Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Solemnity of All Saints November 1

“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robesand made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.” Revelations

See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. 1 John 3:1

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God…Rejoice and be glad,for your reward will be great in heaven.” Matthew 5


Let us pray: Mary, Queen of all the Saints, you are already totally immersed in divine glory. Help us to choose the demanding road to Christian perfection. Through prayer, study and action, illuminate our minds and open our hearts to fully understand and appreciate the mystery of Christ and of faithful acceptance of God’s will. Amen.


Today we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. This is a feast day for the Church that invites us to reflect on those who have already gone before us – the saints named and unnamed – who stand on the cloud of witnesses interceding with God on our behalf. “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.” These people point us to the road (holiness) which leads to that destination.

On this date and feast in 2003, Pope John Paul taught us that “The Saints and Blesseds of Paradise remind us, as pilgrims on Earth that prayer, above all, is our sustenance for each day so that we never lose sight of our eternal destiny. For many of them the Rosary - the prayer to which the year just ended was dedicated (2003) - was the privileged instrument for their daily discourse with the Lord. The Rosary led them to an ever more profound intimacy with Christ and with the Blessed Virgin.”

We have been reflecting for weeks on the fact that God wants us to be close to Him, to be his children. Today, in our readings, Mark and John point the way – through holiness and suffering like those who have gone before, we must come to fully rely upon God. So whether we are poor in material possessions or poor in spirit, God puts the path of holiness before us. The choice to take that path is ours.


The first reading from the Book of Revelation provides some advice for how we should care for the gifts we get from God. “Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” What can you do today to be a good steward of the gifts that God has laid before you?

The Mustard Seed Grows October 31

Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21

Then he said, "What is the kingdom of God like? To what can I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that a person took and planted in the garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and 'the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.'" Luke 13:18-19


God, transform our hearts and our ambitions. Society wants us to be upwardly mobile like a California Redwood. Instead, help us to aspire to more humble pursuits of service and friendship and grace. Teach us how to be subordinate to one another – our spouse, our children, our siblings, our parents, our co-workers, our neighbors and our enemies. Help the work of your creation dwell in our hearts. Amen.

From small beginnings grow great and tremendous efforts. From the birth of a baby in a manger in Bethlehem, we now have the Holy Catholic Church and all the Christian churches throughout the world.

Jesus doesn’t talk about the great cedars of Lebanon today. He talks of the small mustard seed, which grows into what some would call a bush. See these images that his audience would have known well (not the penny of course, that's just there for scale).

From this mustard seed…

...to this!

This is the image he leaves people with of the Kingdom of Heaven. Rather than comparing heaven to a great palace, the most beautiful flower, the largest trees, or the greatest ruler, Jesus uses an image of a bush that serves people in many ways. It is:

* A bush that the birds dwell in.
* A bush that the birds eat the seeds off.
* A bush that renders a spice which makes food tastier.
* A spice that also served physicians with medicinal properties.

See a short history of the mustard seed[1] at the Whole Foods web site.

How interesting for the Church leaders to pair up this parable with the story in Ephesians today. Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)

This is so counter-cultural. From our Little League teams to our favorite professional sports teams, we impose archetypal images of greatness with our diversions. Even our Catholic Schools have their noble mascots. The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. The Boston College Eagles. The Georgetown Bulldogs.

However, our Good News is rooted in service and suffering. The parable of the mustard seed is repeated in almost all of the Gospels. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is not alone in advancing this simple mustard seed perspective. Elsewhere in the Epistles, he expands on this idea.

Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others, knowing that you will receive from the Lord the due payment of the inheritance; be slaves of the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will receive recompense for the wrong he committed, and there is no partiality. Colossians 3:23-25

But if you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps. "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls. 1 Peter 2:20-25


It only takes a spark to get a fire going. Light a spark by finishing “palanca” letters to the women who will attend the 123 Cursillo at St. Joseph’s Seminary this weekend (November 2-5). Remember, the letter is not the palanca but the action you offer in service to them is what will support them on their journey.

[1] http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=106
Photos from internet. Mustard seeds by David Turner February 23, 2005. Found on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Mustard.png). Mustard plants in vineyard by John Alves and shown at www.AllPosters.com.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Live as Children of the Light October 30

“This daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now, ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day from this bondage?” (Luke 13:16)


Dear God, Good Morning, it’s so good to see you! I lift up my arms, like your very dear child, desiring your presence and delighting in your embrace. Help me, today Lord, to be your inquisitive, full of life child, eager to please, delighted with the wonders of the world. Help me to refrain from becoming a truculent, stubborn 2 year old, drumming my heels to get my way and bellowing loudly in my spirit “No, No, No!” With the freedom from iniquity that you won for me Lord, may I “stand up straight” and glorify you by touching with love those who need your love the most. Amen, Amen and Amen.


Is the woman in this Gospel a symbol of Israel? The chosen people bowed under the weight of their inability to see God among them? Is she merely an individual caught in the fragility of being human? Could she be a symbol of today’s world, crippled under humankind’s cruelty? Or is she each one of us, stooped and in pain, burdened by poor choices, sin, fear, indecision, apathy?

And who do we see in the crowd – Israel called to accept the new covenant? Us today, called to accept Christ’s gift of freedom? Can we refrain from behaviors which separate us from our Savior? Can we “Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.” (Eph 4:32)

Paul reminds the Ephesians that Christ’s sacrifice made them – made us - holy. And a life of holiness, a life in the Light of the Lord, is what Paul would like the Ephesians and us to choose. Jesus freed the crippled woman in body and spirit without a request, without a concern for the “correctness” of the deed. His gift to her, His sacrifice for us is not earned. In return, He asks that we treat each other just like each of us is “His Very Dear Children.”


Take a moment and say a prayer for Cursillistas who strive to walk upright, joyful in the promise “you are free of iniquity.” This coming weekend are Cursillos across the country and world. 123rd Women’s Cursillo of the Arlington Diocese. A Men’s Cursillo in Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico ; Women’s 59th in New Brunswick, Canada; A Women’s Weekend in Guanajuato, GTO, MEXICO; Women’s Weekend in Constitucion, CHILE; A men’s weekend in Frenchville, ME (www.cursillo.org ) Also: A Michigan Presbyterian Pilgrimage (www.cursillo.com ) and Kairos-22 at the Virginia Correctional Center for Women at Goochland, VA.


Beth DeCristofaro

Saturday, October 28, 2006

He Received His Sight and Followed October 29

I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst, the mothers and those with child; they shall return as an immense throng. Jeremiah 31:8

The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way. Matthew 10:51-52


Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me. Take me from my prison. Set me free from my afflictions, addictions and pre-occupations. Show me the light of your way so that I may throw aside the things of this world and follow you. Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me. Amen.

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

Blindness takes many forms. I can be spiritually blind, morally blind and physically blind and because I do not see what others see about life, I stumble along with haltering, faltering steps in many different directions. I need to see where I am going to be able to strongly step out in faith. Christ is the light of the world and he invites us to see our world through him. The journey of life takes on the meaning of life when we follow in his footsteps. To see Christ in our brothers and sisters is to have the light of Christ in abundance. Each person who is following Christ has a bit of his light for us.

Priesthood is the call of God to lead our world to Christ. One does not become a priest by their own choice. It is the call of God that is put on their hearts. It is a call that is recognized in the ordination of the Church upon the one who is called. Many are called, but not all follow the call. The choice to walk with Christ and to be his presence in the world belongs to everyone. Some are called to be his special priest by the way they will give their lives to the service of the call.

