Thursday, September 29, 2016

Angels Abound

Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels

By Beth DeCristofaro

Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.

Piety
May God grant you always a sunbeam to warm you, a moonbeam to charm you,
The angelic choirs circling the abode
of God, from Dante's Paradiso,
illustrated by Gustave Doré.
a sheltering angel so nothing can harm you. Laughter to cheer you, faithful friends near you, and whenever you pray, heaven to hear you.  (An Irish Blessing)

Study
Several weeks ago, National Public Radio broadcasted an interview with a female doctor, the last OB-Gyn in Aleppo.  She told the interviewer that she stayed, in spite of constant bombing, because she loves babies and believes in her vocation.  Recently, a young Black student was murdered on his West Virginia campus. He was a good student who had graduated from the junior police academy as a teen and continued to volunteer, helping out the officers in his hometown. Last month, a police officer who found an abused and neglected toddler wandering the streets not only took him to safety in the police station but stayed all night feeding and holding the tiny, sleeping boy because, as a parent, this was the most important thing to do.

All the major religions speak of angels, messengers, and guardians of God.  Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael must be very busy these days in our world of fast-paced chaos.  They must also rejoice with all the heavenly hosts at the moments of sacred caring visible around them – around us.

Action
Who are the angels in your life?  In what way are you gifted and how can share your gifts?  Be an angel to others today.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Wise in Heart


God is wise in heart and mighty in strength; who has withstood him and remained unscathed? Job 9:4

As Jesus and his disciples were proceeding on their journey, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Luke 9:57-58

Piety
But I, O LORD, cry out to you;
with my morning prayer, I wait upon you.
Why, O LORD, do you reject me;
why hide from me your face? Psalm 88:14-15

Study
Job is in dialogue with his community over the relationship he has with the Lord and he shows uncanny insight for a suffering yet seemingly innocent ancient farmer who knows that he cannot take on the Lord head-to-head.  Job recognizes that the Lord does great and wonderful things.  He knows mortal humans are no match for the Lord. He knows that he can never know what is unknowable. The odds are against him.

Fast forward five to seven hundred years to when Christ walked in ancient Palestine.  Contrast Job’s perspective (with his priorities in order and his respect for God firmly in place despite his suffering) with those who the Lord directly encounters.  Jesus encounters many who promise to follow him.  However, we learn that so many in Luke’s Gospel account are too distracted by personal business to put the Lord first. 

Maybe they have not suffered enough – as did Job – to fully realize the proper response to God. Maybe they had too many material possessions, too many loved ones, or too many blessings to have the wisdom gained by the experience of Job.

The original meaning of the word to follow comes from Old English words that meant "full-going."  Job is fully going to follow the Lord.  However, others are not there.  They are following the Lord while trying to maintain commitments to others – the family, the dead, the business or more.  The meaning of “following” then shifts over time to mean to "serve, go with as an attendant."

Job has accepted the Lord as his sole leader and guide.  He obeys and is subservient to God.  By contrast others are not.

Action
What are our priorities?  Are we like Job or are we more like the men Jesus encounters in Luke 9?  Are we jockeying for a position based upon our own ego and our own sense of what is important – or what seems to be more important than the priorities that Jesus would have?

As Abraham Lincoln would say, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right.”  This was Abraham Lincoln’s response when asked if he believed that God was on the union’s side. Lincoln was wide at heart as was Job. Let us pray that we can act with similar priorities dictating our relationship with God is in the right place.

What is distracting you from fully following the Lord?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Call Down Fire

By Melanie Rigney


Why is light given to the toilers, and life to the bitter in spirit? They wait for death and it comes not; they search for it rather than for hidden treasures, Rejoice in it exultingly, and are glad when they reach the grave: Those whose path is hidden from them, and whom God has hemmed in! (Job 3:20-23)

Let my prayer come before you, Lord. (Psalm 88:3)

When the days for Jesus to be taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village. (Luke 9:51-56)

Piety
Jesus, give me the faith to do as You ask, not as I think best.

Study
You know they were trying to be helpful, James and John. Really, they were.
Marco Basaiti [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons.
Their friend had been disrespected. But they still didn’t get that things happened for a reason, that Jesus’s rejection by the Samaritan village and others was part of the prophecy and that later, they too would find themselves unwelcome and persecuted in ways perhaps beyond their imaginations.

