Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Turn from Evil

Every man shall turn from his evil way
and from the violence he has in hand.
Jonah 3:8

This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,
except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.
Luke 11:29-30


(From Psalm 51)

Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense. Wash away all my guilt; from my sin cleanse me.

For I know my offense; my sin is always before me no matter how much I try to walk in your path. Against you alone have I sinned; I have done such evil in your sight that you are just in your sentence, blameless when you condemn me.

Create for me a clean heart, God; renew in me a steadfast spirit.

Do not drive me from your presence, nor take from me your holy spirit.

Restore my joy in your salvation; sustain in me a willing spirit.

I will teach the wicked your ways, that sinners may return to you.

Rescue me from death, God, that my tongue may praise your healing power.

Lord, open my lips; my mouth will proclaim your praise.

For you do not desire sacrifice; a burnt offering you would not accept.

My sacrifice, God, is a broken spirit; God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart. Amen.



The tone of the readings today sets up a turning point in the Gospel of Luke. Until now, there have been two reactions to Jesus and his words and works recorded by St. Luke. First, some have begun to see him as the Messiah, the Son of God. However, others see him doing the work of Satan.

To those who turn their backs on His message, Jesus has some harsh words and condemnation. The preaching that begins in today’s Gospel calls on the latter group to repent. However, rather than repenting, after the confrontation in Luke 11, they start to plot against Jesus.

The “sign of Jonah” in Luke is the preaching of the need for repentance by a prophet who comes from afar. While the people of Nineva did turn from their evil ways, many people in Jerusalem and Galilee did not. To those who do not, Jesus warns that they should not expect to be saved by Jesus.

What evil ways does Jesus single out? What makes up his social critique of the day?

· Turning away from God by “not hearing the word of God and observing it.” (11:28)

· Choosing to remain “in darkness” (11:35-36)

· Envy and “being filled with feelings of evil and plunder” (11:39)

· Ignorance of paying “no attention to judgment and to love for God. These you should have done, without overlooking the others.” (11:42)

· The pride of loving “the seat of honor in synagogues and greetings in marketplaces.” (11:43)

· Leading others astray like making people walk “over unseen graves” (11:43)

· The injustice of “imposing on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.” (11:46)

· You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter." (11:52)


Jesus connects the mission of the church (apostles) with the mission of the Old Testament prophets like Jonah who often suffered the rebuke of their contemporaries. How is our mission today connected with these same social sins?

If Jesus were here today, how might he critique our organized religion, our politics, our evil ways, our culture of violence?

Just look at the winners in the Oscars and imagine what Jesus might conclude about our evil ways. Films like “The Last King of Scotland,” “The Departed,” and “Letters from Iwo Jima” all focused their lenses on war, atrocities, crime and corruption.

Look at the local, national and international headlines in today’s newspaper.

· Employers are singled out for giving jobs to immigrants

· Americans worry about how our savings is affected by the 400+ point drop in the stock exchange and the drop in the value of our homes

· Suspects are named in war crimes in Sudan yet after four years, there has been little action or intervention by western governments to protect these people who are being slaughtered

· One 18-year old kid from Maryland is in jail, accused of killing another 18-year-older by hitting him in the head with an aluminum baseball bat

· Road rage escalates with “missiles” and arrests of people for throwing drinks and cups at cars who cut in front of them on local highways

How can we overcome the ignorance, envy, pride and other social sins Jesus takes exception with? How can we work to lead people down the right path and to paying attention to love for God? How can we regain the humility needed as Christians to spur fancy settings and tributes?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Before You Ask

February 27, 2007

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11

Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matthew 6:8


Father, in faith, hope and love, you know what we need before we even ask. Despite our quest for more material possessions, greater position in society, and greater influence in business and education, you know our real purpose is to build your kingdom.

Jesus, help us to go about the work of building the Kingdom of God on earth. Teach us to use God’s grand gifts in this endeavor. Teach us God’s Word so we fulfill its promises.

Holy Spirit, be with us today and always as we seek through fortitude, prudence, justice and temperance the right relations with those around us and the right relationship with God.




Who am I? Why am I here?

Entire religions and schools of philosophy have tried to answer this basic question. Today, the Bible points us toward one answer. However, we must go beyond ourselves and our human endeavor to contemplate such a question and even to hope to approach an answer.

Our identity and divine purpose is not about our career objective on a distant resume. It’s not about our education or some quantity of diplomas and degrees. It’s not about our material possessions, riches, or “toys.” It is about what God want us to be, to do and to accomplish in His name.

Today, Isaiah teaches that the gifts we get from God are sent in order to fulfill their divine purpose or destiny. They are not just pretty objects but are given to us freely to “water the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, Giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats.” In corresponding fashion, God’s word has a divine purpose to fulfill and it will achieve the ends for which God sent it through the actions of God and God’s children.

That’s where we come in. Why are we here and how do we find out what to do? Jesus indicates that to get closer to that answer, we must get closer to God. He tells us that the path to that close relationship is in prayer…and then he teaches us how to pray. Even though God knows what we want and need before we ask, we need to send our requests to God. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus gives us a prayer that reveals our relationship with God, our purpose here on earth and how to achieve our mission.

