Saturday, November 18, 2006

Judged According to their Deeds December 1

Friday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. Revelation 21:1

Consider the fig tree and all the other trees. When their buds burst open, you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near. Luke 21:29-30

Piety

Jesus, create in me a New Jerusalem, a place where you will dwell. Help my heart to be that home from where your love will spring forth to all people in creation that you will touch through me.

Free me from the things of the past which have hindered my journey with you. Help me to wipe away the tears of weeping children and to support the elderly in their final days. Help me to fulfill your works of mercy so others, too, will find you dwelling in a New Jerusalem in their hearts and lives as well. Amen.

Study
http://www.usccb.org/nab/120106.shtml

What does it say?

In some of the most poetic images of the Bible, we study these last days of the liturgical year, we read about the prophesy of the Kingdom to come. Everyday, in the Lord’s Prayer, we Catholics and all Christians worldwide pray for “thy Kingdom come,” the Great Hope of our faith.

In these readings, we hear that it will be so. However, this prophesy of a New Jerusalem is nothing new to the student of the Hebrew Bible who will hearken back to the magnificent words of Isaiah 65:17-21:

Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; The things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind.
Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I create; For I create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight;
I will rejoice in Jerusalem and exult in my people. No longer shall the sound of weeping be heard there, or the sound of crying;
No longer shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not round out his full lifetime; He dies a mere youth who reaches but a hundred years, and he who fails of a hundred shall be thought accursed.
They shall live in the houses they build, and eat the fruit of the vineyards they plant.


What does it mean?

There are those who interpret this literally and will wait until a New Jerusalem is reconstructed to replace the city of the Hebrew Bible.

That many happen. We will never know it. In the meantime, we can build such a City of God in people’s lives and in people’s hearts. The building will be erected by those who have answered and accepted the mission invitation (“Come, follow me.”). They will receive their reward not in this world but when the New Heaven and New Earth arise. According to Matthew 19:28-29:

Jesus said to them, "Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.

What does it matter?

We become new when we accept the friendship of Jesus in our lives and act accordingly. We don’t have to wait for some distant second coming of Christ. This isn’t just about the Rapture. It’s about what we DO UNTIL THAT TIMES COMES. “The dead will be judged according to their deeds.”

We can bring Him back to earth every day in our piety, in our study and through our actions; through the sacraments and through our faith.

Action

We can build the New Jerusalem right here. Right now. Go ahead. Pick up a hammer by loving someone. Turn over the first breaking of the ground with your shovel.

Humanity can’t wait any longer. Just take a look at the Sudan or the South Bronx.

Through the witness of a simple silent prayer in the Blue Mosque, Pope Benedict today showed respect for that faith. What simple steps will you take to make “thy Kingdom come?”

One idea is to write to our Catholic Governor of Virginia and again ask him to avoid using the death penalty as our Pope and bishops have taught. Another man is scheduled for execution on December 8. For more information, visit this web site STOP THE EXECUTION OF PERCY WALTON Take Action! .

Ask Governor Kaine to respect life and to commute Percy Walton's death sentence to life in prison.

Enriching All Who Call November 30

There is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him. Romans 10:11-12

“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Matthew 4:19-20

Piety

Jesus, help me to pay attention today. Untangle me from the nets that have captured my life. Your gift of another sunrise and another morning means I have another chance to show you what I can do with that gift. Help me to see you in each person that I encounter today – those I see up close and personal and those I see from afar. Let my example help them draw closer to you. Amen.

Study
http://www.usccb.org/nab/113006.shtml

What exactly did Jesus say today? Was it…

Come after me and I will make you fishers of Jews. No.
Come after me and I will make you fishers of Gentiles. No.
Come after me and I will make you fishers of Greeks. No.
Come after me and I will make you fishers of Americans. No.
Come after me and I will make you fishers of men. Yes!

What did Jesus mean today?

He wants us to be "fishers" of all humanity. All genders. All races.

Yesterday, in Revelation 15, we learned, “All the nations will come and worship before you.” From Daniel 7 last Sunday, the lesson was that “All peoples, nations, and languages serve him.” Today in Romans, the universal nature of God’s love is reinforced. And Matthew reminds us that Jesus calls us to preach to all people.

Why does this all matter?

God looks out for us…but not us alone. God ALSO is looking out for the people all around His globe. In Haiti, Palestine, Estonia, Sudan, and even in the Afghanistan, Iraq, Cuba and North Korea. And everyplace in between. Even places where the missionaries of the Church might not yet have reached with His Word.

We’ve had political wars before and now our former “enemies” in those conflicts are our allies. God did not take a break from loving them when they had a dust up with us. He didn’t take a break from loving us when we had a dust up with others.

Also, just because some of His children – through the accident of birth – were born in a land where their current “guv'mint” isn’t too good -- and some places where it might even be downright bad -- doesn't mean He forgets about them. Let’s remember, Jesus wasn’t born in a place that had “most favored nation trade status” in his day. He did not grow up the son of Caesar, or even Pilate. He was born the son of a Jewish carpenter in Roman-occupied Palestine. Two thousand years later, people from at least three major religions and many nationalities are still in conflict over the same sand and land and water that evoked wars throughout the Hebrew Bible.

Sometimes, in our selfishness, we might forget to act with the “universal good of the entire human family” foremost in our minds. However, even if we don't do a good job of showing a universal preferential option for the poor all the time, I think God probably does. And every year he gives us the holiday season as a special way to remember to do unto all others as well.

Action

Is the call to mission from today’s Gospel a call to abandon work and family and your way of life and follow Jesus completely and unconditionally. Yes. Such an approach will lead to a closer friendship and relationship with Christ as it did for Peter, James and John.

When I am sitting in a traffic jam, or working on another unreasonable deadline at the office, boy would I like to leave all this behind. But I don’t. And you don’t either.

Certainly Jesus wants and needs people worshipping Him and serving Him and the Church in the cloisters and abbeys and monasteries and convents of the world. But he also needs people worshipping him in the schools, hospitals, offices, factories, families and fields of today. No matter what your personal “environment,” how can you be a living example of Christ’s love to the companions on your journey?

Powerless to Resist November 29

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

Not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives. Luke 21:18-19

Piety

God, source of all life, protect us and send us out of our comfort zone. You are truly a worker of wonders. Secure our lives with even the smallest amount of real faith so we will have the courage and fortitude to head out into the world to proclaim your Good News despite the apparent risks. We know you have won victory over death. So help us win victory over the demons in our lives. Deliver us from these evils and grant us peace today so we can do what pleases you. Amen.

Study

http://www.usccb.org/nab/112906.shtml

Victory. Today we hear the victory speech. In the passage from Revelation, the victory speech harkens back to Moses overcoming the Pharaoh’s army in Exodus. Today, not only do we see the Lord prevail upon temporal rulers, but also his victory comes over the forces of evil who try to overcome Him.

In Luke’s Gospel, despite the crisis faced, by trusting in God’s intervention, we will persevere through our friendship with Jesus. If we have faith, we will not have to take another step. The Lord will provide our defense. He will provide to us “wisdom in speaking” and our “adversaries will be powerless to resist.” Resistance is futile. Love rules.

Action

Do we trust in God? Do we trust in God enough? There is that famous passage in Mark. If we have the faith of a tiny mustard seed, then we can say to the mountain to toss itself in the sea and it will do as we wish.

Jesus is telling us to have that kind of faith. Just a small amount of true faith will secure our future.

Do we have the courage to walk into the face of our enemy? Would you be on that flight with Pope Benedict this week heading to Turkey or would you just as much like to switch that trip to head off to a “friendlier” country? Maybe another trip to Germany? Or perhaps Poland? Why not very Catholic Mexico? Or Spain? Or Canada? Or even the USA?

Where would your “trip to Turkey” take you? Do you have problems to iron out with a friend or a relative? Jesus wants us to work out those before we head to church.

Please pray for the Pope’s trip to Turkey and ask for the courage to tackle your own personal challenges with as much faith as a tiny mustard seed.

The Time to Reap November 28, 2006

Tuesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

“Use your sickle and reap the harvest,for the time to reap has come,because the earth’s harvest is fully ripe.” Revelation 14:15

“See that you not be deceived,for many will come in my name, saying,‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them!” Luke 21:8

Piety

Let us pray. God, you are the Light of the world. You tell us that “to everything there is a season.” Jesus, you are the Word that gives us the reason for the season. Holy Spirit, help us spend at least one hour quietly sitting with you for every hour we spend in the crowded stores and shopping malls over the next 27 days, 2 hours and 54 minutes until Christmas and our Emmanuel comes. Amen.

