Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hope

All great masters are chiefly distinguished by the power of adding a second, a third, and perhaps a fourth step in a continuous line. Many a man had taken the first step. With every additional step you enhance immensely the value of your first. - Ralph Waldo Emerson: (1803 – 1882) American essayist, lecturer, and poet
Gospel Text: (Lk 9:57-62)
As Jesus and his disciples were proceeding
on their journey, someone said to him,
“I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus answered him,
“Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”
And to another he said, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”
But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead.
But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.”
And another said, “I will follow you, Lord,
but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”
Jesus answered him, “No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.”

So, in today’s gospel, when Jesus goes out looking for followers, he is looking for that same strong dedication.  He knows the power of commitment.

Commitment clarifies who we are.  We forge our identity by naming our values.  Our commitment then excites others and brings them aboard.  Together we become a band of stickers and fighters.  Our attention is centered.
It has been wisely noted that little people have wishes, while great people have a purpose.  What greater purpose can there be than serving God and God’s people?  Jesus asks us to pursue that purpose with all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds, and all our bodies, with our chins facing the wind, our eyes never looking back.
Few of us face stark choices in responding to Jesus’ call in our lives.  We follow Him while doing other good things, too, like caring for our families and making a living.  We are multitaskers, it seems.  But in our multitasking, we may need to pause and gain a sense in which we are really following Jesus, rather than being carried along, even by good things and duties.

Part of the inner peace Jesus promises us does not depend upon success, but comes from having a meaningful purpose and knowing we gave it our best.  That’s what he did.  “Come,” he says, “choose to follow me and share in my joy.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

All God's angels come to us disguised.

An angel can illuminate the thought and mind of man by strengthening the power of vision. ~St Thomas Aquinas: (1225 – 1274: Italian Dominican friar and Catholic priest who was an immensely influential philosopher, theologian and jurist)
Gospel Text: (Jn 1:47-51)
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him,
“Here is a true child of Israel.
There is no duplicity in him.”
Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”
Nathanael answered him,
“Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Do you believe
because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree?
You will see greater things than this.”
And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
you will see heaven opened
and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Today, in the feast of the Saints Archangels, Jesus manifests to his Apostles and to everybody else, the presence of his angels and their relation with him. They are in the Lord's celestial glory, where they perennially exalt the Son of man, who is the Son of God. They surround him and are at his service.
Let us learn from this celebration of the archangels “ascending and descending” upon the Son of man, that they serve God, but they serve him for our sake. They glorify the Holy Trinity, and they do it while serving us. And, consequently, we realize how much devotion we owe them and how grateful we should also be to the Father who sends them for our own good.

Monday, September 28, 2015

There is something in humility which strangely exalts the heart.

Everyday, Jesus humbles himself just as He did when He came from His heavenly throne into the Virgin’s womb; everyday He comes to us and lets us see Him in abjection, when He descends from the bosom of the Father into the hands of the priest at the altar. - St. Francis of Assisi: (1181 – 1226: Italian Catholic friar and preacher)

Gospel Text: (Lk 9:46-50)
An argument arose among the disciples
about which of them was the greatest.
Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child
and placed it by his side and said to them,
“Whoever receives this child in my name receives me,
and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
For the one who is least among all of you
is the one who is the greatest.”

Then John said in reply,
“Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name
and we tried to prevent him
because he does not follow in our company.”
Jesus said to him,
“Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”

Today, on their way to Jerusalem heading towards the Passion, «the disciples were arguing about which of them was the most important» (Lk 9:46). Every day the media, and even our conversations, are full of comments regarding the importance of some people: whether others or ourselves. This kind of logic, which is strictly human, quite often results in an unreasonable yearning for success, recognition, admiration, gratitude, or in a lack of peace if these expected rewards fail to reach us.

When we humbly accept our dependence on God and each other, and accept our own incompleteness, brokenness, and imperfection, we are less likely to exclude and judge others who are different than us and who don’t live up to our own expectations, which we honestly often don’t live up to ourselves, either.  When we begin along that path, then we will have at least begun to understand what it means to be the “greatest” in the eyes of God.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A lie may take care of the present, but it has no future.

If you can not find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?
~Ralph Waldo Emerson: (
1803 – 1882) American essayist, lecturer, and poet

Gospel Text: (Lk 9:7-9)
Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening,
and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying,
“John has been raised from the dead”;
others were saying, “Elijah has appeared”;
still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.”
But Herod said, “John I beheaded.
Who then is this about whom I hear such things?”
And he kept trying to see him.

