Wednesday, October 26, 2016

May I Be Full of Your Love Each Day Lord

Thursday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth DeCristofaro

Brothers and sisters:  Draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. … So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the Gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the Evil One. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit.   (Ephesians 6:10, 14-18,)

(Jesus) replied, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and I perform healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I accomplish my purpose. (Luke 13:32)

Be beside me O Lord
My advisor and my friend.
Be behind me O Lord
My protector and shield.
Be beneath me O Lord
My helper and strength.
Be ahead of me O Lord
My inspirer and guide.
I am your servant O Lord
May I be full of your love Each day.

St. Patrick’s beautiful “Breastplate” prayer and Pope Leo XIII’s prayer we know as the St. Michael the Archangel prayer are rooted in Paul’s imagery of a Roman soldier’s gear.  Paul was a Roman citizen and clearly knew how oppressive were these legions. But he also knew God’s work for him to be an apostle to the Gentiles and that would have included these fearsome soldiers. 

His imagery, borrowed from state of the art warfare at the time, describes the overwhelming protection God gives.  Paul also clearly throws away violence against other humans.  Paul describes the ultimate war as with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. (verse 12)  His imagery is an incomplete, human perspective trying to describe Jesus’ power in a dark, dangerous world.   We need not put on chain mail or hoist a rifle.  Instead, we say “yes” to salvation which Jesus obtained for us and clothe ourselves in the protection of truth, righteousness, the Gospel of peace, faith, and the Word of God.

Prayer becomes might. Instead of the historical battlefield, Jesus has become the field of life because spoken by God, the Word accomplishes his purpose.  Jesus does not back down in the face of his detractors or those who want Him dead.  Our answer to all that is evil and fearful is Jesus and our answer is living in prayer.

Called by name, we respond by living Jesus’ words which the Spirit gives us in prayer.  Make today mindful, full of prayer at each action. At each stoplight, when you pour your coffee, when you brush your teeth, kiss family, greet co-workers, avoid annoying people, hear a stress-inducing newscast, bite into a sandwich, turn on your computer, get off the bus at your stop, see a lovely cloud, wait for the metro again….  Say a prayer which can be brief and spontaneous such as:  “Bless me.”  "Bless her.”  “Thank you.”  “Protect and heal me / her / them, Lord.”  “Soften their hearts and mine, O God.”  “Thank You.”  “Oh Jesus, My Jesus.” Or stop and focus on the Lord’s Prayer, St. Patrick’s Breastplate or other familiar words.  Wrap yourself in prayer and Listen, Listen for the Holy Spirit who will show you the way of Love.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Some Who Are First Will Be Last

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother. This is the first commandment with a promise, that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life on earth. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up with the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-4

“And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the Kingdom of God. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” Luke 13:29-30

Father, feed us at your Holy Table.  When we knock on your door, we implore you to answer it and let in the sinners on the other side to participate in your Son’s Paschal Feast.  Holy Spirit, nourish us with your gifts so we can go out to build the Kingdom.

Let's ask God to make us channels of his loving mercy: Lord, help us to receive your mercy and turn to you each moment. And please guide us in extending your mercy to others today. Now is the time for mercy. Amen.[i]

“When God closes a door, he opens a window.”  Thus, spoke the Mother Superior to the young novice Fraulein Maria in The Sound of Music.  I guess Mother Superior missed Luke 13.  When God closes a door, he locks it and does not open it for anyone.

Pity those who thought they would be saved merely by their “Jewishness” as Michael Card puts it.  If they do not repent and follow the Word, then will find themselves outside the locked door looking in as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob recline at table with the Lord and people from all corners of the globe – both Jews and Gentiles. Jews, who thought they would always be first as the “chosen people” may find themselves last.

Fortunately, this is not the FINAL judgment.  This is another story that Jesus tells as a parable warning to repent.  Even though Jesus is already on the road to Jerusalem, there is still time to change the direction in which you are looking for happiness.

