Wednesday, August 21, 2019

“An Invitation Has Been Issued” by Beth DeCristofaro

“An Invitation Has Been Issued” by Beth DeCristofaro

Jephthah made a vow to the LORD. "If you deliver the Ammonites into my power," he said, "whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites shall belong to the LORD. I shall offer him up as a burnt offering." … When Jephthah returned to his house in Mizpah, it was his daughter who came forth, playing the tambourines and dancing. (Judges 11:30-31, 34)

Then the king said to his servants, 'The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.' The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. (Matthew 22:8-10)

Lord Jesus, I need your help to open my heart to your invitation and celebrate the feast you have prepared through my behaviors and manners.

It seems to me that Our Blessed Mother, Queen of Heaven, would cry if she read these passages. The Jephthah arrogance and his mistaken understanding of God and what God wants caused the death of an innocent. In Jesus’ parable, the self-serving and violent behavior of the King’s subjects, his invited guests, resulted in murder and chaos. Mary is the queen of fiat, pierced heart, courageous witness and proclaimer, mother to all even those in the ditches. Jesus’ message, again and again, is of humility, service, acceptance of God’s word.

Yesterday’s Gospel reminded us that all of our labor in the vineyard, whether we are cradle Catholic or come late to our belief is for naught. God’s generosity – our daily wages – is not based on our efforts but comes from the irrational (humanly speaking), superabundant, gushing forth of God’s grace. Today’s invited guests are not just whiners like yesterday’s laborers. Today’s invited guests prefer their own pursuits to an invitation from their King. God doesn’t have to smite us like the king in this parable. We do that to ourselves. We choose business or pietistic activities, ideology or fame, political persuasion or self-indulgent hobbies, fortune or career, self-absorbed anger or judgment. We isolate ourselves from God and from each other. It is even all too easy to convince ourselves that a good goal is more important than God’s goal.

No wonder the Queen of Heaven might weep. The generosity of the King of Kings is our salvation. Mary realized that choosing the will of God would not be easy or result in human acclaim. But her faith gave her no other choice, she accepted her King’s invitation. Our labors might not earn us an invitation as it is already granted. Our labors, however, can till the soil and plant the crops of the kingdom.

How loving and grateful am I to the King who invites me? Am I refusing the invitation?

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

“It’s Thankfully Not Fair” by Colleen O’Sullivan

“It’s Thankfully Not Fair” by Colleen O’Sullivan

When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.' When those who had started about five o'clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, 'These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day's burden and the heat.' He said to one of them in reply, 'My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?' (Matthew 20:8-15)

Loving and Forgiving, Scott Soper
  based on Psalm 103
Loving and forgiving are You, O Lord;
slow to anger, rich in kindness, loving and forgiving are You.
All my being, bless the Lord, bless the holy name of God.

I guess whining that something isn’t fair isn’t a modern-day phenomenon. Jealousy and resentment date back to Cain and Abel’s day. Cain thought God preferred his brother’s sacrifice of a sheep to his own offering of grain. Envy simmered for a while and then suddenly the envious thoughts boiled over into hatred, resulting in Cain murdering his brother.

People back in Jesus’ day evidently whined as well, so the Lord told them this parable. The audience Matthew was addressing a few years later was upset because the first Christians were all from “proper” Jewish backgrounds, and now Gentiles, non-Jews, were becoming followers of Christ. Who knows what kind of backgrounds they might have come from or what kind of pagan lives they might have led? Once they were baptized, however, they were being treated with the same respect as any other Christian. To some, this didn’t seem fair.

In today’s parable, the workers hired in the morning couldn’t believe that those hired toward the end of the day received the same pay they did after they had toiled all day long. Wait a minute, they protested. It’s not fair! If they had stayed focused on their reward from the vineyard owner, they would have been perfectly happy. They were paid what was promised. They had what they needed. But that little jealous streak within caused them to look around and compare. They couldn’t find it within themselves to rejoice at the good fortune of the others. They couldn’t stop thinking about how unfair it was. The landowner says it’s his money and he wants to be generous with it. What small-minded people they are who are so envious of others’ good fortune!

