Thursday, November 29, 2007

Come After Me

November 30, 2007

Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring (the) good news!” Romans 10:13-15

As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Matthew 4:18-20


How beautiful are the feet of those that bring the good news!


As we get ready to begin Advent, it is fitting that we end this year reflecting on the call and mission of St. Andrew. According to today’s reading, Andrew was St. Peter’s brother, and was called with him. In the Gospel of John, Andrew is a disciple of John the Baptist. When Jesus walked by one day, John said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” Andrew and another disciple followed Jesus.

St. Gregory reminds us that “they had not yet seen [Jesus] work one miracle, or heard any mention of an eternal reward, and yet one word from the Lord was enough to make them forget all their possessions. They gave up “even their desire to possess anything.”

The American Catholic article on Andrew explains that, “As in the case of all the apostles except Peter and John, the Gospels give us little about the holiness of Andrew. He was an apostle. That is enough. He was called personally by Jesus to proclaim the Good News, to heal with Jesus' power and to share his life and death. Holiness today is no different. It is a gift that includes a call to be concerned about the Kingdom, an outgoing attitude that wants nothing more than to share the riches of Christ with all people.”

The call of Andrew connects us to the message reinforced throughout this ending liturgical cycle and presents with us the challenge of Advent…to respond personally to the summons we get from Jesus by hearing the message, obeying the message and acting on the message. Advent is a season of following. Andrew and Peter follow. Joseph follows his instructions from both Gabriel (to stick by his wife) and Caesar (to report for the census). The shepherds and kings follow a star to the stable in Bethlehem.


“The Lord looks to your heart, not to your fortune,” explains St. Gregory the Great. “The Kingdom of God costs whatever you have.”

Jesus wants us to follow him. What nets can you leave behind so you can follow him?

As Andrew was called to spread the Good News, what are you preparing to do to spread the Good News.

The voice that goes forth to all the earth is now in our throats. To whom will you proclaim that message?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Enduring Forever

November 29, 2007

Thursday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

I decree that throughout my royal domain the God of Daniel is to be reverenced and feared: “For he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be without end. He is a deliverer and savior, working signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, and he delivered Daniel from the lions' power.” Daniel 6:27-28

And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand. Luke 21:27-28


Our Father

Who art in heaven,

Hallow be your name.

Your kingdom come,

Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen.


The End.

The End of the Liturgical Year.

The End of the Gospel according to St. Luke.

The End of the World.

The End of the Road.

Our lives are finite. Whether our life is cut off abruptly, early like Sean Taylor’s tragic murder this week or whether we live out our days until the end of our natural life, our lives are finite.

Only God is infinite.

However, when we meet our end, God will survive. And we will survive with God. Because of His infinite goodness, God is to be praised, not feared. We might disappear from the face of the earth tomorrow, yet God will endure forever.

Tomorrow, the sun will rise. A new day will dawn and a new cycle will begin. Always we begin again.


Let us vow to live in the least destructive means possible. Reflect on these enduring words from Henri Nouwen:

Our hard and very urgent task is to realize that nature is not primarily a property to be possessed, but a gift to be received with admiration and gratitude. How differently we would live if we always sensed that the nature around us is full of desire to tell us the great story of God’s love, to which it points.

Consider these ideas from Matthew Colwell, Sabbath Economics and Household Practices, (Chapter 4, pages 56-58):

Purchase food from a local farmers’ market.

Use some means of public transportation or share a ride with a carpool or riders in the HOV lanes this week. Walk to Metro. Leave your car behind.

Evaluate or inspect your home for dangerous substances like carbon monoxide, lead paint or asbestos.

Get an area ready for next spring where you can grow your own food. Purchase seeds this winter and start them growing indoors.

Reduce, reuse and recycle.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

By Your Perseverance You Will Secure Your Lives

November 28, 2007

Wednesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

Daniel explained the hand writing on King Belshazzar’s wall: “MENE, TEKEL, and PERES. These words mean: MENE, God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it; TEKEL, you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting; PERES, your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” (Daniel 5:26-28)

You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” (Luke 21:17-19)


Lord, hold me tight so that I may face with grace those who hate me because of my love for You. Let me conduct myself in a manner that I need not be fearful about Your hand writing on my wall.


Today's Readings

A Christmas Carol’s Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come still gives me nightmares:

It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. But for this it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded. He felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside him, and that its mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved.

Back about this time thirty-odd years ago, I was a jolly Ghost of Christmas Present in a junior high production of the Charles Dickens work. But it was Wendy Rogers who stole the show without saying a word, only pointing, as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Scrooge was so busted for his past actions, yet somehow he summoned up the courage after seeing people squabble over his belongings and Tiny Tim gone too soon to ask: “Are these things what will be, or only things that may be?”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus shows us what will be: “They will seize and persecute you…they will hand you over…you will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name.”

But unlike the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Jesus offers comfort amid these apocalyptic words and shows us how we may bear it all: “I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute…not a hair on your head will be destroyed.” The key, he says, is our perseverance, which will secure our lives.

Let us envelop ourselves in Christ’s loving arms and have faith in his promises just as he perseveres in his love for us despite our human frailties. Unlike Scrooge, we know what awaits: the Kingdom.


Make a list of the thing you most fear may happen in your life...the loss of a job, perhaps, or disappointment by a family member or friend. After an hour or so, write down the worst possible outcome if this thing did happen and how you would persevere with Christ’s help. Put the paper away for a few days, then burn it over your Advent candle.

There Will Not Be Left a Stone Upon Another Stone

November 27, 2007

Tuesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

The iron, tile, bronze, silver, and gold all crumbled at once, fine as the chaff on the threshing floor in summer, and the wind blew them away without leaving a trace. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth…In the lifetime of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people; rather, it shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end to them, and it shall stand forever. (Daniel 2:35, 44)

While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, he said, “All that you see here--the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” Luke 21:5-6


Be a gardener!
Dig a ditch,
toil and sweat,
and turn the earth upside down
and seek the deepness
and water the plants in time.
Continue this labor
and make sweet floods to run
and noble abundant fruits to spring.
Take this food and drink
and carry it to God
as your true worship.

Julian of Norwich

The night became very dark. The rain surrounded the whole cabin with its enormous virginal myth, a whole world of meaning, of secrecy, of silence, of rumor. Think of it: all that speech pouring down, selling nothing, judging nobody, drenching the thick mulch of dead leaves, soaking the trees, filling the gullies and crannies of the wood with water, washing out the places where men have stripped the hillside! What a thing it is to sit absolutely alone, in the forest, at night, cherished by this wonderful, unintelligible, perfectly innocent speech, the most comforting speech in the world, the talk that rain makes by itself all over the ridges, and the talk of the watercourses everywhere in the hollows! Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it. It will talk as long as it wants, this rain. As long as it talks I am going to listen.

