Friday, November 22, 2019

Purify the Sanctuary

Purify the Sanctuary

Judas and his brothers said, "Now that our enemies have been crushed, let us go up to purify the sanctuary and rededicate it." So, the whole army assembled and went up to Mount Zion. Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, that is, the month of Chislev, in the year one hundred and forty-eight, they arose and offered a sacrifice according to the law on the new altar of burnt offerings that they had made. 1 Maccabees 4:36-37, 52-53

Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, "It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves." And every day he was teaching in the temple area. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile, were seeking to put him to death, but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose because all the people were hanging on his words. Luke 19:45-48

Two temples defiled. Two temples cleansed.

According to the Introduction in the NABRE, “The two Books of Maccabees contain independent accounts of events (in part identical) that accompanied the attempted suppression of Judaism in Palestine in the second century B.C. The vigorous reaction to this attempt established for a time the religious and political independence of the Jews.” These events unfolded about 100 years before Christ was born.

[i]The people of Israel have been specially chosen by the one true God as covenant-partner, and they alone are privileged to know and worship God, their eternal benefactor, and unfailing source of help. The people, in turn, must worship the Lord alone and observe exactly the precepts of the law given to them. The rededication of the Jerusalem Temple described in 4:36–59 (see 2 Mc 10:1–8) is the origin of the Jewish feast of Hanukkah.

By the time Jesus enters the temple in Jerusalem, the piety from the first book
of Maccabees is diluted. Vendors hawk their wares throughout the temple to provide worshippers with animals to offer in sacrifice. Recall how Joseph and Mary bought “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” to sacrifice when they presented Jesus in the temple thirty years earlier to Simeon and Anna in Luke 2:24. Jesus has to assert his authority by throwing out the merchants to cleanse the temple once again.

After cleansing it, the temple becomes the proper place for his teaching ministry in Jerusalem. Thus, cleansed anew, the setting becomes the home of his ministry because it is, in essence, his house.

However, we know from the hints in today’s Gospel, that the temple that is Jesus’ body is now poised for destruction just as the people defiled the temple.

If the people genuinely recognized Jesus as “Emmanuel” (God-Among-Us), would they have treated him or his temple that way? All week long, we have been encountering people in the readings who either did or did not recognize Jesus.

Sunday, he warned us to accept no substitutes despite the false prophets who would come around. (“See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, 'I am he,' and 'The time has come.' Do not follow them!”)

Monday, the blind beggar could “see” who was before him while the sighted followers did not. Tuesday, the tax collector climbed a sycamore tree to see the “real thing” and respond accordingly by giving away his possessions. Wednesday, the traveling nobleman (God the Father), trusted his prized possessions with his servants to see who would adequately care for them. Thursday, Jesus wept, knowing that those he loved would not recognize him.

You would think God would learn his lesson. We, the so-called children of God, prove time after time that we cannot be trusted to care for the temple. Throughout sacred history, God sends prophets and saints to do just what Jesus did, rebuild the church. But God keeps giving us another chance.

How is Jesus Among You, today? How will you encounter him in the people around you? Do we have another chance to keep Jesus from breaking into tears again? Are we up for the task this time?

Thursday, November 21, 2019

“Jesus Makes for Peace” by Beth DeCristofaro

“Jesus Makes for Peace” by Beth DeCristofaro

Mattathias answered in a loud voice: "Although all the Gentiles in the king's realm obey him, so that each forsakes the religion of his fathers and consents to the king's orders, yet I and my sons and my kin will keep to the covenant of our fathers. God forbid that we should forsake the law and the commandments. We will not obey the words of the king nor depart from our religion in the slightest degree." (1 Maccabees 2:19-22)

As Jesus drew near Jerusalem, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, "If this day you only knew what makes for peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes. (Luke 19:41-42)

May the humanity of your Only Begotten Son come, O Lord, to our aid, And may he, who at his birth from the Blessed Virgin did not diminish but consecrated her integrity, by taking from us now our wicked deeds, make our oblation acceptable to you. Through Christ, our Lord.
(Prayer over the Offerings, Mass for the Day)

Today's memorial seems at odds with the readings. Conceivably, the day when formerly childless Anna and Joachim brought Mary to the temple as a little girl would have been a day full of gratitude and joy. These readings, however, are full of strife and foreboding. Mattathias in Maccabees bravely declares that he will keep the law of his forefathers rather than obey an apostate king. Immediately after his declaration, he breaks God’s commandment Thou Shalt Not Kill. He justifies two murders as upholding the honor of his God, but it is a violent upholding. The book of Maccabees continues with stories of courage and martyrdom as the Chosen People are ripped apart in unbelief.