They were boastful too, boastful and egotistical and full of themselves, those sons of Zebedee who were not only jockeying for position with Jesus but also sure that they could personally give a shout and have God destroy an entire village.

Small wonder, then, that Jesus rebuked them.

We try to be helpful too. Really, we do. We give the Lord all kinds of ideas on how He can do His work in a way a bit more pleasing and timely from our viewpoint. We’re boastful too, boastful and egotistical and full of ourselves, telling God He’ll have some explaining to do when—when—we get to heaven about the way He answered or didn’t answer our prayers.

Small wonder, then, that from time to time, we are rebuked.

Action
Attempt not to tell God even once today how He could do His job better.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Who Is Least Among All of You


An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child
and placed it by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.”
Luke 9:46-48

Piety
Lord Jesus, help us to recognize you in the poor and suffering that I meet. Help us to put aside our petty jealousies and be prepared to defend liberty, enable people to dream, strive for justice of the oppressed and sow peace through dialogue with each other and with God.

Study
With so much attention on cultural, sociological and political topics, it is fitting that today’s Gospel focuses on attitudes that are opposed to Christian discipleship: rivalry and intolerance of outsiders. We get lessons in who is the least important (the person we should try to emulate) and who acts like they are most important (and misses out on important work being done by strangers).

One of the figures in modern culture who was covered more by the news media than most was Mohammed Ali (nee Cassius Clay).  Ali like to call himself “The Greatest” as a way of intimidating his opponents.  However, he knew that his words would not knock out an opponent in the ring.  Only his fists could do that. Many people are alive today who never saw Ali fight.  They can watch him on YouTube or read about him in Wikipedia.  But those opposed to Ali will not feel the sting of his punches sitting in their desk chair.  You had to climb into the ring with Ali – if you dared.

The reputation of Jesus was spreading.  Yet Christ had to be careful not to let the adulation of the crowd go to his head lest he feel that he was “the greatest.”  Thus, the story of a powerless child resonated with his audience.  Imagine being that child.  Perhaps she was innocently playing with some friends or walking to the well with her mother when Jesus gently picked her up from the sandy desert road.  He brought that child over to the disciples to teach them a lesson.  By the end of this episode, perhaps his followers felt rightly chastised.  I know I would probably feel like a tobacco company CEO testifying before a Senate investigative committee when Jesus was done dressing me down.  

Yet the disciples persisted in questioning Jesus – this time about someone who was casting out demons but was not from Galilee, or a member of their temple, or part of their extended family.  These disciples – still before the Resurrection – wanted to keep Jesus to themselves.  Jesus, however, kept reminding them that they needed to spread the Word far and wide even to those who were strangers.

Michael Card helps us to realize the radical Amazing Jesu message. 

The answer from Jesus speaks once more of the radically reversed nature of the kingdom. The way up is down. Being wise means embracing the foolishness of the gospel. To be free you must become a slave and submit to his gentle yoke. The way to become truly rich is to give it all away and travel with nothing, like a beggar. And here, if you want to become great, you must be like this child.[i]

Action
Whether fighting amongst themselves, challenging Jesus or giving in to the Satan who tries to derail Job, we share the battles that faced the original disciples.  In addition, we also face the conflicts and distractions of modern culture all around us. Are our ambitions to serve the Lord or to serve our own agenda?

Sometimes it helps to remember that we have some very modern role models in American society.  One year ago, Pope Francis made his first visit to the United States.  In his unprecedented address to a joint session of Congress, Pope Francis singled out four lives of unlikely Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. 

The 24 SEPT 2015 Papal Address to Congress bears remembering[ii]:

It is [our] duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, [overcome historic differences linked to painful episodes of the past]. When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue – a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons – new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 222-223).

Three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God. Four representatives of the American people.

He ended with these words:

A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.

In these remarks, I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continues to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.

Four individuals.  Four dreams.  Let us put aside our petty jealousies and be prepared to make these dreams become reality:  defending liberty, enabling people to dream, striving for justice of the oppressed and sowing peace through dialogue with each other and with God.

