Wednesday, August 31, 2016

“Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us.”

“I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful ... I see the church as a field hospital after battle.” - Pope Francis | September 30, 2013, interview, America magazine

Gospel Text: (LK 4:38-44)
After Jesus left the synagogue, he entered the house of Simon.
Simon’s mother-in-law was afflicted with a severe fever,
and they interceded with him about her.
He stood over her, rebuked the fever, and it left her.
She got up immediately and waited on them.

At sunset, all who had people sick with various diseases
brought them to him.
He laid his hands on each of them and cured them.
And demons also came out from many, shouting, “You are the Son of God.”
But he rebuked them and did not allow them to speak
because they knew that he was the Christ.

At daybreak, Jesus left and went to a deserted place.
The crowds went looking for him, and when they came to him,
they tried to prevent him from leaving them.
But he said to them, “To the other towns also
I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God,
because for this purpose I have been sent.”
And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.


Cure.  Restore.  Purify.  Renew.  Mend.  Remedy.  Repair.  Put right.  Rehabilitate.  Rejuvenate.  Reinvigorate.  Resuscitate.  Reconcile.  Treat.  Minister to.  Settle.  Patch up.  Put right.  Compose.  Appease.  Recuperate.  Pacify.  Soften.  Clean.  Cleanse.  Purge.  Recover.  Make well.

When I read through that list, I’m shocked at how many different ways we can look at what needs transformation.

How many times have we faced something which seemed hopeless?  How many times have we been impatient with God, or failed to understand his plan and timing?  I know I sure have… and a lot.  And yet, through everything we do and in the midst of every trial, there He is, walking with us on the road toward all that needs raising.

So seek out God.  Bring your brokenness to Jesus.  Cry out loudly.  Whatever it takes, whatever you need to do, do it.  God is there, waiting.  He’ll drop what he’s doing and will walk with you, because there’s enough of Him to go around for us all.  Sometimes we get what we hope for.  But, we may not get the answers immediately – only in God’s time.  We may not even get the particular salvation we’re after – only God’s plan. 

Even when it seems hopeless, it’s not too late.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

"If we understood the power of our thoughts, we would guard them more closely. If we understood the awesome power of our words, we would prefer silence to almost anything negative.”

Kind words do not cost much. They never blister the tongue or lips. They make other people good-natured. They also produce their own image on men’s souls, and a beautiful image it is.
- Blaise Pascal: (1623 – 1662: was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Christian philosopher)

Gospel Text: (Luke 4:31-3)
Jesus went down to Capernaum, a town of Galilee.
He taught them on the sabbath,
and they were astonished at his teaching
because he spoke with authority.
In the synagogue there was a man with the spirit of an unclean demon,
and he cried out in a loud voice,
“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are–the Holy One of God!”
Jesus rebuked him and said, “Be quiet! Come out of him!”
Then the demon threw the man down in front of them
and came out of him without doing him any harm.
They were all amazed and said to one another,
“What is there about his word?
For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits,
and they come out.”
And news of him spread everywhere in the surrounding region.

Words can amuse and anger, bless and course, charm and repel, heal and hurt, unite and sever.  Words have power.  Words change things.

Words gave birth to a new nation: “We hold these truths…”  Words led to the death of millions in World War II: “Zieg Heil,”

Before an altar the words, “I do,” are spoken, and a man and woman become one in the sacrament of Marriage.

During Mass words are spoken over bread and wine: “This is my body.  This is my blood.”   And we adore the body and blood of Christ.

In the sacrament of Reconciliation, words are spoken: “I absolve you from your sins…”  And a lifetime of guilt is removed.

In today’s gospel, Jesus spoke:  “Come out of him.” And the unclean spirit left the possessed man.  The people wondered, “What is there about his (Jesus’) word?”

Yes, there was power in Jesus’ words.  And now, by baptism we are the living “words” of Jesus.  He sends us forth, scattering us about as a farmer scatters seeds all over a field.

We are to choose carefully the words we speak.  We are to choose words of love: “Welcome.” “How can I help?” “I believe in you.” “I’m sorry.” “I forgive you.” “Keep up the good work.” “Thank you.” “Tell me more.” “We can work this out.” “You’re beautiful.” “God bless you.”

If our words soothe and heal, give support and encouragement, build community and express the truth, Jesus’ power will continue to be manifested in our time through each of us.

Monday, August 29, 2016

“Don't bend; don't water it down; don't try to make it logical; don't edit your own soul according to the fashion.”