(From Thomas Merton. "Rain and the Rhinoceros" in Raids on the Unspeakable. New York: New Directions Publishing Co., 1964: 9-10.)


Jesus’ message about the fleeting impact of what humanity has made has echoes the prophet Isaiah:

The earth is utterly laid waste, utterly stripped, for the LORD has decreed this thing. The earth mourns and fades, the world languishes and fades; both heaven and earth languish. The earth is polluted because of its inhabitants, who have transgressed laws, violated statutes, broken the ancient covenant. Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants pay for their guilt; Therefore they who dwell on earth turn pale, and few men are left. Isaiah 24:3-6

Now, it is also being reinforced by scientific speculation in recent years. Consider the book by Alan Weisman, The World Without Us in which he predicts that the most lasting impact we would leave behind would be plastic, radio waves and reruns of I Love Lucy. According to a repot on the book by NPR, “Nature, always finds a way to survive no matter what obstacles humans put in its path.”

Another scientific viewpoint is expressed in this October 2006 essay by Lewis Smith:

IF man were to vanish from the face of the Earth today, his footprint on the planet would linger for the mere blink of an eye in geological terms.

Within hours, nature would begin to eradicate it. In 50,000 years, all that would remain would be some archaeological traces. Only radioactive materials and a few man-made chemical contaminants would last longer - an invisible legacy.

Smith concludes, “If, 50,000 years hence, an alien archaeologist were to land on an Earth without man, it might find quite frustrating the paucity of evidence that we were here at all.”

What will endure is the Garden of Eden – God’s creation. Plants and animals would quickly reclaim their place on the globe and environmental problems would slowly disappear – except for nuclear waste.

As peace negotiators assemble today in Annapolis, Maryland to try to bring about the next chapter of resolution between peoples who have been warring for more than 5,000 years, the readings help us to focus on the transience of earthly kingdoms like those around the table in Annapolis and the permanence of God’s creations which will last longer than any of these principalities.

Many of the earliest Christians expected the end of time to happen while they still walked the Earth 2007 years ago. Today, Jesus advises us that it (the parousia) is not coming yet. We have to endure man-made and natural disasters that put entire nations in peril as well as persecutions which will affect us as individuals. Right there in Luke chapter 21 is Hurricane Katrina, the South Asian tsunami, the Arab-Israeli wars, Iraq, Afghanistan, Viet Nam, not to mention the Revolutionary Way, the Civil War and WWI, II and whatever is next.

So much for the lasting value of things made by humanity. Let Thy Kingdom Come.


So what are we to do in the meantime? Throughout this year, Luke has been teaching us the importance of following Jesus day-to-day. Blessed are the peacemakers. What we have heard throughout this liturgical cycle from Jesus through St. Luke has been a constant mantra.




A) Bring peace to your part of the world: your workplace, your family, your neighborhood, and your parish.

B) While none of us can get rid of nuclear waste, properly dispose of those things which we do use – from fast food wrappers to newspapers.

C) Use the increasingly expensive energy more efficiently through intelligent use of our cars, our heating and cooling systems and even our light bulbs.

D) Share what you have with those who don’t have it.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Offer Your Whole Livelihood

November 26, 2007

Monday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth DeCristofaro

But Daniel was resolved not to defile himself with the king’s food or wine; so he begged the chief chamberlain to spare him this defilement…. In any question of wisdom or prudence which the king put to them, (the King) found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his kingdom. (Daniel 1: 8, 20)

He said, “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.” (Luke 21: 3-4)


Grant me, Lord, the wisdom of Daniel who knew how to be true to you despite the daily trials and allures of daily life. Grant me Lord the charity of the poor woman who knew that You gave her the daily bread that sustains her life. Grant me, Lord, the desire to exult you like the psalmist who sings “Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.” Grant me, Lord, You above all else.


Who is “of faith”? Daniel and friends resisted temptation even though to give in might mean survival. Daniel served the king who brought down his nation. He knew it was within the movement of his heart where fidelity to his God lay. But Daniel was resolved not to defile himself with the king’s food or wine; so he begged the chief chamberlain to spare him this defilement.and so they entered the king’s service (Daniel 1: 8, 19) Can we love those who seek to bring down our way of life, perhaps our country?

Thanksgiving: did we give thanks out of our abundance? Did we stretch our generosity until it hurt, like the widow did? Did we make room for others whether they were lonely, hungry, annoying or those with whom we do not agree – those who perhaps lead a life that we do not approve of? God’s love is generous and kind, unearned by the unlovable. Can we give to those we find unlovable? And after they leave, do we talk about them to justify and announce our own generosity?

What occurs when we can love as Jesus, even in a small, short-term way is that our hearts are opened and drawn ever closer to Jesus. Perhaps it is because we pray every five minutes for patience! Focusing on God at each moment brings us to a deeper understanding of God’s place in our – and others’ – hearts. Perhaps we experience an unexpected joy or peace. Perhaps it is in the realization that Jesus lovingly watches us put our two small coins into the offering box.


We await Advent! We await the joy and promise of the Nativity. Today, think of someone who has trouble with that joy and promise. Picture someone you know, or someone you don’t know. Imagine someone imprisoned in her own sorrow unable to accept love from others; someone angry enough to hurt others; someone so misguided by “teachers” that terrorism is accepted as an answer; someone whose bad choices have left him with seemingly no choice and no hope even in God; someone who has rejected God because of the sins of church leaders. Put that person (named or unnamed, Jesus will know) in your heart and pray all day for him/her. Let God use your love, hope and faith for another.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Jesus, Remember Me When You Come Into Your Kingdom

November 25, 2007

The Solemnity of Christ the King

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

All the tribes of Israel came to David in Hebron and said: “Here we are, your bone and your flesh. In days past, when Saul was our king, it was you who led the Israelites out and brought them back. And the LORD said to you, ‘You shall shepherd my people Israel and shall be commander of Israel.’” 2 Samuel 5:1-2

For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross (through him), whether those on earth or those in heaven. Colossians 1:19-20

The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:40-43


Prayer to Christ, King of the Universe

O Christ Jesus, I acknowledge You King of the Universe. All that has been created has been made for You. Exercise upon me all Your rights. I renew my baptismal promises renouncing Satan and all his works and pomp. I promise to lead a good Christian life and to do all in my power to procure the triumph of the rights of God and Your Church. Divine Heart of Jesus, I offer You my poor actions in order to obtain that all hearts may acknowledge Your sacred royalty and that thus the reign of Your peace may be established throughout the universe. Amen.


