Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Treasure Buried in a Field

by Melanie Rigney

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Wednesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

As Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the commandments in his hands, he did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant while he conversed with the Lord.” (Exodus 34:29)

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.’” (Matthew 13:44)


Lord, let my love and faith in you shine and help others find the way to the Kingdom of heaven. Let me never forget the treasure you have placed before me.



Are you a bargain hunter?

Some of us make a celebration of shopping, a day-long outing to Potomac Mills or perhaps a weekend with friends that includes the outlet malls at Rehoboth Beach and Salisbury, Maryland. There’s a certain thrill to getting a $900 suit at the Joseph A. Banks outlet for $200, or perhaps a $200 leather bag at Coach for $50. Have you ever patiently sorted through the racks, certain that somewhere, there has to be a size 10 of the shirt you adore that’s 60 percent off?

There’s no cut-rate way to the Kingdom, Jesus shows us today. When we desire it, we must “sell” all we have—our pride, our fears, our arrogance, our petty worries, our love for expensive toys—and buy the field. That’s hard. We all backslide, we all sometimes reclaim the things we thought we had sold. The beauty, the glory of God and his kingdom, is that the field is always there, waiting for us to find our way. And, best of all, there’s plenty of field for everyone, no matter what happens with the real estate market. It’s a seller’s market—and the Lord has plenty for all who wish to commit to the purchase.


Take an inventory of your holdings, the things you own that you must put aside on your journey to the kingdom. Hold an internal garage sale.

A love of money? Select a charity and contribute what would have been your budget for dining out this week.

Pride? Volunteer at a shelter or food pantry one night this week.

A love of power? Humble yourself by letting someone else get the face time you covet.

Don’t tell anyone else why you’re doing it. He will know.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Receive Us as Your Own

July 31, 2007

Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, priest

Then he said, “If I find favor with you, O Lord, do come along in our company. This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your own.” Exodus 34:9

Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.” Matthew 13:43


Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess You have given me: I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more.

Suscipe by St. Ignatius of Loyola



Today is the feast day of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus – the Jesuits – a man whose work on earth shines like the sun to this day.

After leading a life in the military, Ignatius was injured and read the Lives of the Saints while recovering. He turned his back on his worldly possessions and life and started the Jesuit order. While other orders were founded on sets of rules put forth by founders like St. Benedict, St. Francis, or St. Dominic, St. Ignatius left behind a series of meditations now commonly called the “Spiritual Exercises.” In this method, the faithful put themselves into Bible stories and meditate on what it would be like to take part in the Sacred Scripture.

According to the Boston College web site, “Ignatian spirituality centers on the imitation of Jesus—focusing on those priorities which constitute Christ's mind, heart, values, priorities and loves.”

To learn what those values, priorities and loves are, Ignatius would encourage us to consider what Jesus said and did. At the foundation of Jesus’ life was prayer, a continuous search for how best to live as an authentic human being before a loving God. Jesus preached forgiveness of sins, healed the sick and possessed, and gave hope to the poor, to those socially and economically outcast. Jesus spoke of joy, peace, justice and love; he summoned men and women from all classes of society to continue to follow his way to God and his commitment to helping people become whole and holy.


(St. Ignatius begins his Spiritual Exercises with The First Principle and Foundation. While not typically thought of as a prayer, it still contains much that is worth reflecting on. Read and reflect on this today as it has been paraphrased by David Fleming, S.J.)

The Goal of our life is to live with God forever.
God, who loves us, gave us life.
Our own response of love allows God's life
to flow into us without limit.

All the things in this world are gifts from God,
Presented to us so that we can know God more easily
and make a return of love more readily.
As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God
Insofar as they help us to develop as loving persons.
But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives,
They displace God
And so hinder our growth toward our goal.

In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance
Before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice
And are not bound by some obligation.
We should not fix our desires on health or sickness,
Wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one.
For everything has the potential of calling forth in us
A deeper response to our life in God.

Our only desire and our one choice should be this:
I want and I choose what better leads
To God's deepening his life in me.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Smallest of Seeds Becomes the Largest

You know well enough how prone the people are to evil. They said to me, ‘Make us a god to be our leader; … So I told them, ‘Let anyone who has gold jewelry take it off.’ They gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and this calf came out. (Ex 32:22-23)

… Moses, his chosen one, Withstood him in the breach (Ps 106:23)

“The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed … It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants….and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches (Mt 13:)


May I grow strong and sturdy in your love, my God. May my faith be deeply rooted in you and my actions spread like protective branches into the world. May I quiet my own ideas, thoughts, desires in order to be open to you within, nourishing my very being. I rejoice in the gift of life you have bestowed on me. Help me to give glory to you by rejoicing in Life through loving others as you love me. Amen



“The devil made me do it.” “Everyone else is doing it.” “I made a mistake.” “It’s for the good of everyone…”

Moses “stood in the breach” to beg forgiveness for the people who had turned away from God. Jesus, God’s Chosen, hung on a cross to be forgiveness to humanity who had turned away from God.

Jesus’ enigmatic parable about the mustard seed is full of the beauty of God’s creation and the gifts God has given to us. The roots of the mustard seed must be buried in good ground to be as fruitful as Jesus’ image is. Faith and action must be rooted in the Word, the promises and generosity of God who bestows “mercy down to the thousandth generation”. (Ex 20:6) God expects the Chosen to act righteously following Gods tenets and, while doing so, bestow mercy, as the mustard tree feeds the birds.