Some might say we are praying for the inevitable in light of the earlier reading from Isaiah on the destiny of these gifts and God’s Word. If God’s Word does not return to heaven unfulfilled, what role can we possibly play in that fulfillment? Are we even necessary? Won’t that purpose be fulfilled even if we do nothing?

The Lord’s prayer indicates that is our work which will determine when exactly, God’s Kingdom is established on earth. We pray that “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” This petition sets the tone of the prayer, and shifts the balance toward divine rather than human action in the petitions that immediately precede and follow it.

“Give us today our daily bread” is our way of praying for a speedy resolution – today – of the Kingdom of God. “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” Jesus teaches that our actions on earth now have their counter part in actions initiated in heaven.


Life is not about pursuing a little gold statuette at Hollywood and Vine. Despite the ink spilled on the Oscars and the little statues, Christianity is not about winning awards for oneself but doing things without reward for others “as we forgive others who trespass against us.” And the trespasses are everywhere:

Turmoil in Somalia.

AIDS in Africa.

Crisis in Darfur.

War in Iraq.

Taliban in Afghanistan.

Uprising in Haiti.

Insurgent activity in Pakistan.

Does it never end? Where can one person act and make a difference? Rather than spreading out on every issue, why not consider the tack taken at Arlington, VA, parish Our Lady Queen of Peace.

During Lent 2007, for almsgiving, parishioners are asked to consider a sacrificial gift to support a sister parish in Haiti. Does your church have a sister parish? If so, why not see how you can focus support on that congregation.

If your parish does not, why not start a relationship with a sister parish?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life

February 26, 2007

Monday of the First Week of Lent

By Beth De Cristofaro

The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple
(Psalm 19:8)

And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40)


Jesus, Shepherd, I choose your Spirit and Life. Follow me, Lord into the brambles or pluck me from bog or cliff edge when I stray. May the joys, tragedies, hardships and lessons of life be enriched and made holy by my choice of you. I will look for your Spirit and Life in each moment of my day. May I shine your Spirit and Life to the world as you would do if you still walked this earth.



God’s interaction with us is not just tenets, lists of do’s and don’ts. In Leviticus, this passage begins with the enjoinder: Be Holy for I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Lev 19:2) and ends with “You shall love you Neighbor as yourself” (Lev 19:18). How can holiness and selfless love be accomplished through rules and regulations? The psalmist realized that God is living, upholding and loving us. Your words, Lord are Spirit and Life” (Ps 19). In the revelation of Christ, God is the Word, made flesh in Christ, modeled to us with his very His life and death. God’s promise is revealed in Jesus’ resurrection.

Jesus description of the King’s judgment of the sheep and the goats (Mtt 25:31-46), gives us an opportunity to remember and act from the words of the psalm: Your words, Lord are Spirit and Life. God gives us the way: choose spirit and life. Choose Christ. Choose to be a sheep. God’s gift to us is spirit and life. Accept the gift. Love as I love, Jesus teaches again and again. Treat each of my created humans as if he/she were me. Live my life.

Not an easy task. But God accompanies us. God’s Word of spirit and life in Scripture and Church Tradition teach us. The stirrings in our heart which are grounded in prayer and listening to God will lead us. Cursillo group in which we share our insights and struggles will help us. Time taken for reflection will guide us; (thanks, Fr. Mike Hann for a beautiful, renewing retreat which in part inspired this piece).


In what areas of your life are you “goat-ish?” For example, what habits make you hard to live with? Lent is about refocusing our own lives toward God-with-us. By being aware we can curb “goat-ish” behaviors, attitudes, decisions, addictions. We can choose to be sheep. Keep in your heart: Your words, Lord are Spirit and Life” in order to firm your intention. Choose to be a sheep and choose to see and treat others as Christ’s sheep, too.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The First Fruits

First Sunday of Lent

February 25, 2006

By The Justice and Peace Commission, Arlington (VA) Diocese


Fr. Gerry Creedon, St Charles Borromeo

Anne Murphy, Commission Consultor

Then you shall declare before the LORD, your God, “My father was a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt with a small household and lived there as an alien. But there he became a nation great, strong and numerous. When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us, imposing hard labor upon us, we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and he heard our cry and saw our affliction, our toil and our oppression. He brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand and outstretched arm, with terrifying power, with signs and wonders; and bringing us into this country, he gave us this land flowing with milk and honey. Therefore, I have now brought you the first fruits of the products of the soil which you, O LORD, have given me.”

And having set them before the LORD, your God, you shall bow down in his presence. Then you and your family, together with the Levite and the aliens who live among you, shall make merry over all these good things which the LORD, your God, has given you. When you have finished setting aside all the tithes of your produce in the third year, the year of the tithes, and you have given them to the Levite, the alien, the orphan and the widow, that they may eat their fill in your own community, you shall declare before the LORD, your God, “I have purged my house of the sacred portion and I have given it to the Levite, the alien, the orphan and the widow, just as you have commanded me. In this I have not broken or forgotten any of your commandments: I have not eaten any of the tithe as a mourner; I have not brought any of it out as one unclean; I have not offered any of it to the dead. I have thus hearkened to the voice of the LORD, my God, doing just as you have commanded me. (Deuteronomy 26: 5-14)


Father, God of Goodness, we thank you for the harvest the earth has produced for the good of mankind. These gifts witness to your infinite love; may the seeds of charity and justice also bear fruit in our hearts. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. (Sacramentary: Opening Prayer: After the Harvest.)