Jealousy and resentment seem so unnecessary. God has love enough for all of us. God loves each of us beyond all understanding. I’m glad God isn’t fair, by our definition of the word. I’d rather be showered with God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness than treated fairly, or according to what I deserve. I know myself, my sins and faults too well to ever wish God would be “fair.”

Do you ever find yourself feeling jealous of or resentful toward someone else? Spend a little time in prayer reflecting on the gifts God has bestowed on you - all the times you’ve been forgiven and the many occasions when you’ve experienced God’s mercy and love. By the time you are finished, I doubt you’ll be looking at anyone else with envy, because you’ll realize how totally blessed you are, the recipient of God’s great generosity.

Monday, August 19, 2019

“I Shall Be With You” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)  (By Terry)

“I Shall Be With You” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

The Lord speaks of peace to his people. (Psalm 85:9b)

“And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first." (Matthew 19:29-30)

Lord, without You, I am nothing. With You, I know I can do whatever You desire.

Who, you?
  • You’re tooling along in your leadership role in education, and all of a sudden you feel a nudging to start ministering to unwed mothers.
  • You’re a great project manager and you love the work and the money, and all of a sudden your pastor asks if you’d consider taking a position with the parish that would mean a whole lot less money and even more hours.
  • You’ve never had a single course in religion or theology, and all of a sudden someone asks if you’d help with his daily spiritual reflection blog.

Why is it that sometimes, the easiest no to say is the one that involves God? Even though He knows us better than we know ourselves, we don’t think we’re the right person for His job. Ask someone else, we say; so many people are better qualified.

And in fact, that may be the case. But God is calling them to something else. You’re the only one who can be you, and you are who he needs for this particular assignment.

Who, you?

Stop discerning and protesting. Take a step toward doing what the Lord wants. He knows what that is, and so do you if you stop and listen.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

“Deliver Them” by Rev. Paul Berghout (@FatherPB)

“Deliver Them” by Rev. Paul Berghout (@FatherPB)

Even when the LORD raised up judges to deliver them from the power of their despoilers, they did not listen to their judges but abandoned themselves to the worship of other gods. They were quick to stray from the way their fathers had taken and did not follow their example of obedience to the commandments of the LORD.  Judges 2:16-17

Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Matthew 19:21-22

There once was a man who fell into a pit and couldn’t get himself out.

A PHARISEE said: "Only BAD people fall into a pit."

A MATHEMATICIAN calculated HOW he fell into the pit.

BUDDHA said: "Your pit is only a state of mind."

A GEOLOGIST told him to appreciate the rock strata in the pit.

An OPTIMIST said: "Things COULD be worse."

A PESSIMIST said: "Things WILL get worse!!"

JESUS, seeing the man, took him by the hand and LIFTED HIM OUT of the pit.

The moral of the story—This life is a time of mercy. DON’T JUDGE OTHERS WITH A CRITICAL SPIRIT OR IN SELF RIGHTEOUSNESS.

In Sunday’s first reading, Jeremiah was thrown into a pit as a consequence of his prophetic ministry.  His rope of hope was the same one that’s available for us:  The Bible.  Sacred scriptures provide inspiration and instruction to get us out of any pit into which we fall. Today, in our First Reading, despite the warning from the Judges, the people keep falling back into their old ways of worshipping Baal.  We read of how Israel worshiped other gods and fell into the pit known as the power of their enemies.

Psalm 34:19 says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.”

King David said in Psalm 40:2, "God lifted me out of the pit and set my feet upon a rock. Praise also brings you out of the pit. God is looking for some pit-praisers, people who praise Him no matter what happens.

In Michelangelo’s Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel, looking closely at the detail we can see two souls being hauled up to heaven by what looks like a rope. However, on closer inspection, we can see it is the Rosary. The Rosary has the power to lift us up to God. The Rosary works as a chain that pulls down to earth the graces that we need to live the Christian life. In times of tribulation, the Rosary has the power to lift us up over our difficulties because Mary, Our Mother, intercedes for us. The Rosary is a prayer of intercession.

When Jeremiah hit the bottom of the pit, he sank into the mud.

The Road Less Traveled begins with the insight of “Life is Difficult.” The author admits that although this is not a very profound statement, it is very profound when we accept the fact that life is difficult because then, all of a sudden, it is not so difficult.