Shining the light of Christ upon our world requires one to walk closely with Christ in all they do in their lives. The call of Christ is always found in the Good News of Christianity. God so loved the world that he sent his only son for our salvation. How fully we share in his work of salvation is seen by how close we come to the Cross of Christ. It is not enough in this world of ours to stand in the shadow of the Cross. We must be willing to take Christ's place on the cross so that he might live in how we offer our lives for the sake of others.

Goodness in life is a choice. Often it requires dying to the easy way of pleasures for self and being willing to live of the sake of each other.


Give up one pleasure today and offer that to Jesus in joyful thanksgiving for all the great things He has done for us.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Into a Dwelling Place October 28

Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord;in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:22

Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. Luke 6:12


God, source of love and happiness, help us to grow in your love through the word and works of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ. Make us protect the world you have gifted to us and in which you dwell. Keep a special dwelling place for you in our hearts. Amen.

This week we have been warned that Jesus’ influence in the world would be divisive. And then we were advised by St. Paul that Jesus is the source of unity. Can it possibly be both?

Man and women misuse the word of God which can lead to division. However, it is through authentic friendship with Christ that the family grows into the temple. In Jesus, we are built together into a dwelling place for God.

The capstone is the highest rock or mount of a structure. Often they have "doorways", the capstone would lock or wedge the rest of the rocks tightly together, giving strength, much like a wedge when driven into a tight spot. In an arch, the capstone, or sometimes called the keystone, holds the arch together.

Jesus in fact holds the Church together. How? By staying close to God and spending time in prayer. Before Jesus performs anything in the Gospel, we see Him in prayer with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. He imparts strength to us by staying close to God despite his exile on earth.

In prayer, Jesus first gives God praise. This paves the way to provide a place for God to dwell on earth – that place is the Sacred Heart of Jesus. After the resurrection, Jesus looks to us to make room in our hearts to build a dwelling place for God.


Head up into the mountains to pray and observe the gift of the beautiful fall foliage.

Worthy of Your Call October 27

“I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3

“You will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” Luke 12:59


God, we all feel imprisoned by forces beyond our control. Even if we are not in jail literally, many of us feel imprisoned in ill bodies; imprisoned by desires for food, alcohol, illegal drugs; imprisoned by demands of life – work, taxes, crowds, traffic; and imprisoned by our emotions and ideas.

Generous Father, please open wide the doors of our cells. Send your Spirit down to release us from what chains us. Set us free from our addictions, obsessions and diversions in order to live our life to make your will be done. Give us the humility and gentleness needed to bear with one another in love and gentleness. Preserve in us the bond of peace so we might spread this throughout the world for your greater good. Amen.


From the theme of divisions that Jesus promised yesterday, today we move to prison and get a prayer of unity from St. Paul.

From his Roman prison cell, Paul calls on us to exhibit humility, gentleness, patience and love in our life to overcome our divisions. Rather than the resentment and indignation that we (at least I certainly would feel) if unjustly jailed, Paul shows none of those negative emotions. He wishes for his brothers and sisters in Ephesia and Virginia: “One Body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)

Jesus goes on, in the Gospel from Luke today, to point out the imprisonment that awaits us if we do not live according to the prescription laid out by St. Paul. If we do not settle our debts, differences and divisions with our neighbor, we can expect civil society to thrown our sorry souls into jail until we pay off every penny of our debts.

Ironically, Paul, who lived a life filled with the virtues called for in his letter to the people of Ephesia finds himself jailed anyway.

In the Gospel filled with contradictions of logic to make us think about the rules in the Kingdom of God not in our society, it appears that we risk jailed if we do what is asked of us and jail if we don’t? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Why should we have any special insight to interpret the present time that would be greater than the apostles had when Jesus was with them?


Prisons have been in the news and on my mind a lot lately. The State of Florida executed a prisoner on Wednesday. Danny Rolling was executed for what the newspapers call “the grisly 1990 slayings of five college students in Gainesville, Fla.” He got a lethal dose of drugs just after 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Florida State Prison in Starke. Outside protestors as well as supporters of the death penalty held vigil emphasizing the divisions among us. Is life in prison without the possibility of parole too lenient?

Last week, in a White House ceremony, President Bush signed into law the Military Commissions Act of 2006 which eliminates some of the rights defendants usually are guaranteed under U.S. law while allowing continued harsh interrogations of terror suspects, a provision President Bush has said was vital. Humanitarian organizations such as the International Committee for the Red Cross expressed “immediate reservations.” The Catholic Worker movement has asked American bishops to lead the call to repeal the law. A group of Christians went to Cuba last year to try to fulfill the Gospel call to visit the prisons but were denied entry to provide humanitarian aid to those in prison at Guantanamo. What implications does this have to the Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you?

Currently I am reading The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran minister and German theologian who publicly repudiated the Nazis in the 1940s. Bonhoeffer was arrested in 1943 and linked to a group of conspirators whose attempted assassination of Hitler failed. He was hanged in April 1945 shortly before the war ended. He writes movingly about costly grace versus cheap grace. According to Bonhoeffer, suffering and redemption are a “divine necessity” for not only Jesus but also for anyone who wants to call herself or himself a follower of Christ. Am I ready for costly grace or just more comfortable with cheap grace that doesn’t ask a lot? (If you prefer cheap grace, avoid reading Bonhoeffer and Kierkegaard.)

Many of our friends have volunteered for jail ministry or prison ministry. Kairos weekends in Buckingham Correctional Center in Dillwyn, VA. Clearly ministry like this takes us out of our comfort zones of suburban middle class pre-occupations and crosses the border to a new ministry. Am I not also called to minister to people in our jails?

Are we worthy of the call of Matthew 25:37-40?

“Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?” And the king will say to them in reply, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Set the Earth on Fire October 26

“He may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self.” Ephesians 3:16

"I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Luke 12:49, 51


Let us pray: Lord, set us on fire with your love so that, strengthened with power through the Holy Spirit, we may spread your light to illuminate everyone on Earth.

Guide the work of the physicians operating today on our brother, father, husband and friend Tom Copeland. Bless their skillful hands and eyes and minds that they may successfully work to restore Tom’s heart to more fully function until a suitable transplant donor comes forward to share with Tom and Rae the life-saving gift of a donor heart. Amen.



When controlled in love, produces warmth against the cold of wintery weather.

When controlled in love, provides light to break the dark of night in schools, libraries, hospitals and nursing homes.

When controlled in love, helps us turn our energy into good work by preparing food for others and ourselves, by transporting people form place to place, by helping us to learn about each other.


When not controlled in love, leaves people cold and unprotected from the elements of nature, or leaves stomachs aching and empty with a hunger for satisfaction, or inflicts the sin of illiteracy on a world crying for education.

When not controlled in love, results in the napalm burning the skin off children in the wrong place at the wrong time.

When not controlled in love, results in Pearl Harbor and Auschwitz, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 9/11 and 3/11, Rwanda and Bosnia, and Dafur. And Darfur.

“We have grasped the mystery of the atom, and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.” General Omar Bradley

Today, let us reflect on the divisions left in the wake of the baptism, confirmation, and resurrection of the Lord. These actions paved the way for our own baptism, conformation and re-birth in the Spirit.

One of those divisions has to do with war, a subject much in our headlines these days. Also a subject that Jesus challenges us with today. “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” (Luke 12:51)

After a recent posting (Encourage Our Hearts August 29) noted the arrest of peace activists at the Pentagon, Cursillista Mark Clemente reminded me that there are more "anti-war" people working IN the Pentagon, than OUTside of the Pentagon. He wrote:

“The people who have to put their lives on the line -- for the most part -- are more sober in the judgment to wield this instrument of power. We are not a perfect nation, just like we are not perfect people ... we all have our weaknesses and are humbled before the great truth that is our Lord.

