Thursday, January 31, 2019

Entrance to the Sanctuary Opened for Us

St. Paul reminds us in today's first reading, Hebrews 10: 19-25, that "through the Blood of Jesus we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil, that is,  his flesh, and since we have 'a great priest over the house of God,' let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water."

WOW! Jesus opened the door to the sanctuary of heaven for us by being obedient to the Father even unto death.Through His obedience, Jesus destroyed the evil of humankind's disobedience.  So on the cross when the good thief turned to Jesus and asked Him  to remember him when He returned to His heavenly Kingdom, Jesus said to him: "This day you will be with me in Paradise." Yes, the door to heaven was opened by Jesus' life, death and resurrection for the good thief and for you and me.  May we have the wisdom and the courage to recognize, as did the good thief, that we need Jesus' mercy.  With the good thief, l let us acknowledge our sinfulness and then ask for Jesus' mercy for ourselves and others on this journey of faith.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

God's Lasting Covenant!

Today's first reading, Hebrews 10: 11-18, speaks about Jesus, who "offered one sacrifice for sins, and [then] took his seat forever at the right hand of God; now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool. For by one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated...."

Those being consecrated, being sanctified, purified, forgiven are you and me!  On the cross, Jesus offered His life, once and for all, that we, who believe in Him, serve Him by living just lives, doing good, loving tenderly (compare Micah 6:8)  and repent of any wrongdoing,  will not suffer eternal death.  Jesus, Paul reminds us in this letter to the Hebrews,  crowned his covenant with us by putting His "laws [on our] hearts, and...[writing] them upon [our] minds...[Our] sins and [our] evildoing [Jesus remembers] no more. Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer offering for sin."

What a loving, faithful, caring God! Before His death on the cross and before returning to His Father in heaven at His ascension, Jesus left us the Eucharist, His body and blood, soul and divinity, as food for our journey. He is with us always until the end of the world! God walks beside us, holding us by the right hand, protecting us from evil, strengthening us in our weakness, enlightening us in our darkness and comforting us in our sorrow. He never abandons us in good times or bad! We are his and we belong to Him through our baptisms into Christ Jesus!

I believe! What about y

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Embracing God's Will

In today's first reading, Hebrews 10:1-10, St. Paul speaks about the sacrifices that were offered according to the law in which the lives of bulls and goats were sacrificed in atonement for sin.  "But in those sacrifices, " Paul reminds us, "there is only a yearly remembrance of sins, for it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats take away sins." When Jesus came into the world, Paul tells us, he said to His Father: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; in burnt offerings you took no delight. Then I [Jesus] said, As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do your will, O God....By this 'will' we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."

Jesus, the New Adam, was obedient to God the Father even unto death, unlike the first Adam who chose his will over the will of God!  As the result of Adam and Eve's disobedience, we all participate in the inclination to choose our own will over God's will and thus sin.  In Christ Jesus, the New Adam, we are consecrated to God and empowered to bring our wills into harmony with the will of God, our salvation, our holiness, our wholeness!

In today's Gospel when a crowd tells Jesus that his mother and brothers and sisters are outside asking for him, Jesus asks the crowd:  "'Who are my mother and brothers?' And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of 
God is my brother and sister and mother.'"  In doing God's will--acting justly, loving tenderly and doing good (compare Micah 6:8)--we become brother and sisters and mothers to Jesus and heirs of the Kingdom of heaven!

My prayer: "Jesus, you have given me a body, just as God the Father "prepared a body for you."  You have given me this body for the same reason that God the Father gave you a body, namely, to do God's will here on earth, that is, to be obedient to God unto death. Yes, Lord, I am called to learn obedience from what I suffer, just as you learned obedience from what you suffered. May it be so, Lord. I ask this in your name! Amen!"

Monday, January 28, 2019

A Need for Wisdom and Justice in Today's World

Today's liturgy offers us two Entrance Antiphons:  The first one reads: "In the midst of the Church he opened his mouth, and the Lord filled him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding and clothed him in a robe of glory."  As I reflect on what is happening throughout the world, my prayer is:  "Lord, in the midst of the chaos in this world, raise up persons of wisdom and understanding of the untruths being proclaimed, the narcissistic goals being pushed forward by those competing with one another at the expense of the poor and oppressed, the persons seeking asylum, those wanting just laws and legislature that protects the environment and promotes the common good. I ask this in Jesus' name!"