King David was the perfect king for the Jews. He had won the right to be leader by his life and his word and way of doing things brought to the Jews the respect, the wealth, the well being and everything they had been looking for. He made it possible for them to be the best. Christ is King in the line of David. He is the Messiah King that the Jews were expecting to be like David. That is the reason they found it so hard to take the King on the Cross.

Our second reading has Christ in the fullness of Kingship in the vision of Paul. It reads like a pedigree of all the right things. First-born, etc. Power and justice were found in him. It is of his glory we all have a share. The good thief from the cross who steals heaven gives us an insight if we look. He saw something of the true kingship of Christ in the way Christ was dying. He understood that Christ was dying for others and put it all together in his asking to be remembered.

As a child, I wondered why someone who was born to kingship should be honored. What did a king do to deserve kingship? Christ deserves kingship because he died for our sakes. By his death on the cross and his faithfulness to the plan of the Father, he was given the name above all names to which we owe obeisance. Some people today still have a problem with the kingship of Christ. They are in competition with Christ. Or they are stuck with a problem with authority in their lives.

How to find Christ who is the perfect image of God as the object of all their breathing moments and the reason behind everything or anything as the case might be. Christ is the source of all life. All is created through him and for him. He should be the object of every wish and desire of our being. That is kingship in its deepest meaning.

The question of what can I say about Christ forever needs an answer. I see Christ as the perfect connection with God. I see him as the deepest meaning of my life. I see him as the person behind all love. What do you say about Christ?

What I say to Christ is simple. I love you. I want you. I search for you. You are what I like about anyone who comes into my life.

Kingship speaks rule. My pain can tell me what to do and I listen to my pain. When it is bad, it can control my life. Pain can be king.

Comfort speaks rule. I listen to my pleasures. When they are loud and heady, I take time for them and do what they ask. Unless the kingship of the Christ of the Cross is claiming my heart, I leave good enough alone.

Pain and pleasure can be dictators and control a life. They can be brought under control and lived with in their proper places. Pleasure and consolation can be mixed up. One can seem the other and have control of one’s life. Pleasure can be the voice of unbridled passions and when it reaches such intensity that it blocks out duty and responsibility, it is wrong. Consolation is the voice of peace and rightness and when it flows over one’s entire being, it can be the voice of God in our lives. The kingship of Christ is spoken through the consolations of our lives and is seen in the fruits of the Spirit. The Christ of the “Cross” sits on the throne of God’s love for us and claims our love in return. The wood of the “Cross” is the claim the kingship of Christ has on our lives.

The embrace of the “Cross” is for the good and the bad alike. The altruistic love of the “Cross” issues the claim over our hearts of the kingship of Christ. His love is a forever. It will always be there for us until the end of time. Wealth and power will pass away. The love of God for the simple and the poor is a heavenly bias that will never end. Faith and hope in Christ open the doors of our heart to the mystery of his love. His love is not just forever; it is also so free it can never be deserved. We are able to claim this love any moment of our lives. Faith and hope will pass away when we see Christ in the fullness of his kingship. Then the only thing that will last is the love that is forever. How can we not love Christ who rules our hearts? He is the God of love and all creation becomes the statement of a king that sings God’s love for us. The God of love is the king of glory. A share in his cross is our claim to glory. Our love for one another is how we celebrate his kingship.


People today are annoyed by the celebration of the kingship of Christ.

Their problem is undeserved kingship. No one is born to be a king by human worth in itself. On this feast of Christ the King we celebrate his kingship over our hearts. I honor his kingship by how close I come to him in mind and heart. Spirituality is putting on the mind and the heart of Christ. The great saints and the mystics give us the challenge of that kind of love where one identifies with the beloved and strives to be like the beloved in mind and heart. This is why the Church of Christ is so important to the Saint. The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ.

The people of God are the members. We live the fullness of our belonging to Christ in His Church. And we owe the Church obedience in the name of Christ. The saints are always checking out what they believe through the teaching of the Church. Christ is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow. There is continuity to the teaching of Christ and while it is true we grow in wisdom and knowledge, the seeds of what we believe have been there from the beginning of the Church. Some of Christ’s word comes through the bible in the very words of Jesus. More comes from the mind and the heart of Christ lived out in the Church as it applies its memory of the way Christ handled his problems with the same spirit to the problems of the day. What is the sign of that Spirit is the continuity of that teaching no matter what individuals or popularity would change.

Friday, November 23, 2007

God of the Living

November 24, 2007

Memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac, priest and martyr, and his companions, martyrs

“Sleep has departed from my eyes, for my heart is sinking with anxiety. I said to myself: ‘Into what tribulation have I come, and in what floods of sorrow am I now! Yet I was kindly and beloved in my rule.’ But I now recall the evils I did in Jerusalem, when I carried away all the vessels of gold and silver that were in it, and for no cause gave orders that the inhabitants of Judah be destroyed.” 1 Maccabees 6:10-12

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


From The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

To endure the cross is not a tragedy; it is the suffering which is the fruit of an exclusive allegiance to Jesus Christ. When it comes, it is not an accident, but a necessity. It is not the sort of suffering which is inseparable from this mortal life, but the suffering which is an essential part of the Christian life. It is not suffering per se but suffering-and-rejection, and not rejection for any cause or conviction of our own, but rejection for the sake of Christ. If our Christianity has ceased to be serious about discipleship, if we have watered down the gospel into emotional uplift which makes no costly demands and which fails to distinguish between natural and Christian essence, then we cannot help regarding the cross as an ordinary everyday calamity, as one of the trials and tribulations of life.

The cross means sharing the suffering of Christ to the last and to the fullest.


Human standards of behavior are jut not going to get us anywhere when it comes to our relationship with God. He demands more…much more from everyone. He demands that we take up our cross and follow Jesus. Whether you are the political leader or a regular citizen, you might think that you are within your rights to do this or that. Or you might think that society calls on you to act this way or that way. However, God has different designs. Sometimes, people learn the hard way.

Many kings persecuted the Jews throughout the Bible. Today we focus not on Herod or Pilate but on King Antioch. Antioch had in his political and military powers the ability to sack Jerusalem and desecrate the altar. However, despite his efforts, he ultimately lost to the unexpected fight put up under the leadership of Judas Maccabeus. King Antioch failed and he realized that he faced death because of the deeds he had prosecuted.

The Pharisees were not trying to destroy the city and the temple. Their focus was on the person of Jesus. They first tried to challenge him with traps dressed up in theological questions. Jesus answered them in a manner which separated the standards and expectations of social behavior in this world from the standards that God has.

While the Pharisees hinged their question on a statement from Moses, Jesus also turned to Moses in his reply.

