Tuesday, December 11, 2018

“An Apparition of Love” by Colleen O’Sullivan

“An Apparition of Love” by Colleen O’Sullivan

Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion!  See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the LORD. (Zechariah 2:14)

And Mary said:  "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior." (Luke 1:46-47)

Mary, as you held your infant Son Jesus in your arms, so you reach out to all of us with love and compassion.   May we, in turn, reach out to others with the love of God in our hearts.

Virgin of Guadalupe, 16th-century engraving,
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
At one point in the early 16th century, the Aztec Empire stretched from central Mexico to what is now the border of Guatemala.  But in 1519, the Spanish showed up and by 1521, the once proud and mighty Aztec Empire had been conquered.  In their heyday, the Aztecs had erected a temple to their mother goddess Tonantzin at Tepeyac, outside Mexico City.  The Spanish forces destroyed this and, in its place, erected a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Juan Diego, an Indian who had converted to Catholicism, won over the Spanish bishop of the area by his faithfulness and by the way he spoke of and regarded Mary with the greatest respect.  As you might imagine, the conquered Aztecs were not held in high esteem by their new rulers.  But Juan Diego persisted in studying his new faith.  He had to walk by the hill at Tepeyac on his way to and from religious instruction.  

Juan Diego knew that as an Aztec he was not held in high regard.  However, Mary does not discriminate.  She loves all God’s children, whether rulers or ruled.  In December of 1531, she revealed herself to this humble man, Juan Diego, and told him to ask the bishop to build a church in her honor.  St. Juan Diego dutifully carried her request to the bishop, who wanted some time to reflect on this.  The same day, the Virgin appeared again and was disappointed that Juan Diego hadn’t succeeded in convincing the bishop to do her bidding.  

Finally, the bishop told Juan Diego to bring him some sign that this was really a request from our Lady.  Juan Diego, serving as the go-between at this point, asked the Virgin Mary for a sign, which she said would be forthcoming.  In the meantime, Juan Diego’s uncle became seriously ill and he was unable to meet Mary at the appointed time and place.  You can’t hide from our Lady, however, and she finally met up with Juan Diego.  I love her response when he explained about his sick uncle.  She said: “Am I not here, I who am your mother?” Our Lady reassured him that his uncle was recovered, and she asked him to go up on the hill and find the flowers she had left there.  This was in December, but he found the flowers just as Mary had promised.  He took them straight to the bishop, who noticed the image of the Virgin imprinted on Juan Diego’s clothing when he opened his cloak to release the flowers he had collected.

The Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego as an Aztec. Her skin and features resembled his.  She identified with him.  Mary, even in our Gospel reading for today, is a humble person.  No one is too lowly for her notice.  If our Gospel for today had gone a few verses further and contained the entire Magnificat, we would have heard the wonder in Mary’s song that God had come to her in her lowliness, and because of that, she would be called blessed throughout the ages.   


When we take time to pray today, we might take a few minutes to consider how like Mary we are.  Are we people of faith?  If God asks something difficult of us, do we generally say yes?  Do we seek out the poor and lowly, or as Pope Francis has said, have the smell of the sheep on us?  Or do we turn away from the homeless, the hungry, and the stranger?  

Monday, December 10, 2018

“Go in Search of the Stray” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

“Go in Search of the Stray” by Melanie Rigney

A voice says, "Cry out!" I answer, "What shall I cry out?" "All flesh is grass and all their glory like the flower of the field.  The grass withers, the flower wilts, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it. So then, the people is the grass. Though the grass withers and the flower wilts, the word of our God stands forever." (Isaiah 40:6-8)

The Lord our God comes with power. (Isaiah 40:10ab)

Jesus said to his disciples: "What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep
and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray.  In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost."  (Matthew 18:12-14)

Lord, I am lost… and longing to be found.

I was doing some research recently for a project on midlife women and decided it was finally time to look into Julia Cameron. You’ve likely heard of The Artist’s Way, which in the past nearly thirty years has helped millions seeking to discover or rediscover their creativity in pretty much any form. I have to confess I’ve rather studiously avoided Cameron until now, believing creativity is something we all can have all the time; it’s just a matter of not giving into the dry spells.

Still, Cameron’s a touchstone for many women my age, so I picked up a number of her books along with Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance and a few others. I was very analytical about what they seemed to have in common—keywords, length of passages, call to action, encouraging vs. challenging content.

