Saturday, May 30, 2015

Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.

Christ said, “I am the Truth”; he did not say “I am the custom.” - St. Toribio (1900 – 1928: Mexican martyr)

Gospel text: (MK 11:27-33)
Jesus and his disciples returned once more to Jerusalem.
As he was walking in the temple area,
the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders
approached him and said to him,
“By what authority are you doing these things?
Or who gave you this authority to do them?”
Jesus said to them, “I shall ask you one question.
Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things.
Was John’s baptism of heavenly or of human origin? Answer me.”
They discussed this among themselves and said,
“If we say, ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say,
‘Then why did you not believe him?’
But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?”–
they feared the crowd,
for they all thought John really was a prophet.
So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.”
Then Jesus said to them,
“Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Truth in the head is not enough.  It is truth in our actions where wisdom is found.  The chief priests and the scribes in our gospel were smart people.  They paid attention to their scriptures and their traditions.  But they failed to pay attention to the man Jesus, and lacked wisdom.

Biblical knowing is being in relationship.  Eternal life (unending wisdom) is being in loving relationship with Jesus.  When his thoughts are our thoughts, when his will is our will, and when his loving heart fills our loving hearts, we are “in Christ.”  Then we are truly wise.

We walk each day in balance with being in the world as we strive to not be of the world. In our calling to be with and for others, we are in a constant state of tension between the wishes of God and the demands of the world. We cannot however let the daily challenges of the world reduce our fire for proclaiming the Gospel.

Let us not make the same error as the priests, scribes and elders who when challenged simply avoided truth by saying “We do not know”. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

“It's not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It's what we do consistently.”

"This is salvation: to live in the consolation of the Holy Spirit, not the consolation of the spirit of this world. No, that is not salvation, that is sin. Salvation is moving forward and opening our hearts so they can receive the Holy Spirit’s consolation, which is salvation. This is non-negotiable, you can’t take a bit from here and a bit from there? We cannot pick and mix, no? A bit of the Holy Spirit, a bit of the spirit of this world ... No! It’s one thing or the other. " – Pope Francis

Gospel Text: (MK 11:11-26)
Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple area.
He looked around at everything and, since it was already late,
went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

The next day as they were leaving Bethany he was hungry.
Seeing from a distance a fig tree in leaf,
he went over to see if he could find anything on it.
When he reached it he found nothing but leaves;
it was not the time for figs.
And he said to it in reply, “May no one ever eat of your fruit again!”
And his disciples heard it.

They came to Jerusalem,
and on entering the temple area
he began to drive out those selling and buying there.
He overturned the tables of the money changers
and the seats of those who were selling doves.
He did not permit anyone to carry anything through the temple area.
Then he taught them saying, “Is it not written:

My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples?
But you have made it a den of thieves.”

The chief priests and the scribes came to hear of it
and were seeking a way to put him to death,
yet they feared him
because the whole crowd was astonished at his teaching.
When evening came, they went out of the city.

Early in the morning, as they were walking along,
they saw the fig tree withered to its roots.
Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look!
The fig tree that you cursed has withered.”
Jesus said to them in reply, “Have faith in God.
Amen, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain,
‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’
and does not doubt in his heart
but believes that what he says will happen,
it shall be done for him.
Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer,
believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours.
When you stand to pray,
forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance,
so that your heavenly Father may in turn
forgive you your transgressions.”

St Mark in today’s gospel says that Jesus “looked around at everything and, since it was already late, went out to Bethany with the Twelve.” He would later return with decisive actions, but before those actions occurred, Jesus first paused to look around and to give himself time to assess this situation. What did he see? Did he see beauty, as well as distortion?

We are prone to grasp at things, acting as though we know all about them based on our memory or worse yet, based on how we might prefer to perceive reality. Pausing and looking again can be difficult. It might cause us to change our understanding. And perhaps might need to pause to ask the Lord to help us see correctly! I think we can all do with more of that as we approach our action plans. Perhaps then we can bear some fruit in our lives and through our prayers. Thanks be to God.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

"In failing to confess we only hide God from ourselves, not ourselves from God."

