Thursday, October 29, 2015

“Let nothing perturb you, nothing frighten you. All things pass ...”

“I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish He didn't trust me so much.”
--Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta: (Foundress of the Missionaries of Charity)
Gospel Text: (Lk 13:31-35)
Some Pharisees came to Jesus and said,
“Go away, leave this area because Herod wants to kill you.”
He replied, “Go and tell that fox,
‘Behold, I cast out demons and I perform healings today and tomorrow,
and on the third day I accomplish my purpose.
Yet I must continue on my way today, tomorrow, and the following day,
for it is impossible that a prophet should die
outside of Jerusalem.’

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you,
how many times I yearned to gather your children together
as a hen gathers her brood under her wings,
but you were unwilling!
Behold, your house will be abandoned.
But I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say,
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Before a building is erected, plans are drawn up. Construction proceeds in an established order so that a sturdy, safe edifice takes form. Similarly, God has plans. He has a plan for your life, your neighbor’s life, and for the life of every human being. In its most general form, that plan involves our cooperating with him in accomplishing his desires, purposes, and goals. He delights in it, actually, for he knows that his plan will proceed according to his intentions—even if we can’t see how at this point.

Jesus trusted in God’s plan. He was secure in what he was about, where he was to go, and what he was to do. He was confident that his Father would protect him—that he would not die outside Jerusalem—and he was unwilling to turn from this plan simply because Herod (or anyone else) tried to scare him away.

Few of us live in that kind of long-range certainty, but we can have some assurance of what God wants for us today. Ask him first thing in the morning, “How do you want me to live today?” Pause for a few moments and give him time to answer. He may give you one word, such as “peace” or “hope.” Or he may bring to mind a relationship that needs a little bit of work. Or he may guide you to think about how you can show compassion to a particular co-worker. Most of the time, the answer will revolve around your daily duties and responsibilities. And so you do them, confident in what you’re about. Ask the Spirit to make you resolute and unwilling to turn aside from his established plan for your life.

But sometimes, God has a surprise agenda. Trust him! Let the Spirit guide and direct you.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

“Experience has taught me this, that we undo ourselves by impatience.”

“The strongest of all warriors are these two — Time and Patience.”  - Leo Tolstoy: (1828 – 1910: Russian novelist)
Gospel Text: (Luke 6:12-16)
Jesus went up to the mountain to pray,
and he spent the night in prayer to God.
When day came, he called his disciples to himself,
and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles:
Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew,
James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew,
Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus,
Simon who was called a Zealot,
and Judas the son of James,
and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
At first the gospel reading was a little unclear, but then I realized Christ was praying for guidance as He chose the Apostles.  He spent the night praying to discern who among the many disciples should be chosen as the true first ministers and ambassadors.  The story reminds me of how many times in my own life I have NOT followed what I know I should do in making important decisions. 

Many times I make quick decisions on issues that deserve more deliberation.  I might be in a hurry, or I might be under pressure to move something along, or to be expedient, or I haven’t even taken enough time to determine if the issue was important.  I get impatient with process and the prayer needed to fully discern what the aspects are of the issue, and how I should proceed.  I may be pre-disposed, and unwilling to admit it.  My concerns with what is directly in front of me at that moment outweighs what I know in my heart should be considered as I make a choice.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

“All leadership in the Kingdom of God is by example.”

“Modern prophets say that our economics have failed us. No! It is not our economics which have failed; it is man who has failed-man who has forgotten God. Hence no manner of economic or political readjustment can possibly save our civilization; we can be saved only by a renovation of the inner man, only by a purging of our hearts and souls; for only by seeking first the Kingdom of God and His Justice will all these other things be added unto us.” ― Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, The Prodigal World

Gospel Text: (Lk 13:18-21)
Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like?
To what can I compare it?
It is like a mustard seed that a man took and planted in the garden.
When it was fully grown, it became a large bush
and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.”

Again he said, “To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God?
It is like yeast that a woman took
and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour
until the whole batch of dough was leavened.”

In the Gospel, Jesus offers two analogies for the Kingdom of God.  He speaks of the effect of yeast in flour to leaven bread and to dramatically increase its size.  It is easy to see the effect when we leave rolls or bread in a warm environment usually letting the dough double in size or more. 