  • Pray every night for the farmers and the people around the world who feed the world and make their living through farming. Pray for the migrant workers who work in the fields and travel to great lengths to find work, often leaving their homes and families during harvest time.
  • Participate in one daily Mass each week during Lent.
  • Pray the Liturgy of the Hours, the official prayer of the church.(www.e-breviary.com



Grateful for a good harvest, the people of Israel acknowledge that all they have comes from God. This prayer, read at Mass this first Sunday of Lent, is probably part of a ritual liturgy of thanksgiving where the Israelites recount all that God has done for them from the time of Abraham to their deliverance from the Egyptians. Now they are able to live and worship in the land that God has given to them. Included in this recitation is a promise to share what they have with those less fortunate: the alien, the orphan and the widow. In Paul's letter to the Romans, he reminds his listeners that in God's eyes, there are no distinctions among the people of earth; our God is the God of all people. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the desert for 40 days to be tempted by the devil. He eats nothing during this time and at the end when he is hungry the devil tempts him. Yet he is able to resist temptation because he knows that all good things come from God alone. During this Lenten season, the Spirit is leading us into the desert. The next six weeks are set aside for us by the Church so that we can recommit our lives to God. As Saint Paul tells us, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10: 9) Lent is the season when we deepen our relationship with Jesus, who loves us enough to become one with us; who, through his life, death and resurrection, shows us the way to the Father. So in coming to know Jesus, we, like the Israelites of old, should recount all that he has done for us and continues to do for us in a liturgy of thanksgiving, the Mass. And in remembering that everything we have comes from God, we must share what we have with all God’s children. During the 40 days of Lent, the Church calls each of us to reconnect with God through Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving (P-F-A). Like Jesus' 40 day sojourn in the desert, the Spirit will show us the way to the God.

Question: What worldly concerns keep you from realizing the active presence of God in your life? How can you use this Season of Lent to reconnect with God? How can a desert experience help me? What do I hope to gain being led by the Spirit into the desert?



  • What is your response to hunger, homelessness and suffering in the world? Can you make a commitment to one of the organizations in Northern Virginia that serves the marginalized?
  • Try to give up one treat this week, maybe a Starbucks Latte, or a sweet treat with your coffee, and donate what you save to Catholic Relief Services (www.crs.org) or an organization that feeds the hungry.
  • Support small coffee growers by looking for the Fair Trade logo on the container or package when you buy coffee. You can also look on the CRS website (www.crs.org) to see who sells fair trade coffee products.
  • Go vegetarian for a day, a week, or for Lent, it will do a lot of good for the Earth.


  • Consider making a donation to the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (http://www.usccb.org/cchd/.) This organization is the domestic anti-poverty, social justice program of the U.S. Catholic bishops. Its mission is to address the root causes of poverty in America through promotion and support of community-controlled, self-help organizations and through transformative education.
  • Save all your pocket change and put it in the CRS rice bowl collection. If your parish does not have one, contact Terry Angelotti, Arlington Diocese Coordinator for CRS at 703.841.3939 or e-mail www.crs.org to see how you can get your change to them or consider donating the money to a local homeless shelter or soup kitchen.
  • During Lent, try to eat local foods as often as possible, thus supporting small farmers. Many locations have farmers’ markets, and Whole Foods often labels local produce and meats. Another way to support local farmers is to join a farming co-op. Go to www.localharvest.org to find a local farm near you.
  • Join the National Catholic Rural Life Council (www.ncrlc.com ) for updates on legislation affecting small family farms.
  • Give money to anti-hunger organizations like Bread for the World or Heifer International.
  • When you eat in a restaurant or order out, take the same amount of money that you spend and give it to the poor.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Leaving Everything Behind

February 24, 2007

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday; Then the LORD will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land. He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails. Isaiah 58:9-11

Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him. Luke 5:27-28


Lord, teach me your ways that I may walk in your truth. Jesus, help us act on your call. When the phone rings, we answer it. Give us the initiative to do the same when we hear your Word. Help us to work to eliminate poverty, oppose war, teach the ways of peace, oppose the expansion of the death penalty and to be a consistent witness for life at all stages from conception to natural death. Amen.


Jesus needs a reaction.

The Dixie Chicks want listeners. Nora Jones wants listeners. Jimmy Buffet wants listeners. But they all want you to go out and buy their records, concert tickets and videos.

Jesus needs people to listen and pay attention to what He is saying. But his mission will fail if he has a lot of listeners to a radio program. Once the message is heard, he wants people to completely detach from material possessions and change the way they are living their lives. Listening without following is hollow. Jesus needs our reaction. Listening and doing something about the Word. THAT is what will please the Lord.

Piety alone is not the only answer. Yes. Jesus wants our prayers, our faith. But where will these prayers, this faith lead? Unless we remove from our midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech, it will lead no where. Unless we bestow our bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted, it will lead no where.