But after all the other books went back to the library, the one I’ve kept and renewed to read, really read, like a reader, not a writer, is Cameron’s Faith and Will: Weathering the Storms in Our Spiritual Lives. It’s not like the other books I’d checked out, full of exercises and advice. It’s about God and us, and Cameron’s Catholic roots come through in practically every paragraph.

When do we, like sheep, go astray? For me, anyway, it often starts with something small, something embarrassing, not criminal, that barely seems worth troubling God about. And then it grows and festers. I’m in one of those places now, trying to figure out what words I would even give to this in confession.

And in this particular struggle, I am finding much solace and, I hope, eventually, courage in reading Faith and Will. I cannot count the number of times I’ve re-read this:

Shrinking back from God, we begin to harbor secrets. We have our reservations about God—based on our feeling that God would have reservations about us. We have God in a second-class way because we are sure that to God, we are second-class citizens. We lack the self-worth to see how it is that we can really have an open relationship with God. Openness implies honesty, and honesty requires a certain amount of self-respect. … Without meaning to do it, we sell ourselves short and we sell God short.

Whether or not the other project comes to fruition, I am grateful for getting that rather large cinder about Julia Cameron out of my eye. What she had to say to me personally shouldn’t have been a revelation, but it was: Like creativity, faith is something we all can have all the time; it’s just a matter of not giving into the dry spells.

Where are you “shrinking back from God”? Pray for the strength to face Him… and yourself.

Image credit: Matson Collection [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

In Front of Jesus

In Front of Jesus

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. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; Then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing. Isaiah 35:3-6A

And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed; they were trying to bring him in and set him in his presence.  But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles into the middle in front of Jesus.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "As for you, your sins are forgiven." Luke 5:18-20

What would you and your friends do to get in front of Jesus?

In this second week of Advent, we hear an interesting mixture of promises from the Hebrew Bible and examples of how Jesus, in the Good News, fulfills those promises. (The time shift seems disjointed…we are waiting for Jesus but also get a look of what is to come.)

Today, Isaiah paints a picture of a world redeemed by a healing God.  The Luke witnesses how that comes to pass as Jesus heals the paralytic (“…Then will the lame leap like a stag.”).[i]

The scene Luke portrays was controlled chaos with the focus on chaos, not control.  People are coming from every village knowing that the power of the Lord for healing was offered. The Group Reunion of friends who brought the paralyzed man to Jesus for healing could not get past the crowd.  Pushing and shoving.  Shoving and pushing.

Those who were there first were none too happy when these feisty friends cut in line and then cut a hole in the roof and lowered their friend to the feet of Jesus.

In front of Jesus, the man was healed.  But more so.  Jesus not only healed the paralyzed man physically, but he took the occasion to show the great glory and splendor of God that is described so eloquently in the first reading.  By healing not only his body but forgiving his sins, Jesus taught the crowd, which included the Pharisees, that God is more generous than we expect.  

The notes in the NABRE explain that the connection between the forgiveness of sins and the cure of the paralytic reflects the belief of first-century Palestine (based on the Old Testament: Ex 20:5; Dt 5:9) that sickness and infirmity are the result of sin, one’s own or that of one’s ancestors.

Finding intimacy with God in the midst of the Beltway, K Street, final exams, Tysons Corner, job interviews, a broken-down Metro system, hospital visits, and a crowded unemployment line is tough.  Our Advent starts with getting in touch with our own needs and desires. The paralytic man sought healing. What do you seek? Once we know what we need, we have to them let go and let Jesus take over. He enters the Advent world offering us what the world cannot give.

Fr. James Martin, SJ, reminds us that Jesus was (and IS) a real person who came into real time and a real place and encountered real people like the paralytic man. Advent is about our time waiting for God to reenter into history.

Can you allow God to enter into your own personal history?

Kathy Martin asks us, “What “roof” in our lives needs to have a hole torn through it so that Jesus can be reached?”

When you are in front of Jesus, what will you ask?

That Your Love May Increase Ever More by Jim Bayne

That Your Love May Increase Ever More by Jim Bayne

For God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with the mercy and justice that are his. – BAR 5:9

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy. – Ps 126:3

And this is my prayer:  that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. – Phil 1:9-11

As it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low.  The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” – Luke 3:4-6


May you give and receive love generously.
May this love echo in your heart like
the joy of church bells on a clear December day.

May each person who comes into your life
be greeted as another Christ.
May the honor given the Babe of Bethlehem
be that which you extend to every guest who enters your presence.

May the hope of this sacred season settle in your soul.
May it be a foundation of courage for you
when times of distress occupy your inner land.

