Sunday, December 10, 2017

We Have Seen Incredible Things Today

We Have Seen Incredible Things Today

Monday of the Second Week of Advent

They will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God. Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; With divine recompense, he comes to save you. Isaiah 35:2C-4

Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply, "What are you thinking in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"– he said to the one who was paralyzed, "I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home." Luke 5:22-24

Born in the night,
Mary's Child,
a long way from your home;
coming in need,
Mary's Child,
born in a borrowed room.

Clear shining light,
Mary's Child,
your face lights up our way;
light of the world,
Mary's Child,
dawn on our darkened day.

Truth of our life,
Mary's Child,
you tell us God is good;
prove it is true,
Mary's Child,
go to your cross of wood.

Hope of the world,
Mary's Child,
you're coming soon to reign;
King of the earth,
Mary's Child,
walk in our streets again.
Geoffrey Ainger (1925-2012)

“We have seen incredible things today.” Luke 5:26

Just as Isaiah predicted.  They saw the glory of God.

It was revealed in how the men with a friend were drawn to Jesus – they would not be thwarted in their hope to have their friend cured.  When Jesus saw the healing faith of the friends and the means they would go to bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus, he forgave their sins. Yet, that is not why they came there, not why they lowered their paralyzed friend through the roof.

It was revealed in the curing of the paralyzed man who was able to “rise and walk” home, even though he was brought to Jesus on a stretcher. This is an interesting choice of words for Jesus to use.  He was walking in our streets and he will rise and walk in our streets again.

It was revealed in Jesus knowing what people were thinking in their hearts. Although they accused him of blasphemy, how can Jesus (God made man) blaspheme himself?  How can he be accused of acting like a deity when he is the deity?

Jesus asks which is easier: to forgive sins or to cure the paralyzed?  Neither is easy.  These are both impossible for an itinerant preacher from Nazareth, but not for God-made-man.

Yes.  We have seen incredible things today. 

“We have seen incredible things today.”

The dusting of snow on the grass and trees reveals the luster of winter to come. (See the weather forecast for this week.)

We have seen a man land and walk on the moon and return safely to the Earth. (See Apollo XI through XVII).

We have seen pictures inside a womb of a baby growing to term. (See “A Child is Born” by Lennart Nilsson)

We have seen the storm clouds followed by the rainbow.

What incredible things do you see today?

”The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

”The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed” by Melanie Rigney

A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley. Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 40: 3-5)

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.  (Psalm 85:8)

Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard "delay," but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:8-9)

And this is what (John) proclaimed: "One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." (Mark 1:7-8)

Lord, open my ears that I might hear You. Open my eyes that I might see Your glory. Open my soul and make my way to you plain.

For some people, Advent really starts when the candles are lit. For others, it really starts when the tree is up and the house decorated (don’t start in about why you should wait to do that). For me, it really starts when I listen to the Isaiah parts of George Handel’s “Messiah.” It’s impossible for me to study Isaiah without hearing Handel’s music. Together, they are like anything else holy—every time you regard it, you learn something new.

That happened to me as I sat down to write today’s Tripod, more than two decades after my first sing-along “Messiah.” This time, I didn’t think about the exiles’ way literally being made straight, or of John the Baptist preparing the way of Jesus, as we read in today’s Gospel from Mark. No, I thought about this a bit more personally, more intimately. We are all in a desert here on earth—sometimes, more parched and desolate than others. Our paths can be crooked, our valleys deep, the mountains seemingly impossibly high. The way may include people who have grievously wronged us, sometimes intentionally and just for sport. It may include cruelty and pain. It may include despair and bitterness and loneliness.

Or we can invite Him in as our traveling companion—fully. We can surrender to His direction, without concern about the time or the length of the trip. And when we have the faith and courage to do that for even a few seconds, we see and feel and taste the difference. The sourness of regret dissipates. The burden that was so unbearable, that hurt our shoulders just to think about it, falls away. The pained breathing stops and our lungs and chest open up. The relief may be brief at first. But the more we believe, the more we trust, the better we feel, even if not one of the difficult situations changes in any visible manner.

