Monday, October 31, 2016

“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.”

“Your days are numbered. Use them to throw open the windows of your soul to the sun. If you do not, the sun will soon set, and you with it.” ― Marcus Aurelius: (was Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 - Marcus Aurelius was the last of the so-called Five Good Emperors.)

Gospel Text: (LK 14:12-14)
On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees.
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 sisters
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 Gospel today has Jesus instructing that we should invite everyone to the table.  Not just the wealthy or “perfect,” but the poor and outcast, the undesirables.  Like us opening the door for people on All Hallows Eve, it doesn’t make a difference who they are, what they’ve done, what they’re wearing, or where they come from.  It just doesn’t matter… we welcome them anyway, giving what we can, expecting nothing in return.

To me, this Gospel is all about welcoming the sinner.  I’m a sinner, and wow do I long to be invited.  With tomorrow being All Saints Day, I’m being hit in the head with the question, “Weren’t the Saints actually sinners first?”

Who do we welcome to the table?  Who welcomes us?

Who doesn’t?

“He said to the man who had invited him, “Invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.”

Shouldn’t we do the same? 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”  -  Leo Tolstoy: (1828 – 1910: was a Russian writer who is regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time.)

Gospel Text: (LK 19:1-10)
At that time, Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.
Now a man there named Zacchaeus,
who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man,
was seeking to see who Jesus was;
but he could not see him because of the crowd,
for he was short in stature.
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus,
who was about to pass that way.
When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said,
“Zacchaeus, come down quickly,
for today I must stay at your house.”
And he came down quickly and received him with joy.
When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying,
“He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord,
“Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor,
and if I have extorted anything from anyone
I shall repay it four times over.”
And Jesus said to him,
“Today salvation has come to this house
because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.
For the Son of Man has come to seek
and to save what was lost.”

What made him change?  Jesus didn’t work any miracle for Zacchaeus, didn’t heal any illness or alleviate any hunger. All Jesus did was spend time with Zacchaeus, and that was enough to turn him around.

In his book, The Five Love Languages, author Gary Chapman identifies the giving of “quality time” to another as one of the five languages of love.  That is just what Jesus did.  He gave Zacchaeus genuine attention, affirmation and a non-judgmental attitude.  He listened to him and enjoyed his company.  He didn’t give Zacchaeus food for his body.  In fact Zacchaeus fed Jesus.  Instead Jesus gave him nourishment for his spirit by a genuine loving attitude.

It was Benjamin Disraeli who said, “The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.”  If we take the time and make the effort to be truly present to another, we can watch a gold mine of goodness come pouring forth.

Friday, October 28, 2016

“Jesus of Nazareth always comes asking disciples to follow him--not merely "accept him," not merely "believe in him," not merely "worship him," but to follow him”

“They wander on earth and live in heaven, and although they are weak, they protect the world; they taste of peace in the midst of turmoil; they are poor, and yet they have all they want. They stand in suffering and remain in joy, they appear dead to all outward sense and lead a life of faith within.― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Gospel Text: (LK 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.

The Twelve Apostles gives hope to us because if they could go on to accomplish great things for the Lord then so also can we. We are each called by the Lord at baptism and confirmation to be his witnesses. No one can say they are not suitable. If Jesus could use the apostles with their obvious weaknesses, he can also use you to advance his kingdom.

God calls you to make a difference to the world. Will you allow God to use you in his plan for the salvation of the world? Will you make a difference?

Jesus called his apostles and they weren’t who we might consider to be likely candidates. Their weaknesses are so obvious as we read Scripture. But Jesus knew their hearts and their potential and knew what they could become and do for his kingdom. Jesus knows our potential and what we can do for his kingdom. Let us answer his call.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

“The presence of the devil is on the first page of the Bible, and the Bible ends as well with the presence of the devil, with the victory of God over the devil.”