As the Psalmist writes today, Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.” We can just learn the ways unless we walk in its truth.

When we send up our prayers, we want Jesus to listen AND answer. He asks nothing less of us.


In today’s column in The New York Times, Bob Herbert notes:

No one can figure out what to do about Iraq or Al Qaeda. A great American cultural center like New Orleans was all but washed away, and no one knows how to put it back together. The ice caps are melting and Al Gore is traveling the land like the town crier, raising the alarm about global warming.

But none of that has really gotten the public's attention. As a nation of spectators, we seem content to sit with a pizza and a brew in front of the high-def flat-screen TV, obsessing over Anna Nicole et al., and giving no thought to the possibility that the calamitous events unfolding in the world may someday reach our doorsteps.

Jesus does not want a church of spectators. He wants his followers to be do-ers. And one way we might start/continue is to look at alleviating domestic poverty. This week the Church issued a statement on eliminating poverty and working with other Christian churches. The statement can be found here: http://www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2007/07-035.shtml

Get involved with projects like the Hypothermia Project which reaches out to the poor and addresses these issues.

NOTE: This is officially the 365th posting to Your Daily Tripod. Looking forward to number #730 next year. Would you like to join our band of bloggers? Look for a new message each Sunday during Lent 2007 that comes from the Arlington Diocese Peace and Justice Commission thanks to Fr. Gerry Creedon and Anne Murphy.

Break Forth Like the Dawn February 23

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!
Isaiah 58:8-9

“Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?” Matthew 9:14


Jesus, bring together your Christian family to celebrate their spiritual and corporal works of mercy done in your Holy Name. Help us to overcome the external adversity and internal obstacles that are in our path to you. For as we approach you, you approach us as the Prodigal Children returning to their ancestral homes. As we call out, we anxiously await to hear your response and to know the comfort that comes from your presence in our lives and in our work. We await your answer, Lord, to our cry for help just as you await our actions. Amen.



In these early days of Lent, our readings have been focused on our proper prayer behavior internally (in a private place) and how we appear in public. Jesus isn’t looking for us to hold a Rose Bowl Parade in his honor. Instead, when we offer sacrifice, Jesus doesn’t want us to attract attention and sympathy to ourselves…but rather he wants us to throw off the focus onto someone else or a different organization.

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Isaiah 58:6-7

Both on Ash Wednesday and today, fasting is equated with mourning. While Jesus is still with us, he declares that it would be inappropriate to mourn at this time of joy because Jesus is proclaiming the kingdom. He uses the apt image of the bridegroom because when we attend a marriage, we participate in the party celebrating the bride and groom’s new life.

Today’s readings do predict that there will be a time when Jesus will no longer be with the disciples visibly. That is the time for fasting and mourning. However, Isaiah helps us define the kind of fasting that is most pleasing to God…fasting from social oppression so we can feast on love. Consider Isaiah 58:6-7 when you are deciding about your Lenten fasting and how you will “Go in peace to love and serve the world.”


My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.” Merely external worship does not avail with God; it must be joined to internal sincerity and community action. Rather than focusing on extremes of piety alone, Isaiah lays the ground work for a very vibrant course of ACTION for the Cursillistas. By fulfilling our roles to put love in action, Jesus shows and tells us how we, too, can act as ambassadors for Jesus.

Lately, the Virginia lawmakers in Richmond have been debating expanding the current death penalty statutes. For the complete list, see the following web site:


Both Catholic bishops in the state have publicly called for an end, not an expansion, of the death penalty. Please contact Governor Tim Kaine and urge him to veto any expansion of the death penalty. When Governor Kaine was running for office, he said he would support the state laws. However, he never said he would expand state sanctioned killing. From the Internet, you can use a form on the Governor’s own web site to register your personal views.


Refresh your thinking on this issue by reviewing the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops background paper on the campaign to end the death penalty at these sites:



Thursday, February 22, 2007

“But who do you say that I am?” February 22

Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, Apostle

Tend the flock of God in your midst, overseeing not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. 1 Peter 2:2

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. Psalm 23:1

“But who do you say that I am?” Matthew 16:15


Let us pray: Jesus, help us to get to know you better. As we get closer to you, we will be able to answer that question, “Who are you?” Carpenter, Messiah, Savior, Son of God, Brother, Counselor, Friend. Send your Advocate to inspire our prayer, our study and our work throughout this Lenten season and beyond. Amen.



“Who do YOU say that I am?”

God has already revealed his son twice at the Baptism and the Transfiguration. So, when Peter tells Jesus that he is the Messiah, is Peter just re-stating the obvious here?

Absolutely not. When Jesus was baptized, Matthew has not yet reported that Simon had been called to leave his fishing boats behind to follow Jesus. Matthew gives us no clues or evidence that Simon Peter was in the crowd at the Jordan River that day when John the Baptist allowed Jesus Baptism to fulfill the Word, the heavens opened, and God revealed, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”

There was no media in the day to spread this news. There were no books, newspapers, talk shows or magazine – not even an Arlington Catholic Herald or the National Catholic Reporter to spread the news. Today, more people learn faster about Brittany cutting her hair than learned of Jesus’ baptism when it occurred. The call in Matthew, chapter 4, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” does not take place until AFTER the baptism (Matthew 3). So Simon missed that revelation from the first time the voice of God revealed the Messiah.

