Friday, February 29, 2008

Love That I Desire

March 1, 2008

Saturday of the Third Week of Lent

Talk Day – 126th Women’s Cursillo Team

Lenten Day of Reflection

What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your piety is like a morning cloud, like the dew that early passes away. For this reason I smote them through the prophets, I slew them by the words of my mouth; For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than holocausts. Hosea 6:4-6

But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Luke 18:13


Lord, guide the team of the 126th Women’s Cursillo as they set out building a loving and caring community with trust that the Holy Spirit will guide them and forms them to do His work. By answering, “Here, I am, Lord,” we pray that those who are called to this weekend will answer in the same way and bear the fruits of the gifts of this faith filled team. Strengthen them with our prayers through the friendship and loving presence of your son, Jesus Christ.

Be with the members of our community who gather at Missionhurst in your living presence today to reflect on the meaning of this Lenten season and your sacrifice for us. Help us to discern whose cross we are intended to carry this holy season. Amen.


I never did have much fun in kindergarten but everything I ever wanted to know about life I learned in photography class.

The Cursillo Image of the tripod usually has all three legs being equal in length. If the three legs are connected to a stool, then the stool will be more stable on the floor with three legs of equal length. However, photographers will tell you (and show you) that tripod legs usually adjustable. One never knows when you have to find stability on an uneven surface by making one leg shorter or longer than the others. Other times photographers must spread the tripod legs wide and vary their lengths in order to get close to the subject.

When I used to teach at the at photojournalism workshops, new shooters would come in and proudly show off their equipment, especially long telephoto lenses that they could use at football games and other venues to try to get close up. They would stand off at a distance and rely upon the power of the optical zoom to appear to get closer to the action. Most times, their early attempts to get sharp images were marred by camera shake and motion that they could not eliminate without the stability of a tripod. Such long lenses also were no substitute to getting in tight. “Appearing” to get close to the action is not like getting close to the action.

Today, we learn how God the Father and Jesus wants to get close to the ground with us today. Even if we stay off at a distance like the tax collector, God will invite us into a closer relationship. “The latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Complementing this desire for close relationship, Hosea Chapter 6 expresses so eloquently what might be the earliest recorded references to the Cursillo tripod: God does not desire surface glory or piety. Such devotion passes by like “a morning cloud,” or evaporates like the dew “that early passes away.” He wants the genuine thing.

Side-by-side with genuine piety, the Lord wants to get to know us better. And He wants us to get to know him. He wants us to live in His presence. God seeks our constancy in turn for the reliability of His love. We can count on him just like the Son (sun) rises. “Let us strive to know the LORD; as certain as the dawn is his coming.”

Hear and recall your commissioning ceremony on your Cursillo weekend as you meditate on Hosea 6. “Christ is counting on you.” And I am counting on Christ.”

In the end, overwhelmingly, God seeks our ultimate love – our active love for God and our love for all the children of God. “For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than holocausts.”


Today, as we reflect on the beautiful story and images in Hosea, the team who will lead the 126th Women’s Cursillo for the Diocese of Arlington, VA, will gather at St. Anthony of Padua in Falls Church to prepare their talks for the upcoming weekend.

Let us pray and support them in their efforts through our palanca for the team as a whole and each individual member as well as for those candidates who are still in prayer and discernment about participating on the March 27-30 weekend.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Love Them Freely

February 29, 2008

Friday of the Third Week of Lent

“I will love them freely.” Hosea 14:5

The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’ And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Mark 12: 32-33


Christianity does not ask us to live in the shadow of the Cross but in the fire of its creative action.

-- Teilhard De Chardin


Today we once again consider two alternate human responses to the Lord. What remains constant, no matter what our reaction, is that God loves us freely no matter what we do.

In Hosea, the prophet falls in love with a woman who turns out to be an adulteress. Her role in the narrative symbolized faithless Israel, according to the Introduction of this book in the New American Bible. The commentary goes on to teach that “just as Hosea could not give up his wife forever even when she played the harlot, Yahweh could not renounce Israel, who had been betrothed to him.” God would chastise, but he would always long to bring back the lover.

Earlier in the Hosea narrative, we hear the constancy in the voice of God rise above human emotions:

I will not give vent to my blazing anger, I will not destroy Ephraim again; For I am God and not man, the Holy One present among you; I will not let the flames consume you. They shall follow the LORD, who roars like a lion; When he roars, his sons shall come frightened from the west, Out of Egypt they shall come trembling, like sparrows, from the land of Assyria, like doves; And I will resettle them in their homes, says the LORD. Hosea 11:9-11

In Mark’s Gospel, we see another encounter with the Lord. Jesus quizzes the scribe about the commandments. Rather than rejecting these commands by his actions, the scribe shows that he understands the word of God and what it requires of him. Mark picks up where Hosea concludes: Let him who is wise understand these things; let him who is prudent know them. Straight are the paths of the LORD, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble in them. Hosea 14:10

Jesus confirms that with his reaction…noting that the scribe is not far from the Kingdom of God if he realizes (understands) and fulfills (lives out) the creative action required by these commandments.


If God loves us freely no matter what, why should we be “good?” In the end, if God will forgive us, does it matter if we are good in this lifetime or not. Why not eat, drink and be merry? God won’t judge us if we live that way. However, He has another plan for us if we listen to Him and obey.

The human response is rooted in reciprocity. When people do something for us without our prompting, we feel compelled to respond to them kindly. God gives us His love freely (John 3:16). He asks nothing in return for that as a precondition. However, he does lay out a plan for how we can live with him for eternity should we so choose.

How does such reciprocity play out in your life? Do you do something good because someone else has done something good for you?

