Friday, February 12, 2016

Light Shall Rise for You


Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post.  He said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.  Luke 5:27-28

Piety
If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday; Then the LORD will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land. He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails.  Isaiah 58:9B-11

Study
Today’s story is hard to believe for those closest to Jesus and still harder for us to understand from long distance. 

Levi/Matthew leaves everything behind.  Just like Peter and the fishermen-friends, Luke shows that Jesus asks for complete detachment from material possessions.  That departure may be hard for us to understand.  Today, we measure things by the yardstick, “So what? Who cares?  What’s in it for me?”  Jesus tells us to throw that away.  The real issue here is what is in it for Jesus and the other, not for the self. 

However, it was harder still to understand why Jesus would call Matthew in the first place. Matthew was a tax collector.  He might have been in Capernaum to collect a fish tax from Peter, Andrew, James and John.  This truly astonished the people around Jesus.  Yet, Jesus wants Matthew/Levi in his corner more than he wants the Pharisees like Nicodemus.  Jesus wants the sinners. Jesus wants us.

Let’s return to our modern mindset.  So what if we do leave everything behind?  What’s in it for me?  Look no further than Isaiah for the unqualified covenant promise.

If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday; Then the LORD will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land. He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails.    

Action
One group of people leave everything behind for personal reasons.  They quit their jobs and want to travel the world.  For them, leaving everything behind is a way to free themselves from one vocation while they pursue something new. Sometimes, it also is a way of running away from problems rather than facing them.

In the modern world, there also are large masses of people who have no choice but who have to leave everything behind for political, economic or security reasons.  They set off in search of a safe place to raise their family and live. They are called refugees – wandering like the Jews through the desert -- in search of a promised land of safety.


The political and humanitarian crisis in Syria continues to be of serious concern for the Catholic Church and the bishops of the United States. In the past five years, at least four million Syrians have fled their country as a consequence of the civil war and the rise of ISIS. Most have fled to surrounding countries, and many others have moved on to Europe with the hope of finding a place of peace and safety. Reflecting Christ's call to welcome the stranger, it is imperative that we help to provide a place of welcome to vulnerable refugee populations, with particular attention given to the ongoing crisis in Syria.  

The Parishes Organized to Welcome Refugees (POWR) program strengthens the dioceses and parishes' ability to welcome refugees from all over the world.  Its main focus is to encourage parishes to make an ongoing and organized commitment to working with refugees in partnership with the resettlement program of the diocese. In response to the growing crisis, the POWR program will assist in the resettlement of Syrian refugees. Please consider helping POWR during this needed time.  Your support will provide long-term assistance locally to all refugees, like the Syrian refugees, by giving them the vital resources they need to keep safe, healthy, and secure. 

If you live in New York, Florida, or Washington, DC, donate online now. . . . To make a donation from another state, please return this donation form to the address indicated.  

Jesus is asking us to make a different choice.  He wants us to leave every possession behind so that we can be freed up from the weight of what holds us down and back.  In that way, we can travel light and travel for Him. 

Be amazed!  Look what’s in it for you when you leave everything behind. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Fasting Without a Rice Bowl


By Colleen O’Sullivan

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:  releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them and not turning your back on your own.  Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.  Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say:  Here I am!   (Isaiah 58:6-9a)

For you are not pleased with sacrifices;
Should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.  (Psalm 51:18-19)

Piety
“No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others.  So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.” 
(St. John Chrysostom, as quoted by then-Cardinal Bergoglio shortly before being elected Pope in a Lenten message to the people of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires)

Study
The other day someone asked me what I was giving up for Lent.  Without waiting for an answer, she told me she was giving up M&Ms.  Someone standing nearby chimed in.  She was planning to give up milk in her coffee.  I didn’t know either of them, and I was waiting to hear what would follow, but that was where the conversation ended. 

So much of what we do during Lent seems like fasting without a rice bowl.  You know, the little paper bowl you are given in your parish to put on your table at home.  The bowl that holds what you save by fasting or otherwise place in it from the goodness of your heart.  The bowl that is emptied at the end of Lent, when you give the contents to Catholic Relief Services, in whose hands it becomes food for the hungry around the world.

Maybe that’s what God was saying to the people in today’s first reading.  Without a rice bowl or some other form of giving, fasting in and of itself doesn’t means much.  Showy displays with sackcloth and ashes don’t cut it according to the Lord.  Sacrifices that are better for our bodies than anything else probably don’t get high marks in God’s estimation, either.