In the life of the body a man is sometimes sick, and unless he takes medicine, he will die. Even so in the spiritual life a man is sick on account of sin. For that reason he needs medicine so that he may be restored to health; and this grace is bestowed in the Sacrament of Penance.--St. Thomas Aquinas

Gospel Text: (MK 10:46-52)
As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd,
Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus,
sat by the roadside begging.
On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth,
he began to cry out and say,
“Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”
And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.
But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called the blind man, saying to him,
“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”
He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.
Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?”
The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.”
Jesus told him, ‘Go your way; your faith has saved you.”
Immediately he received his sight
and followed him on the way.

Because of sin, we are in some way all spiritually blind. By grace, we may begin "to call out, 'Jesus, Son of David, have pity on' " us! (Mk 10:47) When we think about doing this many things inside of ourselves pressure us to be quiet (see Mk 10:48). Questions arise in our mind like: What if Jesus will have mercy on me? What if He opens my eyes?

God's grace, however, prompts us to shout "all the louder, 'Son of David, have pity on' " us! (Mk 10:48)

Do you have the love and faith to be healed of spiritual blindness?
Do you have the guts to see?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Remember that the Christian life is one of action; not of speech and daydreams.

“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by "I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.”― Mother Teresa

Gospel Text: (MK 10:32-45)
The disciples were on the way, going up to Jerusalem,
and Jesus went ahead of them.
They were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.
Taking the Twelve aside again, he began to tell them
what was going to happen to him.
“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man
will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes,
and they will condemn him to death
and hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him,
spit upon him, scourge him, and put him to death,
but after three days he will rise.”
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee,
came to Jesus and said to him,
‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
He replied, ‘What do you wish me to do for you?”
They answered him,
“Grant that in your glory
we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”
Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the chalice that I drink
or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”
They said to him, ‘We can.”
Jesus said to them, “The chalice that I drink, you will drink,
and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;
but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John.
Jesus summoned them and said to them,
“You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles
lord it over them,
and their great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus is so patient and forgiving with his apostles, not just with James and John, but also with the others. He knows the indignant ten will fall asleep even after he asks them to keep watch in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knows that Judas will betray him. He knows that Peter will deny him. He does not call them on those things; he gives them the chance to choose differently.

His loving patience is there for us also. He will give us another chance to make the right choice the next time even when we have repeatedly made the wrong choices many times over. He has a love for us that we can never deserve. May we always be grateful for Jesus' infinite love for us.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

“Being good to people is the only insurance policy you need.”

“When we are generous in welcoming people and sharing something with them—some food, a place in our homes, our time—not only do we no longer remain poor: we are enriched. I am well aware that when someone needing food knocks at your door, you always find a way of sharing food; as the proverb says, one can always ‘add more water to the beans’! Is it possible to add more water to the beans?…Always?…And you do so with love, demonstrating that true riches consist not in materials things, but in the heart! (Pope Francis: Address during Visit to the Slums of Rio de Janeiro 7/25/13)

Scripture text: (SIR 35:1-12)
To keep the law is a great oblation,
and he who observes the
commandments sacrifices a peace offering.
In works of charity one offers fine flour,
and when he gives alms he presents his sacrifice of praise.
To refrain from evil pleases the LORD,
and to avoid injustice is an atonement.
Appear not before the LORD empty-handed,
for all that you offer is in fulfillment of the precepts.
The just one’s offering enriches the altar
and rises as a sweet odor before the Most High.
The just one’s sacrifice is most pleasing,
nor will it ever be forgotten.
In a generous spirit pay homage to the LORD,
be not sparing of freewill gifts.
With each contribution show a cheerful countenance,
and pay your tithes in a spirit of joy.
Give to the Most High as he has given to you,
generously, according to your means.