And that is a way of living to which we can all aspire, regardless of whether the candles are lit or the tree is up or the music is on.

Look for the glory of the Lord today in a situation that causes you pain. Find comfort in Him.

Image credit:  By George Frideric Handel 1685–1759 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, December 09, 2017

The Harvest is Abundant

The Harvest is Abundant

The Lord will give you bread in adversity and water in affliction. No longer will your
Teacher hide himself, but with your own eyes, you shall see your Teacher.  While from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears: "This is the way; walk in it," when you would turn to the right or to the left. Isaiah 30:20-21

At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest." Matthew 9:36-38

Advent is a time of waiting. Some may think waiting implies “waiting for” -- sitting around until the Lord shows up.  What if waiting means “waiting on?”  Then this is our time for waiting on the Lord in service.

Father, make us your waiters and waitresses, serving your every need this season. Get us out of the passive mode of waiting for YOU to do something and help us to be the initiators of the service needed in our world today to build your Kingdom tomorrow.

Isaiah promises that the people who are walking in darkness will one day have a Teacher who will help them to understand his lessons well.  Matthew explains that the promise of Isaiah is fulfilled.  Jesus does all that and more which Isaiah promised.

However, more work needs to be done to heal the lost, troubled and abandoned sheep.  So, people await God’s commandment to go out and work the harvest of souls before they can say, Like Elwood Blues, “We’re on a mission from God.”

The notes for the NABRE explain that this passage implies that “only God (the master of the harvest) can take the initiative in sending out preachers of the gospel.” However, in the very next chapter, this passage leads to the scene in which Jesus does what some think only the Father can accomplish – thus aligned his mission with the mission of the Lord and the Church.
“Then he summoned his twelve disciples* and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness. “ (Matthew 10:1) 

In these early days of Advent, we reflect on Jesus’s real presence in the world.  There is no future tense to the Gospel.  It is happening here and now. The Good News is that these Gospels match the first readings and show that the promises are fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus brings healing. He raises up the childlike. And Jesus calls and sends the twelve apostles to continue his ministry.

If we expect to hit the road on a mission from God, we better use these days to get prepared and begin our life of service.  No more waiting for someone else to do this or that. As St. Theresa would say, yours are the only hands He has in the world. 

Friday, December 08, 2017

Where Are You?

Where Are You?

After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree, the LORD God called to the man and asked him, "Where are you?" Genesis 3:9

"Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you." But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. Luke 1:28-31

Mary of the Immaculate Conception and the Annunciation, you are a woman of courage. Be with us as we try to follow the challenge presented to us by your son – a God-man who loved you until eternity and loves us with the same spirit.

So much of our spirituality seems to revolve around how we seek God.  Yet, what comes through today is that the search is not a one-way street. God is seeking us, too.

Just like God sought out Zechariah to father John the Baptist, he seeks out Mary.  Mary is going through the same emotions that faced Zechariah when he got the news that Elizabeth, his wife, would get pregnant.  In both scenes, the angel Gabriel appears to the parent who is troubled by the vision and then told by the angel not to be afraid. Then, the angel gives a sign to confirm the announcement.  Where the two instances become distinct is in Mary’s humble acceptance of God’s will.  While it is popular to ask WWJD, maybe another expression is WWMD – “What Would Mary Do?”

What should Mary do? If she listens to the unconventional call of God to accept an unexpected, unexplainable child, she stands to lose it all – her honor in the community, her future security, even her pending marriage. The neighbors will talk. No other man will marry her when Joseph leaves. She will be a barnacle on the bottom of a boat on the human ocean. Ostracized. Unwanted. Unkept. A woman without an honorable future.

But because she was brought up on the psalms, she had meditated on the law of God all her life.  Mary did what she was asked.  She trusted that God’s will was more to be followed than her own. Whatever the cost. Mary of the Annunciation is a model for the kind of courage it takes to follow the call of God in life.

What does Mary do upon getting this news? 