[i] Michael Card.  Luke: The Gospel of Amazement. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press (2011). P. 128

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Keeps Faith Forever


By Philip Russell

Piety
"But you, man (woman, child) of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called." (Timothy 6:11)

Study
"JESUS said, "There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus." (Luke 16:19-31)

Action
"Blessed is he who keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry." Psalm 146:7 

For STUDY, go back and read the beginning of Saint Paul words from Verse 1-10 of the sixth chapter, see how this set up the exhortation to Timothy.  

Amos, in the first reading, anticipates the destruction of the temple in 721 B.C. and sees it as a result of the nation's indifference to the needy.  Now when Jesus arrives on the scene, he is still trying to prod the people, with yet another parable. If it is true that Jesus is the same Yesterday, Today and Forever, then here He is speaking to us today, still trying to get us to change our ways!

In both the first reading and the Gospel, neither is easy nor welcome.  We're told it is possible to run out of time.

In C.S. Lewis's Christian apologetic novel The Screwtape Letters, the protagonist Screwtape, a demon, tells his story in the form of a series of letters to his nephew Wormwood, a junior tempter. Screwtape holds an administrative post in the bureaucracy ("Lowerarchy") of Hell. As Screwtape mentors his inexperienced and incompetent junior, he advises his younger protégé that the best way to deceive humans is to persuade them that there is always plenty of time. 

Isn't that what we all want to believe, too?

So, here we are in these last few weeks of this Jubilee Year of MERCY.  It's not too late. Lazarus is right outside our door.   Before it's too late, come to JESUS for the grace of His MERCY and take ACTION for Christ's sake!

"THE LORD sets captives free.  THE LORD gives sight to the blind:
THE LORD raises up those who are bowed down. 
THE LORD loves the just; THE LORD protects strangers.
The fatherless and the widow he sustains, but the way of the wicked he thwarts. THE LORD shall reign forever; your GOD, O Zion, through all generations."  Psalm 146:9-10

In this Jubilee Year of MERCY, right through this Election Season, LORD HAVE MERCY.  CHRIST HAVE MERCY.

Pay Attention


Rejoice, O young man, while you are young and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart, the vision of your eyes; Yet understand that as regards all this God will bring you to judgment. Ward off grief from your heart and put away trouble from your presence, though the dawn of youth is fleeting.  Ecclesiastes 11:9-10

“Pay attention to what I am telling you. The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.” But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was hidden from them so that they should not understand it, and they were afraid to ask him about this saying. Luke 9:44-45

Piety
Gratitude, not fear, is the foundation of our relationship with God. Help us, Father, to walk through our day in Your holy presence and note its joys and delights. Help us to pay attention to small things—the food we eat, the sights we see, and other seemingly small pleasures. God, help us to find you in the details we might otherwise miss.

Study
In this post-Transfiguration scene, Jesus has just completed one of his more miraculous signs in the New Testament.  He cured the boy who was possessed by a demon. After that sign was performed, Luke tells us that everyone was “astonished” and “amazed.” Into this mix, Jesus then introduces the second prediction of his Passion and Death. 

While all around Jesus understood the healing sign, they had no way to understand what the death of Jesus would accomplish.  Amid the exaltation, Jesus tells his disciples for the second time that he is about to be betrayed.  Luke explains that the meaning of this prediction is hidden from them.  Step by step, as they approach Jerusalem, the relationship between Jesus and his closest friends is changing. The fear that they must feel with this news is added to the fear that keeps everyone from talking about it further. 

The path of Jesus will diverge from the path of the political leaders and the leaders of the Church. Jesus is the true beacon not to be confused with others who lead down the wrong path – even if we are afraid of His message. It is easy to follow when there are miracles and all is going well.  But the easy will change. Going out on his raft means we leave the safety of the shore.

Action
Both readings today contain warnings that the comfortable zone that we are in will change. Youth will give way to the infirmities of age.  The relationship will give way to betrayal.  The dawn of youth is fleeting.

We have warning signs all around us. Many are concerned about the election.  Some favor one candidate or party.  Others favor the other.  Maybe we would like to project our faith onto our favored leader and predict gloom and doom if the “other” wins.  However, neither of the major candidates presents a platform in total synch with our Catholic credo.