Jesus’ words, too, are dire. He predicts Jerusalem’s destruction. There appear to be multiple layers to his lament. By not recognizing him, there will be destruction to the city and ultimately to his people. And he weeps that the people will be in despair because with the oppression of the Romans certainly expected, by not recognizing him as God and man, Jesus’ followers will despair in the desolation coming to the holy city. Through Jesus alone will his followers find peace even in oppression, ruin, or martyrdom. And by adoption, he gives this peace to us as well.

Mary, Jesus’ and our Blessed Mother, is also known as Queen of Peace. As the offertory prayer tells us, God, who became a man through Mary’s “yes” and within her body, “consecrated her integrity.” As we recognize and accept that God has already given us divine love, mercy, and salvation through Jesus, we too are consecrated. Jesus weeps for us as we choose violence, idols, mortal diversions over the Word.

Jesus is the one who mediates peace. Do I allow his peace to permeate my sinful yet sanctified soul? How do I share his peace to anyone that he – not me - deems in need of peace?

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

“In the Meantime” by Colleen O’Sullivan

“In the Meantime” by Colleen O’Sullivan

"I do not know how you came into existence in my womb; it was not I who gave you the breath of life, nor was it I who set in order the elements of which each of you is composed. Therefore, since it is the Creator of the universe who shapes each man's beginning, as he brings about the origin of everything, he, in his mercy, will give you back both breath and life, because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of his law." (2 Maccabees 7:22-23)

"A nobleman went off to a distant country to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return. He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins and told them, 'Engage in trade with these until I return.' His fellow citizens, however, despised him and sent a delegation after him to announce, 'We do not want this man to be our king.' But when he returned after obtaining the kingship, he had the servants called, to whom he had given the money, to learn what they had gained by trading.” (Luke 19: 12-15)
I chose you from the world, to go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord. (today’s Alleluia verse from John 15:16)

Sometimes where a story appears in Sacred Scriptures tells us almost as much as the content of the story itself. Today’s Gospel reading ends by saying that after Jesus said this parable, “He proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem.” Jesus’ public ministry is coming to an end. This chapter in Luke’s Gospel begins with the story of Zaccheus, who climbs up a tree to better see and hear Jesus. Many in the crowd were there because they thought “the reign of God was about to appear.” It was, but it wasn’t going to be at all what they were expecting – a Cross for Jesus instead of a great political and military defeat of their enemies.

Knowing that he will be leaving soon, not to return until a later date as King in glory, Jesus tells this parable of a wealthy man who entrusts his daily affairs and finances to his servants while he leaves to become king.[i] This landowner isn’t the most popular of men, and a delegation goes to try and prevent him from becoming their king. Their efforts come to nothing. The rich man receives the crown and afterward returns home. There he discovers that the running of his household has gone poorly in his absence. The servant who has let him down comes to an unhappy end.

There is much to reflect on in this parable. Jesus no longer walks the earth in human form in 2019. He is now with the Father in heaven until the day he returns in glory. In the meantime, Jesus entrusted to you and me the mission and ministry of his Church. Were Jesus to return today, I think he might be just as upset as the king in today’s parable. While many people conduct themselves as faithfully as the seven brothers and their mother in today’s first reading, others are filing out the doors of their parishes and never looking back. Every one of us has aided and abetted the fostering of a culture of clergy entitlement, not just clergy themselves. We in Christ’s Church have taken a long time to recognize and seriously begin to deal with clergy sexual abuse. Pope Francis has urged us to be a poor church for the poor, hardly a concept original to him. Read the Gospels and note that Jesus was poor, and he dedicated his entire life to serving the poor, the sick and the oppressed. Read through the Acts of the Apostles and see how the struggling newborn Church reached out to churches struggling in other places and took great care of the orphans and widows in their midst.

In the parable, the writer states, “His fellow citizens… despised (the man who would be king).“ The evil spirit is alive and well in the 21st century. The evil one never relents in the objective to separate us from God. He rejoices when he sees others working to turn us against the Church, attempting to get us to relinquish our faith. The evil spirit always has an abundance of helpers.

When you pray today, please take a few minutes to consider what part you play in keeping Jesus’ mission and ministry alive.