Weighed down with the unexpected seed of God and how her condition threated every fiber of her meager existence in Nazareth, did Mary drop everything to have a pity party for Mary? 

NO!  She dropped everything to run and take care of her aging cousin Elizabeth, also pregnant with an unexpected child by a now blind and mute husband.  The no-longer barren woman about to have her first child just like her virgin-cousin about to have her first child. Each full of tension, but each full of compassion, giving hope – a cardinal virtue – to the other.

God certainly does not come to us at a convenient time. He did not come to Mary that way either.  There is too much to do. Trees to decorate.  Cookies to bake.  Dry cleaning to drop off, no pickup, we dropped it off already.  When we are mired in our own life’s challenges, it is very difficult to think like Matthew 25 and put a priority on everyone else’s needs.  We are far too busy wallowing in our own problems.

Where are you this Advent season not only physically but emotionally and spiritually, too?  Let Mary of Advent inspire your piety, study, and action.  Despite, nay because of your own busy-ness, reach out to others who need a visit from you no matter what news you just got.

What is God’s Annunciation to us today? Pick up your cross daily and follow Him.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

“My Words are Rock on Which to Build your Eternal Life” by Beth DeCristofaro

“My Words are Rock on Which to Build your Eternal Life” by Beth DeCristofaro

For the LORD is an eternal Rock. He humbles those in high places, and the lofty city he brings down; He tumbles it to the ground, levels it with the dust. It is trampled underfoot by the needy, by the footsteps of the poor. (Isaiah 26:4-6)

Jesus said to his disciples: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven … And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined (Matthew 7:26-27)

In this season of Advent, Lord, help me to inspect the foundations of my faith in you and the priorities of my life. May they be one in the same. May I each day act as if my life is grounded in the words: ”Lord, Lord.”

In the movie “Footloose,” John Lithgow played a fire and brimstone preacher who rigidly adhered to the letter of Scriptural law – as he read it – with a staunch dedication to propriety in the name of his Savior. He elegantly portrayed a man who was deeply committed to a personal faith in Jesus and who believed completely that his house, thus his church and congregation, was built on the rock of that faith. When a new kid, Wren, arrives and challenges the worldview of the preacher and the town, Lithgow’s character has an epiphany. He realizes that after the tragic death of his son, he had in fact substituted faith in God for a house built on the sand of fear and paranoia.

I admire Lithgow’s intense personal take on this character who said “Lord, Lord” each day of his life but lost his way of following God’s will. His intentions were good as he tried to keep young people safe but he did so by controlling others rather than trusting in God’s providence even as he continued to preach. How often I find myself also acting as if it is my way rather than the will of God who gave me life.

By contrast, St. Ambrose was solidly anchored in the rock that is God. In his bio on, it notes that Ambrose was widely recognized for his knowledge, his charity, and his theology. Upon the death of the bishop, many requested Ambrose to take the staff of office. “However, being neither baptized or trained in theology, Ambrose refused to become the next bishop. He ran and attempted to hide, but his colleague gave him up. Within a week's time, Ambrose was baptized, ordained and duly consecrated bishop of Milan on December 7, 374. As bishop, he donated all of his lands and gave his money to the poor. This made him widely popular and often times more politically powerful than even the emperor.”[i] Not only does this piece of information make me smile, it reminds me again that God works in mysterious ways. And God gifts those called.

In Isaiah, the prophet states that the lofty city will be tumbled, leveled, and trampled by the feet of the poor. Jesus spent the most time and answered the cries most often of the humblest and lowliest. In what area of our lives do we find it hardest to accept God’s will? In what way do we make ourselves lofty? Spend time with Jesus asking for clarity in this Advent journey and for forgiveness. Don’t make God have to send out a posse to find us.


