Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Stay Awake! August 31

“Stay awake!” Matthew 24:42


Let us pray: Jesus, we try hard but we fall asleep on the job of being Christian. But Christianity doesn’t just set forth a 40 hour work week. The commitment you require never ends, 24/7 as they say. But we also know that your support for us never ends either. Stand by our side and shake us when we tire and support us when we waver in our faith walk with you and yield to temptation. So that when you arrive, you will find us doing your work on earth. Deliver us from evil and grant us peace today. Amen.


Prepare ye the way of the Lord.

Even after Christ atoned for our sins by dying on the cross, sinfulness runs rampant in the world. Despite the worldly rejection, there is a universal call to holiness that we hear from St. Paul today.

Just as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he could be writing to the Arlingtonians. To the Church of God that is in Arlington, Fairfax, Fredericksburg, Burke, Woodstock, Springfield, or Mclean, Paul calls all of us who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, to be holy, in universal brother and sisterhood with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.

What do you know from your own experience? When you look into your own heart, do you always choose the path that leads to the common good? Are you ever drawn to what you know is wrong? Are you ever drawn to something you know can not flow from a creator of all that is good?

How do you define and interpret the Church in Paul’s letter? Does Paul call us into communion with the liturgical assembly, the local community in our home towns, or the universal Church of all believers, everywhere? Frankly, it doesn’t matter if the believers are from Mclean or Mexico, Springfield or the Sudan, Paul calls us into union with all three. We are all called to the cloud of witnesses.

So Paul calls us to “stay awake” and alert. To be on guard against sin, not the sins of society, but rather the temptations that enter into our own hearts. Ever try to stay awake when the time is past your bedtime? You eyelids droop. You yawn. Your defenses go down. What tempts you? Food? Shopping? Alcohol? Drugs? Anger? Greed? What?

But when our defenses go down, Christ becomes our defender. “He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1: 8-9


“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant, whom the master has put in charge of his household to distribute to them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so.” Matthew 24:45

Matthew expresses our mission for the Lord in terms of the hospitality for the poor and forgotten which the Gospel requires us to heed. The work is plenty and the laborers are few. So pitch in wherever you can witness to the Good News. There is a lot happening in the coming months. Just look at where you can put your action to good measure…

September 9 Reunion of Leaders (St. Mary of Sorrows)
September 13 Forty Hours Devotion (St. Mary of Sorrows)
September 14-17 113th Men’s Cursillo at St. Joseph Seminary, Washington
September 17 Catechetical Sunday
SOCIAL JUSTICE U, Virginia Interfaith Center for Public
Policy/NoVA Region (@St. Charles, 2:30 – 5 PM)
September 17 OLQP JustFAITH Kick-off and Orientation
September 21 UN International Day of Peace
September 30 Arlington Diocese Peace & Justice 3rd annual conference
Environmental Justice (St. Francis of Assisi, Triangle, 8:45 AM)
October Respect Life Month
Hispanic Heritage Month
Domestic Violence Awareness Month
October 4 Feast of St Francis of Assisi – Patron of Environment
October 7 Reunion of Leaders
October 20 Region II Encounter
October 21/22 National Weekend of FAITH IN ACTION on the Death Penalty
October 22 Mission Sunday {Charity: Soul of the Mission}
Several October Dates Journey of Hope (
October 28 National Make a Difference Day
November 2 122 Women’s Cursillo
November 4 Reunion of Leaders
November 18 Fannie Mae annual Help the Homeless Walk
November 18/19 Catholic Campaign for Human Development
December 1 World AIDS Awareness Day
December 2 Anniversary of death of 4 US Churchwomen in El Salvador
December 6 Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy annual
Gathering in Richmond – James Garbarino, Keynote
December 10 International Human Rights Day
January 22 March for Life
January 29 Catholic Advocacy Day in Richmond

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

For You Know How to Imitate Us August 30

For you know how one must imitate us. For we did not act in a disorderly way among you, nor did we eat food received free from anyone. On the contrary, in toil and drudgery, night and day we worked, so as not to burden any of you.
2 Thessalonians 3:7-8


Jesus, loving friend of all people, bring our faith to a deeper level than just sloganeering and thought-provoking bumper stickers. While we do need some easy to remember passages to “know the way, go the way, show the way,” help us to use these to reform and transform our lives in ways that live up to the piety, study and action that you require in each of us.

We know that You are the Model. Help us to imitate You, night and day, through our hard work and toil to make your Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven. Deliver us from evil and grant us peace today. Amen.


If the end of the world is upon us, then why not eat dessert first? In essence, why not collect your reward before – or even without – any work involved?

St. Paul warns against this kind of behavior. In his day, because some people already thought that the “second coming” was at hand, that they did not have to work. This kind of “lazy” behavior was shunned and warned against in 2 Thessalonians. For you know how one must imitate us.

According to the popular hymn, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” The principle of active love of the poor and the weak as preached in Matthew 25 – working for the common good – springs forth from society and is described in the Acts of the Apostles.

Instead of begging for food until the end of the world, the disciples instead taught that society should be based upon each working according to their ability and providing to those according to their need. So the weak would be provided for by the work of those who were more able. As we read in Acts 2: 42-47:

They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one's need.

Acts 4:32-35 goes on to describe the lifestyle of the day.

The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.

Those who had the ability would work hard, night and day, in order not to be a burden and to provide for those in the community who were weak, sick, frail or elderly. Even kings of the day were measured by how they would care for the “anawim,” the widows, orphans, the poor and the stranger.

Driven by the love of God, Jesus, through the words written by St. Paul, challenges us to imitate His active love. Rev. Fred Kammer, S.J. writes in Doing Faithjustice (an introductory book in the JustFaith class) that this was Jesus’ driving passion. God was no longer remote like in ancient Hebrew society, but walked among us. Our challenge is to recognize that and aid those least among us who are made in God’s image.

Jesus understands God’s Will by taking his listeners back to the first chapter of Genesis: to the goodness and giftedness of the earth; to stewardship of creation; to a creation-sharing community in which God dwells; and to personal responsibility for the little ones.[1]

We see this prophesy rooted in Isaiah 42:1-4.

Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, Upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
Not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street.

A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
Until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

It is then fulfilled in Jesus as he begins his public ministry in Luke 4:18-19.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.


The responsibility to fulfill this mission of active love falls to all of us. We must be true to its call. St. Matthew relates Jesus’ harsh words for the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. As the notes in the NAB point out:

While the tradition of a deep opposition between Jesus and the Pharisees is well founded, this speech reflects an opposition that goes beyond that of Jesus' ministry and must be seen as expressing the bitter conflict between Pharisaic Judaism and the church of Matthew at the time when the gospel was composed...The evangelist discerns in his church many of the same faults that he finds in its opponents and warns his fellow Christians to look to their own conduct and attitudes.[2]

Is there a message to us in today’s Gospel? What is Matthew saying to us about the commitment and consistency of our action? Can we escape the charge of hypocrisy and evil-doing while thousands die of hunger every day? Can we fulfill our inherent moral obligation – and the strategic self-interest it also provides for rich nations like ours – to end poverty as we know it and make the world safer and more prosperous for all?

[1] Kammer, Fred, SJ. Doing Faithjustice. New York: Paulist Press, 2004. Page 61

Encourage Our Hearts August 29

Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. Mark 6: 20


Let us pray: God, source of all being, do not let this world deceive us or shake us from our resolve to follow you. May we have the strength of John the Baptist to go out into the world and proclaim the Good News, no matter what the consequences. Support those in missionary service where the risks are much greater than they are for us. May Jesus Christ, in loving and encouraging friendship with us, encourage our hearts and strengthen them in every good word and deed. Deliver us from evil and grant us peace today. Amen.


John the Baptist did not hesitate to speak “truth to power.” He knew that God spoke with constancy and equity to all people, no matter the apparent place in society or civil rank.

On August 9, the 61st anniversary of the U.S. nuclear bombing of Nagasaki, as well as the anniversary of the martyrdom of Franz Jagerstatter (the Austrian Catholic father of three who was beheaded for refusing to serve in Hitler's army), about 20 members of the Atlantic Life Community held a nonviolent witness at the Pentagon. Holding photos of burnt bodies and the destruction caused by the U.S. plutonium bomb dropped on Nagasaki, the Sermon on the Mount was read and prayers were offered remembering the victims of U.S. war making – past and present—from Hiroshima and Nagasaski to Vietnam, from Central America to Iraq. Five people were arrested at the southwest pedestrian bridge entrance of the Pentagon.

