Monday, July 31, 2006
Lord, hide not your face from me. Help me to cling to you so that I will never feel the need to hide my face from you or trip on my own stubbornness. Help me leaven my workplace, my home, my neighborhood with joy that you give to me. May my faith, small as a mustard seed, bear fruit as you will. And may I rejoice in all your works today.
The Lord said to me…”So will I allow the pride of Judah to rot…they did not listen…” (Jeremiah)
…you have forgotten God who gave you birth.. (Deuteronomy)
…The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed…the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.”(Matthew)
Today is the feast of Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. His life is an illustration of the lessons in these readings. Can our lives be also?
As a young man, Ignatius was a bit of a dandy at court. He gambled, dressed as a soldier and had a taste for the ladies. When called upon to defend Spain in war, he was severely wounded and in his convalescence he found that these pastimes were not fulfilling. He was empty. But he began to read the lives of the saints and from there, eventually he dedicated his life to God. Directed by the Pope he founded an order committed to education which has influenced the lives of thousands and fashioned holy people, some of whom have been martyred because of their love of God.
Ignatius, left to himself, might have become an important nobleman. But, in the end, like the buried loincloth, he would have been rotten, good for nothing. It was in stepping outside of himself, giving up the pride of a courtier and remembering God that he turned his face toward the God who gave (him) birth. Ignatius grudgingly accepted the book of saints’ lives (he had asked for romances) out of boredom. At the time his faith was perhaps only the size of a mustard seed. But he accepted the commands of God and his faith became the largest of all.
What a fickle race they are! Times haven’t changed much since the recording of the book of Deuteronomy. But just as an entire batch of wheat flour rises into the deliciousness of a bread loaf with the addition of a little active yeast, so too can our faith – small as a mustard seed – save our lives and those around us. God works through each person willing to cling to God. Easy? No. But just as in yesterday’s gospel Jesus fed 5,000 hungry people, God does not leave us to this path alone. We have to turn ourselves to God again and again. God is with us always.
God has been reaching out to us since our Creation. God doesn’t want to hide from us – God sent Jesus even after the chosen people lost their way again. Ignatius could have selected the easy way of being a courtier. Instead he accepted the difficult challenge of putting aside his own pride; he sought God in all things. In our Cursillo groups we can help each other root out our fickleness. We can encourage each other to plant and tend our seeds of faith through the tough times that come with being human. Let’s be yeast rather than lumps of boring dough.
Do something for someone else today that is “outside” your own interest. Step out of your comfort zone, act out of the mustard seed of your faith and reach out to do for someone else.
Beth De Cristofaro
Sunday, July 30, 2006
Jesus, your endless compassion is unmatched as you care for our souls, our bodies and our hearts. Help us to be like the little boy and offer to you ourselves and our possessions so you can use them for the good of all people. Amen.
“The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.” Psalm 145
By Rev. Joe Mc Closkey, S.J.
[Jesus wanted to meet the needs of the crowd spiritually as well as physically. He turned to the disciples to inquire about feeding them even though He already knew the miracle he was about to perform. The solution grew out of Christ’s love and a simple gift from a boy who brought enough food to share.]
Christ saw the vast crowd and his heart was moved with pity for them. There is always something we can do for the people we are with. Christ calls us to meet the needs of the people we serve if we want to be like him.
It is enough that we are looking for Christ. He does not push us away. He always has something for us in the smile of a friend and the helping hand of those who reach out to us. It is the blood of Christ that brings us new life. He washes away our selfishness by his death and becomes our reconciliation with the Father by our efforts to imitate him. Created to the image and likeness of God in Christ, he is the best part of who we are meant to be. He came and preached peace to us who were far off and through him we have our access in one Spirit to the Father. He makes us one together because he is in heaven with all of us as the first fruit of his dying. Christ shares his mission with us and we become his hands and his feet as we bring him to the world.
The Lord is our shepherd; there is nothing we shall want. He calls us to the restful waters where we can find our strength in him. He gives us a fullness of life because he challenges us to be a giving people. We have to give our lives away in order to save them. The more we give, the more we have. The great paradox of our faith is that the only way we can hold unto Christ is to share him with others. We are called to be shepherds like him. Thus we shall dwell in the house of the Lord for the years to come.
Do we want just enough in life or do we want more than our share? Do we give enough to Jesus and others in life? Is there anything left-over when we are done?
Today’s readings teach us that Jesus will provide what we need in life. Despite the tension created by what we want and need, by the quest to gather the money needed to survive, and by the commercial interests trying to ramp up our desires, Jesus turns even the smallest of gifts into enough for all. How can you turn your life into something that thrives on enough, not more?
Serve God, Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action, by J. Matthew Sleeth, MD, gives an evangelical perspective on the environment and how his family gave up a life of affluence and is happier and healthier. As one reviewer on Amazon.com wrote:
This book WILL make many people squirm in their easy chairs, Christian and non-Christian alike. Though it is written from a Christian standpoint, it crosses all denominational lines and sectarian boundaries. It is at the same time easy to read but not easy reading…While presenting the facts of our global condition and the impact that our daily habits and routines have on our planet, our culture and on other cultures, Dr. Sleeth provides realistic and obtainable goals for individuals to step up to the plate and begin assuming responsibility, not only toward Mother Earth but her often overlooked and neglected inhabitants as well. Change is not easy…“Serve God and Save the Planet”…is a present day wake up call to the church and our western culture of similar magnitude. Sit back in your favorite chair with this fascinating and excellently written book and prepare to get uncomfortable!
Can you simplify some things in your life so you have enough left-over to give to Christ what he seeks and still have five wicker baskets of left-overs?
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Let us pray: God, source of all being, you are the source of endless patience with us. Too often we fail to heed your words because we do not listen with open ears and see with open eyes.
Help us to be as attentive to you as Mary was when she sat on the floor absorbing your message. However, if we are distracted, never stop teaching us as you did to Martha so that we may believe and act as you require.
Help us respond to you as these faithful sisters taught us. Amen.
“Reform your ways and your deeds,so that I may remain with you in this place.” Jeremiah 7:3
“I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” John 11:25-26
Keys let us in to places which are locked up…where our entrance is either forbidden or blocked. Today, the readings give us two different keys so we can enter the place where Jesus dwells – or at the very least where He wants to dwell.
Jeremiah details the way to keep the Lord with us in a version of the “Five Commandments.” Following these instructions elicits the promise from the Lord that He will remain with us in this place.
1) Deal justly with your neighbor
2) Do not oppress the resident alien
3) Help the poor especially the orphans and the widows
4) Do not shed innocent blood
5) Do not follow strange gods to your own harm
Through the close moment Jesus has with Martha, we learn a complementary key – Listen to the Lord. For if and when we listen, truly listen, then those lessons will strengthen out faith. Martha believes that had the Lord been there, her brother Lazarus would not have died. Jesus instructs her further that He is the resurrection and the life. Jesus, thus, holds the key to life for Lazarus and us.
How can we obtain that key? Listen to him. It is an instruction we hear repeatedly in the Good News. Jesus mother tells us to listen to him when they are in Cana at the wedding. When Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River, God tells the disciples to listen to him. Today, we hear that message again and see its positive consequences.
We all have a Martha nature and a Mary nature. This week, many of the readings from Jeremiah and Matthew prompted us to listen with open ears and see with open eyes. Today, we are once again reminded that we must first, above all else, start by listening to the Lord. Once we learn His message, we will know when to act and how to act when He calls on us.
Let us pray for peace in the world but especially in the Middle East. Pope Benedict’s homily from last Sunday included these words:
Precisely in this moment -- in a moment of great abuse of the name of God -- we need the God who triumphs on the Cross, who wins not with violence but with his love. Precisely in this moment we need the face of Christ, to know the true face of God and thereby to carry reconciliation and light to this world. Thus together with love, with the message of love, with all that we can do for the suffering of this world, we must also carry the witness of this God, of the victory of God precisely through the non-violence of his Cross.
Let’s return to where we began. What we can do is to render the witness of love, the witness of faith; above all we can raise a cry to God: we can pray! We are sure that our Father hears the cry of his children. In the Mass, preparing ourselves for Holy Communion, to receive the Body of Christ that unites us, we pray with the church: "Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and give us peace in our day." Let this be the prayer of the church in this moment: "Deliver us from every evil and give us peace." Not tomorrow or the day after: Lord, peace today! Amen.