For us, even if you think that by the illness of sin you have already hit rock bottom: Be careful, there is mud at the bottom; there are trap doors. By God’s grace, a transformed self-consciousness says, “No, I don’t have to live like this!”  That is the only way out of a self-made pit.

Even then, the devil would love to drag you down again, even further. After all, Scripture tells us that Hell is described as a ‘bottomless pit’ of eternal damnation, and that until Satan is thrown into that pit forever, he has freedom of movement and he wants to drag us there too.

He’s throwing a fit on the way to the pit!

Pit or not, God is looking for Compassionate People.  In Sunday’s First Reading, a Cushite (from Africa) saved Jeremiah from the pit.

Some people don’t care if others are at the bottom of the pit. They will just say: “Who cares?” Or, “I have my own life and my own problems to care about.”

The Cushite took some old rags and worn-out garments and used them to save Jeremiah and bring him out of the pit. Use whatever you have and the Lord will bless you in order to save souls.

We are not alone.  Jesus was also thrown into “the pit” beneath the house of Caiaphas, where Caiaphas imprisoned Jesus the night before his crucifixion.   Jesus plunges himself into the depths of our alienation so that we might rise. Event he rich young man is trapped in the pit of his possessions.  Although he goes away sad, we know that Jesus can still save him.

In the Gospel, Jesus speaks about the baptism of death. We spend our lives undergoing little baptisms, emerging from our pits. Jeremiah was left for dead but rose with help.  Jesus died and rose from the dead.

We can die and rise, but we do not do this alone. In Sunday’s Responsorial Psalm from Psalm 40, the second stanza says, “He drew me out of the pit of destruction, out of the mud of the swamp; he made firm my steps.”

Concluding illustration: "This guy's walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can't get out.

"A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, 'Hey you. Can you help me out?' The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on.

"Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, 'Father, I'm down in this hole can you help me out?' The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on

"Then a friend walks by, 'Hey, Joe, it's me can you help me out?' And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, 'Are you stupid? Now we're both down here.' The friend says, 'Yeah, but I've been down here before and I know the way out.'"

Saturday, August 17, 2019

“For the Sake of Joy That Lay Before Him That He Endured the Cross” by Phil Russell

“For the Sake of Joy That Lay Before Him That He Endured the Cross” by Phil Russell

“Lord, come to my aid!”  “The Lord heard my cry, he drew me out of the pit of destruction.” (Psalm 40)

Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing.” (Luke 12:49)

“Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader, and perfecter of faith.”  (Hebrews 12:1-4)

These are some “hard sayings,” as they say.

It is in this very “saying” that Jesus is telling his disciples (us), the consequences of following him. These boys have come a long way from their fishing to “follow me.” Now, he is giving us his “hardline.”  He is speaking of the baptism of his own suffering and death on the cross.

There is a hidden nugget in Hebrews: “…for the sake of the joy that lay before him, that he endured, the Cross.”

JESUS sits on the throne in Heaven at his Father’s right hand. HE with this great cloud of witnesses “cheering” us onward. Like we heard in last Sunday’s reading from Hebrews.

We are seeking our Heavenly Homeland. That “fire” that Jesus wants to bring to “the earth” in the Greek it is “sarx” also used for the flesh or the body. So, as his disciples, we too, need to understand ... “this Fire” that he wants to bring upon us (here and now).

If we just take a breath and breath in the Life of The Spirit, then we run, with endurance, this race. Jeremiah, you’re not a ”bullfrog.”  You are a child of a Living and a holy and a loving God.

Reach for it; take his hand!

Friday, August 16, 2019

"We Will Still Serve The LORD"

"We Will Still Serve The LORD"

"Fear the LORD and serve him completely and sincerely. Cast out the gods your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. If it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24:14-15

Children were brought to Jesus that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, "Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." After he placed his hands on them, he went away. Matthew 19:13-15

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will; So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him Forever and ever in the next. Amen.

The contrasts that the Hebrews faced 700 years before Christ lived are similar to the tug-of-war we battle daily.  Of course, they did not have 24-hour cable news, 401(K) accounts, two cars, a mortgage or 2.3 children (not to mention iBlanks (phones, pods, books, pads, tunes, credit cards, etc., etc., etc.). Do we serve the Lord on God’s terms or on our terms?

