Tuesday, December 01, 2020

“Hope” by Colleen O’Sullivan

“Hope” by Colleen O’Sullivan

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

Tree of Jesse Tympanum, St. Peter’s Cathedral, Worms, Germany, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots, a bud shall blossom. Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. (Isaiah 11:1, 6)


Turning to the disciples in private, he said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” (Luke 10:23-24) 


Wait for the Lord  TaizĂ©     

Wait for the Lord, whose day is near;

Wait for the Lord, keep watch, take heart!


Many people find winter a depressing or gloomy time of year. The days are shorter. Darkness comes earlier. It’s colder outside, and we find ourselves spending more time indoors. This year, on top of the usual winter complaints, we have to contend with COVID-19. So perhaps today’s Scripture readings are more needed than ever.

Isaiah’s words invite us to envision a tree stump. Maybe you have one in your back yard. Or perhaps you’ve seen them in the woods. A stump is sad, stripped of its trunk, its branches, its sap – all that gives it health and life. The prophet says that one day that Jesse’s lifeless stump, who was the father of King David, will show signs of renewed life. A shoot of greenery will grow from the deadwood, followed by a flower bud that eventually becomes something of great beauty. 

Isaiah is speaking of the hope for and promise of a Savior to come.  He tells us the Savior will be from the house of David. The Spirit will rest upon this longed-for Messiah, giving him wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, and reverence for the Lord. The poor and the afflicted will be treated justly by this Savior in contrast to how the world around us treats them. Justice and faithfulness will be the clothing of this anointed one.

Isaiah’s message was good news for the Lord’s people. Exile had stripped them of a great deal. Israel was only a shadow of its former self. The salve for those wounds was the hope for a Savior. 

To those suffering from COVID-19 and to all grieving the loss of loved ones, as well as those who have lost businesses, livelihoods, or merely the ability to go out and mingle with others as we wish, Isaiah’s words should remind us that we have a Savior. We are not a people without hope. We have a Lord who loves us and seeks to comfort us in all our sufferings.

Jesus reminds his disciples and us in today’s Gospel that we are fortunate. As a babe born into poverty, Jesus Christ came into the world, grew up eager to invite all into his Father’s Kingdom, and died out of love for us, freeing us from slavery to our sins. He rose that we might share in his Resurrection. We who are believers know all these things in our hearts. 

But, Jesus says, some believe the world’s riches and power are all they need. All they ever see is a child born into poverty, who died an ignominious death by crucifixion. Their hearts are full of their exploits and possessions. The eyes and ears of their hearts see and hear only themselves, and that isn’t much to survive on.


Jesus asks us to be his hands in the world, reaching out to those in need. Please check out Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington to see how you can help those whose lives have been negatively impacted by Covid-19. You will need to scroll down several lines to see what Catholic Charities is doing and precisely how you can help.


Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Worms_Dom_st_peter_tympanum_006.JPG

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Those Who Wait

Those Who Wait

First Sunday of Advent

No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him. Isaiah 64:3B

“…[I]n (Jesus Christ), you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:5-7

Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. Mark 13:35


“It Was A Hard Thing to Undo This Knot”

It was a hard thing to undo this knot.

The rainbow shines, but only in the thought

Of him that looks. Yet not in that alone,

For who makes rainbows by invention?

And many standing round a waterfall

See one bow each, yet not the same to all,

But each a hand’s breadth further than the next.

The sun on falling waters writes the text

Which yet is in the eye or in the thought.

It was a hard thing to undo this knot. (Gerard Manley Hopkins - 1844-1889)


As we start a new Liturgical Year, we begin and continue periods of waiting and watching.  Our waiting and watching are not so different from the waiting that the prophet Isaiah encouraged his neighbors.  Maybe we are trusting in the work of doctors and nurses working in hospitals to cure the sick.  But we wait.  We wait for the sick to get well, healthy to stay healthy, and the separated by “quarantine” to return and rejoin.

Or maybe we are waiting on chemists and biologists working in the lab to develop a vaccine for this disease.  But we wait.

Or maybe we are waiting on the federal and state governments to put in place a plan to get that hoped-for cure to us. But we wait.