Standing before Pilate in the Pretorium, the very heart of political power, Jesus bears witness to the truth that real power is not the ability to coerce others, but the strength to love; that true control is about self-sacrifice; that real life is found only through death itself. In doing so Jesus turns our human values upside down and proclaims a new and radical form of kingship. He does not coerce, but rather invites a response. In this encounter with Pilate, Christ offers an example for all Christians, who like Christ are called to bear witness to the truth through their lives. Prompted by the Roman inscription placed above the crucified Jesus’ head, his enemies taunted him “if you are the King of the Jews save yourself!”

In other words, real kings save themselves first.

Luke’s Jesus responds to their taunt by instinctively taking care of someone else first, the criminal crucified next to him. Throughout Luke’s passion narrative, no matter how much pain Jesus is suffering, he’s always concerned for others.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

If Christ does not reign over the mundane events in our lives, He does not reign at all.

Many Christians have what we might call a "cultural holiness". They adapt to the character and behavior pattern of Christians around them. As the Christian culture around them is more or less holy, so these Christians are more or less holy. But God has not called us to be like those around us. He has called us to be like himself. Holiness is nothing less than conformity to the character of God. --Jerry Bridges: (Christian author)

Gospel Text: (Lk 9:1-6)
Jesus summoned the Twelve and gave them power and authority
over all demons and to cure diseases,
and he sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God
and to heal the sick.
He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey,
neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money,
and let no one take a second tunic.
Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there.
And as for those who do not welcome you,
when you leave that town,
shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them.”
Then they set out and went from village to village
proclaiming the good news and curing diseases everywhere.

The word “apostle” literally means “one who is sent”. But the reason for being sent can vary, and this reason therefore qualifies the type of apostolic ministry. For example, today’s Gospel passage comes from the ninth chapter of Luke (which is 24 chapters long). Here, the apostles are not being sent to proclaim the Resurrection, because Jesus has not died yet! At the end of the Gospel the Apostles will be sent to proclaim the Gospel and thereby build Jesus’ Church.

In today’s Gospel passage, however, the Twelve are being sent for a simpler mission. Jesus “sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” This two-fold mission is interesting. How does it relate to the mission that the Apostles will begin to carry out on Pentecost? Is proclaiming “the Kingdom of God” the same thing as proclaiming the Gospel? Why does Jesus here give the Apostles power to heal the sick, but not to raise the dead?

Although a book could be written trying to answer these questions, reflect today on the way in which you yourself have been sent by God in the past, and may be sent for a new mission today or very soon. At any point on one’s earthly journey, the Lord can surprise you with a new request. Like the Hebrews at the first Passover, we must be ready to move as the Lord asks.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

“Love and say it with your life.”

We talk eloquently about our commitment to the principles of Christianity, and yet our lives are saturated with the practices of paganism. We proclaim our devotion to democracy, but we sadly practice the very opposite of the democratic creed. We talk passionately about peace, and at the same time we assiduously prepare for war. We make our fervent pleas for the high road of justice, and then we tread unflinchingly the low road of injustice. This strange dichotomy, this agonizing gulf between the ought and the is, represents the tragic theme of man's earthly pilgrimage.” ― Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love

Gospel Text: (Lk 8:19-21)
The mother of Jesus and his brothers came to him
but were unable to join him because of the crowd.
He was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside
and they wish to see you.”
He said to them in reply, “My mother and my brothers
are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”

Why would Jesus dishonor His family like this you may ask your self after reading today’s gospel?
With a second look, however, we might discover something new, something intentional on the part of Jesus.  With this simple statement, Jesus has created an entirely new reality, a new world order and a new way of seeing and understanding relationships.  Jesus has redefined the concept of “family”.  No longer is “family” caused by or limited by blood lines.  Family is now defined as a faith bond.  Family is now completely open to include all who hear the Word of God and act upon it.  By no means is Jesus rejecting His mother and family members.  After all, do we know of anyone other than Mary who more openly and readily heard the Word of God in her life and acted upon it?  Not likely.  Mary is at the heart of this new reality, this expanded concept of the family tree.
Jesus goes on to say that it is not enough to hear the Word; we must put it into action if we want to become God's relatives. We must put into practice what we are told! This is why it would perhaps be good to ask ourselves whether we only behave obediently when what we are asked just suits us well or is rather easy to do, or if, on the contrary, when it means giving up our comfort, our own prestige, our material things or whatever leisure time we may have at our disposal until some better time may come.
Are we sufficiently challenged by that?