Yet another way to live is to “be perfect like the Father is perfect” by doing something good without being asked or required to do it. The Boy Scouts call that a “Good Turn.” They teach that a “Good Turn” is a volunteered kind act. Scouts are encouraged to watch for things that need to be done, and then do them without being asked. Doing a job which you are already supposed to do, even cheerfully, is not classed as doing a Good Turn. Performing the regular routine duties about the home is not a Good Turn.

The Good Turn is a bigger finer thing – the Good Turn is really a philosophy of living, of which Service to others becomes the key. A good Turn is a volunteered kind act or deed. If you can motivate a boy so that such actions become habitual, then you have made the Good Turn Philosophy work in his life. The popular movie “Pay it Forward” exemplified that idea a few years ago.

No one asked God to send His son to redeem our sins. So maybe we should just be good because being good helps us imitate God’s love for the world. Look around for two opportunities today to take part in the creative action required by the Cross:

1) Look for a chance to reciprocate a good deed. Consider a kindness someone offered to you. Do something good for them in return.

2) Do a Good Turn without being prompted. Pay something forward to someone else who has never done anything for you.

By the Finger of God

February 28, 2008

Thursday of the Third Week of Lent

This rather is what I commanded them: Listen to my voice; then I will be your God and you shall be my people. Walk in all the ways that I command you, so that you may prosper. Jeremiah 7:23

When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe. But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armor on which he relied and distributes the spoils. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Luke 11: 21-23


Jesus, you leave little choice but to join you. You don’t offer to meet us halfway in some compromise. You ask for an all or nothing commitment to your loving ways to secure peace. You laugh at our attempts to be the strong man. You laugh at our “idiotic principle” that peace can be achieved or maintained by “arranging to use weapons we can’t possibly use without committing suicide.” You laugh at our inhumanity to each other where we rely upon prisons to do what our families, our schools, our churches and we, ourselves, did not do. You laugh at the hypocrisy we create in lives that we carry out each day – lives marked by polluting the earth, marginalizing the poor and ignoring the prophets you sent to live among us. Instead, give us an iota of the strength that you used to bind the forces of evil in the world. Help us to apply that strength not only to what we say, but also to what we do and the way we put our religion into practice. Amen.


The tables often get turned on those who are the most powerful. The 1980 U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team beats the mighty Soviet veterans in Lake Placid. The undefeated and mighty New England Patriots run into a brick wall of Giants from New York, ending their quest for perfection one game shy of the Super Bowl Trophy.

Beyond the sports analogies, strength and power are concepts to which we can relate as the most powerful nation on Earth, the last superpower. Now Jesus is talking to us in language that we understand. Smash-mouth, my-father-plays-dominoes-better-than-your-father Bible. But does Jesus the rebel act like a barroom bouncer tossing Beelzebub out the back door on his tailbone? NO! What Luke describes sounds like a total mismatch…stacked against the Messiah.

In this corner, hailing from Nazareth and turning water into wine at a glance, Jesus “The Finger of God” Christ and in this corner, the heavyweight champion of the universe of sin, Beelzebub!

What we learn is that Jesus has more power against sin in his little finger than Beelzebub has in the universe. The strong man better not be caught napping. Even if he is on guard, there is no guarantee that he is any match for this singular sensation of an opponent. The swiftly working Finger of God will bind the strong man faster than a spider weaves his web.

The most powerful are often threatened by the weakest, least powerful among us. Gandhi. Dorothy Day. Lech Walesa. Peter Maurin. Nelson Mandela. Like St. Peter, these modern-day peacemakers often found themselves in chains or under attack from the forces of the status quo who were threatened by unconditional active love. The strong man does not hesitate to throw the least among us into jail and throw away the key. Others find themselves killed by those threatened by love. Oscar Romero. Dorothy Stand. Ita Ford and her sisters. The strong man doesn’t worry about protecting their civil rights.

The image of what gets done by the “finger of God” also brings to mind the famous scene at the center of Michelangelo’s painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Life! From the mere touch of the Finger of God starts the whole creation story. Chaos is tamed and the image of God walks on earth.


Binding the strong man…an apt analogy at work in the world today. Yet who will apply the chains? Who will tie the knot? Many people will speak out against evil but who will do something about it.

The current crisis in the Darfur region of the Sudan began in 2003. That is five years ago. Entire classes of college students have passed from the SAT tests through graduation yet still the killing goes on. The most significant advocates in our generation from Elie Weisel forward have tried to call our attention to this crisis. Since 2003, no segment of the population in that area of Africa – an area the size of Texas – has been spared from murder, rape and unspeakable violence. Despite the threat of international sanctions, the conditions on the ground continue to diminish. Just last week, President Bush was in Africa and spoke out (once again) on the crisis as he has done many times, including once at the Holocaust Museum. Yet would we not have undertaken a stronger and swifter path to justice if these conditions affected our Lone Star State and not a country thousands of miles away.

What needs to be done to end this genocide? According to international relief and development organizations, there are three steps needed.

1) An immediate cease fire.

2) An effective and credible peacekeeping force must be assembled to protect civilians and farmers. Darfur peacekeepers can not be successful without a few helicopters but no nation has yet provided them.

3) A renewed peace process needs to be started

What can you, as an individual accomplish?

1) Encourage President Bush and your Members of Congress to bind the strong man who is initiating these attacks – attacks which violate the UN Declaration on Human Rights. Ask them to support and lead efforts to provide much needed humanitarian aid throughout the region.

2) Consider supporting one of nearly 20 international efforts to aid the people in Darfur. Visit this web page ( to learn more about these efforts.

3) Have you heard of divestment? It's one of the key tactics that was successfully used to end apartheid in South Africa and it can help end the violence in Darfur, too.