“That said, there is a long and Catholic (if controversial) tradition of what constitutes a just war and just conduct in war -- and it goes back to St Augustine, and St Thomas Aquinas. This is often a difficult and conflicting calculus -- and the final counting will be done by Someone with more computing power than we'll ever know. But the theory is simple. Life is precious ... and an END in itself. It can never be used as a means to another end. That means that people can't kill other people ... unless ... they forfeit their right by threatening yours. The usual formulation is to extend the personal to the state. If an intruder broke into your house, killed your wife, and started going one by one through your children -- it would be morally permissible to take his life because he has forfeited his right to live in civil society. Of course if he could be restrained and imprisoned -- this is a better solution. The fact that we have a police force and fortified prisons is how one makes the argument that even though capital punishment is permissible in the catechism -- it's probably NOT morally permissible in our country. (It may be permissible on some desert island with no ability to remove the individual from society -- but that's not the case in the Western world in general).

“This theory extends to the state. A good discussion on the pros and cons on this theory can be found below. One follow-up point to this piece. Atomic weapons or weapons of mass destruction were a product of the last century and one could make a good argument that they go against just conduct of war theory -- and I would agree. The U.S. military has done more in the last 20 years to increase the precision of our war making capability so that we can avoid mass destruction and the killing of non-combatants. So as imperfect as we are ... we are still basically trying to follow and improve upon the theory laid out centuries ago by some of greatest saints. Our enemies do not ascribe to this theory however, as they consider ALL civilians (as well as combatants) fair game.

“If you're a pacifist, I respect that, but do realize that there are a LOT of God fearing people in the military that only want to preserve the peace, protect the innocent, and advance the Kingdom. Sometimes that means stopping bad people from doing bad things. And as in everything, this must be done with humility and a LOT of prayer.”


De Colores,



We live in a society, a world marked by division. Economic divisions are as stark as an hour glass. Political divisions are as defining as the red state-blue state mentality of soccer moms and NASCAR dads. Cultural divisions born out through a chamber ensemble playing in a Gothic cathedral or a high school student dressed in goth black listening to heavy metal music.

Jesus predicted as much. So he wanted to leave us ablaze with His love to do His remaining work on earth. How do you plan to use that fire in your plan of evangelization for this week? Next week?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Confidence of Access October 25

This was according to the eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness of speech and confidence of access through faith in him. Ephesians 3:12

“Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” Luke 12:48

God’s Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ[1]

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.


Access. Confidence. Boldness.

Who are we to do God’s work or to even to claim to do God’s work? That statement alone sounds bold and brash. Why are we chosen over our neighbor?

Paul, in writing to the Ephesians, realizes that the audience is likely wondering exactly this point about himself. In humility, Paul presents himself as the least of all holy ones to do this task.

To me, the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ, and to bring to light [for all] what is the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God who created all things, so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the principalities and authorities in the heavens. (Ephesians 3:8-10)

Therefore, it is only through faith that any of us have access to God and the message to be preached. Once we, like Paul, have been shown the way of the Lord, then it behooves us to do that task.

Today we have lobbyists and public relations staff to announce our stories to the world. These women and men will boast of their access to the work of Congress or other government leaders. They will try to shape, cajole and convince the rest of us that the client-friendly (i.e. corporate message) also good for the rest of society whether we know it or not.

But today, Paul turns the tables. He preaches a message about the “riches of Christ” that is authentically good and important to the Jews and the Gentiles. He does so because Paul has “access through faith” to Christ. This access also comes along with special gifts of the Holy Spirit that include the boldness of speech.

Peter then poses the question on everyone’s mind: “Surely you don’t mean this message for me alone? You mean this for everyone right Lord?”

But the ever-vigilant servant awaiting the Master’s return has no choice except to preach the Good News – “of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” Luke 12:48

We might be able to close our eyes to what God shows us. By doing so, we can claim that we do not see the Grandeur of God.

We might also be able to close our mouths to what God wants us to say. By doping so we can flood the airways with trivial messages about sport scores and headlines and trivial pursuits.

But, did you ever try to close your ears. Putting your hands over them won’t work because sound still creeps in. Filling your ears with headphones and earbuds from your I-pod or CD player or radio won’t do the trick either because other sounds inevitably seep in. We can not close our ears. The message comes to us no matter how distracted we might claim to be.


You do not have to look around to long or too far to realize that we have been granted much in the way of worldly treasures in addition to the riches of Christ.

If we “know the Masters’ will,” and do not complete the task, then we will be beaten severely. So taking action in the world is NOT AN OPTION. It’s too late to hold our hands over our eyes, ears and mouth.

What message is Christ trying to get across to you today? Perhaps he wants you to hear more about the witness of people who have seen his work surrounding the death penalty. That message will be particularly evident tonight when the Journey of Hope comes to Northern Virginia to speak out.

The Journey of Hope includes witness from persons of all faiths who victims of the death penalty including a person who has lost loved ones by murder; a person who had been wrongly accused and freed; and a person who is a loved one of someone on death row.

As a caring person, what do you know and how do you feel about the death penalty? Come at 7:30 p.m. and open your mind and heart to these story tellers who know far too well the damage, abuse, inhumanity and suffering that the death penalty causes. Tonight’s event is held at St. Mary of Sorrows, 5222 Sideburn Road, Fairfax, VA just off Braddock Road, about six miles west of the Beltway.

Or maybe you need to hear more about affordable housing here in the wealthy suburbs? Or how to advocate for free and fair trade with people from depressed societies? God is preaching in the world on all these subjects. Will you listen?

[1] http://www.bartleby.com/122/7.html

Monday, October 23, 2006

He is Our Peace October 24

“He is our peace.” Ephesians 2:14

“Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. Luke 12:37


Let us pray. God, we speak of you with terms like power and might. Yet you reach out to us in love and friendship. Help us to recognize the need for obedience because the reward will be the peace that comes from the life of Jesus. Help us to understand that we will not measure that in temporal terms but rather in our spiritual life. Amen.


St. Paul gives us a summary of the life and impact of Christ in one paragraph. The NAB points out that this passage, starting at Ephesians 2:14, includes elaborate imagery that “combines pictures of Christ as our Prince of Peace, his crucifixion, the ending of the Mosaic law, reconciliation, and the destruction of the dividing wall such as kept people from God in the temple or a barrier in the heavens.”[1]

As the dividing wall comes down, we are led by Christ into a new relationship with God. St. Paul explains that in “Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the Blood of Christ.” In becoming “near,” we continue to get the sense of our God wanting personal intimacy with us, not just as friends but as members of the same family.

So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.

In addition to redefining our relationship to God, Christ redefines his leadership style as well by establishing servant-leadership as the model.

The vigilant servants will be rewarded with the Master waiting on them. They are told to: “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.”

The Bible is replete with such calls to “gird your loins.” Paul, when writing the letter to the Ephesians, was in prison and looking every day at his Roman guards in their uniform when writing this letter. To gird your loins during the Roman Era meant to draw-up and tie your lower garment between your legs as to increase your mobility and agility. This prevented the loose ends of the tunic from becoming snagged on something or entangled with your feet which would cause you to stumble or fall down when moving about quickly.

So Paul is telling us to secure anything that will cause us to stumble or fall down when moving about quickly in your Christian duties. We should always be spiritually sharp, alert and ready to respond with spiritual mobility and spiritual agility.