Our culture does not provide an easy source of good ground. Wanting more material belongings does not fertilize but desiring God above all else does. Roots of faith are nourished when we truly give over and accept “give us this day our daily bread”. And truly seek to “forgive others as you forgive us”. Being God’s chosen, we must be alert; only we can separate ourselves from God for God is with us now.

A young, Dutch Jew faced a culture gone mad with violence and fear, writing in her diary: “I draw prayer round me like a dark protective wall, withdraw inside it as one might into a convent cell and then step outside again, calmer and stronger and more collected again.”
- Etty Hillesum, "An Interrupted Life"[1] How do you stay strong, calm, collected to God? How do you step outside again to nourish, to invite birds into your branches?


Moses stood in the breech – what can we do to stand protectively, lovingly in the breech? Be still, listen for God’s agenda rather than our own.

Add your voice requesting an end to war: http://www.catholicsforanend.org

Interfaith dialogue is a path to understanding and relationship rather than fear and division: In Jakarta, Indonesia, “An Islamic leader condemned recent Muslim protests against a conference planned by the Carmelite Prayer Center. Syafi'i Maarif, head of the Muhammadiyah, Indonesia's second largest Islamic organization, said that police must protect everyone's right to express their religious faith. … The rally has tarnished the good image of Islam. As Muslims, we know that Islam is a good, peaceful and loving religion," Maarif added. There is no good "reason to use and abuse [Islam] in an effort to legitimate harmful actions against other religious beliefs, to express dislike about them or conduct any unfriendly gestures" to scare Catholics, the Muslim scholar said.” (from July 26 Zenit.org Muslim Leader Defends Carmelite Prayer Meeting”)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Teach Us to Pray

July 29, 2007

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Should not the judge of all the world act with justice? Genesis 18:25

He brought you to life along with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions; obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims, which was opposed to us, he also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:14

I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence. Luke 11:8


From Sacred Space (http://www.sacredspace.ie/)

My soul longs for your presence, Lord.

When I turn my thoughts to you, I find peace and contentment.

Lord, may I never take the gift of freedom for granted. You gave me the great blessing of freedom and of spirit. Fill my spirit with Your peace and Your joy.

In God's loving presence I unwind the past day, starting from now and looking back, moment by moment. I gather in all the goodness and light, in gratitude.
I attend to the shadows and what they say to me, seeking healing, courage, forgiveness.

The word of God comes to us through the scriptures.
May the Holy Spirit enlighten my mind and my heart to respond to the gospel teachings: to love my neighbor as myself; to care for my sisters and brothers in Christ.

Thank you, Lord, for answering the disciple in today’s Gospel so briefly yet generously. If I linger on this prayer, savoring it phrase by phrase, I have everything I need from prayer: raising my heart and mind to God, begging and giving forgiveness, asking for what I need, and to be safe from trials beyond my strength.



In fund-raising, we have a little maxim. People give because they are asked to give. The corollary also is true for most: People do not give if they are not asked to give. When you grow weary of the fund-raisers calling you on the phone, filling up you mail box, blanketing the Internet and the magazines, or stopping you on a street corner, then perhaps you will have a sense of what God feels like with all the prayers generated in His direction.

Prayer demands the same kind of persistence. If we do not ask our Father in heaven for His assistance, how will He know that we need it?

If we don’t knock on the door, how will those inside know that we are waiting out in the cold dark night?

If we don’t look for God’s grace and blessing, how will we find it?

Whether the Father responds out of His love for us or due to our persistent asking, know this one thing: He will respond.


What are you asking of your Father these days? What are you asking of the Blessed Virgin Mary? What are you asking of Jesus? The saints?

Do you think you don’t have time to pray? Do you think you don’t know how to pray? Like the disciples, ask Jesus to teach you to pray.

Perhaps he will send you to Sacred Space (http://www.sacredspace.ie/) for ten minutes each day. The idea of the site was to bring a meaningful experience of prayer to busy people in their offices, and to bring it to them on their desktops through the internet. Sacred Space guides the visitor gently through a ten-minute prayer session, in six stages, centred on a scripture passage for the day, and based on the tradition of Ignatian spirituality. You are never alone. In June, 434 people prayed every hour with Sacred Space.

How will God respond to your request? How will you respond in action to God’s love?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Grow Together Until Harvest

July 28, 2007

Saturday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

“All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do.” Exodus 24:7

Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.” Matthew 13:30



(Anonymous 17th Century Sermon)


Please be gentle with yourself and others.

We are all children of chance,

And none can say why some fields blossom

While others lay brown beneath the harvest sun.

Take hope that your season will come.

Share the joy of those whose season is at hand.

Care for those around you.

Look past your differences.

Their dreams are no less than yours,

Their choices in life no more easily made.

And give.

Give in any way you can.

Give in every way you can.

Give whatever you possess.

Give from your heart.

To give is to love.

To withhold is to wither.

Care less for the size of your harvest than for how it is shared,

And your life will have meaning

And your heart will have peace.



What does it say? Jesus uses another parable of seed planting and harvesting to teach an important lesson today. As farmers, His audience would understand the problem weeds would pose to a growing crop. The image of the harvest is used repeatedly in the Old and New Testament to portray the final judgment.

