Saturday, January 31, 2015

“Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one.”

“Every mental act is composed of doubt and belief, but it is belief that is the positive, it is belief that sustains thought and holds the world together.” ― Søren Kierkegaard (Danish philosopher, theologian, & poet)

Gospel Text: (MK 4:35-41)
On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples:
“Let us cross to the other side.”
Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was.
And other boats were with him.
A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat,
so that it was already filling up.
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.
They woke him and said to him,
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
He woke up,
rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!”
The wind ceased and there was great calm.
Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified?
Do you not yet have faith?”
They were filled with great awe and said to one another,
“Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

In today's Gospel, Jesus calls us to new life, saying "Let us cross to the other side."  He's asking us to "leave the crowd" behind and walk with him.  Think of that...! We're not left alone because he wants us to journey with him. However, He doesn't promise an easy road...

God, you’re kidding, right?

This can often times be our response when God asks us to do something big.
Can he seriously be asking us to walk through this storm and pain?
What kind of “good and loving” God would do that?

When I read this passage and when I reflect on experiences in my own life,
I reason that God is asking us to really believe, trust and have faith.
His power is not limited to the Old Testament. God is still alive today,
doing big things in ordinary lives. He might ask us to make sacrifices, but
it is not so that we may suffer—it is so that we might live according to His

What is it that God is calling us to today?  What are we being asked to leave behind
as we "cross to the other side" with Jesus?  Will we be safe through the journey?
Will we know truly The Peace that the world cannot give? If we let Jesus lead our
walk, you bet your britches we will.

Let's take a look at our life today. Maybe there something “good” God is asking us to giv

Friday, January 30, 2015

A Christian life lived with charity and faith is the most effective form of evangelization.

If you happen to be with an atheist who tells you that he does not believe in God, you can read him the whole library, where it says that God exists, and where it is proven that God exists, and he will not believe. [However] if in the presence of this same atheist you witness to a consistent, Christian life, something will begin to work in his heart…. It will be your witness that brings him the restlessness on which the Holy Spirit works.— Pope Francis (Homily on February 27, 2014)

Gospel Text: (MK 4:26-34)
Jesus said to the crowds:
“This is how it is with the Kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and the seed would sprout and grow,
he 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 wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”

He said,
“To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

In every Christian's soul Jesus Christ has sown by virtue of their Baptism the grace, the sanctity, the Truth. It is necessary that these “seeds” sprout, grow and bear a multitude of good fruits, which are our deeds: deeds of service and charity, of kindness and generosity, of sacrifice to properly comply with our daily duty and to make happy those around us; deeds of constant prayer, of forgiveness and understanding, of effort to grow in virtue, of joy...

Thus, this Kingdom of God —that begins within each one of us— will extend to our family, to our people, to our society, to our world.

The “seed” begins very small, «It is like a mustard seed which, when sown, is the smallest of all the seeds scattered upon the soil. But once sown, it grows up and becomes the largest of the plants in the garden» (Mk 4:31-32). But the force of God's will scatters it all over and makes it grow up with surprising vigor.

Jesus asks us today —as he did 2000 years ago— to spread his kingdom throughout the entire world.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

“Instruction does much, but encouragement everything."

“God is never a God of discouragement. When you have a discouraging spirit or train of thought in your mind, you can be sure it is not from God. He sometimes brings pain to his children-conviction over sin, or repentance over fallenness, or challenges that scare us, or visions of his holiness that overwhelm us. But God never brings discouragement.” – John Ortberg, Jr (Evangelical Christian author)

Scripture Text: (HEB 10:19-25 )
Brothers and sisters:
Since 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.
Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope,
for he who made the promise is trustworthy.
We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works.
We should not stay away from our assembly,
as is the custom of some, but encourage one another,
and this all the more as you see the day drawing near.

In the letter to the Hebrews noted above, we are urged to “rouse one another to love and good works” and to “encourage one another.” This is accomplished in part by membership in a faith community and by gathering together: “We should not stay away from our assembly (HEB 10: 25).”