Study

http://www.usccb.org/nab/112806.shtml

The end of the liturgical year is a time when we contemplate the end of the ages. Just like our newspapers, magazines and television programs have started to sum up the year and will continue to analyze it through the end of December, the readings we have been getting from Luke, Mark and John (through Revelation) provide food for thought.

How have we lived our life this year? What if the harvest happens tomorrow? We have had friends and parishioners and Cursillistas who were with us for the last New Year but who are no longer with us. Steven Kulinginski. Tony Weeda. We have friends who are sick and wait for healing physically and spiritually.

How will we fare when the sickle of the harvest is swung? Will our grapes be trampled on outside the city gates? What false leaders have come before us?

If we stood in the courtyard with Peter, would we be convicted of saying Jesus was our king? On Sunday, in the Gospel, Pilate confronted Jesus with the allegation that he (Jesus) was a King? What if that was our trial in the courtroom? Would we be convicted in the praetorium of making Jesus our King? Or have we “Hailed to the Redskins,” or fought for the Fighting Irish or the Screaming Eagles of BC once too often. Maybe sports are not what we have set up as our false king.

In this time of Black Friday and Cyber-Monday, maybe it is the shopping mall or the Internet sales site…Fair Oaks. Tysons Corner. Pentagon City. Amazon.com. Or maybe it is restaurants. Or cars. Or music. Or television. Or movies. Or elections. Or hobbies.

Or have we falsely elevated something or someone else to that level? Has something else deceived us into misplacing our beliefs?

Action

New Liturgical Years Day is coming. Sunday we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent. Have you made your resolutions yet? Why wait until January 1, when you can get an early start on December 3?

Offer Your Whole Livelihood

No one could learn this hymn except the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been ransomed from the earth. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. (Rev. 14:3)

Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD? or who may stand in his holy place? (Ps 24:3)

Piety

Lord God Above, Below and Beside me. Help me to understand that my livelihood rests in you, only in you. What possessions and position I own are temporary and puny. Help me to learn to sing your new hymn that I may stand before your throne in your good time. But help me also to give today from my livelihood – give from my self rather than what is leftover. What I have and am is yours. May I share it with my Sisters and Brothers today and each day of my life.



Study

http://www.usccb.org/nab/112706.shtml

Revelation, the psalm and Luke all draw attention to a new way to be, to act and to think in these readings.

A new song is heard in Revelation that is known only to the chosen ones. The chosen few? No, rather this image is allegorical. In the New American Bible, the footnote reads that verses 4-9 refers to “One hundred and forty-four thousand: the square of twelve (the number of Israel's tribes) multiplied by a thousand, symbolic of the new Israel (cf Rev 14:1-5; Gal 6:16; James 1:1) that embraces people from every nation, race, people, and tongue (Rev 7:9). God is offering the new song, the new life to anyone who will accept it. And who are they? “On their lips no deceit has been found; they are unblemished” (Rev 14:5)

In the psalm, the psalmist talks about the dynamic tension of those who wait. And how do they wait? “He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain.” (Ps 24:4)
In the Gospel, Jesus again identifies the lowliest of citizens as the most beloved of His Father. Of this passage the New American Bible says: “The widow is another example of the poor ones in this gospel whose detachment from material possessions and dependence on God leads to their blessedness.” “she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood” (Lk 21:4)

God does not look for material or societal status. God welcomes all and delights in those who do not look back at the plow, do not stop to bury their dead, do not find their identity in anything but God.

Action

What is your poverty: Time? Find a new volunteer duty. Patience? Do not respond when irked – give someone else the benefit of doubt and the last word; take extra time with your child or spouse when he/she isn’t getting what you’d like her/him to know. Gentleness: Give someone the hug he/she has not received recently or share a smile with colleagues whom you do not know at work. Courage: read the story of an Iraqi or Afghani family who has experienced the horror of war then go out and live fully and joyfully; give away a gun if you own one.

What do you have in surplus? Study that surplus and determine where you are thereby deficient. Joyfully give from that deficiency to God.

DeColores

Beth DeCristofaro

You Say I Am a King November 26, 2006

Thirty-Fourth or Last Sunday in Ordinary TimeSolemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King

“The one like a Son of man received dominion, glory, and kingship;
all peoples, nations, and languages serve him.”
Daniel 7:14


Jesus answered, “You say I am a king.
For this I was born and for this I came into the world,
to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
John 18:37

Piety

Jesus Christ, you are the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth. To You who loves us and has freed us from our sins by your blood, who has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father, to You we proclaim glory and power forever and ever. Amen.

Study
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

http://www.usccb.org/nab/112606.shtml

Christ is the embodiment of all that is important about life. To merely walk into the oval office of the President caught my attention. Shaking hands with the Pope and different presidents never became old hat. To enter the presence of unequivocal power always left me speechless.

Whether I have an authority problem or not, power speaks loudly to me that “Children should be seen and not heard.” To call Christ the King might bother some, but it sets loose in my mind a response akin to servitude. True authority claims the attention of all that I am. I find myself wanting to give all that I am. The trappings of authority reduce me to a babbling idiot. The kingship of Christ does nothing like that to me.

Christ, coming on the clouds of heaven, has dominion over my heart. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away. Christ came to serve, not to be served. His kingship derives from his tree of glory. His throne is the Cross. He has won each of us for heaven if we will but allow his dying for us. Christ was born into this world to testify to the primacy of love. Our joining ourselves to his dying on the cross gives us the right to claim his resurrection. His love is forever.

Christ’s glory is in his dying for us. We become his disciples and accept his kingship when we take up our crosses to follow him. Our claim to heaven as his disciples will flow from our being soaked by the blood and the water that flowed from his pierced heart on the cross. Our greatness will be in our willingness to take his place on the crosses of our lives. We share his kingship in our dying for each other. Thus his dominion is forever in our lives.

Action

“Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

The kingship of Christ is possible only when others are in relationship to Him. How can you improve that relationship and hear Christ’s voice – the truth – in the world today?

To Him All Are Alive November 25

But after the three and a half days, a breath of life from God entered them. When they stood on their feet, great fear fell on those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven say to them, “Come up here.” Revelations 11:11-12

“They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise. That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called 'Lord' the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” Luke 20: 36-38

Piety

Lord, let us live our lives in such a fashion that when this life is over, you greet us with the Great Invitation, “Come up here.” For to you, all are alive in the spirit.

Help us to avoid erecting false tests for you but rather help us pass the true test you set before us. Deliver us from evil and grant us peace today. Amen.

Study
http://www.usccb.org/nab/112506.shtml

Imagining Heaven and describing it in mortal in terms that everyone can understand is impossible.

When a true prophet is in our midst, it is hard to comprehend the message the prophet is saying. The passage from Revelations recounts how prophets were mistreated by their contemporaries despite their holiness and actions. Although the message is rejected on earth, they are welcomed into heaven (“Come up here.”) by God’s Great Invitation.

Jesus, too, faces another external test. This one comes from the Sadducees on a hypothetical case about death, resurrection and marriage. Jesus forces his inquisitors to think in different terms rather than trying to judge what happens in heaven by the laws of the earth.

“The children of this age marry and remarry;
but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age
and to the resurrection of the dead
neither marry nor are given in marriage.
They can no longer die,
for they are like angels;
and they are the children of God
because they are the ones who will rise.”
Luke 20:34-36

Jesus’ teaching may be seen as a contradiction from the “conventional wisdom” and the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. As such, it bears out the prophecy from Simeon that was at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel:

“Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:34-35

From the way Luke described the encounter, the Sadducees probably felt like a ball player trying to argue with the umpire. Helpless.

As Christians, we do not have to feel helpless. Just as Jesus and the prophets were tested by society, so, too, are we. We can experience and understand the tug-of-war between what it means to be a successful Christian and what it means to be successful in commercial, secular society. But, the contradiction does not have to be a negative force. Such a force can be a force for good, a force for resurrection as we let the Christian objectives come to the forefront.

However, despite the apparent conflict and gloominess of the situations in today’s readings – the Sadducees trying to trap Jesus, the prophets persecuted and left for dead – the readings both end on a sign of hopefulness and vigor. They reaffirm that our God is a God who values all life. No matter what our flaws and faults, He will invite us to join Him on the last day if we are not just His admirers, but if we are His followers.

Action

Did you survive Buy Nothing Day? Were you seduced into the malls or the Internet shopping channels?