The second Entrance Antiphon reads:  "The mouth of the just [person] utters wisdom, and his tongue tells  forth what is just; the law of his God is in his heart." My prayer is:  "Lord, we need just persons running every nation on this earth, persons who tell "forth what is just," persons whose hearts reflect Your will, O God, and whose hearts follow your law, not the laws dictated by human selfishness, narcissism, prideful competition, lust for power and prestige and control; persons who are not caught in the snares laid down by the Father of Lies, Satan Himself.  Help world leaders, Lord, recognize their motivations: are they, in truth, working for the good of their nations, the rights of all people to breathe clean air, have food to put on their tables, have just wages so as to educate, feed, and clothe their children according to God's plan that righteousness prevail and every person's rights are respected!  Help us, Lord! Please intervene in ways that change the course of this world when such seems to be leading to more and more unjust legislative actions that harm the earth and each other, especially the poor and persons treated as minorities with little or no rights equal to the so called majority. And have mercy on us Lord for the many times we have not spoken what is just, when Your Law written on our hearts has been ignored in our actions toward others.  I ask for these graces in Jesus' name and through the intercession of Jesus' mother Mary. Amen!"

Sunday, January 27, 2019

One Body in Christ Jesus

In today's second reading, 1 Cor 12: 12-30, Paul speaks about the human body having many parts.  One part of the body, say the head, cannot say to the feet: "I do not need you." Nor can the eye say such to the ear nor the digestive system to the respiratory system and so on. Furthermore,  if one part of the human body becomes diseased, the whole body is diseased and suffers, not just that one part.

St. Paul goes on to remind us that we "are Christ's body,  and individually parts of it."  Like our human body, the body of Christ has many parts and what happens to any part effects the whole body.  Therefore, when I, or any other person,  engage in loving, healthy behaviors, toward oneself and others,  the entire body of Christ is effected by that action. Likewise, when I, or anyone else,  engage in unhealthy behaviors that hurt others or bring harm to others, the entire body of Christ suffers.  Everyone is hurt; everyone suffers.

The corrupt, evil, deceptive behaviors of members of our government effects all of us throughout the world.  The evil behaviors of criminals effect non-criminals.   The unhealthy behaviors or wrongdoing in which any one person engages effects human beings throughout the earth: young and old, the innocent along with the guilty. Why? Because we are one body in Christ Jesus and all members of the body of  Christ are effected by the good or bad choices another member make.

Lord, may I grow in my awareness of the effect my behaviors, good or bad,  have on others. And may I choose the good over evil, the pleasant over unpleasant, those that give light over those that give darkness, those that further one's faith over those that weaken one's faith in God and in humanity's power to do good!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Stirring our Faith into a Flame

In today's first reading, 2 Timothy 1: 1-8,  Paul, imprisoned for the faith,  writes a second letter to his friend Timothy, whom he remembers "constantly in [his] prayers night and day."  Paul is excited about the faith that Timothy's grandmother and mother passed on to Timothy and encourages him to "stir into flame the gift of God" that has been  given  to him. He encourages Timothy to "not be ashamed of [his] testimony to [the] Lord, nor of [Paul], a prisoner for [the Lord's] sake; but bear [his] share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God."

Like any other gift, if it is not used, faith can wither and die! Paul stood by Timothy, challenging him to stand firm and not give in to erroneous teachings about Jesus. Paul kept at him to confront the issues threatening the faith of the young Christian community in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1: 18-20)--See reflections on this Scripture passage in Word Among Us, January 26,  2019--to be assertive, and to live rightly.

Timothy's faith was tried, to say the least, as he died a martyr's death for his commitment to Christ. Your faith and mine will also be tried, though not necessarily to the point of being martyred, but certainly in the case of being challenged to be assertive, claim our faith, and give testimony among persons who are unbelievers or who mock our faith.

How strong am I? How strong are you? Are we willing to stand up for Christ or do we back away from such situations? Do we take time to "stir into flame the gift of God," that is, the faith passed on to us from our parents/grandparents or other adults who, in our childhood, were true to God's call to to are their faith with us?  How faithful am I, are you, to reading and reflecting on the Sunday's Scriptures, to setting time aside to pray/to talk to God about our worries, concerns, joys or grief over something that touched us during any given day?  Do I actively seek God in the events and encounters of each day? Do I bring God to my relationships and to the situations of the day? Or do I aimlessly wander through a day relying only upon myself for the strength, the wisdom, the patience, the courage, the love and understanding needed to radiate Christ to the world in which I exist today?