Throughout history, there have always been people and cultures who were willing to use their military, economic, political or academic prowess to destroy the Church. In fact, today the Church celebrates St. Andrew Dung-Lac and hundreds of Vietnamese Catholics who were martyred in the 19th century by those who wanted to stop the spread of of Christianity to Southeast Asia.

According to American Catholic, “It may help a people who associate Vietnam only with a recent war to realize that the cross has long been a part of the lives of the people of that country. Even as we ask again the unanswered questions about United States involvement and disengagement, the faith rooted in Vietnam's soil proves hardier than the forces which would destroy it.”


What do we do when we are alive to connect us to the God of the living? How hardy is our defense of the teachings of the Church?

Some volunteer to clean up the side of a road or a stream to improve the environment.

Some buy or deliver holiday gifts or meals to families that truly need help.

Some give to the Campaign for Courtney

Some write to their legislators about issues like war and peace, stem cell research, the death penalty and torture.

Some do all of the above and more.

Hanging on His Words

November 23, 2007

Friday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

On the anniversary of the day on which the Gentiles had defiled it, on that very day it was re-consecrated with songs, harps, flutes, and cymbals. All the people prostrated themselves and adored and praised Heaven, who had given them success. For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the altar and joyfully offered holocausts and sacrifices of deliverance and praise. 1 Maccabees 4:54-56

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


Jesus, help us join ourselves and our lives to you. Amen.


The temples are getting “re-consecrated” today in both the Hebrew Bible and in the Good News.

Judas Maccabeus, son of Mattathias, has just completed his armed insurrection against the kings who were persecuted the Jews. As we learned yesterday from Mattathias’s lament in 12 Maccabees 2:7, the King destroyed the city and allowed strangers into the sanctuary. Mattathias lamented, “Woe is me! Why was I born to see the ruin of my people and the ruin of the holy city, and to sit idle while it is given into the hands of enemies, and the sanctuary into the hands of strangers?”

Now that his son has driven out the king and reclaimed the temple from the Gentiles, they bless the altar and celebrate.

Jesus has a reclamation project to undertake that is all his own. He goes into the temple to find merchants selling their wares to the pilgrims. He famously chases them out. In Isaiah 56:6-7, we learn the prophecy that Jesus refers to before he cleanses the temple area:

And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, ministering to him,

Loving the name of the LORD, and becoming his servants--

All who keep the Sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant,

Them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer;

Their holocausts and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar,

For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

The temple is for all who join themselves to the Lord. The merchants have joined themselves to the profits that they can make from selling doves for sacrifice. The armies of Judas joined themselves to violence to crush their enemies. The strangers defiled the temple and joined themselves to destruction, not the covenant with the Lord.

As Jesus cleansed the temple, the Pharisees began plotting a return to the violence of Judas Maccabeus. They began plotting ways to kill Jesus thus fulfilling the word of the Lord who said the “temple must be destroyed and rebuilt in three days.”

However, they could not find a way to kill Jesus because the people were truly joined to the Lord, literally “hanging on his every word.” In a matter of days, Jesus would be hanging on our sins, but for now, he remains connected to the people he has come to save.


What do you need to cleanse from the temple of your life? In just a little more than one week, the Church will begin a new liturgical year. Instead of waiting until January 1 to make your New Year’s Resolution, why not consider re-consecrating your temple at the beginning of Advent and the new church year. What will you resolve to do or to change in this New Year to strengthen you life in piety, study and action?

Perhaps we should resolve that in the New Year, we will hang onto His every word.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What Makes for Peace

November 22, 2007

Memorial of Saint Cecelia, virgin and martyr

God forbid that we should forsake the law and the commandments. We will not obey the words of the king nor depart from our religion in the slightest degree. 1 Maccabees 2:21-22

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


God, on this day of Thanksgiving, we praise you for protecting us and those who protect us. We ask that you make all of us Children of Conscience, considering your message and mission and how you want us to respond to the ways of the world in peace and in thanksgiving. Amen.


On this day celebrating "civil religion," the regular readings set up an interesting dichotomy between following the laws of the land or following the law of God – a choice so strong and so stark that it moves Jesus to tears.

In the reading from Maccabees, Mattathias and his sons refused to obey the king’s commands. They are among the original prisoners of conscience. Despite being wooed to be one of the King’s Friends, tempted with gifts of gold and silver, they refused to forsake the covenant of their fathers with God.

Today’s memorial to St. Cecelia marks a life which also was faced with renouncing her faith just like Mattathias faced. However, Dave Kopel writes that “Saint Cecelia is about living, not dying. Saint Cecelia represents the truth that has been understood by countless martyrs--of all faiths--that dying is a temporary condition, and that the temporal power of religious persecutors is likewise temporary. Risking one's own life to bury some dead martyrs, and then insulting a judge with the power to impose a death sentence, are both profoundly irrational--unless one knows that there is a spiritual existence of far greater significance than earthly existence.” (

In a troubling climax, Mattathias resorts to violence and kills one of the Jews who offered sacrifices to the King. His series of choices and actions – the refusal to obey the King, the murder of the Jew, the murder of the King’s messenger and the destruction of the altar – required Mattathias to flee into exile in the mountains.

Other kinsman fled into the desert. The kinsmen were hunted down by the king’s army. They chose the path of peace and non-violence when confronted with the hostile army. They did not resist the attack and were slaughtered. However, the sons of Mattathias chose a different path. They created armies to fight the kings who persecuted the Jews.

Turning to the Good News, Jesus changes everything including the requirements for salvation. Just before his arrest, torture and execution, Jesus is addressing his disciples after riding triumphantly into the city on the back of a colt. As he rode in, they proclaimed: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.”

According to the notes provided in the New American Bible translation, “Salvation is paralleled with Jewish national aspirations in contrast to the universal reign of God taught by Christ in the Gospel reading today.”

To this, the Pharisees wanted the people silenced. However, Jesus refused, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!”

The message of peace is so important, that if the people don’t proclaim it, the stones will come to life to proclaim it if the people do not. Instead of creating armies as was done in the Hebrew Bible, Luke writes that “By not accepting Jesus (the one who mediates peace), Jerusalem will not find peace but will become the victim of devastation.”

No longer is violence the path to God. Even if peace and non-violence brings death – like it did to the slaughtered kinsmen of Mattathias – violence is not the choice. However, Jesus weeps because he knows how hard this lesson will be for us to learn.


“Someday they'll have a war and nobody will come.” Irwin Shaw in the play Bury the Dead. Clearly that did not happen in 1 Maccabees. However, that day may be coming. Take a look at the trailer for the movie “Soldiers of Conscience” at the following web site.