May the wonder and awe that fills the eyes of children
be awakened within you.
May it lead you to renewed awareness and appreciation
of whatever you too easily take for granted.

May the bonds of love for one another be strengthened
as you gather around the table of festivity and nourishment.

May you keep your eye on the Star within you and trust
this Luminescent Presence to guide and direct you each day.

May you go often to the Bethlehem of your heart
and visit the One who offers you peace.

May you bring this peace into our world
– Christmas Blessing by Joyce Rupp

John Rausch  (June 2, 1937 -  November 14, 2018)
About a month before he died on November 14, I went to take my longtime friend John Rausch out to lunch.  Instead, John invited me in to share the lunch he had prepared for both of us.

During our lunch, John said that he had been asking himself for some time why he was still here.  I reported that I too sometimes ask myself the same question.  I was 82 this past September.  John would have been 82 this coming June.  We've done most of whatever we were called to do in this life.

After some discussion, we decided that we were still here because there were still some people who needed to talk to us and to whom we needed to listen.  As today's first reading tells us, just as God led Israel in joy by the light of his glory, so too God had been leading us.  During the last 40+ years, our lives have been guided by our weekly practice of Piety, Study, and Action taught to us by the "Cursillo Method."  We have the grace of that experience to share.

John was a daily Mass-goer.  I am a frequent Mass-goer.  This practice along with the other elements of our daily prayer life have strengthened our Piety and enabled us to appreciate the light of his glory.  We have encountered Christ frequently in our Piety practices.

For the many years that we grouped, our common and principle source of Study was a book titled A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants.  During almost every group reunion, we would say to each other, "Well, I was in 'The Book' this week and I found...."  John's copy was on the sideboard in his dining room as we ate lunch.

This one book, perhaps more than any other, provided for us, the answer to Paul's prayer in today's second reading: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.    We encountered Christ in our Study, time and time again.

These two elements combined over the years to enable us through our Apostolic Action to ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, (and) make straight his paths not only in our own lives but to be instruments of God's grace for others we met along the way.  We encountered Christ in our Apostolic Action.

Our Piety and Study made us men, who in our old age, still have a message to share with others in need of the Light of Christ in their lives.  Our weekly living and sharing a life of Piety, Study and Action have enabled us to help others fill in the valleys in their lives and level the mountains they have to climb.  What better reason could there be for each of us to be here on this earth?

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, the great feast of light, take some time this week to reflect on how your life of Piety, Study, and Action is bringing the Light of Christ into your life and into the lives of those in your environment. 

Are you in a group reunion? 

Do you encounter Christ each week in your life of prayer? 

Do you encounter Christ in Study? 

Do your Piety and Study enable you to encounter Christ in your Apostolic Action and be a source of Christ's light for those in need?

Crying Out in the Desert by Rev. Paul Berghout (@FatherPB)

Crying Out in the Desert by Rev. Paul Berghout (@FatherPB)

For God has commanded that every lofty mountain be made low, and that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground, that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God. The forests and every fragrant kind of tree have overshadowed Israel at God’s command; for God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company. Baruch 5:7-9

John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. (Luke 3:2-4)

Father Joseph Donders who lives in Washington DC tells an interesting story about going to the airport to pick up a friend who was coming to visit him from Africa. It was a cold, winter day and all the trees were bare except for a few firs and pines. This was the first time his friend ever left his home country in Africa. As he looked at the trees he said, “I had heard about this, but I did not realize things were so bad.” Not knowing what his African friend was talking about, Fr. Donders asked, “What do you mean?” His friend said he heard about air pollution in America and its effect on trees, “but,” he said, “I never thought it was bad as this with all those trees dead!”

“The word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.” Kind of a barren place, like the bare trees this time of year, but the simple sparseness is a place of insight, free of distractions.

In this spiritual place free of distractions, we can ask ourselves: Where am I most attentive to the voice of God? What distracts me from the Word of God?

John was proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins— What message is God asking me to share through my words and actions? From what sins do I need to repent of?

The baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins— this is not, of course, the Christian sacrament of baptism but a prophetic symbolic action to renew the commitment to the covenant life of right living, so the Israelites did this by dunking themselves in the Jordan River as a sign of their re-commitment.

It can be summarized by the winding roads that shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth— what people, places, or things entice me to veer away from God’s path?

What needs straightening out in my life? How can I help ease the path of others?

The unsubdued territories of a person’s heart always make trouble. Consider this story: Two medieval barons who lived near the Rhine River. Between them existed a terrible feud. One time, the stronger knight swept down upon his enemy and utterly wrecked his castle, conquered his retainers and murdered all of the family—save one, a little boy.