Lord, deliver us from evil and give us peace today. Amen.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Let us pray: Jesus, help soften our hard exterior shells so we can let in your life-giving water. Make us seeds that fall on rich soil so that piety and study and action will help spread the news of your Kingdom far and wide to all the people of the world. Amen.
I will appoint over you shepherds after my own heart, who will shepherd you wisely and prudently. Jeremiah 3:15
At that time they will call Jerusalem the LORD’s throne; there all nations will be gathered together to honor the name of the LORD at Jerusalem, and they will walk no longer in their hard-hearted wickedness. Jeremiah 3:17
The seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit. Matthew 13:23
Today, Matthews presents for us the weekend talk on the Cursillo method. A one-legged stool can not stand.
Piety without study and action:
The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the Kingdom without understanding it, and the Evil One comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.
Action without piety and study:
The seed sown on rocky groundis the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.
Study without action and piety:
The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the wordand it bears no fruit.
Piety Study and Action working together:
But the seed sown on rich soilis the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
Today, Beirut and Haifa are torn apart. The cedars of Lebanon are under attack.
Ask your US Senator to urge an immediate cease-fire and the creation of a strong UN force guarding against attacks in either direction across the Lebanese-Israeli boundary. Pray for peace, making explicit that you mean not only peace in general but also specifically peace among the families of Abraham.
Rabbi Arthur Waskow points out that in the Jewish prayer of the kaddish, the last sentence traditionally asks for peace "among us and all the people of Israel." Some communities have been adding also "for all the children of Ishmael and all those who live upon this planet."
Jesus, open my eyes to your friendship. Help me to listen to you as closely as a student learns from a mentor.
Quench my thirst for justice with your life-giving waters. Speak to me in words that I will understand so that I may turn your words into actions. Amen.
I remember the devotion of your youth, how you loved me as a bride, Following me in the desert, in a land unsown. Jeremiah 2:2
Two evils have my people done: they have forsaken me, the source of living waters; They have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that hold no water. Jeremiah 2:13
“I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.” Matthew 13:13
Water changes everything.
A dry flower thirsts for the rain.
An exhausted runner reaches for the cup of refreshment.
A hard working farmer welcomes the rain on the crops.
Sunday, Jesus invited us to sit beside restful waters so we can get up refreshed and revitalized. Today, he reminds us that He is the source of that living water.
Relationships change, too. Sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. Jesus gives us these living waters to help sustain us for better or worse.
Jeremiah tells us of changing relationships…relationships between the Lord and His people which went from good to bad because the people spurned the living waters and tried to sustain themselves. Matthew tells us of changing relationships from bad to good as Jesus invites us closer to Him in parables that everyone can understand.
Jesus invites us, too, into a close relationship. He gives us what we need to sustain ourselves in that relationship…when we are in the desert feeling dry, he gives us living water. All he asks is that we follow him no matter where He goes. The instruction manual for following Him includes:
Listen with understanding
Observe with intensity
Be changed to emulate Jesus’ way of action
Accept his healing power
Knowledge alone is NOT ENOUGH. The Cursillo tripod of Piety, Study and Action must work together. Knowledge without action is hypocrisy. Action without piety is the fruit of unbelievers. Piety without action follows only half of the commandments – it’s loving God without loving neighbor.
Even though Jeremiah wrote more than 2500 years ago, his observations may hold truth today. How do we forsake the Source of Living Waters today?
Supporting embryonic stem cell research?
Acceptance of a culture of death that brings us everything from abortion to war; from euthanasia to the death penalty; from hand guns to nuclear weapons?
Failing to understand other people whether they are from the District of Columbia or the Federal District of Mexico? Anacostia or Afghanistan?
Focusing too much on building up stores for ourselves in that 401-K or Roth IRA?
Wanting more -- that new CD or DVD, tickets to the sold-out concert or Broadway show, expensive dinner in a fancy restaurant and more?
That can change when we enter into the relationship that Jesus invites us to…Just as the bride and groom vow to love each other for better or worse, richer or poorer, Jesus invites us into that same kind of relationship…he loves us for better or worse, richer or poorer. Do we love Him as much when times are good?
We don’t have to take Him to The Palms or buy him tickets to The Lion King. He loves us if we just love others and accept Him as the source of life.
Voice Your Opposition to Capital Punishment!
STOP THURSDAY’S SCHEDULED EXECUTION Take Action!
As many of you know, Brandon Hedrick's death sentence was carried out last week, with Governor Tim Kaine declining to intervene. With the execution of Michael Lenz scheduled for July 27th, it is critically important to continue expressing your concern to the Governor. As the Governor examines these life-and-death matters that are coming across his desk with alarming frequency, he needs to know just how many of his constituents oppose capital punishment. Please help turn the momentum away from this unnecessary punishment, and toward a culture of life, by consistently and persistently calling for an end to the use of the death penalty in our Commonwealth. Even if you have responded to recent alerts on this topic, please click here http://capwiz.com/vacatholic/utr/1/MGOVGEISWD/NFFLGEITQV/811238131 to reiterate your concern to the Governor prior to what would be the second execution within one week. You are also encouraged to call his office at (804) 786-2211. The Virginia bishops have reiterated their ongoing appeal to end the use of the death penalty.
In a July 17th letter to Governor Kaine urging him to exercise his commutation authority in the Hedrick and Lenz cases, Bishops DiLorenzo and Loverde wrote, “In a state that already imposes the death penalty more frequently than any other except Texas, we wish to offer some observations that we believe are essential in life-and-death considerations. First and foremost, every human life is sacred because every person has been created in God's image and likeness. No person, therefore, should have his life extinguished when non-lethal means are adequate to protect society. We believe that the life-without-parole alternative provides this needed protection and also ensures just punishment for those convicted of heinous crimes. Accordingly, we are convinced that, in our time and place, use of the death penalty is unnecessary and inappropriate, and that death sentences should no longer be imposed or carried out in our Commonwealth.”
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Let us pray: Lord, you paved the way for us to find your path. Help us to see your path and choose to follow it so we can go where you send us. May the seeds you plant in our minds, in our hearts and on our lips grow abundantly.
Help us to hear your message and spread your word in our world. Amen.
“To whomever I send you, you shall go. Whatever I command you, you shall speak.” Jeremiah 1:4
“Whoever has ears ought to hear.” Matthew 13:9
Today, we celebrate the feast day of St. Joachim and St. Anne, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Their love paved the way for Mary’s divine yes. Before Mary could say to the Angel Gabriel “thy will be done,” her parents had to welcome new love and life into the world. Before Mary could be open to her role in the salvation story, her parents had to go onward before her.
Last week, we read of Isaiah’s lips being blessed by the burning embers before he went out into the world to speak. Today, we see another image…the Lord touching the lips of the prophet Jeremiah.
These stories remind us that all true power and influence in the world comes from the Lord, not from humanity. Not from the advertisers, hucksters and flacks. Not from the PR spinners or spoilers. Not from the politicians or businesses.
Matthew’s Good News reminds us that the seed that falls on good ground bears fruit in extraordinarily large measure. In spite of some failure because of opposition or indifference, the message of Jesus about the coming of the Kingdom of God will have enormous success. Parables like this connect Christian truth to events that happen in everyday life.
The seeds planted by St. Joachim and St. Anne fell on the most fertile life in salvation history.
Are we prepared to go into the world and proclaim God’s Good News today as did Jeremiah and Mary? Are you prepared to say yes?
Plant some seeds this week and watch them grow or work out in your yard or garden tending to God's creations.
Let us pray.
De colores! We witness your Son up on clear and bright mornings! Wake us to your message so we can transform ourselves to your Way before it is too late.
Jesus, turn the tables on our life. Free us from what imprisons us so that we can devote our life to the mission you long for us to begin. Help us to understand and use our freedom with great humility serving others with the love that you modeled for us. Amen.
“Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant.” Matthew 20:26
Jesus introduces us to two interesting and interlocking concepts in his teaching today. Leadership and Liberation. Servant leaders posses the power to ransom the many from what imprisons them.
This is just the latest example of how Jesus just does things differently than humanity. It’s not just about perks and privilege. The things we want are not the things Jesus will grant to us as the mother of James and John learns when she asks Jesus to put her sons in positions of power. However, the value of what Jesus provides far exceeds the value of anything we can want from the material world because the surpassing power is from God, not from us.