Consider how you can make this season one of personal sacrifice. Rather than going into debt to fund a more extravagant holiday than last year, how can you make your gift giving a personal statement of your God-give talents rather than your credit limit?

A House of Prayer November 24

I took the small scroll from the angel’s hand and swallowed it. In my mouth it was like sweet honey, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. Revelations 10:10

Then Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.'" Luke 19:45-46

Piety

Jesus, help us to expel the money-changers from our lives so we can fully rely upon you, your word and your works. Help us to taste the sweetness of your message so that we can endure the bitterness of the suffering we must endure for your sake. Let us hang on your every word and not the word of the advertisers and merchants who commercialize the glorious God-becoming-human Day when you came into the world to save us. Deliver us from evil and grant us peace today so we can do your will. Amen.

Study

Lesson one: Reality contains both the good and the bad. The good and bad exist side by side. The sweet turns sour. The Good News (victory and salvation) also contains the Bad News (the need for suffering and costly grace).

Lesson two: Doing the right thing (choosing rightly) will not always bring admiration but often such acts will bring envy and scorn. The effect is not what was intended.

There will be no “Black Friday” in the temple today. On that annual day when retail sales accounting ledgers finally move into the black (profit) from the red (losses), Jesus is expelling the merchants from the temple. So they will not have a chance to make a profit on the backs of the worshippers.

Jesus intends to cleanse the temple so it will be pure for his teaching. With this story, Luke presents us with another confrontation about the proper role of money in our life and commerce in a life of prayer. The “house of prayer” is presented in direct opposition to the life run by commercial interests. Commerce becomes the “den of thieves.”

Rather than being universally respected for cleansing the temple, Jesus is scorned by the leadership and they begin to seek ways to put him to death.

Such actions were prophesied in the Old Testament where we read in Psalm 69:10 – “Because zeal for your house consumes me, I am scorned by those who scorn you.” His absolute commitment to God’s cause brings on the forces of opposition.

Action

Why not participate in Buy Nothing Day (http://www.adbusters.com/) as a way of reclaiming the holiday spirit from Wal-Mart and Target, Best Buy and Circuit City?

Do you know that the ten “must-have” gadgets (as listed by http://www.cnet.com/) will set you back a cool $10,000? Actually, the products will add up to only $9,442.98 including sales tax but not including gas, parking, tolls, and time. From the Playstation 3 and the 50 inch plasma TV to the Dell notebook computer and the IPod Nano, we are told that our life will not be complete without these gadgets.

No wonder some people estimate that 20 percent of the world’s population consumes 80 percent of the resources.[1] We can put a stop to this imbalance for 24 hours. Try going 24 hours without buying anything. Instead, make some of your year-end charitable contributions early.

“Hit the Malls” (sung to the tune of Deck the Halls)

Holiday’s are not for stressing fa la la la la la la la la
Love your children count your blessings fa la la la la la la la la
Jesus wasn’t into shopping fa la la la la la la la la
So this year give the gift of nothing fa la la la la la la la la.



[1] http://www.buynothingday.co.uk/

What Makes for Peace: November 23

Thursday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time -- Happy Thanksgiving

“Do not weep. The lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has triumphed, enabling him to open the scroll with its seven seals.” Revelations 5:5

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

Piety

Jesus, today give us the knowledge of what makes for peace. Help us act according to your will so you do not weep over us. Help us to recognize your presence among us. Let us be truly thankful for this plan of love that is your plan for humanity. Amen.

Study
http://www.usccb.org/nab/112306a.shtml

Reading today’s two scriptures in order is like reading the last chapter of a novel before reading the main plot earlier in the story. We hear the ending in Revelation when Christ, as the slain Lamb united heaven and earth. Then we go back to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem where he weeps as he turns the last corner in his public ministry.

Luke shows us Jesus weeping because the people do not realize that the bridegroom is walking among them. As humans, we can not see and do not have the full knowledge of God’s plan for the world. Jesus weeps for his people -- and in his humanity, maybe also for himself. He possesses all knowledge and therefore, knows full well the fate that awaits him when he enters Jerusalem for the last time. While many days of teaching are ahead of him, he knows how this will end.

From the reading in Revelation, we learn that Christ has won the right to open the scroll containing God’s plan for the world. Christ appears as a slain lamb, reminding us of his passion, crucifixion and resurrection.

The only one who can break the seals of heaven is the One who comes from the root of David and is an offspring the Davidic line through Joseph and Mary. Matthew traces the lineage of Christ from Abraham and David down through Jacob and Joseph. This heritage also was prophesied in Isaiah, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom… On that day, The root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, The Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.” Isaiah 11:1,10

“The lion of the tribe of Judah” harkens back to a reference in Genesis. “Judah, like a lion's whelp, you have grown up on prey, my son. He crouches like a lion recumbent, the king of beasts--who would dare rouse him?” Genesis 49:9

When Christ appears as a Lamb, heaven and earth are united as one. The horns and eyes He displays represent the fullness of power and knowledge that the Paschal Lamb possesses. Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe, cry out: "To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor, glory and might, forever and ever."

Action

Arthur Simon Postscript (Conclusion)

16. Make out your will so that what you leave behind continues to fulfill the mission of Christ.
17. Do what you do with joy and thanksgiving as a celebration of God’s grace. Returning to God and sharing with others the treasure of life becomes a delight.
18. Consider Jesus your most trusted advisor. As you struggle to offer your life more completely and effectively to God, ask, “What would Jesus want me to do?” You seldom get a direct or immediate answer, of course, but prayerful reading of the Bible sure helps.
19. Avoid at all costs the temptation to become self-righteous. Nothing ruins an otherwise good thing faster than pride. Trust me, you will always have plenty of reasons for humility.

Mr. Simon points out that the main obstacle to living in friendship with God and rejecting affluence for riches sake, is not a shortage of ideas but a shortage of will. He reminds us of that passage in Philippians 2:13: “It is God who works in you to will ands to act according to his good purpose.”

While Christ may be the only one who can open the scroll and read the plan, if we trust in God, God will work through us and our simple acts.

Come Up Here November 22

They throw down their crowns before the throne, exclaiming:“Worthy are you, Lord our God,to receive glory and honor and power,for you created all things;because of your will they came to be and were created.” Revelations 4:10-11

‘We do not want this man to be our king.’ Luke 19:14

Piety

God, source of all that is good and valuable; we praise you and thank you for all your creation. You have given to us many gifts. Help us not to take these gifts for granted but rather to use them to bring your Kingdom into being on earth as it is in heaven. Give us the prudence to use these gifts wisely, the fortitude to keep our eyes on the prize, the temperance to use all things in moderation, and the justice to use things for the good of all. Deliver us from evil and grant us peace today so we can do what pleases you. Amen.

Study
http://www.usccb.org/nab/112206.shtml

Upon cursory reading, this seems an odd parable to use as Jesus’ last teaching to the people in the countryside before he moves on to Jerusalem for the extended period of daily teaching in the temple that precedes his trial, passion, crucifixion and resurrection. Yet it contains a synopsis of so many of the themes that St. Luke has stressed throughout his Good News that we have been reading this year.

1) Total commitment. Jesus does not want lukewarm followers. He wants total commitment. He wants us to use our talents to make the Kingdom of faith, hope and love a reality. He has no patience for those of us who let our talents go to waste.

2) Public action. We can not put our lamp under a bushel. We must use it in society. We can not be shy about worshipping the Lord.

3) The Lordship of Jesus. Although His “coronation” will come with a crown of thorns, Jesus is set to become the anti-king in Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, being praised with palm branches. Just like the man who would be king in this parable, he must “go away” in order to return a king. However, his journey is a journey to conquer sin and death.

4) Role of riches. Riches are not, despite the apparent symbolism in this parable, the way to salvation. The riches we get from God, our natural talents, grace, love, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are what we must put to use to build the kingdom. Not the riches of the world.

5) People are rewarded for their faithfulness that is embodied in a balanced approach to piety, study and action, all three aspects of our faith life and friendship with Jesus.

6) Jesus will judge us by our actions. By our love we will be known. He knows that the laborers are few. He wants us to get to work not just sit around on our La-Z-Boy being lazy boys. With your own words I shall condemn you, you wicked servant. You knew I was a demanding person, taking up what I did not lay down and harvesting what I did not plant; why did you not put my money in a bank? Then on my return I would have collected it with interest. Luke 18:22-23

7) We can do God’s work on earth while He is gone so he can reap the reward of a just society when he returns.