To "divest" means to withdraw investments from companies which support the genocide in Darfur by doing business with the government of Sudan. You can join in fighting the genocide by urging Franklin Templeton, JP Morgan Chase, Capital Group/American Funds, Fidelity, Vanguard, and other investment institutions to divest their holdings from any and all companies doing business with the government of Sudan.

Click the link below to sign the Divest for Darfur petition now and help cut off financial support for the government-sponsored violence in Darfur!

Diplomacy is crucial, but economic pressure may prove an even more powerful way to force Sudan to cooperate with international efforts to end the genocide. Sudan has been very responsive to economic pressure in the past so we have reason to hope that they will pay heed to the divestment efforts.

Please do not stand by while the violence continues - you can make a difference. Everyone’s death diminishes me. Do not ask for whom the Darfur bell tolls, it tolls for all of us.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Whoever Obeys and Teaches These Commandments

Whoever Obeys and Teaches These Commandments

February 27, 2008

Wednesday of the Third Week in Lent

By Melanie Rigney

“Take care and be earnestly on your guard not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live, but teach them to your children and to your children’s children.” (Deuteronomy 4:9)

“Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19)


Lord, I need patience and insight to see Christ in those with whom I disagree politically. Help me find the wisdom to prayerfully develop my own views in harmony with Your Word even as I respectfully listen to the views of others in my community. Amen.


Today's Readings

We get restless. In fact, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum, we’ve got presidential primary campaigns built on the need for change.

Where would Jesus stand? I suppose we each think he’d be with our candidate, based on his advocacy of social justice, respect for life, advice to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.

Today’s Gospel advocates a clearer “agenda” than today’s candidates do. Surely, the disciples chafed under Roman rule and the myriad aspects of Mosaic Law the Jewish establishment enforced. Perhaps the chance to rebel... the concept of change, no matter what it entails... drew some of them to Jesus as much as what he said or the way he said it in the first place, as much as the promise of “change” draws some of us today.

These verses from the Sermon on the Mount come after the Beatitudes, after Jesus has called for radical thinking such as being meek and merciful and being willing to bear persecution for righteousness. Perhaps some of the disciples were on fire to go out and change the world in some way, any way, after hearing that part of the sermon. But Jesus cautions them: “not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law” until heaven and earth have passed away. “I have come not to abolish but to fulfill,” he tells them. And he warns them that their righteousness must not just equal but actually surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees if they hope to enter heaven.

When we see the scribes and Pharisees of our day in action, we can delude ourselves that we are more righteous than they are. After all, we don’t cheat on our taxes... as much as they do. We don’t cheat on our spouses... if you define cheating the way Bill Clinton did. We tell ourselves we’re not in a position to do anything about abortion or immigration. Let us remember that Jesus calls us to a higher standard and to obey and teach all the commandments, even the least of them. He calls us to look within ourselves to not only obey but also to teach the commandments. As in the reading from Deuteronomy, we are charged not to forget what we have seen or what we have learned, and to share it with others.


This week, sit down with a friend, family member, or co-worker whose political view is diametrically opposed to yours. Listen to why this person believes what he or she believes or supports a particular candidate. In a nonargumentative way, explore the differences in the way you and this person define “change.” Make this a teaching and learning opportunity for both of you.

Monday, February 25, 2008


February 26, 2008

Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent

But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received; As though it were holocausts of rams and bullocks, or thousands of fat lambs, So let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly; for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame. Daniel 3: 39-40

At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, “Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.” Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. Matthew 18: 26-27


A Prayer for Patience (from

Gracious God, it’s so hard to wait. To wait for new things to happen in my life. To wait for you to answer my prayers. To wait for the open doors that may lead me into a new way of being. During the time of waiting, it seems that all I can think of is having what it is I am waiting for. At times I feel weary of asking and waiting, and I wonder if you really hear my prayers at all, if you are ignoring me, or if you are simply refusing to give me my heart’s desire. A part of me knows that you want my best, and that your time is not my time, but Lord, it is still so hard to wait. Deepen my trust, O Lord, during the times when my heart longs for what can only come in the fullness of time. Give me a calm assurance that your will for me is grander than anything I could ever imagine. Still my mind and heart in your love so that I am mindful of the grace you are draping around me every single day, every single moment. I ask this for the sake of your love. Amen.


The servant in Matthew’s Gospel ends up in torment because he refuses to “suffer with” his servant, refuses to for-give. The king receives the debtor who comes to him with contrite heart and humble spirit. Our challenge is to receive others who turn to us in the same manner. Hand in hand with another compassion motif is the contrast of one servant offering himself to the Lord “unreservedly.” The sincerity of Daniel is contrasted with the lack of sincerity we see in the Gospel account. Yet, the Lord alone knows what is in our heart.

Not only does Daniel model for us following God without reservations, we see how patient God is with him and the servant in Matthew who pleads with God to be patient. God suffers with him and grants him the wish. Yet that servant is hardly as generous or magnanimous with those who “trespass against him” as God was with him.

We are not a patient people. Admit it. We hate waiting in lines, in traffic or in anyplace. We must think it is our mission to lead, not to follow. We want to lead but we want to arrive with reservations. Forget about following unreservedly. We want the room to be guaranteed when we arrive…with the sheets turned down and little chocolates on the pillow. We prefer to avoid the Department of Motor Vehicles when our license or registration must be renewed…and we face the lines. We prefer to avoid the doctor or emergency department…another wait.

It is the same way with God. "Help me God, to do this … to get that … to be taller, thinner, richer … And right away, please God. Now." We can not wait for God’s response.