If you want to “reach higher,” you’ll need to set your sights on something other than that new Lincoln. If you want to move forward, you’ll have to step out of dreaming about a new Toyota.
St. Paul reminds the Corinthians and us that we are “always carrying about in the dying body of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our body.” If we believe in the servant leadership of Jesus, then we, in turn, must evangelize, speak out, and proclaim the Good News by our actions.
Leadership and liberation differentiates yet another difference between the rulers of the world and the leaders of the Church. No longer is leadership measured by going to the head of the class. Rather, the leaders among us must go to the back of the class and sincerely serve the rest in the same way Jesus modeled for us.
Get up early and watch the sun come up this week.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
I thank you, God, for this good day. I thank you for the good I will find in this day. I thank you for the good I will be, in praise of You, this day. I thank you for the good I will do for others this day. Amen.
Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
Do we know what this - one of the most lovely and most quoted of verses in Scripture – means? I wonder, if we think we do know, that we haven’t already crossed over a line of humility. The psalm says: “To the upright I will show the saving power of God.” Jesus tells those who wish to trick him that Nineveh and the queen of the south shall rise and condemn the evil generation because Nineveh and the queen repented their evil and they sought the one God. They sought in all their beings. They repented and sought because they realized that they did not know. They needed more.
Now, Jesus says, there is something even greater than what they sought and it is what we should seek. We are to seek Jesus, seek His will. We are to seek with all our being and He …will show the salvation of God.
The queen of the South and the Ninevites did not know Jesus. But God does not condemn them for being “wrong”. God showed them the way of salvation because they repented and sought. They did not go their own way. In the end, they are examples of following. Walking humbly with means throwing off MY WAY and accepting God’s way. Spending time with the Scriptures and carrying them through each day helps us sort out what his will is in each of our actions and reactions to our daily lives.
He that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies me… Let each of my actions today be prompted by a desire to praise God, to walk humbly with God. Follow, don’t lead.
Let us pray: Jesus, lead us to a close encounter with you today beside restful waters. Some of us will drink your life-giving water. Some will bask in your sun light. Some of us will fish. Some of us will immerse ourselves entirely. Each is a unique way renewing our baptism and unity with your creation.
Have pity on us when we follow the wrong path. Find us and bring us back. Help us to follow you -- the leader who bring us down the right path.
As we follow you, give us a rest that will renew our strength and help us to carry on your word and works through piety, study, and action. Teach us the wisdom of life besides the restful waters as you taught the crowd there 2006 years ago. Amen.
“The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest for a while.” Mark 6:30
It sounds like Jesus is leading us to the beach today after we just completed a group reunion (reporting all we had done and taught).
Jesus has every intention of giving us a time of rest…a change of scenery. After the journey, we arrive with him and walk to the water. As we get closer, the packed dirt of the path gives way to the boardwalk. At the bottom of the wooden steps, we step onto loosely packed sand – hot from the summer sun. Shedding our shoes, the sand shifts under our feet and burns our soles until we get to the edge of the water. Broken shells feel like knives cutting our feet.
Finally, we try to enter the water. It churns under the waves and changing tides. Forces far away – storms at sea – winds in the Gulf Stream – weather patterns around the world, can send strong currents crashing to the shores – currents so strong it is hard to stand. Currents so strong our knees buckle, the sand shifts beneath our feet and the riptide pulls us down shore.
Standing with Jesus is not like fighting the tides…it is like standing on concrete. His message is consistent. His challenge universal. There is no slippery moral slope. There is just the way, the truth and the light.
Setting up the umbrella and relaxing is the next order of the day. But the people keep on coming to him like sheep at feeding time. Jesus, his nature is as master and teacher, shepherd and Holy One, can not deny his sheep what they crave.
So Jesus does what comes natural. Even though the man in him wants to grieve for the execution of John the Baptist, the Messiah continues to teach the crowd picking up right where John left off speaking truth to power – truth that would eventually move the religious and political leaders of his day move to attempt to silence Jesus through another execution. After that crucifixion/execution, the responsibility to teach the flock falls to us.
We all have our own agenda…things on our “task list” or “to do” report. Do you put your piety, study and action on your Outlook calendar or whatever kind of daily, weekly and monthly agenda that you keep?
Why? Why not?
Even when Jesus had other plans, he was brought out of his vacation time and into action. So, no matter where you find yourself this week, make time for Jesus by putting Him and His mission in your plans.
Make time today to pray especially for peace as requested by Pope Benedict XVI and the patriarchs and heads of the churches in the Holy Land.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Let us pray. Jesus, how many times do we like Mary not recognize your face in the face of others? Our own sisters and brothers. Our neighbors. Our enemies. The poor.
Please roll away the stones that block our sight of you when we gaze upon the faces of the least of our sisters and brothers.
Help us to stop holding onto the past and move into the future committed to you for you are the way, the truth and the light.
Help us be like Mary Magdalene and truly see your face before us in every close encounter we have with you and the Spirit. Let us praise your presence in our life by giving ourselves fully in Christian service to those we meet along the way. Amen.
“Stop holding on.”
Let us invite and welcome Mary Magdalene into our group reunion and listen to her story this week as we join the Church in reconizing her feast day. Imagine the story she would share with us after her experience at the tomb of our Lord. Perhaps it would go like this:
(For piety) I went to the tomb where Joseph of Aramethea and Nicodemus laid Jesus’ body to rest. I could not stay away any longer. As soon as the sun started to rise on Sunday and Sabbath ended, I ran to the tomb. When I saw what happened, I had to get Peter and the others. As they went inside, I bent over the tomb to pray but my prayers were only weeping because the stone was rolled away and the body was not there.
(For study) I wanted to look into what happened to Jesus after the burial at sundown on Friday. I sought answers from everyone I met at the tomb. I sought answers from the angels and the “gardener.”
Then, the only experience that we share which is close to this was a few weeks ago in Bethany with the Lord. ”Rabbouni” (master) told us to roll away the stone and Lazarus came out! Boy was I in for a surprise today when I saw that the stone on his tomb also had been rolled away.
On my Cursillo weekend, we learned about contemplating a close moment with Christ. Yet, here I felt as low as I could possibly be seeing that the Roman guards or maybe the Pharisees took his body and hid it away from us.
I turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus until he called me by name. Oh, the feeling! The release! I have seen the Lord and He lives! But after this close moment with Christ, His words challenged me like nothing else I have ever heard.
He told me to “Stop holding on.” Jesus said, “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” He spoke with such love…like a member of the family…even after we deserted him last Friday. He is our brother…and he shares the one true God with us!
When Jesus said, “To my Father and your Father, to my God and your God,” it took my breath away. This echoed to me the prophecy of Ruth 1:16: "Your people shall be my people, and your God my God." The Father of Jesus will now become Our Father, father of the disciples because, once ascended, Jesus can give us the Spirit that comes from the Father and we can be reborn as God's children. That is why he calls us his sisters and brothers.
For my Christian action, he told me to spread this story far and wide so I have gone to my brothers and shared that I have seen the Lord. Now, I must go out into the world and profess his holy name, reporting what he told me.
Mary would look upon us with her dark eyes, reddened from the tears, and invite us to tell our stories next...
Our story in The Middle East continues to hold onto the violent ways of the past.
Nine days of fighting, which began July 12 after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers, left 29 Israelis dead, including 15 civilians killed by rockets launched by Hezbollah fighters into Israel. Israel's daily air strikes on Lebanon have left some 300 people dead, 1,000 injured, and 500,000 people displaced.
Pope Benedict declared tomorrow, July 23, 2006, to be a “day dedicated to prayers and penance for people of all religious faiths "to implore God for the precious gift of peace."
Today’s first reading from Micah reminds us of the displeasure of the Lord when His people turn to violence:
Woe to those who plan iniquity,
and work out evil on their couches;
In the morning light they accomplish it
when it lies within their power.
They covet fields, and seize them;
houses, and they take them;
They cheat an owner of his house,
a man of his inheritance.
A statement by the Patriarchs and Heads of Local Churches in Jerusalem also condemns violence, especially violations of noncombatant immunity and the lack of proportionality in the warring parties actions. They seek a “just peace.”
The Holy Father’s statement urged prayers for:
1. an immediate cease-fire between the (warring) sides,
2. the establishment of "a humanitarian corridor in order to bring aid to the
suffering people," and
3. the start of "reasonable and responsible negotiations so as to end the objective situations of injustice existing in that region."