It’s easy to wander away from Jesus at times like this. We are much like the people with Isaiah.  They existed in a time before the arrival of Emmanuel (God to be with us) and before the Eucharist became the way Jesus could stay with us forever. 

As we step into a New Year, we continue waiting and watching with the grace of God not to be unprepared when the Master of the house returns.


Life seems to be a crisis that never ends.  The hopes embedded in the Dallas Charter of 2002 were that the Church could put the abuse scandal in the rear-view mirror.  Yet, the reports on the abuses by Mr. Theodore McCarrick and the ongoing coverup in the Buffalo Diocese long after the Dallas Protocols continue to confront the Church in the modern world and us.

Now is the time to look ahead.  To look up in wonder and waiting.

As we begin Advent, tonight is both a full moon and a lunar eclipse.  The heavens realign for us the same way they did when ancient shepherds and Magi watched the skies.  Perhaps a few of us will be awake at 4:43 a.m. Monday to see it.[i]

Somehow, we’ve made our way to the final months of 2020. Although the unprecedented circumstances will surely trickle into the new calendar year (we’ve made it clear that we would like to be over the global pandemic, but the virus itself isn’t taking the hint just yet!), 2021 seems—perhaps even metaphorically—like the light at the end of the tunnel.

But we still wait in the tunnel.

What does it mean?  What does it matter? 

Maybe it merely means that we should continue to wait and watch the incredible power of God’s grace in the world. Perhaps it means that we must continually be aware of the conjunction between our wandering, independent, internal spiritual-self with the external, observable physical conditions that give us that God out there and in here -- moving all things toward hope. 

As Hopkins the poet-priest-scientist reminds us: "The rainbow shines, but only in the thought of one who looks. Yet not in that alone, for who makes rainbows by invention?

[i] Lunar eclipses occur during the Full Moon. They occur when the Earth wedges itself between the Sun and Moon – precisely what will happen in the darkness of the first days of Advent. Most of North America will be able to see this eclipse. With more than four-fifths of the Moon becoming immersed by the penumbral shadow, a noticeable shading effect should be evident over the Moon’s upper limb for some minutes around the time of mid-eclipse.

Friday, November 27, 2020

“Striving for Grateful and Faithful” by Beth DeCristofaro

“Striving for Grateful and Faithful” by Beth DeCristofaro

Thanksgiving Weekend


And now, bless the God of all, who has done wondrous things on earth (Sirach 50:22)


And when he saw (the lepers), he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”  As they were going, they were cleansed. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” (Luke 17:14, 17-19)



“On this Thanksgiving Day like no other,

even now, O God, your name is worthy to be praised.

For in your mercy and kindness

no thought of ours is left unguarded,

no tear unheeded, and no joy unnoticed.


For the blessings we have known,

and for those we have yet to recognize,

to you we give our grateful thanks...”

  (Prayer used throughout is:  A Thanksgiving Prayer, in Time of Pandemic,

“Give us this Day, Copyright © Diana Macalintal, 2020.) 


Years ago, I was riding the metro to graduate school when a group of boisterous teens clomped through the car, and one stamped deliberately on my foot.  As they laughed at me, I felt paralyzed.  What?  Could that have happened?  An elderly African American man in the seat beside me said sharply, “Hey, what are you boys doing?  Stop acting like that.”  They continued to snicker but backed up a few steps as the train pulled into my stop at Metro Center.  I still felt my throat and mouth full of cotton – I could not talk but could move and exited.  But I did not say anything to the boys or to the man who dared to intervene.  I looked at him for a long moment, and I only hope my eyes spoke the thanks and admiration that my mouth refused to utter. A small degree of embarrassment still accompanies the memories of this incident.  So, I relate to the ten lepers.


“For life that reminds us how fragile we are

and also, how strong we can be: We thank you, O God.

For sheltering that urges us

to rediscover what truly matters: We thank you, O God.

For communication that allows us

to connect in ways new and old: We thank you, O God.