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Choosing Humility or Rigidity

In today's gospel, Mark 3: 1-6, Jesus invites a man with a withered hand to come up to Him in the synagogue.  It is the sabbath and Jesus asked the Pharisees: "Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it? But they remained silent.  Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, Jesus said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' He stretched it out and his hand was restored."  Angered that Jesus healed the withered hand on the sabbath, the Pharisees left the synagogue and plotted to kill Jesus.

Has there been a time when we were challenged to rise above the law and do what is right? How did we respond? angrily that our rigid stances and idolization of the law was challenged?  Did we leave the challenger's presence and plot against that person, spewing words of revenge against him/her?  Or did we step back, reflect upon the situation and realize the call to conversion of heart?

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

God Sees the Good You Do Every Day

In today's first reading, Hebrews 6: 10-20, St. Paul reminds us that "God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love you  have demonstrated for his name by having served and continuing to serve the holy ones."  Think of the love that you, as parents, demonstrate to your children, husbands and wives to each other, children to parents.  God does not overlook that about you!  Every day, you serve others--persons who in the very core of their beings are holy.  Each of us as come forth from God, the Holy One. We are made in God's image, that is, in holiness, goodness and love!  We are empowered to share that holiness, goodness and love with others.

More and more, as I grow older, I realize what love my parents showed us throughout their lives:  up at 4:00 or 5:00 every morning, being sure that the house was somewhat warm, in winter, before us kids got up, doing chores day and night as farmers, gardeners, "chefs," bill payers, money managers, canners, seamstresses, launderers, ironers, domestic workers, chauffeurs, "catechists", comforters, teachers, challengers, encouragers, "counselors," and on and on!  God never overlooked their work and the love they "demonstrated for his name by having served" us children and one another, day in and day out, in "bad" days and good days, in problematic, fearful times, when all went well and when things did not go so well!

As I reflect on parents with young children today, I see the same pattern. I rejoice in the awesome dedication, the love shown by loving, caring parents day in and day out!  All because of God's faithfulness, God's presence, God's love, God's covenant with us!  God sees the good done every day, all day, by each of us!  May God  be praised!

Monday, January 21, 2019

Christ our High Priest and and all Priests: Our Representatives before God

Today's first reading, Hebrews 5: 1-10, speaks to us of the priesthood, reminding us that every "high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins....No one take this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. In the same way, it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest, but rather the one who said to him: 'You are my son: this day I have begotten you';....Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him."

When talking to the priest who said Mass for us this morning, he said that he deeply cherishes his priesthood. It means the world to him.  What a calling to be made our "representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins."  The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered in obedience to Jesus, when, taking the bread and wine in his sacred hands, Jesus said to his disciples at the Last Supper: "This is my body given for you; do this in memory of me. This is my blood poured out for you; do this in memory of me."  In memory of Jesus' passion and death and resurrection, the priest consecrates the bread and wine at every Mass, calling upon the Holy Spirit to transform these gifts into the body and blood of Jesus at the words of consecration. In unison with the priest, we then offer these gifts to God as a sacrificial offering for our sins and the sins of the whole world.

Every second of every day, somewhere in the world, in Catholic Churches,  this sacrificial offering is made.  Jesus then feeds us in Holy Communion with this sacred food--His body and blood-- nourishing us in body, mind and spirit according to our needs and those we acknowledge; deepening our faith, hope and love according to our requests; purifying/cleansing us of the sins of which we repent;  strengthening us, making us whole, healing the brokenness about which we speak to Him and helping others whom we bring to Him in intercessory prayer!

Oh, the intimacy and nearness of our God!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Totally Exposed to the Lord!

In today's first reading, Hebrews 4: 12-16, St. Paul reminds us that the Word of God "is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. No creature," St. Paul warns us, "is concealed from  him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account."

Those are strong words!  You and I are "naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we render an account."   Everything about us--every thought we think, every word we utter, all of our actions and omissions--is known to God! The same is true for people in highest positions of leadership throughout the world.  No one is concealed from God.

Our consolation, St. Paul tells us, in this passage,  is that  Jesus is able to "sympathize with our weaknesses, [for He, too, as a human being,] has been tested in every way  [like us], except sin." Therefore, "we can confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help." My prayer for all humankind is that we do just that so that we receive the help we need to repent, to turn from evil and do good and to believe in the Gospel!  The time is now!

