Sunday, February 17, 2019

In whom am I putting my trust?

In today's first reading, Jeremiah 1: 5-8,  the Lord says to us: "Cursed is the one who trusts in  human beings, who seeks his [her] strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord.  [Such a person] is like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season, but stands in a lava waste, a salt and empty earth." In other words, if my trust is in human beings and not in God, that is, I have turned away from the Lord, I am in deep trouble!  If I seek my help from human beings only and do not go to God, I will find myself eventually in a desert.  That is what has happened to those who, having engaged in criminal activity, are in our prisons.  This also happens for those of us who occupy the  "prison" of non-life-giving, selfish, sinful choices, hurting ourselves and others.  By repeatedly choosing such choices, our lives enjoy "no change of seasons."  However, when, in hope,  we turn to the Lord from the "lava waste" and from the emptiness, God is waiting to help us out of the mess into which we may have sunk!

"Blessed are they who hope in the Lord," we pray in today's responsorial psalm. "Blessed the [person] who follows not the counsel of the wicked nor walks in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent, but delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on his law day and night. [Such persons are] like a red planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due seasons, and whose leaves never fade. Whatever he does, prospers. Not so the wicked, not so"!

What kind of choices am I, are you, making?

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Lessons from Genesis 3: 9-24

In today's first reading, Genesis 3: 9-24, we are given the story of God's concerns over Adam and Eve. He is looking for them and calls out to Adam: "Where are you," Adam? Adam hears God calling and comes "clean," that is he tells God the truth about himself:   "I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself."

"Where are you?"  God asks you and me that same question when we have done something inappropriate, unkind, uncaring, unwise, and, yes, sinful, that is, we have turned away from doing what we have been asked by God to do or not to do.  As with Adam, God cares! His caring does not mean that God will take away the consequences of our wrongdoing but it does mean that God will take precautions to protect us from the Evil One, as He did in the Garden of Eden.

When God asks Adam: "Who told you that you were naked," He gets right to the point: "You have eaten, then,  from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!" You and I need to learn to get right to the point and not hem around the bush when we know for certain that a wrong has been committed or that another person's behavior is inappropriate, that person being someone over whom we have authority or with whom we have made an agreement that has been violated:  a child, an employee, a spouse, a friend.

Another part of this story upon which it is important to reflect is Adam and Eve's response to God: neither owes up to his/her responsibility in doing wrong. Adam blames Eve. Eve blames the serpent.  We have this same inclination to blame someone/something outside of ourselves for the mistakes we have made!  We take ourselves "off the hook," so to speak! Only the truth will make us free and give us the wisdom we need to learn from our mistakes!

Help us, Lord, that we may have the courage to acknowledge that we have heard your voice, that we have been in hiding because we know that we have done wrong and that we have allowed ourselves to get trapped by Satan's lies.  Help us, Lord, to stop the blame game and take responsibility for our behaviors!



Friday, February 15, 2019

The Cunning Ways of Fallen Angels



Today's first reading, Genesis 3: 1-8, we are given the story of the temptation both Eve and Adam faced in the Garden of Eden. Both failed the test!  Satan is a fallen angel, an intelligent being bent on turning us away from God and believing that we ourselves are gods. When deceived by fallen angels, we act as a god, totally independent of any authority outside of ourselves. We then boast of our independence and believe that we are truly wise.  "God knows well," Satan tells us, that the moment [we choose independence from God or others, we will be wise, like God and, Satan says to us:] "your eyes we be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil [--you need surrender to no one] and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loinclothes for themselves. When they heard the sound of the Lord moving about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, [they] hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden."


When you and I are being tempted do what is wrong, that is, to walk away from God, rejecting God's will and choosing your own in any circumstance, we know in the core of our beings what we are doing.  Adam and Eve knew. As soon as they gave in to the temptation to "be like gods," their eyes "were opened, and they realized that they were naked."  What do you and I do when we act like gods and do what we know is not right or just, we, like Adam and Eve, try to hide the truth. The closer another comes to what is really true in confronting us, the louder we protest--we erect bigger trees, speak bigger lies,  build bigger walls behind which we hide!

In the responsorial psalm of today's liturgy, Psalm 32, we pray:  "Blessed [are those] whose fault is taken away, whose sin is covered. Blessed [are those] to whom the Lord imputes not guilt, in whose spirit there is no guile [because they have] acknowledged [their] sin..., [their] guilt they] covered not."