The Kingdom will expand us well beyond what we can even imagine if we open our heart to it. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

“Truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy.”

The world is full of fools and faint hearts; and yet everyone has courage enough to bear the misfortunes, and wisdom enough to manage the affairs, of his neighbor. ~Benjamin Franklin: (1705 – 1790: Was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America)
Gospel Text: (Lk 13:10-17)
Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath.
And a woman was there who for eighteen years
had been crippled by a spirit;
she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect.
When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said,
“Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.”
He laid his hands on her,
and she at once stood up straight and glorified God.
But the leader of the synagogue,
indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath,
said to the crowd in reply,
“There are six days when work should be done.
Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day.”
The Lord said to him in reply, “Hypocrites!
Does not each one of you on the sabbath
untie his ox or his ass from the manger
and lead it out for watering?
This daughter of Abraham,
whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now,
ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day
from this bondage?”
When he said this, all his adversaries were humiliated;
and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him.

I would like to center this commentary upon the leader of the synagogue’s attitude in today’s gospel text. I have always been surprised at how, before an evident miracle, there is always someone who is able to close his eyes in such a way that he remains totally unconcerned. Had he not seen what happened or what it means, it would be the same.

This attitude of the religious authorities of Jesus’ time caused them to live a rigorous religious experience, shutting down their god within strict limits. They manufactured a custom-made god, which they did not let into their lives. In the practice of their faith they believed all was well provided they stayed within certain rules. We can, thus, understand Jesus' reaction: «You hypocrites! Everyone of you unties his ox or his donkey on the Sabbath and leads it out of the barn to give it water?» (Lk 13:15). Jesus uncovers the absurdity of this incorrect interpretation of what “Keeping the Sabbath” means and thus reveals the lesson which we all should contemplate when we place the love of “keeping the rules” ahead of the love of God and neighbor.

God's words today should help us to examine our own religious experience and to find out whether the practices we use actually bring us into communication with God and our neighbor.

Friday, October 23, 2015

“The law detects, grace alone conquers sin.”

“For grace is given not because we have done good works, but in order that we may be able to do them.” - Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430: Convert  and Bishop)

Scripture Text: (ROM 7:18-25A)
Brothers and sisters:
I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh.
The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not.
For I do not do the good I want,
but I do the evil I do not want.
Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it,
but sin that dwells in me.
So, then, I discover the principle
that when I want to do right, evil is at hand.
For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self,
but I see in my members another principle
at war with the law of my mind,
taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
Miserable one that I am!
Who will deliver me from this mortal body?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

St Paul’s epistle to the Romans is considered the most profound of all his epistles. The breadth of themes and the depth to which he explores them is profound. Today’s First Reading from the seventh chapter of Romans explores how the human person experiences division within himself. St. Paul describes this as “the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand.”

Perhaps the most intriguing phrase in today’s First Reading is St. Paul’s admission that “I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.” His words call out the division in fallen man between what the “I” wants, and what it wills. This is not a mere putting of one’s wants and desires to the side, and acting in spite of them. St. Paul speaks of what modern thought might term a “compulsion” that drives the ego. However, he ascribes this acting out of evil the work of “sin that dwells in me.”

St. Paul is not seeking to cast blame away from himself. He’s not trying to say, “The devil made me do it.” He does indeed admit that this struggle is within his very self: “I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin”. Regardless of how fierce this struggle is, or how deep the division it causes, the remedy is clear and at hand. St. Paul’s entire epistle to the Romans is full of thanksgiving to God for the grace of Christ our Savior.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

“Truth is within ourselves.”

