Sunday, July 31, 2016

“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”

Gospel Text: (LK 12:13-21)
Someone in the crowd said to Jesus,
“Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”
He replied to him,
“Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?”
Then he said to the crowd,
“Take care to guard against all greed,
for though one may be rich,
one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

Then he told them a parable.
“There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.
He asked himself, ‘What shall I do,
for I do not have space to store my harvest?’
And he said, ‘This is what I shall do:
I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.
There I shall store all my grain and other goods
and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you,
you have so many good things stored up for many years,
rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’
But God said to him,
‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’
Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves
but are not rich in what matters to God.”

Money is not the issue, and, as Pope Francis said,” Money contributes greatly to many good works for the development of the human race.”  But, he notes the real problem is a distorted use of money, attachment and greed.  As Jesus cautions today, “Take heed and beware of all covetousness.”

“How many families have we seen destroyed by problems over money: brother against brother; father against sons?,” Pope Francis asked.  “When a person is attached to money he destroys himself, he destroys his family.”

St. Ignatius of Loyola perceptively named the failings of our human nature and how easily we slip into greed and the dangers of wealth. Our fears about being secure in the future and our unwillingness to trust in God can prevent us from sharing what resources we have.

Psalm 90 tells us, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart,” we are told.  “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” 

Once again, “One’s life does not consist of possessions,” Jesus cautions today in the gospel and yet how easily we can forget that. Our riches, honors and pride, our need for “success”, can lead us to become too busy to listen to God’s voice in our life each day. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

“In the furnace of fire, gold and silver are refined. - In the furnace of affliction, we are refined and purified.”

Gospel Text: (JN 11:19-27)
Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother [Lazarus, who had died].
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”

Surprisingly, in John’s gospel it is a woman who is the prophetic voice.  It is Martha, not Peter in John’s Gospel that acknowledges the messiahship of Jesus.  And it is worth adding, her acknowledgment and praise of Jesus isn’t done in the context of the most wonderful day in her life.  It is done on one of the saddest days when Lazarus, whom she loves so deeply, has died.

Today, on the feast of St. Martha, I think we can draw courage from this woman who personally knew the redemption of Christ.  Jesus challenges her to put her hope, not in some future event, but in him in the present moment.  I think this is important.  For frequently I find people who believe God did mighty and creative things in the past and can believe God will have mighty acts in the future, but really struggle to see God in the today.  And if God does act today, they tend to see God in those things that they deem to be “worthy”:  a blooming flower, a smiling child.  Martha’s challenge to us is to see and trust in the here and now, even when we are having a bad day.  Even in the midst of sadness and sorrow, can we discover a redeeming messiah? 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”

Gospel Text: (LK 11:1-13)
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished,
one of his disciples said to him,
"Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples."
He said to them, "When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test."

And he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend
to whom he goes at midnight and says,
'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey
and I have nothing to offer him,'
and he says in reply from within,
'Do not bother me; the door has already been locked
and my children and I are already in bed.
I cannot get up to give you anything.'
I tell you,
if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves
because of their friendship,
he will get up to give him whatever he needs
because of his persistence.

"And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
What father among you would hand his son a snake
when he asks for a fish?
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven
give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?"

When we knock on the door to God's heart seeking help for our inadequacies, the Father gives us his fully adequate Holy Spirit. And that's not all we get! Whenever we pray, this Holy Spirit connects us to the Father and to Jesus. Therefore, every prayer increases our holiness, brings us closer to God and empowers us to be more like Jesus. But holiness does not come quickly nor easily. We must be persistent in our prayer lives. We must continually rely on God's Spirit in order to resist temptations and grow in faith.

No matter what we ask God to share with us, including the material things that we need or desire, God wants to use it to nourish our souls. This is what we ask for when we pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." Be persistent. Receiving God's bread usually doesn't happen overnight (we're slow learners).

A question to reflect on: How much do you rely on the Holy Spirit's help in your daily life?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

By our fruits we will be known, not by what name we have called ourselves.

Gospel Text: (MT 13:24-30)
Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds.
“The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man
who sowed good seed in his field.
While everyone was asleep his enemy came
and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.
When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.
The slaves of the householder came to him and said,
‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?
Where have the weeds come from?’
He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’
His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds
you might uproot the wheat along with them.
Let them grow together until harvest;
then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters,
“First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;
but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

Weeds are an inescapable part of our being, growing alongside our good wheat.  Jesus came to show us how to be more wheat than weed, how to be stronger in our “wheatness” than in our “weediness”.  When we nourish our wheat, giving all its manifestations the love it needs to prosper, there is less room for our weeds to flourish. We don’t need to so much pull out the weeds (although clearly we do at times) but make the wheat so strong that the weeds wither and die.  Then, at the final harvest, our wheat will be dominant and our weeds will be minimal.

And so my prayer today is for the grace to cultivate my wheat.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Repentance lifts a man up. Mourning knocks at heaven's gate. Holy humility opens it.

Gospel Text: (JN 20:1-2, 11-18)
On the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”

Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.
And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “They have taken my Lord,
and I don’t know where they laid him.”
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?”
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
“Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew,
“Rabbouni,” which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her,
“Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
‘I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.’”
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he told her.

On the feast of Saint Mary Magdalene, we might want to begin our reflection with the request , “Would the real Mary Magdalene please stand up !”  I think back on all of the various stories I heard of Mary while I was growing up.  She was a great sinner.  She was a repentant prostitute.  She was possessed by seven devils.  She was a follower of Jesus in His ministry.  She was a disciple.  She was totally loyal, even to the Cross and burial of the Lord.  She was the first to receive the revelation of the resurrection.  All of these and more were said of Mary Magdalene.  Will the real Mary please stand up ?

In the Easter account of John’s gospel.  Mary is the FIRST to receive the revelation “He is Risen.”  She is overjoyed and rushes to embrace His feet.  Jesus stops her not because she was “a sinful woman”  with a past, but because she had followed Jesus in life and now Jesus was preparing her to follow Him in faith.  At that moment, Mary’s faith becomes firm and she becomes the Apostle to the Apostles, the first to hear the Good News and the FIRST sent by the Lord to announce the Good News to the other apostles.

Today’s scriptures invite us to understand Mary Magdalene as a woman of great love, intense desire to stand by the Lord, and a disciple of unwavering loyalty, dedication and faith..

I believe the real Mary Magdalene just stood up!!!