Four were charged with failure to obey a lawful order and one was charged with disorderly conduct. These people were there to witness to God's law and International law doing what they could to bear witness to the truth. (Court dates are set for Sept. 22 in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, VA.)

Based on the Gospel of Life, were they acting like John the Baptist and proclaiming the everlasting message of constancy and equity in God’s love for all the people of the world?


Is there an injustice – war, abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, racial discrimination, or other issue – that calls you to speak out, to send a message of “truth to power?”

Perhaps today's anniversary of Hurricane Katrina does that for you. How do you feel about this anniversary of Hurricane Katrina when so many people – especially the poor – remain displaced from their homes?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

May Your Faith Flourish August 28

by Beth De Cristofaro


Let us pray: God of Creation, God of my mothers, God of rainbows and meteor showers, help me today speak, act and think only for your Glory. Help me, as you helped St. Augustine to put aside those things which keep me from you. Help me “not speak evil of anyone,” as St. Augustine sought to do each day. Help me learn, help me love, help me reach out to others. Help me my walk in the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


There are so many ways to pray. Humans want so much to experience God.

Tibetan Monks construct detailed, fragile sand paintings which are “then destroyed by lamas to heal and bless the environment and all living beings.”

Sr. Jose Hobday writes about Native American prayer: life as prayer, prayer as life. Her mother told the young Sr. Jose: “When you stir oatmeal, stir it slowly so you don’t forget that oatmeal is a gift and that you don’t take it for granted.”

Jesus often sought seclusion and silence. Matthew 13:14 When Jesus heard of (the execution of John the Baptist) he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.

In Exodus 15:20-21 “The prophetess Miriam, Aaron's sister, took a tambourine in her hand, while all the women went out after her with tambourines, dancing; and she led them in the refrain: Sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant; horse and chariot he has cast into the sea.”

Poem prayers are in Song of Songs 2:2-4

As a lily among thorns, so is my beloved among women.

As an apple tree among the trees of the woods,
so is my lover among men.

I delight to rest in his shadow,
and his fruit is sweet to my mouth.
He brings me into the banquet hall

and his emblem over me is love.

Walking a labyrinth such as in Chartres Cathedral at Chartres, France, is prayer, medi-tation, pilgrimage, journey, entering sacred space. The Benedictine Monastery in Bristow, VA, has constructed a labyrinth, open to the public, on their beautiful grounds.

We have the many wonderful rituals of the Church: Eucharistic Adoration, Stations of the Cross, the Rosary, and, of course, the celebration of Eucharist in the Mass.

Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians, prays his thanks for a persecuted congregation. He prays that they will continue to be worthy of God’s calling and that Jesus will be glorified in the continued steadfastness of the community. It is interesting that he does not pray that they will be delivered from all mistreatment.

Jesus rebukes the scribes and Pharisees by pointing out that they put obstacles in the way of prayer. What is most important: the details, the formulas, the form of prayer or the object of prayer? In some ways we hear similar words used in Luke 5:32 "Can you make the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? The rules missed the point and held back those who truly sought to converse with God.

We always pray for you that our God may make you worthy of his calling and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith, that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, in accord with the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thess)

Paul thinks that it was possible for the Thessalonians. He most likely thinks that it is possible now for us.


We have so many opportunities to open ourselves and welcome God into ourselves. We rightly pray for the safekeeping and return of our troops from overseas. Do we pray that each action of the troops show the glory of God? We pray for help with our day-to-day, often complicated, decisions. Do we also hope and pray that we may made worthy of his calling and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith, that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him. (2 Thess).

What is your favorite way to pray? Post an answer in the comments section...

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Why Do We Serve the Lord August 27


The Lord had a job for me...
...but I have so much to do,
You'd better get somebody else...
...or wait til' I get through.

Now, I don't know how the Lord came out...
...I guess He got along,
But I felt kind of "sneaky-like"...
...because I knew I had done Him wrong.

Now, one day, I needed the Lord myself...
...and I needed Him right away,
But He never answered me a word...
...except I could hear Him say.

Deep down in My Hurt Heart...
..."you've" got so much to do,
You'd better get somebody else...
...or wait til' "I" get through.

Now, when the Lord has a job for me...
...I try not to shirk,
I quit the work I have to do...
...and do the Good Lord's Work.

My work can just shift along...
...or wait til' I get through,
Because no one can do the job...
...that the Lord Lays out for you!

From Anita Sanders and her Grandmother


Why Do We Serve the Lord?
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

Why do we serve the Lord? Can we count the ways? God calls us by the example of Jesus and all the saints in our lives. He speaks to our hearts. Wherever there is love God is there. Creation is the template of his love. The wonder of the stars calls us to admire a love that goes back billions of years. He loved us in our mothers' wombs. He called us out of darkness into the brilliant light of his Son. He gathers us together to witness to great miracles of how he guides us and saves us.

Just as the Hebrew people were called to serve the Lord, we are called to serve the Lord, because he is our God.

Saint Paul turns off a lot of women because he says wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. How can that be a bad thing when husbands are asked to love their wives as their own bodies? The challenge for husbands is to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. This means Christ as the head sees the people of the Church as his own body. He gives his life for us. So a husband is challenged to love his wife as Christ loved the Church. Husband and wife become one body and mutually sanctify each other. They mutually give their lives for each other.

Our gospel today brings the lesson of oneness home. Christ challenges us to eat of his body and to drink of his blood. The meaning is clear. He wants to be eaten by us. And he gives us his life so that we might be in him even as he is in us. The challenge of oneness permeates life. We see disciples leaving him because they know he means what he is saying.

Peter and the others did not understand any better what Christ was saying. They believed he meant what he was saying and because they recognized Christ as the Holy One of God, they knew they wanted to believe what he was saying. They had no where else to go. We serve the Lord because he is our God. He loves us in every breath of our lives and he wants all of us even as he would give us all of himself. The ideal of communion would be to feed on Christ every day of our lives. We serve the Lord by being a fullness of Christ to each other.


Sometimes the message from Jesus is not only hard for us to get it was hard for the disciples. Some strong believers today remain willing to lose their freedom for their faith beliefs just ilke the disciples did.

Six Catholic bishops remained jailed in China for refusing to back a state-sponsored church. This week, one other bishop was freed in a good sign that maybe the Chinese government will recognize freedom of religion.

According to a story by Reuters, “religion has flourished in China since economic reforms were launched in the late 1970s, but the nation's Communist rulers insist all faiths remain firmly in the grip of the state.” The story went on to estimate that the Vatican claims 8 million followers in China, compared with about 5 million who follow the state-backed church.

These faithful in China were not afraid to serve the Lord even if it meant that they could lose their freedom in the same way that Saints Peter, Paul and other early Christians were jailed by the Romans for their faith.

Sometimes, we hear of people in this country, like the Plowshares activists, who challenge state policies and face arrest and imprisonment in trying to forge a more peaceful and less violent society.

The Chinese bishops and the Plowshares activists show us examples of people willing to serve the Lord despite the costs.

What would you be willing to give up in order to make the Kingdom of Heaven come alive? Your freedom? Maybe you are not called to experience jail for the Lord. However, as Anita reminds us, "No one can do the job that the Lord lays out for you."

Humilty, Listening and the Servant Leader August 26

This is where I will set the soles of my feet. Ezekiel 43:7

The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;but whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Matthew 23:12


Let us pray: Jesus, thank you for coming to walk with us. Help us to recognize you in our midst on our proverbial walk to Emmaus. Strike from us any sense of pride so that we can be more like you – a leader showing us the way, the truth and the life through the eyes of a humble Jewish carpenter. Deliver us from evil and grant us peace today. Amen


In the first reading, Ezekiel shares his vision of the angels telling how God will be humbled and will walk on earth with his children. Paired with this is the familiar Gospel story of Jesus once again at odds with the Pharisees. He warns the disciples to do as they say, not as they do because of their false piety. As related by St. Matthew, Jesus forbids not only the titles like Rabbi, Master and Father, but also the spirit of superiority and pride that is shown by the acceptance of such titles.

This is just the latest example of Jesus was turning the tables figuratively and literally on the power structure and the powerful people of society in his day.