Friday, January 18, 2019

Seeking Help, Being Helped, Blocking Help

In today's Gospel, Mark 2: 1-12,  some friends of a paralytic man bring him to the house where Jesus is healing the sick. The crowd has blocked entrance to the house, so the men climb up on the roof, create an opening and lower the paralytic man. "When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him. 'Child, your sins are forgiven." Some scribes who were in the house object and, in their minds, accuse Jesus of blaspheming: "Who but God alone can forgive sins?" Jesus knows what they are thinking and says to them: "Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, pick up your mat and walk'? But that you may  know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth'--he said to the paralytic, 'I say to  you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home'!" 

Who are you, am I, in that scene? The persons who bring their friend to the Lord for healing? the paralytic in  need of Jesus' healing? the scribes who question Jesus' authority? or part of the crowd seeking healing from Jesus?  You or I may be any or all of those persons!

We might ask ourselves the following questions:  What in me, like the roof or the crowd, blocks Jesus from getting to me or me going to Jesus for healing?  From what do I need healing? What keeps me, also, from helping others in need of healing? Am I willing to do whatever it takes to help others or am I one who blocks others from getting the help they need from the Lord and from others? Furthermore, am I one questioning Jesus' authority; or, when God works through another person, am I one who is accusing them of overstepping their authority?

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Aware that Our Actions Have Consequences

In today's gospel, Mark 1: 40-45, a leper approaches Jesus, kneels down and says: "'If you wish, you can make me clean.' Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to  him, 'I do will it. Be made clean.' The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean."  Jesus asked him to tell no one about the healing. However, he broadcast it everywhere to the point that "it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places...."   Jesus suffers the consequences of the leper's inability to respect Jesus' request for privacy and ends up in the position of lepers who had to remain apart from people and stay in deserted places.

The question we need to ponder is: Are we aware of the consequences of the choices we make when faced with sharing our pleasant or unpleasant experiences? When something exciting or painful or traumatic happens, it is easy to get caught in the trap of impulsively sharing it with someone, if not everyone who crosses our path. The temptation to blurt everything out "on the street corners"  is powerful! However, God is far more powerful than Satan and is always at our side with His guidance and wisdom!  May God's wisdom prevail!  

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Purposeful living!

In today's Gospel, Mark 1: 29-39, Jesus, with James and John,  visited Simon and his brother Andrew.  When Jesus entered their house, Simon and Andrew immediately told Him that Simon's mother-in-law was ill. Jesus approaches her, grasps her hand, and helps her up. Immediately "the fever left her" and she proceeded to wait on her guests.  Toward evening the entire town brought the ill and possessed to him and he healed them. Early in the morning he found a deserted place to communicate with His Father. He wasn't there very long when those who were with him found him to tell him that "[e]veryone is looking for you."  Jesus does not get hooked into pleasing those who were awed by his miracles. He says to his disciples, "Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose I have come."  Jesus knows what His mission is and is not into being gloated over, into being popular, seeking prestige or honors! He says "no" to those things and moves on!  He is clear about His purpose for being here on earth!

What motivates me in the choices I make? What motivates you in the choices you make?  Am I, are you,  seeking honor, glory, prestige or power? Or am I, are you, following the Spirit's lead to help others in need and then moving on to the next mission? Are we clear about why we are here on earth for a short time?

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

"Left nothing not subject to Him" (Hebrews 2: 5-11)

In today's first reading, Hebrews 2: 5-12, St. Paul reminds us that God "left nothing not 'subject to him [Jesus]. Yet at present we do not see 'all things subject to him,' but we do see Jesus 'crowned with glory and honor' because he suffered death, he who 'for a little while' was made  'lower than the angels,' that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone."

The author of the Entrance Antiphon for today's liturgy says to us: "Upon a lofty throne  I saw a man seated, whom a host of angels adore, singing in unison: Behold, the name of whose empire is eternal."  That man is the son of man to whom God "left nothing not 'subject to  him'" and whom God "made...for a little while lower than the angels; [God] crowned him with glory and honor, subjecting all things under his feet"(Psalm 8).