How unlike our ancestors are we. They waited weeks for the crops to come in. We head to Safeway to buy the winter peaches from Argentina. They waited months for a letter to cross the country. We pick up our cell phone with unlimited minutes and call to check in with our friends. They waited years for visits from relatives in the “old country.” We head to the airport to pick up Aunt Sarah for her Thanksgiving visit. They waited thousands of years for God to send the Messiah. When He came, his parents had no reservations in Bethlehem. There was no doctor’s office or emergency room. There was certainly no Bethlehem Hotel. Yet Jesus never said life was unfair.

He unreservedly gave up everything, including the very last threads of clothes on his back to cash out our sins. He unreservedly chose to wear a crown of thorns, accepted a good whipping, and endured the excruciating pain of a few good nails through his flesh and bones in order to suffer with our sins. Yet Jesus never said life was unfair.

He never said, “I did not sin.”

He never said, “I did not lie.”

He never said, “I did not envy.”

He never said, “I did not lust.”

He never said, “I was not greedy.”

He never said, “I was not angry.”

He never said, “I did not hate.”

While all these statements were true, he did not use them because he unreservedly accepted the consequences of our sins.


How can I ever repay you?

Ever have one of those experiences where someone does something for you that goes so far “above and beyond” their normal obligation or duty? Take a minute today and send that person a card or a note saying how much their help meant to you at the time and how you have never forgotten their kindness.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Thirst for God

February 25, 2008

Monday of the Third Week of Lent

By Beth DeCristofaro

As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God. My being thirsts for God, the living God. When can I go and see the face of God? (Psalm 42:2-3)

Elisha, the man of God, heard that the king of Israel had torn his garments, he sent word to the king: “Why have you torn your garments? Let him come to me and find out that there is a prophet in Israel.” (2 Kings 5:8)

“Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place… Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian. (Luke 4:24, 27)


My God, my soul thirsts for your living water. My ears thirst for your living Word. My heart thirsts for your living love. My lips thirst for your living words. Fill me as no earthly words, love, Word or water can do. Fill me to overflowing, Lord God, so that I might be a conduit for your Grace to overflow. Thank you, God, for your living water. Amen


The story of Naaman turns on trust and humility. Who brings the good word to Naamum? A slave girl does who might well have just kept silent. After all, she was forced into service against her will and without any hope of release. Who convinced Naaman to follow the cryptic command of Elisha? It was servants who might just as well stayed out of things and followed Naaman back to their comfortable existence in Aram. And Naaman listened. Naaman acted on the advice of his inferiors. He heard God within them and found himself: Athirst is my soul for the living God. (Psalm 42:3)

The king found a need for trust and humility. He was fearful and suspicious for himself when he heard Naaman’s petition. Elisha’s words reminded him that it is not about the king. “Why have you torn your garments? Let him come to me and find out that there is a prophet in Israel.” (2 Kings 5:7) Elisha reminded the king not to listen to the human implications but to listen within his soul for the living God. This is a moment for God’s astounding, mysterious action. Humility and trust are required not human solutions.

Do we find ourselves athirst for the living God or focused on just getting through the day? Where do we look for, listen for, strive for the face, voice and presence of God? Can we accept that God speaks where God will speak – from a slave’s mouth? From a dangerous outsider? Can God’s voice rock our status quo? Can we kneel in humility before God and say “yes, I will seek you where you are, my God.”?

Jesus’ hometown had no such humility or trust. He was the son of a carpenter. They refused to be still and listen. Our need for God is answered in humility and trust. Silence and sitting with God’s Word allows us to hear the living God.


Do you have a suspicious king, an impatient Naaman or a furious townsperson within you blocking you from hearing God’s voice? Ask for the humility to let go and listen to God. “…if the prophet had told you to do something extraordinary, would you not have done it? (2 Kings 5:13) Give thanks today and ask for trust, humility and awareness of God’s living presence within you. Let your awareness seep into the concrete circumstances of the day to enrich and enliven what you are involved in and with whom you relate during the day. Thirst for the living God.

In Our Midst

February 24, 2008

Third Sunday of Lent

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

Here, then, in their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die here of thirst with our children and our livestock?” Exodus 17:3

We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world. John 4:42


Let us pray: God, you show us time after time, that when we meet the Lord, our life changes. Help us to recognize that you are Emmanuel, God-with-us. The Samaritan woman at the well shows us the hope that your presence in our live brings. Help us to let you work in our lives to quench our thirst for justice, peace, and love. Let our response and conversion quench you thirst for our love. Amen.


The Samaritan woman went out to get some water. She was not looking for Christ. He was there and saw something in her that he sees in us. The deepest need of everyone is something that will last. Written into our very nature is the need of everlasting life. Many do not know what they are looking for. Spirituality and piety meet as the practices that speak to the need of Christ in all of us. The right questions need to be asked if our spirituality and our piety are going to grow into a deep and abiding relationship to Christ. He would be our companion in our journey and so much more if we know what we are looking for and look for what he would give us.

The Samaritan woman went from being asked a question to asking her own question. Study is a looking at what our hearts are crying out for. We need to rediscover Christ’s life within us. Water has been changed forever in Christ’s walking into the Jordan to be baptized by John. He who was sinless gave to the waters of the Jordan a new meaning. The heart that was pierced on the Cross, gave his presence to the water that gushed forth to become the Sacrament of Baptism. We are born again into the life of Christ. We become children of God by Christ being our brother. Christ becomes our real life. We do not lose anything by following Christ. Rather we become true to ourselves by allowing our spiritual lives to be an extension of the Spiritual life of Christ. When Christ is transparent in whom we are and in what we do, we have discovered our true selves. We are who we are meant to be.