Monday, September 21, 2015

“The first step to becoming is to will it”

“To be faithful, to be creative, we need to be able to change. To change! And why must I change? So that I can adapt to the situations in which I must proclaim the Gospel. To stay close to God, we need to know how to set out; we must not be afraid to set out.” ― Pope Francis, "The Church of Mercy” - Published April 25th 2014 by Loyola Press
Gospel Text:  (Mt 9:9-13)
As Jesus passed by,
he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
And he got up and followed him.
While he was at table in his house,
many tax collectors and sinners came
and sat with Jesus and his disciples.
The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples,
“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
He heard this and said,
“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
Go and learn the meaning of the words,
I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

Today we celebrate the life and accomplishments of St Matthew, an early disciple and apostle of Jesus.  Among the four evangelists, only Matthew and John were members of the Twelve apostles. Mark and Luke did not, as far as we know, ever meet Jesus during His earthly life.
Today’s Gospel passage presents Matthew’s own account of how Jesus called him to serve. Matthew is strikingly honest about his sinfulness. In light of his own need for mercy, Matthew presents Jesus through the words that the Lord speaks at the end of today’s Gospel passage: “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus utters the call to Matthew in its simplest form. It is simple to say, but not easy to do, especially considering that Jesus leads Matthew and the other disciples to the foot of the cross after that call. And yet, Matthew shows us all what it takes to start: he got up. He answered. He didn’t know what his part was yet.
Matthew’s answer, like Mary’s fiat, made Christ known to infinite others. He helped make it possible for us to answer the call, too, though we were not sitting with him on the side of the road when Jesus walked by and said “Follow me”.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

“People often mistake their imagination for their heart, & so often are convinced they are converted as soon as they start thinking of becoming converted.”

 “The church must suffer for speaking the truth, for pointing out sin, for uprooting sin. No one wants to have a sore spot touched, and therefore a society with so many sores twitches when someone has the courage to touch it and say: “You have to treat that. You have to get rid of that. Believe in Christ. Be converted.” Archbishop Oscar A. Romero, The Violence of Love

Gospel text: (LK 8:4-15)
When a large crowd gathered, with people from one town after another
journeying to Jesus, he spoke in a parable.
“A sower went out to sow his seed.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path and was trampled,
and the birds of the sky ate it up.
Some seed fell on rocky ground, and when it grew,
it withered for lack of moisture.
Some seed fell among thorns,
and the thorns grew with it and choked it.
And some seed fell on good soil, and when it grew,
it produced fruit a hundredfold.”
After saying this, he called out,
“Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”

Then his disciples asked him
what the meaning of this parable might be.
He answered,
“Knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God
has been granted to you;
but to the rest, they are made known through parables
so that they may look but not see, and hear but not understand.

“This is the meaning of the parable.
The seed is the word of God.
Those on the path are the ones who have heard,
but the Devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts
that they may not believe and be saved.
Those on rocky ground are the ones who, when they hear,
receive the word with joy, but they have no root;
they believe only for a time and fall away in time of temptation.
As for the seed that fell among thorns,
they are the ones who have heard, but as they go along,
they are choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life,
and they fail to produce mature fruit.
But as for the seed that fell on rich soil,
they are the ones who, when they have heard the word,
embrace it with a generous and good heart,
and bear fruit through perseverance.”

The seed does not thrive until it falls on “good soil.”  What are some elements of that soil in the reality of the situation of the world? What nutrients are needed to begin to bring balance to the current excesses that have resulted in dire poverty for so many, lack of clean water, difficult or impossible roads to clean air, to good education, tools that fulfill even the basic rights for a happy life. How might we outfit the sower in her pursuit of “good soil”?

For starters, a willingness to leave our comfort zone and embrace with generosity the reality of the lives of others. Create an intentional attitude to uncover our fears, prejudices, and barriers that currently impair our capacity for identifying ourselves as co-habitants with brothers and sisters from all parts of the world. 

That starts in our own home!

Friday, September 18, 2015

“Wealth … is like a snake; it will twist around the hand and bite unless one knows how to use it properly.”