However, Simon Peter was there at the Transfiguration. So, is he just reporting back to the Lord what he witnessed on top of the mountain? No once again. Matthews’s account of the Transfiguration does not come out until chapter 17 – but Simon’s witness is reported in Chapter 16. Jesus repays the faith of His disciples by inviting them to witness the scene on the mountaintop with Moses and Elijah when God says, “This is my beloved son. Listen to him.”

So Simon has knowledge that Jesus is the Messiah independently of these two critical revelations from God directly. He missed the first time and the second occurrence had not yet happened. Jesus explains that Simon did not learn of this from humanity. If he didn’t learn it from humans (“flesh and blood”), and he did not learn it through a special event, then Jesus explains that this knowledge was inspiration revealed by God.


All of us will be called to account for our relationship with Jesus. Are you ready to answer two questions from Jesus?

Who do you say that I am?

Upon what rock does Jesus ask you to build his Church?

Many people identify Jesus with the image of as Good Shepherd and the guardian of your soul. The familiar shepherd and flock figures express the care, vigilance, and love of God for his people in the Old Testament. The shepherd tends to his flock, sleeps out under the stars.

But Jesus does not want us to be passive lambs accepting care. He wants us to be the shepherds now, "tending the flock." This Lenten season, he once again calls us to be ambassadors of Christ, builders of His Church. He wants us to go out into the world and repay him for his care, tenderness, and love by carrying on His mission to love the world and save us from sin.

Consider taking your role as “ambassador” literally. Just as our diplomats fan out from Washington around the globe, maybe you are asked to help build up the church at a sister parish in another country -- in Central America, Asia, Africa or Haiti.

Does your parish have such a program? If it does, can you make a sacrificial gift to support that work during this 2007 Lenten season? If not, why not find out more about how your parish can twin up with a church elsewhere in the world and touch people in ways they will never know…

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Return to me with your Whole Heart February 21

Ash Wednesday - February 21, 2007

by Diane Bayne

Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the Lord, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment. Joel 2: 12-14
Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2Corinthians 6:2

Jesus said to his disciples: "Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. . . When you give your alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. Matthew 6: 1-6

And so, with a plethora of instructions, we begin Lent: "Return to me with your whole heart. . . with fasting, and weeping, and mourning. Rend your hearts, not your garments." Do not wait, for "now is the acceptable time." When you give alms, pray, or fast, do it in secret–and "your Father, who sees what is hidden, will repay you."

We've heard all this so many times before that perhaps it no longer holds much meaning for us. And so, as they say in Bridge, it may be helpful if we "review the bidding." Unpleasant as it may be to recall, we have all inherited a corrupt human nature, a nature with a tendency to turn toward self instead of toward God. Of this tendency, Francis de Sales says, "It will only die a quarter of an hour after we do."

Lent is a wake-up call to remind us of this state of affairs and to offer us a special time of grace to grow closer to Christ.


To grow closer to the Lord, St. John of the Cross, a sixteenth century Spanish mystic, advises not that we crush our natural, human desires, but rather that we allow them to be transformed. In Book One of The Ascent of Mt. Carmel, John instructs us to focus on Christ and imitate him in all things. As our love and longing for Christ grow, that desire transforms all other yearnings. John would have us realize that the value of self-denial depends on our motive. If we undertake a Lenten program of self-improvement to conquer our will and make us a better person, it has little lasting effect, except to bolster our pride if we are successful. If, on the other hand, our Lenten program is a natural response to our desire to imitate Christ and to love Him above all else, including ourselves, then the love which motivates it gives it value and transforms us.

Spend a quiet time meditating on St. John's ideas. How can you incorporate them into your Lenten program?



The good news is that a variety of ways are available to help us in this transformation process. In his book Prayer and Temperament, Msgr. Chester Michael explores spiritualities that have proven helpful for various Meyers-Briggs temperaments. He writes that people with "SJ" temperaments often choose the Ignatian exercises for spiritual growth, whereas those with the more contemplatively inclined "NF" types prefer Centering Prayer and the spiritualities of the Trappists, Cistercians, and Carmelites. People with SP types find Franciscan spirituality suits their love of creation, while those with "NT" types appreciate the spirituality of St. Thomas Acquinas. (For more on personality types, see http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/)

If you have not already done so, identify your temperament and the spirituality that will best help you grow in your love for Christ.


Instead of a Lenten regimen focused on developing self-discipline and greater will power, nourish your love for Jesus by reading the Gospels and learning to know Him.