[i] Jesus begins the parable by saying that a man of noble birth went to a far country to have himself appointed king and then return. This may have reminded his hearers of Archelaus, the son of Herod the Great, who went to Rome in the year 4 BC to get himself appointed king. On his return, he succeeded his father. It may seem a rather unusual procedure, but the Herods used to go to Rome to get appointed as rulers over the Jews. (Living Space, an online Scripture commentary maintained by the Irish Jesuits)

Monday, November 18, 2019

“Preferring a Glorious Death” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

“Preferring a Glorious Death” by Melanie Rigney

Eleazar, one of the foremost scribes, a man of advanced age and noble appearance was being forced to open his mouth to eat pork. But preferring a glorious death to a life of defilement, he spat out the meat, and went forward of his own accord to the instrument of torture, as people ought to do who have the courage to reject the food which it is unlawful to taste even for love of life. Those in charge of that unlawful ritual meal took the man aside privately, because of their long acquaintance with him, and urged him to bring meat of his own providing, such as he could legitimately eat, and to pretend to be eating some of the meat of the sacrifice prescribed by the king; in this way he would escape the death penalty, and be treated kindly because of their old friendship with him. But Eleazar made up his mind in a noble manner, worthy of his years, the dignity of his advanced age, the merited distinction of his gray hair, and of the admirable life he had lived from childhood; and so he declared that above all he would be loyal to the holy laws given by God. (2 Maccabees 6:18-23)

The Lord upholds me. (Psalm 3:6b)

Lord, help me to be as consistent in the way I love You as You are in the way You love me.

So, Eleazar. Would there really have been anything wrong with that little bit of underhandedness that was recommended to him? He wouldn’t have actually eaten the pork, after all; he would have just allowed the king to think so. Surely, his family and friend and community would have understood. Who wants to die a martyr’s death when the price of staying alive on earth to do good works is so low?

Except, of course, the price wasn’t that low. Eleazar knew it. When we begin to deceive others in the name of survival, we also deceive ourselves – and welcome in evil.

You see, the loyalty the Lord demands doesn’t change when we’re eighteen, twenty-one, thirty-five, sixty, or eighty. He’s consistent that way, even when we think we deserve a pass given our gray hairs, creaking knees, and expanding waistlines. There’s not one set of commandments for the young, another for the middle-aged, and a third for seasoned Christians.

We all move closer to physical death each day. Let’s resolve to hold fast to spiritual life as we do so.

Consider a rationalization you’re making to sidestep prayer or service. What do you think the Lord’s response to that rationalization is?

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Calling Out All the More

Calling Out All the More

But many in Israel were determined and resolved in their hearts not to eat anything unclean; they preferred to die rather than to be defiled with unclean food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die. Terrible affliction was upon Israel.  1 Maccabees 62-64

As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging, and hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what was happening. They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by." He shouted, "Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!" The people walking in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent, but he kept calling out all the more, "Son of David, have pity on me!"  Luke 18:35-39

The first Bible that I ever owned and read was a gift from a retreat in high school.  The American Bible Society distributed “The Good News for Modern Man.”

Today’s pair of readings remind me why we call the New Testament the Good News.  No matter what the crowd tells you to do, if you follow Jesus, then all will be right. The blind man refused to listen to the masses.  In his public prayer, he repeatedly called out to Jesus for help.  Jesus was there to answer his prayers.    

As a recent post from the Maryknoll Missioners advises, “The good news is: Jesus is coming back.”  He will come back to answer our prayers, too.
However, the social media post did not stop there. “The bad news is: Jesus is coming back.  Whether it’s good or bad news depends on if (and how) you’re living your faith.”

If you follow the crowd like some of the people described in the first reading, watch out. Following the teachings of Jesus sometimes requires us to be counter to the norms of culture. They say, “Zig.”  We zag.

“So That You Might Imitate Us” by Rev. Paul Berghout (@FatherPB)

“So That You Might Imitate Us” by Rev. Paul Berghout (@FatherPB)


Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch, says the LORD of hosts. But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays. (Malachi 3:19-20)

The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice.  (Psalm 98:9)

Brothers and sisters: You know how one must imitate us. For we did not act in a disorderly way among you, nor did we eat food received free from anyone. On the contrary, in toil and drudgery, night and day we worked, so as not to burden any of you. Not that we do not have the right. Rather, we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us. (2 Thessalonians 3:7-9)

Then they asked him, “Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?”He answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them!” (Luke 21:7-8)


Let’s take a look at “Apocalyptic Piety.”  In 70 A.D. The Roman army destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple by the use of the catapult: The Jewish watchmen cried out in their language, “THE STONE IS COMING! “THE STONE IS COMING!”

The Romans declared their innocence for the death and destruction, saying that God had deserted the Temple.

Failure to heed the prophets, including Jesus, destroyed the city and the temple.  Was it a loss?