What does it mean? The notes in the NAB point out that the refusal of the householder to allow his slaves to separate the wheat from the weeds while they are still growing is a warning to the disciples not to attempt to anticipate the final judgment of God by a definitive exclusion of sinners from the kingdom. In its present stage, the world is composed of the good and the bad. The judgment of God alone will eliminate the sinful. Until then there must be patience and the preaching of repentance.

What does it matter? Evil exists in the world. Many times, when tragedy strikes, people start asking questions: “Where was God?” “If God loves us, why would God let such an event happen?” God did not eliminate evil in the world. We have to learn that forces opposed to God’s love exist and those forces sometimes make bad things happen to good people (like a drunk driver killing an innocent victim or a child who gets a serious illness).


What can you do when bad things happen to good people?

First, you can work to prevent the bad from happening. For example, make sure friends and others don’t drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Second, comfort those who face hardship. Like Moses blessed the people in the desert, your life can be a blessing to others. For example, visit friends in the hospital, nursing homes or at home when they are ill.

Refreshing the Soul

July 27, 2007

Friday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul.

The decree of the LORD is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart.

The command of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eye.

The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.

The statutes of the LORD are true, all of them just;

More desirable than gold, than a hoard of purest gold,

Sweeter also than honey or drippings from the comb. (Psalm 19:8-11)


Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me sow love.
Where there is injury; pardon.
Where there is doubt; faith.
Where there is despair; hope.
Where there is darkness; light.
Where there is sadness; joy. (Peace Prayer of St. Francis)



Today, the readings have us focus upon doing the right thing based upon listening and understanding of the scriptures. Listen to the Lord. Understand What He is telling us. Do the right thing.

Listening can only happen when we go off, alone to a quiet place to let the Lord speak to us. Piety is intense two-way communication with the Lord.

Like with any friend, we let Him know how much we admire Him. We share our faults and short-comings with the Lord in these frequent conversations. We thank Him for how he helps us every day. We ask Him to continue to help us further in the future.

Adoration. Confessional. Thanksgiving. Supplication.

Sometimes, the message the Lord has for us requires that we learn more about what He has revealed. Scripture study makes the words of Sacred Scripture come alive. Reading Church documents. Studying Catholic Social Teaching.

Do the right thing. Whether focusing on the Ten Commandments of the Hebrew Bible or the two commandments Jesus gave in the New Testament, right actions and right relationships are the vital final link in fulfilling our duties once we understand, through faith, the message the Lord has for us.

Three steps we are reminded about today. Piety. Study. Action. But you already know that these three steps of piety, study and action are sweeter than all the honey.


Last Sunday, in an address following the Angelus, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the senseless slaughter of the wars going on throughout the world. He said that war creates patches of “hell” in this marvelous “garden” which God has entrusted to us to care and tend.

In the midst of this beauty, we must never forget the situations in which our brothers and sisters at times find themselves. War, with its aftermath of bereavement and destruction, has always been deemed a disaster in opposition to the plan of God, who created all things for existence and particularly wants to make the human race one family.

Similar feelings about war recently prompted Catholic members of the House of Representatives to address a letter to the U. S. bishops seeking their aid to ending the war in Iraq. http://www.house.gov/delauro/press/2007/July/Catholic_Iraq_07_03_07.html

The Bishops have since requested meetings with representatives of BOTH parties in Congress.

Numerous resources have been posted on the internet from the bishops, including the four priority messages to Congress. These include a call for peace in the Middle East both in Iraq and between the Israeli people and the Palestinians.

As the bishops gear up for more leadership activity to bring people to the world, consider sending your members of Congress a note about the war. Review the statement for key points. You can find it at http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/projects/200702csmghm.pdf

As Pope Benedict spoke: The beauty of nature reminds us that we have been appointed by God to “tend and care for” this "garden" which is the Earth (cf. Genesis 2: 8-17), and I see that you truly tend and take care of this beautiful garden of God, a true paradise. So, when people live in peace with God and one another, the earth truly resembles a “paradise.”

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I Am Coming to You

July 26, 2007

Memorial of Saint Joachim and Saint Anne, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The LORD told Moses, “I am coming to you.” Exodus 19:9a

To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand. Matthew 13:12-13


Let us pray. Lord, you granted Saints Joachim and Anne the great privilege of bringing into the world the Mother of your incarnate Son. Hear their prayers and grant that we may reach the salvation you promised to your people. Amen.



People had been waiting for God for an awfully long time. It’s hard to imagine that God would want to come into the world when he did. He didn’t wait for our modern age with all of its instantaneous communications tools. With TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, cable, cell phones, IM, My Space, Facebook, maybe God thought that there would be too much confusion by watching out for all the details of what’s happening.

However, throughout time, God sent signals. Like the sign he sent from Exodus today, “I am coming to you.” He wants us to receive Him and make room in our lives.

Today, God comes into our lives in many different ways large and small. He wants us to use the example of Saints Joachim and Anne and make room in our hearts for Him when he arrived.

Once we make room in our hearts and minds for God, then we can truly expect that we will hear the Word of God and respond in joy.


