and truly awe-inspiring one, seated upon his throne and he is the God of dominion....He has poured her (wisdom) forth upon all his works, and upon every living thing according to his bounty; he has lavished  her upon his friends."

Because God pours wisdom upon all his works, upon you and me, and "every living thing according to his bounty," because he lavishes her upon us, we are empowered to know right from wrong, to reach out to those in need, to right what is wrong in  our personal, social, familial, ecclesial, civic and community lives.  Wisdom, which comes from God's generosity and concern for us,  enables us to assist others who have made poor choices.  We are able to direct others back to doing or not doing what wisdom inspires them to do or not to do, provided, that is, that we model such behavior!

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Jesus' Transfiguration: Revelation of Jesus' Glory and Ours

Today's Gospel reading, Mark 9: 2-13, presents the transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor. Jesus takes Peter, James and John up to Mount Tabor, where He is transfigured before them.  His "clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them alone with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus....Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over... [Peter, James and John]; then from the cloud came a voice, 'This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.' Suddenly,..., looking around, the disciples no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them."

Imagine being one of the three disciples.  You have been following Jesus for three years. You know Him intimately as a human being. It was revealed to Peter prior to this experience, however,  that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God who came down from heaven, taking on human form. Then this!  Wow: clothing "dazzling white"--the glorified Jesus! Furthermore, they see Jesus speaking with the prophet Elijah and Moses, who had been chosen by God to be His instrument in freeing the Chosen People from slavery in Egypt.

Scripture scholars tell us that Jesus, Elijah and Moses were discussing Jesus' upcoming death and resurrection--Jesus would be returning to the glory He left when becoming incarnate.  This was part of Jesus' preparation for that event of death having no power over Him (nor over us)! The transfiguration was also preparation time for the three disciples who would accompany Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus' agony was so great that He sweat blood and where He said to the three disciples: "I am sorrowful even to the point of death" (Mark 14: 34)! On Mount Tabor, the disciple's faith in Jesus is reinforced by both the vision and the voice of the Father saying: This is my beloved son; listen to Him."

The crucifixion, without the resurrection or belief in the resurrection, would have been overwhelmingly crushing!  So, too, in our future deaths. We know death has no power over us. As with Jesus, we, too, following our deaths,  will rise to new life, a life with no end, no more suffering, no more pain, a life of glory.  We will arise to a life of eternal bliss, as planned by God from the beginning of the world. Nothing will become between us and God's love and mercy!

This is my belief!  What is yours?




Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Trusting in the Lord

Trust is the theme of both readings, Genesis 8: 6-13, 20-22 and Mark 8: 22-26.   In the first reading, Noah has just come through the forty days of rain and is waiting for the waters to subside.  He and his family were the only human beings spared the loss of life during the torrential downpours for the past forty days.  In the Gospel reading, Jesus takes a blind man aside, touches his eyes twice, the first time the man does not see clearly:  "I see people looking like trees and walking," he tells Jesus. After Jesus touches his eyes a second time, the man sees perfectly.

What would I have done had I been in Noah's situation? When the waters subside, Noah and his family are faced with starting all over again, trusting God as they proceeds to rebuild their lives. The same is true of the blind man. His life is totally changed having put his faith in Jesus. Many times, you and I are faced with needing to start over again, rebuilding our trust in the Lord after some disaster, personal, familial, or otherwise.  Jesus takes us by the hand, as he did the blind man, and leads us forward. We are not always sure of where Jesus is leading us or how he is guiding us.  Sometimes we may wonder if Jesus is even aware of the challenges we face on a given day or the drama we may have just waded through and that prompts us to ask: "Where are you, Jesus?" or "Jesus, do you care that my 'boat' is being tossed about by the turbulent waves of life?" Or we may say to Jesus: "Lord, I feel like I am drowning! I don't know how to move forward!"

Help me, Jesus, trust in you!  Help me see clearly as you lead me through the turbulent waters of life!