Monday, February 19, 2018

“Before You Ask Him” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

“Before You Ask Him” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)


“(My word) shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it. (James 1:12-14)

From all their distress God rescues the just. (Psalm 34:18)

Jesus said to his disciples: "In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him." (Matthew 6:7-8)

Piety
“The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you His unwavering strength that you may bear it. Be at peace, then, and set aside all anxious thoughts and worries.” —St. Francis de Sales

Study
Back in the day, Santa was often a disappointment for me.

I asked for a dark-haired, ponytailed Barbie; I got an ash-blonde bubble cut. I asked for an Easy-Bake oven; I got a no-name brand doll-size kitchen sink. But I never ever stopped believing in him, not until the day my mother told me who Santa was.
Why was it easier to believe in Santa, even when he didn’t always deliver as we asked than it is to believe and accept that the Lord isn’t always going to give us what we want? Whether we babble like pagans or like the children God loves so tenderly, our prayers can look like our childhood wish lists did, full of tangible, actionable items: Cure my mother’s stage-four cancer. Find a job for my chronically unemployed husband. Make my children more obedient. Stop the guilt tapes from playing in my head. Punish that drunken driver who killed my best friend.

And when our requests aren’t fulfilled exactly the way we want in the time period we want, too many of us stop praying. He’s not going to give us what we want, so what’s the point, we rationalize. We think we’re grieving and hurting Him, and perhaps we are. But we injure ourselves even further.

God isn’t Santa. We don’t always get what we think we want or deserve; we all know that. Some of us spend swathes of our lives without getting anything we desire, even very real things like food, water, clothing, friends, good health, earthly love. Faith is easy when we’re getting the things on our want lists. Initially, it’s hard to surrender those lists and pray for acceptance, obedience, and surrender to what He knows is best for us. But ultimately, aren’t those prayers for acceptance, obedience, and surrender what Christianity is all about?

Action
Meditate on the quote above from St. Francis de Sales. What thoughts and worries and directives is the Lord calling you to set aside?

Inherit the Kingdom

Inherit the Kingdom

Monday of the First Week of Lent


The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the whole assembly of the children of Israel and tell them: Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy…You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.  Leviticus 19:1-2, 18BC

“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’” Matthew 25:34-36

Piety

Prophets of a Future Not Our Own[i]

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own. 

Study
There is a pretty stark contrast between the code of conduct in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.  Mostly, the passage from Leviticus focuses on what NOT to do (which is why I took an excerpt from the beginning and end).  Matthew focuses on what we MUST do. What comes through loud and clear from both books is that LOVE IN ACTION is a critical component if we are to inherit the kingdom.

In the Hebrew Bible, it was the job of the king or ruler to meet the needs of the “anawim.”  Social justice did not trickle down to the people in the pews.
The anawim of the Old Testament were the poor of every sort: the vulnerable, the marginalized, and socio-economically oppressed, those of lowly status without earthly power. In fact, they depended entirely on God for whatever they owned. The Hebrew word anawim (inwetan) means those who are bowed down.[ii]

Individually, these are the widows, orphans, and immigrants who looked to God for everything. For whatever reason (bad luck, bad karma or the accident of birth), they have experienced a life that isn’t fair.  They don’t expect their rights to be respected. The widows and orphans of ancient Middle Eastern societies relied upon the local ruler to provide what the Lord did not.  They are strangers to people who have “made it” in this world. They do not belong to the kingdoms of this world because the nations of this world haven’t accepted them. They are outcasts in the society of power, prestige, and possessions. The world pays no attention to them.  The world cannot exploit them for anything because they have nothing.[iii] 

The anawim live in total poverty. However, that also means that these people live in complete freedom. They are attached to nothing and no one, except God, their family, and a few people with whom they share life. They have eyes to see what is essential. They are not weighed down by the anxiety and hurry that often describes middle-class America.[iv] 

Once we start to pay attention to the teachings of Jesus, the responsibility to care for the anawim shifts from the ruler and God to…us!  As model parents, Mary and Joseph raised Jesus in the spirit of the anawim.  He preached with moral authority instead of with temporal power, and the Sermon on the Mount paired with Matthew 25 make the ultimate counter-cultural statement.