Eating together was a common theme this year as we broke open the Gospel of Luke.  The dinner parties in Luke are many and are the source of blessings and strength for the work ahead. 
  • Levi (5:27)
  • Simon the Pharisee (7:36)
  • Feeding the Crowd (9:10)
  • Dinner with Martha and Mary (10:38)
  • Dinner with Zacchaeus (19:1)
  • The Last Supper (22:14)
  • The Meal at Emmaus (24:13)

That is why being excluded from this dinner is so critical.

Cardinal Dolan’s letter for Respect Life Month reminds us of consistent ethic of life that is at the heart of our faith:

God made each of us in his own image and likeness.  He desires to be united with us forever in a loving relationship.  God loves us, treats us with respect, and asks us to do the same with others.  Every person is sacred and must be treated with the dignity they deserve.  No one should ever be treated callously or carelessly—everyone should be cherished and protected!

If we turn away from our selfish sinful ways, the door to the banquet will be opened to us. If we want to be invited, we must change.  What change will you work on this month?

[i] From "Moved by Mercy" Letter for Respect Life Month, October 2016 by Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Fruit of Your Handiwork

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By Melanie Rigney

This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church. In any case, each of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband.  (Ephesians 5:32-33)

Blessed are you who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways! For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork; blessed shall you be, and favored. (Psalm 128:1-2)

Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? To what can I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that a man took and planted in the garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.”Again he said, “To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.” (Luke 13:18-21)

Lord, sprout the mustard seed that lies within me.

Sometimes, it starts small, like a mustard seed or bit of wheat flour.

Jeanne Jugan was forty-seven, with physical ailments and working as a catechism teacher and caregiver, when she saw Anne Chauvin, an elderly, poverty-stricken blind woman with partial paralysis who was alone in the world. Jugan carried Chauvin home to the apartment she rented with two other women and put her in her own bed. From this small beginning, the Little Sisters of the Poor were born, and today help those in need in more than thirty countries.

Vicki Thorn ministered to a friend who was in great emotional and spiritual pain after an abortion. From this small beginning, Thorn in her mid-thirties founded Project Rachel, an effort to help all those affected by an abortion loss know that the Lord loves them and forgives them for any role they may have played in the abortion when they come to him with a contrite spirit. Since then, the ministry has assisted millions of people around the world.

Lisa Brenninkmeyer was in her mid-thirties, a wife, mother, and convert who was leading women’s Bible study groups but dissatisfied with the materials available because she didn’t feel they tied women closely enough to a personal relationship with Christ and growing their faith. So, she created her own study materials. From this small beginning, Walking with Purpose was born, a women’s Bible study program now in use in hundreds of parishes in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

Sometimes, it starts small. Whether it blossoms into national or international ministry is up to the Lord. But the starting is up to us.

Say yes to one small request from the Lord today.

Set Free

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.  Ephesians 5:8

“Does not each one of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for watering? This daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now, ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day from this bondage?”  Luke 13:15B-16

Blessed is the man who does not walk
in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the way of sinners,
nor sit in company with scoffers.
Rather, the law of the LORD* is his joy;
and on his law, he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted near streams of water,
that yields its fruit in season;
Its leaves never wither;
whatever he does prospers. Psalm 1:1-3

In diplomacy, there is a concept called “saving face.”  While one might prevail in battle, negotiations or another conflict with another party or country, at the end of the day, the “losing” party is offered some concession so they do not go away empty handed. To save face means to keep your reputation and the respect of other people.

Jesus gives no face-saving leeway in the total defeat of the Pharisees on this Sabbath.  He so roundly beats them based upon customs and law, that they are humiliated and begin in earnest to plot against Jesus.

People like the Pharisees who are involved in a conflict and secretly know they are wrong will often not admit that they are wrong because they don’t want to admit they made a mistake. They, therefore, continue the conflict, just to avoid the embarrassment of looking bad.  To avoid this problem, we sometimes allow our opponents to make concessions gracefully, without having to admit that they made a mistake or backed down. Not Jesus.