Tuesday, December 05, 2017

“Waiting in Joyful Hope” by Colleen O’Sullivan

“Waiting in Joyful Hope” by Colleen O’Sullivan

On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples
A feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines. (Isaiah 25:6)

At that time: Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, went up on the mountain, and sat down there. Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others. They placed them at his feet, and he cured them. (Matthew 15:29-30)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul. (Psalm 23:1-3a)
As I pondered the Scripture readings for today, many images flashed through my mind. The kid sitting by himself at a table in the school cafeteria, hungry for friendship. The child who is bullied at school and online, hungry for peace and wellbeing. The brokenhearted children all around our country who’ve lost parents to deportation, hungry for reunited families. The families with nothing to eat in the house, mocked by our culture of abundance, hungry for basic sustenance. The lonely elderly in assisted living and nursing homes, hungry for human companionship. The millions of refugees on our planet, hungry for a place to call home. The women who could proclaim #/MeToo but are suffering in silence, hungry for healing and justice.

Hunger and thirst are often literally that, the need for food and drink. Around the globe, we know that droughts, floods, wars, and poverty end up causing people to go to bed wondering where their next meal is coming from or how they will feed their children. Isaiah’s words provide hope. In God’s Kingdom, the prophet Isaiah says there will be a non-stop, heavenly banquet offering not just food, but the best food and wine imaginable.

Hunger and thirst often take on other forms – the longing to be made whole physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Jesus healed many ills in the Gospels. Jesus would have sat right down at the empty table in the cafeteria with the lonely child. Jesus would have harsh words for people who pick on those more vulnerable than themselves. Jesus would feed the hungry; he did so in the second half of today’s Gospel reading! Jesus would have as much compassion for people nearing the end of their lifespans as he does for unborn children.

There is no hunger of the stomach or the human heart that Jesus didn’t seek to heal while here among us. And our Scripture readings today promise us a future in God’s Kingdom, where there will be no more tears, no more needs, no more dying.

In the meantime, Jesus asks us to be his eyes, his ears, his hands and feet in our world today. The Lord asks us to be compassionate and merciful to our brothers and sisters. It’s wonderful to spend Advent in joyful hope, but we can also satisfy many fits of hunger today. Pick one person with a need and reach out in love to him or her today.

Monday, December 04, 2017

“His Delight Shall be the Fear of the Lord” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

“His Delight Shall be the Fear of the Lord” by Melanie Rigney

On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots,
By Jerónimo Cósida
(before 1510-1592)
[Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons 
a bud shall blossom. The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a Spirit of counsel and of strength, a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD. Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, but he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land's afflicted.
(Isaiah 11:1-4)

Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever. (Psalm 72:7)

Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, "I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” (Luke 10:21)

Lord, breathe your Spirit onto me and into me.

The notes on today’s reading from Isaiah 11 talk about the hope for a new king, one who will bring forth the Lord’s divine justice and blessing. The prophet was writing in the eighth century BC, a time of much coming and going of leaders, revolts, and battles. While the Book of Isaiah, it appears included other admiring authors, it seems the prophet himself wrote most of the first thirty-nine chapters.

In Isaiah, we find a prophet who’s focused on the basics: getting people to trust in God, His goodness, and His plans. Indeed, his name means, “God is salvation.” And that’s what he preached and prayed about… not his despair or joy over who was in power or who was vying for control. Planted firmly in this world, Isaiah’s eyes were on what lay beyond it. Where or when or how or which one of Jesse’s descendants would come to rule was not the point; what was important to Isaiah is how the Lord’s goodness would be brought to the fore through that descendant.

As we dive into the busyness of the season, may we remember that celebrating the beginning of that fulfillment in Jesus’s birth is what really matters. May we take a few moments each day to remember that, yes, God is salvation, and our way to the Father is through the Son.

Emulate Isaiah today. Separate yourself from worldly worries, and focus on the gift of eternal salvation available to all who believe and follow.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Come, Let Us Walk in The Light

Come, Let Us Walk in The Light

He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD!  Isaiah 2:4-5

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, "Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven." Matthew 8:10-11

As Advent begins, come again to reign over your people from the centurion in ancient Palestine to the government workers in modern Fairfax.  Enlighten us with your teaching, heal us with your touch and forgive us for our sins with your endless mercy. Bring forth the day when your justice and love will be revealed for the good of all creation. Amen. (By Gordon Giles in “Oh Come Emmanuel,” 2006, Paraclete Press) 

Jesus amazed some of the Jews with his reaction to the Centurion.  The Centurion also amazed some of the Jews with his approach to Jesus. After all, the Roman Army occupied ancient Palestine just like American soldiers and marines occupied Germany and Japan after World War Two.  Can you imagine an American GI heading to a Zen Buddhist temple to ask for aid when there was a chaplain in his own military unit?  Words like collusion and fraternization might be invoked.