I think this article from The Atlantic Monthly (http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/09/can-republicans-or-democrats-be-good-catholics/500891/?utm_source=atltw) sums up the Catholic voter’s dilemma quite well.  Neither political party fills ALL the requirements of a faithful Catholic and the seamless garment of Life that Christ would wear. There are accommodations we must make in our conscience on either side.  The author, Emma Green, details the compromises on both sides using the life stories of both Governor-Senator Kaine and Governor Pence to illustrate the points.  All sides are right some of the time and all sides are not right all of the time. I particularly like the last two paragraphs that point out there is no easy answer:
  • “If we want a society in which public policy defends the life and dignity of all, supports marriage and family, promotes the common good, recognizes objective right and wrong and religious freedom, personally and institutionally, then of course the Church must be involved,” wrote Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, in a recent editorial for the Catholic Standard, an online publication of the Church. “Especially, the lay faithful must speak out and become ‘salt and light’ in our democracy,” Chaput said something similar in his speech at Notre Dame. “Christians are not of the world, but we’re most definitely in it,” he said. “Augustine would say that our home is the City of God, but we get there by passing through the City of Man. While we’re on the road, we have a duty to leave the world better than we found it. One of the ways we do that, however imperfectly, is through politics.”
  • Augustine seems to have the right lesson for Catholics in American public life: There’s probably never going to be a this-worldly system that perfectly fits a Catholic interpretation of the gospel. So for all those Catholic voters whose views leave them feeling at odds with the American politics—pro-life Democrats, for example, or pro-immigration Republicans—a friendly bishop has some advice. “Imagine, as you’re standing in the voting booth, that Christ is beside you,” said McElroy. “And ask yourself, facing this candidate or that candidate, ‘Who do I think, in the end, Christ would be for?’”

I have always loved how Cursillo brings together people from differing viewpoints who can agree that we will lead lives of piety, study, and action in whatever ways out consciences allow – knowing that in the end when we stand alone in front of St. Peter or Jesus or God the Father, we will have to account for how we and our faithful conscience have put merciful love into action. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Like a Breath


By Rev. Horace “Tuck” Grinnell

“There is an appointed time for everything…a time to be born and a time to die…a time to weep and a time to laugh…a time to seek and a time to lose…what advantage has the worker from his toil?”  Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

“Lord, what is man that you notice him; the son of man, that you take thought of him? Man is like a breath; his days, like a passing shadow.”  Psalm 144:3-4

“Who so the crowds say that I am?  Who do you say that I am?  The Son of Man must suffer greatly.” Lk 9:18-22

Piety
The Son of Man came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mk 10:45)

Study
What “TIME” is it in your life?
Who do you need to “NOTICE” today?
Who do you say that Jesus is today for you?
What suffering do you have in your life?

Action
Write or call or pray for someone you want to “notice” today. 
Talk to the Lord about your suffering and the suffering of others. 
Decide one small thing that you need to do with your “time” today.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

My Genuine Choice is You, My God


By Beth DeCristofaro

All rivers go to the sea, yet never does the sea become full. To the place where they go, the rivers keep on going. All speech is labored; there is nothing one can say. The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor is the ear satisfied with hearing. What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun! (Ecclesiastes 1:7-9)

But Herod said, “John I beheaded. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” And he kept trying to see him. (Luke 9:9)

Piety
My Jesus, it is you I desire, my happiness, my all.  May I allow neither my false desires nor others’ misdirection to stifle my need for you.  May I always walk at your side.  May mercy and goodness follow me and may I share your mercy and goodness with others all the days of my life.

Study
Yesterday’s readings introduced us to Matthew who left his tax office and (most likely) affluent home to follow Jesus. Jesus answered the indignant devout Jews who chided him for dining with such a deviant that God values mercy, not sacrifices and rules. Today we hear that Herod, tyrant and sympathizer to the oppressive Romans, has been trying to see Jesus. Why did he not get up and go to dine with Jesus? The notes to the Gospel tell us that Herod was curious, interested, greedy for information rather than motivated by faith and the desire to ally himself with the Divine. Later in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 23:6ff) Herod has the chance to interrogate Jesus. It is there revealed that Herod did not hear God’s voice even if he talked with Jesus, he did not see God’s face even in meeting Jesus nor could he follow even if in the same room with the Lord of Life himself.

Matthew, as most of us sinners, needed more.  St. John Paul II said:  “It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.”[i]

Action
Millennia later we know that the authors of Wisdom, while poignantly describing the human condition, did not know the entire story.  Jesus, Son of God and man of Nazareth was, indeed, new under our sun.  And His resurrection can be repeated in the hearts of any who choose to hear, see and follow.  It is not by keeping oneself at the center of one’s heart as Herod did that one can find God and experience resurrection.  How can you make a tiny but far-from-insignificant human resurrection happen within your heart today by offering mercy and love to someone?