Tell God that your are coming to Him, as well. No need to present a laundry list of sins. Just take a step in the right direction and God will come to you – meeting you more than halfway. He may not hit you over the head with a sledge hammer. But he may do it with a pretty flower, a beautiful sunrise or sunset, a box of chocolates, or a long-lost special friend. Amen.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Son of Man Did Not Come To Be Served But To Serve

July 25, 2007

Wednesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

Feast of Saint James, Apostle

“We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-12)

“…Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:26-28)


Help me, Lord, to show in the way I live my life all that I have learned and continued to learn from you. I am confident that with your love and light, I can give up all, knowing that you live within me.



Will we be ready when God calls?

Consider John and James, the sons of Zebedee and Salome. Salome, as mothers often do, saw her sons in a very favorable light. At the beginning of today’s Gospel, she asks Christ to allow them to sit on either side of him in his kingdom. Jesus challenges John and James, asking “Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” They say they can; he affirms that indeed they will, but that “to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give.”

The other apostles become angry at the brothers, but Jesus settles the rancor by saying that this type of authority-wielding is not to be done among them. “Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

It was not long thereafter that James gave his own life. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia (http://www.catholic.org/encyclopedia/view.php?id=6254), James was beheaded in AD 44 by Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great. Even at the end, he was bringing souls to Christ: “the accuser who led the Apostle to judgment, moved by his confession, became himself a Christian, and they were beheaded together.”


Take in a movie or play or watch a TV show that reminds you that “so death is at work in us, but life in you.” One option is Diary of a Country Priest, a classic 1951 French film showing tonight at the Catholic Information Center in downtown DC (http://www.cicdc.org/programsevents.htm).

“Amidst physical and spiritual struggles, failure and rejection, the priest accepts all with submission, turning them into a kind of victory,” the CIDC site says. Discuss the lessons learned at your next group reunion.

Who Is My Brother?

July 24, 2007

Tuesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

I will sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant. Exodus 15:1

“Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father
is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
Matthew 12:50


Let us pray: Lord, you are holy indeed. Strengthen me to trust in your holiness above all else so that I can become your obedient servant echoing Abraham, Isaiah, and all your servants who cry, “Here I am, Lord. I come to do your will.” May your will be done to me according to your Word. Amen.



Jesus wants to come closer to us as if he is a member of our family. To do so, he opens the path. He doesn’t expect us to cross the entire distance by ourselves or without help. As He approaches us and seeks our response, He wants us to approach him. To make it easier, Jesus removes many of the obstacles in our path and protects us from harm. We see that in the familiar story in today’s reading from Exodus made famous by Charlton Heston’s portrayal of Moses in “The Ten Commandments.”

Jesus frees us from that which enslaves us and protects us from those forces which seek to harm us. Like Mary in Sunday’s Gospel story, he wants us to stop being pre-occupied with worldly distractions. We see again, today, what is the better part when Jesus identifies who is a part of his family. The family of Jesus is not made up simply of those blood relatives, but by those who hear the word of God and obey it (Luke 8:19-22 or Matthew 12:50):

Then his mother and his brothers came to him but were unable to join him because of the crowd. He was told, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside and they wish to see you." He said to them in reply, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it."

This is reinforced in the exchange to come between Jesus and a woman from the crowd in Luke 11:27-28:

While he was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed."

He replied, "Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it."

Also, the view is reinforced in Matthew 13:16-17:

"But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.

Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

Mary, the Mother of God, serves as the first model of the obedient servant (Luke 1:38): "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."


While our actions are important in fulfilling the Word, first we must listen to the word and truly hear what it means for our life. What does it say? What does it mean? What does it matter?

We have many choices in life. This week Scriptures give us many reminders that our service must be grounded first in faith. There are many people in the world who provide service for personal, altruistic reasons. However, they can do so without any scriptural or spiritual basis in faith.

Jesus did not tell Martha that her work, or the work of Abraham serving the Lord, is not important as well. However, he sets down that the cornerstone of any service rests in hearing and understanding His words FIRST. Then, we face the challenge of what to do about the message.

There are many ways to get a better grounding in Catholic Social teaching. One that I strongly advocate is participation in the series Just Faith, a 33-week long series of classes, discussions, readings movies and volunteer work that expose the participants to all Catholic Social teachings and the biblical foundation (http://www.justfaith.org/).

Does your parish or a nearby parish offer Just Faith classes starting this fall? Look into the series and sign up if it sounds like this is something for you.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Lord Will Win Victory for You

July 23, 2007

Monday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

by Beth De Cristofaro

“Fear not! Stand your ground, and you will see the victory the LORD will win for you today.”
(Gen 14:13)

An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. (Mt 12:39)


God of Mercy and love, help me stand my ground in the face of temptation, confusion and chaos, trusting always in your powerful and loving presence. Help me turn to you each moment. Let me meet you within that I might grow in awareness and courage that I might not seek signs but rather your presence.



Jesus’ teachings often used metaphorical language of movement such as: turn from, knock, prepare your lamp. These commands refer to interior turning toward God rather than physical movement – turning our will, the spirit knocking and the heart preparing. Jesus’ riddle-like answer to the scribes and Pharisees also refers to a deliberate, interior move toward God. Outward signs are not the answer. Inward movement is the answer.

The Israelites had just been released from bondage after witnessing the frightening and awesome plagues which had struck their captors. But within days of achieving their freedom, they cried to Moses: Why did you do this to us? … Far better for us to be the slaves of the Egyptians than to die in the desert.” (Gen 14:11, 12) God’s signs, God’s mercy, did not convince them. Moses interceded for them again and again in the desert as their faith flagged.