Or consider the crow who once flew through the sky with a piece of meat in its beak. Twenty other crows set out in pursuit of it and attacked it viciously.

The crow finally let the piece of meat drop. Its pursuers then left it alone and flew shrieking after the morsel.

Said the crow, “I’ve lost the meat and gained this peaceful sky.”

Or consider the viewpoint of the monk, who said: “When my house burned down, I got an unobstructed view of the moon at night!”

Calamities can bring growth and Enlightenment," said a Spiritual Master.

And he explained it this way: “Each day, a bird would shelter in the withered branches of a tree that stood in the middle of a vast deserted plain. One day a whirlwind uprooted the tree, forcing the poor bird to fly a hundred miles in search of shelter -- till it finally came to a forest of fruit-laden trees."

And he concluded: "If the withered tree had survived, nothing would have induced the bird to give up its security and fly.”

In the apocalyptic mind, the Temple's destruction is not what it appears to be. Consider Rev. 21:22: “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb."

Rather than be a cause for despair, it is a sign of the divine plan: The time of the Temple was over and a new day had dawned in redemptive history.

Without a temple, it was impossible to offer sacrifices.

Therefore, the Christian Sacrifice of the Mass and an individual’s sacrifice of a contrite soul, of a humble spirit and an obedient life would be acceptable to God.

Our Gospel today began with the words that “some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings.”

Each baptized believer is like one of the beautiful costly temple stones, so expensive that the price paid was the precious shed blood of Jesus Christ.


The Destruction of your Inner Temple happens by mortal sin, so protect your temple by holiness and vigilance.

In 1 Cor. 6:19, God, through His Spirit indwells in the soul of the individual baptized believer so that his body becomes the "temple of the Holy Spirit."

The spiritual sin of acedia is when you don’t care about protecting your temple. Acedia isn’t laziness. It means “a lack of care,” or, more specifically, a lack of concern for one’s salvation and growth as a Christian.

Some teenagers would express acedia as “YEAH, WHATEVER!”

—“I am sexually active. Whatever.”

—“I am on drugs. Whatever”

An early Christian thinker named Evagrius of Pontus observed that acedia “instills in [a believer] a dislike for the place [where he lives] and for his state of life itself.

The appropriate crisis intervention is to ask Jesus to restore one’s shriveled, acedia-damaged heart, followed by the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Apocalyptic piety also means to engage in evangelization and mission in the face of opposition.

Jesus tells us that in these tough times: “It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. 

Abba Ammoun of Rhaithou asked Abba Sisoes, 'When I read the Scriptures, my mind is wholly concentrated on the words so that I may have something to say if I am asked.' The old man said to him, 'That is not necessary; it is better to enrich yourself through purity of spirit and to be without anxiety and then to speak.' That is the Cursillo way.

Finally, the third aspect of Apocalyptic piety is your confidence and security that not a hair on your head will be destroyed.

Humorously, during a lesson about adjectives, my friend, an elementary school teacher, asked her class to describe their mothers. One boy described his mother’s hair as auburn.

Impressed by his sophisticated word choice, my friend asked, “How do you know her hair color is auburn?”

Her student replied, “Because that’s what it says on the box.” [Reader’s Digest].

“To deliver” a person from apocalyptic upheaval does not mean that God would make it all better right then and there. Many of them will still die as martyrs. Even with the unique gift of fortitude that God will give them, over and above that, even in martyrdom, God will hold them in his love. Their perseverance will secure their lives in the world to come, which means that if one dies as a martyr, patience is the bridge that carries you from the will of God to the realized promises of God.

Apocalyptic piety follows Ecclesiasticus 11:28: “Call no man happy before his death, for by how he ends, a man is known."

For reflection: To what extent am I able to read or watch the news with a calm confidence that God is ultimately in charge? That he will bring me safely to himself?

CONCLUSION—The fall of Jerusalem didn’t mean that God abandoned the world. True, the focus of religion would no longer be the Temple; rather, it would be a new focus: Christ, truly present in the Eucharist. The tabernacle would be the new center of attention.

Christ will make sense of everything at the end of our lives. All our struggles to live the Gospel will be worth it. On the last day, we might regret many things, but we will never regret the things we did for Christ. Does that truth guide our lives each day?

De colores and Amen!

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Justice is Done for them Speedily

Justice is Done for them Speedily

When peaceful stillness compassed everything and the night in its swift course was half spent, Your all-powerful word, from heaven's royal throne bounded, a fierce warrior, into the doomed land, bearing the sharp sword of your inexorable decree. And as he alighted, he filled every place with death; he still reached to heaven, while he stood upon the earth. For all creation, in its several kinds, was being made over anew, serving its natural laws, that your children might be preserved unharmed. Wisdom 18:14-16, 19:6

Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" Luke 18:7-8

Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador, pray for us!