Joshua warned the people that they might not be able to follow through on their vow.  However, they repeated it three times like Peter attesting his love of God.

Joshua also echoes the promise heard in Deuteronomy: If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I am giving you today, loving the LORD, your God, and walking in his ways, and keeping his commandments, statutes and ordinances, you will live and grow numerous, and the LORD, your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. (D 30:16)

We know how the story goes in its immediate turns and into the New Testament. “…The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. They served the Baals.” (Judges 2:11).  The heard-hearted people remained unable to live up to the vow.

Today we are presented with the classic Biblical challenge.  Do we have the courage, humility, and obedience to repeat the pledge Joshua made? Will we be any more successful in its pursuit? “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

It is so easy to collapse when we give in to the promises of Madison Avenue, Hollywood, and Wall Street.  Yet, Jesus never promised us a rose garden not even the implied riches of the Hebrew Bible.  He promised us a cross and nails.

This week, there is a moving video interview circulating on social media. CNN anchor Anderson Cooper is questioning media star, Steven Colbert. Stephen's Catholicism comes through in this clip, which brings Anderson Cooper (who recently lost his mom) to tears. Here is the exchange on video.  

Anderson: “You said ‘What punishment of God are not gifts.’ Do you really believe that?"

Colbert:  "Yes. It's a gift to exist and with existence comes suffering. There's no escaping that."

Later, Colbert delivers the kicker to the conversation about suffering that sums up Christianity and choice and love: In my tradition, that is the great gift of the sacrifice of Christ. God suffers, too. You’re really not alone.  God does it, too.”

Here is a man who serves God on God’s terms:

“Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.”   

Heaven Belongs to Such as These

Dallas Bishop Edward J. Burns leads eucharistic adoration at the Cathedral
Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe Aug. 7, 2019, as 31 lit candles
represent the victims of the El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, mass shootings
Aug. 3-4.  (CNS photo/Jenna Teter, The Texas Catholic)
Heaven Belongs to Such as These

"I gave you a land that you had not tilled and cities that you had not built, to dwell in; you have eaten of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant." Joshua 24:13

Children were brought to Jesus that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, "Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." After he placed his hands on them, he went away. Matthew 19:13-15

In Jesus Christ, there is no Mexican or black, no Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean or Filipino, no Russian or Italian, African or Salvadoran, no migrant or native-born.

In Jesus Christ, there are only children of God — made in his image, temples of the Holy Spirit, endowed by their Creator with dignity and equality and human rights that must be protected and that no one can violate.

The humanity of others is never negotiable. Men and women do not become less than human, less a child of God, because they are “undocumented.” Yet, in our nation, it has become common to hear migrants talked about and treated as if they are somehow beneath caring about. 

(By Archbishop José H. Gomez, “After El Paso”)

Dallas Bishop Edward J. Burns leads eucharistic adoration at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe Aug. 7, 2019, as 31 lit candles represent the victims of the El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, mass shootings Aug. 3-4. (CNS photo/Jenna Teter, The Texas Catholic)

Hard-hearted people meet a warm-hearted Lord.

We start today’s readings with a passage the last chapter of the Book of Joshua – which follows Deuteronomy.  It is the first book after the Pentateuch (Greek for “five books”) and continues the historical narrative from the earlier books. 

Deuteronomy also is where the Hebrew Bible pivots from the flight from Egyptian slavery to the historical establishment of the Israeli tribes on the plains of Moab. As such, it opens up the stretch of historical books that end with Kings and Chronicles.

Joshua took over from Moses on the journey to the promised land. The Book of Joshua is a cautionary tale about what the people are to do and not do in order to avoid the fate of the Northern Kingdom in losing the land.  His book is another part of the Hebrew Bible that only makes it into the canon of the Mass a few times per year (three times this year).

In the end, the people pledge in thanksgiving to serve the LORD as the Lord served them. However, it takes some convincing on the part of Joshua.

Lofty ideals met harsh realities again in the New Testament.  In ancient Hebrew culture, children were not seen as adorable urchins bringing us the opportunity for Hallmark-Kodak moments.  When the disciples thought that the children would be a bother or nuisance to Jesus, the followers tried to free Jesus of any interruptions.

Jesus would have none of that and began placing respect for children and all people and life on the pedestal where they rest today.  