Far too often, through our sinful ways, we act like the people in the gospel. At first, they did not want the nobleman to become their king. How often do we act as if we do not want Jesus to be our King? We want to focus on the easy way, not the way of the cross. Our way, not His Way.

The King rebukes the third servant for not earning interest in a bank with the minas that he was given. The play on this word “interest” allows us to see this story in many layers. Literally, interest is the investment earning. However, the servant was rebuked for not having any interest or curiosity or attention to the kingdom. He took no personal involvement in its progress or success. He was not bothered by the good, benefit or advantage that might come from his actions, only by the fear of losing the money. Commercially, the servant does not reflect any ownership in the Kingdom or personal connection with it.

Despite all of our failings, Jesus still invites us to join him in the Kingdom. “Come up here…” As we prepare to celebrate and give thanks tomorrow, let us do so with great enthusiasm, interest and conviction in response to this Great Invitation. RSVP.

Action

Arthur Simon, Post Script to How Much is Enough? Part IV

13. Help your children from the youngest age on up learn the joy of giving. And the joy of numbers nine and ten on this list (see November 18).

14. Take care of God’s creation. Practice and encourage conservation of energy and resources. Drive less, turn out lights, lower the thermostat, and ask elected officials to adopt energy-saving policies. Recycle paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum cans. Add as little pollution as possible. Get your family and community involved, as well. Support anti-pollution measures with state and national legislators.

15. Have a heart for the world. Keep up on events and pray about them. Contribute generously for overseas relief and development. Use your power as a citizen to let elected officials, especially your national legislators, know that you would like your country to take the lead in helping to end hunger and reduce poverty in the world. An advocacy group such as Bread for the World can help you do this. Remember that public affairs as well as private life come under the lordship of Christ and have an enormous impact on the well-being of others.

(The Arthur Simon list concludes tomorrow.)

To Seek and to Save November 21

November 21, 2006
Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

For you say, ‘I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,’and yet do not realize that you are wretched,pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich,and white garments to put onso that your shameful nakedness may not be exposed,and buy ointment to smear on your eyes so that you may see. Revelations 3:17-18

“Zacchaeus, come down quickly,for today I must stay at your house.” Luke 19:5

Piety

Jesus, I am wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. Jesus, I am affluent. In my wealth, I have made only a half-hearted commitment to you. Please forgive my weakness. Help me today and every day to be faithful to your teaching and strong willed to follow you and what you ask of me. Help us to give away what we don’t need, se what is left to aid the poor, and turn to you to fill our cup with gold from the refiner’s fire. Deliver us from evil and grant us peace today so we can do what pleases you. Amen.

Study

Are you benefiting from saving with CD rates that, at 5.1 percent, are nearing 20-year highs?

How has the stock market at 12.342, up another 36 points yesterday, padded your 401-K statement?

Have you refinanced? Mortgage rates remain under 6 percent, helping to fuel the bubble in real estate prices.

What do sacred scriptures tell us about this today? To me, it says that affluence is not the goal. Your net worth in Quicken doesn’t matter as much as your net worth in the confessional.

We should be investing in what Jesus teaches and preaches. Zacchaeus, unlike the anonymous rich man earlier in Luke’s Good News, know the proper place of wealth. He gives away half of what he has and reaps an eternal reward.

Action
http://www.oikocredit.org/site/en/

What would Jesus say if he reviewed your investment portfolio? He might call you out of your tree and invite himself over any time.

How do we give away our investments? A company like Oikocredit gives you a new opportunity. In a year when micro-finance pioneer Muhammed Yunus who started the Grameen Bank won the Nobel Peace Prize, Oikocredit gives you a chance to invest in a mutual fund company that specializes in using the funds for small loans to people in the developing world.

“His (Yunus’) model of giving very small loans to people, especially women, who join hands in groups of five, which warrant each others loans, has proven to really help them free themselves from poverty. Loans bring sustainable development in the sense that it helps people create an income and thus bread on the table for the family – not only today, but also tomorrow. This new sign of recognition will be a strong and needed new impulse for the whole Microfinance sector, to the benefit of millions of poor families around the world,” said Tor Gull, director of Oikocredit.

How much of your investment portfolio is working for the poor through credit unions, micro-finance or socially responsible investing? How much of it is making Wall Street millionaires richer by the day?

(Tomorrow, more of Arthur Simon’s suggestions.)

Lord, Please Let Me See November 20

Yet I hold this against you:you have lost the love you had at first.Realize how far you have fallen.Repent, and do the works you did at first. Revelations 2:4-5

“When they saw this, all the people gave praise to God.” (Luke 18:43)

Piety

Give me sight. Open me to recognize you in the one who listens to me on the phone, sorting out a problem even though she is in a distressing situation herself. The friend who comes when needed. The stressed clerk who confuses my order and delays me. The enemy who threatens me. The colleague whose beliefs offend me.

Jesus, you pass right in front of me. Help me not chose the way of the wicked. Help me cry “Jesus, have mercy on me.” Give me my daily sight; give me a place beneath the tree of life. I will give you praise with each sight my eyes take in.


Study

http://www.usccb.org/nab/112006.shtml

In spite of our tiredness, crankiness, prejudice, self-satisfaction, Jesus will give us sight if we but ask. But let us ask out of our lack not our fullness. We must ask to see anew not see what we already think we know. “Yet I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first. Realize how far you have fallen.” (Rev 2:5)

The apocalyptic book of Revelation is written in obscure codes, images and symbolism. It speaks of the immanent arrival of God. Perhaps we can compare it to Luke in this way: the blind man had an opportunity: the immanent arrival of a rabbi of whom it was said “he heals the sick and the lame.” And this man leapt to the opportunity. “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” (Luke 18:38) he cries, making himself obnoxious – a spectacle! And the Son of God responds.

Do we need to wait for the end times to come? Can we not see Jesus passing down the road before us? Can we not cry out “Jesus, son of David…?”

Take advantage. Think apocalyptically. We don’t have to tremble in fear but rather tremble in awe and joy that because Jesus became human to communicate and love me better, He now passes by me each and every day. Can I each day keep the cry of the blind man in my heart “Jesus Son of David…?” Can I accept the gift of sight and give delirious “thanks?”

But it can’t end with that. Jesus said “Have sight; your faith has saved you.” (Luke 18:42) Now I must go share that faith, that joyful delirium, that choice to “delight in the law of the Lord.” (Ps 1:2) As we each are the eyes, ears and feet of Jesus to each other, the Kingdom is present.


Action

This week begins our bustle of holidays in which much is given to those in need. We help in homeless shelters, deliver meals, collect coats, and make donations. In this global world what is “right in front of us”? Below is a link to a National Public Radio piece on Avega Agahosa, a non-governmental organization started by a widow who survived the genocide in Rwanda – but whose entire family did not. She saw the need to start an organization with and for other women. In this sad, frustrating and uplifting story are tales of women, survivors, who run away if they see a farmer yielding a machete to harvest crops because of their recurring terrors. But there are also survivors who have opened their hearts and adopted 8, 10 and more orphans to raise and thus have a family again. “Your faith has saved you.”
http://soundprint.org/
http://www.avega.org.rw/English.html

“When they saw this, all the people gave praise to God.” (Luke 18:43)


DeColores

Beth DeCristofaro

Be Like Stars Forever

November 19, 2006
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever. Daniel 12:3

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Mark 13:31-32

By Rev. Joe Mc Closkey, S.J.

Thoughts of the end times bother even when one does not take seriously the possibility that this is the time the Lord was talking about. We are destined for eternity and we all want to believe in our own immortality.

It seems we do because it is always someone else who will die. It is never me that is going to go. The warnings about the end times fill the gospels of the last Sundays of ordinary time. What we are supposed to do about it is followed by what God has done about it. God so loves the world that he sends his only Son as our salvation. Christ is the good news of salvation. Birth and Death are intimately connected in the good news of salvation.

The death bed meditation is an important one on the Spiritual Journey.

What would I want to have done differently is a sobering question we have to ask if we are going to have a real conversion. When Christ comes in all his glory, I have no doubt t hat I would have wanted to do a lot of things I left undone because I thought I had forever to do what was necessary to do. Time does run out and all the pussy-footing about does not get the needed done. I need a good reason to get down to business.

Pressure is how too many of us get started on what must be done. And that leaves too little time to do a good job and meet the standards of heaven. We can create the attitude of mind and heart to do what should be done by looking at the end times and realizing that there is nothing in life that is not worth doing with all our minds and hearts. Christ is willing to be one of us. Am I willing to be one with him before I die?

Piety

Jesus, you have shown me the way. Mass allows me to be one with you.