Action
Maybe Lent can be a time to slow down, so we do not miss the opportunity to fulfill Matthew 25.  We tend to be in a hurry going from place to place, task to task.  We tend to love things. We care for our jobs, our cars, our houses, our retirement accounts and our careers more than the invisible homeless and unemployed whom we do not see due to social blindness. Societal values tell us to make something of ourselves in this world. That’s why we go to college and climb a career ladder.  We are always afraid of falling off that ladder, failing off that ladder. 

Getting into the Kingdom is not about filling any of those prescriptions for success.  It’s not about our bank account nor our wardrobe.  Our entry into the Kingdom is all about accepting the moral authority of Jesus on Calvary, not Madison Avenue or Wall Street or K Street or Hollywood Boulevard. Our entry into the Kingdom is about letting God into our hearts, our lives, and becoming our everything through service to others. If we crowd God out with all this other stuff, we will miss seeing God right next to us. 

The Kingdom is not some far away goal.  It is right here.  It is right now.  It is available to us in the present tense.  It is a present and tangible reality if we but feed the hungry, greet the stranger, and care for those who are hurt.  

[i] This prayer was first presented by Cardinal Dearden in 1979 and quoted by Pope Francis in 2015. This reflection is an excerpt from a homily written for Cardinal Dearden by then-Fr. Ken Untener on the occasion of the Mass for Deceased Priests, October 25, 1979. Pope Francis quoted Cardinal Dearden in his remarks to the Roman Curia on December 21, 2015. Fr. Untener was named bishop of Saginaw, Michigan, in 1980.
[iv] Ibid.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

“Brought to Life in the Spirit” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

“Brought to Life in the Spirit” by Melanie Rigney


God said to Noah and to his sons with him: "See, I am now establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you…” (Genesis 9:8-10)

Good and upright is the LORD, thus he shows sinners the way. He guides the humble to justice, and he teaches the humble his way.  (Psalm 25:8-9)

Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit. (1 Peter 3:18)

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:14-15)

Piety
Holy Spirit, fill my lungs, my heart, my head, and my soul.

Study
I took my first-ever CPR course last week. The instructor, a burly fellow from the Baltimore Fire Department, had a teaching style that often consisted of shouting questions at us until we answered almost as loudly.

“What are they if they’re not breathing?” he asked after telling us that in case of an emergency to assess safety, summon help, and look for chest rise.

We mumbled about a bit, then finally someone said softly, “Dead.”

“What?” the instructor shouted.”

“Dead,” a little louder.

“What?”

Dead,” a little louder.

“WHAT?”

DEAD!”

Message received.

Today’s lectionary readings remind us of the certainty of death, whether it’s all but Noah’s family in the great flood, John the Baptist’s ministry, or Jesus’s crucifixion. And yet, each of those deaths resulted in life: God promises to never send another earth-clearing flood. John the Baptist’s arrest clears the way for Jesus’s own public ministry to begin in earnest. Jesus’s physical death brought His life in the Spirit… and the hope of the same for those of us who believe and follow.

Life and death and life again. It’s what Lent is all about. It’s what Christianity is all about.  Our lungs may be full and our heart pumping here on earth… but without faith, we are as good as dead without the Lord’s CPR.

Action

Use the principles of CPR: Is your spiritual situation safe, or are there wires, trees, or other impediments that are keeping the Lord away? Who should you call for help? How can you be more open to the spiritual “chest compressions” that will save you?