And He Got Up and Followed


[L]ive in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3

Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners. Matthew 9:12-13

Piety
And he got up and followed. Father, help us not to follow the eye-for-an-eye temptation set before us by the world. Help us to seek and to find the deeper meaning of unity and peace so we can be more like Christ.
And he got up and followed. Lord, St. Matthew makes it seem so easy to come to you and bring along all these other sinners. Give us the strength of Matthew to leave our possession and follow you seeking mercy, not offering sacrifice.

And he got up and followed. Holy Spirit, lift us from the easy chair of our sleepy existence and awaken us to the injustices of the word from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Charlotte, North Carolina, to Fairfax, Virginia. Get us out of our easy chairs. Push us away from the dinner table. Extract us from the confines of our cars. And we got up and followed. Amen.

Study
The Lord is sending us word through St. Matthew and St. Paul to follow in unity, not in division, no matter what others do or how others behave. Maybe Jesus’ human side will still understand my frustration with always having to be on the “giving” side. Christian unity is more than adherence to a common belief. It is manifested in the gifts and talents that Christ bestows upon each of us as individuals – gifts to allow us to serve, to make our self and the community more like Christ, more “Christ-like.”

Christ is not the source of the church's spiritual gifts; he is the veritable glue that holds us together. The flesh on our bones, the blood in our veins. The food on our tongues, the life-giving water quenching our thirst. So no matter what different roles we play, we are here to pursue one end…Be Christ-like.

There is always the reminder from Frank McCloskey’s talk at the 108th Men’s Cursillo in Arlington. He explained that his daughter has a prayer card on her mirror. It says, “[Jesus] never said it would be easy. He only promised that it would be worth it.” So when you are tempted to let your old self rear its head, put on your new self to preserve the unity that Christ wants in His “followers.”

Action
How can you follow Christ today?
Who can you thank for a job well done?
Who can you assist in their hour of need?

Who can you speak up for when others are silent? 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Those Who Hear the Word of God


By Melanie Rigney

The just man appraises the house of the wicked: there is one who brings gifts. (1 Corinthians 12:27-31)

Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands. (Psalm 119:35)

By Anonymous [Public domain], via
Wikimedia Commons
The mother of Jesus and his brothers came to him but were unable to join him because of the crowd. He was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside and they wish to see you.” He said to them in reply, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” (Luke 8:19-21)

Piety
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Study
You have to wonder what the mother of Jesus was thinking.

Jesus was sharing all kinds of parables. All Mary wanted to do was draw closer, along with other relatives, to her son. But rather than asking the large crowd to make way, he tells people that anyone who hears the word and acts on it is his family.

Maybe she wondered if this was the moment Simeon had foretold, the moment she would be pierced by a sword. Maybe she felt a little irritated; how could he say anyone else had an equivalent place in his life to she who had given her fiat and borne him and nursed him and raised him and loved him. Or maybe she had known instinctively that a moment like this would come after his public ministry began. Or maybe all or none of these thoughts raced through Mary’s mind that day. Maybe she just pondered… prayed… and trusted.

Action
Resolve to contemplate this scene next time you feel shunted aside by a friend or family member. Have a chat with Mary.

Refuse No One the Good


Refuse no one the good on which he has a claim when it is in your power to do it for him. Say not to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give,” when you can give at once. Proverbs 3:27-28

“No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care, then, how you hear. To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.” Luke 8:16-18

Piety
Jesus, help us to hear and respond to the Word.

Study
How are we to respond to the Word of God?  The sayings in today’s Good News explain that those who hear the word must become a light to others; even the mysteries of the kingdom that have been made known to the disciples must come to light; a generous and persevering response to the word of God leads to a still more perfect response to the word.

Michael Card explains that this Gospel passage implies that “what is obvious to some is being hidden from others.”  Jesus lights the lamp of wisdom among his disciples to get them ready for the future mission.  Jesus intends that everyone – even the suspicious Pharisees and scribes – will see what Jesus is doing and hear what Jesus is saying.  However, will they all respond with equal force?