The Jews knew from the prophets that they are the chosen people but perhaps they forgot the details of the prophecy of Isaiah.  Once the Lord’s house is established, the nation’s – including Rome – and many peoples – including the Centurion – shall stream toward it. Jesus fulfilled that prophecy.

The mountain of the LORD's house
shall be established as the highest mountain
and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it;
many peoples shall come and say:
"Come, let us climb the LORD's mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
That he may instruct us in his ways,
and we may walk in his paths."

When the Centurion turns to Jesus to get aid for his servant, Jesus in his abundant mercy cannot and does not turn him away. Instead, Jesus holds him up as another model for us to follow as we move out of the darkness into the light.

When we accept the invitation to come to the house of the Lord, we expect to reap the benefits of being a member of God’s household including healing, teaching, and forgiveness. Jesus fulfills the promises of the Hebrew Bible.  Isaiah emphasizes the effect of the “day of the Lord,” among its outcomes is the humbling of human pride.  We see how that plays out in the humbling of the powerful position that the centurion occupies in the Army. 

Come!  Let us beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks.  As we begin a new liturgical year and season, Jesus asks us to examine our relationships with each other.  Let us base these relationships on love, not violence. 

Imagine how you would feel if you were the Centurion AFTER this loving encounter with Jesus. And at that very hour, Jesus healed the servant. Out of his humility, the Centurion experiences a new gratitude.  I expect that he now also exercises a new compassion for those whom he commands. 

Can you bring this sense of new gratitude and compassion into your first week of Advent? 

“Be Alert! Meet God Doing Right” by Beth DeCristofaro

“Be Alert!  Meet God Doing Right” by Beth DeCristofaro

No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him. Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways! (Isaiah 64:3)

He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, and by him, you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:18-19)

Jesus said to his disciples: "Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch…May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. (Mark 13:33-34, 36-37)

O God, may you meet us doing right.  Guide us to be mindful of your ways, aware of your presence in our present.  Help us be Christlike to the guests who knock on our door and ever ready for our master who returns. 

Isaiah’s almost triumphal words are in contrast to the apocalyptic messages we have been reading in Daniel, Revelations and now Jesus’ message to his followers.  Be ready!  The end is coming.  Isaiah reminds us that even in the end times, those who God meets doing what is right will find that she/he is always journeying with a God who does not abandon his wandering flock.

In Jesus day, the Roman occupation gave a cultural overtone to all Palestine.  Large estates frequently were owned by absentee landowners who left servants in charge to protect, keep them up and as we have seen in other parables, perhaps even enhance the landowners’ holdings.  Thus, Matthew uses Jesus’ image of a gatekeeper who must remain vigilant and not be found derelict in duties to remind the early Christians that although the second coming seemed far off, God’s coming is real and they must live as if it is imminent.

Our God of life and creation has also set us up as gatekeepers, overseers of the little slice of His creation we call the world.  God asks us to keep it safe, to enhance it and to use it wisely in His name.  This tall order – safeguarding nature, people and ourselves is possible with Jesus.  With his words of love within our hearts and consciousness, we can live with alertness to the present and coming presence of God.  We can be both gatekeeper and sister/brother, faithfully doing what is right.

Pope Francis said, “May the commitment to journeying in faith and behaving in a manner consistent with the Gospel accompany you this Advent Season.”[i]  Be mindful and alert today, as if expecting a treasured guest at any moment.  Be alert for God to show you who is the guest(s). Offer God’s attention, love, mercy, and forgiveness. 