It is this son of man whose "fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee" (today's Gospel, Mark 1: 21-28), following his miracles: his casting out Satan from possessed individuals, his healing of the sick and the lame, his raising the dead to life, his restoring lepers to wholeness, and his forgiveness of sins.  This son of God transformed bread and wine into His body and blood at the Last Supper before He died and continues doing so on every altar during the Catholic Mass and says to us: "Take and eat--this is my body given up for you; take and drink--this is my blood poured out for you"  (Luke 22: 19-20)It is this son of man who died upon the cross,  rose again, and ascended into heaven, from whence He sends the Holy Spirit as our Advocate throughout our life here on earth. It is that Spirit who opens our minds and hearts to all that Jesus taught in the Gospels, who transforms us into the person God intends us to be and cleanses us from all of our sins in the sacraments of the Catholic Church!

The Risen Jesus never leaves us and brings to completion what God has begun in us in our baptisms! At the end of our lives, it is Jesus who comes back to us and takes us where He is, that is to the "empire [that] is eternal," where "a host of angels adore" Him, the Son of God made man!

Monday, January 14, 2019

The Kingdom of God is at Hand!

In today's first reading, Hebrews 1: 1-6, St. Paul reminds us that in the past God  spoke to His people "in partial and various ways...through the prophets."  Today, which Paul calls the "last days", God speaks "to us through the Son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe."  This Jesus, the Son of God, "is the refulgence of [God's] glory, the very imprint of [God's] being".  Jesus, the word of God made flesh, is the one who "sustains all things by his mighty word.  He sustains you and I.  "When he accomplished purification from sins, he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high, as far superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs."  It is this Jesus who says to us in today's Gospel, Mark 1: 14-20, "This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel."  Following that proclamation, Jesus passes by the Sea of Galilee, sees Simon and his brother Andrew and calls them to follow Him and become "fishers of men."  A little further on, he calls James and his brother John for the same purpose. All four men leave their fishing business to become Jesus' followers and take on a new profession, that of evangelists and apostles.  What role do you and I assume to spread the Word of God, the message of Jesus' Gospel?

In "these last days," you and I are called to follow Jesus. "This is the time of [our]  fulfillment.  The Kingdom of God is at hand" for us!  Are we heeding Jesus' voice?  Or are we too busy to take time to build our relationship with Christ and with others in love, forgiveness and justice?  Are we too busy with our own affairs to lead people to Jesus, as Simon, Andrew, James and John did? How, you ask, are you to do this? By living according to the Gospel, doing what Jesus did in his ministry to the people of his day: being just and compassionate, being loving and forgiving, healing the sick and infirm, welcoming all to the table, touching "lepers" and welcoming them to the Eucharist and to experience a heart full of love.

"The Kingdom of God is at handRepent and believe in the Gospel!"   Live it one day at a time!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

"God Sent His Son Born of a Woman" (Gal 4: 4-5)

The Entrance antiphon of today's liturgy reminds us that "God sent his Son, born of a woman, so that we might receive adoption as children" (Gal 4:4-5).  God is father of both Jesus and us, as God is our Creator.  In  taking on human nature in Mary's womb through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus becomes a brother to us and we a brother/sister to Him. As adopted brothers and sisters of Jesus, we share the same inheritance that is His as a human being.  That inheritance is heaven!  And we know the ransom Jesus ultimately paid to open heaven for us--He was obedient to God the Father unto death on the cross. At the end of our lives we, too,  in obedience to God's will, will die with Jesus. At that moment our spirit self, our true selves, will return to heaven from whence we have come, unless we deny God.   If we deny God, God will deny us!  At the  final resurrection our mortal bodies that were returned to the earth in our burial will also rise and enter eternal life with Jesus forever.

The Entrance Antiphon clearly states that Jesus assumed human nature, entering Mary's womb--human nature and divine nature are united! Our humanity is lifted up to a state of divinity, though we are not God.  We share God's divine nature, as Jesus shares our human nature! What a gift! And what humility on the part of God becoming a human being, just like us in all things but sin!  Jesus shows us the depth, the length, the breadth, and the width of God's love for us and also shows us the way to the Father, the way of loving others and ourselves unto death! Love casts out fear, hatred, lust, envy, jealousy, selfishness, pride, greediness and any other sin that separates us from one another and causes divisions among us! The Gospels give witness to how Jesus fostered union with others, how He loved others and reconciled people with His and their Father God.  We are to do the same!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Recognizing our "Leprosy" and Posing the Right Question

In today's Gospel, Luke 5: 12-16, a leper approaches Jesus and says to Him: "'Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.' Jesus stretched out his ha d, touched him, and said, 'I do will it. Be made clean.' and the leprosy left him immediately."