Study

Every day gives me the chance to choose you over myself in the needs of my brothers and sisters. I will look for the ways I can do your work in whatever I am doing.

Action

Today I will look for you Christ, in each person who comes my way. I will make a special effort to put you in each conversation.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Co-workers in Truth November 18

Beloved, you are faithful in all you do for the brothers, especially for strangers; they have testified to your love before the church. Please help them in a way worthy of God to continue their journey. 3 John 5-6

But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? Luke 18:8

Piety

Let us pray. Jesus, help us to follow your instructions for being Christian and for having an active pray life and conversation with God. Supported by piety, study and action, help us be self-less co-workers in truth, following you and assisting others even if they are strangers to us. Deliver us from evil and grant us peace today so that we might do what pleases you. Amen.

Study
http://www.usccb.org/nab/111806.shtml

What will Jesus find when He returns? Co-workers in truth or hypocrites like the judge in Luke’s Gospel?

Today, we find a short instruction sheet by Jesus on why we should pray. Let’s not treat this passage like we do other instructions, tossing them aside and doing what we think is the right thing to do.

Jesus uses the hypocritical judge as a counter point to God. Faced with the persistence of the widow, the judge finally relents and grants the widow what she wants.

But why does he do so? Because he loves her? Hardly. Because she is right? No. He does it for fear that she might come back and turn against him. He is afraid that she might resort to violence against him and maybe give him a black eye either literally or give a black eye to his reputation in the community. The judge acts out of selfish reasons.

God on the other hand will grant to us what we pray for with persistence despite the fact that we do turn against him in sin repeatedly and with persistence. We not only give him a black eye but we turn against his Son whom God sent to save us. God forgives us and grants us what we seek out of self-less reasons.

God wants us to be co-workers in truth, not acting out of selfish reasons like the judge but acting out of faith – piety, study and action – like those who provide hospitality and material support to missionaries as did Gaius in the Third Letter of John.

Action

Will Jesus find selfish judges when he comes back to Virginia or will he find people supporting the mission of the Church?

For him to find co-workers in the truth, we would be well to consider some more of Arthur Simon’s suggestions (here is part four of his list):

9. Give wisely. At Christmas, we tend to give things not needed to people not in need. Exercise restraint. Keep the focus on Christ. Give at least as much to the poor as to the prosperous. Get personally involved with someone or some family in need.
10. Begin to see the world through the eyes of God. Practice relating to others through the heart and mind of Christ.
11. Turn off the TV.
12. Spend more time with family.

Receive full recompense November 17, 2006

Look to yourselves that you do not lose what we worked for but may receive a full recompense. 2 John 4:8

On that day, someone who is on the housetopand whose belongings are in the housemust not go down to get them,and likewise one in the fieldmust not return to what was left behind. Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather. Luke 17: 31, 37

Piety

Blessed are those who follow the law of the Lord. They reject the demands of Madison Avenue which pushes at us to buy faster cars, newer clothes and more toys and gadgets. Instead, they choose to live with less.

Blessed are those who follow the law of the Lord. They reject the fantasies of Hollywood which promises pleasure for self and superficial relationships and nothing close to true love. Instead, those who follow the law of the Lord choose fidelity and love and stability that gives up self for others.

Blessed are those who follow the law of the Lord. They seek the Lord with all their heart rather than pursuing a life that seeks the rewards of Wall Street.

Blessed are those who follow the law of the Lord. They reject the law of the land which does not treasure the promise of the Lord but offers truth, happiness and wealth for those who work hard. They put the needs of the vulnerable first.

Amen.

Study

http://www.usccb.org/nab/111706.shtml

In today’s readings, St. Luke continues with the message about separating worldly goods from the spiritual life. He predicts that those who are pre-occupied with worldly possessions will perish with those possessions when Jesus returns to earth.

The way of truth is a way of living in which the Christian faith is visibly expressed. Such a path rejects temporal goods as Jesus demands.

Simply put, we must simply put God first. All else is secondary and puts us at risk from the vultures who will circle where the body is. The vultures will not be circling where the spirit is.

As Jesus’ journey approaches Jerusalem, he continues preaching this message through a series of parables. The choice (God or worldly possessions and success) is up to each of us individually.

Action

Today, I continue sharing the list of suggested actions from Arthur Simon’s Post Script in How Much is Enough? Note, all proceeds form this book support the organization Bread for the World, which he founded.

6. Do zero-based, faith-based budgeting with the use of your time, your talent and the influence that you have. These are huge gifts and God has ideas about how you can use them. One of God’s gifts is to make you struggle to figure out what those ideas are, for in the process of doing so you will grow in faith and service.

7. Give special thought to your role in the church and its mission. How can you be engaged in mission locally? How can you support the church’s mission elsewhere and internationally with your gifts and prayers?

8. Give special consideration to the most vulnerable. This includes the hungry, the homeless, the friendless, prisoners (including ex-offenders and families of those in prison), the unborn, and those born but left to grown up with few opportunities and little guidance.

As Lightning Flashes November 16

Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord. Philemon 7:15-16

For just as lightning flashesand lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation. Luke 17: 24-25

Piety

God, you created all of us in your image equally even though society does not always recognize that fact. We are thankful that there are no more slaves in our society, but recognize that there sadly remain places in this world where humans are kept in bondage by others.

Despite our apparent freedom, many of us are enslaved to worldly desires – new cars, fancy clothes, big houses, important jobs and all that the advertisers want us to accumulate. Help us to reject these temptations, pay the ransom and obtain true freedom in your eyes. Deliver us from evil and grant us peace in our day so we can follow you and do what pleases you. Amen.

Study

Shut off your lamp. Shut off your computer monitor. And close your eyes. Appreciate the darkness.

Sit in the darkness for a few minutes in silence. Reach up – with your eyes still closed – and turn your lamp on and off again quickly once (so it flashes like lightning in your study).

From the early parts of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is cast as a light for the world. Jesus as a light that reveals salvation continues as a theme throughout Luke. In today’s readings, that light is compared to lightning that flashes across a dark sky. But this is in context of a whole series of symbols the Luke turns to about “light.”

When Mary and Joseph present their baby in the temple in Jerusalem, Simeon remarks (Luke 2: 29-32)

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” (emphasis added)

In Luke 3:16, John the Baptist explains that he is preparing the world for one who will come after him. He describes Jesus: “He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.”

Then in Luke 8:16-17, we hear the story of the lamp on a hill: “No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.”

When light comes in darkness, the only way not to see what it reveals is to keep your eyes closed. But the flash of lightning forces us, reflexively to open our eyes or want to open our eyes to see what is happening.

Luke carries the symbolism of Jesus as light and lightning to the commissioning of the seventy-two: Jesus said, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky.” Thus, Jesus’ presence in the world conquers the forces of darkness.

The NAB notes that “the effect of the mission of the seventy-two is characterized by the Lucan Jesus as a symbolic fall of Satan. As the kingdom of God is gradually being established, evil in all its forms is being defeated; the dominion of Satan over humanity is at an end.”[1]

But first, the light has to be rejected…

Jesus warns, “The lamp of the body is your eye. When your eye is sound, then your whole body is filled with light, but when it is bad, then your body is in darkness. Take care, then, that the light in you not become darkness. If your whole body is full of light, and no part of it is in darkness, then it will be as full of light as a lamp illuminating you with its brightness.” (Luke 11:35-36) (emphasis added)

So while society literally can reject Jesus in his trial, passion, crucifixion, each of us have to be careful not to reject the light of Christ by closing our eyes to His goodness.

When seen in the light, even Peter could not hide from being identified as a follower of Christ by the maid at the fire. Despite his denials, he was recognized. Would we be recognized in the same way if we were standing by that fire today?

Action

Visit http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032619/ to learn more about the children of Darfur and how you can help. Watch NBC Nightly News and the Today Show this week to see Ann Curry’s series of reports from there.

A series of organizations helping in Chad and Darfur are listed on the MSNBC site. Consult with this list (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15737031/) for more information on how you can help.




[1] http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/luke/luke10.htm#foot8

Because of his Mercy November 15

http://www.usccb.org/nab/111506.shtml

Because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirthand renewal by the Holy Spirit,whom he richly poured out on usthrough Jesus Christ our savior,so that we might be justified by his graceand become heirs in hope of eternal life. Titus 3:5-7

“Ten were cleansed, were they not?Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Luke 17:17-18

Piety
http://www.usccb.org/nab/111506.shtml
God, you know us too well yet you still save us and continue to love us.