Our job duties, therefore, must include constant vigilance. To address injustice, we have to know it exists. If we close our eyes, we will miss it. If we are distracted, we will miss it. But if we keep our lamps lit, we will see where we must work. Then, we will be able to react swiftly to the need, whether it is of a neighbor or of a people half-way around the world from us.

Dietrich Bonheoffer introduces us to a concept called “spontaneous obedience.” Jesus calls and Peter and Matthew follow him. They don’t ask questions. They don’t put up barriers. They don’t set forth conditions. They obey. They answer. Only later do they understand what the call really means. Their constant vigilance for the Messiah pays off. When the Messiah comes, they are ready to quickly go about their Christian duties.

Jesus wants nothing less than that same swift obedience from us. The servants in today’s Gospel are ready to respond. They exhibit spontaneous obedience when the Master comes home. For that, they are rewarded with the merciful and caring actions of a servant leader willing to give Himself and His life for us.

[1] http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/ephesians/ephesians2.htm#foot8

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Be Rich in What Matters to God October 23

Know that the LORD is God, our maker to whom we belong, whose people we are, God's well-tended flock. (Psalm 100:3)


Oh God, assist me today to be in joy because I belong to you. Help me treat myself and others as precious children of God just as you would treat me. May I spend my day rejoicing in Creation around me and learning a new respect and stewardship for all. Help me not get sucked dry with the details of what I feel must be accomplished. Jesus accomplished all that is necessary. With your help, may I spend my day doing His will rather than my own.


Jesus, in yesterday’s gospel, spoke about servant as leader. Leadership does not reside in power and authority but in humility and service. Today, He tells us that neither does it reside in things. The world’s definitions for leadership and importance are off the mark. Paul goes so far as to say that to live with these definitions is sinful – in fact deadly. We come to life by accepting the gift of salvation which Jesus freely gave. Accepting the definitions of this world distract us and detract from our intentions: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast (Eph 2:9)

In the parable, the rich farmer’s good fortune in the harvest led him to what we might call a prudent act, a good business decision. Again, this definition for Jesus is off the mark. “This night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.” (Lk 12:20) Jesus’ words remind us that the riches of God have nothing to do with harvests, taking care of goods, building a good name and reputation. God’s love and grace are free and all with an absolute guarantee of God’s mercy. But God must come first.

God has been trying to teach this to humankind for a very long time. In the desert, the Israelites were told to gather only enough manna to feed themselves and their families for one day. The miraculous food did not last overnight – even if there had been fancy warehouses such as the rich man planned to build. Generations later, the Son of God says: “give us this day our daily bread.” God gives us love. God wants our love in return.


Look around you today. What is in your warehouse? If your life were demanded of you today? What then and so what? What is your real treasure? Do you use it to bring God to the world or store it away? Do you treat your real treasure as a treasure or ignore it in a landslide of tasks? Open the warehouse doors and consider: what is your plan of action to bring about change for the better in others and/or the world?


Beth DeCristofaro

The Cup That I Drink October 22

But the LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity. Isaiah 53:10

“Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” Mark 10:38


Let us pray. God, your only Son gave his life as a ransom offering for our sins. Please repay him with the vision to see his descendants in a long life, so that your will can be accomplished through him and the mission he prepared and assigned to each of us. Through his suffering, your servant set right the lives of sinners throughout time by bearing our guilt before you. Because Jesus surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked, he has taken away our sins and won pardon for our offenses. Help us now to take on the challenge of discipleship and pass on your love and wisdom to all those we meet. Amen.


Sometimes, we come across a passage in the Bible that just takes time to read again and again. Isaiah 53:10 is one such passage for me.

But the LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity.

But the LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity.

But the LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity.

No matter how many times you read it, the verse still comes out the same. The God that we address who is full of kindness and gentleness was pleased to crush his own son in infirmity.

“Pleased” seems like such an awful emotion. Why would Isaish (or his translators) choose that word? What parent would not be torn into peices watching his or her child suffer through even a fraction of the pain and humiliation of the Crucifixion? Who would be "pleased" to watch that happen?

Jesus, the innocent one, the Anointed One, made amends on behalf of us, the guilty, who have come before his time, during his time and after his time on earth. As written in Isaiah 53:5, “He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.” His blood was shed for all of us.

His baptism, foretold by Isaiah, is also foretold by Jesus while among the disciples before the Crucifixion. Jesus’ baptism is to be his crucifixion and death for the salvation of the human race.

The cost of discipleship as requested by James and John for a share in the glory must involve sharing in the suffering of the Innocent One.

Last week we were asked "What are you willing to give up for Christ?" This week, the question is expanded with force – “What are you willing to take on for Christ?” The cross is the way to glory. By His answer to James and John, we come to know that the road to discipleship must, out of necessity, involve sharing in Jesus' sufferings, the endurance of tribulation and suffering for the gospel.

Whatever we decide to take on for Christ, does not directly lead to reward. Jesus doesn’t promise us a reward because that honor is beyond his power to bestow. The authority of assigning places of honor in the kingdom is reserved to God. Instead, Jesus issues the challenge and sets the stage for our living one earth amongst each other.

Whatever authority is to be exercised by disciples must, like that of Jesus, be rendered as service to others rather than for personal advancement. The service of Jesus is his passion and death for the sins of the human race. The riches of “inheritance” that Luke wrote about earlier this week has changed into a “ransom.” We are kidnapped by the tendency to sin. God, who values all of our lives equally, sent his Son, the Son of Man, to serve us and to give up His life “as a ransom for many.”

Inheritance implies receiving something with out personal cost. When we inherit something, the cost of it was born by the person who passes it on to us. What we receive will be a ransom for what we have given up.

That gift is God’s love, wisdom and fire. We must take such gifts and pass them on. Christian society, Jesus tells us, must be different. No longer will leaders exert authority over the people. Jesus teaches that “It shall not be so among you.” Instead, leaders will be the servants of the people. Passing on to others what the leaders in other societies would hoard for themselves.

Jesus asks this of us, not because it is easy. He asks this precisely because it is hard. But he doesn’t ask anything of us that He was not willing to do Himself. As St. Paul remind us when writing to the Hebrews, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.”


Cursillo portrays Christianity in pretty rainbow colors most of the time. “Be a friend. Bring a friend to Christ.”

However, we never get a rainbow without going through a storm. Without action, without tough love, the tripod will not stand on two legs alone.

Maybe we can not all take on the life of a monastic or the life of the clergy and religious orders of women and men. We can all do something around the corner, around the country or around the world.

This week, Fr. John Dear, S.J., writes in his column about his relationship with Henri Nouwen.[1] He explains that while we all read a lot if his books, “Few realize the full spectrum of his spirituality.”

While we are all familiar with (perhaps guilty of?) upward mobility, Fr. Dear writes that Henri was more concerned with “downward mobility.” Dear notes Henri’s “knack for walking away from positions of prestige. Quite an auspicious beginning for Henri -- teaching assignments at Notre Dame and then the divinity schools at Yale and Harvard. But he had a conscience, and it bothered him. He knew the Gospel summons toward "downward mobility," solidarity with the poor. And thus he slipped off the chains of the tenure track.”

Today Jesus asks us if we are ready to be baptized with his baptism, to drink the cup he drinks. What are you willing to take up for Jesus? How will we answer that question in order to “please” God?