May you and I not cover our guilt when we are acting as gods or seeking to be a god and not servants of the Living God, our Master!  Lord, our our eyes when we are turning away from you and erecting ourselves as an idol!


Sunday, February 10, 2019

God's Call: "Whom Shall I Send"?

In today's first reading, Isaiah 6: 1-2a, 3-9, Isaiah shares a vision he was given of "the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the  temple. Seraphim were stationed above. they cried out one to the other, 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hours! All the earth is filled with his glory!'"  Isaiah tells us that at the sound of the angels praising the Lord, the  "frame of the door shook and rage  house was filled with smoke."  Isaiah is fearful that he is doomed, for, he says: I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yearly eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!" An  angel flew to him and touched his lips with an ember, saying: "See, now that this has touched your lips,  your wickedness is removed, your sin purged."  A voice then says ask Isaiah: "'Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?' 'Here I am,' Isaiah said, 'send me!'"

That Scripture passage is about us. We may not, with out naked eyes, see the Lord of hosts, but we do with eyes of faith.  We know by faith that God is a holy God and we are men and women inclined to sin. Our lips are unclean when we engage in acts of selfishness, greed and, yes, sometimes wickedness against one another!  Yes, too, to the fact that we have been purged of our wickedness, our sins, by the Blood of Jesus poured out for us on the cross and given to us in Holy Communion and in our repentance of our sins on a daily basis when we acknowledge our sinfulness in prayer, in regular  confession and at every liturgy!  Like with Isaiah, we, too, hear God's voice, asking "Whom shall I send? wobble will for us [the Blessed Trinity]? In word and deed, how do we answer?



Saturday, February 9, 2019

"The Lord is My Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want"

In today's first reading, Hebrews 13: 15-17, 20-2, Paul prays for us as follows: May the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep by the Blood of the eternal covenant, furnish  you with all that is good, that  you may do his will, May he carry out in you what is pleasing to him through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen."

Let that prayer  be ours for each of our family members, our relatives, those serving us in our government--our president, members of congress, our governors and mayors--those in the military, in teaching and medical professions, in financial institutions, our priests and ministers, our bankers and all service entities. "Furnished with all that is good" empowers us to be doers of good deeds, as was Jesus, our Good Shepherd!  May each of us be given the graces we need to be loyal disciples of Jesus and who, like Jesus, carry out the will of His Father and ours!

In today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 23, we pray as follows:  "The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want."  Nothing! Absolutely nothing!  If I truly believed that, would I fret about the coming day or an event that weighs heavily upon me?  Would young parents, no matter how the child was  conceived, ever, ever think of killing that child in the mother's womb, if each or one of them believed: "The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want"? Would a desperate breadwinner resort to committing theft, if he/she prayed: "The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want." Would anyone resort to deception, corruption, or any kind of criminal activity if he/she believed this prayer?

To nurture and deepen our faith in the Good Shepherd, to be unshaken in our belief that God will "furnish us with all that is good that [we] may do his will," and that, given that Jesus is Shepherd who looks after us, "there is nothing [we] shall lack" nor or in the future, underscore the importance of stepping aside from our busyness each day to commune with the Lord!  In today's Gospel, Mark 6: 30-34, Jesus says to His disciples, after a busy day: "Come away by yourselves to  deserted place and rest a while."  In another scripture, Matthew 11: 28-30, Jesus says to us:  "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  Let us do that if only for 5-10 minutes each day, opening the Bible, for instance, to one's favorite psalm, letting God know that you need His help to stay focused on Him and not obsess about your problems!   Problems come and go; God stands firm forever at our right and left side, holding us by the hand, waiting for us to notice Him!



Friday, February 8, 2019

Our Vulnerability and Need for God's Help

In today's Gospel, Mark 6: 14-29, the evangelist shares with us the tragic story of King Herod, his daughter and his wife Herodias, all involved in the murder of John the Baptist.  Mark tells us that "Herod was the one who had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, 'It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.'" Herodias held a grudge against John the Baptist and wanted him killed. She got her chance when Herod, on  his birthday,  held a banquet, to which he invited "his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee. At this party his daughter danced in his honor. Herod was so delighted in her dance that he offered her anything she wanted, including half his kingdom.  She asked her mother what she should request and her mother said: "The head of John the Baptist." Not wanting to go back on his promise of giving her anything she wanted, he ordered John the Baptist murdered in prison and the head brought to his wife on a platter, just as she had requested!