Today, we not only encounter the power structure at work, but in all our associations. From the PTA president to the CEO, from the airport security guard to the head of the Northern Virginia Swim League, hierarchies are all around us. Many times if we want to serve, it won’t be long until we also are asked to lead either a committee or the whole organization.

How should we handle such positions? Ezekiel and Matthew points us to the path to servant leadership. They outline a humble leader who cares for his children so much so that he will walk among them rather than expect them to bow down to the leader’s wishes. Such a leader won’t ask people to do what the leader will not do herself or himself.

Even further, Jesus doesn’t just want to walk with us, he wants to be within us…to dwell in our very bodies, minds, hearts and souls. When we open our world and our selves fully to Jesus, we will see the words of the Psalm come to life:

Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven.


Servant leaders are leaders who listen. This week, there was news of a significant step in Boston by one of the true emerging servant leaders of the Church. Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley recently met with the leaders of the group Voice of the Faithful for a discussion. Voice of the Faithful is a reform group that began in Boston when the clergy scandal of 2002 began to break. It now claims 30,000 members nationwide yet is banned in some diocese, including Boston, from meeting in parishes.

The dialogue was significant not only for its content which has been reported in some Catholic news services, but also because it happened at all. Cardinal O’Malley has shown a strong example of a leader who is not afraid to meet with some of his areas most vocal critics.

Ten years after Chicago Cardinal Joseph Bernardin and others founded the Catholic Common Ground Initiative, we are facing the need for more dialogue, not just debate on critical issues like immigration reform, the death penalty and more. “Listening has to be an essential ingredient in relationships within the church, just as it must be in all healthy relationships,” according to Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, N.M. speaking in Chicago recently and quoted in the National Catholic Reporter.

“The past 10 years have given me a privileged place where I have met people, some with very critical views of the church, who yet possess a passionate regard and deep love for the church,” he said. “I have come to respect them and have concluded that they are critical precisely because they love that church family to which they belong,” according to the text released by Catholic News Service.

Listening is the necessary foundation for relationships with God and one another, Ramirez said. “Real listening is one of the greatest gifts we can give to another person. Listening is healing; it establishes lasting relationships; it gives substance to words of love and friendship; it heals and allows us to grow in our knowledge of ourselves, of others and of God.”

Where is there room for listening in your servant-leadership life? What critics do you have to sit down and meet with?

Friday, August 25, 2006

God is Love August 25

I will put my spirit in you that you may live. Ezekiel 37:13

You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:37-39

Let us prayer: God, you are love incarnate. Help us to be a mirror that reflects that love back onto you and also onto everything and everyone we encounter. Help us to make spending time with you our Ideal so that our lives filled with Piety, Study and Action might lead us to be the instruments of your love.

Be with the team for the 113th Cursillo as they prepare through Talk Day tomorrow to carry your way, your truth and your light to the candidates who will be on the weekend September 14-17. Guide their work so it, too, is an instrument of your love.

Deliver us from evil and grant us peace today. Amen.


Imagine a circle. All things start and end with God.

God made us and loves us. There is nothing about us that God doesn’t know and love. But what are we to do about God? Throughout the Good News, people come up to Jesus and ask what they need to do to get life everlasting and Jesus freely tells them the way.

If God so loved the world that He sent His only son, not to judge us but to save us, then what are we to do?

1) Come to know God fully and completely. Just as we get to know or neighbor by spending time with them, spend time with the Lord in prayer and study. Our efforts will be incomplete if we do not engage our total person -- heart, soul, mind.
2) But that’s not all. Just as God loves us, we also need to direct our love both back to God and also to all that God created – our neighbors, our enemies, and the world in which we live.

How do we stay in God’s good graces? “Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.” (John 15:9-10) It all comes right back to God who provides a circle of love that surrounds us and all we do and gives us the ability to love others and accept God’s love and the love of our neighbors in return.

“God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16). Deus Caritas Est. How appropriate that the first encyclical from Pope Benedict XVI focused on this cornerstone of our faith and our life. As Pope Benedict taught us in that letter, “Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 John 4:10), love is now no longer a mere ‘command’; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us.”


Easier said than done…as always. The society in which we live hands us a daily struggle between doing what is right for the common good or advancing our own personal situation. This brings us right back to the principles of Catholic Social Teaching where first and foremost, we are called to work for the common good. We have been given the tools we need to fulfill this second part of the commandment because God put His spirit within us so that we might live (Ezekiel 14), and that is a spirit of love.

How can we work for the common good today? You can some great ideas from two places.

First, read Pope Benedict’s Encyclical. This letter connects many of the scriptural readings we have encountered in recent weeks. It goes on to details that the responsibility for charity is a requirement of our faith. You can find the letter on the internet at

Second, the cover story in the National Catholic Reporter this week is on the common good and how we can carry it out in policy decisions that are consistent with Church teachings.

Cover story:

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Come and See


Suspice of Ignatius

Let us pray. Take Lord, receive, all my liberty. My memory, understanding, my entire will, Whatsoever I have and possess. Thou hast given all these things toMe – to thee O Lord, I restore them. All are thine – dispose of them according to thy will. Give me only your love, and your grace, for that is enough for me. Deliver us from evil and grant us peace today. Amen.


God meets man and man is astounded.

Imagine for a minute, that Nathaniel is you. You best friend, Phillip, comes to you with a sure thing. Barbaro will win the Triple Crown. Apple stock will quadruple in value. A group of fuzzy haired singers from Liverpool England will light the music world on fire while a hip-shaking singer from Memphis has the teenagers screaming.

Yeah? Right? Our skeptical minds would be working overtime. If this deal is so good, why don’t you keep it for yourself?

But, because Phillip is a generous friend, we go along and check out this vision only to find that it is the Real Deal. And it promises to get even better. Hard to believe? Not when it’s Jesus, the Real Deal of the Good News.

In the Hebrew Bible, Jacob saw a ladder connecting heaven and earth. Nathaniel knows all about Jacob’s vision and now he hears that he will have a similar experience. “You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

In the reading from the Book of Revelation, we learn that the Lord “took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It gleamed with the splendor of God. Its radiance was like that of a precious stone, like jasper, clear as crystal.”

Jesus promises Nathaniel and us a chance to experience heaven, to experience His great vision. “Come and see.” Nathanial accepts the invitation. Will you? Or do you still think it’s too good to be true?

Nathanial did indeed see greater things. He was one of those to whom Jesus appeared after the Crucifixion. Jesus appeared on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias after his resurrection (John 21:1-14). The disciples had retreated into their comfort zone as fishermen after the fear they experienced when Jesus was executed. They had been fishing all night without success. In the morning, they saw someone standing on the shore though no one knew it was Jesus. He told them to cast their net again, and they made so great a catch that they could not haul the net in. Then John cried out to Peter, “It is the Lord.”

When the disciples brought the boat to shore, they found a fire burning, with some fish laid on it and some bread. Jesus asked them to bring some of the fish they had caught, and invited them to come and eat their meal. Nathaniel was indeed one of the first hand witnesses to the resurrection.

The American Catholic web site reminds us that this reading confronts us again with the fact that we know almost nothing about most of the apostles. Yet the unknown ones were also foundation stones, the 12 pillars of the new Israel whose 12 tribes now encompass the whole earth. Their personalities were secondary (without thereby being demeaned) to their great office of bearing tradition from their firsthand experience, speaking in the name of Jesus, putting the Word made flesh into human words for the enlightenment of the world. Their holiness was not an introverted contemplation of their status before God. It was a gift that they had to share with others. The Good News was that all are called to the holiness of being Christ’s members, by the gracious gift of God.

The simple fact is that humanity is totally meaningless unless God is its total concern. Then humanity, made holy with God’s own holiness, becomes the most precious creation of God.[1]


Just as Nathaniel is invited to “Come and See,” so are we. We don’t have to go to the Middle East like the Christian Peacemaking Team or the Peace Corps or other experience. We just have to be willing to see the face of Jesus in the people we meet and make God’s will our own.

Nathaniel did not cut and run saying he had better things to do. Instead, he stayed and because of him, we have another eyewitness to history.

Who can you better serve if you stand by their side?


Are You Envious Becuase I am Generous August 23

Are you envious because I am generous? Matthew 20:15

I myself will look after and tend my sheep. Ezekiel 34:11


Let us pray. When I am idle, come to me and give me work to do. Help me to learn to be a good worker and a good manager, working for the common good, treating all persons with the dignity you exhibit, and dealing with them generously. Help me to see your face in all the people I encounter today. By my actions, let me show you that you can trust me, like Peter, to tend your sheep. Deliver us from evil and grant us peace today. Amen.