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened. - WINSTON CHURCHILL: (1874 –1965: British statesman)

Gospel Text: (LK 12:49-53)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,
and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.
From now on a household of five will be divided,
three against two and two against three;
a father will be divided against his son
and a son against his father,
a mother against her daughter
and a daughter against her mother,
a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

Jesus in today’s gospel is talking about a commitment so intense that He aches for it to be fulfilled with every fiber of His being.  What commitment?  Jesus came to be our Savior.  His commitment is to fulfill that promise to redeem us which God made in ages past.  Jesus is here to reveal that God is true to His promises, God fulfills His promises.  As the journey toward Jerusalem continues from this point forward in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus sees Himself moving headlong into a fray that will result in His violent and unjust sufferings and death.  All who follow Him and announce the Good News of salvation by their words and lives will follow in His footsteps.  That intense commitment will inevitably cause others to question, reject, move away from, and even become hostile toward one who is faithful to the commitment.  Jesus will experience it.  He warns the early disciples they will experience it – and they did.  He warns us we will experience it in our own lives – and we sometimes do.  If we “enslave” ourselves through baptism to the Good News of salvation and announce it with joy, we very well may experience division and enmity on the part of others but the Word will be out there.  It is an “enslavement” of love and of joy to God and God’s kingdom.  No crashing here – only a union and labor of love that can never be broken or set aside no matter what storms arise.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The world asks: “What does a person own?” God asks, “How does a person use what he or she has been given?”

“When you become detached mentally from yourself and concentrate on helping other people with their difficulties, you will be able to cope with your own more effectively. Somehow, the act of self-giving is a personal power-releasing factor.”– Norman Vincent Peale: (1898 – 1993: Minister and Author)

Gospel Text: (LK 12:39-48)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be sure of this:
if the master of the house had known the hour
when the thief was coming,
he would not have let his house be broken into.
You also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

Then Peter said,
“Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?”
And the Lord replied,
“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward
whom the master will put in charge of his servants
to distribute the food allowance at the proper time?
Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.
Truly, I say to you, he will put him
in charge of all his property.
But if that servant says to himself,
‘My master is delayed in coming,’
and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants,
to eat and drink and get drunk,
then that servant’s master will come
on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour
and will punish the servant severely
and assign him a place with the unfaithful.
That servant who knew his master’s will
but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will
shall be beaten severely;
and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will
but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating
shall be beaten only lightly.
Much will be required of the person entrusted with much,
and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

St. Luke the Evangelist presents many “stewardship parables”. Today’s Gospel passage offers two, one much longer than the other. The upshot of both is an explicit moral that lets no Christian off easily: “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” How do these words apply to an “ordinary” Christian?

First off no Christian is “ordinary”. At the moment of a person’s baptism, God infuses grace into that adopted child’s soul. The graces given include the divine virtues of faith, hope and charity. God entrusts this grace to his adopted child. Consider this fact in light of Jesus’ words at the end of today’s Gospel passage. God entrusts His own divine life to His adopted children. And of course, the graces received at Baptism are but the “first installment” of our inheritance. As we continue to grow as His children, God continues to bestow grace upon us through the sacraments and prayer.

“Much will be required of the person entrusted with much”. What will be required of us, then, as sharers in the divine life? Are you a “faithful and prudent steward”? Both of these virtues—fidelity and prudence—are required to be stewards of the graces that God gives us. Both help keep our attention on our Master: the beginning and end of all the graces of our lives.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

“We may be born equal but we do not prepare equally...”

'Can you expect to go to Heaven for nothing? Did not our dear Savior track the whole way to it with His Blood and tears?' - St. Elizabeth Ann Seton: (1774 – 1821: The first native-born citizen of the United States to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church)

Gospel Text: (LK 12:35-38)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Gird your loins and light your lamps
and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding,
ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.
Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.
Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself,
have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.
And should he come in the second or third watch
and find them prepared in this way,
blessed are those servants.”

Perhaps you’ve heard the old adage, “Always begin with your end in mind.” “End” in this case refers to one’s goal. Many people, of course, wander through life aimlessly, but Christians are meant to have Heaven as their goal, or end. In this case, repeating that adage to ourselves each day helps us to live each day for God, by recalling that we can only get to Heaven by living out our faith in God. This way of thinking approximates what Jesus is getting at in His parable.

However, there’s an immediacy to Jesus’ parable that’s missing in that adage. His parable reminds us of a sobering fact: that we know not the day nor the hour when our lives will end. The Master may come at an unexpected time. Therefore, we need not only always to be focused, but also to be vigilant, as the end we have in mind may confront us today.