Jesus’ answer refers to the actions of Jonah who converted the entire city of Ninevah. Jonah, himself, had to be convinced, but he finally followed God’s commands as did, finally, the Ninevites. The Queen of the South heard rumors of a powerful God and came to be instructed by Solomon. She made an interior turn to God. Jesus knows that the hearts of the temple officials questioning him will not turn; they have already rejected the Word.

God’s mercy is for those who make the turn: “Fear not! Stand your ground, and you will see the victory the LORD will win for you today.” (Gen 14:13) At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah (Mt 12:41).

And, of course, Jonah prefigures the most miraculous of Signs: Jesus’ death and resurrection. It will still not be enough for some. But for his followers and those truly seeking God, it is enough. What is enough for us? Many of us experienced a turn to God on our Cursillo weekend and the Spirit filled us with both peace and hunger for God. Do we renew our own interior turn to God each day – each moment – if necessary?


Are we harboring the desire for signs to “prove” God’s presence? Can we be aware of and rejoice in the peace and hunger which the Spirit gives to us? Can we give way to the Spirit rather than our own fears, principals, ideas? Can we embrace turning toward? In what way can you be “sign” of God’s presence for somebody?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

In the Presence of the Lord

by Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

He waited on them under the tree while they ate. Genesis 18:8

Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her. Luke 10 (41-42)


But the silence in the mind

is when we live best, within

listening distance of the silence

we call God. This the deep

calling to deep of the psalmwriter,

the bottomless ocean

we launch the armada of

our thoughts on, never arriving.

It is a presence then,

whose margins are our margins;

that calls us out over our

own fathoms. What to do

but draw a little nearer to

such ubiquity by remaining still?

R.S. Thomas



Hospitality reflects a glowing Christ life within. Abraham welcomes guests and God rewards Abraham and Sarah with a child. Putting ourselves out for the sake of others, going to big efforts to take care of the needs of those around us, fill up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, the church. Whatever we do for the least one, Christ takes us done for him. Thus we present everyone perfect in Christ. The mystery hidden for ages has a peek-a-boo through the needs of our generation.

There is a Martha and a Mary in everyone. It takes a gracious host to anticipate the coming of a guest in such a way that we are present to the guest in every eventuality. It is a rare host that is always ready. We leave so much to the last minute that we are frequently caught unaware of the actual coming of our guest. That Christ comes in every guest is the Resurrection grace. Christ is the stranger coming into our lives unexpectedly. The knock on the door, even when Christ is expected, we are never really ready for. We do so many things that are unnecessary. Christ could well be saying to us that we are anxious and worried about many things.


There is need of only one thing. That we stand down from our work every now and then to be presents to the Christ who loves us in every moment of our lives. We are called to be his and he is forever knocking on the doors of our heart. Our heart’s door is only knocked on the inside. We let Christ out to our guests by being present to them. Like Mary of the Gospel of today, we need to choose the better part. We need to live in the presence of the Lord. Only in our foolishness do we tell the Lord when to come. Now is the acceptable moment to welcome the Lord in each other.

Food for the Journey

July 21, 2007

Saturday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

They had rushed out of Egypt and had no opportunity even to prepare food for the journey. Exodus 12:39

A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory. Matthew 12:20


Let us pray, Jesus, our faithful friend, help us to have a cheerful confidence as we commit our hearts, our lives and our very souls to follow you where ever this journey may lead. When you see how bruised we are, continue to heal us. When you see the flame of inspiration flicker, fire us up with the Holy Spirit. Let us lay aside contentious and angry debates that the Pharisees would have. Instead, help us to receive one another as You would receives us. Encouraged by your gracious kindness, we pray that your Spirit may rest upon us, and make us able to copy your holy example. Amen.



How does justice play out in our two readings today?

The Hebrews, saved by the Passover, are now taking flight to celebrate the holiday of Succor. For a people on the move, Succor is a holy day in which Jews build small huts that memorialize the shelter needed during the flight from Egypt. This flight marks the victory of justice over slavery in Egypt. Justice can now be an experience that the Hebrews can share after 430 years of captivity. Justice comes to pass on earth.

As the Lord led the Hebrews out of Egypt, turning to Matthew’s Good News, Jesus is now in flight, to save his life until the proper hour arrives. Even in flight, he leads his followers. While fleeing from the Pharisees, Jesus continues to bring hope to those who believe and followed him through his actions – healing the sick but trying to stay invisible so as not to disturb the Pharisees too early.

He will not contend or cry out, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory. And in his name the Gentiles will hope." Matthew 12:19-21


How can we work for Justice today?

Perhaps as we read in Exodus, we should consider a modern day “exodus.”

In little more than one month, the US will mark the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. It is now time to reflect upon the deplorable and shameful conditions that the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region are still suffering under, the obstacles the city has faced in trying to marshal resources for the recovery and the actions we all can and must take. Furthermore, as you recall the flight of the Jews from Egypt, recall diaspora (scattering of the people from their homes) that occurred in the Gulf States but especially New Orleans. Their flight was from Louisiana homelands to Texas, Virginia, New York, California and beyond.

August 29 will be a Day of Presence in New Orleans focusing on the prayer and possibility.