Fr Ignacio Ellacuria, SJ
Fr Ignacio Martín-Baró, SJ
Fr Segundo Montes, SJ
Fr Juan Moreno, SJ
Fr Joaquín Lopez y Lopez, SJ
Fr Amando Lopez, SJ
Ms Elba Ramos
Miss Celina Ramos


Thirty years is slightly longer than the period when Christ walked on earth.  That also is how much time since the early morning murder of six Jesuits, a mother and her daughter who worked with them.  In the early morning hours of November 16, 1989, a squad of soldiers entered the grounds of the Central American University where they taught.  

Evangelization consists of working for social justice no matter what the cost.  Today’s readings seem chosen to emphasize that very point. When the peaceful stillness of November 16, 1989 “compassed everything and the night in its swift course was half spent,” death descended upon these missionaries of truth.  Although the mortal bodies of the martyrs were not preserved, their spirit, as the Spirit of the Lord, remains with us forever from the Cloud of Witnesses.

Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.  Will the Father protect his children and grant their every wish no matter what ways humanity might persecute and execute the Children of the Light?

The civil war in El Salvador is over, but the struggle endures. We cannot separate action (social reform) from the proclamation of the gospel or the call to personal piety and study.

What action does today’s Word call you to perform?

Where was Pope Francis yesterday? Ahead of Sunday’s World Day of the Poor, Francis visited a new homeless shelter-soup kitchen just outside St. Peter’s Square. Is there a better image to exemplify the Pope’s vision of a “poor Church for the poor,” and serves as a perfect analogy of the “Church as a field hospital?”

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

“Dwell with Wisdom” by Beth DeCristofaro

“Dwell with Wisdom” by Beth DeCristofaro

Vigil after a mass shooting, El Paso, TX, 2019
For (Wisdom) is an aura of the might of God and a pure effusion of the glory of the Almighty; therefore, nought that is sullied enters into her. For she is the refulgence of eternal light, the spotless mirror of the power of God, the image of his goodness. And she, who is one, can do all things, and renews everything while herself perduring; And passing into holy souls from age to age, she produces friends of God and prophets. For there is nought God loves, be it not one who dwells with Wisdom. (Wisdom 7:25-27)

Asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, Jesus said in reply, "The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, 'Look, here it is,' or, 'There it is.' For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you." (Luke 17:20-21)

Your word is forever, O Lord.
Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light for my path.
I make a solemn vow
to observe your righteous judgments.
I am very much afflicted, LORD;
give me life in accord with your word.
 (Psalm 199:105-107

Is anyone else tired of the tsunami of today’s communication streams? Some days I tune only into the weather, ignoring other information – but of course, even meteorologists who do their best to be accurate give a wide range of predictions. Like so many before us, we live in an unsettled age. Unsettled is one chronic characteristic of the human condition. But Jesus unsettled the world even more. He announced that the Kingdom of God is among us. There are days when I ask, “Really?” “Are you sure, Lord?” We, the church, are balanced continuously between the swings of culture, our emotional interactions with ourselves and others, and our intellectual understanding of our place in the world. Our faith is both fulcrum and grounding that illuminates our consciousness of the Kingdom and allows for the counsel of Wisdom, God’s breath within us.

The author of the Book of Wisdom (considered to have been written approximately 50 years before the birth of Jesus) attempts to capture God’s astounding, generous intention in creation. God’s breath permeates creation, imbuing it with the essence of God’s very self. The Book’s poetry seeks to illustrate the mystery and to convey that God’s presence fills even the humblest among us. And then God arrived on earth in our form.

Luke’s Gospel builds on the belief that God is already present. He presents a way for us to be aware and to be an active partner in God’s amazing work. The notes in the NAB read, “To the question of the Pharisees about the time of the coming of God’s kingdom, Jesus replies that the kingdom is among you (Lk 17:20–21). The emphasis has thus been shifted from an imminent observable coming of the kingdom to something that is already present in Jesus’ preaching and healing ministry.”[i] By practicing just these two observable actions, preaching and healing, our balance in an uncertain world can produce great fruit.

Welcome to our new Cursillistas joining us in our Cursillo works, studies, and piety, which are steady ground on which we strive to build the Kingdom. The USCCB also invites us to “take the pledge” specifically on behalf of our divided nation. 

“Join fellow Catholics in committing to civility, clarity, and compassion” through Civilize It[ii] May we seek for ourselves and for others to dwell with Wisdom.