Well aware of the fact that he is to yell out "unclean, unclean," to warn people to keep their distance, the leper bravely, determinately and unafraid of what anyone thinks, approaches Jesus! He takes responsibility for change in his life, for crossing barriers that lock him into an unhealthy state in life. Jesus, in turn, knowing the cultural situation in that He, too, is to stay away from lepers, not touch them, stretches out his hand and commands the disease to exit this man's body!  Both take risks!  Both take responsibility! Both do what the Spirit leads them to do!  Both experience and exercise freedom!  Both are true to themselves!

Like the leper, you and I are unclean. The leprosy of selfishness and pride, greed and envy, lust and avarice, fear and shame, or whatever, creates barriers between ourselves and others, just as the disease of leprosy was a barrier that kept those with the disease from having healthy contact with others.  Jesus and Jesus alone is the answer to the removal of obstacles to healthy living in our personal lives and relationships!  When we approach Him and pose the question "Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean," Jesus responds: "I do will it. Be made clean."

 If we remain in "leprous" states, what do we need to do differently so that, like the leper, we seek Jesus, fall on our knees, and pose the question!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Jesus' Mission Statement

In today's Gospel, Luke 4: 14-221, Jesus goes to the synagogue in his home town. He opens the scroll and reads the following passage from Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. 
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year 
acceptable to the Lord.

This is Jesus' mission statement! What is yours?

       For what has God anointed you at your baptism?
       For what have you been sent here on earth to do?

If, today, Jesus' mission is your mission, and mine:

  • To whom did you, did I, bring glad tidings?
  • To whom did you, did I,  proclaim liberty?  In other words, who is freer today because of their interaction with us?
  • Who, today, sees more clearly who Jesus is, what their mission is, or how much they are loved because of us?
  • Who has been set free of oppression today because of our intervention or engagement with them? Or have we, instead, been an oppressor?

May Jesus truly live through us more and more each day and may His mission be accomplished through us!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Jesus: A Refuge in the Storms of Life

In today's Gospel, Mark 6: 45-52, Jesus asked his disciples to get into a boat and "precede him to the other side toward Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd" of 5000 plus people they had just fed with five loaves of bread and two fish.  The disciples are far our on the sea when a treacherous storm arises. Jesus, on shore, "saw that they were tossed about while rowing, for the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them, walking on the sea." The disciples are terrified not only of the storm but because they thought that a  ghost was approaching them. "But at once he spoke with them, 'Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!'   He got into the boat with them, and the wind died down."

Wow! Jesus is miles from the disciples but knows that they are in trouble and need his help, so he goes out to sea and approaches their wind-tossed boat.  First, he calms their fears, assuring them that it is he coming toward them on the turbulent waters. But does more than that. He gets into the boat with them.

You and I are those disciples journeying on the "turbulent waters" of our lives. Jesus knows when we are in trouble and approaches us. He is always near ready to help!  He is one with us in our troubles and in our sufferings. He does not stand on the outside of our lives, out of our "boats". No, He gets in the "boat" and suffers with us. It is Jesus who calms our fears, fills us with peace and gives us the strength we need to deal with "the storm," just as He helped his disciples in the middle of the dark night and stormy sea that was threatening their lives.

Do we recognize Jesus? Or is He, to us, some kind of ghost, someone we are afraid of and what to avoid?

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Rooted in God Who Is Love

Today's first reading, 1 John 4: 7-10, presents us with the following invitation and information:  "Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.  In this way the love of God was revealed to us:  God sent his only-begotten Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins" and to show us God's overwhelming love for humankind.

You and I were created by God, who is the source of our very beings. God is love and, therefore, we, too, are love, created by Love and for Love. St. Luke, in Acts 17: 28, reminds us that we live and move and have our being in God. Therefore we live and move and have our being in Love!  When we fail to love, are we not failing both ourselves and our God. When we are unloving, uncaring and rejecting of ourselves and others and thus engaged in sinful behavior,  is it not true that we do not truly know ourselves!  St. Paul says in Rom 7: 25 that "[w]hen I act against my will (my will is to love as God loves], then, it is not my true self doing it (my true self is a loving self), but sin which lives in me."

God lives at the core of my being.  From that core self do I not will to desire what God desires and to  love as God loves?