Jesus has just witnessed the selfish prayer of the Pharisee in the temple who gloated, “God, I am so much better than these other people.  Look at all the good I do with my fasting and prayer.”  From this egotistical center, Jesus had to teach a strong lesson that God is the center, not the self.  Maybe that is one reason why Jesus felt it was so important to knock the Pharisees down a peg or three.

However, this is not an episode of Madam Secretary or The West Wing.  Jesus teaches that if the tradition and law allowed the untying of bound animals on the Sabbath.  Therefore, how much more important it should be that this woman who has been bound by Satan’s power be freed – even on the Sabbath -- from her affliction.  Furthermore, if she was indeed “bound by Satan,” then Jesus had an even greater reason for having a resounding victory in public – not just to teach the hypocritical Pharisees a lesson but to loosen the grip Satan had on the people.  The notes in the NAB point out: “The healing ministry of Jesus reveals the gradual wresting from Satan of control over humanity and the establishment of God’s kingdom.”

Rather than being imitators of Satan and the Hypocrites, St. Paul calls upon us to be imitators of Jesus in forgiving the sins of the crippled woman and in letting love in action conquer all.  Let no hypocritical Pharisees or advertiser or politician or entertainer deceive you with empty arguments.  

Sunday, October 23, 2016

No Favorites

By Rev. Paul Berghout

The LORD is a God of justice, who knows no favorites. Though not unduly partial toward the weak, yet he hears the cry of the oppressed. The Lord is not deaf to the wail of the orphan, nor to the widow when she pours out her complaint. The one who serves God willingly is heard; his petition reaches the heavens. Sirach 35:15-17,20-21

But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:13-14

Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.

Today's gospel says that Jesus told this parable about those who are righteous and despise the other. One of our most common sins is to think that we are better than others, a sickening trait that destroys any trait of humility that we can have.

C.S. Lewis wrote a story that speaks of Satan advising his/her nephew - another demon - on how to tempt anyone.

Satan wrote: "My dear nephew: Try to infect the person with a false sense of pride, telling him: ‘You have become humble. All the virtues are less formidable for us as demons once the man is aware of the fact that he has this particular trait of humility. You reel it in at the moment of being really poor in spirit, and smuggle into his head the gratification thought: "Wow, I'm being humble!"

Almost immediately the pride - the pride of his humility - will be shown. If you become aware of this danger and try to drown this new form of pride, make him feel proud of his attempt, and so, as many times as you please.  These are the wiles of the devil.

The Gospel tells us that two men went up to the temple to pray: one was a Pharisee and the other, publican.

There's a saying, “It is better to travel with hope to get to the destination.”  But, what if the person thinks that he or she is already at the destination?

The Pharisee in his career for the world thought he had already reached the goal. Then, he kept an attitude that made him think himself superior to those who had not progressed as far in their relationship with God.

The Pharisee fasted and paid their tithes, which is very good, but the only intended to do and praised God the beneficiary of their works instead of realizing that he was the one who was benefiting from the divine mercy. The prayer of the Pharisee is a prayer of "I": I'm fasting... I pay the tithe. Here is an illustration related to an attitude that is not humble.

There were three knocks on the door of the crypt of the Capuchin Church of Santa María de Los Angeles in Vienna: "Who are you?" asks a brother Capuchin.

"I am Elizabeth, Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary," came the answer.

"I don't know you," replied the brother.

The visitor knocks a second time: "Who are you?"

"I am Elizabeth, Empress of Austria."

"I don't know you."

She knocks a third time. "Who are you?"

"I am Elizabeth, a poor sinner."

"You can enter," is now the answer.

Before God and death, all people are equal.

The publican feels sorry for the wrong he has done and the damage it has caused to others and for this he throws himself at the feet of God implores his grace saying: "My God, have mercy on me, that I am a sinner."

Collecting taxes was a profession deplorable for the Jews. This publican acknowledged himself as a sinner, and this was presented before God with humility.

It must indeed have been shocking for Jesus to hear that the publican had been justified, but our first reading tells us that the prayers of the needy are cared for. The Publican was forgiven and not the Pharisee because even he needed forgiveness.