Work as a theme runs throughout the Bible. We encounter shepherds, carpenters, vineyard owners, landowners, soldiers, kings, and more who were all going about their work in this world when they encountered the Lord.

If the Bible were being written today, wouldn’t we all want a boss like Jesus and today's landowner if we were the last workers hired?

Today, we live in an era where the last workers hired are usually the first to go in a layoff. Or a corporate restructuring. Or a downsizing. Or competitive outsourcing. We can fill up our dictionary with euphemisms but in the end, the worker loses.

Jesus as CEO also would protect us from corporate greed and excessive salaries paid to a few at the top while workers and shareholders get little. Jesus as CEO would never let his firm turn into an Arthur Andersen, Enron, Worldcom or any of the other examples of greed we have witnessed in recent years.

As parents, managers, workers and children of God, we are challenged every day to live lives according to the teachings of Jesus and the Church. The challenge is that these are not always easy to follow. Jesus today shows us the way of putting Catholic Social Teaching to work in everyday jobs.

The teaching in the parable of the landowner connects directly to the principles of Catholic social teaching. The foundational principle is the common good based on the understanding in Catholic social thought that persons are created as social beings, always in interrelationship and interdependence with others. Jesus hires all the workers he can.

Catholic social thought also promotes the dignity of every human being, as each is made in the image and likeness of God, but this dignity always needs to be seen in relationship to the promotion of the common good. Jesus pays them equally.

Human dignity grounds and is protected by a spectrum of human rights and corresponding duties. This principle of the correlation of rights and duties promotes just living conditions for all as well as the dignity of work and the rights of workers. The generous pay allows each worker to have just living conditions.

Many persons, though, are marginalized in our society and all are called to make an option for the poor, keeping those who are economically poor in the forefront of our minds in all decision-making. Jesus’ landowner keeps the unemployed foremost in his concern. Every time he goes back to the village, he hires those who are idle.

Maybe you think this kind of company won’t succeed today in this era of getting ahead at all costs and beating the competition. Maybe not. But when we read Ezekiel, we see that the Lord was critical of workers who lost sight of their responsibilities. Jesus wanted a change. So Jesus took over tending his sheep.

As Peter Maurin, one of the founders of the Catholic Worker movement wrote in his ironically titled “Easy Essays:” "I want a change, and a radical change. I want a changefrom an acquisitive society to a functional society, from a society of go-getters to a society of go-givers."


Can you deal with people like Jesus would if he were at your work today? It doesn’t matter if you workplace is home-based, school-based, factory-based, or office based. If you repair roads or repair roofs, work in a mall, store or hospital.

If Jesus were the boss, what would he do differently?

If you saw Jesus face in the face of your employees, how would you treat them differently?

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Last Shall Be First August 22

“Surely, the LORD shall do justice for his people;on his servants he shall have pity.” Deuteronomy 32:36

“But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” Matthew 19:30


Let us pray: Jesus, please do not bring us to ruin for our ingratitude and inaction. Have pity on us for our lack of understanding of your mission and our role in its fulfillment. Give us a strong sense of humility so that we can take comfort in being last before you, because it is still a position before you. Deliver us from evil and grant us peace today. Amen.


Today’s readings do not give us comfort. Today’s readings prepare us for lives turned upside down and re-ordered before the Lord.

Ezekiel brings to light the conflict between man assuming he has God-like power over the world. He issues a wake-up call that brings us face to face with death when we assume the position of God.

St. Matthew takes a giant leap beyond that supplanting Man’s will with God’s will. In our measured society, Matthew reverses the order of the race. It’s not the Hummer that conquers the world. Its the Citroen 2CV.

Think how we have secularized God…we use God to enhance our position. We use God to get elected to political office. We use God to build networks. We claim God backs our money and our culture. We claim God is on the side of us in war and in peace, and even in football games.

Do we really think God is there guiding a Doug Flutie pass into the hands of the Gerard Phelan? Don’t we prefer to think that God might be up all night with more pressing problems on her mind? Can’t you just see God “up there” tsk-tsking us for our brash behavior?

The famous quote by Abraham Lincoln comes to mind when I read today’s warning from Ezekiel: “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right.”

It also brings to mind Nelson Mandela’s inaugural speech on our responsibilities to respond to the gifts we have been given by God. Of course, this took place after Mandela served 27 years in prison for resisting the apartheid government of South Africa.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

We can not ignore the gifts we get from God. We must use them. But we also must remember where they came from and not lose sight that they can be taken away as swiftly as they were granted.


McDonald's is giving away toy Hummers with every Happy Meal. They’re pushing the fun of driving a super-sized, smog-spewing, gas-guzzling SUV originally built for the military on our children and grandchildren. What are we to think about this? Misguided marriage of American excess and American excess?

Is this the best use of our gifts? Is this the best way to teach stewardship of God’s planet? Can we pass this up and get something better for our kids to play with??? Please.

Then Come, Follow Me August 21

“Why do you ask me about the good?... go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” Matthew 19:17,21

“You have forgotten God who gave you birth.” Deuteronomy 32:18


Let us pray: God of my fathers and God of all: help me to renew all things in Christ today. Help me see your Son in all, seek your Son in all and be your Son to all. Help me, God, to perceive that you, Son and Spirit are my wealth. I thank you in joy and awe, Amen.


Perhaps the rich, young man who confronted Jesus would have been less ready to walk away in renunciation of Jesus’ answer if he had remembered Ezekiel. God gives Ezekiel a message of death and destruction – again – for God’s chosen people. Yet look, God also has Ezekiel model some remarkable behavior.

“…but do not mourn or weep or shed any tears. Groan in silence, make no lament for the dead, bind on your turban, put your sandals on your feet, do not cover your beard…”

This ignoring of ritual is an astonishingly vivid way to state that there are some tragedies for which traditional mourning is just not enough. Silent retreat into God, not weeping, is the only answer. God laments that the chosen people will again face hardship because they have abandoned Him one more time. God is grieved when we walk away.

Jesus’ answer to the young man was hyperbole: “sell what you have.” However, His promise is not: “and you will have treasure in heaven.” God wants our hearts and in return we will reap treasure.

What investor among us wouldn’t leap at a sure thing? Most of us have invested in mutual funds, stocks, or real estate in order to insure our future or our retirement. They are far from sure things! But how hard it is to invest in this promise of Jesus! The rich young man could not see the investment potential even as he thought he wanted “eternal life.”

As the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament shows us, this is not a new request. God doesn’t tell the People, through Ezekiel, that they are all bad, degenerate and unredeemable. After all, they built a temple to God which is “the stronghold of your pride, the delight of your eyes, the desire of your soul.” Good intentioned, they lost their way amidst temptations which come before them. In Deuteronomy, the people “provoked me with their ‘no-god’ and angered me with their vain idols.”

Jesus says that “doing” good is no way to earn eternal life. We are reminded that God gave us birth; we didn’t earn our life. In the Gospel, Jesus wants the heart of this young man unencumbered by wealth which is the “no god” the “desire of his soul.” And the young man cannot or will not agree.

God finds his – and our - unwillingness to be tragic.

Pope Pius X, whose feast we celebrate today might have loved this Gospel reading. The website reads: “from St. Pius X we learn again that ‘the folly of the Cross’, simplicity of life, and humility of heart are still the highest wisdom and the indispensable conditions of a perfect Christian life, for they are the very source of all apostolic fruitfulness.”

God wants our response to be humble and loving, not calculated. Jesus’ answer to the rich young man is not an economic answer. His answer asks us to know who God is in our lives. Jesus asks that our actions and our non-actions be conscious, and driven by love, not our own ‘no-god’ agenda. Jesus wants us to give whole heartedly out of the conviction that through our giving, God gives. God’s treasure awaits us no matter how much we give of ourselves. Day to day we do not know who is a rich young man, walking away in sadness or who is an Ezekiel, modeling the presence of God. But we can, like Jesus, welcome all.


Keep the rich young man and the inviting Christ in your heart today. In each moment are you “selling what you have and following” Christ? Are your actions, reactions and non-actions filled with humility or security? Simplicity or status? Who is your neighbor? Are you the neighbor?