This little, innocent lad he carried away with him to his castle. The boy grew and one time a very old man told him about the ancient feud and of the frightful outrages which his father had suffered at the hands of him in whose castle he now lived.

In that hour the lad registered a vow to avenge his father’s house and to humiliate his newly discovered enemy. Years wore on, the bold and bloody baron had almost forgotten the incident, but the lad, now a man, had not. He had been plotting with powerful men outside the castle. One dark and stormy night the old baron was making merry in his great hall, the fires burned bright and the Rhenish wine flowed freely.

When the hilarity was at its height, the enemy within the gates signaled to the enemy without. The drawbridge rattled over the moat. The mailed soldiers entered the castle and that night the baron perished, and his estates passed to his enemies.

The moral of the story:

If there lurks one unsubdued appetite, one unconquered lust, one false idea within my heart, all the fair estate of my life lies in jeopardy.

Mr. Stopford Brooke tells of the man who carried a venomous pet viper always with him— one day it bit him to his death. Once the pet tiger tastes blood; one day the wistful python feels its power. What does it all plainly teach? That the enemy must be completely destroyed, the viper killed, the tiger caged, the python crushed while young, the evil desire smothered.

There must be no compromise. John the Baptist expressed this idea in his picture of the straight path. No devious way, no turnings to the enticing by deviations to the right or to the left.

John the Baptist is introduced to us within his geopolitical framework involving the Roman emperor and his client states, i.e.

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,
when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea,
and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,
and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region
of Ituraea and Trachonitis,
and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,
during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,
the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. Luke 3:1-2

The Word of the Lord comes to us still even now in our current political climate.

The First Reading is a response to the salvation that is at hand spoken by the prophet Baruch who lived during the Babylonian exile over 500 before Christ.

The time of mourning of being taken into exile by the enemy is over. Now, the prophet is saying that the light of salvation is shone for all nations. Be a light to them! Be a messenger of hope. Make straight his paths!

It can be summarized by the winding roads that shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth— what people, places, or things entice me to veer away from God’s path?

What needs straightening out in my life? How can I help ease the path of others?

Saturday, December 08, 2018

"How Can This Be?”

"How Can This Be?”

The man called his wife Eve because she became the mother of all the living. Genesis 3:20

Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done wondrous deeds; His right hand has won victory for him, his holy arm. Psalm 98:1

In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ.  Ephesians 1:11-12

"How can this be?”  Luke 1:34

Let’s clear up any confusion. The Immaculate Conception signifies Mary getting conceived in her mother’s womb.  Just because the reading is from the Annunciation, don’t be confused. This is not (yet) about only about The Jesus Story.  However, we can not get to The Jesus Story without getting tied to the Mary Story.  They are bound together like petals on the same flower.
If not for this solitary Immaculate Conception, then Mary would not have been a humble, worthy mother to the Son of God and the New Mother of All Humanity.  Without the Immaculate Conception, the Annunciation would not have happened.  Neither would the Nativity.  Neither would Good Friday.  Easter, out.  Ascension, not. Holy Spirit does not descend. Assumption, nil.  Out of all Salvation History and Sacred Tradition, this one moment is the turning point.  It brings the Promise of Eden to Life again!   

Today is a “Holy Day of Obligation.” This comes from the Latin ligātus (past participle of ligāre to tie, bind). Mary and Jesus are mortally connected an umbilical cord.  In one sense, it could never be separated.  When Michelangelo carved his famous statue Pieta, it was two figures carved out of one perfect slab of marble.

From the beginning to the end, Mary was there.  Mary stood by Jesus to the end. Unity. Fullness. Completion. Security. Love. Duty.  Hope. 

She could NOT not be at the foot of the cross and more than she could NOT not be at the Nativity. 

At the foot of the cross, we see the price of binding love revealed. We see that there is no resurrection without the Immaculate Conception bringing everything together, binding everything together.  We see piety today in the actions of a Jewish teenager.  We see duty. We see passion. The cross of love cost Jesus his life. It cost Mary, her son. Piety is about our capacity to respond to that love by merely loving God and each other. Mere Christianity.

By Mary tying her life to God from the moment she was formed in her mother’s womb, we as her children and his siblings now also have an obligation to fulfill.  The beads in our Rosary are the cord that connects us through the years right back to Our Father who art in heaven, Our Mother full of grace and our brother Jesus having pity on us all so he carried the cross for everyone.

