Monday, March 19, 2018

“St. Joseph was an ordinary sort of man on whom God relied to do great things. He did exactly what the Lord wanted him to do.”

“St. Joseph’s mission is certainly unique and unrepeatable, as Jesus is absolutely unique. However, in protecting Jesus, in teaching him how to grow in age, wisdom and grace, he is a model for every educator, and in particular for every father. … I ask for you the grace to be every closer to your children, allow them to grow, but be close, close! They need you, your presence, your closeness, your love. Be, for them, like St. Joseph: protectors of their growth in age, wisdom and grace. Guardians of their path, and educators: walk alongside them. And with this closeness, you will be true educators.”— Pope Francis: General audience on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19, 2014

Gospel Text: (MT 1:16, 18-21, 24A)
Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream 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."
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.

We have all seen paintings and sculptures of St. Joseph that, at least to me, look too bland and sweet to represent the real Joseph. There is nothing bland in the Joseph portrayed in the first of the two options for today’s gospel reading, a man torn inside by real tension and anguish.

Mary, his fiancée, has been away for a few months in the hill country of Judea and on her return it is clear to Joseph that she is pregnant. He knows all too well that the child is not his and he also knows very well that Mary is not “that kind of girl”. What has happened? Did someone assault her out there in the hill country? Deep anguish for a fiancé. He loves Mary and he knows that, if he says that he is not the father of that child, Mary could be stoned to death. So, he decides to fade away and be the “fall guy”. And then comes the dream.

And Joseph trusts the dream……….

God spoke to Joseph and said to take Mary into his home. He heard and he obeyed. He did the right thing, for he was a righteous man.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

“Self-interest is but the survival of the animal in us. Humanity only begins for man with self-surrender.”

“The egocentric is always frustrated, simply because the condition of self-perfection is self-surrender. There must be a willingness to die to the lower part of self, before there can be a birth to the nobler.” ― Fulton J. SheenSeven Words of Jesus and Mary: Lessons from Cana and Calvary

Gospel Text: (JN 12:20-33)
Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast
came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee,
and asked him, "Sir, we would like to see Jesus."
Philip went and told Andrew;
then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.
Jesus answered them,
"The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there also will my servant be.
The Father will honor whoever serves me.

"I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?
'Father, save me from this hour'?
But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.
Father, glorify your name."
Then a voice came from heaven,
"I have glorified it and will glorify it again."
The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder;
but others said, "An angel has spoken to him."
Jesus answered and said,
"This voice did not come for my sake but for yours.
Now is the time of judgment on this world;
now the ruler of this world will be driven out.
And when I am lifted up from the earth,
I will draw everyone to myself."
He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

The glory of the Cross is the glory of the grain of wheat falling to the ground and dying. Its glory lies not in spectacle, in the way that our day measures glory. Its glory lies in loss of self for the sake of an abundance for others, as Jesus explains of His hour: “when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” A covenant is never between God and an individual, nor for an individual. A covenant is between God and a people, and is for the people. God offers the new and everlasting covenant established by Jesus’ self-sacrifice to all peoples of the earth, that all of them might form one people as the Mystical Body of Christ. In Christ, each member of His Body has God’s Law written in his heart, in order to mediate that love to others through his own vocation within that Body.

The glory of Jesus’ Cross lies in loss of self not for oneself, nor even only for God, but also for all those whom God loves, which is all peoples.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Don’t let people pull you into their storms. Pull them into your peace.

“I have decided to stick to love...Hate is too great a burden to bear.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches

Scripture Text: (WIS 2:1A, 12-22)
The wicked said among themselves,
thinking not aright:
"Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us;
he sets himself against our doings,
Reproaches us for transgressions of the law
and charges us with violations of our training.
He professes to have knowledge of God
and styles himself a child of the LORD.
To us he is the censure of our thoughts;
merely to see him is a hardship for us,
Because his life is not like that of others,
and different are his ways.
He judges us debased;
he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure.
He calls blest the destiny of the just
and boasts that God is his Father.
Let us see whether his words be true;
let us find out what will happen to him.
For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him
and deliver him from the hand of his foes.
With revilement and torture let us put him to the test
that we may have proof of his gentleness
and try his patience.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death;
for according to his own words, God will take care of him."
These were their thoughts, but they erred;
for their wickedness blinded them,
and they knew not the hidden counsels of God;
neither did they count on a recompense of holiness
nor discern the innocent souls' reward.

In our first reading from Mass we hear of how the wicked plan to beset the just and those who are trying to obey God. Their plan entails revilement, torture and even death. The reading reminds me of a bucket of live crabs, some of which could climb out and escape. But the other crabs pull them back down to prevent any from leaving the bucket, ensuring the whole group’s demise. We describe this “crab mentality” with the phrase, "if I can't have it, neither can you" and we often see it operating in our society. We see it whenever members of a group attempt to reduce the self-confidence of any peer who achieves success beyond the others.

How do we let go of our “crab mentality” to help each other climb out of the bucket and so draw each other closer to God?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

“It's a rare person who wants to hear what he doesn't want to hear.”

“The humble listen to their brothers and sisters because they assume they have something to learn. They are open to correction, and they become wiser through it.” ― Father Thomas Edward Dubay (December 30, 1921 – September 26, 2010), S.M. , was an American Catholic priest, author, and retreat director. 