None of us recognize our helplessness and gets humility by our own strength. We are taken there. It's sad to say, but it is the sin, the humiliation, the failure and several other forms of addiction which lead us to God. Many times, after having a ruined marriage, estranged children, lost a job or integrity and rid the bright picture we had of ourselves is what leads us to say: "The way that I am not working. Maybe there is another way, a different way and maybe I need to really change." That is often the moment when we are ready to embark on a spiritual path. At this point, 'religion' transforms into a spirituality alive and living.

Jesus said to Saint Sister Faustina, "On the outside your sacrifice must be: Hidden, silent, impregnated with love, saturated with prayer. I demand of you, my child, that your sacrifice is pure and full of humility so that you can please me in him..." (Diary, 1767).

In the last quarter of the last century, the church in the United Kingdom was blessed with a very good leader in the person of Cardinal Basil Hume, a Benedictine monk who had been abbot of the community before being appointed Archbishop of Westminster in 1976.

Cardinal Hume died in June 1999 after having been diagnosed, only two months before, abdominal cancer. He took good advantage of those two months and even prepared his funeral: the people who would be invited, the music that he liked, the place where he wanted to be buried in his cathedral, the prayers and readings for his requiem mass. Also, he chose the preacher, his dear friend the Bishop John Crowley, and asked him in particular to explain the choice of the gospel text for the mass, a text that could be considered unusual for a funeral: the parable of the Pharisee and the publican of Lk 18, 9-14.

"When I became the Abbot-Cardinal, he said to his friend-and even more so when I got to be Archbishop Cardinal, and asked to God: 'Make me a good abbot, make me to be a good bishop, make me a good cardinal.'  But now that I know very soon I'll be meeting with the father face-to-face, I realize that this prayer, though in their own way sincere and beautiful, it is not the prayer that he will want to hear from me. No; prayer that is music to the ears of the father is this: ' God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'  These, concluded the cardinal, are the words that I want on my lips now that I'm going to the father."

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Living Truth in Love

Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole Body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the Body’s growth and builds itself up in love. Ephesians 4:15-16

‘‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So, cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’ He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not, you can cut it down.’” Luke 13:7-9

God, help us to live Your truth in love, not in anger, hatred or division.  Through the gifts freely given by Jesus, lead us away from the winds of false teaching into the work of building your Kingdom.  Through the Holy Spirit, lead us to the priorities which will accomplish our part of this important work.  Amen.

While the emphasis in the first reading is on ascension and gift-giving by Christ,
maybe it is also encouraging us to reach for a higher purpose as we are called as priests, prophets, and kings to equip the whole people of God for their work of ministry.

The image of the barren fig tree could be a symbol of our ministry, our life or Jesus’ work.  On one hand, the notes in the NAB teach us that image evokes the continuing patience of God with those who have not yet given evidence of their repentance. “Produce good fruits as evidence of your repentance.” (Luke 3:8)

We may not be the fig tree.  We may be the gardener inheriting our role from Christ.  As the gardener, have we neglected the fig tree? God’s patience and mercy allow us time to focus on the priorities of the Mission rather than the distractions that make us “tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming.”

As Michael Card explains in Luke: The Gospel of Amazement:
For three years, roughly the same period of time as Jesus’ ministry, the owner had been looking for fruit from the tree but finding none.  So, he tells the worker to cut the tree down.  The worker becomes an advocate for the fruitless tree.  He asks if he might cultivate it for one more year as best he can.

What happens to the fruitless fig tree?  We do not know. 

What fruit will our ministry bear?  Are we the tree or the gardener?  If the tree, will we come around next year and bear fruit for Jesus?  If the gardener, will we tend to the “tree” with loving patience and make others bear fruit to build the Kingdom of God?