“To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away (Mk 4:21-25).” Where faith is concerned, more is more. I also think of the Jesuit charism of magis, which means “the more” or “the greater.” Striving for greater things, giving one’s best, doing the utmost--this is how we grow in faith, love, and community. And by growing the kingdom of God on earth, we can look forward to the time when we see His face in eternity.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere.

"As iron is fashioned by fire and on the anvil, so in the fire of suffering and under the weight of trials, our souls receive that form which our Lord desires them to have." - St. Madeline Sophie Barat (1779 – 1865: A French saint and the founder of the Society of the Sacred Heart)

Gospel Text: (MK 4:1-20)
On another occasion, Jesus began to teach by the sea.
A very large crowd gathered around him
so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down.
And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land.
And he taught them at length in parables,
and in the course of his instruction he said to them,
“Hear this! A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and the birds came and ate it up.
Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep.
And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it
and it produced no grain.
And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit.
It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”
He added, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”

And when he was alone,
those present along with the Twelve
questioned him about the parables.
He answered them,
“The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you.
But to those outside everything comes in parables, so that
they may look and see but not perceive,
and hear and listen but not understand,
in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.”

Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable?
Then how will you understand any of the parables?
The sower sows the word.
These are the ones on the path where the word is sown.
As soon as they hear, Satan comes at once
and takes away the word sown in them.
And these are the ones sown on rocky ground who,
when they hear the word, receive it at once with joy.
But they have no roots; they last only for a time.
Then when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
they quickly fall away.
Those sown among thorns are another sort.
They are the people who hear the word,
but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches,
and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word,
and it bears no fruit.
But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it
and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”

Today serves as the memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the church. With this in mind, today’s reflection is on the Gospel reading from Mark in which Jesus provides the parable of a sower sowing seeds onto a path, rocky ground, thorns, and rich soil. As we know, only the seeds that fell on rich soil produced fruit and, interestingly, as much as thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold. As Jesus states, “the sower sows the word,” but Satan, worldly anxiety, and the lure of riches, along with the craving for other things intrude and eventually choke off our ability or, better yet, our willingness to truly hear God’s word and then to act accordingly. We are all at risk for choking out the word of God. Our busy lives and our tendency to seek out the successes and accoutrements that come with them have the potential to cause us to treat the word of God as background noise, which undermines our ability to hear the word of God. Or, we may hear it, but choke it out like the thorns in Jesus’ parable.

So, how do we provide a richer soil for God’s words? I look to St. Thomas Aquinas for some answers. As he was listening to the word of God and choosing to join the Dominican Order he was confronted with thorns and rocky soil by way of a family who tried to use temptations and imprisonment to keep him from acting on God’s word. Despite these efforts, his strong faith and commitment allowed him to pursue his vocation and became a priest. And, not only did God’s word grow, but it did so abundantly as St. Thomas Aquinas became an influential philosopher and theologian, and a model teacher for those studying for the priesthood. As we move forward in our daily lives, today’s reading and the actions of St. Thomas Aquinas remind us of the importance of, at least, occasionally setting aside the many distractions in our lives in order to truly focus on not only hearing the word of God, but reflecting on how best to act on God’s word to the benefit of all.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

“Discernment is a light of protection and direction in a world that grows increasingly dark.”

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls. – Mother Teresa

R. (8a and 9a) Here am I Lord; I come to do your will.
I have waited, waited for the LORD,
and he stooped toward me.
And he put a new song into my mouth,
a hymn to our God.
R. Here am I Lord; I come to do your will.
Sacrifice or oblation you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Burnt offerings or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.”
R. Here am I Lord; I come to do your will.
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
R. Here am I Lord; I come to do your will.
Your justice I kept not hid within my heart;
your faithfulness and your salvation I have spoken of;
I have made no secret of your kindness and your truth
in the vast assembly.
R. Here am I Lord; I come to do your will.