Despite the fact that we consistently turn away from you, you always provide grace and salvation for us.

No matter what our diversions and addictive behaviors, you welcome us as the Father welcomed home the prodigal son. You slay the fatted calf for us so that we might have eternal life. Amen.


Study

Proper adult behavior is once again the focus of our readings today both in a general sense and through the specific illustration of the behavior of the one grateful leper.

The general advice to Titus and the Church in Crete is that proper behavior and mindset will yield both an improved attitude toward civil authority and an improved state in their Christian relationship with all people. Paul could be recounting our own failings on a couch with Sigmund Freud or Carl Jung…

For we ourselves were once foolish following sports teams and not Christ,
Disobedient to the truths espoused by the Catholic Church,
Deluded into thinking that we were the most important people,Slaves to Budweiser, Mondavi, Jack Daniels, consumerism, sex, drugs and rock and roll among various other desires and pleasures,living
in malice toward some and envy toward those who we perceived as having more than we had,hateful of ourselves (ego) and hating one another.

What are the proper behaviors exhibited by the one leper? He showed a mature prayer life:

1) Adoration – He raised his voice and cried out in public that Jesus was his master
2) Contemplation – He reflected on his healing and decided to act and react to the miracle Jesus offered to him. He turned to Christ and asked for help. He followed Jesus’ instructions. On the way to the temple, he realized he was healed.
3) Thanksgiving -- He returned to Christ and offered his praise
4) Supplication – He put aside his pursuits in life to do what Jesus asked of him through faith. His faith saved him.

Action


More suggestions from the Postscript to Arthur Simon’s book How Much is Enough? Hungering for God in an Affluent Culture. Did you know that Arthur Simon was founder and president emeritus of Bread for the World?

3. Deepen your devotional life.
4. Discuss your intentions and progress with others (though group reunion, Ultreya and Reunion of Leaders) – parenthetical clause mine.
5. Do zero-based, faith-based budgeting. If you were starting from scratch, how much of your income and possessions would you really need? Perhaps you can use a smaller house. Or perhaps you can use your house to welcome additional guests.

Join us Saturday night at St. Charles Borromeo for a Diocesan Ultreya welcoming new Cursillistas from the fall men’s and women’s weekends. November 18 – Mass starts at 5 p.m. and the meeting will take place immediately following at approximately 6 p.m. Bring a drink and food to share.


Live Temperately, Justly and Devoutly November 14

For the grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of the great God and of our savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good. Titus 2:11-14

When you have done all you have been commanded, say, “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.” Luke 17:10

Piety

God, source of all grace and happiness, you amaze me. First, you saved us all. For this you ask nothing more than for us to live in your friendship. Yet worldly desires and godless ways surround and seduce us every hour. Help us to be content to live within our means, to work for justice, and to praise you. Give us the courage to follow Jesus and the wisdom to do it well. Deliver us from evil and grant us peace today so we can do what will please you. Amen.

Study
http://www.usccb.org/nab/111406.shtml

Behave yourself. Sit up straight. Eat all your vegetables.

The directives we heard as a child have given way to instructions for adults to live temperately, justly and devoutly. Today’s instructions for life remind me of that famous passage from Micah 6:8: You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.

It sounds so easy!

Whether St. Paul was writing to the community on Crete where Titus was a leader or to us in our compfortable and affluent lifestyles in America, how to live takes front and center stage in today’s readings. There are no cryptic parables recounted here to interpret, just some straight- fold instructions that once again collide with force against “godless ways and worldly desires.”

The notes to the NAB instruct us that underlying the admonitions for moral improvement in the reading from the letter of Paul to Titus is the constant appeal to God's revelation of salvation in Christ, with its demand for transformation of life.[1] The motivation for transformation of their lives comes from Christology, especially the redemptive sacrifice of Christ and his future coming, as applied through baptism and justification.[2]

Last week I attended a funeral and a few days earlier a baptism. The deceased can not be transformed any more. In death, our transformation is completed. The baby has no act to get straightened out. In between, we must pay close attention.

A Christian from Germany visited the United States shortly after World War II. “I notice your churches have cushions,” he commented, suggesting churches of affluence. Then he added, “I notice your preaching has cushions, too.” The visitor had gotten a sampling of feel good sermons that treaded lightly (if at all) on the expectations God has for us regarding love and justice toward the poor. [3]

Christ loves us and is coming back. We must be careful not to do anything that would disturb him but do as reminded in the Good News, what we are "obliged" to do to please God.

Action

Over the next few reflections, I will be sharing some tips from Arthur Simon’s book referenced above that was featured in the readings when I participated in the Just Faith program in 2004-2005.

We will need to eschew cushions that soften or water down the Word. Bolster yourself instead with prayer. Ask God for the courage to follow Jesus and the wisdom to do it well.[4]

Decide on some steps, some small ones at first, that allow your faith to become more active in love with your family, friends and parish. But, act, do not postpone. These are just the first steps on a long journey.




[1] http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/titus/titus2.htm#foot2
[2] http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/titus/intro.htm
[3] Simon, Arthur. How Much is Enough? Hungering for God in an Affluent Culture. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, p. 13.
[4] Ibid., p. 183, suggestions 1 and 2.

Forgive Seven Times November 13

Piety

Today, Lord, I long to see your face. With your help I will offer new life to others by being aware of your presence and reacting to each and everyone as if their face is yours. Grant me new life as I inevitably forget you but recollect, try again, and forgive myself. Let me look to St. Francis Xavier Cabrini as one who said yes to a new life and brought new life to hundreds of immigrants through her service. Help me to ascend your holy mountain and stand in awe, humbled and gracious.

Study

God is life-giving, life affirming in all ways. God just loves life with glee and delight, given the diversity, the wonder, the awesome spectacle of life all around us.

Paul teaches Titus, his disciple, how to choose leaders within the newly forming Christian communities: a new life for those chosen. The bishops and presbyters will live a new life pointedly representing the “message as taught.” These leaders are entrusted to bring others to new life in Christ. “For a bishop as God’s steward must be blameless, … hospitable, a lover of goodness, temperate, just, holy, and self-controlled, holding fast to the true message as taught.” (1 Titus 1:7-9)

The psalmist reconfirms the life-giving nature of God, “The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness; the world and those who dwell in it. For he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.” The psalmist goes on to say to whom God gives the gift of life: “He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain.” (Psalm 24: 2, 4) We – like our spiritual ancestors the Israelites - long to see God’s face out of a yearning deep within our hearts, a yearning which is rooted deep in God’s creation. We must choose this “new life” in order to “see God’s face” – it is free, and for our taking.

Then Jesus gives us a new twist. Life is not only a gift for us but is for us to gift to others. Forgiveness affirms life as it wipes away the death of sin and broken relationships. Forgiving “if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him” (Luke 17:4) is a symbolic way of saying that there can never be too much complete forgiveness. That we forgive and forget gives new life to someone. Yes, we must be aware of sin and not accept it in others or ourselves. But we do not stop there. New life – forgiveness – is available.

The Apostles knew how difficult this is. “Increase our faith” they ask Jesus. He replies that the size of faith is not important. What is important is that our faith is rooted in God through whom all things are possible. Through God we can be givers of new life: “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:6)

In God all things are possible: A tree growing in salt water sea … a widow giving her last coin and receiving the approval, the blessing, of the son of God … a prodigal son returning home to a welcome feast … an impoverished daughter of farmers leaving her home in Italy, serving others and finding a place next to the seat of God … my doubts about immigrants turning to welcome …
http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=278

Action

Consider your own immigrant roots. Like the Israelites, most of us have family that found a refuge and new lives in a new country, perhaps a new faith. How can we as Catholic Christians welcome newcomers to our shores and model the welcome that Jesus gives to those who choose new life?

The Mighty Widow's Mite November 12


“The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the LORD sends rain upon the earth.” 1 Kings 17: 14


Now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by his sacrifice. Hebrews 9:26


Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in morethan all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth,but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had,her whole livelihood. Matthew 12:43-44


Piety

(Based upon Psalm 146)


Lord, strengthen our faith today and everyday so that though such steadfast faith we may engage in good works in your name – working to secure justice for the oppressed – especially the poor, giving food to the hungry, setting the captives free whether they are jailed unjustly or captive of addictions, habits or obsessions.


Give the gift of sight to all who are either physically blind or to those who are blind to your work.


Raise up those among us who were bowed down by infirmity or serious illness or subjugation to people, power or principalities.


LORD, give your love to those who are just and help us to protect the stranger and immigrant among us as you were protected on the flight to Egypt.