"Riches prick us with a thousand troubles in getting them, as many cares in preserving them, and yet more anxiety in spending them, and with grief in losing them." - St. Francis of Assisi: born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, but nicknamed Francesco; 1181 – October 3, 1226 was a Italian Catholic Friar and preacher

Scripture Text: (1 Tm 6:2c-12)
Teach and urge these things.
Whoever teaches something different
and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ
and the religious teaching
is conceited, understanding nothing,
and has a morbid disposition for arguments and verbal disputes.
From these come envy, rivalry, insults, evil suspicions,
and mutual friction among people with corrupted minds,
who are deprived of the truth,
supposing religion to be a means of gain.
Indeed, religion with contentment is a great gain.
For we brought nothing into the world,
just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it.
If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that.
Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap
and into many foolish and harmful desires,
which plunge them into ruin and destruction.
For the love of money is the root of all evils,
and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith
and have pierced themselves with many pains.

The wisdom presented here is palpable and is just as applicable to our lives today as it was 2,000 years ago. My favorite verse is “If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that.” So much truth and fodder for reflection lie in that one statement.

I might add a couple more “basics” to the list of essential needs, including shelter and education. But the point is, so much of what we think we need does not really add to our lives. In fact, always wanting the latest, the newest, the best, the smartest, the fastest, is really a losing proposition. As this letter to Timothy states, “Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction.”

To seek riches for their own sake, to desire to “be” rich in order to be able to have whatever we might possibly want, truly is a trap. We can never be satisfied and our lives will be dominated by the all-consuming continuous cycle, much like the hamster on the wheel.

On the other hand, if we find that money comes our way through hard work and using our God-given skills, that is something else. The money, or “riches,” was not the goal; rather, it was the work itself, the labor of love for other reasons, including often improving the lives of others.

Being a Christian IS different. Our eyes are on a different prize than the world’s. We can’t be reminded of that too often.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

"The joy of God is the joy of forgiveness"

“Today I would also like to suggest a medicine to you. But someone might think: 'The Pope is a pharmacist now?' It is a special medicine that will make the fruits of the Year of Faith concrete. This year is drawing to its close. It is a medicine of 59 pills for the heart. It is a 'spiritual medicine' called ‘Misericordina.’ A little box with 59 pills for the heart. The medicine is in this little box and some volunteers will hand it out to you as you are leaving the piazza. Take it! It is a rosary with which you can also pray the 'Mercy chaplet,' a spiritual help for our soul and to spread love, forgiveness and fraternity everywhere. Do not forget to take it because it is good for you, okay? It is good for your heart, you soul and your whole life!” – Pope Francis speaking in Rome November 18, 2013

Gospel Text:  (Lk 7:36-50)
A certain Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him,
and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.
Now there was a sinful woman in the city
who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee.
Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment,
she stood behind him at his feet weeping
and began to bathe his feet with her tears.
Then she wiped them with her hair,
kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself,
“If this man were a prophet,
he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him,
that she is a sinner.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“Simon, I have something to say to you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two people were in debt to a certain creditor;
one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty.
Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both.
Which of them will love him more?”
Simon said in reply,
“The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.”
He said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon,
“Do you see this woman?
When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet,
but she has bathed them with her tears
and wiped them with her hair.
You did not give me a kiss,
but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.
You did not anoint my head with oil,
but she anointed my feet with ointment.
So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven;
hence, she has shown great love.
But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”
He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The others at table said to themselves,
“Who is this who even forgives sins?”
But he said to the woman,
“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

If you look deep into this story Jesus tells today at Mass, there are “two people” involved here, God and each of us.  Now God does not measure out His love for us; He does not love us because..., or when..., or if..., He just simply loves us at least as steadily and strongly as the sun shines.  It is us, the other people involved, who limit how much of His love we allow to enter our lives and change us.

God's forgiveness is always there, ready for us to take as much of as we want to or can.  We should not be waiting for God to forgive us, so I think we must be waiting to have the courage to love and accept love as much as this woman does today in the gospel.

Where are we in our relationships with God?  Are we waiting for some revelation, some amazing event, or anything else of that sort before we can (or will try to) actually believe in God's affection and concern for us?  Are we actually waiting for some proof of God's forgiveness, even after Christ's bloody death, before we let God's love change us?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Status quo, you know, that is Latin for ''the mess we're in.'