Of the many religious concepts the world struggles with I think one of the biggest is, “God’s will”. In our individual religious journeys this may be the source of our greatest discomfort.  Throughout history the misappropriation of “God’s will” by man has led to some ugly results.   Countless religious wars, colonization, absolutist monarchies and, more recently, terrorism all, in some or large part, stem from the misuse of religion and a mistaken interpretation of what it means to execute God’s will on Earth.

But as all of today’s readings from Mass remind us, we cannot run from the notion that there is a will of God and we are indeed called to do it!  But what is it!?   Where do we find it?  Can we parse it out from various Bible passages?  Did I miss something in theology classes?

Sadly we currently live in an age when listening has become far less valued, in an age of talk-radio and television talk-shows where everybody talks but few listen; in an era when more and more people are using modern means of social communication to tell their own stories; in an epoch of “tell-all” journalism; in a marketing age when we’re bombarded with advertising messages that we often receive uncritically. We live in an era of so much talking and so much noise that it is becoming harder and harder to hear the voice of God which often comes, as it did for the Prophet Elijah on Mount Carmel (see 1 Kings 19:12), in the gentle breeze of the Holy Spirit, in the whispers of daily events.

To put it simply, what we need is some quiet from all of the “noise pollution” that comes from our busyness, we then have to do something even more difficult. We have to shut up. We have to learn how to be quiet in front of the Lord and listen for his voice. We have to stop for a while giving him our laundry list of prayer intentions. We have to stop complaining to him about how others we live or work with are behaving. We have to stop telling him what’s wrong with his Church, or our country, or particular public figures. We have to stop talking and listen to him, so that he can speak to us in this quiet and whisper to us from within.

Then and only then will we slowly discern God’s will and more importantly, be given the grace to do it.

Monday, January 26, 2015


“Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” - ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

Gospel Text: (MK 3:22-30)
The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said of Jesus,
“He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and
“By the prince of demons he drives out demons.”

Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables,
“How can Satan drive out Satan?
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
And if a house is divided against itself,
that house will not be able to stand.
And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided,
he cannot stand;
that is the end of him.
But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property
unless he first ties up the strong man.
Then he can plunder his house.

Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies
that people utter will be forgiven them.
But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit
will never have forgiveness,
but is guilty of an everlasting sin.”
For they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Deceive - To mislead by giving a distorted impression or false sense of reality; to trick; to cheat; to beguile. Deception is being pacified and placated by what is not real resulting in pain and confusion from trusting false promises or believing a lie.

The greatest power that Satan possesses is the power of deception. He is the great deceiver.

I am afraid that today many of us govern our lives through the deceptions communicated by the current culture and these deceptions are so subtle that many are not even aware of them.

The strategy of deception:

1. Distort what God says by changing the emphasis

2. Bring into question God’s motive (always the result of twisted meaning)

3. Introduce reason that ultimately leads you to question God’s goodness and integrity.

....Once that’s accomplished it’s easy to turn you against God’s authority and His Church. We’re living in a time where there are more false prophets than ever before. Of course, there are more people than ever before but there is also more access to mass communication with TV, internet, cell phones, etc.

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” (Mt 7:15-16)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

“The problem with spiritual procrastination is the uncertain time of the deadline.”

“The community of the saints is not an "ideal" community consisting of perfect and sinless men and women, where there is no need of further repentance. No, it is a community which proves that it is worthy of the gospel of forgiveness by constantly and sincerely proclaiming God's forgiveness...Sanctification means driving out the world from the Church as well as separating the Church from the world. But the purpose of such discipline is not to establish a community of the perfect, but a community consisting of men who really live under the forgiving mercy of God.” - Dietrich Bonhoeffer (German Lutheran pastor and anti-Nazi dissident who was executed by hanging on April 9, 1945 as the Nazi regime collapsed)

Gospel Text: (MK 1:14-20)
After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

As he passed by the Sea of Galilee,
he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea;
they were fishermen.
Jesus said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.
He walked along a little farther
and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They too were in a boat mending their nets.
Then he called them.
So they left their father Zebedee in the boat
along with the hired men and followed him.