Rembember, the value of your Lenten resolutions lies not in what you do but in the love with which you do then; they can only be effective if they are undertaken in the light of Jesus' presence, out of love, not as ends in themselves.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Commit Your Life to the Lord February 20

When you come to serve the LORD, prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, undisturbed in time of adversity. Cling to him, forsake him not; thus will your future be great. Accept whatever befalls you, in crushing misfortune be patient; for in fire gold is tested and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation. Sirach 2:1-5

Commit your life to the Lord, and he will help you. Psalm 37:5

“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35


God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next. Amen. --Reinhold Niebuhr


Today is the day before Lent begins. Many people look on this as a day of celebration, a day when we feast before beginning the desert experience. Jesus and the disciples are setting out on a journey, a journey that we have joined. Before we get on the road, Jesus has some parting words for us to ponder today. The disciples are once again showing that they do not understand the lessons of Sirach from the first reading. They don’t yet know how to commit their life to the Lord because the disciples are jockeying to position themselves for the finish line as if this journey is the Daytona 500. However, for all that scrambling, if they don’t start paying attention, there will be another pile up at the finish line. In fact, there are likely to be many crashes alone the way. “Accept whatever befalls you, in crushing misfortune be patient; for in fire gold is tested.”

To what have you committed yourself?

Too often, we are seduced into pursing a life without Christ, without commitment. We want the “Easy Street,” not the “School of Hard Knocks.” Easy Street promises financial security and independence. Jesus promises poverty and dependence, not the good life. He promises “hardship as the pathway to peace.”

Are you committed to your career? Working hard for promotion? Always looking for the chance to get ahead? But does that sometimes come at the expense of others whom you step on and over to get to the top rung of the ladder? Even if you are not stepping over them, do you sometimes show general indifference?

Jesus has a way of dealing with the indifference and careerism of the disciples. Instead of anointing any of them first, he brings over a small child – a child who represents the “anawim” -- the poor, widows, and orphans of the day. The Jews had a responsibility to take care of the “anawim.” Jesus instructs that the way to eternal happiness is achieved through identification with this child and service to the poor.

“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”


How do you remind yourself to serve the poor (and thus Christ) wherever you are? How can you keep your finger on the pulse of those who are not as fortunate as you? How can you always stand in “justice and fear” working to overcome the inherent inequality of our systems?

Consider adding a constant reminder to your environment. Maybe a poster, a cross, a piece of artwork will give you a proper frame of reference. When you cross that threshold every day, you see that reminder.

For example, consider putting your work/office/school key on a key chain which also has the Benedictine cross. (Thanks to Ken and Peg Telesca for bringing one back for me from the “motherland” – Italy of course.) The “key” preoccupations of the Benedictine monks are “ora et labora,” prayer and work. See how nicely “prayer” fits into “work” in Latin!

As you open that door each day, that cross will be a reminder to you that you are working not just for your employer, not just for your customers, not just to pay the bills, not to fill your 401K account or to accumulate stock options. Instead, you are there to make like better for others.

Dorothy Day said “Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system.” To overcome the personal aspirations we all have in this capitalist system, to respond to the seriousness of the world's situation and to take up the mission Jesus has for us, we have to live our lives in dramatically different ways. May the Lenten Season show us those ways.

NOTE: Today’s readings are a fitting conclusion to this stretch of ordinary time and the first cycle of Your Daily Tripod. Today brings us back to the starting point for these meditations. We have journeyed through a full liturgical cycle since the beginning of Your Daily Tripod on Ash Wednesday 2006 to the 113th Men’s Cursillo team and friends as the team went into hiatus. By April, Your Daily Tripod started to take on momemtum and graduated to a web journal plus e-mail circulation. And now there are at least five people making regular submissions – more are always welcome.

From that original message to the team and friends of the Men’s Cursillo, we have now completed a journey through an entire cycle of Catholic liturgy. It is hard not to read in amazement His Word – a wonderful book – written by so many different people through the ages yet with a common Spirit and inspiration.

Tomorrow, we begin a second liturgical cycle of reflections and readings together. But it all starts and ends with The Word.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Help My Unbelief February 19

Monday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth De Cristofaro

Before all things else wisdom was created; and prudent understanding, from eternity. The word of God on high is the fountain of wisdom and her ways are everlasting…It is the LORD; he created her, has seen her and taken note of her… He has lavished (wisdom) on his friends (Sir 1:4-5, 7, 10)

(Jesus said) “Everything is possible to one who has faith.” Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mk 9:23-4)


Lord of splendor and might, lavish me with the gift of wisdom so that being touched by you I might bring your presence a little more clearly to your broken and battered world. “Help my unbelief,” Lord, so that I might be healed and help to heal those least among your brothers and sisters.



The sand of the seashore, the drops of rain, the days of eternity: who can number these? (Sir 1:2) If we try to understand God, God’s mystery and God’s majesty in quantitative terms, we don’t get too far. The apostles are not able to dispel the mute demon. Jesus tells them “This kind can only come out through prayer.” (Mark 9:29) It is not through their skill or understanding but their conscious reliance on God's power when acting in Jesus' name which will give them dominion over evil.

Perhaps the disciples might themselves cry “help our unbelief” in their impotence. Peter, James and John had just accompanied Jesus to the mountaintop where he was transfigured and they heard the voice of God affirm Him. But they did not understand: So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant. (Mk 9:10)

This is first time in Mark that Jesus made clear that the disciples must pray (Mk 9:29). What keeps them (us) unbelieving, misunderstanding, doing impotent actions? We can only dispel demons – including our own which keep us from God – through prayer and submission to the power of God.

As we study we ought not to reduce God to the knowledge we possess about God. Rather, we study, we pray, we spend time with God, we cry “help our unbelief” to resolve what our response to God’s sovereignty should be in everyday life.