[1] http://ncrcafe.org/node/542

Friday, October 20, 2006

Pass It On October 21

“The fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.” Ephesians 1:23

“The Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.” Luke 12:12

(Inspired by Ephesians, Chapter 1)

God, source of love and wisdom, please enlighten the eyes of our hearts so that we may know the hope that belongs to Your call, the riches of glory in Your inheritance among the holy ones, and the surpassing greatness of Your power for those who believe, in accord with the exercise of Your great might, which You worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come. Help us to learn all this so that we may pass it on to others as your eyes, your ears, your hands and your heart work through us. Amen.



When I was in high school, we learned a folk song called “Pass It On” that goes something like this:

It only takes a spark, to get a fire going
And soon all those around will warm up to its glowing.
That’s how it is with God’s love
Once you experienced it.
You want to sing, its fresh like Spring,
You want to pass it on.

We see that chain reaction take place in today’s readings. First in Ephesians, St. Paul tells of Christ getting his inheritance of wisdom from God. According to the NAB, some scholars take the one who fills as God, others as Christ: “The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.” (Eph 4:10).

The notes to this passage continue that: If in Christ “dwells the fullness of the deity bodily,” then, as God “fills” Christ, Christ in turn fills the church and the believer. “To know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:19) [1]

The note concludes by explaining that this “difficult phrase” may also allow the church to be viewed as the complement of Christ who is “being filled” as God's plan for the universe is carried out through the church. “To bring to light [for all] what is the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God who created all things, so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the principalities and authorities in the heavens.” (Eph 3:9-10).

This wisdom, this fire is passed along from God to Christ to the Church and then to us, as St. Luke picks up the theme, by the Holy Spirit. Even at that First Confirmation, the wisdom of the Holy Spirit was depicted as flames above each disciples head. When we are in a difficult position and are searching for words to say or to write, the Holy Spirit comes through with the words we need to say and the words that others need to hear.


Several people have written to complain about how they think this journal gets caught up in political issues in the action phase. Some have said they want their Good News straight without the action installment. I can accept that but will not stop this final part of the tripod. While we do need to act locally by feeding the poor and providing affordable housing, we also need to be aware of what is happening globally to the family of God – to our brothers and sisters in Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, Australia, and elsewhere.

In fact one of the issues that turned off some now “former” readers of this blog is references to taking action about the genocide in Darfur. I promise that when our churches and governments save the innocent children of God who are being slaughtered there, I will stop writing and reminding you about what is happening in Darfur.

Until then, some more intelligence about the situation will air on Sunday on “60 Minutes.” Scott Pelley and his CBS TV News crew traveled to the Sudan to learn of the situation first hand. Yet, despite the devastation they will show us Sunday night, we must not give up hope. There is something we can do to stop this genocide. It begins with raising awareness to help build pressure on our leaders to act.

For some, that awareness is a purely political act. I contend that it is a moral and Christian act.

Watch the show and then write to Bishop Loverde, Bishop Wuerl, Mr. Allen, Mr. Warner, Mr. Davis, Mr. Moran, Mr. Wolfe and Mr. Bush. Urge them to urge the world to act.

[1] http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/ephesians/ephesians1.htm#foot11

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Beware of the Leaven October 20

“The first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God's possession.” Ephesians 1:14

“Beware of the leaven.” Luke 12:1


Let us pray: God, you made us and chose us so we can know you and serve you and praise you in this life and be with you forever in Heaven. Be the leaven in our lives. Raise us up to do your works, hear your words and to see and love you in the lives of our sisters and brothers and enemies. Help us to avoid the evil effects of the world and put us on a path to redemption from our many sins through the gifts of your Son Jesus and the seal of the Holy Spirit. Amen.



Two different images might stick in our imagination after studying today’s readings: economic transactions and bread-making.

Yesterday in the opening of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we learned that Christ was chosen by God and offered up to leave heaven. Today, Paul tells us that we were chosen after him. Just as Christ fulfilled God’s command, we too are chosen to witness and praise God’s glory. The mere fact that we were chosen also entitles us to the seal of the Holy Spirit in baptism.

That seal is “the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession.” Probably all of us have bought something that had to be purchased with a loan or a credit card. Over time, we would pay a little back each month until the debt was retired.

We belong to God more so than any material item we might buy on time or possess. God pays us forward. He gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit as the first installment toward redemption from sin. For this and all his gifts, God only seeks to be close to us.

If we do not stay close to God and the gifts we receive, then we can easily be contaminated by the corruption of sin. That is where another meaning of the analogy to the “leaven” comes in. A little yeast induces fermentation in bread dough. This becomes for Luke a natural symbol for a source of corruption that becomes all-pervasive.

Yeast is alive – a living organism that needs food to survive.[1] The yeast feeds on sugar to survive. As the yeast feeds on the sugar, it creates two byproducts—alcohol (ethanol) and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is what leavens the bread—carbon dioxide gases filter through the dough helping to raise the bread while it bakes. This yeast requires moisture, food and a hospitable environment to grow.

And what has this to do with us? The heretical ideas of the Pharisees need a yeasty environment in order to spread. Likewise, God seeks to be a part of our lives so he can raise us up and live through our experience.

The choice is ours. What baker do you want to care for you? Do you choose the baker with ideas that will spoil your life or the baker who promises everlasting life?

God chose you…will you repay him with your choice? Or will you be an unrepentant sinner and choose evil.

Is it any wonder then that Christ becomes the Bread of Life? When we take communion, we are giving God a hospitable environment in which to grow.


Taste and see the goodness of the Lord. Eat some leavened bread and some unleavened bread. Which one tastes better? Which one tastes sweeter?

The challenge today is to create an environment in which it is easy for God to come into your life. What doors do you need to unlock to make that happen?

[1] See an interesting article on yeast at this site: http://www.breadworld.com/sciencehistory/science.asp

Sum Up All Things in Christ October 19

In all wisdom and insight, he has made known to us the mystery of his will in accord with his favorthat he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of time, to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth. Ephesians 1:10

Woe to you, scholars of the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge. Luke 11:52


God, source of all knowledge, help us to achieve a personal intimacy with you. Reveal to us the mystery of our mission and help us to set out, as the apostles set out, to fulfill that mission in a spirit of love and sharing. Amen.


Did you ever know a secret? Did you ever solve a mystery?

There are two things you can do with such knowledge of a secret or a mystery. You can either tell others the answer or keep it to yourself. You can be generous and share or you can be selfish and horde.

The lawgivers of the Hebrew Bible erected huge and complex hurdles of behavior that prohibited the people from achieving any level of intimacy with God. The people could not even call God by name.

That is the difference between God and the lawgivers. God gives away the secret. The secret is Jesus. God gives away His only Son. He sends him down from heaven as our own personal secret-sharer to tell us how we might win eternal life.

“We must allow God to set up shop in our heat, mind and spirit. He wants us to move aside so that he can grow and grow until our hands are his hands and our words are his words.”[1]

God wants a personal intimacy with us. God calls us by name and says, “Come and follow me.”

Come Judy and follow me.

Come Stacy and follow me.

Come Andy and follow me.

Come Carlos and follow me.

Come all of you, my children, and follow me.


Make some room in your tent for God to enter. He just wants to curl up with us and get to know us better. He can’t do that from outside in the cold. He needs to come into the warmth.

[1] Sleeth, J. Matthew, M.D. Serve God, Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action. Page 178.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Preoccupied with the Word October 18

“The Lord stood by me and gave me strength.” 2 Timothy 4

“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” Luke 10:2-3


Let us pray: God, you know that the path is hard and that we will never celebrate the rainbow with enduring the rain. Give us fortitude so we can be persistent in our proclamation of your word. Give us justice so we can encourage all to seek you. Give us temperance so we can pass up the temptations of the world to achieve your works on earth. Give us prudence so we can see what is good and what is not. Help us to learn all this by the example of our new Saint Mother Theodore Guerin. Amen.