And for mindfulness that shows us

how much we rely on one another: We thank you, O God…”


For all things great and small, how simple it is to be grateful. Yet, it takes an effort to put ourselves forward. It calls for us to be aware that not all things are about us but that we are privy to so much wonder, even the mundane wonders of breathable air and potable water.  When that wonder is muted or absent, our God understands that he experienced it with us by choice and sanctifies our struggle in his suffering. Being grateful asks us to step into the space of another.  Gratitude asks us to be as vulnerable as our Savior putting his reputation and the believability of his message on the line for the ten lepers.


“Watch over your family, Lord, gathered here

and at tables separated by miles,

and bless those who work tirelessly to keep us all safe.

Though we may be kept apart

on this day that calls us together,

we know your Spirit draws us close.


Lord, we ask you to ease the pain of empty chairs

that bring to mind our beloved dead.

Let our grieving find its rest in your Son, Jesus,

in whose Resurrection is our hope...”


Let us today be lavish with our hope and thanks, especially for those things for which we have neglected to praise God.  Spend time praying, thanking God for those who think, act, and even pray differently from us but whom God loves.  Share the thanks with other humans, too!

“Grant your Spirit to be present here

that this meal may become a foretaste of your heavenly table

where every tear shall be wiped away, every hunger fed,

and no distance can separate us from your love in Christ,

from whom all good things come.


Prayer:  A Thanksgiving Prayer, in Time of Pandemic, “Give us this Day, Copyright © Diana Macalintal, 2020

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

“Persevere in Your Faith” by Colleen O’Sullivan

“Persevere in Your Faith” by Colleen O’Sullivan

Wednesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

“Great and wonderful are your works, Lord God almighty.  Just and true are your ways, O king of the nations.  Who will not fear you, Lord, or glorify your name?   For you alone are holy.  All the nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Revelation 15:3b-4)


“By your perseverance, you will secure your lives.” (Luke 21:19)



Agnus Dei,   Michael W. Smith

Holy are You, Lord God Almighty
Worthy is the Lamb
Worthy is the Lamb



As our calendar year draws to a close, the leaves are falling, and the trees growing bare.  Winter is on its way.  Perhaps this year, summer has long departed our souls with the anticipation of another, more virulent wave of COVID-19 sweeping across the land.  People will lose more jobs.  More businesses will shutter, I fear.  More time will have to be spent apart from family and friends, difficult at any time but incredibly hard around the holidays. 

The Church’s liturgical year is coming to an end as well.  This coming Sunday, we will leave Ordinary Time behind and enter into Advent and another year’s cycle of Scripture readings.  Some find the lessons during these final weeks of Ordinary Time to be frightening.  The messages directed initially to the early Christians are words of hope because persecutions frightened them.  And they can be words of great hope for us as well during these difficult times.

In John’s fantastic vision of the scene in heaven before the throne of God, the faithful and the martyrs sing the songs of Moses and the Lamb, extolling the great works of the Lord and the holiness of God’s very Being. I love music, and I can easily imagine Michael W. Smith’s Agnus Dei being sung over and over by God’s people before that throne.  As much as I love my life on earth, I know it’s not forever, and the vision John shares of worship in heaven far surpasses anything I know here.   It’s something to look forward to, not something to fear.

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus doesn’t mince words.  Being a follower won’t be easy, he says. There will always be those against us because of our faith.  To those listening, Jesus speaks words of hope and comfort.   Here in northern Virginia, there isn’t a whole lot of persecution of Christians going on.  There’s more indifference toward us than anything else.  But we are experiencing troubles of a different sort. – a pandemic, serious illness, lost lives, business closures, jobs lost, poverty, and growing hunger.  Jesus’ last word in today’s Gospel applies to us under these conditions as well.  Remain in him, persevere in faith amid troubles, and secure your life forever.  We, too, will then one day find ourselves in good company, praising God before God’s throne in heaven.


So, what does keeping faith mean in everyday life?  It means, first of all, trusting that no matter what occurs, Jesus stands with us.  True faith goes beyond that, however.  It also means caring for everyone and everything Jesus loves.  Right now, there are increasing numbers of our brothers and sisters whose shelves are bare and who require assistance as a result of fallout from COVID-19. If you are searching for a place to donate, google food pantries near me.  I just tried that, and a number of them popped up.  You could start with your parish because many parishes have their food programs.  Help make it a happy Thanksgiving for our friends and neighbors in need.