“The way we honor the lives taken at El Paso is to live with true Christian love.” Archbishop José H. Gomez

The words of Archbishop Gomez echo for me in today’s readings. His essay on “After El Paso” in continues with a suggestion on how we are to respond.  The harsh realities of today are met when we realize we have a generous and forgiving Lord.

Just as there was anxiety in the desert after Moses and Joshua died, and there was anxiety among the disciples when Jesus was spending time with the children, Archbishop Gomez points out that there also is anxiety today for many reasons.  The question for us is how will we respond.

Jesus calls us to find him in the poor and the migrant, the prisoner, the homeless, and the sick. He calls us to love others as ourselves, to love others as he loved us. The love we show to those who come to us seeking a new life is the love we show to Christ. He does not make exceptions for only the “deserving poor” or for those with the proper papers.

After El Paso, it is clear that this is our mission. We need to help our society to see our common humanity — that we are all children of God, meant to live together as brothers and sisters, no matter the color of our skin, the language we speak, or the place we were born.

The way we honor the lives taken at El Paso is to live with true Christian love.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

“Living and Rejoicing God’s Greatness” by Beth DeCristofaro

“Living and Rejoicing God’s Greatness” by Beth DeCristofaro

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed One." (Revelations 12:10)

Brothers and sisters: Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through man, the resurrection of the dead also came through man. (1 Corinthians 15:20-21)

Mary remained with (Elizabeth) about three months and then returned to her home. (Luke 1:56)

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age
to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant,
remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever. (Luke 1:46-55)

These readings today strike me with their assertions of immense generosity, reclaiming kinship, gratefulness, identity as Chosen, and triumphant good. God shared the momentous work of creation with human beings who were given free will to accept, reject, or choose to misuse. Then when free will led to sin and death, God again gifted humanity with the divine presence in human form and resurrection from the dead, inviting all to partake.

Mary’s beautiful prayer is lifted in gratitude not only for these gifts but in her awareness that through God’s gifts she has come to live a new life beyond the humble expectations of a poor Israelite girl. She freely acknowledges that it is from God and that she is part of a greater whole – a child of God who holds, graces, frees those who accept the covenant that her ancestors – her people – made with God. And then she, in the model of her God, turns around and offers that beneficence to her cousin. In spite of her own pregnancy, she comes to Elizabeth in celebration and support.

Very soon after this domestic episode Mary is warned that “And you yourself a sword will pierce” (Luke 2:35) when her newborn son is presented at the temple. In the notes from the NAB: “Her blessedness as mother of the Lord will be challenged by her son who describes true blessedness as ‘hearing the word of God and observing it’” (Lk 11:27–28 and Lk 8:20–21).[i] Her story goes on to illustrate that grace is conveyed through times of gratitude and times of suffering

As we pray with Mary the splendid Magnificat, do we allow ourselves to assent to “give over” – to hear the word and observe it, to be in solidarity with the lowly, hungry, pregnant and infirm? Do we accept joy and suffering in the giving over, allowing Jesus to mature us into closer union with him? Mary shows us that the road might be mortally fearful but it is graced and blessed.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

“Accepting God’s Plan for Us” by Colleen O’Sullivan

“Accepting God’s Plan for Us” by Colleen O’Sullivan

Memorial of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr

Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, the headland of Pisgah which faces Jericho, and the Lord showed him all the land - Gilead, and as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, the circuit of the Jordan with the lowlands at Jericho, city of palms, and as far as Zoar. The LORD then said to him, "This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that I would give to their descendants. I have let you feast your eyes upon it, but you shall not cross over." (Deuteronomy 34:1-4)

Lord, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change.

So near and yet so far. Moses sees before him the goal of the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. A major portion of his life has been spent leading God’s people to this Promised Land. Here they are at last, and God permits him only to feast his eyes upon the vista from the mountaintop before his death. Entry into this land is forbidden to him. (God said this was the consequence of Moses not acknowledging God’s holiness before the people at Meribah –-Numbers 20:8-12.) Here a divine “No” is spoken.

What amazes me is Moses’ humility in accepting this. No begging God to relent. No spewing forth of disappointment or bitterness. Moses simply takes in the vision before him. Maybe that is enough for him. Maybe God always intended Moses’ journey to be over at this point. Maybe Moses is thinking, “I did it. We made it! I’m old and I can rest knowing I’ve fulfilled my mission.”