The example of our ancestors is endurance until they could see the Kingdom of Heaven sprouting out of the soil is our enduring symbol of Hope no matter what the challenges. We need to plan now for ways that we can continue to carry the message of Mercy and Hope for those affected in 2005 so they have the endurance to rebuild the homes and lives.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Eat Like Those in Flight

July 20, 2007

Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

[The lamb] shall be slaughtered during the evening twilight. They shall take some of its blood and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel of every house in which they partake of the lamb. That same night they shall eat its roasted flesh with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Exodus 12:7

Something greater than the temple is here. Matthew 12:6


How shall I make a return to the LORD
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD. Psalm 123



Travelers’ eating is a common thread connecting the Hebrew Bible story today of Passover and the Good News.

As the Hebrews participated in the Passover ritual – consuming the unblemished lamb – they are instructed to eat like travelers on a journey: with their belt on, sandals on their feet, their staff in hand and eating fast while awaiting the coming of the Lord.

In preparing the ritual, innocent blood of the lamb which is sacrificed is painted on the posts and cross beam (lintel) over the door frame – vertical and horizontal beams that call up images of the vertical and horizontal beams of the cross.

Not only does participating in the new ritual set them apart, but the blood on the cross beam and post of the door differentiates a Hebrew household from an Egyptian one…indicating where the male child should be protected and saved. Here the God of the Hebrew Bible demands sacrifice but ultimately shows mercy.

The disciple’s actions in the Good News also set them apart and indicate another change that Jesus introduces. This time they are set apart from the law and the Pharisees. The disciples are accused of working -- reaping wheat -- on the Sabbath. Jesus makes the point that this is just use of work.

During the confrontation, Jesus brings up the story of David’s army eating the bread in the temple when they were hungry. Although the story is not about a violation of the Sabbath rest; its pertinence to this dispute is that a violation of the law was permissible because of David's men being without food. Mercy for those who are hungry is the preferential option to just blindly following the law if people around you are in need.

Jesus argues that the law itself requires work that breaks the Sabbath rest, because of the higher duty of temple service or action. As the notes to the N.A.B. translation tell us, “If temple duties outweigh the Sabbath law, how much more does the presence of Jesus, with his proclamation of the kingdom (something greater than the temple), justify the conduct of his disciples.”

Side by side, the stories show how Jesus takes a new view on the law. The Passover story puts a primacy on the sacrifice and the journey ahead. The Good News confrontation puts the primacy on service and action rather than piety which may be blind to the needs of the people be they hungry like David soldiers or Jesus’ disciples.

We start with two very different stories about travelers eating but end with the revelation about how the demands of the law under Jesus has shifted since the time of the Exodus from Egypt. That shift is from sacrifice to mercy.

Travelers’ eating may be a common thread in both stories, but in reality, we are being led to a different conclusion. Rather than focusing on the sacrifice of the Exodus story of Passover, we can now focus on the mercy God has shown on the Hebrews in captivity. They experience this mercy when God visits the land. In Matthew’s Gospel, those who travel with Jesus and hunger are satisfied because they can – thankfully – break the old law. Jesus expands the law of mercy over the law of temple sacrifice.

For those who obey, Jesus is their reward.


How ready and able are we to follow the instructions which God has issued?

Will we be like the Hebrews and follow the letter of the law and focus on the sacrifice?

Or will we be like the Pharisees and follow the letter of the law while ignoring those hungry around us?

Or, are we ready to be disciples and accept the rewards God has placed before us as we journey with Jesus.

Last Sunday, God placed a man who was beaten by robbers in front of a Levite, a priest and a Samaritan. What does God place before us? Is he offering a land of milk and honey or a land with sharper demands?

Will you accept what God has to offer to you?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I Will Give You Rest

July 19, 2007

Thursday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

I am concerned about you and about the way you are being treated in Egypt; so I have decided to lead you up out of the misery of Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey. Exodus 3:16-17

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Matthew 11:28-30


Come aside to me, you untutored, and take up lodging in the house of instruction; How long will you be deprived of wisdom's food, how long will you endure such bitter thirst? I open my mouth and speak of her: gain, at no cost, wisdom for yourselves. Submit your neck to her yoke, that your mind may accept her teaching. For she is close to those who seek her, and the one who is in earnest finds her. See for yourselves! I have labored only a little, but have found much. Acquire but a little instruction; you will win silver and gold through her. Let your spirits rejoice in the mercy of God, and be not ashamed to give him praise. Work at your tasks in due season, and in his own time God will give you your reward. (Sirach 51:23-30)



Just as God expressed his concern for the people of Israel when they were enslaved in Egypt, his concern carries forward through time.

The psalm today reminds us, “The Lord remembers his covenant forever.” So the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Joshua, are passed on to Moses and now, on to us.

Across time, the promises remain. We must work at our tasks of piety, study and action and in His own time, God will give us our reward.

Matthew’s words in the Good News recall Ben Sirach's invitation to learn wisdom and submit to what is learned from such wisdom. However, it also recalls the Beatitudes where the meek shall posses the land and the poor in spirit (humble) possess the kingdom of heaven – another expression of God’s concern for us and His desire to deliver on His promises.


Where are your labors for the Lord going to take you today? Will you be feeding the poor? Will you be offering gifts of charity and almsgiving? Will you be performing the Corporal Works of Mercy? The spiritual works of mercy?