Growing up, we focused on the obligation part of today.  A Holy Day of Obligation – to a third grader -- meant we had to go to church. How short-sighted. It’s not about going to church, it’s about coming from church.  Yes, this weekend, we come from Church on Saturday and Sunday.  It’s not about what happens inside the Church. It's about what happens before you go and afterward.

What page of your story is bound into Salvation history? Your story is tied to The Mary Story.  Your story is tied to The Jesus Story.  As you tie your shoes today, think of how you will live out your binds to all humanity. Do you need to turn over a new leaf? 

Friday, December 07, 2018

According to Your Faith

According to Your Faith

Thus, says the Lord GOD: But a very little while

and Lebanon shall be changed into an orchard, and the orchard be regarded as a forest! On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book; And out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see. The lowly will ever find joy in the LORD, and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.  Isaiah 29:17-19

As Jesus passed by, two blind men followed him, crying out, "Son of David, have pity on us!" When he entered the house, the blind men approached him and Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I can do this?" "Yes, Lord," they said to him. Then he touched their eyes and said, "Let it be done for you according to your faith."  Matthew 9:27-29
“When he entered the house, the blind men approached Jesus...”

“Enter into your mind’s inner chamber. Shut out everything but God... when you have shut the door, look for him. Speak to God and say with your whole heart: I seek your face; your face, Lord, I desire.”  -St Anselm

The weekly readings fall into a nice pattern.  Sunday sets up a major theme that is explored throughout the week.  Each daily scripture adds breadth and depth to what came before it.

Today breaks that pattern. If redemption has always been at the heart of God’s plan, then today looks ahead to tomorrow.

Tomorrow is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  From that point forward in time, the wheels of the redemption plan are set in motion.  Prophecy becomes action.  What is promised in Isaiah starts to unfold in a little Palestinian village. Isaiah 29 foretells the Canticle of Mary and all the amazing reversals it portends. Matthew 9 reminds me of Mary’s reaction to the message of the angel.

How different is this:
"Let it be done for you according to your faith."  Matthew 9:27-29

From this:
Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Luke 1:38

For the redemption story to unfold, we need a few willing characters to take the stage.  Sprinkle faith the size of a mustard seed…let’s wait and see what unfolds.

If there is any characteristic that Advent cultivates in our being, that is the request to wait. With each passing commercial that seduces us to desire a Mercedes-Benz or Lexus with a bright silver or red bow, society gives us an equal and opposite force for immediate gratification.

Wait.  Later.

Want. Now.

The NABRE introduction to the Book of Isaiah sets the redemption stage eight centuries before the Immaculate Conception.  This greatest of the prophets appeared at a critical moment in Israel’s history: when the Northern Kingdom collapsed, under the hammer-like blows of Assyria, in 722 B.C. Just a generation later, Jerusalem witnessed the army of Sennacherib drawn up before its walls.

With the literal barbarians at the gate, Isaiah voices what had to be a very unwelcome message.  Wait. “In a very little while?”  Indeed.  Eight centuries later, Jesus appears on stage.  A refugee born under the belligerent rule of the Romans. Hardly the conquering king everyone has been waiting to lead them to victory. (We Americans are so proud of the fact that we will celebrate 242 years of independence from the belligerent British.)

Advent Waiting is as countercultural today as the message of Isaiah was in his day.  What personal pleasure can you put off today in order to bring happiness and light to someone else? That is not procrastination. That is the road to redemption. 

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

“Eternal Rock of God Anchor Me” by Beth DeCristofaro

“Eternal Rock of God Anchor Me” by Beth DeCristofaro

Trust in the LORD forever! For the LORD is an eternal Rock.  (Isaiah 26:4)

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. (Matthew 7:21)

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.
(Psalm 118:1, 8-9)

Jesus’ stern advice hits hard.  He illustrates the teaching with a story of the wise man whose house, built on rock, survives storms while the foolish man’s house, built on sand, does not.  In these days of global news, we watch way too often the graphic results of storm wreaking havoc among poor and rich alike all over the world.  Images show us the ravages of war, famine, tsunamis killing and maiming thousands.  Are they all foolish?  Some preachers would have us believe it is so.  Jesus, however, was offering a much deeper and more nuanced teaching.

only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven is a choice we make within our heart, listening and attending to the graces of the Spirit.  Jesus makes these graces available to us all but not all of us say “yes.”  Henri Nouwen explains that we have the opportunity to say “yes” every day but must make an effort to do so.  We must spend time with the Gospel and in prayer so that the Word becomes part of us not just some idea to be appreciated.[i]

As we view news coverage of villages swept down a mountain or charred and emptied by the fire we can only acknowledge deep in our hearts that human situation is built on sand.  Our eternal soul, however, is offered the opportunity and can be affixed to the LORD (who) is an eternal Rock.  By living in this trust when the soil of our lives is churned up or blasted away, we are clinging to the eternal, cared for by a loving God.