"The Lebanese have the right to see the integrity and sovereignty of their country respected, the Israelis have the right to live in peace in their nation, and the Palestinians have the right to have a free and sovereign country," the written statement said.
The pope also launched an appeal to all charitable aid organizations to direct their attention to the people "hit by this ruthless conflict," the statement said.
Please include these intentions in your prayers and write to leaders to encourage them to support actions that will lead to “just peace” in the region.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Jesus, give us the disposition of Hezekiah. When he faced his trial, he knew just where to turn.
Help us to turn toward you and turn over our life to you at least one day out of every seven. Give to us the mercy that that leads us to a closer relationship with you on the Sabbath and all the time. Yours is the life of our spirit. You have given us health and life. Now, let us take up the yoke you modeled and spread your mercy to all in the world – saints and sinners, murderers and prisoners alike. Amen.
“I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you.” Isaiah 38:5
“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Matthew 12:7
Jesus is the Supreme Authority. He is the way the truth and the light. He is the Sabbath. The law is subjected to Jesus.
So how do we flaunt the law? Let me count the ways.
Consider the cry, “I just don’t have enough time.” So we stay home on Sunday and don’t go to the office. This way, we have time to go to the golf course where we expect caddies and bartenders and waitresses and golf pros, and greens keepers and grounds crew and more and more to work to serve us on our day of rest.
We head to Church on Sunday and then rush out of the parking lot to beat the crowd to Sunday Brunch at our local restaurant. After we are fed, we head over to the Mall expecting clerks and cashiers and salespeople and assistant managers and the Starbucks counter to be open to meet our needs.
“The practice of Sabbath keeping may be a gift just waiting to be unwrapped, a confirmation that we are not without help in shaping the renewing ways of life for which we long. This practice stands at the heart of Judaism, but it is also available to Christians, in different form. For many of us, receiving this gift will require first discarding our image of Sabbath as a time of negative rules and restrictions, as a day of obligation (for Catholics) or a day without play (in memories of strict Protestant childhoods). Relocating our understanding of this day in the biblical stories of creation, exodus and resurrection will be essential if we are to discover the gifts it offers.”
There was no mercy for Lisa Alexander Crider. Brandon W. Hedrick was convicted of abducting, sexually assaulting and killing her on May 11, 1997. Ms. Crider was shot in her face with a shotgun on the banks of the James River in Appomattox County and her body was dumped in the water.
There was no mercy for Brandon W. Hedrick last night. As Virginians and Americans watched reruns of Grey’s Anatomy or The Supernatural, Hedrick was killed when the executioner flipped a switch sending 1,800-volts of electricity through his body.
How ironic that on The Supernatural, while battling a demon, Dean was electrocuted, resulting in permanent damage to his heart and leaving him with only a couple of months to live. Brandon Hedrick was not so lucky. He lived less than 10 minutes after the first jolt hit him at 9:02 p.m. last night in Virginia's electric chair, nine years after he raped and fatally shot Lisa, who was a 23-year-old woman in living in Lynchburg.
Hedrick, 27, was pronounced dead at 9:12 p.m. at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, said Larry Traylor, a Department of Corrections spokesman.
There was no mercy FROM Governor Tim Kaine last night. For the second time in his term, Governor Kaine was a politician of inaction even though he could choose to commute the sentence to life in prison without parole protecting society and let Brandon live a life in prison protecting us from having another Lisa Alexander Crider killed by him. Except the killing goes on.
There was no mercy on March 11 for Abier Kassim Hamzah Rashid al Janabi and her family. They are among the estimated 40,000 noncombatants killed or murdered during the war on terror in Iraq.
There was no mercy for William Green on May 24. That night, Fairfax County police, responding to a report of an assault, found a man with several stab wounds to his upper body. William Green, 34, of Reston, was pronounced dead a short time later at Inova Fairfax Hospital. A 24-year-old man of no fixed address was arrested.
There was no mercy of Ahmed Parvez on June 11, 2006. That night, the death penalty continued to fail to deter violent crime in Fairfax County. Just ask Mr. Parvez’ survivors. Responding to a report of gunshots, police found the cab driver lying next to his car. Mr. Parvez had been shot in the upper body.
None of them – except the murdering Mr. Hedrick -- had time to put their house in order like Hezekiah did. How faithfully and wholeheartedly have we conducted ourselves in the Lord’s presence? Have we practiced Sabbath justice? Have we acted well enough to get 15 years added to our lives?
 Bass, Dorothy C. “Keeping Sabbath: Reviving a Christian Practice.” http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=318
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Give us the gift of acceptance no matter what the price. Let us enter into a loving relationship with you. Show us how to be laborers in your field because without you, we accomplish nothing. But with you all is done in God's name. Amen.
The way of the just is smooth; the path of the just you make level. Yes, for your way and your judgments, O LORD,we look to you; Your name and your title are the desire of our souls. My soul yearns for you in the night, yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you; When your judgment dawns upon the earth,the world’s inhabitants learn justice. O LORD, you mete out peace to us, for it is you who have accomplished all we have done. Isaiah 26:7-12
“Come to me.” Matthew 11:28
When you are at a great party, there are three kinds of people there – those who planned the party, those who are guests and those who are the workers.
The planners start by designing a party where everyone will feel special. The planners consider what the guests will eat. What the guests will drink. Who will entertain the guests? Who will be the keynote speaker? They can’t forget about the guest list. Who will attend? Sometimes, when word gets out that someone famous or special will be there, even more people attend (or want to). Maybe even the paparazzi will watch for your celebrities.
The planners bring along workers to help prepare the food and drink, decorators to make the location festive, servers to serve the guests, and cleaners to sweep up after the festivities.
The guests go to their mailbox one day and see a pretty envelope. Or maybe a fancy card. Sometimes invites come by e-mail. Sometimes by phone and sometimes by word of mouth. Sometimes someone else is invited and they bring you as their guest.
Imagine getting the invitation. What makes you want to go? The beer and wine? The cakes and candies? The main course? To be seen. To see. To bask in goodness?
Today, Jesus is throwing a party. He doesn’t invite kings and queens. He doesn’t invite eloquent speakers. He doesn’t hire the best entertainers this side of Nazareth. He invites us to attend. He invites the workers, the servers, the cleaners, all who labor and are burdened. Jesus has special affection for the workers – especially those who are alone in the world. He offers rest to the weary. He promises to them holy hospitality.
Jesus invites us into relationship with Him. We are asked to come to Him and accept the yoke He offers. He asks us to join his community of yoke-bearers…for his yoke is easy and his burden light.
Jesus – offering us his yoke, his relationship – is offering up Himself to serve as the model for humanity. Jesus is the model to whom both God and Mary tell us to heed. “Listen to Him.”
The Jesus-model is the norm of our new life. He wants us to love each other as He has loved us. We must offer ourselves wearing his yoke of love. Sharing as His example shared. “Forget yourself and you will discover what you are seeking.” (John McQuiston II, Always We Begin Again)
That beauty of that Holy Model is perhaps most eloquently described by Isaiah in today’s first reading.
The desire of souls yearning.
Yearning in the night…and the day…and the morning…and the afternoon…and the evening.
Dawn upon the earth.
Mete out peace.
Accomplish all for us.
So pish-posh to the advertisers. Let them writhe in delivery pain trying to make and sell us something better than all that!
Ah, His yoke is the cross. What could be better than that!?
Call it a yoke. Call it a cross. Call it a mission. The Jesus-invitation comes to us as an call to serve. We should share in the labor and take turns in the service. Say Yes. Do not be a burden or add to the burdens of others. Relieve the burden of others.
Today brought many invitations to serve in many ways. Write this report. Answer this call. Send this report. Lead this meeting. Drive this way. Prepare this meal. Welcome this visitor. Open your heart to someone who is ill. Let this car, truck or pedestrian cross in front of you. Write to Governor Kaine and evangelize about the death penalty decision he faces.
What invitations will you accept tomorrow?
Dear Lord, you don’t abandon your people. You are especially close to the children, the poor, prisoners, widows, orphans, and sinners.
Although our culture of death wants to cast off those who are a burden, you tell us to love everyone and everything. Even our enemies. Even murderers.