When I was younger I remember being afraid of the word repent.  It was associated with dire consequences.  I was sure there was a trick question involved and I worried that I would not know that I was not in God’s favor. Now as I look at the definition of repent:  to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life, I have a different view.  I trust in God’s love for me and I believe God wants me to make the right choices.  God is always speaking and I simply need to listen and trust in his ways.  I also feel God’s compassion when I fall short in my efforts.

The fact of the matter is, we all struggle with our call, which we got through our Baptism, as we move along our journey of faith. There are times when we don't understand. But God comes back to us in the most unexpected ways; He uses us for others in the most unexpected ways. What God needs is not our ability, but our availability. What Jesus teaches His disciples is not a course of study, but a way of life to follow.

So as we all enjoy our Sunday afternoon ask yourself a few questions in prayer:  What habits do I have that call for me to repent and turn toward God?  When am I motivated by ego or selfishness? How can I become a more generous and loving person?  How can I be more open to God’s loving guidance to help me use my gifts and talents in service to my community?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Truth is persecuted in the most civilized languages.

“Let us not forget: we are a pilgrim church, subject to misunderstanding, to persecution, but a church that walks serene, because it bears the force of love.”  - Bishop Oscar Romero (He became the fourth Archbishop of San Salvador and spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture. Archbishop Romero was assassinated while offering Mass in 1980.)

Gospel Text: (MK 3:20-21)
Jesus came with his disciples into the house.
Again the crowd gathered,
making it impossible for them even to eat.
When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him,
for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

Persecution could be losing a job because you won’t lie, cheat, or steal. I have friends whose values have been shaped by Christ; they have held to those values, and have been fired because of them. Persecution could be family or friends who reject you because you choose to follow Christ, or they make fun of you. I’ll reference the recent news. This too happened on Christmas day. The former quarterback for the Denver Broncos, Tim Tebow, was the subject of a profanity-laced rant by Bill Maher, the host of HBO’s show Real Time, all because of Tebow’s Christian faith.

Persecution is real. It happens. It happens today. It’s happening around us. Jesus told us we should expect it.

But remember this…………“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."  (Matthew 5:10-12)

Friday, January 23, 2015

If thou art willing to suffer no adversity, how wilt thou be the friend of Christ?

...Christ did not appoint professors, but followers. If Christianity ... is not reduplicated in the life of the person expounding it, then he does not expound Christianity, for Christianity is a message about living and can only be expounded by being realized in men's lives. --Soren Kierkegaard (Danish Philosopher 1813 – 1855)

Gospel Text: (MK 3:13-19)
Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted
and they came to him.
He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles,
that they might be with him
and he might send them forth to preach
and to have authority to drive out demons:
He appointed the Twelve:
Simon, whom he named Peter;
James, son of Zebedee,
and John the brother of James, whom he named Boanerges,
that is, sons of thunder;
Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew,
Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus;
Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean,
and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.

“Who? Me? I can’t do that!” How many times have you heard comments like this, or even made them yourself when you were called upon to take up an important but daunting task? Don’t you think that the twelve men Jesus called to be his apostles had some of those same feelings? It was still early in his ministry, and they knew he was special. But they still had no idea just how important he was.

And what does God require of those He calls?

He asks us to live close to him as we serve him, and in return, He promises to stay close to us. Yet, God speaks to each one of us individually and specifically. For most of us the conversion, the turnabout, is gradual. Conversion is a process and a process takes time and effort to be properly effected; it is not a once and for all situation. Actually conversion is a lifetime project.

Believe that God has planted seeds of greatness in you. He has summoned you. Now it’s up to you to respond. Know that he will equip you with everything you need. Step out in faith as the Twelve did. You are capable of serving Jesus in ways that you have not imagined because he will empower you. Remember, the Lord doesn’t call those who are equipped. He equips those who are called.