Can we use ourselves, given to us by God, to praise God each and everyday? Can we turn over our intellect to God? Can we turn over our unbelief or doubts to God? Can we turn over our failures to God? Can we turn over our successes to God? Can we prepare to become God’s empty vessel through the opportunity of entering the desert of Lent with Jesus?

In the beautiful words of the mystic, St. Isaac the Syrian: Blessed is God who uses corporeal objects continually to draw us close in a symbolic way to a knowledge of God's invisible nature. O name of Jesus, key to all gifts, open up for me the great door to your treasure-house, that I may enter and praise you with the praise that comes from the heart.” [1]

[1] Adapted from Hilarion Alfeyev, The Spiritual World of Isaac the Syrian (Cistercian Studies 175), Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 2000. http://www.christianmystics.com/traditional/early/stisaacthesyrian.html

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Be Merciful February 18

“Do not harm him, for who can lay hands on the LORD’s anointed and remain unpunished?” The LORD will reward each man for his justice and faithfulness. (1 Samuel 26:9,23)

But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:35-36)


Lord, you set forth a moral code that goes beyond human capacity. Help us to overcome our emotions and instincts and egos to follow that code. Give us ears to hear you and minds to understand your message. Then give us the will to accept your commands and live justly and extend mercy to even our enemy. Amen.



Here goes Jesus…changing the rules again.

While there are many violent scenes throughout the Hebrew Bible, today’s scene from the book of Samuel, introduces non-violence – a concept advanced later in the Gospels and by Gandhi, Lech Walesa, Nelson Mandela, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others. David does not slay his opponent; he only steals his spear to make a point. The NAB points out that there is no Old Testament commandment demanding hatred of one's enemy, but the “neighbor” of the love commandment was understood as one's fellow countryman. In the Hebrew Bible, (Psalm 139:19-22), hatred of evil persons is assumed to be right.

If only you would destroy the wicked, O God, and the bloodthirsty would depart from me!

Deceitfully they invoke your name; your foes swear faithless oaths.

Do I not hate, LORD, those who hate you? Those who rise against you, do I not loathe?

With fierce hatred I hate them, enemies I count as my own.

But it is not right any longer. That sentiment is not tolerated by Jesus. Not any more. Jesus extends the love commandment to the enemy and the persecutor and even that big red SUV who cut you off on the icy Beltway while driving home from work yesterday. We, as His disciples, as children of God, must imitate His example and the example of God, who grants his gifts of sun and rain to both the good and the bad.

Yesterday, the Gospel reading of the Transfiguration from Mark instructed us to “Listen to Jesus.” Today, we learn the moral code that Jesus wants us to abide by and how it differs from human emotion and instincts. If the Lord is kind and merciful, how can we be anything but that as well? The Lord seeks a binding resolution that there will be a surge in our sense of justice and faithfulness.


Who is your enemy? How can you turn over what some would say is common sense or emotion or instinct and overcome that enemy?

In a message today from the www.SaveDarfur.org group, they have issued a new call to encourage people to act on behalf of the oppressed in Sudan. David Rubenstein wrote:

The Sudanese government has thumbed its nose at all opportunities to cooperate with international efforts to end the violence.

The Bush administration has already developed "Plan B," a multi-tiered plan to push Sudan to end the genocide, but they keep delaying its launch. Adding to the frustration, despite the continuing mass-displacement and attacks, Special Envoy Andrew Natsios claimed last week that genocide is no longer occurring in Darfur.

We need your help to encourage President Bush and his advisors to launch "Plan B" before more lives are lost in Darfur.

Click here now to send a message asking President Bush to launch his plan to make Sudan cooperate with international efforts to end the violence.

The Sudanese government-sponsored genocide has already claimed at least 400,000 lives, displaced 2.5 million people and left more than 3.5 million men, women and children struggling to survive amid violence and starvation. We simply can't afford to wait any longer.

Please add your name to the petition and send a message…it only takes 30 seconds but it may spur action for justice and mercy toward the people in Darfur. Thank you.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Listen to Him February 17

“Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Mark 9:7


Speak Lord. Your Servant is listening.

Here I am Lord. I come to do your will.



Through faith God guarantees the blessings to be hoped for from him, providing evidence in the gift of faith that what he promises will eventually come to pass. Christians have even greater reason to remain firm in faith since they, unlike the Old Testament men and women of faith, have perceived the beginning of God's fulfillment of his messianic promises.[1]

In speechmaking and speechwriting, there is a device called flagging. The writer or speaker uses it when they really, really want the audience to pay attention to what is coming next. It makes it easy to identify key points.

While there are a lot of examples, one of the more famous phrases was often used by President Nixon when he wanted to make a point. He would use the phrase, “Let me make this perfectly clear.” Then he would utter the point he wanted the audience and the media to understand. Today, the first reading sets up the important message and then Mark comes along with flags waving and underlines the point of faith and conduct when the voice of God utters, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

This is the second time in Mark’s Gospel that God’s own voice is heard by the people. On both occasions, God claimed Jesus as his own. Today, that anointing goes one step further with the command, “Listen to Him.” Moses got Ten Commandments. Listen to Him. We only get one. Listen to Him.