God is very clear about what type of fasting is desirable:  Working for justice and freedom for the oppressed, whether in a refugee center on the Texas border or in some far away corner of the globe.  Feeding the hungry by stocking the food pantry in your parish, volunteering at SOME (So Others Might Eat) downtown, or providing sustenance to a war-torn area far from Northern Virginia.  Providing hospitality, shelter, food, and clothing to those who would otherwise literally be out in the cold when the hypothermia shelter comes to your parish or a church in your neighborhood. 

Action
Lent 2016 is still young.  There’s still time to ponder God’s words in today’s reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah and to reflect on how we plan to fast during this season.  Fasting without a rice bowl, without a means to reach out in love and compassion to others, is empty.   Especially during this Jubilee Year of Mercy, what God desires is fasting and sacrifice that lead to corporal works of mercy.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Choose Love, Choose Life, Choose the Cross


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. For that will mean life for you. (Deuteronomy 30:19-20) 

Then (Jesus) 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
For you created me and shaped me,
Gave me life within my mother's womb.
For the wonder of who I am I praise you:
Safe in your hands, all creation is made new.
 (from God You Search Me, Bernadette Farrell, based on Psalm 139)

Study
As ashes were inscribed on my forehead during Ash Wednesday Mass yesterday, tears came to my eyes.  The ancient words, “Remember thou are dust and unto dust you will return” convey a deep truth and mystery.  They become poignant with the passing of the years.  Another Lenten journey to draw closer and closer to God through the desert of our lives.  Another reminder of the passing of mortal time as we look at the ripening lives of our children and growing frailty of our parents.  We are aware in new ways of the incompleteness of our own hopes and dreams. The words deliver at the same time the truth that life in Christ is richer, deeper, more timeless than anything we can imagine for ourselves.  He chose and gave us that life.

But I also heard in these words, “dust to dust” the awe inspiring and tear inducing truth that my dust – your dust too – is precious.  This “mortal coil” was shaped and quickened in the image of the Creator because God wanted me and you to live, to love, to praise, and to share the journey to God with the rest of God’s creation.  My “dust” is precious.  Your “dust” is precious.  May we every day live purposefully, learning to love as God loves.

Action
Jesus accepted and became dust just like me.  He loved extravagantly to the cross and beyond.  Our tears of mortality and eternity are gifts from our Redeemer.  During Lent, what cross might I accept with just a bit more love, a bit more life than I have been willing to do before?

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Stirred to Concern


Then the LORD was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his people.  Joel 2:18

We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20

And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you. Matthew 6:4B, 6B, 18B

Piety
I close my eyes only for a moment, and the moment's gone
All my dreams pass before my eyes, a curiosity
Dust in the wind, all they are is dust in the wind
Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see
Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind
Now, don't hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away, and all your money won't another minute buy
Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind.
Dust in the wind, everything is dust in the wind.

Study
How “Year of Mercy” is this reading? 

We cross the threshold of Lent being held in the heart of the Lord.  The Hebrew word for “concern” in Joel 2:18 describes the passionate empathetic bond the Lord has with Israel. The people’s wholehearted participation in Joel’s call for fasting and prayer sparks the Lord’s longing to protect and love his people Israel. This desire moves him to withhold punishment and to send the blessing instead.

When two countries want to have close ties with each other, among the many steps that they take is to exchange ambassadors.  A person from each land moves to the other country to live and represent the homeland among the foreign people.  As a first step, the “ambassador-in-residence” brings his or her portfolio and presents those qualifications to the head of the other government when they arrive in the foreign country.  The host country then accepts the appointed person who will rule over his home country’s embassy and interests.    

The home country sends the ambassador to represent their interests in business or economic issues, on political issues, on cultural issues.  In Paul’s letter to the people in Corinth, he says that we are ambassadors for Christ.  Christ sends us to present his interests. Christ commissions us to speak out for issues close to his heart.  Christ commissions us to speak out for people close to his heart.  Christ commissions us to speak out for places close to his heart. 

Action
The com-passion that stirred the Lord in the first reading from the Hebrew Bible must stir our hearts as well.  If today you hear His voice, open up your hearts.