This is a film about young men and women who were asked by their country to kill. However, their hearts asked them to stop. According to the description of the production, “From West Point grads to drill sergeants, from Abu Ghraib interrogators to low ranking reservist-mechanics; soldiers in the US Army today reveal their deepest moral concerns about what they are asked to do in war.

Their message: every soldier wrestles with his conscience over killing just like the kinsman of Mattathias did in 1 Maccabees. Although most of our modern soldiers do decide to kill, some refuse. “Soldiers of Conscience” reveals that far more soldiers refuse to kill than we might expect, according to its website.

The producers explain that the film was made with official permission from the US Army and shot on location in places from Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, to Washington, D.C. In October 2006, the film got the clearance from the US Army which did not shy away from the producers request to make a film about the moral questions of killing in times of war. Not only did they get permission to film with officers and soldiers at functioning military installations across the US, but when the producers submitted a rough cut of the film for review and response (as required by the assistance agreement), the official answer: “... a thought provoking film.” All along, the producers say that the Army never requested review of content or politics, but asked simply to ensure the safety of soldiers by reviewing the work before distribution.

“Soldiers of Conscience” claims to be a “realistic yet optimistic look at war, peace, and the power of the human conscience.” Joining the army and then refusing to kill might seem as irrational as St. Cecelia’s and Mattathias’ action. Coming on the heels of the blessing of Franz Jaegerstatter, the messages of today’s readings confront us like these soldiers with consistently choosing to celebrate life, not destroying it. God gave us many gifts, including a mind capable of free thought. Let us use it to choose life at every juncture.

What is on your mind this special day? Be thankful for all these gifts.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

To Everyone Who Has, More Will Be Given

November 21, 2007

Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

By Melanie Rigney

“…Since it is the Creator of the universe who shapes each man’s beginning, as he brings about the origin of everything, he, in his mercy, will give you back both breath and life, because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of his law.” (2 Maccabees 7:23)

I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Luke 19:26)


Lord, thank you for the gifts you have given me. Let me be unafraid to use the talents you have invested in me so that I may return them tenfold, a hundredfold, or a thousandfold to your glory.


Today's Readings

GodTube's Catholic Channel

“To everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away,” the nobleman tells his servants in today’s Gospel. As so often happens in the Bible, this doesn’t seem totally fair. Why should the servant who turned one gold coin into ten also get the coin of the servant who stored away his one coin?

The latter servant tellingly complains to the nobleman, “…I was afraid of you, because you are a demanding man.” Just as with that servant, sometimes we fail to serve God, because of our fear. We can worry about whether we will be forgiven for past offenses and what tomorrow may bring us.

We serve the Lord when we maximize our talents, no matter what our ministry may be. For some of us, that’s writing and public speaking and fundraising. For others, it’s reaching out to the poor, the hungry, the homeless and others in our world who cannot advocate for themselves.

Sometimes, we don’t go where God wants us because we are afraid of technology or controversy, just as the servant was fearful. Consider, for example,, founded about a year ago by Chris Wyatt, a Baptist theological student as a conservative Christian response to and the like. The idea is that Christians can upload and share videos that won’t offend anyone’s grandparents with sex, violence and bad language. Whether you’ll be offended if you’re Catholic, Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, an atheist and so on, well, that’s a different kettle of fish. Still, has a Catholic channel that includes pro-Catholic videos such as a monastery tour and a Spanish youth Cursillo clip.

In today’s society, like it or not, the technology of file and video sharing enables us as followers of Christ to engage with others around the world. If your talent is communication, don’t be afraid to share it in His name. If your talents lie elsewhere, support with comments those who make good use of this technology. Make the most of what you have. Remember, God is watching.


As we head into the end of the liturgical year, resolve to make better use of your God-given talents in the coming twelve months. Make a list of ways you can make them grow.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Come Down Quickly

November 20, 2007

Tuesday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

Even if, for the time being, I avoid the punishment of men, I shall never, whether alive or dead, escape the hands of the Almighty. 2 Maccabees 6:26

But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.” Luke 19:8-9


Jesus, how difficult it is for us in our achievement, efficiency and production-obsessed culture to rest. We refuse to rest so that we can continue to accumulate possessions. As we approach this end of the seventh year of this new millennium, give us a spirit of Jubilee regarding giving, debt and investments. Help us to give up our desire to build McMansions where bungalows once sat, wringing affordable housing out of our communities. Help us to stop tracking the value of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and our retirement portfolios and instead focus on the value of meeting the human needs that surround us. Let us share the spirit of Zacchaeus and know that “one's life does not consist of possessions.” Make our approach to possessions and money a model of courage in a sea of affluence so we can be an example not only for the young but for the whole community. Amen.


Just two weeks ago, this passage from Luke was our Sunday Gospel reading. Yet the message is so important, that the Church brings it to us again so we can learn some more by continuing to reflect on its message.

Jesus again invites us to “Come down quickly” and spend some time with him so that we can better understand and live out the mission he wants us to share with Zacchaeus, the tax collector. In the sight of Jesus, he experiences a conversion from his former self. Zacchaeus is a reflection of how those who are blessed with much can achieve salvation.

As we approach the holiday season, a season marked with giving and altruism, Zacchaeus teaches us an important lesson about money and accumulation. He reflects back to us a central premise of The Lord’s Prayer. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)

Jesus stood in opposition to the dominant economic model of his day – debt bondage as Matthew Colwell points out in his book Sabbath Economics: Household Practices. The early church lived out this ideal by sharing assets with the whole community.

However, Zacchaeus’ conversion is a sign that “thy Kingdom will come on earth.” As we download the latest share prices of our portfolio in Quicken or Microsoft Money, we must remember that “giving” not accumulating is the first and foremost act of our loving Creator.

God’s giving allows life to emerge, flourish and be sustained. But this extraordinary gift meant to be shared and circulated can quickly be mistaken for a possession to be owned. Recognizing such danger, scriptural texts like Leviticus 25 direct God’s people toward regular economic redistribution. Should an economy become polarized over time, the Jubilee directed it back towards the gift economy of God’s design. Human giving, at its best, is joyful participation in this design. It is giving done in humble recognition that all of creation is a gift to be shared and passed along. (Colwell, Sabbath Economics: Household Practices, p. 41)

In Zacchaeus’ testimony, there truly is a sense of Sabbath economics…and justice. Not only does he announce his conversion to the idea of redistribution (“Half of my possessions I will give to the poor.”), but he also commits to reparation (“…if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay it back four times.”). So Zacchaeus is giving out of both a sense of generosity as well as justice to make things right. His actions reflect back to the jubilee tradition in which those who had accumulated wealth through the indebtedness of others would literally give it back. But also, Zacchaeus commitment looks ahead to the early church.