At the beginning of this chapter, St. Paul charges Timothy (and by extension all of us) with a difficult and serious mission. In 2 Timothy 4:2-5, we read:

Proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths. But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry.

The road will be tough. St. Paul predicts discouraging times and asks, no pleads, with us to stick with the mission until it is fulfilled. He speaks from the experience of his first trial when all of his friends deserted him. Because “the laborers are few,” those who have a mission must persevere in it.

Just as Paul commissioned Timothy in his letter, Christ commissioned the apostles in the Good News reading from Luke. Jesus also knew the hardships ahead as he told the disciples that they were being sent like lambs to the wolves. When the mission is fulfilled through our piety, study and action, the Kingdom of God is at hand.

The law – a theme all week – comes back at us today in the face of Paul’s trial. Fortunately, the outcome was favorable here. However, rather than get preoccupied with the law, Paul encourages us to be preoccupied with the Good News. Christianity can not be proclaimed by talking, only by acting. After all, the Lord is pre-occupied with us. He will stand by us even if our friends do not. Don’t we owe the same to Him?


“The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle.”[1] This underscores the theme of our readings throughout this week. No laws will provide for us the path to justification. The path to perfection does not pass through the court house or the state house or even the White House. It passes through the House of God.

This week, Pope Benedict gave the Church four new saints. These included French-born Mother Theodore Guerin. The associated Press wrote that, “She endured harsh conditions on the American frontier and resisted the objections of a local bishop in pursuing her dream of establishing Catholic education for pioneers. She established a college for women in Indiana, which enrolled its first student in 1841.”[2]

Her life epitomized the struggle, persistence and hardships that St. Paul alludes to in today’s reading from the second letter to Timothy.

What hardships do you have to endure for the Lord and your faith?

[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd edition. Paragraph 2015.
[2] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/15/AR2006101500141.html

Only Faith Working Through Love October 17

For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you. Luke 11:40-41


Let us pray: God of Infinite Patience, help us to listen to your son and learn a new way of thinking and worshipping, praising and doing. Protect us from the yoke of slavery to laws and to sin. Remind us that we have it in our heart, mind and soul everything needed to fulfill your mission of love. When the forces of evil distract us, remind us with the gentle presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in our lives. Deliver us from evil and grant us peace today. Amen.


A certain network likes to start off its Monday night football broadcasts with a song that begins, “Are you ready for some football?”

Are you ready from some Jesus? If not, buckle your seat belts because you might be in for a bumpy ride on familiar highways.

Ours is a Church founded on laws and commandments. The Ten. The Greatest. Yet Jesus, the prophets of the Hebrew Bible and the apostles writing the Good News spend an inordinate amount of time telling us to ignore the laws. Furthermore, for someone so critical of the Pharisees, Luke depicts Jesus having dinner with the Pharisees fairly often in his Gospel.

This is not an accident. The interaction with the Pharisees helps Jesus drive home some of his points about how the law falls short of what God intends for each of us to do. Jesus’ appearance on earth changes everything, He helps us make a bridge to a new way of thinking and worshipping, praising and doing.

We are warned over and over again not to submit to the yoke of slavery to sin or slavery to laws. Instead, we must maintain our own independent conscience and judgment. We can’t always rely on some law to lay down how we are to act. But, we fail over and over again. So, God, with Infinite Patience, keeps sending us reminders – from Jesus, from Luke, from Paul, from the Galatians.

Just like the rich man in Sunday’s Gospel reading from St. Mark, we can follow the laws and still fall short of what God expects. God asks for our undivided attention to his call. If we are distracted, he will send Jesus down every day to have dinner with us, in our house.

If we knew that Jesus is expected to visit tonight, we would spend the day cleaning everything he might see – the dishes, the floors, the utensils, the windows, the house. Everything external. But would we also clean the inside? Would we cleanse our hearts? Would we cleanse our minds? Would we cleanse our souls?

Would the message drive all the way home, like it did when that famous student Nicodemus visited Jesus at night? Would that message find us, with Nicodemus and Joseph of Aramethea, ready to take down Jesus’ body for a proper burial?


In less than a month, there will be a vote in Virginia. This year, one of our choices will be for the Marriage Protection Amendment.

The late Pope John Paul said, “The future of humanity passes by way of the family. It is therefore indispensable and urgent that every person of good will should endeavor to save and foster the values and requirements of the family.”

But as we are reminded in today’s readings, we can not rely on laws alone. We have to save and foster these values in our hearts and souls and actions. And we can not stop at Marriage.

Why not hold an election of your own? See if you can pass these following acts unanimously into your heart. The Protection of the Preferential Option for the Poor Amendment. The Widows Protection Amendment. The Orphans Protection Amendment.

As citizens and voters and Catholics, we face serious questions. From Richmond to Rwanda, every life is sacred. Are we ready to value and protect all of them in our hearts?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Blessed be the name of the Lord forever October 16

For freedom Christ set us free... (Gal 5:1)

He raises up the lowly from the dust; from the dunghill he lifts up the poor. (Psalm 113: 7)

…at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here. (Luke 11:32)


Blessed be your name, Lord, blessed be your name. Keep before me this day, Lord, your presence and your might. Help me see in each minute of this day the opportunity to give thanks for your many gifts in the form of the people I meet, the majesty of creation and examples of human creativity that I see. Stay before my eyes, Lord so that I may rejoice in you.



We are people born of a promise more than 3,000 years old and brought to fulfillment in Christ. Paul tells us that we are a free people, free of the rituals of Mosaic law but realizing and renewing the covenant God made with Abraham. There is a serious responsibility here. We are the heirs and children of the new covenant. We are responsible to recognize and honor that fulfillment just, Paul reminds the Galations, as they are.

And Jesus reminds his listeners that they are missing what is right in front of them. They do not need great signs and wonders – like the whale of Jonah. Jesus, himself, is the fulfillment of their spiritual heritage. His death and resurrection three days later is the real deal. We are children of that fulfillment. Can we be constantly aware of the salvation which is right in front of us, already delivered?

How difficult it is to accept and live in the promise of that salvation rather than live our own will. How difficult to always praise the God of the poor and lowly when we think we have the answers; when we must be right; when we are part of and place ourselves responsible to the institutions and ways of this world rather than in the will of God. How difficult to praise the God of the poor and lowly by loving the poor and lowly with our Christian action.


Place your Cursillo cross into your pocket, at the top of your keyboard or hanging from your rearview mirror today. Each time it catches your eye, pause and Bless the name of the Lord. Say a prayer of thanks for God’s blessings. Say a prayer for the insistently annoying colleague in the next cubicle; or the family member from whom you are estranged; or the person who owes you some kind of debt; or the person who is so lonely, damaged, isolated, or angry that she/he is contemplating hurting someone in return.


Beth DeCristofaro

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Impossible, but Not for God October 15

“I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.” Wisdom 7:7

“For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.” Mark 10:27


God, we have learned that only you are good and only you can do the impossible. Even though we are weak, you can help us meet the standards set by Jesus for entering the Kingdom. Help us to give up what is not needed for the sake of your Kingdom.

Free us from earthly attachments that force us to protect what we possess instead of aspiring to your Goodness. Help us to enter through the narrow gate. Amen.

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

What I am willing to give up for the sake of the kingdom of heaven is not as simple as I once thought. Christ gave up heaven to be one of us.

He emptied himself out of his goodness to be human. He who is God became a slave for all of us. God has shown us how to love. And the question of how to respond is more than just the keeping of the commandments even if Christ said; "If you love me, keep the commandments."