As ambassadors, we are asked to quietly go about our almsgiving, fasting and prayer life.  We are not asked to wear loud, colorful shirts and wake people up early in the morning (although there is nothing wrong if we do that on special occasions.) We are not asked to wear ashes on our forehead every day of the year (although there is nothing wrong if we do that on special occasions).  We are not asked to give up everything we have and give it all to the poor (although there is nothing wrong if we offer sacrificial gifts).

What would you wear to show that you are representing the home country of the Lord if you were appointed ambassador to Virginia?  What did Christ wear for us?  Let’s remember that he was adorned with a crown of thorns on his head, a heavy wooden cross on his back, and our sins in his heart.  There was no silver or gold bling around Christ’s neck as he walked to present his credentials at the top of this hill. 

What will Christ write in your letter to the head of the land where you will represent him?  When you are there, what issues will stir you to concern for this season of Lent and beyond? 

Grant Pardon


By Melanie Rigney

By Oxh973 (Own work by Jennifer Balaska)
[Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
(Solomon said:) “Listen to the petitions of your servant and of your people Israel which they offer in this place. Listen from your heavenly dwelling and grant pardon.” (1 Kings 8:30)

How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God! (Psalm 84:2)

“You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things.” (Mark 7:13)

Piety
Here I am, Lord, far from ready for the rigors of Lent, just as I seldom perceive I am ready for the service You desire. I offer what I am, imperfect as can be, and trust You will find a way to make use of me.

Study
The last day of ordinary time for weeks and weeks and weeks. Are you ready?

I’m not.

Lent is sneaking up on me this year, as it may be for you. It’s early this year, but even when it’s late, there never seems to be enough time to prepare one’s soul for a season of self-examination, fasting, and penance. After all, there’s real life to deal with between the end of the Christmas season and Ash Wednesday: budgets to balance, families to get back on track, resolutions to attempt to fulfill. And let’s not even get into how Snowzilla wreaked havoc on our plans.

Pope Francis wants us to live Lent in this the Jubilee Year of Mercy “more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God’s mercy.” He even tells us what that’s supposed to look like “prayerful listening to God’s word, especially his prophetic word,” including “a generous, faithful and compassionate goodness shown within marriage and family relationships.”

No small order.

And so today, while I scramble to figure out ways I can get away from the office long enough to get ashed with some coworkers tomorrow at lunchtime, and tonight, when I make sure the beautiful Lenten resources a dear friend gave me is by the side of my bed for the morning, I will pray what I often pray: “I’m not ready, God. Forgive me. Do what You can with what I have to offer. I have faith you’ll surprise me. Amen.”

Action
Write down five words that describe your faith life today. Stick them in your planner to review on May 16—the next day in ordinary time.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Their Hearts Were Hardened


When the priests left the holy place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD so that the priests could no longer minister because of the cloud, since the LORD'S glory had filled the temple of the LORD. Then Solomon said, "The LORD intends to dwell in the dark cloud; I have truly built you a princely house, a dwelling where you may abide forever." 1 Kings 8:10-13

As they were leaving the boat, people immediately recognized him. They scurried about the surrounding country and began to bring in the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed. Mark 6:54-56

Piety

Let us enter God's dwelling; let us worship at God's footstool.

"Arise, LORD, come to your resting place, you and your majestic ark.
Your priests will be clothed with justice; your faithful will shout for joy."
For the sake of David your servant, do not reject your anointed. Psalm 132:7-10

Study

Today our readings give us a study in contrasts.

In the first reading, the Jews settle into the new land and dedicate the temple. As part of that ceremony, they enshrine the Ark of the Covenant into the temple and the Lord “moves in” as the cloud fills the space of the temple. The Lord has a home where he will dwell and his people will recognize him.

However, Mark gives us another story of the disciples still not recognizing what is happening around them. After the miracle of the loaves, Jesus calmed the seas that were terrifying the disciples in the boat. Yet they still did not understand what was happening.

When they got to the other side of the sea, the people on the other side who had not been a part of the miracle of the loaves immediately recognized Jesus and turned to him for more signs and healing of the sick. Jesus still did not dwell in the hearts of those closest to him. Instead, he had a place among neighboring people, but not his own.

No longer are Jesus’ own people “settled.” He has come among them and challenged their rational lives and religious principles. So rather than settling in among them, Jesus becomes nomadic once again like his ancestors. He travels to nearby towns and villages on foot or by boat to spread his good news.