Beth DeCristofaro

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Taste and See August 20

“Come, eat of my food and drink of the wine I have mixed! Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding.” Proverb 9:5-6

“Understand what is the will of the Lord.” Ephesians 5:17

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven.” John 6:51


Let us pray: Lord Jesus. You did your greatest work during feasts – weddings, funerals, Passover, and more. You are the host with endless energy, you never stop sending out invitations for us to join you at your next celebration. Please send us your holy hospitality so that we might taste and see and come to know you and advance in the understanding of Your Way, Your Truth and Your Light. Deliver us from evil and grant us peace today. Amen.


Christianity is not some esoteric school of philosophy. It is not like some Ivy League college that we have to apply to, hoping to get in among the stiff competition. Christianity is right in front of us. Christianity is very tactile. We can wrap out fingers around it. Jesus is like the cook-chef on a wagon train at dinner time – he rings a dinner bell and we are invited to freely “come and get it.”

Christ is right in front of us to touch, taste and see. When we open our hands, we give Jesus a throne. When we open our mouths, we give Jesus a place to rest. When we taste and see his goodness, we give Jesus a place to dwell. In us.

We need food after all. Jesus knows that. So the Lord provides what we need. He doesn’t hang out in heaven with the angels and saints. He came to earth to become fleshy, like us. He knows what hunger is. He knows what homelessness is. He knows what it is like to be alone and feel abandoned. So, he provides for us the holy invitation to never be hungry, homeless nor alone.

In college, several of my classmates had a beautiful yet simple poster that I remember to this day. On it was pictured a loaf of bread and some wheat along with a cup of wine and some grapes. Above the picture were these simple words: “Jesus of Nazareth invites you to a dinner to be held in his honor.”

Some people will taste it and reject it. Some people will be afraid of tasting it. Some people may never hear the invitation. But today and everyday, our faith is the invitation to “taste and see.”


When the cook-chef rings that dinner bell, he serves those who worked in his field. Jesus is the same way. He gives us the living bread in exchange for the work we do in His field.

In little more than three weeks, the 113th Men’s Cursillo for the Diocese of Arlington will be held -- from September 14-17 at the Josephite Center in Washington, DC. Assistance is needed to sort “palanca,” carry luggage and help check in candidates Thursday night. In addition, a group reunion is needed to organize the Saturday night activity. As always, your attendance at the closing also is welcome.

Can you respond to any of these invitations to serve?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Return and Live August 19

“For all lives are mine; the life of the father is like the life of the son, both are mine; only the one who sins shall die.” Ezekiel 18:4

“Let the children come to me.” Matthew 19:14


Jesus, we are yours. But sometimes, we don’t act that way. Help us live lives that consistently support and respect the ethic of life in all of your creation. Jesus, if you judge each one of us according to our ways, help us to turn away from those actions that keep us from you. Give to us a new heart and a new spirit so that we may return to your Word and Works and Live! Deliver us from evil and grant us peace today. Amen.


Have you ever been to a Mass where there was a children’s Liturgy of the Word? The young children are dismissed and many practically run, others hold the hand of younger siblings to guide them. Yet how eager are they to be able to hear the Word of God in words that have meaning in their young lives. The prayers that they offer from their heart for sick or dying relatives, pets, neighbors and friends show how quickly they develop a moral compass thanks to their parents, teachers and the Church.

Can you imagine a God who doesn’t welcome the most innocent into his presence?

Adults like us need to have explicit codes of conduct so we will live justly, do right and walk humbly with our God. Ezekiel gives us one today. But our children are not responsible for our sins…except perhaps the Federal deficit that they inherit that will have to be paid off by untold generations to come.

Jesus and the prophets can’t be more explicit…the one who sins pays the price and those who turn a blind eye and refuse to offer help to save the sinner. However, innocent children are washed clean in baptism. They belong to the Lord and are attracted to him.


Is Christ Counting on You? That question was posed/posted on “Your Daily Tripod” this week by one reader of the internet column (web log/blog).

“I don't think Christ is counting on me. After all, he's GOD. There's nothing I can do that he can't take care of if I don't get to it. That would be like you counting on a ant to bring you dinner. You are far better equipped to meet your own expectations than the ant. I think Christ LOVES me and that he HELPS me, but COUNTS on me? Nah. --Posted by Edna Mae Twink to Your Daily Tripod at 8/17/2006 12:07:16 AM

According to Ezekiel, “If we are virtuous and do what is right, we shall surely live.” Christ and our neighbors will benefit from these actions of ours. Are they counting on us? Or is it that Christ is only our helper, more of a one-way street? What do you think? Post your comments on the web and that will share them for all to see. At the end of each reflection is a link to add comments.

An Everlasting Covenant August 18

"For thus speaks the Lord GOD: I will deal with you according to what you have done, you who despised your oath, breaking a covenant. Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were a girl, and I will set up an everlasting covenant with you. I pardon you for all you have done." (Ezekiel 59,60,63)

“What God has joined together, man must not separate.” Matthew 19


Let us pray: The Mighty One has done great things for us. Yet we take our inheritance and run. Lost and alone, You welcome us back. You clothe us in the finest robes You kill the fatted calf to throw us a party. You put a ring on our finger. Everything you have you give to us, even the body you take on is sacrificed for us. Yet we are an ungrateful lot. And still you forgive us.

Lord, draw us to you and keep us protected by your cloak so we will always be one with You. Deliver us from evil and grant us peace today. Amen.


In the week where we celebrated the Assumption of Mary into heaven body and soul, the readings today continue to evoke themes that are both “fleshy” yet supremely “spiritual.” The beauty of all that comes from God, the uniting of woman and man and also the uniting of the Lord and the people of God. Nothing can keep us from our God, even the greatest sins that we might commit.

What does the Lord provide? Everything. And there may not be a more beautiful passage of what the Lord bestows than we find in Ezekiel. When the Lord finds that the world has left us naked, abandoned and alone, Ezekiel describes him in ways that remind us of the father in the Prodigal Son parable, providing for us the finest clothing, food and jewelry.

So I spread the corner of my cloak over you to cover your nakedness;
I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you; you became mine, says the Lord GOD.
Then I bathed you with water, washed away your blood,and anointed you with oil.
I clothed you with an embroidered gown, put sandals of fine leather on your feet; I gave you a fine linen sash and silk robes to wear.
I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms, a necklace about your neck, a ring in your nose, pendants in your ears, and a glorious diadem upon your head.
Thus you were adorned with gold and silver; your garments were of fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth.
Fine flour, honey, and oil were your food. You were exceedingly beautiful, with the dignity of a queen.
You were renowned among the nations for your beauty, perfect as it was, because of my splendor which I had bestowed on you, says the Lord GOD.

Once we became one with the Lord – nothing we could ever do would separate us from Him. In the reading from St. Matthew, the talk is of divorce. While it is directly related to the law and how it is interpreted, we hear that line which has been repeated in wedding vows throughout the ages…what God has joined, man may not separate.

While it is easy to see that Jesus is talking about man and woman united in marriage, he also is talking about his unifying covenant with us. Nothing we can do will separate us from our God. The Lord will always pardon us and remind us of the covenant made with us from birth.


Right now, the people of the Kingdom of God in Darfur remain naked, abandoned and alone. They need the support of their brothers and sisters in the world community.

On April 30, 2006, tens of thousands of Darfur activists gathered on the National Mall in Washington to call attention to the genocide in Darfur and to demand action by the U.S. government.

The message was heard, prompting President Bush to dispatch an aide directly to the Darfur peace talks in Africa. The Darfur Peace Agreement was signed, offering a glimmer of hope that the genocide could be stopped.

But since then other events have consumed the world's attention and the Darfur genocide has fallen off the agenda.

In an effort to demonstrate a global commitment to establish a lasting peace for the people of Darfur, the Save Darfur Coalition is organizing "SAVE DARFUR NOW: Voices to Stop Genocide," a rally and concert in New York City on September 17. In addition, organizations around the world are organizing a Global Day for Darfur.

Click here for more information and to sign up to attend.

For two weeks in September, the United Nations General Assembly will meet in New York City. This is an opportunity to bring our efforts on behalf of the people of Darfur directly to the United Nations. That is why, in addition to "SAVE DARFUR NOW: Voices to Stop Genocide," the coalition will begin 10 Days of Action on September 7 leading up to September 17.