Sustain the orphans among us through the intercession of Mary.


Thwart the deeds of those who intend to do violence and harm here and abroad through all generations. Alleluia. Amen.


Study

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.


The widow's mite is a powerful teaching of Christ. The challenge to put all of ourselves into what we are doing in his name is one of the deepest desires of our heart. One who works hard at what goes unseen captures the essence of the Hidden Life of Jesus. Jesus spent 30 years out of the public view. God intended that we learn something from the length of time he lived a normal life. The three years of public life are dwarfed by those years. The most important person who ever lived in the history of the human race is unnoticed. There is nothing special about those years that we can see. Yet there are powerful lessons we can learn for ourselves.


How many years have we been saving ourselves for some big moment that would be worthy all of our time and energy? How often have we been waiting for something big to do? We do not want to waste out our time on the useless. What makes something worthwhile is not what we are doing but how much of our heart we put into it. It is one of those paradoxes of the Spiritual life that only the ordinary can be extraordinary. We can never use again the excuse we are insignificant. It can never again be an excuse that no one cares about what we are doing. The truth of any work we do for the Lord is that he cares. What might seem a waste of time to our friends is never such with the Lord. He sees our hearts and he rewards the good we intend. What I do with my life is worth what I offer it for. Christ says it all when he said, “No greater love has anyone than to give their lives for another.” That is how Christ saved us. That is how we live his love for our world. Giving our all will never be less than the widow's mite.


Action


What is your big moment?

God Knows Your Heart November 11

I am eager for the profit that accrues to your account. Philippians 4:17

You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts. Luke 16:15


Piety

God, are you laughing at us yet? Are you laughing at us still? We continue to store up money and possessions for the future when you tell us time and time again that it is not necessary. You never forget the birds of the field. Strengthen our trust in you.


Study

These days with the stock market near all-time highs and gas prices retreating to around $2 per gallon, some of our economic concerns from earlier in the year are lessened.

So we might be able to make some progress in saving for retirement, college expenses for our children and more.

But the real question for Christians is “How do we accrue credits in our spiritual accounts?” Jesus doesn’t care about our 401-K. He cares about our souls.

One way is through the path of action. The others are through piety and study.

St. Paul is using familiar images of wealth and accounts in his letter to the people of Philippi. However, he is not really concerned with their material wealth but rather with their spiritual wealth. They “accrue” credit by helping Paul in his mission to preach throughout Greece.

Paul stressed that he tried to be self-sufficient, relying only on what he could do and what God provided. To be dependent upon wealth is opposed to the teachings of Jesus who counseled complete dependence on the Father as one of the characteristics of the Christian disciple.

God probably thinks that it is pretty ironic that our money has the slogan “In God We Trust.” He probably thinks money is the least important place to put that. He would rather we put it in our hearts and live our lives accordingly.

Action


These days there are many ways to support a missionary and “accrue credits” to your spiritual balance sheet. The Maryknoll Lay Missioners (http://laymissioners.maryknoll.org/) are one of the many Catholic missionary organizations who have carried on St. Paul’s work. Maryknoll Lay Missioners is a Catholic organization inspired by the mission of Jesus to live and work with poor communities in Africa, Asia, and the Americas, responding to basic needs and helping to create a more just and compassionate world.

Another group is the Missionhurst (http://www.missionhurst.org/). The US Province of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (C.I.C.M. for Congregatio Immaculati Condis Mariae in Latin), is an international group of 1,000 religious men who are dedicated totally and exclusively to the foreign mission of the Catholic Church. Fr. Mike Hann and Fr. Bill Quigley are in our community now but have spent their lives working in the poorest places on earth – poor in spirit as well as in wealth.

Learn a little more about their work on the website and in the magazine. Consider sending a financial gift to support their work or the work of your favorite missionary group like the Philippians supported St. Paul.

Our Citizenship is in Heaven November 10

Their minds are occupied with earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:19-20

For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than the children of light. Luke 16:8

Piety

God, have patience with me. My mind is always so pre-occupied and strays from the concerns you want me to have. Give me the prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice to deal with the challenges here on earth so I can pave the way to become a child of the light. Amen.

Study

This week, my attention has been occupied at least a little with the hometown industry news (electioneering is to Washington what baseball history is to Cooperstown). Maybe yours has been as well. St. Paul must have been able to sense how my thoughts can be hijacked into watching Wolf Blitzer and CNN Situation Room around the clock while the radio is tuned to “NPR’s Morning Edition,” and a stack of papers – the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the USA Today – sit nearby ready to share the analysis of what’s happening.

St. Paul jostled my conscience today. He reminded me that “citizenship” is not solely in this nation…but rather more so in heaven. Elections pass. God’s commandments and mission for us never change.

After the political reminder in the first reading, we then get the economic reminder in the Gospel. If the steward can not please his master, he tries to dupe his neighbors into taking care of him. When the steward finds himself among the unemployed, he starts forgiving SOME of the debts of his neighbors…but not all their debts so that they will take care of him and he may get back in the good graces of his master.

The lesson Jesus teaches is that God will take care of us and forgive all our debts if we forgive those who have debts with us. God is not looking for cunning stewards, he is looking for loving stewards. Such worldly political and economic concerns are transient. Instead, St. Paul urges us to stand firm in the Lord.

He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified Body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.

Action

Take a walk down any main road and pick up some of the “flotsam and jetsam” of an election – all those signs!

Take one of the signs of a winning candidate and write a note on the back. Congratulate the candidate and add a reminder of the faith-based principles which we will use to encourage them in their public actions such as the principles of catholic social teaching and the Gospel of Matthew.

You are God’s Building November 9

Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live. (Ezekiel 47:9)

You are God’s building. No one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:9, 11)

“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” John 2:19

Piety

God, send to us the life-giving waters that only you can provide. Help us to channel this gift for the good of the community and your church through our faith-based actions. Amen,

Study
http://www.usccb.org/nab/110906.shtml

Today we get a heavy dose of the difference between the works of God and the work of humans. In a concrete fashion, St. Paul uses the analogy of a building and its foundation. God has laid the foundation. We can only build upon it.

The “foundation” is the life we have been given through the sacrifice of Jesus. We have the freedom to build whatever kind of life we would like out of this life. If we do not treat the foundation properly, the building will not last.

In the first reading from Ezekiel, the stream flowing from the temple restores fertility to the desert. Justice shall roll down like the waters. The Holy Land is traditionally arid ground. The water is symbolic of the return of the conditions of paradise. The water signifies great blessings, just as dryness signifies a curse.[1]

God is the source of the life giving water. God intervenes in our life by providing the life-giving water in the form of His son, Jesus Christ. As such, God alone is the cause of the growth…we can only cultivate what God has provided to us.

Action

There are diverse functions in the service of the community, but each individual's task is serious, and each will stand accountable for the quality of his contribution. Some of us may be called to be Knights of Columbus, others Catholic Workers. But no matter, each person – working together – contributes toward the building of the temple (the community).

How can you build the Kingdom of God on Earth? How will you be, as St. James calls on us, to be a doer of the word, not just a hearer?

Overshadowed by news of the war, elections and upheaval in Washington, was this story about funding vaccines for children in the developing world through the sale of special bonds. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/07/AR2006110700308.html

The offering was the first leg of an initiative -- the International Finance Facility for Immunization (IFFIm) -- which aims to raise funds from bond markets over the next 10 years. Can you put some of your savings into such bonds in order to make sure this project is fully funded. While religious leaders and rock stars invest in these instruments, average investors like you and I also can underwrite these efforts in the Third World.



[1] http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/ezekiel/ezekiel47.htm#foot1

Hold Onto the Word of Life November 8

Do everything without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world, as you hold on to the word of life. Philippians 2:14-16

Every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:33

Piety

God, help us to live up to the St. Paul paints – blameless and innocent Children of God. Keep us from grumbling in the midst of our crooked and perverse world, polluted by the forces of advertising and consumerism, acquisition and hoarding. Only through your intercession can we shine like lights in the world. Help us to hang onto every Word of the Good News, not the Daily News. Amen.

Study

http://www.usccb.org/nab/110806.shtml

Prancing around in our rainbow hats and natty vests for MaƱanita makes our faith seem lighthearted. How easy to be a friend with THIS CHRIST. When I came away from my weekend experience, too much of Catholic Christianity seemed easy. Make a friend. Be a friend. Bring a friend to Christ.