“An un-believed truth can hurt a man much more than a lie. It takes great courage to back truth unacceptable to our times. There's a punishment for it, and it's usually crucifixion.” ― John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Gospel Text: (MK 6:17-29)
Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison
on account of Herodias,
the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married.
John had said to Herod,
“It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
Herodias harbored a grudge against him
and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so.
Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man,
and kept him in custody.
When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed,
yet he liked to listen to him.
She had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday,
gave a banquet for his courtiers,
his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee.
Herodias’ own daughter came in
and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests.
The king said to the girl,
“Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.”
He even swore many things to her,
“I will grant you whatever you ask of me,
even to half of my kingdom.”
She went out and said to her mother,
“What shall I ask for?”
She replied, “The head of John the Baptist.”
The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request,
“I want you to give me at once
on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”
The king was deeply distressed,
but because of his oaths and the guests
he did not wish to break his word to her.
So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders
to bring back his head.
He went off and beheaded him in the prison.
He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl.
The girl in turn gave it to her mother.
When his disciples heard about it,
they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

In today's Gospel reading, God fails to protect John the Baptist. Was it because John didn't pray for protection? He probably did! So why was he killed if not because God abandoned him? Perhaps he had strayed from God's will? No. Herod killed him while John was doing the Lord's work.

Based on this, we might surmise that working for God is not safe. It sure seems so whenever we take an unpopular stand on the truth. Let's be honest. We prefer to feel comfortable. We avoid situations that might result in persecution. We tend to be people-pleasers instead of God-pleasers, so that others will like us and approve of us.

Today the Church celebrates the martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist. He died because he spoke the truth when it would have been easier to lie. How did he get so strong? How did he get to be strong enough to speak the truth, even when he knew speaking the truth might mean the end of his life?

The answer is simple – John the Baptist prayed and practiced penance. And if we do the same with consistency, we to will stand up for and speak the truth in season and out of season.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

"Pride is concerned with who is right. Humility is concerned with what is right."

If we were but conscious of our own utter littleness, we would not dare look with contempt on the smallest atom in the world. ~ Charles Lanman: (1850 –1941: was an American scholar)

Gospel Text: (LK 14:1, 7-14)
On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees,
and the people there were observing him carefully.

He told a parable to those who had been invited,
noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet,
do not recline at table in the place of honor.
A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him,
and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say,
‘Give your place to this man,’
and then you would proceed with embarrassment
to take the lowest place.
Rather, when you are invited,
go and take the lowest place
so that when the host comes to you he may say,
‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’
Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.
For every one who exalts himself will be humbled,
but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Then he said to the host who invited him,
“When you hold a lunch or a dinner,
do not invite your friends or your brothers
or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors,
in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.
Rather, when you hold a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind;
blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.
For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

The way of union with God is the way of humility, a lesson taught to us by Jesus not just by his teaching but by his very life.  Paul summarizes this beautifully in his letter to the Philippians:

"Though being divine in nature, he did not claim equality with God, but emptied himself, taking on the nature of a servant, made in human likeness, and in his appearance found as a man.  He humbled himself by being obedient to death, death on the cross. That is why God exalted him and gave him the Name which outshines all names.  " (Phil 2: 6 – 9)

Seeing how the dinner guests prefer the places of honor, Jesus' words and parable in the Gospel reading teach us about true humility.  Jesus teaches us to see ourselves as how we really are; better Jesus teaches us to see ourselves as God sees us.  

Friday, August 26, 2016

One of life's most painful moments comes when we must admit that we didn't do our homework, that we are not prepared.

Gospel Text: (MT 25:1-13)
Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish ones said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise ones replied,
‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.
Then the door was locked.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
But he said in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

This passage is a parable Jesus told to illustrate a certain truth about his Second Coming. The parable itself is a little masterpiece, with each detail adding a piece of crucial information. As I have studied this parable, I have been struck by one phrase in verse 10: “And the door was shut.” There is an awful finality about those words. It means that the door was shut and locked and would not be opened again. Those on the inside were safely inside; those on the outside could never get in no matter how hard they tried.

There is a “door” that leads to heaven. It is the door of God’s grace, held open by the bloody cross of Jesus Christ. For 2,000 years that door has been open to the entire world, and it is open even today. Over the door are these wonderful words:

“Whosoever will may come.” Anyone, anywhere, anytime can go in that door and find new life, salvation, forgiveness, freedom, and eternal life.