Monday, January 7, 2019

Believing in Jesus and Loving as Jesus Loved

In today's first reading, 1 John 3: 22-4:6, St. John reminds us that the first commandment is as follows: "[W]e should believe in the name of his son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us."  Jesus is the Son of God, who assumed human nature, remaining fully God and becoming fully human. Jesus was sent to show us God's unconditional love for us, a love revealed to us by Jesus' life, death and resurrection.  We are called to believe in the truth that the Blessed Trinity---three divine persons but one God--agreed to send the second person to become a human being like us in all things but sin.

All who came to Him, Jesus healed. He took the side of sinners, ate with them, forgave them and invited them to repent and sin no more! Even on the cross when the good thief turned to Jesus and asked to be remembered in paradise, Jesus said to him: "Indeed, I promise you will be with me in paradise"  (Luke 23:43). It was from his cross that the good thief rebuked the other thief who had joined those mocking Jesus: "Have you no fear of God at all?  ...You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case e deserved it: we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong." (Luke 23: 40-42).  

To believe in Jesus is to love as Jesus loved, rising above our suffering and pain. Loving as Jesus taught us to love means to reach out to others in need: forgiving, embracing and showing others the love of God within us, a love that holds nothing back!

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Behold the Mighty One, the Lord, our King!

In the Entrance Antiphon of today's liturgy, we pray:  "Behold the Lord, the Mighty One, has come; and kingship is in his grasp, and power and dominion." 

In the news every day we are bombarded by claims of leaders throughout the world of their alleged power, dominion and efforts to be "king" of the world, one vying against another for power and control!  Or we are showered by other's claims of the "greatness" of the person they perceive as "almighty" and as the one who will save us from the mire into which we have fallen and continue to fall!

There is one king, Christ, the Lord, "the Mighty One".  Kingship, power and dominion rest in His hands and His alone.  We wait for God's glorious intervention, as the immorality, the corruption, the deception, the criminality dominating the world, I believe,  is beyond our power to transform. We need and await God's intervention, as we strive personally to live hold lives. The Scriptures tells us that our God comes with power to save us. There is no one here on earth, in any country, capable of saving us from evil powers that are rampant throughout the world!

Today we celebrate the feast of Epiphany--God reveals Himself as King of all the earth and all who live on it.  Isaiah, in today's first reading, beckons us to "[r]ise up in splendor...Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you.  See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples [who choose evil, live corrupt lives, are slaves to Satan's lies, and who are chasing God substitutes]; but upon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory.....[Like the Magi who brought gifts to the newborn king] you shall be radiant at what you see [when you seek God above all else and place your trust in Him, the Mighty One], and your heart shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you [as you seek the Lord and sing His praises]!"

May you and I, like the Magi, seek and find Jesus, following the light of His guidance today and every day!  Our  lives will then overflow with praise and gratitude, as did the lives of the Magi!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

"Come and see"

In today's Gospel, John 1: 43-51, we are told that Jesus decided to go to Galilee, where he found Philip and says to him: "Follow me." Philip, in turn, finds Nathaniel and says to him:  "We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth."  "From Nazareth?" Philip responds. "'Can anything good come from Nazareth?'...'Come and see.'"  Jesus sees Nathaniel coming toward him and says of him: "Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him....'How do you know me?'...'Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.'"

Jesus comes to our countries, villages, cities, reservations, homes in search of us, as well. He finds us under "our fig trees," or does He? Are we too busy about many thing to stop and think, stop and reflect, stop and ponder, stop and be quiet?  If we pause, become silent, take time to seek Jesus, we open our heart to hear His voice. He says to us, as He said to Philip:  "Follow Me. Come to know me! Come, develop a personal relationship with Me. Good does come from growing close to Me. And good does come from the place where you were born. Other may not think so, but I do!"

Like Nathaniel, may our eyes be open to Jesus, the Son of God, in our midst, dwelling, in fact, in the very core of our being. We won't realize that, however, if we shun alone time, if we don't take time to sit under "our fig trees," if we do not seek the Lord regularly, consistently in personal quiet prayer  time! We might use that quiet time simply uttering the name of Jesus or gazing upon the face of the Lord, on contemplating a phrase from the psalms or a favorite Scripture passage.