Image by Rama (Own work) [CeCILL (http://www.cecill.info/licences/Licence_CeCILL_V2-en.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

But Sinners

But Sinners


If you remove the yoke from among you, the accusing finger, and malicious speech; If you lavish your food on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then your light shall rise in the darkness, and your gloom shall become like midday; Then the LORD will guide you always and satisfy your thirst in parched places, will give strength to your bones And you shall be like a watered garden, like a flowing spring whose waters never fail. Isaiah 58:9B-11

The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" Jesus said to them in reply, "Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners." Luke 5:30-32

Piety
In the tender compassion of our Lord
The dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness
And the shadow of death,
And to guide our feet into the way of peace.
(Concluding verse from the “Canticle of Zechariah”)
The Dawn from On High Shall Break Upon Us
Study
Sitting around at work Wednesday, some Catholics were pretty easy to identify.  The men were not wearing a cassock and surplice. The women were not wearing a habit and veil. We were wearing ashes.  I am sure the cafeteria sold a lot more tuna fish, grilled cheese, and salads that day.  I wager the McDonalds also had a run on Filet O’Fish more than Big Macs.

For those so marked (and for those who went to services later), they heard the familiar refrains as the minister delivered the cross of ashes to the foreheads of the believers.

"Repent, and believe in the Gospel."

"Remember that you are dust, and to dust, you shall return."

Fasting and wearing ashes, however, are not the proper aim for Lent. Today, Isaiah and Luke remind us that sacrifice is not enough unless we are willing to reform our way of life. As the notes in the NAB tell us, “a true social morality will ensure prosperity.”  That prosperity will extend to those who really need help – help from individuals, help from families, help from parishes and even if needed, help from the local, state or federal government.

The homily Wednesday morning at Missionhurst did not focus on the ashes.  The sermon focused on one word from the blessing, and that word was not dust.  That word was “return.” The purpose of Lent is to return to a proper relationship with Jesus and with our neighbors.

Action
What yoke do you have to remove to return to a proper relationship with Jesus and your neighbors?  The yoke of television?  The yoke of Smartphones? The yoke of opinions? The yoke of sloth? Identifying the yoke is the first step.  In these early days of Lent, rather than just giving up Twinkies or Chocolate or Bourbon, identify your yoke.  Then, as we go through the next 40 days, we can work on putting that yoke away.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

“Deny Yourself and Find Life” by Beth DeCristofaro

“Deny Yourself and Find Life” by Beth DeCristofaro


I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him. (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

Then he said to all, "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (Luke 9:23-24)

Piety
Help me Lord to deny myself in order to open myself to saying “Yes” to you. Help me also to do so quietly, humbly, genuinely. Help me to find the joy in “Yes Lord”. I praise you and I thank you, Lord, because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

Study
If the scene in today’s Gospel was chronologically accurate – which is not an important consideration for the evangelist Luke – then the disciples probably completely missed this declaration the first time that Jesus uttered it. Immediately before this statement Jesus had told them for the first time that he will be killed and then rise again. Most likely his friends, much like us today when given bad news, stopped hearing much of what follows. Rejected? Suffer? Killed? what - Rise? Uhhhh…. I usually need to hear it repeated then repeated again before it begins to soak in much less be fathomable. The disciples are not going to get it before Jesus walks to the Cross and suffers horrendously.

They begin to realize after Jesus appears – alive – even though they saw him being placed in a tomb. What is so stupendous is that in today’s Gospel he gives them awful news wrapped in a promise which is astounding. He will Rise. He will break the bonds of death and live again. And, even more incredulous, he is offering to his friends – to any who choose to be his friend – that same release from death. If we really reflected on that deeply enough we would probably be on our knees in awe.

Whether we are first century disciples or modern-day Catholics, we get stuck on the suffering. We especially get stuck on the perseverance we need to stay focused on the joyous outcome Jesus gifted to us. We choose comfort and prestige too readily because it is at hand and it is how our world-focused selves define life. Denying myself calls for a humility and a huge conviction that I cannot possibly deserve this gift and that I will never merit it. Jesus doesn’t require that we deserve him nor that we meet some gold medal standards. Jesus models and beckons with the most gracious, limitless offer to Live in Him.

Action
To make it to eternal life we must make it through the Cross. Most of us will never experience the torture which Jesus experienced. Our crosses are often more mundane which, unfortunately, also makes them easy to resist, rationalize away or even ignore. Lent allows us to recognize daily the crosses given to us and turn back to Jesus to deny ourselves, take up that cross of denial and thus Live. We are also asked to be aware of and be compassionate to the crosses of others.  Perhaps each day we might ask to be open to the ways we take up Jesus’ cross. Ask for help in bearing it, give thanks that because of Jesus the Risen Christ our crosses have become life-giving not dead ends.