September 17 events are taking place in cities around the country and the globe all with the same goal: to show worldwide support for the people of Darfur and to put pressure on world governments to protect Darfur's innocent civilians. Can you plan to take part in one? Perhaps special palanca can be offered for the people of Darfur at the same time you pray for the men on the 113th Cursillo that weekend.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Forgive from Your Heart August 17

“I did as I was told.” Ezekial 12:7

“Forgive…from his heart.” Matthew 18:35


Let us pray: Lord, be patient with me. Your lessons sound so easy but are so difficult. I will try to do as I am told but self gets in the way of other, the individual me gets in the way of the common good. Help me to be a model of what to do, not what to avoid. Just as you forgive even when you are nailed to the cross, help me to forgive from the comfort of my air-conditioned house, behind the wheel in my power-steering and power braking car dressed up in my best summer suit. Amen.


In today’s secular culture, we are often in a tug of war between forgive me vs. give me.

Much of our culture is about getting, not about giving. Get an education., Get a job, Get a promotion. Get a house. Get a car.

And once you have all that, get a bigger one. Bigger job. Bigger car. Bigger house. Bigger bank account. Summer cottage. Winter condo. Skis. Bikes. The lists go on and on and on and on.

Everything we hear from Jesus through St. Matthew sounds easy but is so hard to accept and practice. The Word goes into our ears but it does dwell in our hearts and minds. It does not come out in our actions. Forgive from the heart. Yes. I will do that. Ha!

The spirit is willing. However, the ego is strong. If my sister or brother wronged me, they owe me. If someone gets in my way as I climb the ladder of success, then heaven help them because no mere mortal is any match for me. They’ll see what I do back to them. First I have a task list. Call my lawyer. Call the Mayor. Call the police. Protect my rights. Write to my Congressman. Call Bill O’Reilly and Lou Dobbs and complain. Send a letter to that editor.

Forgive? Not hardly. Once? Seventy-seven times?!?!!? We are more likely to accuse someone seventy-seven times rather than forgive them that much.

The Bishop’s Pastoral on the U.S. Economy states, “Followers of Christ must avoid a tragic separation between faith and everyday life…economic life is one of the chief areas where we live out our faith [and] love our neighbor.”

So, do the poor forgive us for our wealth and for the little we share? If so, then how much more should we forgive those who have sinned against us? And how about forgiving those who have sinned in ways that do not affect us while we are at it?


Who do you need to forgive? Let them know.

Who do you need to seek forgiveness from? Let them know, too.

In the midst of them August 16

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name,there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20


Let us pray: Jesus, give us the courage to speak up for you. Too often we are just like your apostles…asleep in the Garden, denying you, and out fishing. It’s hard to confront people with the truth like You did. Send us the words to gently affirm your message to others and the world and then send us the will to do it. Because we know that You never ask us to do anything that you did not do yourself, give us a loving community to support us when we need to be refreshed for the tough mission ahead. Amen.


The glory of the Lord is higher than the skies but Matthew and Ezekiel bring us back to Earth today with talk of sin and our role in correcting it.

Sin. It’s there and we have to deal with it. But today, the focus is not on our own obstacles to God's friendship but other people and our call to help them. It’s a lot easier to deal with our own personal sin through reconciliation and change. But we can’t stop there. We have a responsibility to work to change others and society.

Francis Cardinal Spellman once said, “Pray as if everything depended upon God and work as if everything depended upon man.” Note that he used the conjunction AND. We must do both.

Matthew reminds us that God responds favorably to prayer even if it is a prayer by just a small number of people. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20

What is our role as Christians? To bear witness to the truth. Our duty is to take part in the life of the church through piety, study and action that bears witness to the Good News and the duties and obligations that flow from it. This includes admonishing and correcting the sinner.

This is not an option…its at the core of our duty as Christians. Earlier in the Book of Ezekiel (3:17-21) in the Hebrew Bible, we read about our duty to speak up about injustice: I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel. When you hear a word from my mouth, you shall warn them for me. If I say to the wicked man, You shall surely die; and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his wicked conduct so that he may live: that wicked man shall die for his sin, but I will hold you responsible for his death.


We are appointed the watcher of the House of Virginia. We have a responsibility to bear witness to the truths of our faith. Not some of them. All of them.

You can request a copy of a consisten life bumper sticker from Ron Chandonia or send an e-mail to: with the Subject Line “Consistent Life Ethic Bumper Sticker.”

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

How does this happen to me? Feast of the Assumption

And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
Luke 1:43


Mother of God, help us to imitate your divine affirmation – your Yes.

In giving birth, you kept your virginity. Despite your death, you never departed from your Mission and Motherhood of us all but rejoined the Source of all life to watch over us. Stay on guard for us today and always, interceding on our behalf every time we hail your holy name, Mamma Mary, full of grace, where the Lord first dwelled in humanity, in you.

Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us who are sinners, now and at the hour of our death that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Deliver us from evil and grant us peace today. Amen.


The mighty God has done great things for us! He sent his Son, the Christ, to set the world and all creation ablaze with change to such an extent that His presence in the womb caused the infant in Elizabeth to leap with joy.

But to do that, he needed a disciple, worthy of carrying the King of Kings. So he turned to the handmaid of the lord, a lowly servant, Mary, a perfect creation, a model of obedience, who said, “Yes!” to life, to salvation and to redemption. Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will.

With Jesus, everything changes. When Christ walked among us and now dwells within us, water changes to wine, the sick are healed, the blind see and the dead (Lazarus) come back to life. However, before Christ – in and through the Eucharist – could dwell within us, He had to dwell within Mary’s womb.

Mary, through her complete adherence to the Father’s will, cooperated fully with Jesus and how he changed the world. With Jesus, she formed the ultimate Group Reunion of infinite love and support. As such, she is the model of the Ideal talk to which we imperfectly aspire. She advises us to this day to "Do whatever he tells you." (John 2:5)

The Canticle of Mary in today’s Good News from St. Luke declares that message of change publicly.

The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever. (Luke 1:49-55)

Mary is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world. She shines forth on earth until the end of time as a sign of hope and comfort to pilgrims on their daily journey of piety, study and action.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened, upon the request of St. Thomas, was found empty; wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven.[1] Therefore, as practical Catholics, we believe that Mary is wholly united with her son in birth and in life, in nurturing the Church and in her Assumption. “When the course of her earthly life was finished, she was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.”[2]

The Assumption that we celebrate in today’s Mass “is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians.” Just as she conceived the living God, she will deliver our souls from death by her intercession with God.


How does Mary come to us today? How does her faith, hope and obedience become real in our lives?

I imagine Mary has shed a few tears recently on our behalf as she remains involved with our redemption despite our far too frequent turn to the false promise of redemptive violence.

As Queen of Peace, we celebrate her Assumption on a day when a fragile cease fire has begun to take hold in the Holy Land where she walked. I imagine that she is frustrated, like retired Cardinal McCarrick, visiting Lebanon earlier this month, at the slow progress of humanitarian aid to those in the midst of the war zone between Southern Lebanon and Northern Israel. “The world must do something.”

As a refugee in Egypt with Joseph and their infant son, she teaches us to welcome the stranger in our midst. I imagine she is hurt by the talk which would build fences between her children because her love and the love of her Son have no boundaries.

Invite Mary into your life today with a decade of the Sorrowful Mysteries. She shares in Christ’s anguish in the garden, the pain and suffering at being flogged at the pillar, the humility of the crown of thorns, the burden of the cross and the death by crucifixion. She met Him along the way and stood at the foot of the cross to behold us as her children. She will share your pains and comfort you like a mother.

[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 966

Monday, August 14, 2006

God's Name Alone is Exalted August 14


Let us pray: Thank you, God of all. Thank you for the beauty of the earth. Thank you for lifting me up close to you and calling me to yourself. Thank you for giving me friends in Cursillo and friends in spirit like Maximillian Kolbe. Thank you for filling my spirit with your grandeur. Thank you, God, that I might share you with those I meet today. Thank you, God for helping me bring a friend to you.


"From whom do the kings of the earth take tolls or census tax? From their subjects or from foreigners?” When he said, “From foreigners,” Jesus said to him, “Then the subjects are exempt."

God knows his own: foreigners or subjects. In the Old Testament readings we see images of God which raise our awe, our incredulousness. This God is almost beyond imagining. We are all called (Let the kings of the earth and all peoples, the princes and all the judges of the earth, Young men too, and maidens, old men and boys, Praise the name of the LORD,) to know and follow God alone, for his name alone is exalted. There is joy in knowing and praising the One God. We are called to praise joyfully and fully.