Or are you getting ready for a well-deserved break? God wants us to have all good things – that is why he led his people to a land “flowing with milk and honey.” In the middle of summer, our labors often turn to thoughts of vacation.

The Lord does not forget His promises and he never takes a vacation. The people are always following Him whenever he wants to rest. We are blessed with rest.

“Beside restful waters he leads us.” For some this vacation results in time away from home – into the mountains, over to the shores of a nearby lake, river, bay or ocean. For others, just time away from the daily routine of work, school, office and duties is break enough.

When you head out on vacation, remember to make some time for God just as God delivers to you the rest you need at the end of each day as well as during a summer vacation. Worship God and give thanks for the gifts you receive at home or on the road again.

Bring some religious reading with you on vacation. Take a break from your regular study. Consider a book of poetry (Gerard Manley Hopkins?) or some meditations by Thomas Merton.

Find a Church and attend Mass while away on vacation. Enjoy the setting of a new Church and consider yourself a parishioner in this Church even though you may only be there once a year.

PS: Our parish-away-from-home is St. Brendan the Navigator in Shallotte, NC.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Bless the Lord, Oh My Soul

By Melanie Rigney

July 18, 2007

Wednesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

“Bless the Lord, my soul, all my being, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, my soul; do not forget all the gifts of God, Who pardons all your sins, heals all your ills, Delivers your life from the pit, surrounds you with love and compassion…” (Psalms 103:1-4)

“At that time Jesus exclaimed: ‘I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and learned you have revealed them to the childlike.’” (Matthew 11:25)


Lord, I praise you and all you are, that which I understand about you and that which I do not. May my soul bless you all the day. Amen.



Some people measure whether they’re in sync with others by whether they remember John Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963. For others, it’s where you were when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded on January 28, 1986.

For me, a good indication of whether people are going to “get” me is whether they enjoyed Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell, both popular when I was in high school. I went to every production of both that I could, bought the records, the cassettes, the VHS tapes, and now the CDs and DVDs. I understand that some versions of both don’t include the resurrection, which is a pretty big omission, but every one I saw at least implied Christ arose from the dead. And, the music in both was, for the most part, incredible. (Forget the ’70s costumes and some of the acting.)

I share this because the highlight of the 1973 movie version of Godspell for me is when Lynne Thigpen (who you may remember from TV’s The District and recurring roles on Law & Order, LA Law and thirtysomething) belts out “Oh Bless the Lord, My Soul,” based on Psalm 103, one of today’s readings.

And what a psalm it is! It’s big, ebullient, joyful. No small “thank you for answering my prayer about my brother’s surgery” or “I really appreciate that you helped me get through that job interview.” No, here David’s praise is sweeping. He blesses the Lord with “all my being” for pardoning all iniquities, healing all ills, and redeeming lives from destruction. This God is huge, and David honors him with huge praise.

The small moments of our lives here on earth also are worth thanks. But we must not forget to thank God for the big stuff, for “being” as we go about our daily lives. Bless the Lord, oh my soul!


At dinner tonight, instead of your usual spoken prayer, sing a verse of “Oh Bless the Lord My Soul (one place to find the lyrics is www.stlyrics.com/lyrics/godspell/blessthelord.htm) or a favorite song of praise for your meal’s blessing.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Woe to You

July 17, 2007

Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

When she could hide him no longer, she took a papyrus basket, daubed it with bitumen and pitch, and putting the child in it, placed it among the reeds on the river bank. Exodus 2:3

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the Day of Judgment than for you. Matthew 11:21-22


In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.

Mother Teresa



Oh to be a mother without hope for her child facing the choice of slavery or death.

Today as we recall the birth of Moses, think about many children are growing up Darfur facing a future filled with either slavery or death.

Or in Iraq, where death for innocents comes in waves of 80 today or 150 tomorrow. How many innocent children have been caught up in the invasion, insurgency and subsequent civil war?

How many of these innocent children grow up to be imprisoned in Virginia, Texas or Georgia where the death penalty may be carried out more among people of color?

How many children are kidnapped and drafted as child soldiers fighting someone else’s war across the African continent?

What woe must the mothers of these sons must share with the Levite woman whose only hope was to abandon her son in a basket afloat on the river.

Yet how insulated we are from those realities…

…insulated by our sealed up air-conditioned houses

…insulated by our economically segregated neighborhoods where all that matters is not the content of your character or the color of your skin – just the color of your money

…insulated by our jobs that protect us from encountering the poor in our secured lobbies, locked down in perpetual orange alert

…insulated behind the locked doors of our automobiles cruising around the Beltway at 80 miles per hour just to stay ahead of the Jones’ and the Smiths and everyone else who is just trying to get to point B.

…insulated by our cell phone conversations with our “Fave Five” so we would not have to make eye contact with the stranger in the grocery store or the beggar at the Metro Stop?


Today over 27,000 children died from poverty and other preventable causes around the world. But that fact did not make the headlines in the Washington Post or Wall Street Journal.

Woe to you Fairfax. For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Port au Prince or Kabul or Bangladesh, they would long ago have reaped many rewards. Yet for all of our comforts and creations, we take our blessings for granted. And we sell short our ability to make a real difference in America.

Let’s make today the day we do not take our situation for granted.