It is a philosophical principle that action flows out of who we are. “Agere sequitur esse,” is a truism of life. Whatever we do in life brings fulfillment when it is true to who we are. An apostolic plan grows out of our prayer. Spiritual reading offers us challenges of life that are met in how we are sharing Christ with each other. Our gospel of the Samaritan woman is a challenge to reach out to someone today with the call of eternal life. We have as many group reunions in our daily life as we are trying to share Christ with the person we are with. We fulfill our apostolic plan when it means that Christ is part of each encounter of the day. A good life speaks Christ. A Christ life is seen in the willingness of say, “Christ” out loud. The Eternal Word spoken by the Father in the Word Made flesh needs to be echoed by our words to each other.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

His Father Caught Sight of Him

February 23, 2008

Saturday of the Second Week of Lent

Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance; Who does not persist in anger forever, but delights rather in clemency, And will again have compassion on us, treading underfoot our guilt? You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins. Micah 7: 18-19

“My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.” Luke 15:31-32


Let us pray: God, your supernatural compassion revealed to us through your son Jesus Christ, constitutes the basis and source of our compassion. As followers of Christ, help us to understand the call to radical compassion. Through our prayer and action, help us to make such compassion manifest in our lives and relationships with God and with our sisters and brothers. Deepen our awareness of the presence of a compassionate God in the midst of an incompassionate world and make us truly thankful for His mercy. Amen.


“While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him.”

How long do you think it took before the pride of the prodigal son took over? He wanted his inheritance and he got his way. He took the money and ran never looking back.

How long do you think he eyed his father’s wealth with envy, greed and lust in his heart? How long did he plan his “escape” from life in the shadow of his older brother before finally getting up the nerve, the gumption to confront his father for the money?

How long do you think it took for him to spend all the money? This was his entire inheritance. This was likely about half of his father’s property – after all we don’t know of any other siblings. So the purse must have been pretty full.

How long do you think this son pursued a “life of dissipation?” Not a week of dissipation. Not a month of dissipation. Not even a year of intemperate living and excessive drinking. St. Luke tells us that he was engaged in a “life” of dissipation.

While not an entire lifetime, clearly this took some time to blow through all that money, slowly losing steam as he had less and less and less but never once turning back as the balance in his checkbook waned until it was gone.

Alone, destitute and far from home, how long do you think it took to find a job feeding pigs? His friends, who flocked around him when he was the life of the party, were long gone. They only wanted him for his money…the same way the son treated the father. No longer a meal ticket, the so-called friends vanished until eventually, the son landed a job.

Too stubborn still to admit he was wrong, how long do you think he spent feeding the swine until he finally thought about going back home?

How many years of anguish and separation did this family endure? Ten years? Twenty years? Thirty? If he left home at age 17, how long before he came back with one shoe off and one shoe on? The classic painting by Rembrandt van Rijn that inspired Henri Nouwen’s spiritual meditation depicts the father as an old man, bent over and frail. Perhaps he was 60 or 70 years old by the time of the “return.” The older brother standing nearby is also mature in his years…perhaps into his forties. So, it is easy for me (influenced by Rembrandt) to conclude that the son was gone at least 20 years of more.

After all that time, he finally decided to swallow his pride and return home. What does he even think he will find when he returns? He only hopes for a job as a day laborer. No longer will he have to hang out at the 7-11 until the contractors come with an opportunity to be exploited and maybe earn a fair wage for a fair day of work. No longer does he have to head to the hiring hall in Herndon hoping for work to pay the bills and put food on the table.

What does he find?

“While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him.”

After all this time, the father was still on the lookout. Like a shepherd who lost one of his sheep. Like the poor widow who lost a coin. Like, quite simply, a father who lost a son.

“While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him.”

After twenty or thirty years, the father still kept a lookout every day for the son who rejected him and everything he stood for. After twenty or thirty years, all that the father needed to see was he son make a turn back toward him.

“While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him.”

The father had no pride to swallow. He only had love, compassionate love. He didn’t get the news reports from the hands in the field and wait in the house for the son. He didn’t wait at the gate for his son’s return. He ran out to meet him. He ran out filled with compassion that never dissipated after all those years. He ran our filled with excessive love, intemperate love, and welcomed home he son who was lost.

“While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him.”


Compassion is more than just sympathy and understanding to those around us in need. True compassion in Christian life asks us to “suffer with” those who are hurt. The father suffered with his sons and was ready any day for them to return to him from the distant perspectives that they adopted.

Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless.[1]

Jesus asks us to “Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.” (Luke 6:36)

Who are you walking with during this Lenten season? Walk with someone and share their pain and sorrow.

What are you dissipating? Allow your negative emotions and tendencies to dissipate like the prodigal son spent his earthly inheritance. Only when freed from this burden, can you truly erase the mistakes in your life.

[1] Nouwen, Henri, J. M., Donald P. McNeill, and Douglas A. Morrison. Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life. New York: Doubleday. 1983, page 4.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

But who do you say that I am?

February 22, 2008

Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, Apostle

Tend the flock of God in your midst, (overseeing) not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock. 1 Peter 5:2-3

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


Let us pray: Father, help us to confront our doubts and fears in order to overcome them with the grace and dignity exemplified by St. Peter to the rest of his flock. Lead us to the verdant pastures and still waters where we can rest. Make us contented in our lives shared with Jesus and not marked by false desires. Amen.


Among the saints and sinners that we encounter in life, Peter is in a class by himself. Sometimes in his saintliness, his actions, words and judgment rose so high above the rest of the people that he was blessed with many graces from God. Yet at other times, in his flawed humanity, Peter was right here with folks like you and I, trudging through life one day at a time.