Not all of us would be so accepting. In Jeremiah 18:1-3, God is depicted as the Divine Potter. God molds us and shapes us. If the result isn’t pleasing, the Potter rolls the clay back into a ball and begins again. I remember a retreat director once making the remark that it’s a shame when we spend our lives wishing we were beautiful vases when we could have been quite content as the serviceable soup bowls God intended us to be.

Life would be a whole lot easier if we acknowledged that we’re not the ones doing all the creating, that God has a great deal to do with who we are and where we find ourselves. And sometimes we find ourselves in places where we’d rather not be.
Fr. Maximilian Kolbe 1939, Public Domain,
Wikimedia Commons
Certainly, that must have been true for St. Maximilian Kolbe, whose feast day we observe today. Born in 1895, he grew up in Poland, which at that time belonged to the Russian Empire. He and his brother joined the Conventual Franciscans. After professing his final vows, he was sent to Rome to study. In 1918, St. Maximilian Kolbe was ordained a priest. He returned to Poland, where he taught in a seminary, founded a religious publishing press, as well as set up another Conventual Franciscan monastery.

After World War II broke out, St. Maximilian Kolbe was one of the few people left at the monastery. Nevertheless, he opened a temporary hospital on the premises and helped thousands of people seeking shelter from all over Poland, including Jews. The monastery continued to publish anti-Nazi German publications. In 1941, the Nazis shut the monastery down and arrested Kolbe and several others. St. Maximilian Kolbe ended up in Auschwitz, where he continued to fulfill his priestly functions. At one point, the Nazis selected ten men to starve to death in retaliation for the escape of one prisoner. One of these men was beside himself, thinking of his wife and children. Kolbe volunteered to take his place. Even while being starved to death, he saw to the spiritual needs of the others in the underground bunker with him. When only he was left, the guards gave him a lethal injection.

As I reflected on his life story, I saw someone else who accepted a life situation he couldn’t change. He remained the person he believed God wanted him to be, a priest, to the very end. He died so that someone else could live, a Christ-like giving of himself for another. St. Maximilian Kolbe was canonized on October 10, 1982.

Moses did the hard work of getting God’s people to the Promised Land. It would have been understandable if he had been disappointed at only getting a glimpse of it, while his leadership position passed to Joshua. But he accepted the role God gave him to play with good grace.

No one ever would have wanted to end up in Auschwitz, and many who might have survived simply lost the will to live. St. Maximilian Kolbe kept on doing what God called him to do – be a priest to others and live/die in a Christlike manner.

When you’re praying today, spend some time reflecting on your life. Maybe it hasn’t turned out the way you envisioned it, but do you think it’s turned out the way God pictured it would?

Monday, August 12, 2019

“Never Fail You or Forsake You” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney) 

“Never Fail You or Forsake You” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

The portion of the Lord is his people. (Deuteronomy 31:9a)

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)

Eternal Father, I offer You the most precious blood of thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal Church, for those in my own home, and in my family. Amen. (Prayer of St. Gertrude the Great for the souls in purgatory)

It happens almost every time I’m talking with a group of Catholic women of a certain age whom I haven’t met before. One of them finds a private moment and she tells me that she’s baptized one of her grandchildren. Her adult children don’t have any sort of spiritual practice, and she is grieved by that and wonders what she did wrong. She prays for their conversion. But it’s the grandchildren who worry her. At least her children got their sacraments. Her grandchildren are getting… nothing, she thinks. And so, she baptized them, because what would happen if an accident befell them and they died tomorrow? What about their salvation?

In these situations, I mainly listen. Generally, I counsel advising the children that she’s done this, but I don’t get into the fine points of whether she should have or could have. That’s a conversation for her to have with a priest. I do remind her that maintaining a relationship with her children will give her so many, many opportunities for evangelization to them and the grandkids. For is there any more powerful tool in bringing souls to the Lord than living our daily lives in service to and love for Him and His people?

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus reminds us that the Father searches high and low for the sheep who have gone astray. Not one of them has to be lost. Let’s do our best to point them back to Him by our every word and action.

Offer a prayer for those who are away from the faith and for those who died without knowing the Lord.