For the LORD is one who always repays,
and he will give back to you sevenfold.
But offer no bribes, these he does not accept!
Trust not in sacrifice of the fruits of extortion.
For he is a God of justice,
who knows no favorites.

Sirach in today’s reading tells us how to keep the law by doing works of justice, works of charity, and the giving of alms. These works truly please God; these are the true sacrifices that enrich the altar more than gifts laid upon it. As much as any incense, they send up a sweet odor to the Most High. Sirach ends his litany with the exhortation: “Give to the Most High as He has given to you, generously, according to your means.”

One particular verse caught my eye and caused me to pause and to think. “. . . as He has given to you.” Can I ever enumerate all the ways that God has given to me? If I start with today and begin to work backwards, day by day, will I ever get to the end? As I start to move through my memories, I get lost in pauses and reveries of wonder.

We must continue to strive in becoming better Christians, better examples of God's love alive in this world. In doing so more people will see what it means to live a life destined for heaven.

Monday, May 25, 2015

If a man's religion does not affect his use of money, that man's religion is vain.

"We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community...Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own."
-- Cesar Chavez: (1927 – 1993: was an American farm worker, labor leader and civil rights activist)

Gospel Text: (MK 10:17-27)
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up,
knelt down before him, and asked him,
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good?
No one is good but God alone.
You know the commandments: You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
you shall not defraud;
honor your father and your mother.”
He replied and said to him,
“Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,
“You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
At that statement, his face fell,
and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples,
“How hard it is for those who have wealth
to enter the Kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at his words.
So Jesus again said to them in reply,
“Children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God!
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”
They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves,
“Then who can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said,
“For men it is impossible, but not for God.
All things are possible for God.”

Our western civilization, even in these difficult economic times, is one of the wealthiest in history.  So when we hear Mark’s Gospel today, it might cause us to panic.  But it is not wealth itself that poses the biggest threat to our salvation, but rather the attachments we form to the things that wealth buys.  We lament often about our society’s fascination with our “toys” – Depending on our interest, we may long for a big screen TV, the latest I-Pad or I-phone or a new car, top of the line golf clubs, or a big house or any of the myriad of other items we see on TV or in the ads.  And we should be clear.  These things are not evil in themselves, but certainly our attachment to them – both in the longing and in the possession can turn these things to evil for us.  If the possessions cause us to make bad choices – such as not sharing what we have with those who are in need, or spending an inordinate time with our toys and hobbies – or if our possessions become an obstacle in our relationship with God, then these things do become evil and impede our entrance into eternal life.

Today’s gospel moves us to ask ourselves:  what gets in the way of my receiving the “look of love” from Jesus, from responding to that love in following him?  For some it may in fact be an attachment to material possessions; we need not be rich to have “many possessions.”  For others, those “possessions” may not be material objects.  We may cling to fear, to an abiding sense of guilt or shame, to the attitude that only “certain people” can receive the love of Jesus. 

Let the Lord find in ourselves not only a sincere heart, but also a generous heart open to the demands of love. Because —as John Paul II said— «the love which comes from God, a tender and spousal love, gives rise to profound and radical demands»

Sunday, May 24, 2015

We can not effectively serve God without the Holy Spirit.

Come, Holy Spirit. Spirit of truth, you are the reward of the saints, the comforter of souls, light in the darkness, riches to the poor, treasure to lovers, food for the hungry, comfort to those who are wandering; to sum up, you are the one in whom all treasures are contained. Come! As you descended upon Mary that the Word might become flesh, work in us through grace as you worked in her through nature and grace. Come! Food of every chaste thought, fountain of all mercy, sum of all purity. Come! Consume in us whatever prevents us from being consumed in you. - St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi (1566 – 1607 Carmelite nun)

Veni, Sancte Spiritus
Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!

Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.

You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;

In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.

O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!

Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:

Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.