The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. Acts 4:32-35


Luke calls on us to share, redistribute or renounce our possessions. What plans are you making for sharing and redistributing your wealth this holiday season?

What is your history of charitable giving? How much more can you give to your church and charities this year? Can you increase your charitable giving this year by 10 percent more than you gave last year? So if you gave $7,400 to charity last year, can you increase that by another $740 to $8,140 total?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Lord, Please Let Me See

November 19, 2007

Monday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

by Beth DeCristofaro

In those days there appeared in Israel men who were breakers of the law, and they seduced many people, saying: “Let us go and make an alliance with the Gentiles all around us; since we separated from them, many evils have come upon us. The proposal was agreeable.” (Maccabees 1: 11, 12)

Though the snares of the wicked surround me, your teaching I do not forget…Give me life, O Lord, and I will do your commands. (Psalm 119: 61,88)

Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He replied, “Lord, please let me see.” (Luke 18: 40,41)


"Dear Jesus, I spend too much time in a tree, above the conflicts, keeping myself pretty safe. Give me the courage of your presence with me today, so that I might take more risks in loving. There are going to be some hungry, thirsty, naked, sick and imprisoned people crossing my path today. Guide me in loving better. The cry of the poor in our world seems so overwhelming. Help me listen better and imagine what I might do to make a difference, with your help." (Creighton University Weekly Prayer Guide)


Blindness of the spirit is a tricky obstacle to accepting and acknowledging God’s love. In Maccabees, Israel lets herself be blinded by the lure of getting ahead, with fitting into a culture which spurns God’s given law. The Israelites, who were given a way of salvation through law choose an easier path – their blindness is to the truth and to the long picture rather than the reward here and now. Those who continued to follow God faced death. But many in Israel were determined and resolved in their hearts not to eat anything unclean; they preferred to die rather than to be defiled with unclean food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die. (Mc 1: 62, 63)

Luke’s Gospel speaks to salvation through the line of David, through faith which completes and transforms the law. And the blind man “sees” hope, sees the promise of physical salvation. Jesus is moved by his faith; the man’s full lack of understanding does not matter. The blind man “saw” and acted. And God was there.


God asks so much more of us than the Israelites were asked. We are asked to “see” what is not physically there. We do not have Laws written on stone. We are asked to see the love and action of Jesus Christ among those in need – the blind man, the lepers, the rich young man, the doubting apostles, the Centurion. How do we look at others? Start by looking closely at yourself. Do you go along to get along or do you see through the cultural “norms” and seek to love better. Do you blindly and completely know that Jesus is passing and that he loves you and that he loves the “other?”

Read the Nov. 17 reflection again. Ask God, “Please, let me See.”

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Cursillo Spirituality

November 17, 2007

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

by Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays. Malachi 3:20

You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives. Luke 21:17-19

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Breathe into me, Holy Spirit,
that my thoughts may all be holy.
Move in me, Holy Spirit,
that my work, too, may be holy.
Attract my heart, Holy Spirit,
that I may love only what is holy.
Strengthen me, Holy Spirit,
that I may defend all that is holy.
Protect me, Holy Spirit,
that I may always be holy.
St. Augustine


Even the most beautiful creations of the human race will come to an end. There is nothing that is made that will stand the test of time. The ultimate skeptic is a holy person. Only God will last. The message of God through his son gives us in the human form of Christ the most complete expression of the mystery of God. Christ is the way, the truth and the light that must shine on our lives. Looking beyond the appearances of his humanness gives us the clue to whom we are. Created in the image and the likeness of God through our connection with Christ we are born again by virtue of our Baptism. We are called by Christ to find the truth of ourselves in Christ. Looking at Christ with the eyes of our soul we find the attraction of grace is the call to live our lives with the Christ of each other. There is not a hair on our head that will be lost because our perseverance in Christ will secure all that we are for heaven. Our weakness is where the strength of God shows itself. With Paul we can rejoice in our weakness because that is where the strength of God will show itself in our lives.

Paul challenges us to live our lives just like he did. He presents himself as a model to be imitated. Each of the saints brings us the wonder of Christ because each is an update of Christ in their effort to live their lives like him in their day and age. A saint captures what is truly beautiful in life by their relationship to Christ. The challenge to love our enemies is all too often missed by good meaning people in their harshness to those who do not face life as they do. Would be saints do more harm to the good they are trying to do by the anger of their resistance to what is wrong about life. They become as bad as those they are reacting against. They bring people who are on their side into opposition to themselves because they do not know how to love.


Minding the business of others can be done in a loving way. Working quietly is an art form of living one’s life close to Jesus.

Piety, study and action bring us closer and closer to Christ. The Spirituality of the Cursillo shares the companionship of Christ with all our friends without exception. A permanent group reunion can become an obstacle to g race when it puts walls between itself and the Christ of the stranger that would be part of our little Mystical Body of Christ.

The embrace from the cross is for everyone and the doors of our hearts have to be open to each person who comes into our lives. Cursillo is more than rules and regulations. It is a forever lesson on how to walk with Christ by walking with each other. Each of us is unique before God and it is the sharing of that uniqueness that gives us the Christ of each other. God does not make clones of Christ. Our “specialness” before God is in the uniqueness of how we share Christ.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Still Reached

November 17, 2007

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, religious

Over this crossed the whole nation sheltered by your hand, after they beheld stupendous wonders. For they ranged about like horses, and bounded about like lambs, praising you, O Lord! their deliverer. Wisdom 19:8-9

Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?
Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?
Luke 18:7-8


For every way, O LORD! You magnify and glorify your people; unfailingly, you stand by us even when we do not stand by you. You are at our side every hour of every day and in every circumstance. Help us to repay you with our faith – even if it is smaller than a mustard seed.


God tried to tell us how much He loved us through the free gift of all of His wondrous creations. Remember the marvels that the Lord has done to lead us out of enslavement to temporal powers.

Yet that was not enough. We needed more. So God did the John 3:16 – God so loved us that He sent his only Son to save us. Jesus gave up his immortal spiritual being to join our family. While he walked and worked among our ancestors, Jesus reached to heaven to help us. He put his frail body on the line along with his mortal life to connect us to the love of our Father. He marshaled angels and saints to help deliver us to the gates of heaven.

While on earth, Jesus took our sins and our hopes and our dreams and put them on his back like the good shepherd carrying the lost sheep back to the herd. Even as Jesus hung on the cross, his outstretched arms still reached heavenward…for us. His prayers still spoke out to the Father out of a sense of love and forgiveness.