Action

With human needs all around, have you recently reassessed your charitable giving.  With the Bishop’s Lenten Appeal, capital campaigns, telemarketing by charities, and more, now is the perfect time to figure out  what you can give to charity from your time and your treasure. 

Are you able to donate the average 2 percent to charities of your choice? Can you consider the kind of sacrifice needed to get your level of giving up to five or ten percent?

Sunday, February 07, 2016

The Grace of God That Is With Me


By Melanie Rigney

Anton Losenko (public domain), via Wikimedia Commons
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember that he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it and said, “See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.” (Isaiah 6:6-7)

In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord. (Psalm 138:1c)

For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me. (1 Corinthians 15:9-10)

They came and filled both boats (with fish) so that the boats were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For the astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him… Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” (Luke 5:7-8, 9, 10)

Piety
Lord, I ask for the grace to put my fears and false modesty aside and serve You.

Study
Isaiah knew he wasn’t worthy to have seen the Lord; he called himself part of “a people of unclean lips.”

Paul knew he wasn’t worthy in and of himself to be called an apostle; after all, he’d persecuted Christians.

Peter knew he wasn’t worthy of Jesus’s gifts; after all, he had grumbled about futility before obeying his friend and putting out the nets one last time.

And yet—each is rewarded, not punished. A seraphim heals Isaiah’s wickedness; Jesus counsels Peter and the others not to be afraid; and Paul realizes his public ministry has come not by his work, but by grace.

It’s so much easier to contemplate our imperfections, our sorry earthly inabilities, our insignificance, than it is to shoulder those burdens, those demons, and follow and serve. And yet, if we are to catch people for the Lord, there is no option. He will make the most of what we have, if we have the faith to follow.

Action
Just for today, put aside your doubts about the Lord’s plan for you. Believe. Be. Act.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

What You Have Not Asked For


I do as you requested. I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you. In addition, I give you what you have not asked for, such riches and glory that among kings there is not your like.”  1 Kings 3:12-13

When Jesus disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. Mark 6:34
 
Piety
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” 

Study
The Holy Land has been a busy place.  After Jesus had shown his hand by curing people with diseases and driving out demons, he commissioned his disciples to do the same.  They went forth without too many heavy bags to weigh them down.  When they returned, Jesus rewarded them with the promise of a retreat.  “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” But there was no escaping the actions people desired once they know how Jesus would answer their prayers. 

The attempted withdrawal of Jesus and his disciples to a desert place is interrupted.  Their “rest” attracts a great number of people following them. “Toward this people of the new exodus Jesus is moved with pity; he satisfies their spiritual hunger by teaching them many things, thus gradually showing himself the faithful shepherd of a new Israel.”[i]

While it might be easy to focus on continuing buildup of the good works performed by Jesus, instead peer into the hearts of Solomon and Jesus as revealed in today’s readings.  Solomon could have asked the Lord for anything.  Yet in humility, he requested a wise and understanding heart.  He was blessed with compassion and wisdom beyond all in history before and since.  That compassion was embedded in the sacred heart of Jesus.  Jesus took that compassion and made it the mission of his disciples.

Despite wanting to reward his disciples with a retreat and rest, they were followed by throngs of people wanting to hear more and ask more…all leading to the next miracle – the feeding of five thousand.

Action
This reading from Mark 6 sometimes appears in the Daily Readings in July.  It’s easy to hold it in your heart when planning a beach vacation.  Jesus invites us on vacation with him.  However, the invitation comes as a reward not for doing OUR work, but for doing HIS.  Maybe it is more appropriate to appear in our readings in the middle of a cold February week when the remnants of the Jonas Blizzard are still melting from our streets. 

Have I spent the past few weeks doing his work or mine? 

Jesus gives us what we do not ask for – the cross of his compassionate heart.  He asks us to focus not on our own wishes. He shows us to put aside our desire for rest when the needs of the many press upon our hearts and minds.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Herod, John and Jesus


By Colleen O’Sullivan

Herod was the one who had John arrested and bound in prison…  John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”  Herodias (Herod’s wife) harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so.  Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody.  When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him.  (Pleased with his daughter’s dance at his birthday party, Herod said he would grant her any wish.  Her mother told her to demand John the Baptist’s head on a platter.)  The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her.  So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head.   (Mark 6:17a, 18-20, 26-27)

Piety
O Lord, I want to follow in your footsteps.  Call me back when I wander.  Pick me up when I fall.  Let me ever be aware of your loving and merciful presence beside me.