Then a somber note is sounded in the Gospel. Jesus, again, is not recognized by the world. In fact, rather than offered praise, He will be subjected to torture and death. His disciples are rightly grieved but they are mistaken in that they do not recognize the bigger picture: He is their friend, their teacher but He is so much more and he cannot be overcome by human machinations. They are His subjects and they will receive the joy and gladness He offers to His own. He knows them.

In Jesus’ day, the Jews were “foreigners” to the occupying forces of the Roman empire. Hence they are subject to the taxes. Jesus calls to us to realize to whom we are truly “subjects”. Today is the memorial of St. Maximillian Kolbe. During World War II, Fr. Kolbe was one of many “foreigners” imprisoned by the occupying Nazi’s. He offered to take the place of a man chosen to be executed by the guards at Auschwitz. He was captive yet not subject to the Nazis. God called him to courage and he, filled with faith and love, paid the human price of martyrdom. God knew Fr. Maximillian as His own.

There are supernatural, breathtaking and awesome elements to these descriptions of God and of God’s son but there are also homey, every-day elements in Jesus’ conversation with his disciples. A census tax. Not supernatural. Rather mundane and part of every government since the first homo erectus picked up a club and put a laurel leaf wreath on his own head. We live in the mundane, the everyday. The mundane is colored, highlighted and given grandeur by the reality of God and the presence of Jesus. Are we able to see, experience and share moments of Jesus in our lives?

To what are we called? At what do we point to in our lives and know that we are, indeed, joy filled, awe-struck and faith-inspired subjects of God? Can we pay the taxes expected of us as foreigners without losing our real identity and losing sight of where our real homage, attention, action and joy should be? To what are we paying attention instead of looking for the face of God? To what are we subject: vanity about our looks? blind, unquestioning patriotism? acquiring more of and the best of things? ambition in our career at the expense of family and friends? comfort at the expense of our environment and the needs of others?


If you have to “pay a tax” today, do so cheerfully. Look for the opportunity to do something unbidden and unrecognized for someone else.


Beth DeCristofaro

Sunday, August 13, 2006

I am the bread of life August 13

I am the bread of life. John 6:48


Let us pray: Help us this day and every day to taste and see Your infinite goodness, Jesus. When we seek your Bread of Life and make it a part of our being, we know that You will answer us and calm all our fears no matter how weak we are in body, mind, or faith.

Let us then be imitators of you. Filled with Your spiritual nourishment, help us to share this meal with others as You and Your angel shared manna with Elijah to strengthen him for his journey. In this sharing palanca, we will support each other for their journeys each week especially in our small group reunion meetings and by leading others to share in the upcoming weekends for men and women in the fall.

Deliver us from evil and grant us peace today. Amen.

Living Bread
By Rev. Joe McCLoskey, S.J.

Years ago someone gave me the last piece of bread they had in their house. I was deeply touched by their generosity. I suppose I am still trying to say my thanks.

How much of our lives we share with others is learnt behavior. The Jews ask, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?

Do we not know his father and mother? Jesus points out that no one can come to him unless the Father draws him. Jesus claims he is the bread from heaven. If we eat of his body and drink of his blood, Jesus promises us we will live forever. Jesus is offering his very self to us that we might have his life. His gift is so much more than a single piece of bread. I can not forget. His gift is His very life.

Jesus would live in us even as we would live in him. The mystery of love is in how the total gift of self is given to the other. If we love Jesus we will keep the commandments. The invitation of his love is to live in him. But we must love one another as he has loved us. The challenge of Eucharist is in how well we give our lives for each other.

We are called to make Eucharist out of our lives. Time and energy measure how much of ourselves we give. The Jews thought they knew Christ even as we might think we know each other. But life is a being with another when love is shared. The call to be living bread is to be with Christ forever. I must live his life and be his life and share his life now and forever.


The enormity and scope of the recovery in New Orleans reveals itself everyday.

When you head to the doctor, think about the conditions in Louisiana. According to a report on Friday, nearly a year after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the city still faces a shortage of doctors, nurses and hospital beds for the most vulnerable: the poor, the uninsured and those who are grappling with mental illness and substance abuse.

Most of us are not doctors or nurses and can’t move to New Orleans to fill in the shortage. However, we can make a contribution to a variety of clinics and charities in New Orleans which deal with health care for the poor. Your “manna” can give people strength for the continued task of rebuilding. Here are just a few of them:
Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans 504-371-7747
Children’s Bureau of New Orleans 504-525-2366
Covenant House, New Orleans (which is housing the Tulane Free Clinic) (504) 584-1111
Odyssey House Louisiana, Inc. 504-821-9211
Visiting Nurses Association of Greater New Orleans, Inc. 504-837-0377

Friday, August 11, 2006

Say to This Mountain

Why, then, do you gaze on the faithless in silence while the wicked man devours one more just than himself? Habakkuk 1:13

“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20


Let us pray: Lord, help me to move this mountain. Deliver us from evil and grant us peace today. Amen.


Two questions arise today:

First, in the reading from Habakkuk, we see the original statement of that popular 1980s book title, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” If they have faith, shouldn’t God protect his children better than he does? If they believe, they will receive God’s love. No?

Second, why is the need for even a little faith, prayer and fasting among the leaders even a greater need than among the people? It seems that the leaders do not even have a little faith. If they had just a little, the size of a mustard seed, then they could move mountains. But, alas, they don’t even seem to have that much.

After readings from many of the Major Prophets lately (Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Micah), the First Readings take a short detour to some of the much shorter books in the Hebrew Bible. Yesterday the short 21 verses of Nahum. Today Habakkuk.

Habakkuk is significant because this may be the first instance in Jewish history in which a follower questions God directly. They couldn’t even call God by name let alone address God directly. It’s almost like we are witnessing a press conference or media interview with God.

Reporter: “Why, then, do you gaze on the faithless in silence while the wicked man devours one more just than himself?” Why do bad things happen to good people?

God: “The rash man has no integrity; but the just man, because of his faith, shall live.” (Habakkuk 2:4)

Although we’ll never really know if that’s the last word answering this cry of the poor because as Graham Greene wrote, “You can't conceive, nor can I, the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God.”


What do you cry out to God about? Has it included the war in Lebanon?

If we have wanted to move mountains about the unprovoked violence from Hezbollah against Israel and the seemingly disproportionate response from the Jewish state, our “cry” has finally been heard. It seems.

While the warring parties are still far from peace, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Friday that calls for a halt to the fighting and authorizes the deployment of foreign troops to help the Lebanese army take back its lands in southern Lebanon.

While much work needs to be done to enforce this resolution, it is a giant step in the direction that the Vatican and U.S. Bishops have been urging.

As a resolution, it is sad that this alone will not immediately end the acts of violence. Plus, it is sad that the mountain of the international community did not act sooner. Maybe that is evidence that we still lack faith the size of a mustard seed.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Repay Each Accordingly August 11

“He will repay each according to his conduct.” Matthew 16:27


Let us pray: Take from me Father, all that keeps me from you.
Give to me Jesus all that leads me to you.
Set me free Holy Spirit, that I might give my life for you.
Deliver us from evil and grant us peace today. Amen.


Today, Jesus is very active in his teaching…proposing three alternative commandments.

1) Deny yourself
2) Take up His (Jesus’) cross
3) Follow Jesus

All the piety and study in the world will not save us unless we get off our duff and do what the Lord asks us to do. Right conduct will lead the Lord to repay us.

What right conduct does Jesus ask of you and me? He asks us to show a readiness to follow even to the extent of giving up one's life for him. That is the condition for true discipleship. We will be rewarded for this action at the final judgment. This action is to take up your cross whatever that sacrifice might be.

In following Jesus, he asks us to deny ourselves. To deny someone is to disown him and to deny oneself is to disown oneself as the center of one's existence. This allows us to give up our life and our ego and our stuff and follow Him.

What can one give in exchange for this life? We can give up “things.” If we make good use of created things, they can lead us closer to God. If we put these “things” in place of God, then we detach ourselves from God as the “things” turn us away from God. If we leave these things behind on our journey, then we will be free.

St. Teresa says, “Whoever has God wants for nothing God alone is enough.”

The cross of denial is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the “one mediator between God and men,” according to Timothy if we only follow in His footsteps. As St. Rose of Lima says, “Apart from the cross there is no other ladder to get to heaven.”