"Gross," you and I say. "How could he/she/they do such a thing? How horrible.  What depravity! What immorality! What kind of persons were they?" And all we have to do each day is turn on the news and some where, some place, at some time, this same scenario is played out before our very eyes! Some times the issue is romantic involvement with another person, that is coveting another man's wife or woman's husband. At other times, its greed for money or coveting material possessions that belong to another person! Or some other incomprehensible reason also conjured up by distorted thinking and out-of-control passions.

I pray: Lord, save me from myself; save us from ourselves!  How vulnerable we can be to the very emotions that blinded and deafened Herod, Herodias and their daughter!  We are not immune to harboring anger. We can become consumed by our grudges and resentments. And these can lead us to hurting others, maybe not to the extent of the persons in today's Scripture reading, but, nonetheless, to doing that which we will deeply regret.

What kind of thoughts am I, are you entertaining, and are they such from which we need to be saved!  Let us call upon Jesus to save us from ourselves.  I did that today, as I was focusing on negative  issues: a relationship problem, the state of our country and government, my fatigue and my lack of energy, and some health issues. I needed to change course. So I asked Jesus to save me from myself! By days end God helped me turn my focus back to Him!





Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Being a Disciple of the Lord

In today's first reading, Hebrews 12: 4-7, 11-15, St. Paul likens the trials that we endure here on earth as "discipline." As sons and daughters of God, as disciples of the Lord, we are disciplined by God through the trials we encounter each day. As with children, for whom discipline teaches the right path to follow, a path that ultimately leads to peace, makes them strong and teaches them to make choices that lead to peace, so, too, with us.  God disciplines us to teach us obedience, an obedience that leads to joy and peace, to righteousness and strength in the Lord God. We become like Jesus, who was obedient to the Father unto death and took His rightful place at the right hand of the Father in heaven following His resurrection. So, too, with us!

What have I, have you, learned today from the trials I encountered?

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

"Do not be afraid; just have faith" (Cf Matthew 5: 21-43)

In today's first reading,  Hebrews 1: 1-4, St. Paul encourages us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, our leader and the one who perfects our faith.  Knowing that he was about to return to His Father, Jesus resolutely goes up to Jerusalem, where He is arrested, condemned and put to death by people under the influence of the Evil One.  St. Paul asks us to consider "how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that [we] may not grow weary and lose heart."

During His sojourn here on earth, Jesus Himself never lost heart or grew weary of loving tenderly, acting justly, and doing what was right (compare Micah 6:8)  for those who expressed their faith and trust in Him. We have examples of that in today's Gospel, Mark 5: 21-43, where a woman who suffered hemorrhages for twelve years believed that if she only touched the hem of His garments she would be healed and she was! Jairus, a synagogue official, whose twelve-year-old daughter lay dying,  approached Jesus asking that He come down to his house and "lay [His] hand on her that she may get well and live." People told the father that his daughter was dead and that he should stop bothering Jesus. The people also mocked Jesus when he entered the synagogue's house. He disregarded their message that she was dead and said to the official: "Do not be afraid; just have faith." Jesus, with some of his disciples, went into the house and  healed the dying child. "'Little girl, I say to you arise' [and she] rose immediately and walked around." 

The opposition, the mockery, the doubts that flew around did not cause Jesus to  "grow weary [or] lose heart."  He knew who he was and he recognized individuals who also knew that helping others and revealing God's compassion toward us was what Jesus was all about.  Nothing stopped Jesus, not even death itself!  He held nothing back on our behalf!

That was true 2000+ years ago and is true today, as well! When we express faith in God in seemingly hopeless situations, some people may mock our faith and tell us that all is lost and that we should give up. In those times, Jesus says to us: "Do not be afraid; just have faith."





Monday, February 4, 2019

Evil Forces that Only Jesus Can Overpower

In today's Gospel, Mark 5: 1-20, Jesus and his disciples enter the territory of the Gerasenes. As soon as they got out of the boat, a demoniac approaches Jesus. "The man," Mark tells us, "had been dwelling among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain. In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains, but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed, and no one was strong enough to subdue him." When Jesus asked the evil spirit its name and commanded that it come out of the man, the evil spirit answered: "'Legion is my name. There are  many of us.'  And he pleaded earnestly with him  not to drive them away from that territory....Send us into the swine... And he let them. ...[T]he unclean spirits came out of the man and entered the swine. The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea, where they were drowned."