As always, Lord, you don’t ask us to take the easy way out. You are the way, the truth and the light. The hard way. The difficult truth. The hidden light. Help us to turn down your path. Help us to accept the truths we would rather ignore. Help us to see your light shining on a hillside.
Give us the wisdom of your children. Amen.
Will the axe boast against him who hews with it?Will the saw exalt itself above him who wields it? Isaiah 10:15
You have hidden these things from the wise and the learned. You have revealed them to the childlike. Matthew 11:25
Jesus turns the tables again today.
While the wise and the learned, the scribes and Pharisees, have rejected Jesus' preaching and the significance of his mighty deeds, the childlike have accepted Him. Acceptance depends upon the Father's revelation, but this is granted to those who are open to receive it and refused to the arrogant. Jesus speaks of all mysteries because he is the Son and there is perfect reciprocity of knowledge between him and the Father; what has been handed over to him is revealed only to those whom he wishes.
For many years our parish boasted an overflowing Children’s Liturgy where parents and teachers went away from Mass with elementary school-aged children to help them listen and understand the readings at their own level. Children were the lectors, reading from the Hebrew Bible, Psalms, and the Second Reading. It was always an amazing thing to watch and listen to the children grapple with the readings and to listen to them pray without ceasing. Listening to the many prayers of the young faithful offered before we re-joined the full congregation for the Offertory was so uplifting.
What has the Lord hidden from your wisdom? What have you rejected? Do we reject him for better investment portfolios? Do we reject him for a bigger house? Do we reject him for a better job, a nicer car or fancy boat?
Such an interesting phrase that Matthew used – “All things have been handed over to me by my Father.” He used the same phrase to describe the actions of Judas in handing over Christ to the Roman officials. To whom or what have you been tempted to hand over Christ?
Mercedes Benz? Accura? Infinity? Caddilac? Ford? Toyota?
ExxonMobil? Shell? BP? Hess?
Safeway? Giant? SFW? Price Costco?
JC Penney Co? Hecht’s? Lord and Taylor? (how ironic!?)
Movado? Timex? Omega?
Oh Lord! Won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?!
Accept the message of love that Jesus shares today. The Lord will not abandon His people.
For the LORD will not cast off his people,nor abandon his inheritance;But judgment shall again be with justice,and all the upright of heart shall follow it.
The Lord will not abandon Brandon Hedrick, Lisa Crider and their families. There will be a prayer vigil for them at the grotto at the St. Mary of Sorrows Historic Church on Thursday night. July 20, 8:45-9:15pm.
Brandon Hedrick is scheduled to be electrocuted by the Commonwealth of Virginia that night. Lisa Crider was his victim. Before then, there is still time to flood Governor Tim Kaine’s e-mail with requests to commute Hedrick’s death sentence to Life Without Parole and to enact an immediate moratorium on executions.
Issues in the case of Brandon Hedrick: Unresolved claim of mental retardation, incompetent court-appointed trail attorneys and withholding of mitigation evidence by prosecution.
“Why do people kill people who kill people to show people that killing people is wrong?” asks a San Quentin, Calidornia death row chaplain.
According to Virginians Against the Death Penalty, Brandon Hedrick faces execution on July 20, 2006 for the killing of Lisa Crider. He confessed to the crime when questioned by police upon his arrest. Trevor Jones who masterminded the robbery and murder and put the gun in Bandon’s hand got life in prison.
VADP says that Brandon, who has always been labeled as “slow,” has yet to undergo a comprehensive evaluation for mental retardation even though his IQ level places him in the category of mild mental retardation. He, like so many indigent defendants, is the victim of incompetent court appointed counsel. One of his attorneys is on record as stating, “We did not meet to seriously discuss trial strategy until one business day before trial.” Mitigation evidence not presented at trial includes a family history of substance abuse, vulnerability to the influence of others, repeated suicide attempts, school records and borderline intelligence. For news articles on this case go to: http://www.vadp.org/news.htm.
Please contact Gov. Tim Kaine and ask him to commute Brandon’s sentence to life in prison. Emails messages can be sent via the Governor’s website at http://www.governor.virginia.gov/AboutTheGovernor/contactGovernor.cfm.
Monday, July 17, 2006
Let us prayer today for peace from within and bring that peace into the world.
Sometimes, Lord, the path of peace and non-violence is harder to take than the path to death. Death is all around us. Tourists in the capital are gunned and knifed. Televisions are the eyes that bring violence into our homes and hearts on the news and in the dramas and movies that we use for entertainment. They numb us to its effects.
Sensitize us, Jesus, so we may respect and live the ethic of life consistently no matter the issue – death penalty, stem cell research, war, racism, poverty. Help us choose the path that is harder. Help us to choose peace so you Kingdom will indeed come to this earth. Amen.
“Unless your faith is firmyou shall not be firm!” Isaiah 7:9
“Keep the faith” was a popular expression from the 1960s that filled people with hope for a better world.
From the smouldering embers that purified his lips, it doesn’t take long for us to witness Isaiah embarking upon his prophetic mission. In face of an overpowering enemy, he urges restraint, “Take care you remain tranquil and do not fear; let not your courage fail.” Faith will keep the Lord on your side, the Lord who will not let your enemies stand and prevail.
What enemy do you face? Temptation from drugs, alcohol, or other vices? Maybe your weakness is in relationships you want to heal. Maybe it is in a career that is not fulfilling. The Lord says to remain tranquil and not let courage fail.
Faith in the Lord is faith in a future filled with hope that the Kingdom of God on earth will come. So, when it seems more likely that it is the even of the Apocalypse, it is good that Isaiah reminds us about “keeping the faith.”
Images of war in the readings from the Hebrew Bible echo down to us in today’s headlines…Rezin and Pekkah are not attacking Jerusalem this time. Now the foes are Hezzbollah and Hamas.
Air Strikes Hit Beirut; At Least 8 Die in Haifa
Mideast Deaths Mount as Attacks Intensify
Israeli Troops Move Into North Again
Leaders Work Out Plan For End to Mideast Crisis
From the shores of Tripoli, we hear the battle cry rage again without any sense of proportionality. Yet, our faith tells us that all citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war. Yet, we are witnessing an escalation of hostility involving Israel and her neighbors unlike any since the First Gulf War.
The US Bishops have spoken out to support peace. http://www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2006/06-143.shtml
The letter from BishopWilliam S. Skylstad of Spokane for the USCC read, in part:
“We reject all acts of violence and terror, especially those that target civilians on both sides of the dispute and that destroy the infrastructure that serves the civilian population.
Our Conference supports your leadership in rejecting the path of violence and in calling for the negotiation of a just peace that provides security for Israelis and a viable state for Palestinians. The cycle of violence must be broken in order to open up the path to justice and peace in the Holy Land. Please be assured of our continuing prayers as you comfort your people and seek a just peace.”
Please consider writing to officials of the US, Israeli, Palestinian and Lebanese governments and urging them to restrain from the path of death. Consider making the following points supported by the teachings of Jesus and the Catechism of the Catholic Church or others that come from your heart.
1. All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective. Since the recent kidnappings of soldier provoked Israel to attack, there is little sign of talks trying to avert the crisis.
2. War must be a last resort. Strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration.
3. The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. This requires a sense of proportionality in striking back after attacked. Clearly, the strikes have escalated far beyond the original kidnappings.
4. Noncombatants must be treated humanely and with respect. Electricity to the city, food to the people, safety to the water supply. These are required. Yet, reports of missiles targeting sites that give civilians comfort about.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Dear and Beloved God, in the words of St. Patrick, I pray that this day my heart will fill your love and bring Christ first and foremost to those I meet.
“Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,Christ on my right, Christ on my left,Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise…”
These readings are harsh, violent, disturbing. We read Jesus’ speaking in what are seemingly Old Testament words. The Old Testament God not only rained fire down on Sodom but refused the sacrifices of its citizens. Hardly fair, we say, hardly loving.
But Jesus’ words spring from a tradition in which prophets want those who hear to sit up and take notice. God says: don’t even bother with love based on deception or empty ritual. God does not want our mouths to tout devotion while our minds and hearts are elsewhere. God asks us to put God first; that we place our minds, hearts and actions toward God. And God wants our hearts and our actions to be guided by compassion and morals not just external rituals.