Luke leaves the story open-ended.  Right now, our lives too are open ended.  But there will be a conclusion when we least expect it. When Jesus looks upon us, will he see a barren tree or many figs?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Present Moment

By Colleen O'Sullivan

Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.  (Psalm 24:6, adapted for psalm response)

Jesus said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west you say immediately that it is going to rain - and so it does; and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south you say that it is going to be hot - and so it is.  You hypocrites!  You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time? (Luke 12:54-56)

Seek the Lord while He may be found;
Call to Him while He is still near.
Today is the day and now the proper hour
to forsake our sinful lives and turn to the Lord.
(Seek the Lord, Roc O’Connor, SJ, based on Isaiah 55:6-9)

About five or six years ago I was visiting friends in Arizona.  We were driving back toward the Phoenix area from the Grand Canyon, when suddenly the friend driving said, “I think a haboob (dust storm) is forming.”  I looked around and everything looked okay to me.  So I asked, “How can you tell?”  I was directed to look at the horizon slightly to the left of some landmark.  I still couldn’t see the change he was pointing to.  But then I’d never seen a dust storm, and I don’t live in an area where there’s much call for that kind of knowledge.  Just a few seconds later the haboob warnings were posted!

Jesus, in talking to the crowds, mentions this ability to look around and predict the weather.  Many people in his day were farmers or shepherds.  Their livelihoods depended on being able to look at the color of the sky; the shape, color and movement of the clouds, the smell of the air or the direction of the wind and know what the day would bring weather-wise.

So, why, he asks us, are you so able to do that and so undiscerning about the present time?  Think about what it takes to predict the weather (without the help of the Weather Channel).  It takes attentiveness.  It takes practice and experience.   I looked at exactly the same sky my friend was observing.  Because he knew what to look for, he saw what I missed. 

Maybe part of the answer to Jesus’ question is that we’re not very attentive to the moment in which we find ourselves.  We’ve got our heads down, texting, tweeting, posting on Facebook and attending to our emails.  We’ve got our days and nights crammed full of activities.   The ears and eyes of our hearts are not open.  We are plain too preoccupied with things that, ultimately, don’t hold much importance.

Farmers in Jesus’ time were skilled at knowing what the weather would hold because they had a great deal of practice and experience in reading the signs in the sky, the clouds, and the breezes.  Maybe the rest of the answer to Jesus’ question is that we don’t practice discerning the present moment very often.  We lack experience and so we’re often not very good at it.

The present moment is what Roc O’Connor’s song lyrics are about.  Today, this very second, Jesus is near, just waiting for us to open our hearts to his love, mercy, and forgiveness.  The present moment offers the chance to put everything else aside and to turn to the Lord.

How frustrated Jesus must have felt at times!  He came to be one of us, to share in our good and bad times, to experience life as we know it, with the exception of sin.  The crowd he addresses in today’s Gospel reading seems oblivious to the presence of the Son of God in their midst.  The miracles Jesus has performed, the forgiving of sins, the healing of the sick have not made much of a dent in their sensibilities.  This was their chance.  This is our chance…to seize the moment and turn to the Lord!                                                                                                       
How do we become more attentive?  How do we gain practice and experience?  The best way I know is through prayer.  Carve out a time and space every single day to talk and listen to Jesus.  Put yourself in his presence.  Review your day with the Lord.  For what were you grateful?  What seemed like a blessing?  Did something happen that hurt you?  Did you regret something you said or did?  Share it all with the Lord.  Then pick one aspect of your day to pray from.  Open the eyes and ears of your heart to what Jesus might be saying to you or doing in your life.

If you do this day after day, month after month, and year after year, you will be as practiced at discerning the present moment as any first-century farmer was at forecasting the weather.  And you will be much more aware of the Lord’s presence in your life.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Fired Within by Christ

By Beth DeCristofaro

Jesus said to the crowds, "I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! (Luke 12:49-50)

Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Jesus accepted his Baptism on the Cross and accomplished!  Paul sure gets it.  Sometimes I picture Paul as that guy on late night TV selling Ginsu knives.  He yells how GREAT they are!  He talks fast describing the benefits of the product.  He twirls and chops with them to prove their value.  He is so in your face!  Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is both bold and beautifully poetic as he attempts to describe in mere mortal words the blaze set within his heart when he heard Christ call him by name.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul points out that God uses all our parts to further our awareness and living in God. In fact, Paul says, we are parts of the Body of Christ by Jesus’ baptism by death and resurrection.  Can we feel that fire kindled?  Has it banked and dulled since our weekend?  Does it still blaze and propel us with gratitude and hope through each day?  We don’t need to yell, posture or twirl our belief like Mr. Ginsu, we just need to live and act every day so that Christ’s light within shines before all so that all can see the glory of God. 