[i] Homily, First Sunday of Advent, 1913, quoted in Advent and Christmas Wisdom From Pope Francis, John Cleary, Liguori Publications, 2015.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Pray That You Have the Strength

Pray That You Have the Strength

But when the court is convened, and his power is taken away by final and absolute destruction, then the kingship and dominion and majesty of all the kingdoms under the heavens shall be given to the holy people of the Most High, Whose Kingdom shall be everlasting: all dominions shall serve and obey him."  Daniel 5:26-28

"Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man."  Luke 21:34-36

The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever and ever in the next.  Amen.
(Attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, 1892-1971)

Despite the doom and gloom of Daniel’s vision of the beast at war with the saints, in the end, Daniel sees what we may never see: the joyful end of the story -- God's kingdom prevailing over Satan. 

Jesus promises us that the Kingdom of light, holiness, and love rules. Last Sunday, in the reading from Matthew 25, Christ directly addressed what will happen on the Judgment Day when those who cared for each other would get eternal life and those who did not would be condemned. Today, as the week and the liturgical year conclude, we are given one final, fiery vision of the end times.  If the carrot (“supremely happy life with God forever and ever”) is not enough motivation to fulfill the manifesto of Matthew 25, then perhaps fear of the stick (“final and absolute destruction”) may be the motivator.

As we turn to Luke’s message on this New (Liturgical) Year’s Eve finale, we are once again amazed at how his message complements the reading from Daniel and from last Sunday.  Don’t let daily life get in the way of helping your sisters and brothers.  Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil to build the Kingdom on earth.

Right before this exhortation, though, Jesus realizes that his followers probably cannot fully comprehend the sweeping images and messages of the final judgment. Signs of the End.  The Coming Persecution.  The Great Tribulation. The Second Coming of the Son of Man.  Remember, their ancient life on earth has not been an air-conditioned limousine ride.  They may get a sense of fear and dread but they get that every day avoiding the belligerent Roman army.

Instead, just before this final warning, Colleen’s reflection yesterday reminded us that Jesus presented to them the hope-filled, pastoral image of a fruit-filled blooming fig tree in the summer.
“Consider the fig tree and all the other trees. When their buds burst open, you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near; in the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.” (Luke 21:29-31)

Jesus also knows that his “final days” are about to come.  He has entered Jerusalem and will face his great persecution and tribulation on our behalf. His court will be convened.  He will stand before the authorities. He will pray that he has the servant-strength to take this cup.
He has tried to prepare his followers for both.

As our nights continue to lengthen for a few more weeks, the darkness of the season weighs heavily on our psyche just like the darkness of the beast in Daniel’s vision does. Yet right before Christmas, we will pass the Winter Solstice and our daylight hours begin to lengthen and lighten once again.

Let us remember our Cursillo brothers and sisters who have experienced their “final days” in 2017 as they moved on to the Cloud of Witnesses. Tomorrow, Advent begins and another cycle of light and life is upon us.  Are you ready?  Let us begin…again.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

“Getting the Calendar Straight” by Colleen O’Sullivan

As the visions during the night continued, I saw one like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven; When he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, he received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)

Jesus told his disciples a parable. “Consider the fig tree and all the other trees. When their buds burst open, you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near; in the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the Kingdom of God is near.”  (Luke 21:29-31)

Lord, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of this holiday season, help us to remember there wouldn’t be any reason to celebrate if not for your presence in our midst.
Here we are with only one more day left in the liturgical year. On Sunday Advent begins. The readings at the end of the year are frequent warnings – be ready, read the signs, etc. My mother used to say that she didn’t like the Scripture readings at this time of year. They were frightening and full of doom and gloom.

Today’s readings, however, sound hopeful notes to me. At a first glance, the reading from the Book of Daniel might seem unintelligible, with elaborately descriptive visions of strange beasts. In the commentary on this passage in Living Space (published by the Irish Jesuits in conjunction with Sacred Space), the beasts are said to represent the various powers of the ancient Near East which had risen up at one time or another to rule over God’s people – the Babylonians, the Medes, the Persians and the Greeks.