How have we repaid his efforts? Is Jesus in your “Fave Five?” Does he have access to your Facebook or MySpace page? Did your “friend” Jesus? Why not? He put his entire social network of saints and angels to work for us. What more will it take to get us to be faithful to His mission, His calling to us?

If the indifferent judge will grant the persistent wish of the poor widow, how much more will our loving Lord continue to grant us whatever we ask of him with similar persistence? Look at all the natural gifts God provides before we even so much as know how to cry, speak or ask. As we grow older, do we even turn back to the giver-of-the-first-gifts with our petitions? Do we even bother to ask?


Maybe you, too, are having a hard time not thinking about the Barry Bonds case. It is all over the news – TV, internet, radio and print. Here is a man who had perhaps among the greatest NATURAL GOD-GIVEN talents to play the game of baseball and get paid an astronomical salary. Yet he now stands accused not only of using man-made substances to improve his performance, but also of lying about his use of steroids.

Perhaps he is innocent. Perhaps not. Recent months have seen numerous examples of star athletes apologizing for their misdeeds. Fallen stars such as the NFL’s Michael Vick and track’s Marion Jones were caught and admitted their dishonesty and the betrayal of the trust of the fans.

Yet how many of us show up for work or school dependent upon drugs to get us going in the morning or keep us going throughout the day. Colman McCarthy challenged us in the August 31 issue of NCR:

I see steroids and the Bonds case as a personal freedom issue. What’s the difference between steroid-using professional athletes risking their health -- enlarged heart, cancer, personality disorders -- and steroid-using gym rats risking theirs to build bigger bodies? What’s the difference between athletes juicing themselves with steroids and drunken fans in the stands doping themselves with the alcohol drug? What’s the difference between running up the score with a steroid and scoring with America’s favorite performance-enhancer, Viagra?

Colman McCarthy went on to conclude:

Begin testing.

If that’s the agenda, I propose let’s really get into it. Full frontal. Make all of America clean. From now on, only unenhanced performances are allowed. Start testing the media, members of Congress and baseball’s CEOs. No more reporters turning in caffeine-enhanced copy. No more senators reaching for Jack Daniels after a hard day of cashing checks from lobbyists. No more Viagra for those CEOs pooped after a long session of toting their millions in gate, hot dog and beer receipts.

Any chance of this happening? Don’t hold your Breathalyzer.

Now we see that this issue is being framed more as an issue about basic honesty.

Who do you rely upon to guide and enhance your performance?

Ask God to be your performance enhancer today and everyday. Rather than rely upon controlled substances, fully rely upon God for what you need to approach life today and to focus no the issues which God sets before us.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Their Original Author

November 16, 2007

Friday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time

Now if out of joy in their beauty they thought them gods, let them know how far more excellent is the Lord than these; for the original source of beauty fashioned them. Or if they were struck by their might and energy, let them from these things realize how much more powerful is he who made them.
Wisdom 13:3-4

“Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather.” Luke 17:37


Let us pray: God, you are the ultimate gift-giver, granting us the stars in the sky and the flowers in the fields. Help us to recognize your love in each of your works. Let us heed the warning of your Son to love you above all the rest of the “things” that the world tells us we should want. Send your Advocate to guard us from our affluence and set us free from the possessions and the desires for possessions with which the world intoxicates our lives and minds and hearts. Amen.


Who is your favorite author?

Maybe one of the classics – Homer, Shakespeare, Milton, Donne or Chaucer? Maybe one of the Bronte sisters – Emily, Charlotte, or Anne?

Maybe someone more modern – James Joyce, Joseph Heller, Saul Bellow? Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, or Dorothy Day? John Barth, Robert Bly or Robert Fulgum?

Or are you delving into something more popular in today’s culture like Oprah’s latest choice by Ken Follett, a modern angst-filled apocalyptic novel by Cormac McCarthy, or a reading the source of a new movie by Gabriel Garcia Marquez?

No matter if you lean towards Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance or Moby Dick, the book does not equal the author. The author created the work whether fiction or nonfiction. But the creation of their mind is not their whole being.

We rarely meet the authors. Maybe they’ll scribble their signature on the inside cover if we buy their tome in the lobby at Borders or downtown at Politics & Prose. Even if they do so, that elbow brush does not let us know the author.

The same can be said when we enjoy a mountaintop vista on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the changing time and tides at Ocean Isle Beach, or the belt of Orion arcing across the clear evening sky. We can see the object but we can’t know the creator. It may even be easy to understand why earlier civilizations might have equated these and other wondrous works with God. Yet they are just the evidence that we have that helps us to “know how far more excellent is the Lord than these” creations of His.

Seeking God in His creations is another example of our imperfect vision, our imperfect way of seeing. Like through the mirror, we are “distracted” by the image that confronts us.


Jesus reminds us today not to be distracted by our affluence. On that day, a person who is on the housetop and whose belongings are in the house must not go down to get them, and likewise a person in the field must not return to what was left behind. Luke 17:31

As our mailboxes fill up with holiday catalogs and sale flyers, as our televisions beam us the commercials for the latest and greatest gifts, don’t be distracted. Where in the Bible does it say that we should celebrate Jesus’ birthday by buying things for everyone we meet?

When I was invited to be on the team for the Men’s 108th Men's Cursillo, Rector Phil Russell shared with us a song – The Things We Leave Behind by Michael Card. It includes the following lyrics:

There sits Simon, so foolishly wise proudly he's tending his nets.
Then Jesus calls, and the boats drift away all that he owns he forgets.
More than the nets he abandoned that day, he found that his pride was soon drifting away.
It's hard to imagine the freedom we find from the things we leave behind.
Matthew was mindful of taking the tax, pressing the people to pay.
Hearing the call, he responded in faith followed the Light and the Way.
Leaving the people so puzzled he found, the greed in his heart was no longer around and it's hard to imagine the freedom we find from the things we leave behind.

Jesus warns us that the vultures of evil will circle our material, bodily concerns if we let those take precedence over our spiritual and moral lives. Michal Card translates this lesson: "Freedom's not found in the things that we own, It's the power to do what is right. With Jesus, our only possession, giving becomes our delight.”