How many of my friends will want to come to the Christ we meet in Luke’s Gospel today? Today Christ tells us to:

· Hate our father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and our own lives…at least make them take second place
· Carry our own cross and come after Jesus to be his disciple (Crucifixion was a popular type of torture/capital punishment used by the Romans in the occupied Holy Land long before Christ walked up Calvary so this stuck fear in people’s hearts just like the guillotine did in 18th century France or the lethal injection today.)
· Renounce all your possessions

Today, we come face-to-face with the Christ of awe and seriousness…the Christ we meet on the pages of Tolstoy, of Dostoevsky, of Kierkegaard, and of Bonheoffer. Here is the Christ of costly grace. The Christ of total dedication. The Christ who asks us to have no attachment to family or possessions…

How ironic that people of faith fight so hard in the public arena for pro-family issue. Christ is telling us to jettison our families! Be ready to accept suffering and persecution. Realistically assess the hardship and costs.

How in the world can we balance this message with our lives and the suburban conditions in which we luxuriate? How can we not feel like we have totally caved in to the Promised Brands of Nike and Starbucks, I-Pod and Microsoft, Apple Pie and Chevrolet?

Yesterday, we saw how people invited to the great feast put their possessions ahead of accepting the invitation from Jesus. A new field, five yoke of oxen, a new wife.

What do we put in the way of the invitation? Our new Hewlett-Packard color LaserJet printer? Our Motorola Q smart phone? A Black and Decker cordless drill? Our SES application? Our new Honda Ridgeline? The latest episodes of “Lost?”

Action

What can you do to move toward total dedication to friendship with Christ? Why not try holding onto the word of life rather than your earthly possessions.

At a parish mission a few years ago, the visiting Franciscan priest asked the congregation assembled who had brought their Bible to Church. Out of 750 good Catholic people in the Worship Center, one woman raised her hand. Upon further questioning, it turned out that she was a member of a Protestant church and was just visiting us as well!

Try carrying the word of God with you every day…not just in your heart and your head, but in your purse or briefcase or hands. Maybe it will take the place of that cell phone or laptop or those files you never seem to read. Go ahead, let your Bible help you start to push other things out of the way.

Then, load some Christian music on your MP3 player and a Virtual Rosary on your Pocket PC or handheld/Palm device…put the “stuff” to work for good!

He Emptied Himself November 7

Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave. Philippians 2: 5-7

Blessed is the one who will dine in the kingdom of God. Luke 14:15

Piety

God, help us to empty ourselves for your service. Instill in us the attitude your Son exhibited in his life – as a servant to the servants of God. Help us to remove the obstacles to your friendship and make a commitment to spend time with you each week in piety, study and action. Amen.

Study

Although we are admonished not to judge other people, who among us reading this will not recognize the phrase, “He is full of himself.” This is a euphemism that many of us have been guilty of using when we encounter people who are overly proud of their accomplishments and are not shy about letting us know.

Who among us has not been guilty of padding the resume a little to help land that next job or promotion? As someone who has spent his life in public relations and media relations, I am often searching for the best light to shine upon a given situation. Thus the “spin” might divert attention away from problems or weaknesses.

While we can say many things about Jesus, I doubt anyone ever thought that he was overly proud. Or that he boasted of his accomplishments. Or that he was “full of himself.” Instead, St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Philippians, that Jesus emptied himself, gave up his divine existence, came to Earth in human form and became a servant of all to the point that on the night before he died, he washed the feet of his friends. As the soldiers stood at the foot of the cross mocking him, he did not bring down a legion of angels but asked God to forgive us before he died.

Today’s first reading reminds us of the contrast between Jesus’ life and the life of Adam. Unlike Adam in the Genesis story, Jesus, though in the form of God (“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Genesis 1:26-27), did not reach out for equality with God. Instead, Jesus reached down for equality with the lowest servants on earth. Adam on the other hand, did not resist the temptation to be like God. (“The moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods.” Genesis 3:5-6).

The parable of the great dinner further explains how the classes of Jewish society will be turned upside down before the table of the Lord. God’s very own “chosen people” rejected Jesus’ invitation to share in the banquet. In the face of this rejection, Jesus extended the invitation to other Jews whose identification as the poor, crippled, blind, and lame classifies them among those who recognize their need for salvation, and to Gentiles.

Action

How will you accept the invitation to the Great Dinner? Where will you sit? Who will you bring along? Governor Tim Kaine or John Yancy Schmitt?

This week, the state of Virginia is once again poised to execute someone in your name. The bishops of Richmond and Arlington – along with our shepherds throughout the country – have resoundingly rejected the death penalty as an option.

Please take time to write to Gov. Kaine and tell him that you don’t want Virginia to kill John Yancey Schmitt in your name. Express sympathy for the family and friends of Earl Shelton Dunning, and explain that you are not seeking to excuse violent crime or downplay the suffering caused. However, for faith-based reasons, ask the governor to commute John Yancey Schmitt’s death sentence to life in prison without parole. Ask him to order a moratorium on executions and create a commission to study the capital punishment system in Virginia.

Governor Tim Kaine
Office of the Governor
Patrick Henry Building, 3rd Floor
1111 East Broad St
Richmond VA 23219
Fax: 1 804 371-6351
Email, via: http://www.governor.virginia.gov/AboutTheGovernor/contactGovernor.cfm.
Salutation: Dear Governor

John Yancey Schmitt would be the 98th person executed in Virginia since the death penalty was reinstated. Governor Kaine has the ability to respect all life and commute the death sentence to life without parole.

CASE INFORMATION from http://www.vadp.org/:

November 9th has been set for the execution of John Yancey Schmitt who was sentenced to death for the murder of Shelton Earl Dunning, a security guard during the robbery of a Bon Air Nations Bank on Feb. 17, 1999. The issue here is not guilt or innocence but the specter, once again of prosecutorial misconduct and the fact that capital punishment as practiced in Virginia is not reserved for the “worst of the worst” crimes. Schmitt accepts responsibility for the accidental death of Earl Shelton Dunning. Dunning died as a result of a gunshot wound to his chest during a struggle with Schmitt. The question is should John Yancey Schmitt be executed for that murder?

Note: Texas has two executions scheduled – November 8 and November 16th.

Be Rewarded with the Peace of God

Piety

Dear tender and caring God, I long to find your peace. I long to be loved by you, the one who can most fill my heart. Let me find rest in you during the hectic pace of my day. Let me not set my sight on distracting goals such as new belongings or advancement. Rather, let me hope in you both now and forever. Amen.

Study

http://www.usccb.org/nab/110606.shtml

Love one another. Time and time again, Jesus’ message comes through in various stories, examples, answers to doubters and to those who challenge Him.

The psalm today gives us a beautiful image: a comforted, quiet child, cuddling quietly on her father’s or mother’s lap. How we love sitting thus with our own little – or not so little – ones as they settle in for the night or rest after a tumble from a bike. And truth be told, occasionally I’ve longed for a lap to rest in, arms warmly around me after a traumatizing experience during my day.

This image also calls forth the stillness of listening – listening for the heart of God as John, the Beloved disciple, is known for. What do we find while listening in stillness to the heart of God? Love. Unconditional, free, abundant love.

Paul tells the Philippians that “if there is any solace in love…” (Ph 2:1) they should resist language and behavior that disrupts the loving unity Jesus bestowed upon His people. …"complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing.” (Phil 2:2) There is more than harmony in unity through Christ, there is joy.

Jesus takes us one step further. Invite in and love those you don’t know – stranger and other. Hold a banquet for them! “…blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.” (Luke 14:14) Your reward for this unity, this generosity, is God’s reward. How hard this is for us. Our learned behavior tells us the “other” is dangerous, suspect, out-to-get-me-or-mine. This is not the intellect and emotions with which God gifted us at creation. It is our learned behaviors – like those of the Pharisees and Sadducees - which Jesus railed against.

How do we move beyond these learned, divisive thoughts, feelings and actions? Listen, in stillness, for the heartbeat of God. Listen for God’s love. Let it sink into us like the comfort a parent gives her/his child. Let that love permeate our own hearts and soften them and “humbly regard others as more important than yourselves”. (Phil 2:3)

Experience freedom from the tyranny of regarding Yourself! and Others as less than beloved children of God.

Action

Stop and feel your pulse. Your pulse mirrors that of the pulse of God’s own Son, Jesus. For 10 minutes, 15 minutes, feel His presence with you, rest yourself against Him. Listen for His heartbeat, His spirit moving through you with accepting, profuse love. Now open your eyes and move through the “banquet” of your workday treating the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind as your honored guests.


DeColores
Beth DeCristofaro