Illustration: Take Up Your Cross, John Kohan, Mixed media collage, 103 x 68 cm.

Rend Your Hearts by Colleen O’Sullivan

Rend Your Hearts by Colleen O’Sullivan


Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God.  For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.  Perhaps he will again relent and leave behind him a blessing (Joel 2:13-14a)

A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.  (Psalm 51:12)

We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  (2 Corinthians 5:20b)

Piety
Rend Your Heart
A Blessing for Ash Wednesday
-          Jan L. Richardson
To receive this blessing,
all you have to do
is let your heart break.
Let it crack open.
Let it fall apart
so that you can see
its secret chambers,
the hidden spaces
where you have hesitated
to go.

Your entire life
is here, inscribed whole
upon your heart’s walls:
every path taken
or left behind,
every face you turned toward
or turned away,
every word spoken in love
or in rage,
every line of your life
you would prefer to leave
in shadow,
every story that shimmers
with treasures known
and those you have yet
to find.

It could take you days
to wander these rooms.
Forty, at least.

And so let this be
a season for wandering
for trusting the breaking
for tracing the tear
that will return you

to the One who waits
who watches
who works within
the rending
to make your heart
whole.
(from The Painted Prayerbook, ©Jan Richardson)

Study
On this Ash Wednesday, the beginning of our 2018 Lenten journey, we read once again the words of the prophet Joel:  Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God.  According to the online Oxford Dictionaries, to rend means “to tear (something) into pieces.”   God prefers a heart broken open over any of the outward things you and I might choose to do during Lent.

Think about the ways in which we use the image of a broken heart:  He/she tore a piece of my heart out.  I was heartbroken when he/she left me.  Living with a broken heart is extremely painful.  It bows us down under the weight of it.  Most all of us can recall experiences that have left us devastated and heartbroken.  But do we feel that same depth of emotion and sadness about our sins?

It’s not that God doesn’t appreciate the fasting and sacrificing we do during these 40 days.  God appreciates every little bit we can give to the poor.  God is happy to see us at Lenten preaching missions in our parishes and practicing special Lenten devotions.  But more than any of these, God desires our hearts.  God invites us to break open our hearts and to take an honest look at what dwells within.  What in the deepest recesses of our hearts separates us from God? 

Lent is a season for allowing God to reveal to us our sins.  It’s a time for trusting in God’s loving power to help us root out anything that keeps us from God.  It is equally a time for putting our faith in God’s promise to forgive our sins and desire to put our hearts back together, stronger than ever before, burning with love for the Lord.

Action
Look back over your life at all the ways in which God has revealed God’s great love for you.  Then consider how you have treated the Lord in return.  Rummage around in your heart and name what you see.  This may serve as the fodder you need for repentance during these 40 days.

Images used in this Daily Tripod both are shareable and have Creative Commons licenses.

Monday, February 12, 2018

“Lured and Enticed by Our Own Desire” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

“Lured and Enticed by Our Own Desire” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)


Blessed is the man who perseveres in temptation, for when he has been proved he will receive the crown of life that he promised to those who love him. No one experiencing temptation should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one. Rather, each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. (James 1:12-14)

Blessed the man you instruct, O Lord. (Psalm 94:12)

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. Jesus enjoined them, "Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." (Mark 8:14-15)

Piety
Lord, help me to put to death my desires and to put you first, last, and always.

Study
James nails it in today’s first reading: “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.”

There’s no point in us coming up with a form of Adam and Eve’s excuse that someone or something made them stray from the Lord’s path. They made that decision for themselves. And so do we.

Yes, the evil one can offer us some shiny objects and glittering promises in his efforts to snare our souls. He did that to Jesus, you’ll remember. But shiny and glittering isn’t always the way to get inside of us; desire also has a dark side. The evil one knows that, and for those of us who struggle with believing the Lord loves us and cares for us, Satan is perfectly happy to frame his pitch that way too. He tells us we’re just not worth it and we are fools to believe in the One who believes in us.