Following Christ is an invitation to be just like him. Love goes toward unity. Closeness to Christ is learned by following in his footsteps. The young man of our gospel wanted to know what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. He had kept the commandments from his youth. Jesus saw him as a good man and invited him to something more. The invitation to sell what he had and give to the poor and then to come and follow Jesus was asking too much of the young man because he would have to give up a lot.

Genuine, permanent happiness is had in following the Lord. The young man went away sad. He was too attached to what he had.

Discernment of what the Lord is asking of us needs freedom from earthly attachments. Many of our decisions in life are made trying to protect what we have. It takes prayer and more prayer to hear what the Lord is asking of us. We have to get by our likes and dislikes. The grace of indifference is the beginning of wisdom. God will teach us what we need to know to get into heaven by the narrow gate. The "eye of the needle" of our gospel story is a gate within a gate which a camel can enter when it kneels down and pushes itself forward by inching along. We too need to do some kneeling to find out what God is asking of us.


Instead of filling our households with more excessive consumer products, let us follow the Psalmist’s advice and plead:

Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy! Psalm 90

If we get what we ask for, maybe we should be asking for more of the qualities sought in the Book of Widsom.

One in Christ October 14

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.
Luke 11:28


Let us pray. God, source of all light and sound, please open our ears so that we may hear your word and act on it in our lives. Amen.


The path to heaven is way open to all – universally and in equality. It goes beyond what any popular government can offer or promise to the people living under its laws.

Baptism in Christ is the great uniter. Through the faith of our baptism, all of us who are baptized share in the promise of salvation.

We like to think that the United States is ahead of the world in universal rights. However, let’s remember that women did not fully share in the democratic promise in the United States until May 19, 1919. African Americans did not fully share in the democratic promise until the 15th amendment was passed in February 1869. Political equality for both of these groups, as well as others, was years ahead of social, economic and sexual equality.

Even though these laws were passed, society still had a long way to go – and still does in some places – toward treating all persons with full equality. America was 2,000 years behind Jesus Christ in preaching total equality.

St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Galatians today, that as children of God, baptized into Christ, the Galatians (and the Virginians) are all Abraham's descendant and heirs of the promise to Abraham.

The crux of the matter lies in our attentiveness to God's word. That is more important than any biological, political, economic or social relationship to Jesus for our path to holiness. We are all one in Christ through faith.


Listen today to someone who had less political power, economic power or social status than you do. Try to hear their message just as Jesus would – in total equality.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Ransomed from the Curse October 13

Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. Galatians 3:13

But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons,then the Kingdom of God has come upon you. Luke 11:20


Let us pray. God, you hold power and might over the world. Please give us the strength of a faith that matters. Help us to move beyond a legalistic view of life and remove all of the obstacles that get in the way of our friendship with you. Protect us by binding the strong man and protecting us from him through the saving work of Jesus your Son and our bodyguard whom you send down from heaven to redeem us. Free us from the curse of laws that do not give us life and justify us by faith that we exhibit by working for good in the world. Amen.


The strong man used in Luke’s Good News is an image that has passed down through history. Even in today’s popular culture survives as a special icon. First society admires the winner, like the heavyweight champion of the world. Many of us can name some of the fighters who have held that title. Muhammad Ali. Mike Tyson. Joe Frazier. George Foreman. We await the winner of the World Series. Football is in mid-stride at the college and professional levels and hockey and basketball seasons are getting underway while the tennis, golf and NASCAR seasons wind down. Today, we have a whole sub-culture around the World Wrestling Federation that has added a circus-like atmosphere to supposed athletic contests.

We can relate on a human level to the concept of the strong man. Jesus once again takes the concept and turns it around. Jesus uses the image of the strong man to describe how he will defeat the forces of evil in the world with ONE FINGER! “But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you..”

In Galatians, Paul uses a different image. Rather than the strong man, he uses the image of Jesus becoming a curse for us to save us from the curse of law. As we approach “All Hallows Eve,” our televisions and movie houses will be overfilled with the secular Hollywood image of the curse – imagined and real. Friday the 13th.[1] The Exorcist. The Omen. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Scarface. The Departed. Deliver Us From Evil.

But the euphemism of the curse meant something totally different for the early Christians and Jews who listened to St. Paul. They knew the ancient reference from the Hebrew Bible.

If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his corpse hung on a tree,
it shall not remain on the tree overnight. You shall bury it the same day; otherwise, since God's curse rests on him who hangs on a tree, you will defile the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you as an inheritance.
Deuteronomy 21:22-23

The NAB teaches that, “Salvation, then, depends on faith in Christ who died on the cross (Gal 3:13), taking upon himself a curse found in Deut 21:23 (about executed criminals hanged in public view), to free us from the curse of the law (Gal 3:13). That the Gentile Galatians have received the promised Spirit (Gal 3:14) by faith and in no other way returns the argument to the experience cited in Gal 3:1-5.[2]

Jesus wants us to believe in Him. Jesus wants us His, not because he is strong, but because we are weak. Jesus wants us, not because the law says so but because He wants us to have faith.


When an unclean spirit goes out of someone, it roams through arid regions searching for rest but, finding none, it says, ‘I shall return to my home from which I came.’ But upon returning, it finds it swept clean and put in order. Luke 11:24-25

The Amish had an interesting way to sweep clean the evil. After forgiving the man who shot ten of their daughters, they removed the schoolhouse where his sins were committed. They ransomed from the curse this area and rather than turning it into a tourist trap for gawkers, they turned the area back into pasture land.

NICKEL MINES, Pa. -- Ten days after the Amish schoolhouse shootings, a demolition crew using heavy equipment tore down the bloodstained building Thursday and obliterated nearly all traces of the place where five girls were killed.
Only a bare patch of earth was left behind, and it was planted with grass seed, so that eventually even the footprint of the one-room schoolhouse will be gone, too.

What do you need to “sweep clean and put in order?”

[1] Today. In case anyone has Triskaidekaphobia.
[2] http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/galatians/galatians3.htm#foot8
[3] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/12/AR2006101200123.html

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Ask and You Will Receive October 12

I want to learn only this from you: did you receive the Spirit from works of the law, or from faith in what you heard? Galatians 3:2

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Luke 11:9


God, you never stop asking us to love and serve and sacrifice. Maybe that’s because you never stop loving, and serving and sacrificing for us. Help us to respond to your call for friendship and intimacy. Please help us to repay you in kind with a persistent love, persistent service and persistent sacrifice. Deliver us from evil and grant us peace today. Amen.



Yesterday, Jesus taught us how to pray. Today, he unveils the payoff. If you are persistent, then you will get what you ask for.

Luke uses the example of a neighbor looking for a loaf of bread to serve a guest. Holy Hospitality. Imagine going to the grocery store with a six-year-old child. As you rush through the checkout line, the child sees his favorite candy bar. Perhaps you have heard a conversation go something like this:

Nino: Please, can I have a bag of M&Ms? I’ll be your best friend.

Papa: No. It will spoil your dinner.

Nino: If you buy it for me know, I won’t eat it until after dinner.

Papa: No. No. That’s when you have to do your homework.

Nino: I’ll save the M&Ms until after homework.

Papa: No, No, No for the last time. It will be too late for you to have that much sugar.

Nino: Then we can get them now and put them in my lunch bag for tomorrow.

Papa: No!

Nino: But before you said you were saying “No” for the last time. Now is the time to say yes. Right? Please can I have some M&Ms for lunch tomorrow?

Papa: OK. OK. OK. OK. OK.

“Because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.”