Within the world, within every species, within all of creation, including human beings, exist evil spirit and good spirits--forces that thwart or promote life, that encourage or discourage creative expressions and creative growth or that propel or block  us from achieving the potential and the perfection we are meant to achieve here on earth. Jesus had power over all that is evil in His day and in ours, in men and women in His day and in ours.  Jesus will bring out the good in us and destroy the  evil within us, just as he did for the demoniac.

Like the story in today's Gospel, we witness people who seem to be as out of control as the demonic.  Even nature seems out of control! Have Legions of evil spirits taken charge, as they did in the man who approached Jesus in today's Gospel? Only Jesus could help him; no human being was up to the task. Perhaps, today, we are in the same "boat," that is, that only Jesus can bring order into the chaos that exist all around us: in municipal, federal, ecclesiastical, familial  and world governing structures;  in our educational, healthcare, pharmaceutical,  financial systems and, yes, even the environment.

Like Jesus, you and I are created to do good and to face evil in this world, with God at our side. We are created to grow in the knowledge of God's creative powers at the very core of our being and the being of others and within all of creation.  God reveals His creative on-going, unconditional love for each of us in all that is.  That love for us is revealed in the animals and plants that share life with us here on earth, in the planetary and solar systems that, as part of God's plan,  sustain us here on earth. All of creation is interdependent for living life to the fall. Good as well as evil in any part of the world and in any part of creation impacts us. If evil takes possession of any part of creation--other human beings, ourselves, the animal or plant kingdom among us--that evil has an impact on all that exists, as did the presence of the demoniac in the Garasene territory at the time of Jesus.



Sunday, February 3, 2019

Dedicated to God for God's Purposes

In today's first reading, Jeremiah 1: 4-5, 17-19, God tells us, through the prophet, that God knew us "before [God] formed us] in [our mother's] womb" and that He "dedicated" us before we were born. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God asks us "to gird" ourselves and to do and say what God commands us to do or say; "Be not crushed on [account of others], as though I would leave you crushed before them....[Others] will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord."

And God does not break His promise!  We see that truth in Christ Jesus. In today's Gospel,  Luke 4: 21-30, after Jesus spoke in the synagogue of his hometown, the people turned against Him. They took Him "to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong." Jesus "passed through the midst of them and went away."  God the Father delivered His son from the evil ways of those plotting to harm Him and He does so for us, as well!  God is on the side of those who do His will and who follow the plan God has marked out for them!

Who am I in today's Gospel: those who, out of anger or jealousy, rise up against others or those who, girded with grace and the power of the Spirit,  speak the truth as directed by God, as Jesus did?  Do I, like Jesus, trust the Father in fighting for us and protecting us from evil?


Saturday, February 2, 2019

Presenting Ourselves in the Temple of the Lord

Today, the Feast of the Presentation, "Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, 'Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord'"  (Luke 2: 22).  In the collect of today's liturgy, we pray: "Almighty ever-living God, we humbly implore your majesty that, just as your Only Begotten Son was presented on this day in the Temple in the substance of our flesh, so, by your grace, we may be presented to you with minds made pure."

At our baptisms, each of us, like Jesus was by his parents, is presented to the Lord to be purified and consecrated to Him in the waters of baptism.  May we continue ti cooperate with God's grace as we live our our consecration to the Lord in our daily lives by living justly, loving tenderly and doing what s right in God's eyes.

That is my prayer this day for all of us, the least to the greatest, the richest to the poorest, the healthiest to the sickest in body, mind,  and soul. And may our minds continue to be made pure  through the Body and Blood of Christ, which we Catholics receive in Holy Communion at every Mass.  May we complete and become the Eucharist we celebrate by pouring out our lives every day in self-sacrificing love for the good of others.


Friday, February 1, 2019

The Mysteries of the Kingdom of God

In  today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 37, we are asked to "[c]ommit to the Lord your way; trust in him, and he will act."  Every year when a farmer cultivates his/her crop, he/she does just that!  

Jesus, in today's Gospel, Mark 4: 26:34, likens the Kingdom of God  to persons who plant seeds, go to sleep, rise day after day, see the seed sprout and grow, "he [she] knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he [she] wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come."

You and I are "plants" in God's garden!  We are "seeds" sown by God himself!  We grow into God--we know not how--but as time progresses we become Christ in the world of today. By the grace of God we yield fruit that will last for all eternity--that fruit is love!

And so we pray the Gospel Acclamation of today's liturgy:  Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth; you have revealed to little ones--to you and me--the mysteries of the Kingdom" (Cf. Mt 11:25).