Like the disciples in that boat in today’s Gospel reading, we’ve only got one loaf of bread, only one Bread of Life. As we prepare for Lent, may we strap on our interior spiritual armor and resolve to let those temptations die within us and to hold on to that loaf for dear life.

Action
Consider discussing a temptation that seems too delicious to resist with your confessor or a trusted friend. Ask that person to pray with you that your desire may be quelled and resisted.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Consider It All Joy

Consider It All Joy


Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it. But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways. James 1:2-8

The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, "Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation." Then he left them, got into the boat again, and went off to the other shore. Mark 8:11-13


Piety
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Study
Consider it all joy.

The chemotherapy.

The alcoholism.

The unemployment.

The death of a loved one.

The car accident.

The stock market crashes the week before your hoped-for retirement (or the week after!).

The spouse abuses.

The tourist helicopter crashes in the middle of the Grand Canyon vacation.

The fall on the ski slope during your last run down the Olympic Mountain at PyeongChange2018 after a lifetime of training.

Consider it all joy. Consider it all joy! Consider it all joy?

I have a running debate with one of the other authors of Your Daily Tripod. I contend that Jesus was no master market-eer. Who would possibly be attracted to the rose-garden promises of such a faith tradition? Today’s readings provide an excellent example for my skeptical argument. Look at what James and Jesus offer. It is hard to look at their offer because there is nothing -- or little -- to examine.  

NONE of us would trade life lived in the modern 21st-century American experiment for life in ancient Palestine. You would have no closet or dresser full of clothes -- in its place is one tunic and one cloak. You would not have a choice of different shoes for every occasion, but instead, you would have one pair of sandals.

Without membership in the royal family or the priestly class, you can count on a life of hard labor as a farmer, shepherd, carpenter, refiner, fisherman, or any number of professions we encounter in the Hebrew Bible. The option is selling out and becoming a belligerent Roman soldier, tax collector, or traitor. And that is if you are lucky enough to be born relatively healthy without leprosy, hemorrhaging, deafness, speech impediments, blindness, or worse.

Thanks to the happy accidental birth in 20th century New York City, I’ll take my life right here, right now over that existence. New York is where I’d rather stay. I get allergic smelling hay. Penthouse views. Park Avenue. Acres of green. Verdant pastures beside cool running tap water.

No wonder James says all trials are just part of perseverance, tests of our faith. If we cannot figure that out, just ask for wisdom. Wisdom? Not money? Not health? Not freedom? Wisdom! Testing, perseverance, and refinement is the route one takes – then or now – on the road to attaining spiritual maturity and getting prepared for the coming of Christ.

Ah, but these steps require wisdom -- a gift that God readily grants to all who ask in faith. Such understanding will sustain the Christian in times of trial (times of trial equals everyday life). In this way, a Christian can deal with the adversity that daily life dishes out. And the Christian can face such persecution with great calm and hope.

Is it any wonder that people looked for signs that the Kingdom of God was at hand? Some sought personal salvation through faith in Jesus. To them – like the leper encountered in Sunday’s Mass – Jesus offered to heal. But to other with less pure motives, Jesus provided nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Despite miracle after miracle, the Pharisees did not comprehend Jesus’ miracles as acceptable signs that the Kingdom of God is at hand. They wanted more. They were like Madison Avenue advertisers or Wall Street brokers well ahead of their day.

Jesus promised the Pharisees and their skepticism nothing. He gave them a sigh, not a sign. A sign is not offered up based on human demand. A sigh is offered up based on human demand. However, a sign emanating from the generosity and love of the Good Shepherd is another story.

I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:11

Good marketing, no?

Action
Testing, perseverance, and refinement is the route one takes – especially now – on the road to attaining spiritual maturity and getting prepared for the coming of Christ.

Are you looking for a sign? Or are you working to be a sign to others?
Although Jesus did not respond to human demands, he did react to human interaction and faith-filled requests. His heart was quickly moved to pity. And the distance from pity to action was short. When Jesus encountered such people, he could not hold back his compassion. Neither should we.