Friday, January 4, 2019

The Lord: Our Allotted Portion and Our Cup

In tomorrow's Entrance Antiphon, we pray: "O Lord, my allotted portion and my cup, you it is who hold fast my lot.  For me the measuring lines have fallen on pleasant sites; fair to me indeed is my inheritance."

That inheritance is not something you and I deserve. The inheritance of life forever with God in heaven is an inheritance for which an immense ransom was paid: the human birth, life, sufferings, death and resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  The Incarnate God poured out his blood, became the sacrificial lamb, for you and me! The "Lord [is our] allotted portion and [our] cup" at the price of Jesus' life and death on the cross.   It is a free gift of God's unconditional love for you and me!

Like Jesus, you and I pass "from death to life" in loving our brothers and sisters (compare tomorrow's first reading, 1 John 3: 11-21).  John reminds us that "[w]hoever does not love remains in death. Everyone who hates his brother [or sister] is a murderer and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him [her]. The way we came to know love was that he [Jesus] laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers [sisters]. If someone who has worldly means sees a brother [sister] in need and refuses him [her] compassion, how can the love of God remain in him [her]? Children," John says to us, "let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth."

John puts it on the line for us! And God Himself has written this law of love on everyone's heart. We have no excuses for walking by someone in need and not helping if we have the means to help, whether that be financial means, material means or spiritual/psychological means to make a difference in that person's life by acts of love, by caring, by acting compassionately.

How do you and I measure up to what God is asking of us?

Thursday, January 3, 2019

See the Saving Power of God!

The response to the responsorial psalm, Psalm 98, states that "[a]ll the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God."  "All the ends of the earth": every continent and every country and State, city and village, in each continent has seen the saving power of God.  Knowledge of God has been spread throughout the world. And, in fact, the law of God has been written on every heart. Furthermore, "everyone who acts in righteousness is begotten by him" (1 John 2:-3:6).  St. John then says to us: "See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are!"

Each of us is a child of God! Each of us, if open to God's revelations and presence in our personal lives and in the world, "have seen the saving power of God." We have seen God's love being poured out, for instance,  by little children who cling to their parents, who rest their tiny heads on their shoulders, who give their art pictures to mommy and daddy, who kiss their baby brother/sister, who want to help mommy and daddy with chores or with baking Christmas cookies, and the parents who respond lovingly to their child's needs and comfort them when they are distressed.  We see God's saving power at work in the reconciliation of spouses, of grown children with their parents, of long-lost relatives being found, in criminals remorseful of the ways in which they have hurt others, in persons who risk their lives to save others from disaster, and on and on!  This evening on the CBS news we have seen God at work through a little boy who has found "forever homes" for 1400 dogs confined to kettles in animal shelters. We see God's love and saving power at work in strangers helping strangers in need, in children making sandwiches for homeless persons and, with parents, distributing those sandwiches. Human being partnering with God, allowing God's power to flow through them, is endless and happens throughout the world!

"Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done [and is doing] wondrous deeds" (Psalm 98) around the world,  in our back yards and in our families!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

God Has Done Wondrous Things for Us--Alleluia!

In today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 98, we proclaim that the Lord "has done wondrous deeds: His right hand has won victory for him, his holy arm. The Lord has made his salvation known: in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice [Christ the Lord]. He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness toward the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God...."

God has done wondrous things for us in sending Jesus, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, to take on our human nature. God stooped down to earth to lift us up to heaven literally! God could not hold back His love. He loves us so much that He sent His son to reveal that love. Jesus is the fullness of God in human form. He is fully human but also fully divine. Jesus is like us in all ways except sin, beginning with taking on human nature in Mary's virgin womb, being an infant and a child totally dependent upon His parents, to being an adolescent and learning a trade from his foster father Joseph to  encountering the best and the worst in humankind and to even being put to death on a cross, crucified as a criminal by jealous, evil persons. And Jesus triumphed over death--death had no power over Him. And in Christ Jesus, with whom we live and die, we, too, will triumph over death!  "His right hand has won victory for him" and for us who believe in Him and live for Him.

God held nothing back for us. What am I holding back from God? What holds me back from giving God my all in giving my all in sacrificial love for my spouse, my children, my grandchildren or, if I am a woman/man religious, a priest, what holds me back from giving my all to others with whom I live and work and play and pray?

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Blessings on you!

The message to all of those who read this blog comes from today's first reading, Numbers 6: 22-27:

"The Lord bless you and keep you!
The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!

Happy New Year!  May 2019 be the best year of  your life!