The visions don’t end there. Daniel goes on to see the “Ancient One,” or God. At the end of today’s verses, we read that one like a son of man comes on the clouds of heaven and is presented before God. This son of man receives dominion, power, and glory. His dominion is said to be forever. Nothing shall destroy his reign as King. Daniel had no idea who this son of man was, but you and I know he is Jesus Christ. The hope comes from knowing that nothing that troubles us in this world, whether ancient conquerors or other present-day sufferings, lasts forever. God alone is forever. That’s the truth to hold onto as the year draws to a close.

After the earlier parts of chapter 21 in Luke’s Gospel, where Jesus foretells the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem, alludes to all the calamities that will come to pass before he returns in glory, and promises that his followers will be persecuted for their faith, we have this quiet mention of a budding fig tree. When we see the buds opening and the blooms beginning to show, Jesus says we know it is a sign of summer’s approach. There’s nothing earth-shattering about this image. Trees quietly put forth buds and blooms every year. No fanfare. And maybe that’s the way we should approach Advent, quietly doing what we should always be doing – praying and showing mercy and compassion toward others as we wait in hope for the joy of the fullness of time.


Here at the end of the church year, we have the opportunity to ask ourselves which calendar guides the rhythm of our days – the liturgical calendar or the secular calendar. I can imagine a number of people reading these Scripture passages or this Daily Tripod and wondering who has time for this. There are fewer than 30 shopping days left before Christmas!  There are trees to be trimmed, cookies to be baked, gifts to be wrapped!  But put it all in perspective. All that will be over in a few weeks. Jesus, however, will still be our Savior on December 26 and forever beyond that. Maybe the liturgical calendar is worth another look.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

“Come After Me” by Beth DeCristofaro

But not everyone has heeded the good news; for Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed what was heard from us? Thus faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ. But I ask, did they not hear? Certainly, they did; for “Their voice has gone forth to all the earth and their words to the ends of the world.”  (Romans 10:16-18)

(Jesus) said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:19-20)

Brother of Simon Peter, you heard John the Baptist say: "Behold the Lamb of God," and you chose to follow Jesus. Leaving your nets, you became a successful fisher of souls. Lover of the Crucified Christ, you too were crucified like him. Teach us to live and suffer for Him and to win many souls for Christ. Amen.
  (54 Days of Prayers with Saint Andrew, By Lev Bar Freyadan, p. 22)[i]

Over the centuries many charismatic leaders have risen, some of them - Jim Jones, Pol Pot - proved lethal to those who fell under their spell.  Others were positive and life-giving such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King and of course Jesus, who saw their lives shortened as they threatened powerful enemies.  Andrew and Peter responded immediately to the deeply spiritual nature – the good news - Jesus radiated. Matthew’s account says they did not even ask any questions or go pick up lunch for the way.  They followed.

How does Jesus call us today?  His good news echoes in a myriad of tones throughout the centuries. 

Come, follow me is heard in the falling leaves still glowing with golden splashes and the soft air of Autumn.  Glory! O Creator for such a cosmos! 
Come, follow me Jesus asks when we take on the day’s duties with one’s family and employers.  Our Father, I am grateful for their safety and my many life gifts.  

Come, follow me He sighs as a woman comes to terms with a devastating illness.  Merciful Lamb of God, Heal and protect me. 

Come, follow me Jesus proposes to one prone to violence, engorged with power or diverted by idols.  Good and Holy Shepherd, forgive my sin and guide me from the dark valley.

Jesus offers.  He always offers. 

This Gospel and the reading from Paul places the duty on us to be “the voice” to those who cannot or chose not to hear.  How can we help - be Good News - so that the Good News will reveal itself into the hearts which need most to hear?  Jesus says to follow him in love. Good News works through our humble submission.  Humility allows us to hear the Good News ourselves.  We too must leave our nets and follow in order to be Good News.  What “news” are you hearing?  What is the “news” which causes you not to hear the Good News of Love?  Ask His help to hear!  Then, today, put down that net and follow.