Some of us clearly have more to sacrifice than others. In a world of “Haves” and Have-Nots,” we have to know our place. A popularly circulated e-mail speculates on what would happen if the Earth’s population were shrunk to 100 people.
In that scenario,

Only 6 people would possess 59 percent of the entire world's wealth
All 6 would be from the United States.
80 would live in substandard housing.
70 would be unable to read.
50 would suffer from malnutrition.
1 would be near death.
1 would be pregnant.
1 would have a college education.
1 would own a computer.

Are you one of the six? Do you have the computer?

Are you ready to deny yourself and some of your stuff? Are you ready to redistribute some of your wealth? After all, God alone is enough.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Produce Much Fruit

"Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7

“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” John 12:25


Let us pray: Jesus, help us to choose to be like you. Generous. Loving. Kind. For the Good of Others. Letting our “self” die so yourself can live in us. Help us to reject the temptations of Satan who wants us to try to be like you but seeking goodness for ourselves, not for others and You. Deliver us from evil and grant us peace today. Amen.


What does it mean to be like God?

The behavior to which Paul exhorts us is grounded in God's own pattern of behavior. God is capable of overwhelming generosity, as scripture itself attests (2 Cor 9:9). God will provide in abundance, both supplying our natural needs and increasing our righteousness.

Paul challenges us to godlike generosity and reminds us of the fundamental motive for encouragement: God himself cannot be outdone. To be God-like means to exemplify this generosity.

Many people in Jesus’ day, even among the authorities, believed in Jesus. However, because of the Pharisees they did not acknowledge it openly in order not to be expelled from the synagogue for they preferred human praise to the glory of God. They hid their God-like behavior.


As we attempt to carry out our role in the world, God stands by us, nudging us now in one direction, now in another, inspiring us to do this or that, leading us to carry out the divine plan for us and for those around us and, indeed, for the whole of creation. [1] We have to acknowledge what God asks of us. It’s our choice.

In the end, to be God-like requires a choice. Between generosity and selfishness. Between good and evil. Between the following the infinitely good works of God or the finite work of Satan.

How do you choose? Either-Or. You can not have it both ways.

[1] Being Catholic: How We Believe, Practice and Think

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Have pity on me, Lord August 9

“With age-old love I have loved you;so I have kept my mercy toward you.Again I will restore you, and you shall be rebuilt.” Jeremiah 31: 3-4

“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!” Matthew 15:22


Let us pray: Lord, let your cloak flow behind you as you walk. Leave your divine garment dangling just close enough that we can reach out and touch it. May it heal us better than any doctor ever can hope to heal. Amen.



Last week we read of Jews in the temple who rejected the teachings of Jesus because a prophet is not recognized in his home town. Today, the tables are turned. Jesus once again encounters a Samaritan women who has more faith than the favored sons and daughters of Zion.

Jesus is as saddened by the “lack of faith” of His own neighbors and the “little faith” of his own disciples as He is struck with awe ate the great faith of the Roman centurion and the Samaritan women.

The woman looks to Jesus to turn her “mourning into joy.” She readily takes him up on his invitation, unlike some of His own neighbors and friends. “Come. Be not afraid.” When she turns to Jesus, she does so with complete respect, addressing Him as “Lord, Son of David.”

How do you receive the invitation you get from Jesus?

Do you eagerly seek Him out or do you shy away from the work he asks of you?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Take the Deadly Risk August 8

When I summon him, he shall approach me; how else should one take the deadly riskof approaching me? says the LORD. You shall be my people,and I will be your God. Jeremiah 30:21-22

When the men of that place recognized him,they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought to him all those who were sickand begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak, and as many as touched it were healed. Matthew 14:35-36

Let us pray: God, you promise to restore us in your love despite our sins and transgressions. Help us to return that love to those we meet every day.

Despite the storms of personal crisis, Jesus, you tell us not to be afraid. We are never alone because You are always there to help us face life and death. So we approach you with arms outstretched for you to save us.

Deliver us from evil and grant us peace today. Amen.


How should one take the deadly risk of approaching Jesus?

Like Jeremiah…by telling truth to power, encouraging people to change their evil ways and risk death?

Like Peter…getting out of the safety of our boat...out of the safety of our comfortable American lives, out of the safety of our comfort zone?

Like those who were sick and sought only to touch the tassel on His cloak to be healed?

If goodness comes from a close moment with Jesus, why does Jeremiah tell us that approaching Jesus is deadly? Perhaps because we have to sacrifice our life and our selves to Jesus…to die a little to live life everlasting?

Jeremiah offers us a look at the New Covenant that features a personal relationship with God and those who believe. He tells us of God who is a restorer, a rebuilder, a creator, a glorifier.

Just as we see the relationship of God to the people change in Jeremiah's prophecy, we see change occur in St. Peter as well. How different is this venture outside the boat for Peter than when Peter sees the Lord after the Resurrection (John 21)?

In the later experience, Peter is out fishing with the disciples in the early morning. They see a figure on the land who guides them to a catch of abundance. When Peter recognizes Jesus, he has no fear and needs no further invitation. He jumps into the sea feet first to approach Jesus, to come to Jesus as quickly as possible. Peter has grown beyond the limited afith he shows today...a faith where he starts sinking into the tide of problems before Jesus saves him.

God offers us a New Covenant jusat like Jesus offers Peter a life-saver. In return for His endless love and the sacrifice of His Son, God asks for our faith to be strong and firm if we are to keep our head above water with the challenges that we face. Gone are the days of fear and death. No longer is approaching God a deadly risk, instead it is a living risk. Jesus approaches us and says, “Come to me. Do not be afraid.”

Where is Jesus approaching you? What comfort zone does He want to rouse you out of? Will you get out of your boat and approach Him?

Will you respond and approach Jesus with the hesitating and sinking steps of Peter or will you jump into the water feet first at the fist sign of the Lord?

“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”


Where does the Church flourish? Exactly in movements like Cursillo which complement parish life according to a recent article in America ( by Fr. Allan Figueroa Deck, SJ. Fr. Deck writes in the article “Where laity flourish – Movements play growing role in church’s life” that:

The point is that the movements [like Cursillo] – both in the life of the local church and globally – play a growing role as mediators in the church’s life. They are thriving, viable and appealing centers of service and action. They are providing diverse contexts that appeal to a broad spectrum of people today. As such they are de facto schools of lay ecclesial leadership. And, by all accounts, they are quite successful.

Rome has been taking the lead in recognizing the reality and further potential of the movements. In 1998 then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger spoke at the World Congress of Ecclesial Movements. His way of positively interpreting the contributions of the movements was in tune with the church’s real catholicity. He stressed the need to avoid the pretense of absolute uniformity in pastoral organization and programming. He went even further, stating that the diocesan bishops must seek to harmonize unity and diversity and not confuse unity with pastoral uniformity…[I]t is in the movements (not exclusively, of course, but significantly) where lay people are finding a place to flourish.

Cursillo is blessed to have dynamic spiritual leaders among both Diocesan clergy and priests from religious orders in our area. At the diocesan/parish level, we offer thanksgiving for fellow Cursillista Bishop Paul Loverde; priests like Fr. Horace “Tuck” Grinnel, Fr. James Barkett, Fr. Bob Cilinksi, Fr. Gerry Creedon and Fr. Paul deLadurantaye; Deacons Gene Betit, Jack Ligon, and many others. In addition, we get tremendous support from clergy in religious orders like the Missionhurst Fathers (our spiritual director Fr. Mike Hann and Fr. Bill Quigley) and the Jesuits (Fr. Joe McCloskey and Fr. John Adams). Through these partnerships, we can flourish both as a movement and as a support to parishes.

How can you support parish action and Cursillo?

One time you can get out of your comfort zone and approach Jesus will be to plan to participate in our second annual 40 Hours Devotion. You can adore Jesus in the Eucharist from 7 p.m. Wednesday September 13 through 9 p.m. Friday, September 15 at St. Mary of Sorrows Eucharistic Chapel (5222 Sideburn Road, Fairfax, VA 22032).

We need at least two Cursillistas in the chapel at all hours, at least one person on the left side of the Church and another one on the right.

You can sign up on the schedule at the Cursillo web site:

The schedule is wide open now but promises to fill up fast. Sign up early to get your most preferred time to spend in quiet prayer with the Lord.

He’ll be there. Will you?