Over the weekend, tensions between Israel and Syria escalated again. However, with the Opening Ceremonies, perhaps we see a thaw in the relationship between North and South Korea.

Maybe we are not all called to cross the border and venture into Syria or North Korea, but we are called to cross boundaries. Can you cross a cultural border in your hometown? Can you cross an economic border? Can you cross a social border?


When you cross these borders, you gain greater insight into the shoes of those on the other side – be they Pharisees, Jews, the poor, or the powerless.


“Healed by the Lord’s Loving Gaze” by Beth DeCristofaro

“Healed by the Lord’s Loving Gaze” by Beth DeCristofaro

A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, "If you wish, you can make me clean." Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, "I do will it. Be made clean." (Mark 1:40-41)

Piety

Bless all who are suffering illness of any kind, O Gentle Jesus.  As you cleansed the wounds of the leper, restored the deaf man’s hearing and rightful place in the community, staunched the flow of blood and isolation of the hemorrhaging woman, raised a dead child and so many other awe-inspiring miracles, help all now to know your healing touch on skin and within spirit.  Even if unwell or hurt people find themselves in the valley of death, fill them with the peace only you can bestow.  And accept my humble thanks for the times others have cared for me and thus given me your Love. Bless them and all caregivers.

Study

The Gospel stories have all week illuminated Jesus’ compassionate, patient healing of people.  His limitless love is demonstrated healing a man’s body, a child’s mind, a sinful soul, the community of vulnerable poor, the temple grounds and, of course, a world wracked by futility and puniness through his death.   Today is the 2018 World Day of the Sick and the Church remembers that a healing ministry instituted by our Loving Brother Jesus is at its core identity.

From Pope Francis’ message: “The Church’s service to the sick and those who care for them must continue with renewed vigor, in fidelity to the Lord’s command (cf. Lk 9:2-6; Mt 10:1-8; Mk 6:7-13) and following the eloquent example of her Founder and Master.

The theme for this year’s Day of the Sick is provided by the words that Jesus spoke from the Cross to Mary, his Mother, and to John: “Woman, behold your son ... Behold your mother.  And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (Jn 19:26-27).

1.  The Lord’s words brilliantly illuminate the mystery of the Cross, which does not represent a hopeless tragedy, but rather the place where Jesus manifests his glory and shows his love to the end.  That love, in turn, was to become the basis and rule for the Christian community and the life of each disciple.  …

6. Jesus bestowed upon the Church his healing power:  “These signs will accompany those who believe... they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover (Mk 16:17-18).  In the Acts of the Apostles, we read accounts of the healings worked by Peter (cf. Acts 3:4-8) and Paul (cf. Acts 14:8-11).  The Church’s mission is a response to Jesus’ gift, for she knows that she must bring to the sick the Lord’s own gaze, full of tenderness and compassion.  Health care ministry will always be a necessary and fundamental task, to be carried out with renewed enthusiasm by all, from parish communities to the largest healthcare institutions.  We cannot forget the tender love and perseverance of many families in caring for their chronically sick or severely disabled children, parents and relatives. The care given within families is an extraordinary witness of love for the human person; it needs to be fittingly acknowledged and supported by suitable policies.  Doctors and nurses, priests, consecrated men and women, volunteers, families and all those who care for the sick, take part in this ecclesial mission.  It is a shared responsibility that enriches the value of the daily service given by each.[i]

Action

In many of the Gospel stories, including today’s, Jesus entreats the person healed to keep it private.  And they do not!  They proclaim their overflowing joy to one and all.  How do I see illness as nothing more than crushingly tragic or fearsome?  In what ways to I avoid those who are ill?  Ask Jesus for healing of my own fears or preconceptions that I might help others?

[i] MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS FOR THE TWENTY-SIXTH WORLD DAY OF THE SICK 2018. Mater Ecclesiae: “Behold, your son... Behold, your mother. And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” (Jn 19:26-27)     

illustration:  Christ Healing the Blind, El Greco