Gospel Text: (JN 5:31-47)
Jesus said to the Jews:
"If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true.
But there is another who testifies on my behalf,
and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true.
You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth.
I do not accept human testimony,
but I say this so that you may be saved.
He was a burning and shining lamp,
and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light.
But I have testimony greater than John's.
The works that the Father gave me to accomplish,
these works that I perform testify on my behalf
that the Father has sent me.
Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf.
But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form,
and you do not have his word remaining in you,
because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent.
You search the Scriptures,
because you think you have eternal life through them;
even they testify on my behalf.
But you do not want to come to me to have life.

"I do not accept human praise;
moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you.
I came in the name of my Father,
but you do not accept me;
yet if another comes in his own name,
you will accept him.
How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another
and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God?
Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father:
the one who will accuse you is Moses,
in whom you have placed your hope.
For if you had believed Moses,
you would have believed me,
because he wrote about me.
But if you do not believe his writings,
how will you believe my words?"

Today's reading challenges us to listen to God and be guided by him in our lives. We could reflect in what areas of our lives have we been like those stiff­ necked people Jesus referred too in today's gospel. And have we really accepted Christ's "credentials"?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

"Intense love does not measure . . . it just gives."

"There is no place for selfishness—and no place for fear! Do not be afraid, then, when love makes demands. Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice"-- Pope Saint John Paul II served as Pope of the Catholic Church and sovereign of Vatican City from 1978 to 2005.

Gospel Text: (JN 5:17-30)
Jesus answered the Jews:
"My Father is at work until now, so I am at work."
For this reason they tried all the more to kill him,
because he not only broke the sabbath
but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God.

Jesus answered and said to them,
"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,
so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.
Whoever does not honor the Son
does not honor the Father who sent him.
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word
and believes in the one who sent me
has eternal life and will not come to condemnation,
but has passed from death to life.
Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here
when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God,
and those who hear will live.
For just as the Father has life in himself,
so also he gave to the Son the possession of life in himself.
And he gave him power to exercise judgment,
because he is the Son of Man.
Do not be amazed at this,
because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs
will hear his voice and will come out,
those who have done good deeds
to the resurrection of life,
but those who have done wicked deeds
to the resurrection of condemnation.

"I cannot do anything on my own;
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."

God's love is indeed limitless and will never waver; it is even stronger than a mother's love for her child: "Can a woman forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child of her womb? Yet though she forget, I will not forget you."

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

“It has been said that time heals all wounds. The truth is that time does not heal anything. It merely passes. It is what we do during the passing of time that helps or hinders the healing process.”

Other people are going to find healing in your wounds. Your greatest life messages and your most effective ministry will come out of your deepest hurts.  - Rick Warren: ((born January 28, 1954) is an American evangelical Christian pastor and author.)

Gospel text: (JN 5:1-16)
There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate
a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes.
In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled.
One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there
and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him,
"Do you want to be well?"
The sick man answered him,
"Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool
when the water is stirred up;
while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me."
Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your mat, and walk."
Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.

Now that day was a sabbath.
So the Jews said to the man who was cured,
"It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat."
He answered them, "The man who made me well told me,
'Take up your mat and walk.'"
They asked him,
"Who is the man who told you, 'Take it up and walk'?"
The man who was healed did not know who it was,
for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there.
After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him,
"Look, you are well; do not sin any more,
so that nothing worse may happen to you."
The man went and told the Jews
that Jesus was the one who had made him well.
Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus
because he did this on a sabbath.

Lent is a time to review our spiritual health. Even good and holy people can find themselves spiritually stuck. What I hear in this text is that Jesus’ desire is to heal regardless. We may deeply desire healing or be unaware that we are in need healing.  Jesus clearly demonstrates his love for us—all of us—period.

Monday, March 12, 2018

“If doubt is challenging you and you do not act, doubts will grow. Challenge the doubts with action and you will grow. Doubt and action are incompatible.”

“Our doubts are traitors….And make us lose the good we oft might win” ― William ShakespeareMeasure for Measure

Gospel Text: (JN 4:43-54)
At that time Jesus left [Samaria] for Galilee.
For Jesus himself testified
that a prophet has no honor in his native place.
When he came into Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him,
since they had seen all he had done in Jerusalem at the feast;
for they themselves had gone to the feast.

Then he returned to Cana in Galilee,
where he had made the water wine.
Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum.
When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea,
he went to him and asked him to come down
and heal his son, who was near death.
Jesus said to him,
“Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”
The royal official said to him,
“Sir, come down before my child dies.”
Jesus said to him, “You may go; your son will live.”
The man believed what Jesus said to him and left.
While the man was on his way back,
his slaves met him and told him that his boy would live.
He asked them when he began to recover.
They told him,
“The fever left him yesterday, about one in the afternoon.”
The father realized that just at that time Jesus had said to him,
“Your son will live,”
and he and his whole household came to believe.
Now this was the second sign Jesus did
when he came to Galilee from Judea.

Do I need signs and wonders before I am willing to believe the Word of God? Some of us do. Can any amount of signs and wonders make some people believe? No. Are there those who trust God and believe what he says and have no need for signs and wonders? Yes. This is not to denigrate the miraculous. Sometimes God blesses us with signs and wonders. However, can I trust the words of God, whether or not I ever experience miracles? God is gracious and gives us what we need.