Set aside the goods of this world. Plan your Thanksgiving Weekend NOW so you can avoid starter’s pistol on Friday that sets people on their marks, getting set to run to Wal*Mart at 6 a.m. hoping to go straight to the “best deals” the devil can conjure at shopping malls and Internet sights for “Black Friday.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Spotless Mirror of the Power of God

November 15, 2007

Thursday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time

For Wisdom is mobile beyond all motion, and she penetrates and pervades all things by reason of her purity. For she is an aura of the might of God and a pure effusion of the glory of the Almighty; therefore nought that is sullied enters into her. For she is the refulgence of eternal light, the spotless mirror of the power of God, the image of his goodness. Wisdom 7:24-26

Then he said to his disciples, “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. There will be those who will say to you, ‘Look, there he is,’ (or) ‘Look, here he is.’ Do not go off, do not run in pursuit. For just as lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be (in his day). But first he must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation. Luke 17:22-25


O God, Creator of all that is perfect in this world, watch over your imperfect servants. Do not allow us to become hopelessly tarnished. Polish our imperfections with your forgiveness. Remove our dents with your salvation. Help us to be your eyes and to perfectly see the needs of others in this world. Do not allow us to walk away and forget the wisdom that those sights reveal. Instead, make each encounter an epiphany with the image of your goodness that propels us to the action that the sight of you requires of us. Amen.


Mirrors allow us to see something that is already there. Mirrors allow us to see ourselves standing face to face with…ourselves. They don’t reveal anything new. But they do give us a new perspective on a very familiar sight.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “Mirrors have a long history of use both as household objects and as objects of decoration. The earliest mirrors were hand mirrors; those large enough to reflect the whole body did not appear until the 1st century AD.” The mirrors in use in ancient civilizations were highly polished metal objects, not the coated glass mirrors we use today. So the image seen had many more imperfections than the mirror in your bedroom or bathroom.

What do the Pharisees see? The teachers grilling Jesus today are seeing imperfectly. When they ask Jesus about the time of the coming of God’s kingdom, Jesus replies that the kingdom is among you. In fact, the key to the Kingdom is standing in front of them answering their questions. The NAB teaches us that the emphasis in this reply has been shifted from a future happening to “something that is already present in Jesus’ preaching and healing ministry.” Luke has also appended further traditional sayings of Jesus about the unpredictable suddenness of the day of the Son of Man, and assures his readers that in spite of the delay before that day comes, it will bring judgment unexpectedly on those who do not continue to be vigilant.

If we study the use of the image of mirrors throughout scriptures, we might learn some important insights into the meaning of this encounter, Biblical theology and our own way of seeing and encountering God. Perhaps the first passage that many of us could recall with such an image of a mirror used as an analogy is from 1 Corinthians 13.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:11-13 (Emphasis added.)

Light does three things when it hits an object. It is absorbed, reflected, or transmitted through it. In order for a smooth surface to act as a mirror, it must reflect as much of the light as possible and must transmit and absorb as little as possible. In order to reflect light rays without scattering or diffusing them, a mirror’s surface must be perfectly smooth or its irregularities must be smaller than the wavelength of the light being reflected. Therefore, what you see in a mirror, especially back in the first century, was not a perfect reflection of reality. What St. Paul sees in a mirror is imperfect. Seeing face to face shows us directly the perfection of God’s creation.

The Word of God is also the Light of the World. What happens when it hits us? Is it transmitted, absorbed or reflected? Does the message pass right though us like light through a pane of glass? Maybe it leaves behind something but has very little impact? Or do we absorb it when we hear it but fail to do anything about the lessons learned? Or, is it reflected in the way we live our life? Does it change us from being a blank slate to being a messenger of the image of God?

Hebrew Scriptures reveal that wisdom does not suffer from these same imperfections that may hinder our reflection of the Light of the World. For she is the refulgence of eternal light, the spotless mirror of the power of God, the image of his goodness.

The perfection of God’s work compared with humanity also comes through in the Book of Job. The wondrous works of God are creations which Job knows that humanity can not match.

Hear this, O Job; stop and consider the wondrous works of God. Do you know how God lays his command upon them, and causes the lightning of his cloud to shine? Do you know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge, you whose garments are hot when the earth is still because of the south wind? Can you, like him, spread out the skies, hard as a molten mirror? Teach us what we shall say to him; we cannot draw up our case because of darkness. Shall it be told him that I would speak? Did a man ever wish that he would be swallowed up? Job 37:14-20 (Emphasis added.)

Mirrors not only help to differentiate our limitations compared with God’s limitless perfection, but also they help us to understand the interrelationships between people. Ben Sirach, like Jesus, extols us to be ever vigilant.

Never trust your enemy, for like the rusting of copper, so is his wickedness. Even if he humbles himself and goes about cringing, watch yourself, and be on your guard against him; and you will be to him like one who has polished a mirror, and you will know that it was not hopelessly tarnished. Do not put him next to you, lest he overthrow you and take your place; do not have him sit at your right, lest he try to take your seat of honor, and at last you will realize the truth of my words, and be stung by what I have said. Sirach 12:10-12 (Emphasis added.)

“Not hopelessly tarnished.” There is a lesson to be learned in the polishing a mirror. You become aware of every flaw, every dent, and every ding. The act of polishing is an important act of vigilance, observation and action. By studying the imperfections, we can try to rub them out. By knowing the imperfections of others, we can avoid the ways that they might try to tempt us, to trap us. However, we also learn about recognizing our own imperfections.

Knowing our limitations allows us to set our sights on what is required of us. Finally, the mirror holds for the Cursillista a lesson about action. After the letter of James teaches us about the value of trials and temptation, the ancient author also tells us that we can not just hear the word, out lives must reflect the word in our everyday actions.

Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who observes his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But he who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing. James 1: 22-25 (Emphasis added.)


We can not just walk away from the mirror God holds up for us in this world and pretend that the encounter did not happen.

Just look at the news tonight or the newspaper. Sitting there on the front page of today’s New York Times is photo by Vanessa Vick of Afonso GarcĂ­a, 6, who was exiled from his relatives’ household after being accused of being a witch. In the story by Sharon LaFraniere, we learn:

The authorities in one northern Angolan town identified 432 street children who had been abandoned or abused as suspected witches. A report last year by the government’s National Institute for the Child and the United Nations Children’s Fund described the number of children deemed to be witches as “massive.”

The notion of child witches is not new here [in Angola]. It is a common belief in Angola’s dominant Bantu culture that witches can communicate with the world of the dead and usurp or “eat” the life force of others, bringing their victims misfortune, illness and death. Adult witches are said to bewitch children by giving them food, then forcing them to reciprocate by sacrificing a family member.

But officials attribute the surge in persecutions of children to war — 27 years in Angola, ending in 2002, and near constant strife in Congo. The conflicts orphaned many children, while leaving other families intact but too destitute to feed themselves.

It turns out that the local Catholic Church is operating the only sanctuary for children accused and abused and abandoned by these allegations.

Consider supporting the local churches through Catholic Relief Services ( or broader efforts undertaken by UNICEF and other international relief and development organizations for their work to save the children from being hopelessly tarnished by these false accusations and the other man-made scars of war, famine, poverty and disease.