Study
I cannot read a word of New Testament Greek (or any other type, for that matter), but something I read in a commentary on this passage jumped out at me.  When Mark writes about Herod’s reaction to his daughter’s request for John’s head, he says “the king was deeply distressed.”  The Greek word perilupos, translated here as “deeply distressed,” is the same word that Mark uses later during Jesus’ agony in the garden when Jesus says to Peter, James and John, “My soul ‘is sorrowful’ even to death.” (Mk 14:34) Jesus’ overwhelming sorrow I can understand, but using the same word with reference to King Herod made me do a double take.  Maybe I should look again at this man who is usually vilified. 

Somehow I doubt Herod was a stranger to executions, so there must have been something very compelling about John the Baptist for such upset.  Perhaps Herod had the sense that this strange prophet he locked up actually knew what he was talking about.  Maybe Herod wanted to hear more about the One John said was coming.  Maybe John was one of the few who dared to speak openly and honestly to the King and Herod found that refreshing.  Or maybe in the wake of all these conversations, in that moment after he ordered the beheading, Herod saw himself for what he truly was – a weak man who indulged his wife even when he knew she was wrong, someone who partied too hard and got carried away, a sinner who had just signed the death warrant for the only person willing to tell him like it was, someone who had just destroyed his only chance for a better life.

Speaking truth to power is often dangerous.  The powerful don’t easily let go.  They don’t like feeling threatened.  John’s story is a foreshadowing of Jesus’ story.  Proclaim the Word, whether it’s the promise that someone greater is coming, or that the Kingdom of God is at hand, and someone feels threatened.
When Jesus invites us to come and follow him, sometimes I wonder if we have any clearer idea what we’re signing on for than did the first disciples.  Our culture encourages us to feel entitled, to believe that life should be fair or that if we “play by the rules,” we’ll be rewarded with earthly riches.  That’s the American “way.”  So, when adversity strikes, we get bent out of shape.  

Something’s wrong!  Maybe what’s wrong is our expectation.  Jesus is beckoning us to an adventure that transcends anything our culture offers.  Jesus is inviting us to follow in his footsteps, to take the way of the Cross.  There is no other route to Easter and the Resurrection.  He promises to be with us every inch of the way, but he doesn’t promise us an easier route than the one he walked.   

Action
Lent is less than a week away.  It is worth taking the time now to prepare for how we will observe this season.  Lent is a time for examining how we are making the journey.  Are we following in Jesus’ footsteps or do we find ourselves taking detours, searching for an “easier” way?  As we make our way day by day, are we following Jesus’ example and touching those we meet with love, compassion and mercy?

There are many resources out there to aid us in our reflecting.  A dozen or more in the Ignatian tradition can be found at http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/lent. 

Take Nothing for the Journey but My Word


By Beth DeCristofaro

God's Garden blog at www.Carmelites.net

When the time of David’s death drew near, he gave these instructions to his son Solomon: “I am going the way of all flesh. Take courage and be a man. Keep the mandate of the LORD, your God, following his ways and observing his statutes, commands, ordinances, and decrees as they are written in the law of Moses, that you may succeed in whatever you do, wherever you turn, and the LORD may fulfill the promise he made on my behalf  (1 Kings 2: 1-3)

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick … So they went off and preached repentance. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. (Mark 6:7, 12-13)

Piety
As You send me out every day of my life, Lord, renew my faith in your Word so that I, created in Your image, will be enough to bring Your light and healing to the world.  And on the day I go the way of all flesh, may I dwell in Your house forever.

Study
St. Teresa was most likely not thinking of King David when she prayed “May you be blessed, Lord, who put up with me for so long.”  There were many contemporary leaders and her own sisters in community who God put up with in spite of their very active ways of doing it “my way.”  Knowing herself so well and the struggles she endured in her own journey of the spirit she undoubtedly spoke of herself as well.

David’s words and the actions of the Twelve inspire me to reach deeper into myself, into the well of faith given me by Christ.  David was a strong leader but a leader who was often and repeatedly driven by his own desires to the detriment of his subjects.  He continually strayed yet repented in true humility and recommitted to his God time and again.  Then at the time of his death he fully believed God’s promise.  He knew God’s word was everlasting.  In the Gospel, Jesus sent the Twelve out with nothing but the Word.  Their faith and their actions in His name were able to bring God’s promise to people in very direct and life-giving ways. 