Action
Those who listen become Jesus’ true family.  To anyone who has knowledge of the way of Jesus, more knowledge will be given.  To those who refuse to listen, any scrap of knowledge will be taken away.

We have to be careful not to interpret this passage as some kind of economic windfall.  Jesus is definitely NOT talking about material possessions. Even the Sunday parable of the Desperate/Dishonest Steward was not an economic message.  Jesus is here – after all – to turn everything upside down.  Money, possessions and more are only there as a way to get people to focus on being in the right kind of relationship with each other.  That steward makes amends for his dishonest practices. 

Isn’t it ironic that we have two ears yet hear so little?  Isn’t it ironic that we have these stories presented to us year after year and still do not hear?

Maybe we think there is little modern wisdom to be gained by stories from an agrarian culture that existed two thousand years ago.  But then, think of the reading from Proverbs the next time someone asks you to give to charity.

Refuse no one the good on which he has a claim
when it is in your power to do it for him.
Say not to your neighbor, “Go, and come again,
tomorrow I will give,” when you can give at once.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Without Anger or Argument


By Melanie Rigney

Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land! “When will the new moon be over,” you ask, “that we may sell our grain, and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat?” (Amos 8:4-5)

Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor.  (Psalm 113:1a,7b)

There is also one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as ransom for all. This was the testimony at the proper time. For this I was appointed preacher and apostle—I am speaking the truth, I am not lying—teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. It is my wish, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument. (1 Timothy 2:5-8)

“The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.” (Luke 16:10)

Piety
Lord, may love be the focus of my prayer life… and my earthly life.

Study
The New American Bible notes on today’s second reading from 1 Timothy 2 tell us Paul’s intent is to direct that “the prayer of the community should be unmarred by internal dissension.” (The verses that follow the reading, for example, set forth rules for women in community worship.)

I wonder, though, if Paul also was talking about something more basic. What does our prayer life look like? We all know about ACTS—adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication. But how much of our time is spent in supplication… and how much of it is done without anger or argument? Do we spend time beseeching the Lord to punish someone who has injured us? Do we complain about the challenges we are facing… chronic illness, the loss of loved ones, trouble at work, a disappointment in our relationships?

It’s one thing to be angry with God. It’s quite another to devote our prayers to that end, rather than asking for relief or clarity or patience. As we lift up those hands, let’s keep our call to holiness in mind.

Action
Spend some time with your supplication “list.” How much anger and argument is in it? Talk with a priest or trusted adviser or friend about how you might change that.

On Rich Soil


You fool! What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be but a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind. 1 Corinthians 15:35-37

“But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance.” Luke 8:15

Piety
Excerpts from the beginning of a
“Contemporary Adaptation of Psalm 146” By Art Laffin

Praise God our Creator, Source of all life.
I will sing praise to God as long as I live.

Do not put your trust in princes and rulers,
in mortals, in whom there is no salvation.
When they die they return to the earth;
on that very day their plans perish.

Happy are those whose hope is in God,
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry and welcomes the immigrant;
who seeks to end racism, sexism and all forms of discrimination;
who labors to eradicate poverty, proclaim liberty to captives, and practice restorative justice!

For the Lord sets prisoners free,
and opens the eyes of the blind;
the Lord raises up those who are bowed down
and loves the righteous and those who do the works of mercy and peace.

(For the complete prayer, visit this site.)

Study
The analogy/parable of the seed is woven into two meanings which are self-evident to the agricultural people.  First, St. Paul uses the seed to explain resurrection – an interesting dilemma.  We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead, his closest friends had trouble recognizing him.  Paul reminds people that the tree is not at all like the seed.  He could be talking about Jesus here, but he also is referring to what will happen to everyone in the Resurrection.

So also is the resurrection of the dead.
It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible.
It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious.
It is sown weak; it is raised powerful.
It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one.