Peter’s words to Christians of his day reach out across time and space to us today. It is advice that could characterize any parent, co-worker, supervisor, political leader, or family member.

We not only have his words, but also we have accounts of his actions in the Gospels. These show us that Peter is a true survivor. His accomplishments, aided by Jesus and the Holy Spirit refute the “reality show” mentality of America today. God is not out there to vote us off the island for the least little flaw. Yesterday we heard about Dives who was condemned for a lifetime of indifference to the poor who literally lived at his door and crawled along the ground at his feet. In fact, despite some pretty big flaws, Peter was never ousted at tribal council. No one put his fire out. No one sent him home or banished him across the chasm.

The Church which is led by a long line of people selected to sit in the chair of St. Peter that we honor today, teaches us it is not the survival of the fittest that matters, but survival of the entire family of humanity that rests upon our shoulders.

In today’s tribal council, Jesus poses a question to Peter and to us. “But who do you say that I am?” Jesus doesn’t care what the crowd thinks. He knows that he won’t win any popularity contest with the crowd who will come to ask for his condemnation and execution. Instead, Jesus approaches us one at a time, starting with Peter.


Behind this door is eternal life. To win it, Jesus just needs your answer. “Who do you say that I am?”

Are you among the chosen sojourners with Peter in pursuit of the Christian ideal? If so, put your answer in the comment section of Your Daily Tripod. Come back and visit that page to see what others have written.

Maybe we do not have the benefit of a retreat at the top of a mountaintop with Moses and Elijah as we encountered at the outset of this second week of Lent. However, we have the benefit of all the people around us. Tend to them according to the words in the letter from St. Peter.


February 21, 2008

Thursday of the Second Week of Lent

More tortuous than all else is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it? I, the LORD, alone probe the mind and test the heart, to reward everyone according to his ways, according to the merit of his deeds. Jeremiah 17: 9-10

Then Abraham said, “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.” Luke 16: 31


Thomas Merton's Prayer of Abandonment

I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself.
And the fact that I think that I am following
your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have the desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the
right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may
seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear for you are ever with me and
you will never leave me to face my troubles alone.

-Thomas Merton


In God We Trust.

These words are etched into all of the coins and currency of our country. The Department of the Treasury reports that “The motto has been in continuous use on the one-cent coin since 1909, and on the ten-cent coin since 1916. It also has appeared on all gold coins and silver dollar coins, half-dollar coins, and quarter-dollar coins struck since July 1, 1908.”

Is it a real sentiment or just a slogan? Do we trust more in God than in the currency upon which this slogan appears? Do we trust more in God than in the consumer products that we purchase with our coins and currency?

For all the reminders in our pockets and purses, we are a nation that experts tell us trusts each other less and less each year – except when the economic conditions are good.

Research shows that we do not trust people who are not like ourselves. Generalized trust has declined in the United States from 58% in 1960 to 34% in 2003. The United States is a society characterized more by conflict and what separates us than by what brings us together. We argue more, volunteer less, and give less of our income to charity. That’s the conclusion of University of Maryland professor Eric Uslaner, author of The Moral Foundations of Trust.

Today’s readings drive home the same message. Even in Biblical times, people put their trust in Mammon, not in God. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus again illustrates Luke’s concern with Jesus’ attitude toward the rich and the poor. The reversal of the fates of the rich man and Lazarus further illustrate the teachings of Jesus in Luke's “Sermon on the Plain.”

Dives finds himself in a losing debate with Abraham. He finds he failed to volunteer to help the poor who sat right outside his front door. He didn’t even give to charity to save the poor from the dogs.

Despite all the signs he missed in life, Dives wants to warn his family not to fall into the same trap that ensnared him. But Abraham rebukes him.

The Lord is alone in his ability to read our hearts and minds. Dives is alone in his torment because he failed to heed the overt messages from the Lord.


How many more ways can the Lord say to us “Listen and Obey” before we heed his words and their meaning in our lives? If we heed his words, then we may not find ourselves tormented by loneliness. As Thomas Merton led us in prayer, “I will not fear for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my troubles alone.”

What will it take to restore and increase your levels of trust? Not just trust in your immediate family and friends, but in people whom you do not know and are not like you? Do you think we have an obligation to help them?

How is it best to express that? With the widow’s mite? Or maybe with some of the coins you are hoarding in your penny collection by giving them to charity.

Get rid of that coin bank. Give it (and its contents) to charity.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Whoever Wishes to Be Great Among You Shall Be Your Servant

February 20, 2008

Wednesday of the Second Week in Lent

By Melanie Rigney

“Heed me, O Lord, and listen to what my adversaries say. Must good be repaid with evil that they should dig a pit to take my life?” (Jeremiah 18:19-20)

“I hear the whispers of the crowd; terrors are all around me. They conspire against me; they plot to take my life. But I trust in you, Lord. I say, ‘You are my God.’” (Psalms 31:14-15)

“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)


Lord, give me the faith and confidence to do service without expecting public acclaim or even a private “thank you.” Let me learn from Christ’s example.


Today's Readings

Thoughts on Service

During my annual review last week, I talked with my supervisor about the fact that I’d applied for a different position under her purview. The conversation still was on my mind when I got together with a couple friends. We talked about the seeming inconsistency of blowing your own horn during a typical job interview and of reflecting a desire to do service.

“How do you balance the two?” I asked.

“You can tell,” one friend said. “The ones you need to be careful about hiring only talk about themselves... only about their accomplishments. They need to be needed, and that’s what it’s about, rather than the work and how they can serve.”