In what special way are you gifted to bring Christ’s fire to the world?  Remember, Christ gifts us and we are called, Christ doesn’t call the gifted.  Give thanks for the gift then go and spend it on building His kingdom today.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

May It Not Be Held Against Them!

St. Paul Writing by
Rembrandt [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons.

By Melanie Rigney

At my first defense, no one appeared on my behalf, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them! But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it.  (2 Timothy 4:16-17)

Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom. (Psalm 145:12)

“Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.’” (Luke 10:8-9)

Lord, bless all the humans in my life who make all-too-human mistakes… and who forgive me for all the ones I make.

I think of Paul as a whirlwind or tornado, storming through towns, attempting to set people on fire with the Good News, not always being as tactful or diplomatic as he could have been because that wasn’t his nature and besides: There. Just. Wasn’t. Time. There just wasn’t. There was always another town on the horizon, more evangelization to be done, more people to be met, more strategies to be planned.

And then, as he tells Timothy in today’s first reading, he was alone at his first defense. The winds of his life stilled to nothingness. All those souls he had brought to the Kingdom were nowhere to be found. Surely, in the moment, he had to have been hurt, puzzled, angry. But in retrospect, as he writes, the Lord was there and He was sufficient. Indeed, Paul even asks forgiveness for those who deserted him.

We all are deserted often, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. Yes, there are people in this world who want to set us up only to see us publicly humiliated or embarrassed. There are people in this world who run away from the first sign of conflict, fearful of what might happen if they’re not on the winning side. But mostly, I think, people desert us unintentionally. They have their own stuff going on, and as for our stuff: There. Just. Wasn’t. Time. Just as sometimes for the stuff they really needed us to do: There. Just. Wasn’t. Time. As they forgive us, let us forgive them. As He forgives us, let us forgive them—and ourselves.

Show compassion today to someone you both know has let you down.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Rich in What Matters to God

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.  Ephesians 2:8-10

“But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”  Luke 12:20-21

“If I could only hold God in my mind.  If I could only always just think of Him.” (Flannery O’Connor, A Prayer Journal, p. 39)

Paul provides us with some very uplifting words – originally meant for the Church in Ephesus and now, by the extension of time, meant for the Church in Virginia. 

Christians of any age are a newly created people in Christ, fashioned by God for a life of goodness.  On the Easter Vigil, new Christians of every race, age, gender, and nationality are born anew in the waters of Baptism to go into the world and build the Kingdom.  Through our renewal of Baptismal promises, we are renewed each year in the sprinkling waters at Mass.  Through dipping our fingers in Holy Water as we enter the sanctuary, we are cleansed and renewed every time we go to Mass or just enter a church to pray or talk with a friend.  We leave fortified with the Bread of Life.  God brought us to life now it is our job to bring his Word to life in the world through our faith.   

May temptations can lead us astray, especially the lure of riches.  To whom will our possessions pass when we pass from this world? 

Pope Francis reminds us: “Let us be realists, but without losing our joy, our boldness, and our hope-filled commitment.  Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary vigor.”

One way to stay strong in missionary vigor is by taking the poverty tour at to learn about the effects of poverty in our communities.  Does this give you ideas about how to spread your wealth around?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Thy Will Be Done

By Diane Bayne

In the second reading of today’s liturgy, Paul emphasizes the importance of the virtue of persistence: “ persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2)

Then, in the Gospel, Jesus emphasizes the importance of persistence in a parable about a poor widow who repeatedly berates a corrupt judge about his failure to give her a just decision. Because of her persistence, the judge finally yields to her pestering and gives the widow the decision she insists upon. With this parable, Jesus points out that holding onto our faith–especially during times when our prayers are not speedily answered–may not be easy. We will be continually challenged and it is only through persistence that we will prevail.