The notes in the New American Bible further explain this analogy:  The principles of qualitative difference before and after death and of diversity on different levels of creation are now applied to the human body. Before: a body animated by a lower, natural life-principle (psychē) and endowed with the properties of natural existence (corruptibility, lack of glory, weakness). After: a body animated by a higher life-principle (pneuma) and endowed with other qualities (incorruptibility, glory, power, spirituality), which are properties of God himself.[i]

Jesus uses the same seed image to explain how the Word of God grows in the world and in the hearts of people. Jesus realizes that his message does not resonate with all people.  He is willing to endure his Word falling on deaf ears, people who forget what is said, people who are driven away by temptations in life.  All that makes it ever more joy-filled when the Word falls on ears that listen and act upon it.
 Jean-Francois Millet, The Gleaning

Action
"We need to participate for the common good. Sometimes we hear: a good Catholic is not interested in politics. This is not true: good Catholics immerse themselves in politics by offering the best of themselves so that the leader can govern." - Pope Francis, 9/16/13

We are about 50 days away from a pivotal election.  How are you preparing to make your decision? According to a handout offered by the USCCB:  The Church equips its members to address political questions by helping them develop well-formed consciences. “Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act. [Every person] is obliged to follow faithfully what he [or she] knows to be just and right” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1778). We Catholics have a lifelong obligation to form our consciences in accord with human reason, enlightened by the teaching of Christ as it comes to us through the Church.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

I Believe


By Colleen O’Sullivan

Brothers and sisters:  If Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead?  If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, then empty too is our preaching; empty, too, your faith…  (I)f Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins.  Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.  (1 Corinthians 15:12-14, 17-19)

Piety
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.  He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.  He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.  (from the Nicene Creed)

Study
The apostle Paul must have faced a tough crowd in Corinth.  (I fear he would face an equally skeptical audience today in many places.)  Toward the end of this letter to the Christians in that city, Paul addresses those who claim there is no resurrection of the dead.  In a series of “if…then” propositions, he challenges the Corinthians’ logic.

There are a slew of ramifications for every one of us if Jesus Christ wasn’t raised from the dead. 
  • If Jesus’ dead body was merely surreptitiously removed from the tomb, then not one of us is going to be raised up on the last day or ever.  When we die, that’s it.  The end.  No heavenly reunion with loved ones or eternal life with Christ. 
  • All those sins we’ve committed over a lifetime added to the weight of original sin?  We may have forgiven ourselves, but that’s as far as forgiveness goes.   
  • The prayers we’ve offered up every day and every night – who’s receiving them?  No one’s listening; they’ll never be answered.
If all those things were true, as Paul said, we are to be pitied.

Even though no one photographed Jesus rising from his deathbed and leaving the tomb, even though we have no artifacts that “scientifically” put any doubts to rest, I firmly believe in Jesus’ Resurrection.  Too many people reported seeing the Risen Lord and too many lives were changed not to believe.  Who but Jesus could have turned Cleopas and his traveling companion around on the road to Emmaus?  The two of them were trudging home in the depths of despair.  Their lives had gone bust.  They had staked everything on Jesus and now they were slinking home, tails between their legs, dreading the ridicule of family and friends.  But, in the breaking of the bread, they recognized their friend and teacher.  They barely finished their meal before they were racing back to Jerusalem, bursting with the news that Jesus was alive!  They had seen him!  Mary Magdalene saw Jesus in the Garden and she, too, reported this to the other disciples.  Her tears dried up, transformed by joy.  Her beloved Jesus lived!  Peter, ashamed and repentant to the depths of his being for his betrayals of the one he loved deeply, met the risen Christ and was forgiven and made clean again at an early morning fish fry.  Even the apostle Paul himself encountered the risen Christ on the road to Damascus.  Stopped dead in his tracks and rendered blind, he went from brutally terrorizing and persecuting Jesus’ followers to becoming one of the most fervent and renowned Christians throughout history.

Auferstehung (1916), By Christian Rohlfs - repro from artbook,
Public Domain,
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10900652
I believe because of these reports of the first-century lives being turned around and transformed by the risen Christ.  I believe because, as I look about, I still see the power of Resurrection at work in our lives.  A young man I know attempted to dull the pain in his life with drugs and became addicted.  Today, he is a drug counselor.  Someone I know, who years ago seemed somewhat skeptical about the faith, met Jesus on the road he was traveling.  Today, he carries the Gospel and Jesus’ healing and mercy to people in distant areas around the world.   In my own life, and I’m sure in yours, there have been instances when my own efforts have turned to ashes, yet the Risen Christ has coaxed new life from the ruins.

Action
Take a few moments when you are praying to consider what your life would be like if Jesus hadn’t been raised from the dead.  Then pray a prayer of thanksgiving because Jesus is very much alive in our hearts and in our world.