I won't tell you that the world matters nothing, or the world's voice, or the voice of society. They matter a good deal. They matter far too much. But there are moments when one has to choose between living one's own life, fully, entirely, completely—or dragging out some false, shallow, degrading existence that the world in its hypocrisy demands. You have that moment now. Choose!” ―  Oscar Wilde: (1854 – 1900: Irish author, playwright and poet)
Gospel Text:  (Lk 7:31-35)
Jesus said to the crowds:
“To what shall I compare the people of this generation?
What are they like?
They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another,

‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance.
We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.’

For John the Baptist came neither eating food nor drinking wine,
and you said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’
The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said,
‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’
But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”

When I reflect on this passage, in 2015, it means something much different to me than it might have meant to the author and listeners when it was written almost 2,000 years ago.  “Children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another” evokes images of a Starbucks with people on their electronic devices, tapping away, oblivious to all that is going on around them.  And the image I take from the statements these children might be making is that they (the people) judge Jesus (and John before him) not based on the truth contained in what Jesus and John actually were doing, but on what the people conveniently (shallowly) judged them to be doing.

These verses are a reminder to me to avoid shallow distractions.

For today, let’s not be the generation Jesus speaks of in the readings as children focused on what isn’t while in the presence of the magnificence of what is.  Let’s know we have enough; let’s behave ourselves “in the household of God;” let’s be joyfully humbled by how “undeniably great is the mystery of devotion,” and thank God, yes, thank God, for however long we have life, that we have had it at all.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

“Recite your Rosary with faith, with humility, with confidence, and with perseverance.”

“Even if you are on the brink of damnation, even if you have one foot in hell, even if you have sold your soul to the devil as sorcerers do who practice black magic, and even if you are a heretic as obstinate as a devil, sooner or later you will be converted and will amend your life and will save your soul, if—and mark well what I say—if you say the Holy Rosary devoutly every day until death for the purpose of knowing the truth and obtaining contrition and pardon for your sins.” - Saint Louis de Montfort: (1673 – 1716: French Roman Catholic priest and Confessor)

Gospel Text:  (Jn 19:25-27)

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother
and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary Magdalene.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved
he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”
Then he said to the disciple,
“Behold, your mother.”
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

Let me stand and mourn with you, O Mother standing ’neath the Cross, your loving eyes gazing up at your bleeding Son.  You saw your Son condemned to die like a common criminal; you heard them free a thief instead.  You watched him fall ’neath the weight of the beam placed across his torn shoulders after the whipping he received.  You wanted to run to him, to take away his crown of thorns, and to kiss his wounds, if only they would have let you near him.  You saw them nail him to the cross and toss dice for his cloak.  You watched him cry in agony. You stood by Him.  Even as your tears fell.

Let me stand and mourn with you, O Mother.  Through your Son’s life you bore the pain. He was destined to be a sign that would be contradicted, and yes, Simeon was right; the sword did pierce your heart.  With the little babe in your arms, Joseph and you fled to save him from being slaughtered.  When the Child was missing for three days, you found him in his Father’s house.  When your own kinsfolk thought he was out of his mind, you went looking for him.  You pondered all these in your heart.  You stood by Him.  Even as your tears fell.

Let me stand and mourn with you, O Mother.  Permit me to mingle my tears with yours.  Allow me to share your grief.  Let me learn to feel as you do.  Help me understand the depth of His love for me, a sinner.  Foster in me the urgency to reach out to those in anguish.  Remove the complacency in me so that I become sensitive to the needs of others.  Let me hear these words everyday: “Woman, behold your son.”  For he died for me.  And you stood by Him.  Even as your tears fell.

Monday, September 14, 2015

“People to whom sin is just a matter of words, to them salvation is just words too.”

“We sinned for no reason but an incomprehensible lack of love, and He saved us for no reason but an incomprehensible excess of love.”― Peter Kreeft: (Professor of philosophy at Boston College)

Gospel Text:  (Jn 3:13-17)
Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.
And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.

In John’s Gospel we find an extraordinary verse that is often flashed on handheld placards at various sporting events as “Jn 3:16”.  In this single verse we discover the very heart and summary of the proclamation of our salvation.  We are loved by God and we are saved by God’s beloved Son so that we might not die but live forever.

It doesn’t get any better than that when we speak of the Gospel as being the Good News of Jesus Christ, does it?