But if we don’t speak up for ourselves, don’t proclaim our good works, who will know? In today’s gospel reading, the mother of James and John certainly was concerned about her boys getting their “fair” share, which to her mind were seats at Christ’s right and left hands in the Kingdom. And what about those situations as described in Jeremiah and Psalms, when others plot against us? Don’t we have to defend ourselves, make sure we get our fair share?

No, we don’t.

It might be a fine line, but it’s a very distinct one, the line between boasting and demonstrating competence, between defensiveness and confidence, between being served and serving. And we know when we cross that line and make it about us rather than about serving the Lord.

Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer, president of Human Life International, provides an interesting treatise at on what “success” looks like. We have it all wrong, he says, when we talk about reaching the top rung of the ladder:

In order to serve, we must step down from the top of that ladder and move to the bottom. The Kingdom of God is down there at the bottom of the ladder. All the people that we are going to be with in the Kingdom of God, if we make it, are going to be at the bottom of the ladder, not at the top.

God expects us to use our gifts as parents, teachers, daughters, sons, writers, priests, lectors, ushers, attorneys, nurses, doctors... the list goes on. But the reason we have those gifts is not self-aggrandizement. It’s so we may serve in this world and prepare for the next.


Cursillistas are always doing service: in our organization, in our parishes, in our outside ministries. In the spirit of Lenten growth, resolve that for the next week, you will do absolutely nothing to promote the good you do and will instead focus on those you serve.

Be Humbled

February 19, 2008

Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent

Learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan's plea, defend the widow. Isaiah 1:17

The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Matthew 23: 11-12

Litany of Humility

(Adapted from a prayer written by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930), Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X.[1])

From the desire to be esteemed,

Deliver us, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved by all...

From the desire to be honored ...

From the desire to be praised ...

Deliver us, Jesus.

From the desire of being preferred to others...

From the desire of being consulted ...

From the desire of being approved ...

Deliver us, Jesus.

From the fear of being humiliated ...

From the fear of being despised...

From the fear of suffering rebukes ...

Deliver us, Jesus.

From the fear of being forgotten, ridiculed and wronged...

Deliver us, Jesus.

That I out of my riches may give to others in their poverty,

Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That I may know the depth of my own poverty

Jesus, grant me the grace to understand it.

That others may increase and I may decrease...

Jesus may it be.


“Hear, O Heavens, and Listen” pleads the greatest prophet. He invites us, “Come now, let us set things right, says the LORD.”

How do we set things right with the Lord? Not by continuing to behave the way the Lord has witnessed. Both Isaiah and Matthew seek right behaviors, right relationships between the Lord and the children of God. Isaiah tells us that God rejects the sacrifices that people have been offering. No, says the Lord. “Your hands are full of blood.”

But we have a chance to turn things around. “If you are willing, and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land.”

Listen. Obey.

Jesus picks up on this same theme in today’s reading from Matthew. He does not want us to imitate those who should not be imitated – the leaders who pray for show. Jesus also tells us how we can set things right. Jesus rejects the behavior of the Pharisees just like Isaiah rejected the sacrifices of the people.

“Do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.” He does not want us to follow those who talk the talk but do not walk the walk.

Listen. Obey.

Rather than setting ourselves up for a exalted places of honor, we should instead identify with the widow and the orphan. Shun walking with the rich and walk with the poor.

The greatest are not those with preferred seats at synagogue. Just the opposite. The greatest are those in the back row. “The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”


We can not just hear the word. It must affect our very lives and actions.

Beth and I just came back from seeing the movie “There Will Be Blood” on this holiday weekend. [Spoiler alert – I may say things which reveal things about the movie that you would prefer not to know until or unless you see it.]

Critics seem to think that on Sunday night, this movie may very well win many of the top awards – director, actor, best picture. It is indeed a powerful movie but it has a very pessimistic view of humanity – a view which is defeated in the end.

The paradox of Hollywood is to spend millions making and marketing a movie detailing the life of this man whose very essence is rejected in the end. By shining its powerful klieg lights on this so-called life, Hollywood shows us its transparent veneer and comes – finally – to reject all that Daniel Plainview represents.

Although a critical success, the little Oscar statuette does not always go to the most popular films of the year. Of the five films nominated for best picture, “There Will Be Blood” has grossed the least among domestic audiences. “Juno” is the first and my favorite, “Michael Clayton” is third, just ahead of “Atonement.”

“There Will Be Blood” follows Daniel Plainview’s life through a series of accidents and opportunities that set him back and propelled him onward. The accident consume the lives of those around him. Yet, he will not let these misfortunes hold him back. When a man is killed drilling for oil, he closes the rig for half a day. He progresses to wiping out or threatening to wipe out anyone who stands in his way – not accidentally but intentionally. His inhumanity to his neighbors, to his adopted son, to his workers, and to all who try to get close to him finally add up to his fatal flaw that can no longer be hidden.

Daniel Plainview is like the Pharisees in today’s Gospel. He rejects religion unless it will help him get ahead. We seem him assault the minister who can not heal his son’s disability. That rejection doesn’t stop Plainview from putting on a great show of religion like the Pharisees who “widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.” Plainview fakes conversion and even goes so far as to be baptized just in order to get a lease to put a pipeline on the property of one member of the Church of the Third Revelation. He may confess his sins but he doesn’t reject his own behavior.

All his faults and flaws are out there in plain view. His life serves as the antithesis of the “Third Revelation.” The First Revelation was when Moses brought down the law from the mountaintop etched it in the two stone tablets. The Second Revelation is when God sent His only son to redeem the world and revealed a new law etched in his life, his word, his works and on the cross he carried on his back. The Third Revelation is when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and transforms us from thinking about ourselves to thinking about others.