Looking back and looking ahead in the Gospel Mark recorded reveals some of the wisdom taught by Jesus. Yesterday, we heard Jesus’ second call to discipleship. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mark 8:34-35)

Following the Transfiguration, Mark goes on to provides a veritable catechism class of lessons spoken by Jesus to which we must pay close attention.

Elijah will indeed come first and restore all things. (12)

The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be treated with contempt. (13)

Everything is possible to one who has faith. (23)

The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise. (31)

If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all. (35)

There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us. (40)

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe (in me) to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. (42)

Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another. (50)

That is only the wisdom on faith and service revealed in one chapter of the 16 offered to us by St. Mark. Listen to Him. There are 15 more chapters in this Gospel alone. Listen to Him.

Jesus did not want St. Peter building any tower of Babel on the mountaintop. He brought the disciples back to earth and continued teaching them, healing, and preaching and spurring them on to action.


One must believe not only that God exists but that he is concerned about human conduct; the Old Testament defines folly as the denial of this truth.[2]

God works through others to help us to understand his Word and his Works. For Peter, James and John, the appearance of Jesus, Moses and Elijah provided that powerful lesson. If Jesus took you up to the mountaintop today, who might appear on the cloud of witnesses with him?

Martin Luther King?
Dorothy Day?
St. Francis?
Henri Nouwen?
Thomas Merton?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer?
Jean Donovan?
Dorothy Kazel?
Maura Clark?
Ita Ford?
Oscar Romero?

What would they ask you to do?

Come After Me February 16

Friday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

“If now, while they are one people,
all speaking the same language,
they have started to do this,
nothing will later stop them from doing whatever they presume to do.
Let us then go down and there confuse their language,
so that one will not understand what another says.” Genesis 11:6-7

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Mark 8:34-35

Piety (Psalm 33)

The LORD foils the plan of nations, frustrates the designs of peoples.
But the plan of the LORD stands forever, wise designs through all generations.
Happy the nation whose God is the LORD, the people chosen as his very own.
From heaven the LORD looks down and observes the whole human race,
Surveying from the royal throne all who dwell on earth.
The one who fashioned the hearts of them all knows all their works.
A king is not saved by a mighty army, nor a warrior delivered by great strength.
Useless is the horse for safety; its great strength, no sure escape.
But the LORD'S eyes are upon the reverent, upon those who hope for his gracious help,
Delivering them from death, keeping them alive in times of famine.
Our soul waits for the LORD, who is our help and shield.
For in God our hearts rejoice; in your holy name we trust.



“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.” Mark 8:34-35

This call to discipleship immediately follows Jesus’ rebuke of Peter (“Get behind me” parallels “Follow me.”). As the NAB points out, “this utterance of Jesus challenges all believers to authentic discipleship and total commitment to himself through self-renunciation and acceptance of the cross of suffering, even to the sacrifice of life itself.”[1]

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.” Life seen as mere self-centered earthly existence and lived in denial of Christ ends in destruction, but when lived in loyalty to Christ, despite earthly death, it arrives at fullness of life.[2]

Ched Myers et al. point out that Jesus underscores the point that “Gain and loss should not be calculated according to the ledgers of the dominant culture.”[3]

What of the symbol in this expression? The cross? In today’s reading, we might envision a cross that is steeped in religious symbolism. Walk into any jewelry store at Fair Oaks Mall and you can see cases filled with crosses – silver ones, gold ones and some made of both silver and gold. Head down the Mall to the Family Christian Bookstore or down the street to The Pascal Lamb and there will be more – maybe some made of wood and others of plastic. Some to wear. Some to hang on your wall. Some to display on your car.

Watch any talk show and actors and actresses wearing crosses will parade out to promote their latest book, movie, marriage or other narcissistic endeavor.

But this modern religious/cultural icon is NOT the cross that the disciples will picture when Jesus speaks. Palestine of the first century was the home of nationalists rising up against imperial Roman rule. The cross that will come to mind for the audience is the cross of crucifixion – the symbol of capital punishment used by the Romans against its political opponents.

Jesus is not asking the disciples to “give up” chocolate for Lent. He is challenging them to give up their very human existence and take up this cross of certain death. Today, he might challenge us to face execution by the electric chair or the gurney where prisoners today are strapped down and killed – not for capital offenses but for His sake or for the gospel!


We have six days until we begin the Lenten Season for 2007. Where is Jesus calling you to take up your electric chair?

He doesn’t want us pre-occupied with building modern day towers of Babel, monuments to our own accomplishments and design. Rather, Jesus wants us to build his Kingdom in Fairfax, Virginia, New Orleans, Haiti, Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan and wherever the Holy Spirit leads us.

The challenge of the execution challenges the “self” as the center of the universe. It calls us out of life centered in individualism and self-interest and into life according to God’s love. Out of this love, Jesus calls us to resist systems and structures that cause or perpetuate injustice. Where in your life are you called to resist the culture of violence, consumerism, or other forced of injustice?[4]

[3] Myers, Ched, et. al., Say to This Mountain: Mark’s Story of Discipleship. New York: Orbis Books, 1996. Page 102.

[4] Myers, Ched, et. al. op. cit., Page 106.