We humans need other humans. God made us this way. So choosing Jesus over family might indeed feel like sundering ourselves as if by a sword. It is also difficult to separate ourselves from false gods – even if they start out as the necessities of life - which are quickly but temporarily satisfying. The choice might, indeed, hurt. Jesus turns this on its head: “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
In putting Jesus first, we open ourselves to a love which flows eternally and abundantly from God, given to us in Jesus, proceeds through us and in the Spirit enriches the love which we have for our families and our world. This outpouring love informs our actions in the world. Jesus then promises: “whoever receives you receives me." Far from sundering, Jesus unites us into a bond of true fealty and love.
Jesus recognizes the difficulty of putting Him first. Jesus calls it taking up of a cross. In accepting the cross we seem to deny what humans actually want. But Jesus knows that what we think we want is not what we truly want – just as what the Israelites thought they wanted was so off base. As we look deeper in faith, hope and love through genuine piety, study and action, we can move beyond our own wants to God’s will. We find ourselves receiving “his reward."
Pay attention to the decisions which I make today. Is it Christ within me deciding or is it a false god? Do I choose clothes from responsible manufacturers who do not run sweat shops? Do I speak my mind lovingly when faced with racial or ethnic slurs and jokes? Do I stop and consider rather than judge the irritating person in my life before I begin my complaining about him/her? Do I reflect on the consequences that my government is imposing on noncombatants in Iraq before I begin my diatribe about enemies? Do I model the loving kindness of Jesus to my colleagues and my children?
Pause. Put Christ first.
Saturday, July 15, 2006
Restore us once more, God our savior; abandon your wrath against us.
Will you be angry with us forever, drag out your anger for all generations?
Please give us life again, that your people may rejoice in you.
Show us, LORD, your love; grant us your salvation. (Psalm 85)
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.
God chose us in Christ. When I recall how sides were chosen in games when I was young, I remember how I always wanted to be chosen early. I did not want to be the last one chosen because chosen last seemed pity.
It seemed a negative and meant you were not as good as the rest. It is not so with God. He chose us from our mother's womb. Long before we could do anything were chosen in Christ. It is Christ we have to share.
By our Baptism we are re-born in Christ. He is our very life and he is what we best have to share. When someone accepts us in his name, it is Christ they are accepting. Our whole lives are summed up in Christ. We are created to the image and likeness of God in Christ. We are the temples of the Holy Spirit. God dwells within us.
In some Christ is a prisoner of the heart. To hold unto Christ we have to give him away. Not to share Christ is to constipate his life in us.
Sometimes it might seem we have steel bands around our hearts. It is not the easiest thing in the world to proclaim Christ by our lives. The challenge of Christ is to love one another as he has loved us. We love Christ when we give our lives for one another.
The challenge is to take up our cross and to follow Christ. I do not have to look for difficulties in life. I need only to learn to spiritualize the difficulties in my life I am not able to do anything about. I use them not only to expiate my own sinfulness, but to take away the sins of those around me who are part of my life. When I am giving my life for others, I am loving as Christ loved. The least thing I do for the little ones in my life makes a difference because thus the ordinary is made extraordinary.
How are you planning to make the "ordinary" into the "extraordinary" for someone in your life this week?
Friday, July 14, 2006
Here I am Lord. I come to do your will.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,“Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said; “send me!” Isaiah 6:8
Where are you?
9505 Babson Court. But it could just as well be 105 Lockman Avenue. 19 Albon Court. P. O. Box 241. 2911 Garden Lane. 210 S. West Street. It’s only an address, not a state of mind. We are not on our weekend any longer. Bethany House. Missionhurst. Mount Zion. We are back in the world.
Where are you? How closely is your mind disposed to do what Jesus asks of you? Isaiah encounters the friendship of the Lord when he sees the Lord on his throne. The prophet thinks he will die but instead finds Jesus looking for a friend to send out with a message to the people. Isaiah turns from the pre-occupations of his old life. The old vocation dies to a new vocation.
May the Word of God be on my mind.
Where are you? Are your lips ready to go out into the world and proclaim the Good News? The Lord sends Isaiah out to preach. But before doing so, Isaiah must be purified by the hot ember touching his lips. Isaiah then goes forth just as we do when we leave our weekend experience encountering Jesus. His Fourth Day is a time of action as we learn in Isaiah 6:9-10 while he proclaims in the light and speaks from the housetops.
Go and say to this people: Listen carefully, but you shall not understand! Look intently, but you shall know nothing!
You are to make the heart of this people sluggish, to dull their ears and close their eyes; Else their eyes will see, their ears hear, their heart understand, and they will turn and be healed.
May the Word of God be on my lips.
Where are you? Does the Lord dwell in your heart? Do you experience God with all your being and all your senses? Do you do what a friend asks of you?
Or, instead are you obstinate to the message proclaimed when as a people we face and ignore the use of the death penalty, state-sanctioned suicide, environmental destruction, genocide in Sudan, famine in Ethiopia, and more yet stands on the sidelines?
May the Word of God dwell in my heart covering me with a seamless garment woven from piety, study and action.
Take a step toward respecting all life including lives condemned to prison. Twice before the end of this month, the Governor will be confronted with death penalty decisions. Unless Governor Tim Kaine intervenes, Brandon Hedrick will be executed on July 20th, and Michael Lenz will be executed on July 27th. According to the Virginia Catholic Conference, the rate of scheduling executions in Virginia has now reached an alarming level. Thus, it is more important than ever for the Governor's constituents to express their opposition to the use of capital punishment when non-lethal measures to protect society, such as life imprisonment without parole, are available.
Matthew reminds us:
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul;rather, be afraid of the one who can destroyboth soul and body in Gehenna.
The State of Virginia cannot kill the soul. While our hearts are sluggish, our ears are dull and our eyes are closed. Please contact the Governor through the Virginia Catholic Conference web site.
Take action here.
Contact Governor Kaine and urge him to commute Mr. Hedrick's and Mr. Lenz's sentences to life in prison.
Let us pray: Lord, you created us with clean hearts. We went out into the world like sheep in the midst of wolves and our hearts were corrupted and soiled. Soiled by our actions that strayed from our mission. They were soiled by thoughts that coveted money and material goods. Soiled by our words that gossiped about our neighbors.
Lord, we know we can not cleanse ourselves without your grace. Today, we turn to you and ask you to renew your Spirit in us. Cleanse us from our faults and always dwell within us so we are never out of your presence again. Amen.
“Return to the LORD.” Hosea 14:3
When you rush out to the mailbox to see what news the postal service delivers to you the advertisers have the biggest envelops and flyers. These colorful works scream “SALE!” Midsummer Sale. Early Fall Sale. Pre-Christmas Sale.
Some of the smallest envelopes we get have invitations in them. Although they are usually small, they are sufficiently elegant for the occasions. Frequently the important invitations are on paper or cardstock that is beige or off-white in color. They ask for our presence at a wedding, a party or a celebration. Not too flashy and not commanding our attention like the colorful catalogs telling us how to save a penny if we spend a twenty.
Today, God sends us an invitation to come back…to return to our rightful place. What belongs to God? What is good comes from God and belongs to God.
What belongs to the world? What is separated from God belongs to the world. God created everything good. However, in separating from God, corruption comes into the picture and threatens to harm all the original goodness of God’s creation.
No matter the separation, we have a great invitation back into the Garden Party today. No matter what we have done, no matter how we have turned our back to the Lord or worshipped “the work of our own hands,” we are invited back to the Lord.
We are orphans seeking the love of a new parent. When we turn back, we will find that the Lord still loves us freely like He always did even when we were stumbling down the wrong path.
I will be like the dew for Israel:he shall blossom like the lily;He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar,and put forth his shoots.His splendor shall be like the olive treeand his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar.Again they shall dwell in his shadeand raise grain;They shall blossom like the vine,and his fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon. Hosea 14:6-8
Invite and Accept.
Who or what separates you from God? From those you love? Maybe it is just physical distance. Maybe there is some emotional distance in the relationship.
Today, can you invite someone back to a closer relationship with you?
What is in your mailbox? Do you find an invitation to you from someone else, asking you to come back? Accept. Say yes.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Help us to turn back to you like moths attracted to the light. Help us to leave behind our nets and fishing boats and jump into the sea to reach you like Peter.
Prune us in this life so we will be freed to return to you and pursue your mission of piety, study and action to serve you and the world. Amen.