Today’s Gospel reading rejects the life of the showy Pharisees and those who use religion for their own end. The lesson we hear from Isaiah and Jesus is that we need to do our best in favor of our least neighbors, in favor of humanity – not self – in order to make this world a better place. That is the ideal for our own spiritual journey. The only way to pursue that ideal is to put our lives upside down.

If you watch the Oscar telecast on Sunday night, join me in cheering on the rejection of all that Daniel Plainview represents. It is finished.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Forgive and Be Forgiven

February 18, 2008

Monday of the Second Week in Lent

By Beth DeCristofaro

O LORD, we are shamefaced, like our kings, our princes, and our fathers, for having sinned against you. But yours, O Lord, our God, are compassion and forgiveness! (Daniel 9: 8)

Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” (Luke 6: 37-38)


Great and awesome God, grant me your mercy. Look not on my sins but on my faith, Loving and Eternal God. Grant me your compassion, and uphold the covenant made with me by your Obedient Son. From your Glory, Gracious God, fill me with yourself that I might stop judging but rather love and forgive those upon whom you cause the sun to shine and the rain to fall. Thank you, dear God, for your gifts without which I would have so much trouble forgiving others.


For those of us who have baked, we know the prohibition: don’t compress the flour or sugar into the measuring cup or it will pack down and be too much for the recipe. Rather, pour in and swipe a knife or spatula edge across the top to even the measurement at the correct line. What an image Jesus gives us: Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. (Luke 6: 38). Do you recall the mess on the counter or floor as we attempt to teach a six-year-old child how to measure the flour for chocolate chip cookies! (Or, admit it, when we attempt to level the flour ourselves.) Jesus turns this into an extravagant image of God’s overflowing, encasing mercy. God’s mercy is too much, it fills and brims over, it expands and transforms everything it touches. How can we not, like eager six-year-old children, laugh and ask for God’s mercy?

However, like the Israelites, we too often want it our way. We have sinned, been wicked and done evil; we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and your laws. We have not obeyed your servants the prophet… O LORD, we are shamefaced, like our kings, our princes, and our fathers, for having sinned against you. (Daniel 9: 5-6, 8)

Albert Haase, OFM, says: “…For many of us the ego is a perpetual two year old that screams to be fed with power, prestige and possessions…asking the same question over and over, ‘What’s in it for me?’... However, we belong to Jesus Christ the moment we rise from the waters of Baptism bearing his name. Christian means ‘Little Christ’. … To follow in (His) footsteps is to embark upon a journey of words and deeds which chip away at the dominion of egotistical pride. Indeed the footsteps of the Master are molded by actions which erase the outline of the ego – forgiveness of the enemy, prayers for those who persecute us, turning the other cheek, compassion for those who suffer and unconditional love. It is a self-emptying lifestyle focused on ‘thee’ and not ‘me’.”[1]

That is the trap which the Israelites fall in to again and again; it is the same trap with snares us when we cannot see God in one another so we pronounce judgment rather than have mercy. Our own freely chosen actions mold us to compassion for others or to self-centeredness. Fr. Haase offers St. Francis’ Peace Prayer as one tool to, step-by-step, mold ourselves in a self-emptying lifestyle. Or think of it as a baking process, the more sifted over with the powdery flour of Jesus, hiding our identity under the dusting of love and mercy, the closer we rise up toward God.


Pray “Look not on our sins but on our faith.” Ask for God’s mercy and guidance to choose to be merciful rather than the center of your own universe: For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you. How are your actions molding or kneading you, today?

[1] Instruments of Christ: Reflections on the Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, Fr. Albert Haase, OFM, St. Anthony Press, p. 8, 10.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Rise and Do Not Be Afraid

February 17, 2008

Second Sunday of Lent

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

The LORD said to Abram: “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father's house to a land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” Genesis 12:1-2

While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” Matthew 17:5


O Lord, open my eyes that I may see the needs of others, open my ears that I may hear their cries, open my heart so that they need not be without comfort. Let me not be afraid to defend the weak because of the anger of the rich. Show me where love and hope and faith are needed, and use me to bring them to these places. Open my eyes and ears that I may, this coming day, be able to do some work of peace for Thee.

-- Alan Paton

(The Fire of Peace: A Prayer Book. Compiled and edited by Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB. Erie, PA: Pax Christi USA, 1992.)


The transfiguration of Christ before his disciples and his approval by the voice from heaven shook up the Apostles who were with him at the Transfiguration. They had to look at him a spiritual way. Spiritual intimacy is one of the closest bonds of the human heart if not the closest. Sharing Christ with each other makes us look at each other with our hearts. Sharing Christ makes us recognize Christ mutually. We can never look at anyone the same way after they have shared the Christ of their hearts. More that can be expected of one who follows Christ. He brings the strength to put up with hardship and difficulty.

Living in Christ’s love brings peace, joy, kindness, patience and so many more fruits of the Spirit that unfold the uniqueness of God’s love in us. People on a spiritual retreat usually come tired, disturbed, and anxious. They are too often filled with anxiety at all the hurts of our world today. Something happens when they are with the Lord that changes their view of the world. Their hearts relax in the Lord. And the force of the God awareness of the soul flows to the exterior. Their complexions seem to be transfigured. People seem younger at the end of a retreat. Wonderful changes in people who spend time with the Lord make one wonder why the doctors do not prescribe prayer for what ails one. It is a simple truth that God brings peace to us when we share his son.


Lent does not have to be a time of sadness if we are willing to be transfigured by the time and the work we would do for Christ. Our hearts will hear the words of approval from the Father; “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased…” when we are willing to be a real “Christ” with each other. We are challenged by Lent not only to be companions of Christ, but also to become His presence and hear His Father’s words of approval for what we do in His name. This is what transfiguration can be all about for us.