How solid do my feet feel grounded on the Lord?  I can know this by His Fruits activated in my life rather than what I own or drive, or by titles and roles.  We sometimes judge that being grounded in God means holding our heads high in the face of tragedy but it can also mean being curled in a fetal position clinging to the cross of Christ, more intimate to his suffering than we believe we can take.  Dedicate time today to closely listen to the Word.  Let your inner life experience the Cross and the Rock of the eternal Lord, the only real reality.     

[i] Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Henri Nouwen, A Redemptorist Pastoral Publication, Liguori Press, 1989, p. 8.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

“Joyous Anticipation” by Colleen O’Sullivan

“Joyous Anticipation” 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.  On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations; he will destroy death forever.  The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces; The reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth; for the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 25:6-8)

Rembrandt, Christ Healing the Sick, c. 1646-1650,
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
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. The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the deformed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind able to see, and they glorified the God of Israel.  (Matthew 15:30-31).

You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD

for years to come.  (Psalm 23:5-6)

Advent encompasses four weeks of anticipation, four weeks of listening to everything God promises us, and four weeks of practicing patient waiting for those promises to come to fruition. 

Today’s readings first show God wanting to throw a sumptuous banquet for all of us, complete with fine dishes and choice wines.  Besides feeding us and celebrating with us, God intent is to destroy death and to wipe away every tear from our eyes. 

In today’s psalm, the Lord is portrayed as the Shepherd under whose care you and I will lack for nothing.   God is the One who will walk beside us through the worst of our experiences and the One who leads us to pastures where we can rest and be refreshed.  

Turning to today’s Gospel, Jesus is the Compassionate and Merciful One, healing crowds of sick and disabled people and rejoicing when they become whole once again.  When the healing is accomplished, Jesus takes pity on the crowd, for they have had nothing to eat and, with nothing but a small amount of bread and fish, manages to satisfy everyone’s hunger and even have leftovers after everyone has eaten their fill.

Advent is the season for being grateful for all the ways in which God’s love has already touched our lives and time for joyously anticipating the fullness of God’s love when Christ returns as King in glory.

Take a few minutes today to enjoy The Lord's My Shepherd by Stuart Townsend.  As you listen, reflect on what the words mean to you in your life and give thanks for the love which you’ve already experienced.

Image credit by Rembrandt - kolekcje.mkidn.gov.pl : Home: Info: Pic, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17430832 

Monday, December 03, 2018

“The Eyes That See What You See” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

“The Eyes That See What You See” by Melanie Rigney

On that day, A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots, 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. (Isaiah 11:1-3)

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

Turning to the disciples in private he said, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it." (Luke 10:23-24)

Jesus, open my eyes to Your presence in my life.

The Gospels have many accounts of Pharisees, Sanhedrin, scribes, and others who just couldn’t see. They were learned people, people who studied the Torah as if their lives depended on it but just couldn’t see how the prophecies were being fulfilled, right in front of them. Their lack of faith kept their eyes and ears closed.

Earlier this year, I heard a homily in which it was posited God is powerless without faith. I had trouble with that statement for quite a while. After all, if the Lord is all-powerful, how can something as seemingly small and intangible as our faith stop Him in His tracks?

I still haven’t come to a conclusion that I find completely satisfying, and maybe I never will. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe we really do prevent Him from working in our lives when we spend our time looking for what we think Jesus should be instead of accepting that He’s always there, all but begging us to have that tiny mustard seed of faith. We have before us the example of those who believed that nothing good ever came out of Nazareth and that a man whose genealogy included kings and prostitutes, outsiders and adulterers and who preached forgiveness could not possibly be the Messiah. They couldn’t see what generations before them had longed for, had yearned for, had realized on their deathbeds that He wasn’t coming in their time, and probably offered a prayer that their descendants would recognize Him when He arrived. But many didn’t, despite the evidence. Many still don’t today. Let’s keep our eyes and ears open to His grace so that we are not counted among them.

Slow down today and open your eyes and ears to the Good News. It’s everywhere.

(Image credit: Publicdomainpictures via https://pixabay.com/en/close-up-communication-deaf-ear-18753/.)