Friday, September 11, 2015

God refuses only the person who does not admit his own weakness; He sends away only the proud person.

The proud person is like a grain of wheat thrown into water: it swells, it gets big. Expose that grain to the fire: it dries up, it burns. The humble soul is like a grain of wheat thrown into the earth: it descends, it hides itself, it disappears, it dies; but to revive in heaven. 
--Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified: (1846 – 1878: A Melkite Carmelite nun known as "The Little Arab")

Gospel Text: (Lk 6:39-42)
Jesus told his disciples a parable:
“Can a blind person guide a blind person?
Will not both fall into a pit?
No disciple is superior to the teacher;
but when fully trained,
every disciple will be like his teacher.
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?
How can you say to your brother,
‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’
when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye?
You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.”

Why is it that our vision is 20-20 when it comes to seeing the faults of others, but we wear blinders when it comes to noticing our own?  We just don’t see them, so maybe they don’t exist.  Or so we fool ourselves.

In today’s gospel, Jesus challenges us with the question: “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?”  The answer, as painful as it may be, is that our faults are huge logs; the faults of others are splinters in comparison.
Perhaps the first step in removing the beam from our own eye requires being aware that it’s there.  Perhaps Jesus is teaching us that the first task of a disciple is self-examination, to be aware of our blind spot.  Could it be that this is what Jesus meant when he began his ministry in his hometown of Nazareth in the synagogue?  It was there, in quoting Isaiah, that he announced the in-breaking of the reign of God.
“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” (Lk 4:18-19).
Sadly, it was there in Nazareth – in blindness – that Jesus was first rejected.
Nevertheless, all the hopes and expectations promised in the Old Testament are being fulfilled in Jesus.  The reign of God is breaking into the world.  It cannot be stopped.  How then are the disciples of Jesus – including us – to live in response to this divine rule?  We begin by becoming aware of the beam in our own eye, our spiritual blindness.   And in humbly acknowledging our blindness, Jesus will restore our sight.  The great restoration is underway.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

"He that does good for good's sake seeks neither paradise nor reward, but he is sure of both in the end."

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are successful,
you will win some false friends and some true enemies. Succeed anyway. If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you. Be honest and frank anyway. What you spend years building,
someone could destroy overnight. Build anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give the best you've got anyway. You see, in the final analysis it is between you and God; it was never between you and them anyway. – Mother Teresa: (Catholic nun and foundress of the Missionaries of Charity)

Gospel Text: (Lk 6:27-38)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“To you who hear I say, love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you.
To the person who strikes you on one cheek,
offer the other one as well,
and from the person who takes your cloak,
do not withhold even your tunic.
Give to everyone who asks of you,
and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
For if you love those who love you,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners love those who love them.
And if you do good to those who do good to you,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners do the same.
If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners lend to sinners,
and get back the same amount.
But rather, love your enemies and do good to them,
and lend expecting nothing back;
then your reward will be great
and you will be children of the Most High,
for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful.

“Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.”

After reading today’s gospel from Mass, I am reminded of the motto of the Jesuits to do everything for the greater glory of God.  If I can keep this in mind, then my actions and my words will ring true.  I sometimes have to ask myself about my motives for doing things especially when my feelings are hurt for being ignored while others are complimented.  Am I doing these things to serve God?  Did I serve God with these actions?  If I can answer yes to these questions, then I should be satisfied.  While I may be stung temporarily by the slight or carelessness of others, I can refocus on the true purpose of my actions and remind myself that my Father knows my name and what I am doing.  It is not about me, rather about serving Him and serving Him with love and gratitude!

Ah, but that takes too much time and effort in our society. We have to look out for ourselves. We have to be “happy”. We have to focus on our own needs and make sure the people around us can fill them. Love is too demanding. The Gospel is too difficult and unrealistic. And Christ is crucified again. – Sadly, does this sound familiar?

The words of St Paul in the first reading at today’s Mass (Col 3:12-17) say it best:

“singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.

If we love one another,
God remains in us,
and his love is brought to perfection in us.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing”

“The joy promised by the Beatitudes is the very joy of Jesus himself: a joy sought and found in obedience to the Father and in the gift of self to others. By looking at Jesus you will learn what it means to be poor in spirit, meek and merciful; what it means to seek justice, to be pure in heart, to be peacemakers.” St. Pope John Paul II: (Welcoming Address at World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto, Canada)

Gospel Text: (Lk 6:20-26)

Raising his eyes toward his disciples Jesus said:

“Blessed are you who are poor,
for the Kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.

Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.
For their ancestors treated the prophets
in the same way.

But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
But woe to you who are filled now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will grieve and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.”

It’s not about circumstances. Being born poor or being born rich will not determine whether we get to heaven or not. I was born middle class – where would that put me? Neither here nor there? A poor person could still end up in Hell or a rich one in heaven based on choices. The rich man who is greedy, selfish and ruthless is not going to find salvation, but the charitable one might. Rich man, poor man, Greek or Roman, whoever puts away what is evil, angry, and selfish and chooses to live a charitable compassionate life will find salvation in the next.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

“Faith, hope, love: these are the supports of St. Joseph's life and of all Christian lives.”

St. Joseph was chosen among all men, to be the protector and guardian of the Virgin Mother of God; the defender and foster-father of the Infant-God, and the only co-operator upon earth, the one confidant of the secret of God in the work of the redemption of mankind. - St. Bernard of Clairvaux: (1090 – 1153: French abbot and the primary builder of the reforming Cistercian order)
Gospel Text: (Mt 1:18-23)
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.”
All this took place to fulfill
what the Lord had said through the prophet:

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,

which means “God is with us.”

Today is the Nativity of Mary, but Joseph, unassuming Joseph, is where I would like to focus this reflection on. I confess that I always imagine him as the figure from the Nativity set that held a place of honor on my family’s mantel every Christmas.  As a child, I loved placing the little figures around the manger along with the sheep, the cow and the donkey with part of one leg missing.  I always imagine him as a quiet man, sawing and hammering and working carefully with wood to build things. Patient. Steadfast. The person you can depend on. Someone who makes the best of a situation. The person you want in your family. In the Gospel, we learn that Joseph was going to do the right thing, quietly when he learned Mary was with child before they lived together. An angel delivers the news that this is the one who will save people from their sins, saying don’t be afraid.  That’s tough advice. We are often afraid of what we don’t know, what we don’t understand. The depth of Joseph’s faith, his steadfastness and courage come through. He did the right thing.

We all need to be more like Joseph in our families and in our lives. We should try to be that person who is patient in the face of frustration and problems. We should try to be steadfast, to sing of the Lord as in today’s Psalm: “He has been good to me” even when life is not going as we have planned. We know the right thing to do, but sometimes we are swayed off that path. We each have a long line of family ties and circles of friends who help form us everyday. But it is up to us to continually build our lives and our relationship with God, to work at becoming the people we are born to be in the love of God. It takes a lot of hammering and sawing. Be patient. Be steadfast.

Friday, September 4, 2015

When you are through changing, you are through.

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” ― Mother Teresa: (1910 – 1997: Founded the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata)

Gospel Text: (Lk 5:33-39)
The scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus,
“The disciples of John the Baptist fast often and offer prayers,
and the disciples of the Pharisees do the same;
but yours eat and drink.”
Jesus answered them, “Can you make the wedding guests fast
while the bridegroom is with them?
But the days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
then they will fast in those days.”
And he also told them a parable.
“No one tears a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one.
Otherwise, he will tear the new
and the piece from it will not match the old cloak.
Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins.
Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins,
and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined.
Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.
And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new,
for he says, ‘The old is good.’”

The “good old” Scribes and Pharisees:  today’s Gospel continues the saga of their confronting Jesus with legalistic formalism…and so little heart!  “Your disciples don’t fast and pray…yours eat and drink.”  Detailed regulations rather than helping a neighbor in distress…or even rejoicing with the Bridegroom.
Jesus met this issue head on and wanted to show that Love is the essence of religion, that regulations are valid only if God’s purposes are served.  Jesus asked more of his disciples:  to follow his example, and love God with one’s whole being, and to love one’s neighbor as He did — a much more demanding life response than a fasting from food and drink!  A new cloak…a new batch of wine…
As contemporary disciples, we are invited to think “outside the box”. Pope Francis is inviting us to see life differently.  The Spirit is alive in our midst!  The Church is a community of believers!  Our liturgical prayer invites and requires our full and active participation!  Our Baptism calls everyone to a life-long discipleship / involvement in the Church, fulfilling their particular vocation!  Our faith life is more than what you do (or don’t) eat or drink.  A new cloak…a new batch of wine…