According to a U.N. report on the State of Human Development, the following expenditures are needed in order to assure basic needs for all people.

Global Priority

Basic education for all costs $6 billion

Water and sanitation for all costs $9 billion

Basic health and nutrition for all costs $13 billion

Today, we spend more than $8 billion on cosmetics and the U.S. and Europe spend $17 billion on pet food. The USA has grown to be one of the most powerful economies in the world and is home to some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, but 35 million American citizens live below the poverty line.

What changing priorities do you want to make in how you use your wealth? Consider making a small change and stick to it over the next 30 days. For example, pass up that $3 iced latte at Starbucks in the afternoon and put that money aside to make it an ADDITIONAL charitable gift to an organization working with the poor here or abroad. The $3 per day will add up to $15 for the week; $60 for the month and more than $700 for the year.

That $700 could furnish a village school in the developing world through Auras House (www.aurashouse.com) or another reputable charity.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Our Help is the Lord

July 16, 2007

Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth De Cristofaro

[H]ad not the LORD been with us – When men rose up against us, then would they have swallowed us alive (Ps 124:2,3)

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Mt 10:37-39)


Help me, my God, put you first, as your Son put you first. Keep me from traps and snares whether of my own making or the designs of a world gone astray. Let nothing disturb you as I welcome you into my very being. Fill me Lord, God, with such a desire for you that I can look upon your beautiful creation with appreciation and a questioning heart rather than with desire and incompleteness. Fill me, God, with you alone.



The psalmist’s confidence, the tragedy of the Hebrews in Egypt and Jesus’ warning brings to mind the prayer of St. Theresa of Avila:

Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing afrighten you.
All things are passing.
God alone is changeless
He who has patience wants for nothing
He who has God has all things.
God alone suffices.

Sometimes we feel “life is good.” Then things change. What do we define as good? Life was good for the Hebrews in Egypt under the protection of Joseph. Then things changed. The disciples found life good with their beloved Jesus. Then things changed. The psalmist – taking the long view – rejoices that We were rescued like a bird from the fowlers’ snare (Ps 124:7) and that God is always faithful. Did a mother whose baby boy was drowned in Egypt under the Pharos’ order, have this confidence? Did she, like the psalmist, rely on that kernel of peace and surety within herself that knows God was with her even in the face of slavery and murder?

“God alone suffices,” Jesus says. Family is important, a responsibility as well as a gift from God. But family is not more important than God. One’s own life is not more important than God. Certainly society, law and culture, which Jesus often opposed, is not more important.

There are many “Pharoahs” in the world today. They might be misguided or evil world leaders. Or perhaps they are enticing voices telling us that we should look to our own comfort, beauty and status in order to be happy. Such messages cause us to make choices out of fear or selfishness which drown out the goodness, kindness and love within our own hearts. These messages drown out God’s silence within our souls.


What are the things, voices, impulses that lead you and the choices you make? What are your "Pharoahs?" Your children’s welfare? Financial security? American identity? Job grade? An addiction?

God alone is changeless. Step out of your box. Speak to someone different today and see how you are like her/him. Help someone who might be a rival or threat to what you have. God alone is changeless. Where is God within that other? Where is God within you?


Saturday, July 14, 2007

In Your Mouths and In Your Hearts

July 15, 2007

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’ No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.” Deuteronomy 30:13-14

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


I pray to you, LORD, for the time of your favor. God, in your great kindness answer me with your constant help. Rescue me from the mire; do not let me sink. Rescue me from my enemies and from the watery depths. Do not let the floodwaters overwhelm me, nor the deep swallow me, nor the mouth of the pit close over me. Answer me, LORD, in your generous love; in your great mercy turn to me. Do not hide your face from your servant; in my distress hasten to answer me. Amen. (Psalm 69:14-18)



Today in our first reading we are told to heed the voice of the Lord. I would go to the end of the world to have the gift of the secret of happiness and the fountain of youth to enjoy it with. What makes Cursillo such a wonderful experience is the lived expression of what it is like to have arrived at the end of the world and have discovered the fountain of youth. Cursillo is all abut relationship to Christ. Six of the seven people I was doing directed retreats for these last eight days were Cursillo people whose appetites for Christ had been awakened on their Cursillos. They were on their retreats because the word of Christ in their mouths and discovered in their hearts sparks the desire to carry Christ, the prisoner of our hearts, out into the world we live in and are called to convert.

Piety is the strength of our relationship to Christ. Our second reading speaks to the purpose of Cursillo. We are called to find Christ in all that we do ad to bring peace to our world by the blood of his cross in us. Cursillo piety allows us to make Christ preeminent in all that we do. Our lives become our prayer as we become each day more truly Contemplatives in Action.

Some people waste a lot of time and energy worrying about rules and regulations and lose sight of the Christ that lives in their hearts and is present to all the love we share with our world. They are like the scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” The answer of Christ rings down through the ages in a summary of all the Commandments. “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself” That is what Cursillo is all about with life beyond the “Weekend”. Sharing Christ gives us Christ. To grow in our Christ life we make room for him by giving him away to each person we are with during the day. Our moments closest to Christ are in our sharing him with others.


The parable of the Good Samaritan is how Christ models for us the life beyond the Cursillo weekend; it is a challenge to share Christ by almost giving beyond our means that our Piety, Study and Action might permeate our lives and we might be like Christ to our world.