In his commentary on the Gospel of Luke, William Barclay makes several salient points about this parable:
  • “The Judge was not a Jewish judge, but one of the paid magistrates appointed either by Herod or by the Romans.” Says Barclay, “Such judges were notorious.  Unless a plaintiff had influence and money to bribe his way to a verdict, he had no hope of every getting his case settled.”  (Barclay, “The Gospel of Luke,” p. 222)
  • “The widow was a symbol of all who were poor and defenseless and, without any material resources had only one weapon for getting justice from such a judge: persistence.”  (Barclay, p. 222)

Barclay concludes his analysis of this parable by quoting Jesus’ perplexing question: “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”  (Luke 18: 8)   Barclay offers this rationale for Jesus’ question by saying that “...We do not know what will happen in the next hour, let alone the next week, or month, or year.  Only God sees time whole, and therefore, only God knows what is good for us in the long run.  That is why Jesus said we must never be discouraged in prayer.”  Barclay speculates that Jesus asks if He will find faith when He comes again because he wonders if our faith would stand the long delay before this coming.  (Barclay, pp. 222-223.)  I find his reasoning on this point convincing–especially during those times when it seems to me that my prayers are not easily-- or speedily, or satisfactorily--answered.

At the end of all our petitions, let us resolve to incorporate ALWAYS one or more of the following petitions:

“Jesus, I trust in thee.”

“Thy will be done.”

“Into your hands I commit my spirit.”

May the Eyes of Your Hearts Be Enlightened

May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might, which he worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come.  Ephesians 1:18-21

“Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. When they take you before synagogues and before rulers and authorities, do not worry about how or what your defense will be or about what you are to say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.” Luke 12:10-12

Let nothing upset you,
let nothing startle you.
All things pass;
God does not change.
Patience wins
all it seeks.
Whoever has God
lacks nothing:
God alone is enough. (St. Teresa of Avila)

Just two weeks ago, we remembered the “other” Therese -- Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.  There was a long time when I confused these two saints because of the similarities in their names. However, getting to know these two Carmelites better, Teresa of Avila had a longer impact on the Church in her lifetime living well into her sixties.  Her life began less than twenty years after Columbus sailed west to find India opening the eyes of the world to new paths and new peoples.  Although looking back, we may have many criticisms of Columbus, he opened a period of exploration and opportunity. With Teresa of Avila, the influential leadership of the Spanish culture of the day comes to the fore with her as well as Columbus.   

“The gift of God to Teresa in and through which she became holy and left her mark on the Church and the world is threefold: She was a woman; she was a contemplative; she was an active reformer.”[i]

Teresa was a woman “for others.” Though a contemplative, she spent much of her time and energy seeking to reform herself and the Carmelites, to lead them back to the full observance of the primitive Rule. She founded over a half-dozen new monasteries. She traveled, wrote, fought—always to renew, to reform. In her self, in her prayer, in her life, in her efforts to reform, in all the people she touched, she was a woman for others, a woman who inspired and gave life.  Her writings, especially the Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle, have helped generations of believers.

Interesting readings today include a very contemplative sounding prayer that Teresa probably loved in Ephesians as St. Paul prayers for the eyes of our heart to open. However, the challenge in the Gospel is that we learn of the one sin from which there is no forgiveness. 

Like Teresa’s time, ours is a time of turmoil, a time of reform, and a time of liberation. Modern men and women have in Teresa a challenging example. Promoters of renewal, promoters of prayer, all have in Teresa a woman to reckon with, one whom they can admire and imitate.

A recent issue of the Just Faith ( newsletter postulated the same: 

For some time now, it has been clear to people of faith across the world that we are living through an extraordinary time of crisis. The effects of this crisis are already being keenly felt by the poorest among us. Rooted in the social, economic, and spiritual patterns of our lives, this is a challenge we will surely be facing for the rest of our days, a crisis which carries serious implications for our children and their children to come. Joining with the indigenous and rural people who are close the land, the pope reminds us all of our call to be guardians of Creation: “tillers” and “keepers” of the Earth. He also invites us to explore what it might mean to undergo an “ecological conversion”, and makes an urgent appeal for “a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet” (Laudato Si’, 14).