“The more I called them, the farther they went from me.” Hosea 11:2
“Take care of this vine, and protect what your right hand has planted.” Psalm 80:15-16
“Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” Matthew 10:8
How oh how do we repair what we have broken? How do we return to the loving Savior whom we have turned our back on time after time?
How do we repair relationships taken for granted?
Relationships with family?
Relationships with friends?
Relationships with you?
The more we receive, the more we want.
The more we want, the farther we depart from the mission.
We are Prodigal. Give me must become forgive me.
Without cost we have been for-given. Without cost we are to for-give.
Repair comes through reconciliation. Forgiveness is the first step on the journey to return to the Lord who never ceases to call us and love us.
Reconciliation comes from the Lord who will care for our vine. We are the branches. Attend to us, your branches. Care for your vine means that you will prune us.
Pruning is life.
Pruning is prayer.
Pruning is work.
Pruning is study.
As we serve one another through love, we serve the Lord. Each act of love is a step back toward His loving embrace. Each service to others brings a new bud sprouting on our vine of life, growing toward you. Closer.
Thank you for not turning your back on us.
Thank you for the power to heal our wounded relationships.
Take a spin over to the “Why Forgive?” site located at http://explorefaith.org/forgive/index.html.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Lord, make our hearts true to you, not to things we construct and constrict in the world. Help us to seek always your face, not to just seek to “get ahead” in life. Guide us to places where we will encounter you in the faces of the lost sheep, the poor, the elderly and the powerless. Bring down your justice and your love upon us now and forever. Amen.
“Sow for yourselves justice,reap the fruit of piety;break up for yourselves a new field,for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain down justice upon you.” Hosea 10:12
What is your favorite book? Movie? Article of clothing?
Are you surrounded by “lifestyle enabler” devices? Are you attached to that I-Pod, car, cell phone or computer? Technology has supposedly freed us to do many things while still staying “connected.” Yet are we connected to each other or are we connected to the AC adapter or USB cable? Are you tethered to the people in your home port or to some printer connected to your serial port?
Think of the hours wasted on the phone with tech support. Think of all that time spent wondering if the world would end at the stroke of midnight back in Y2K when all of our computerized clocks would screech to a halt. After all, this is just stuff, junk in a few months when they are made obsolete by the next generation.
Hosea underscores the dichotomy between the permanent love of the Lord and the wandering people of the world. He contrasts the justice of the Lord with the evil and wickedness of humanity. Such evil and wickedness must be driven out for the Kingdom of God to reign.
Please don’t think I am implying all technology is bad…heck, without technology, I wouldn’t be writing this message, I wouldn’t have a fast method to sending it to you daily and you wouldn’t be reading this.
But does all this technology estrange us from the work God wants us to accomplish. Technology for technology’s sake doesn’t advance us in love. The altars, sacred pillars and kings that we build up are nothing in comparison to the justice that the Lord will rain down upon us.
Through the prophecy of Hosea, we see Israel estranged from a loving God because of Israel’s actions. Yahweh, however, can not stay estranged from the spouse He cares for so deeply. Despite the betrayal, Yahweh seeks to patch up this relationship. To do so, we get hints that God will send his son on a mission to do that.
That sense of calling, mission and vocation comes through then in today’s reading from Matthew’s Gospel. Just as Jesus worked among the sinners and tax collectors, He sends out the Apostles to continue to do the work He was engaged in while on earth.
“Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 10:6-7
Instead of trusting in the things of this world, Matthew and Hosea pack a one-two punch of a message to trust in the Lord and his justice. “Seek always the face of the Lord.” If you get your eyes off that I-Pod screen, maybe you can see the face of the Lord in those people surrounding you.
Recently, we have been hearing a lot about the debate on embryonic stem cell research as a pathway to cure everything from diabetes to brain and spinal cord injuries. In the just the last three days, the news has been filling up with stories on this topic once again.
Stem Cells Back in Political Spotlight
Bringing the Church to the Courtroom
Rove: Bush Would Veto Stem Cell Bill
Jesus did not empower the scientists with power over life. Technology and science lay before us many possibilities. However, technology does not trump morality. In today’s Gospel, Jesus gave power over illness to the Apostles. (Jesus “gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness.”)
Even if you skip over the articles linked above, check out this next one. This month in the Columbia magazine, is a great background article by Archbishop Donald Wuerl, our new shepherd in Washington, D.C., entitled “Saving Lives Now and Later: Why the Church champions the use of adult stem cells and opposes the use of embryonic stem cells.” http://www.kofc.org/publications/columbia/detail.cfm?id=93858
When you have a moment, read this and begin to be better informed when this debate hits the media again…and it surely will.
Father, help us to balance our lives with the prayer and work that you require.
Give us mouths to praise you. Give us eyes to seek you. Give us ears to hear you. Give us noses to smell the honeysuckle of the world.
Let us be your hands, reaching out and touching those who need a friend. Let us be your feet, walking where you want us to go. Let us place our full trust in work of God, and not be distracted by the “things” we create. Amen.
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38
Benedict of Nursia wrote “The Rule” and founded a monastery based upon it in the sixth century. Today, Catholics everywhere celebrate the feast day in his honor.
At Belmont Abbey College, where Beth and I met, a concrete statue of St. Benedict looms about ten feet tall on the steps leading up to the Abbey Basilica. His eyes gaze upon all visitors to the church and campus like a teacher watching his or her students taking a test.
St. Benedict’s gaze falls upon our Cursillo movement. His rule shapes our goals. Benedict’s rule for life in community stressed balance between daily work and prayer with periods of time also set aside for lectio, or sacred reading. As Cursillistas seeking lives filled with piety, study and action, Benedict’s rule provides an enduring and historical framework for our movement.
Today, Matthew gives us a great reminder of this balance needed in life. Work, the harvest, demands our time but the laborer are too few. If we take on the harvest then we will have to neglect some other aspects of our life. When we encounter situations where life lacks this necessary balance, what are we to do? Pray. “Ask the master of the harvest” what His divine plan is so he can send more laborers and we can have balance.
St. Benedict Rule is read daily in monasteries all over the world. Today’s chapter is a warning on private ownership – everything should be owned in community. Things we own tie us to the world. The pursuit of getting “things” also distracts us from the harvest like Hosea warns in today’s first reading. Benedict’s simple formula is not to deprive ourselves of everything, but to own them in community as the way to have the freedom and balance to live a life based upon mutual giving.
Take a shopping bag (or two or more) and fill it with things you don’t really need. Drop it off at a food pantry, thrift store or homeless shelter.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
Help me, today, Lord, to reach out and touch Your cloak in utter confidence that You will heal me in ways I do not understand. Help me through that touch to seek Your will, not mine. Help me to bring Your spirit of great and trusting love to those who I might otherwise not consider deserving.
The language in these readings are almost over-the-top in lavish images: "I will espouse you to me forever." “They publish the fame of your abundant goodness” and “Your faith has saved you” are but a few. God asks a prolific, rich, lavish trust and love from us so that we can experience the graciousness and mercifulness God is willing to give us.
Perhaps we are told this again and again because in our lives we must renew this trust again and again. Hosea uses the image of the woman, charmed and attracted by her lover, to speak of God’s relationship with Israel; a relationship that is troubled by betrayal and neglect over the years. The psalmist sings praise after praise tempered by the awesome reality of God’s power. And in the Gospel, two acts of outreaching, of courage lead Jesus to act with His power within everyday life. “You are saved” he tells the woman who touched his cloak. Does that mean that she will now live forever? No, humans are still bound by the physical laws that God has set for us and God’s creation. She will die someday. The little girl will die someday. Israel will turn away again in spite of the devotion of the bridegroom. And so will we. Daily, each moment, we must renew our trust, seek God’s will and reach out to touch the cloak: perhaps He will save me and I can say “amen, yes Lord” in an eternal, loyal marriage relationship.
Look for opportunities to practice irrational, lavish trust. Take the time to stop what we are doing and “go” with someone who needs us like Jesus did for the official. Savor joy like that of a new bride or groom and pass on justice and mercy as promised to us by God. Be aware, all day, and make choices that reflect the encompassing compassion that Jesus showed to everyone who reached out to touch Him.
Saturday, July 08, 2006
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.
Calumny is telling a lie about another. Lies can destroy another's reputation. But the truth usually catches up to the lie. But often it is too late to help the people concerned. Slander can be the bad report on another that is actually the truth. Christ was a carpenter and the son of Mary. But he also has a divine nature which the miracles testify to.