“Let us always remember… that the Adversary wants to keep us separated from God and therefore instills disappointment in our hearts when we do not see our apostolic commitment immediately rewarded. Every day the devil sows the seeds of pessimism and bitterness in our hearts. … Let us open ourselves to the breath of the Holy Spirit, who never ceases to sow seeds of hope and confidence.”  - Pope Francis (Speech, 6/18/2013 – Text)

Scripture Text: (EPH 6:10-20)
Brothers and sisters:
Draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power.
Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm
against the tactics of the Devil.
For our struggle is not with flesh and blood
but with the principalities, with the powers,
with the world rulers of this present darkness,
with the evil spirits in the heavens.
Therefore, put on the armor of God,
that you may be able to resist on the evil day
and, having done everything, to hold your ground.
So stand fast with your loins girded in truth,
clothed with righteousness as a breastplate,
and your feet shod in readiness for the Gospel of peace.
In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield,
to quench all the flaming arrows of the Evil One.
And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit,
which is the word of God.

With all prayer and supplication,
pray at every opportunity in the Spirit.
To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication
for all the holy ones and also for me,
that speech may be given me to open my mouth,
to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel
for which I am an ambassador in chains,
so that I may have the courage to speak as I must.

Here's how to put on this armor St Paul notes today in the passage above:

1) Pray unceasingly! - We need to adapt a daily and disciplined prayer life

2) Receive the Sacraments frequently! – Go to Mass every Sunday as well as go to Confession once a month.

St. Paul teaches us how seriously we need to prepare ourselves here on earth if we want to reach Heaven. The imagery he uses to describe our earthly battle against evil forces is military in nature. It’s a fitting conclusion to the Letter of St. Paul in which he describes at such length our need to love our neighbors within the Body of Christ.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

“The greatest barrier to knowing God’s will is simply that we want to run our own lives. Our problem is that a battle is going on in our hearts”

'More determination is required to subdue the interior man than to mortify the body; and to break one's will than to break one's bones.--St. Ignatius of Loyola: (1491 – 1556: was a Spanish knight from a local Basque noble family who founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) )

Gospel Text: (LK 13:22-30)
Jesus passed through towns and villages,
teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.
Someone asked him,
“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
He answered them,
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough.
After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door,
then will you stand outside knocking and saying,
‘Lord, open the door for us.’
He will say to you in reply,
‘I do not know where you are from.’
And you will say,
‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’
Then he will say to you,
‘I do not know where you are from.
Depart from me, all you evildoers!’
And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth
when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God
and you yourselves cast out.
And people will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in the Kingdom of God.
For behold, some are last who will be first,
and some are first who will be last.”

It takes effort -- spiritual strength -- to submit to God's will, especially when our will contradicts his. Selfish desires pull us toward sin, and spiritual strength is needed to resist that pull. While the world floats lazily downstream in the currents of self-serving whims and immoral trends, we have to swim against the tide if we want to remain with Jesus and follow him to heaven.

Only those who rely on the Lord for strength can swim upstream successfully. This requires daily determination. If we stop and rest, if we take any sort of break from spiritual growth and repentance from sin, we get caught in the downstream currents.

Notice that Jesus did not say that few are strong and most are too weak to enter through the narrow gate. He never answered the question, "Lord, will only a few people be saved?" Instead, he pointed the listeners toward the narrow gate. The reason the gate is narrow is not because it's used only rarely. Rather, it's narrow because there are many ways to reach hell but only one path into heaven. Jesus said, "I am the way...."

We don't need to be perfect to get into heaven; we only need to desire forgiveness for our sins and to seek God's help in being holy.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

“To be faithful in little things is a great thing.”

“Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”  - St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873 –1897) was a Roman Catholic French Discalced Carmelite nun widely venerated in modern times. She is popularly known as "The Little Flower

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.”

Thoughts are little things, but they have power.  Thoughts lead to action.  Thoughts place before our eyes a goal.  Thoughts focus our attention.  Thoughts mobilize our energy.  And then our bodies and emotions go to work.

Norman V. Peale said, “Change your thoughts and you can change the world.”  To pray “Thy kingdom come” is to ask the Lord to direct our thoughts to justice, peace and love.  Then our actions will follow so that on earth “His will is done.”