Maybe its time we got persistent in prayer. Jesus, says, after all, ask and you shall receive. If we give good gifts to our children, how much more will our Father who art in heaven, give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?


What do you need to ask of Our Father today?

Whose requests can you fulfill today?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Teach us to pray October 11

“Be mindful of the poor.” Galatians 2:10

Go out to all the world, and tell the Good News. Psalm 117

“Lord, teach us to pray.” Luke 11:1


Let us pray as Jesus taught us.
Let us study as Jesus taught us.
Let us act as Jesus taught us.

See a special reflection on the Our Father for Cursillistas posted here.



Even in this short version of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus works in both praise for the Father and service to our neighbor and the poor. Jesus never let’s us think that this faith is a faith based on prayer alone. Prayer must drive us to action as basic and simple as forgiveness.

Jesus asks us to forgive all those who trespass against us. Not just those we want to forgive, but even those whom we do not want to forgive. Jesus says to forgive them anyway. Even before they forgive us, Jesus does so.

Jesus teaches us to pray from the time he was a young boy staying behind in the Temple while Mary and Joseph searched for him. He forgives us from the moment he is teaching us to pray all the way until the moment when he is hanging on the cross.


How will you “be mindful of the poor” today and everyday?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Called Through Grace October 10, 2006

“Called me through his grace.” Galatians 1:15

“I am fearfully, wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:14

“There is need of only one thing.” Luke 10:42


God, despite everything you provide, there is need for only one thing – that we pay attention to the mission commanded to us by your Son. Take from us, Father, every whisper that interrupts our hearing. Give to us the sweet sounds of your voice calling in the wilderness. Set us free from all that pre-occupies us from your work. Deliver us from evil and grant us peace today. Amen.


We can develop a distant intimacy with the people in the Hebrew Bible and the Good News who appear over and over in our lives through Sacred Scripture. Paul and Martha and Mary are part of our sacred reading again today. They are distant in time, yet intimate in our experience. They help reveal to us the Jesus we know today and the mission that Jesus wants us to choose.

God has always had that intimacy with us.

Distant intimacy is also born out through being made wonderfully and fearfully. God made us wonderful. God is wonderful. He gave us the ability to choose. We can be like Timothy McVeigh, the once obedient soldier, or like Charles Carl Roberts, the once quiet milkman. God made us fearful that we would not destroy the trust and love in which he places and holds us. God also is fearful because that freedom He gave us also includes freedom to turn away from him.

Saul/Paul had made such a turn. He knew he was persecuting the early Church. God had other plans for Saul of Tarsus and God needed to find a way to make sure Paul knew of those plans. A little light. I little push off his high horse. A little actual blindness. That would get my attention.

Paul’s autobiographical account today reveals much about his formation/study. After God revealed the truth to Paul, Paul set out to learn more from those who knew Jesus best. Just like we turn to retreats, mentors, spiritual directors, pastors and respected authors, Paul turns to Peter, James and others who knew Jesus directly. Then he picks up his mission with a call to action to spread the word directly and through his epistles. If Paul were alive today, I think he would have a blog.

God had other ideas for Martha as well. Mary is the embodiment of piety. She chooses to sit quietly and listen to the word of the Lord until she truly hears His message.

Then there is Martha, who chose the path of service but service initially not formed in faith. After a gentle admonition from Jesus, we learn how she changed her ways. Instead of being just a helper, she slowed down a little. For the next time we encounter Martha at her brother’s “funeral,” she exhibits a mature pre-resurrection faith that is unknown even in the modern era. She did not need to experience the resurrection in order to know Jesus as the Messiah.

Today, the “Marthas” amongst us would be running a soup kitchen like SOME or perhaps working in the refectory of a monastery. Our “Marys” would be offering workshops in centering prayer. Or maybe she would be a graduate student at Catholic University.

Mary embodies Being. Being has no beginning. No starting line. Being just is. We have always been the children of God but we haven’t always known it like God knows us. Through piety, we learn about our being in the eyes of God through listening to him.

Paul is the epitome of Formation. Formation is a process. It does have a start and we can think we initiate it. Actually, our formation was always in God’s plan, we just have come to find out about it lately.

Martha represents Action. Sometime in the formation process, we can begin know our mission and fulfill the mission that God reveals to us in our being and our formation.

Being Christian brings all three elements together.


The last time I checked in on the Doomsday Clock, it was at seven minutes to midnight.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has informed the world what time it is since 1947, when its now-famous "Doomsday Clock" first appeared of the cover of the magazine. Since then, the minute hand of the clock has moved forward and back to reflect the global level of nuclear danger and the state of international security.


With the possible nuclear test in North Korea, there is a lot of saber rattle in my ears. It makes me recall the 1980s when the U.S. Bishops published their pastoral letter on “The Challenge of Peace.” This week’s events accelerate that change and underscore the words of that pastoral letter:

The evil of the proliferation of nuclear arms becomes more evident every day to all people. No one is exempt from their danger. If ridding the world of the weapons of war could be done easily, the whole human race would do it gladly tomorrow. Shall we shrink from the task because it is hard?[1]

Consider writing to your political leaders and urge restraint and negotiations at this time of stress.

[1] http://www.osjspm.org/the_challenge_of_peace_2.aspx, paragraph 335.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Treat Him/Her With Mercy October 9

“Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.”Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37)


Oh my God of all beauty and life. Oh my brother Jesus who forgave my sins on the cross. May those who today are hungry, lonely, in despair, afraid, wounded, and disrespected know that you are there with them surrounding them with your unequaled and unqualified love. Help me remember throughout the day that I am their sister/brother in you. May I be grateful and mindful of the many blessings of my life. May I offer my blessings for their healing and comfort. May I approach everyone I meet today as my sister or brother, beloved by You.



My heart is so moved with the parable today. In light of the killings of 6 innocent girls last week, other school shootings and misery worldwide. But also I grieve over the “killing” of the Pennsylvania gunman’s family; they were innocent but are now lost in the confusion and despair of what their father / husband did.

Are we neighbors of Iraqi citizens who executed daily by insurgents and who are boxed in at gunpoint by American soldiers? Are we neighbors of the poor in Darfur who are day after day set upon by robbers and rapists? Are we neighbors of the homeless sleeping in parks in Fairfax or the streets of DC? Are we neighbors of Hispanic immigrants, Catholic as we are who are barely welcomed into our churches because we do not speak their language or honor their traditions?

Think about the parable: All we know of the victim in Jesus’ story is that he was attacked. We don’t know that he might have been a sheep rustler or a ne’er do well who sponged off society. On the other hand he might have been a law-abiding land owner. And all we know of the Samaritan is that he was of a people considered enemies by the Jews. He could have been a slave trader or perhaps an honest merchant.

Jesus doesn’t tell us the details because they aren’t important. Jesus says that THEY are our neighbors. No matter WHOM we think they are.

Paul tells the Galatians: if anyone preaches to you a gospel other than the one that you received, let that one be accursed! (Gal 1:9) Are our modern attitudes and understanding of other people a gospel other than the one Jesus gave to us?

The Lord will remember his covenant forever…(Ps 111:9) In spite of our cruelty, indifference, our lack of neighborliness, God’s covenant, Jesus Christ, is there for us forever. Because he promised. Jesus, who suffers with victims of violence, neglect, poverty, dispossession, is there for us and with us. We can choose to turn our back on his promise by passing by on the opposite side of the road from our neighbor.


Take some time to look again into issues of gun violence, the war, Darfur – or other areas which you feel that you need new awareness. What is your response as a neighbor?



Beth DeCristofaro