We can put people down because we do not know enough about them. All too often we lock people into our first impressions and do not let them grow out of them. We can limit people to what we have seen them do. We miss the incredible potential relationship to Christ can bring. We give easy honor to strangers that are mere shadows of those we know and put down because we have never given them the chance to show their stuff. Even as Christ wanted his people to have faith in him, we need to have faith in one another.
Hope is a wonderful virtue because it allows us to expect the best of one another. We tend to live up to the expectations of those we love.
Parents who tell their children they do everything wrong, gradually destroy the love of their children. A child does not earn responsibility. Responsibility flows out of the experiences of trying to live up to the good opinion of others.
Christ lives in each of us. We activate the best of each other by our good opinions. Love brings the Lord into whatever we are doing and creates the challenge to be a real Christ for one another. Let us recognize Christ in each other today! Let us claim the Christ of each other and be a Christ for one another. Then they will see again what was once said of the Christians of old. “See how they love one another.”
What weakness do I need to overcome this week?
Lord, help me choose the right path so that I might follow you. Pour your new wine into my wineskin and make me new again. New again to be your dwelling place. New again to love you. New again to serve you by serving my neighbors and my enemies. Amen.
Yes, days are coming, says the LORD, when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the vintager, him who sows the seed; the juice of grapes shall drip down the mountains, and all the hills shall run with it. Amos 9: 13
I will hear what God proclaims;the LORD—for he proclaims peace to his people.Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,glory dwelling in our land. Psalm 85:9
“Pour new wine into fresh wineskins.” Matthew 9:17
Today we get a few lessons in change from Amos and Matthew. They are both trying to teach us that the new and the old don’t mix using some of the most symbolic poetry we encountered in all sections of the Bible.
Amos predicts that the plowman (overturning soil for a new crop) will overtake the reaper who is still working out in the fields harvesting the crops. The vintager (wine producer or merchant selling new wine) will overtake the farmer planting seeds that would grow into the grapes crushed to make the wine and the harvest possible.
This story and the parables in Matthew teach us of the unsuitability of attempting to combine the old and the new. Jesus' teaching is not a patching up of Judaism, nor can the gospel be contained within the limits of Mosaic law. Jesus sets a new standard.
The reading from Matthew precedes the stories of the synagogue official and the woman with the hemorrhages who approached Jesus and his promise of new life – not patching up the old life but launching a new model for life. The synagogue official does not care what it means to his official position; he turns in faith to Jesus to heal the daughter he loves. While the crowd presses all around Jesus, only one woman dares to try to touch him to be healed. The old (the dying daughter and the bleeding) are overtaken by their encounter with the Jesus who dwells in their land.
Amos also relates new images of the crucifixion (“the juice of the grapes shall drip down the mountain”) as he foretells of Jesus pouring out his blood for our salvation. Through his life, death and resurrection, Jesus sets a new standard and expects us to follow him, in pursuit of the ideals needed to achieve that new standard. Around the obstacles we and society erect. Through the grace of God’s friendship. Supported by our community and our piety, study and action.
These readings remind me of an “Easy Essay” by Peter Maurin called “A Radical Change.” It goes, in part: "I want a change,and a radical change.I want a changefrom an acquisitive societyto a functional society,from a society of go-gettersto a society of go-givers." How can you be a go-giver next week?
Perhaps by calling your member of Congress and asking them to welcome the stranger in final immigration reform laws still up for debate and hearings…
Perhaps by your offering of kindness to the stranger that you pass on the streets, on the Beltway or on the town.
Perhaps by refusing to pass the buck and expect someone else to take care of the poor but doing it yourself.
Perhaps by recharging your batteries at the Ultreya next Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at St. Mary of Sorrows.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Help us to see differently through the light that Jesus shined. Help us to hear completely. Help us to see clearly. Help us to love completely. Help us to heed wholeheartedly your teachings in thought, word and deed.
Help us respond to the invitation we get each day from Jesus of Nazareth. Help us to simply “Follow” and “follow” simply. Amen.
As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, "Follow me." And he got up and followed him. Matthew 9:9
Sitting at my desk forty hours or more each week I can look out onto 17th Street in Northwest Washington. Just half a block away is the ornate Old Executive Office Building sitting next door to The White House. Thousands of people walk and drive past that window every day.
Poor men and women ask for a little loose change to buy a hamburger at McDonalds.
Flower sellers peddle a few buds to brighten our lately too rainy days.
Push carts quench our urban thirst for Mountain Dew.
Starched uniformed and plainly clothed Secret Service agents check people and vehicles, sorting out the threats surrounding the numerous Federal buildings in the neighborhood.
Young interns and government workers scurry to their desks and phones and assignments.
Wizened veterans count down the days until retirement.
Baby boomers worry about their growing children in school and their aging parents in the early stages of…some…condition…unknown or forgotten.
Vacationers climb the steps to the Renwick, the Corcoran, or the other sights of the Capital City.
Yes…we even have our share of tax collectors not too far away in the Department of the Treasury.
I would expect that among this throng, the majority of us would identify ourselves with one of the branches of Christian faith as our “religion.”
Those three syllables ring in my ears. Jesus lived his life as a model for us. Jesus gave us his example to imitate. His prayers teach us to pray. His poverty teaches us to accept our poverty. His suffering helps us to endure our trials.
Maybe we don’t think we need the doctor. Are we not the healthy patient?
Are we like Matthew – ready to walk away from what preoccupies us? Or do we want to stay right here in our comfortable zone?
Or are we like the scribes – who only saw Jesus as a teacher, not as God, Messiah and Savior – too self-righteous and incapable of responding to Jesus' call to repentance and faith in the Good News? Are we just more well-disposed people who can not see more deeply and recognize exactly who Jesus is?
Am I ready to follow? I read these challenging questions recently and turned them inward…
- Jesus counseled nonviolence and refused to counter-attack with violence when nailed to the cross. In light of the words and example of Jesus, what role do I see for defense and the military in the United States?
- Jesus said that a person should abandon his mother and his father, son and daughter in order to follow him: How would I apply this to my family values?
- Jesus said “Give all that you own to the poor.” How does this inform my understanding of tax policy, charitable giving and the redistribution of wealth?
- Jesus included foreigners, strangers, and aliens in his compassion. How does this practice inform my understanding of our immigration policy and its responsibilities to people in other nations?
- Jesus said to his disciples that the best way for them to serve him was by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and housing the homeless. How would this teaching inform my understanding of domestic policy and the revenues necessary to put it into effect?
See differently. The cross is the only step to heaven. Take it up and follow me.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Rid us of the evil thoughts and deeds which we continue to erect as obstacles to your friendship.
Help us to recognize the awesome power of that love – a love that still works in our world today. Strike us with awe that we may glorify you for giving such power over sin to those who have faith in your love and friendship. Amen.
When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to human beings. Matthew 9:8
How many signs do we need to know the power of the love of Jesus?
As we read in Matthew’s Gospel today, the crowds are starting to come around to Jesus. The accounts of miraculous cures, exorcisms, dominance over nature, and others signs start to accumulate, the crowds are moving from doubt to belief.
What do we need to cross that chasm from doubt to belief?
Revolutions of the heart? Do we see that in the work of Mother Theresa of Calcutta?
Revolutions of the people? Do we see that in the peaceful overthrown of dictators in South Africa, Poland, East Germany and elsewhere in Eastern Europe with bloodless coups after years of resisting communism?
Revolutions of the mind? Do we see that in the work of missionaries and charities servings the refugees of the world in places like the Sudan, Viet Nam, Bosnia, Guatemala and other countries torn by war and strife?
The power of Jesus love worked miracles in Palestine 2000 years ago. That same power remains at work in the world through the communion of saints and the cloud of witnesses like Martin Luther King, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Dom Helder Cammera, Dorothy Day and many others.
Let the power of love work in our lives.
Once again we are reminded today of God’s justice for those who have faith.
God’s justice has nothing to do with the justice of civil society. God’s justice means that that poor have what they need to live and love God. God’s justice means that the little ones are cared for. God’s justice means that we go beyond piety and study. We must go out into the world and proclaim God’s Good News.
Sometimes that means offering forgiveness as this story in the Washington Post religion section points out: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/20/AR2006062000804.html
What work calls you in the world? What forgiveness do you need to offer?