On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;

Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end. Amen.

It is easy to stay within our comfort zones, away from difficulties and contingencies which challenge our accustomed ways. Today's celebration, the day of Pentecost, reminds us that this is not the Christian way of living. We are always called by our empowering God to break free from false insecurities and to receive his Spirit which allows us to face life head-on.

It is the Holy Spirit that has called us to be a missionary Church, a Church able to speak the languages of the world in order to preach the saving word of God to all peoples.  It is the same Spirit who dwells in us, helping us to pray, sustaining us in our labors, encouraging us to forgive and calling us to love.  It is the same Spirit who has empowered Pope Francis to challenge us, "The Church must step outside herself. To go where? To the outskirts of existence, whatever they may be, but she must step out."

We simply cannot just play it safe.

Had Jesus played it safe and hid from his enemies, we would not have been saved.  Jesus embraced God's Spirit and was so absolutely obedient to the Father's will, even if it led to his suffering and death on the cross. It was also the same Spirit that gave him hope in his own resurrection.

It is this same Spirit that he shares with us, as he did on the first Pentecost Sunday and as he does today and always, to remind us that "playing it safe does not save us."  

Saturday, May 23, 2015

“The shovel is bigger than the spoon, but it can never ever do the work the spoon does - Each is unique! You are unique too.”

“How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.” ― Marcus Aurelius: Roman Emperor 161–180 AD)

Gospel Text: (JN 21:20-25)
Peter turned and saw the disciple following whom Jesus loved,
the one who had also reclined upon his chest during the supper
and had said, “Master, who is the one who will betray you?”
When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?”
Jesus said to him, “What if I want him to remain until I come?
What concern is it of yours?
You follow me.”
So the word spread among the brothers that that disciple would not die.
But Jesus had not told him that he would not die,
just “What if I want him to remain until I come?
What concern is it of yours?”

It is this disciple who testifies to these things
and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true.
There are also many other things that Jesus did,
but if these were to be described individually,
I do not think the whole world would contain the books
that would be written.

“What concern is it of yours? You follow me.”

By Jesus’ response we see that Peter is probably not asking out of idle curiosity, but perhaps trying to compare himself with the beloved disciple; to see whether the beloved disciple is going to get some special treatment or a better prediction of his fate. Have you ever encountered anyone who did the same thing, always checking to see what other people get and how it compares to what they have received? Perhaps you have fallen into the same trap yourselves. I know I have.

Checking to see how much others have and how much we don’t, or trying to determine whether they should be loved by God or not, is not our purpose as disciples.

When we find ourselves asking, “What about him, or her, or them?” Jesus has answered our question by His Cross and the empty tomb: They are beloved by God.

May we share Jesus’ answer with the world.

Friday, May 22, 2015

'No one is as good and merciful as the Lord. But even He does not forgive the unrepentant.'

"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” – St Matthew

Gospel Text: (JN 21:15-19)
After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them,
he said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
He said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.
And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

Simon Peter was so enthusiastic and loyal to Jesus at his arrest that he cut off the right ear of the high priest's servant.  However, before maid servants Peter denied him three times. This was the same Peter who had insisted, "Though I have to die with you, I will never deny you." (Mk 14: 31)

Christ asks Peter three times if he loves him: three times, not to be assured of Peter's love but rather to remind Peter of his weakness and betrayal of Jesus.  Christ gave Peter, the weak one who denied him, the leadership of his Church. Christ trusted Peter despite his weakness because Peter knew how to repent.  Peter knew himself very well, that he was a sinner.

If we are to follow Christ, we must first abandon “our” way of thinking. Oftentimes the will of God may be against our own will.  But inspired by the Holy Spirit, we can choose to follow him and allow God to lead us to where he wills.

Peter the coward was chosen by the Lord to become the first leader of the Church and to die with loyalty and faith. If God can give this privilege to Peter, he can certainly give this gift to anyone.