As I struggle and hope to be a better wife, daughter, chaplain, Christian, Cursillista, citizen, may I remember God’s promise to me in the Everlasting love of Christ Jesus.  And may I renew my commitment to Him every day and on the day of my death.   

Action
Picture yourself, staff in hand, walking with Jesus at your side.  He trusts you to be his healing, directing hands in the world.  What do you say to Him?  In what way do you recommit to Him?

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

You Yourself a Sword Will Pierce


By Melanie Rigney

Benvenuto Tisi (public domain),
via Wikimedia Commons.
Thus says the Lord God: Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; and suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord who you seek, and the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? (Malachi 3:1-2)

Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord! (Psalm 24:8)

Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. (Hebrews 2:18)

… and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary (the child’s) mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35)

Piety
Blessed Mother, may I learn from your example and focus on the graces provided by the Father today and always, confident He will care for me in the tough spots.

Study
Put yourself in Mary’s shoes. You have just been through a most bewildering year or so: An angel appeared to you. You became pregnant without having been with a man. Your aging relative has given birth and said some pretty amazing things. You have married. You have given birth. And now, at the temple, a place that should provide peace and calm, a man sees your family, says he’s now ready to die because he’s seen salvation, blesses your family, and then makes a strange statement—that you too will be pierced by a sword.

What to make of it? What does Mary make of it? Did Mary think about Simeon’s prophecy daily, as Jesus learned to talk and walk and pray and play and work? We don’t know. After Jesus is twelve and the Holy Family goes to Jerusalem for Passover, the curtain in essence is draw over their lives until he begins his public ministry. For many of us, it would have been something always out on the horizon, something to contemplate and worry over from time to time, if not daily. What would this prophecy bring to a life already turned upside down?

While we don’t know for certain, I suspect this was one of the many things Mary pondered in her heart from time to time, but she didn’t let it keep her from loving and trusting in the Lord. She didn’t let it keep her from loving and caring for her family. She didn’t let it keep her from making friends and enjoying life. Why do I think this? The evidence is in Jesus. May we learn from her example, and get on with the Lord’s business even as we ponder the way He is working in our lives.

Action
Is there a worry or past hurt that is taking up room in your soul? Have a chat with Momma Mary about it.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Look Upon My Affliction


“Perhaps the LORD will look upon my affliction and make it up to me with benefits for the curses he is uttering this day.” 2 Samuel 16:12

Catching sight of Jesus from a distance, he ran up and prostrated himself before him, crying out in a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!” Mark 5:6-7

Piety
“Where there is no love, put love -- and you will find love.” St. Therese of the Little Flower (Some sources also attribute this to St. John of the Cross)

Study
Mark’s Gospel is filled with stories of demons who recognize Jesus as the Son of God while those closest to Jesus fail to fully understand his nature. The Lord definitely looked upon their affliction and cured them of the possession (as David prayed for himself).

Sources explain that the man in Mark’s Gospel was an outcast from society, dominated by unclean spirits, living among the tombs. The prostration before Jesus indicates Jesus’ power – this time over evil spirits like in Mark 1:27:  “He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”

Ironically, as Jesus chased away the evil spirits, his fame spread.  When the people closest to Jesus realized what he was doing, his fame spread but not in a good way.  His fame would spread and lead to his trial, conviction and execution.

In fact, foreshadowing that, in today’s story, when the people realized what Jesus had done, they asked him to leave.  Jesus agreed but as he was departing, the man who had been cured asked to stay with Jesus.  Unlike the disciples who were called AWAY from their lives, this man was volunteering to join the ranks.  However, Jesus did not call him to stay in the company of the disciples.  Instead, Jesus asked him to stay among his own people and preach the Good News. The man obeyed.

Action
“Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you.” Mark 5:19

Jesus does not ask everyone to drop their current life to follow him.  For many, they can stay right where they are to evangelize their environment.  What is your environment?  How can you evangelize there? 

In his sermon Sunday at the Church of the Nativity in Burke, Fr. Bob Celinski quoted St. Therese of the Little Flower in this way:  “Where there is no love, put love -- and you will find love.”

Whatever your environment, if there is not love there, it is our job to plant those seeds. Just like Jesus put love in the tombs where the man was possessed by demons and David put love where he was being cursed, we are asked to put love out there so we and others will find it. If we do that for the Lord, then “perhaps the LORD will look upon our affliction and make it up to us with benefits.”

Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Still More Excellent Way


By Beth DeCristofaro

The word of the LORD came to me, saying: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you … They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.  (Jeremiah 1:4, 19)

Brothers and sisters: Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I shall show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. (1 Corinthians 12:31, 13:1)

(Jesus said) Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away. (Luke 4:27-30)

Piety
Grant us, Lord our God that we may honor you with all our mind, and love everyone in truth of heart.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ, you Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. (Collect of the Mass of the Day)

Study
Jesus’ fellow citizens did not appreciate his message but the Word is stronger than human perception, prejudice or shortsightedness.  Mohandas Gandhi, a Hindu, appreciated the message.  He said “Living Christ means a living Cross; without it life is a living death.” His life demonstrated the message of living love, emulating Jesus’ redemptive suffering.  As an activist against oppressive British rule in India, “he approached each campaign (of nonviolent resistance) as an ‘experiment in truth,’ an effort to realize God’s will on earth” In Gandhi God worked through a Gentile to model Christ’s “still more excellent” way.[i]

Action
We live in such a violent culture.  Do we not hear as Jesus’ neighbors did not hear?  Are we prone to go with the crowd rather than persist and search the still more excellent way of love?  Read Church positions on violence in order to preach with action Jesus’ way of love, Jesus’ “still more excellent way” in your community.

[i] Give Us this Day: Daily Prayer for Today’s Catholic, Liturgical Press, January 2016, p. 308.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Quiet


David grew very angry with that man and said to him: “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this merits death! He shall restore the ewe lamb fourfold because he has done this and has had no pity.” 2 Samuel 5-6

Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified?”  Mark 4:38-40

Piety

Be.
Be still.
Be still and know.
Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)

Study
Actions have consequences.  David learns the hard way when Nathan presents a test case. In the test, a powerful man takes advantage of his poor, helpless neighbor. Hearing the story, David is outraged and denounces the rich man—thus unwittingly pronouncing judgment on himself. “You are the [rich] man,” Nathan reveals.  Perhaps David should have learned from the wind and the stormy seas in today’s Good News.  Perhaps he should have been more humble and not passed judgement on his neighbor.  But he did and he fell right into Nathan’s rhetorical trap.

Just like David sentences the hypothetical rich man to pay restitution four times over for what he has done (“He shall restore the ewe lamb fourfold”), David will pay for his wanton adultery with the deaths of four of his sons.  The notes in the New American Bible teach us (remind us) what happens:  David’s judgment foreshadows the deaths of four of his own sons: the child born of his adulterous union with Bathsheba; Amnon (13:2829); Absalom (18:1519:1); and Adonijah (1 Kgs 2:2425).[i]

The disciples also learn that actions have consequences.  When they fear for their lives in the storm, Jesus commands the wind and the waves to be quiet.  Jesus not only rebukes nature, but he also rebukes his companions for expressing their lack of faith. Yet who among the loyal readers of Your Daily Tripod would not be afraid if we were in that boat, too?    

Jesus also sees how his actions have consequences.  The combination of silencing the demons in Mark 1 and calming the seas and storms here, are signs of Jesus’ power and presence.  It begins to reveal the Epiphany to his followers:  Who is this itinerant preacher?  For even though Jesus commands the people he heals to tell no one about his actions, they cannot keep from singing Jesus all the way to Good Friday. Yet it was the path he was on from the Annunciation. Indeed from when Adam took a bite at the apple.

Action
If the winds and the seas and the demons obey Jesus, who are we to disobey?  Obedience and humility are the preferred actions and dispositions.

The Benedictine Sisters of Erie website presents a reflection by Sr. Joan Chittister on today’s second step of humility passage from the Rule of St. Benedict: 
The question, of course, is how do we recognize the Will of God? How do we tell the will of God from our own? How do we know when to resist the tide and confront the opposition and when to embrace the pain and accept the bitterness because "God wills it for us." The answer lies in the fact that the Jesus who said "I have come not to do my own will but the will of the One who sent me" is also the Jesus who prayed in Gethsemane, "Let this chalice pass from me:" The will of God for us is what remains of a situation after we try without stint and pray without ceasing to change it.[ii]

How do we know when to resist the tide of human opinion and act according to the will of God?  How do we know when to have faith that will get us through any storm?  How do we know God?  Maybe we have to get in the boat with him when the storms approach.