Where do we go from here?  Perhaps the only way to know is through prayer and conversations with a friend.  Teresa wrote: "For mental prayer, in my opinion, is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us. The important thing is not to think much but to love much and so do that which best stirs you to love. Love is not great delight but desire to please God in everything."

Teresa’s prayer was the diving board from which she jumped into her reformist ways.  She did not come to this position quickly or easily.  Sources explain that she had been a nun for over twenty years and went through spiritual and physical deserts.  She survived a severe bout of malaria (but not before her convent has already dug her grave).  In addition, Teresa had long dry periods in her prayer life when she did not pray at all before she learned to experience her relationship with God through such mental/contemplative prayer. It was not until she was 43 years old that Teresa became determined to reform the Carmelite order and start a new convent that went back to the basics of a contemplative order: a simple life of poverty devoted to prayer.

St. Teresa would have made a good Cursillista.  Teresa believed that the most powerful and acceptable prayer was that prayer that leads to action. Good effects were better than pious sensations that only make the person praying feel good.[ii] 

How are teh "eyes of your heart" opening?  What action is your prayer leading you to undertake?

Friday, October 14, 2016

Chosen in Love

By Colleen O’Sullivan

Brothers and sisters:  In Christ we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ.  In him you also have heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:11-14)

“Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins?  Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God.  Even the hairs of your head have all been counted.  Do not be afraid.  You are worth more than many sparrows.”  (Luke 12:6-7)

Lord, I pray for the grace to relinquish the need to be my own god.  Help me to praise you in your glory and help me to discern your will for my life.

What a powerful opening to a letter!  In the verses preceding today’s, we are told that in Jesus Christ God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing.  God chose us before the foundation of the world!  From the moment we were conceived in God’s mind, we were destined to be adopted as God’s children through Jesus Christ.  We, who are sinners, are redeemed through the blood of Christ.  Our sins are forgiven by the grace of God. 

Today, as the letter continues, we read that we have been chosen to give praise for God’s glory.  We have been privileged to hear the truth as spoken by Jesus that we are offered the gift of salvation.  We have been sealed by the Holy Spirit.

Why would anyone not hear this as the greatest news ever?  Well, I think we would all say it was the greatest news, but when you look at how we live, our actions tell another story.   Many of us like to think we are the ones doing the choosing.  We think we decide whether or not to believe in God, as though our choice renders God real or not.  We like to think we are in control of our lives.  We set priorities and goals and then create endless to-do lists to achieve them.   We live as though we are the gods of our own little universes.  One line from Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward:  A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life has stuck with me:  “The ego hates losing – even to God.”

In most of our lives, something eventually happens to explode the myth that we’re running the show.  In my life, it was major illness when I was younger.  For someone else, it may be the loss of a child or a spouse or a parent, a job or a marriage.  For millions throughout the world, it could be an act of war or terrorism destroying the only home they’ve ever known.  Whatever it is, something happens that leads us to question how well we’re running the show and eventually has us admitting that we’re not really in control.

And that’s the very moment when today’s first reading starts to sound like Good News.  We don’t have to be in control.  In fact, we can’t control everything in our lives.  We don’t have to carry the burden of running our lives single-handedly. Before God created a thing, God made the choice to create you and me and to breathe life into us.  God already knew our names and knew we would be adopted sons and daughters through his Son.  God already loved us at that point!  And in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus reiterates just how much the Father loves us.  If God so cares for little birds who wouldn’t fetch much of a price in the market, how much more God must love you and me.

Relinquishing the myth of control over our lives and conforming ourselves to the will of God in Christ is not easy.  It’s a long process, requiring much prayer and discernment along the way.  The habits of a lifetime die hard.

A spiritual director can be a very helpful companion along the way.  If you have never tried spiritual direction and would like to explore the possibility, you could start by consulting our Arlington Diocese Cursillo web page,