Saturday, August 30, 2008

Rest Your Faith on the Power of God

September 1, 2008

Monday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth DeCristofaro

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, proclaiming the mystery of God.... For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified…so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1, 2, 5)

Lord, I love your commands.
I have more discernment than the elders,
because I observe your precepts….
From every evil way I withhold my feet,
that I may keep your words.
(Psalm 119:97, 100-101)

He said to them, "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth…(the people) were filled with fury, they rose up, drove him out of the town…(Luke 4: 21-22, 28-29)


"In your love I find release

A haven from my unbelief

Take my life and let me be

A living prayer, my God, to thee

Take my life and let me be

A living prayer, my God, to thee"

(from "A Living Prayer", Alison Krauss & Union Station)


Last week we heard Jesus chastising the Jewish leaders for their hypocrisy, their greed, their lust for power over God's Chosen People. In one of the most memorable – and chilling – images, Jesus called them whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27). Today, when Paul speaks to the Corinthians and claims to "know nothing…except Jesus Christ… crucified" he puts new weight on the image of the tomb. That tomb was human made. Paul relies on Jesus Christ not human knowledge.

What does my heart look like? Probably not as sepulcher-like as the Pharisees, I tell myself. And certainly not as close-minded and hard-hearted as Jesus' neighbors. But what makes me think this? Perhaps it is the surprising joy which sweeps through me as I read the psalm. "I love your commands, Lord" and the promises Jesus reads from Isaiah.

Is my heart clean and "new" as Joseph of Arimathea's tomb was for the body of the murdered Jesus? My heart should be prepared as the psalmist prepared his heart. My heart should be swept through prayer, meditation, and instruction to receive not a battered body but a resurrected Christ who will illuminate me, and through me will illuminate the world, with the power of God.


Look at what Jesus' neighbors refused and the world even today, fights so hard against: glad tidings to the poor… liberty to captives… recovery of sight to the blind…freedom for the oppressed… (Luke 4:18) Am I prepared to be illumined and filled with the light of God? How do I shine God's illumination for the poor, captives, blind, oppressed? Do I recognize them – including if they are me?
Can I love them?

Fire Burning in My Heart

August 31, 2008

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it. Jeremiah 20:9

Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2

Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 16:24-25


Our Gospel captures the essence of discipleship. I have to be willing to give my life in order to save it. Paul picks up the theme of what Christ is talking about when he challenges us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. Piety transforms our minds so that we may discern the will of God. Jeremiah sees himself as duped by the Lord because he finds himself an object of laughter. Christ reveals to the disciples that he has to go up to Jerusalem and suffer greatly. Piety challenges us to go up to Jerusalem with Christ and if necessary suffer with him. It is a tough invitation by Christ to discipleship. We have to be willing to be fools for his sake. He tells us if we want to be his disciples, we have to take up our crosses in life and follow him.


Study of the cross of Christ becomes prayer as we realize that what Christ is going through, he is doing so out of love for us. How can I let someone die for me if I am not willing to do the same? Love is what it is all about. Love is the willingness to give one's life for the sake of another. We are called to be Christ for each other. Studying the cross of Christ in our own lives gives a different meaning to the inconveniences of life and we see how we can help others. The cross is found in all the ways we have a chance to die to ourselves and our own preferences for the sake of what another needs. The happiness we give to others open our lives to the joy Paul talks about in Col, 1, 24 when he speaks about his happiness in being able to fill up what is wanting to the sufferings of Christ's body, his church. We truly save our lives by giving them away for others.


Our actions speak louder than our words. We fall into some jobs that fit our personalities when we have the chance to do things that are their own reward. It is when we reach beyond ourselves for the sake of others that we learn how to live the love of Christ. Selflessness replaces selfishness when we make another's needs our own. To love our
neighbor as our self is the fullness of wisdom. Happiness flows out of what we do for the sake of others. Christ says to us: “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” We are called and we are chosen to make this holy offering of ourselves. It will bring us the life of Christ as our very own. The reward will be given in heaven according to our conduct as we live our lives for those who need us. Then we will hear Christ saying to us that we think as God does, not as human beings do. We will save our lives by losing them for the sake of others. The time and the energy we put out to make a better world begins in what we do for each other.

Friday, August 29, 2008

More Will Be Given

August 30, 2008

Saturday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Matthew 25:29


O Lord Christ, who became poor that we might be rich,
deliver us from a comfortable conscience if we believe or intend
that others should be poor that we might be rich;
for in God's economy,
no one is expendable.
Grant us instead the riches of love.
© World Alliance of Reformed Churches


The Notes to the NAB remind us that the theme of yesterday continues in this reading from the Letter of Paul to the people in Corinth: “True wisdom and power are to be found paradoxically where one would least expect them, in the place of their apparent negation. To human eyes the crucified Christ symbolizes impotence and absurdity.”

Boasting in the sense that Paul uses the term reminds us of the sins of Adam, Cain, and Judas. Such an act is the most radical sin, the claim to autonomy on the part of a creature, the illusion that we live and are saved by our own resources, not God’s. “Boasting in the Lord,” on the other hand, is the acknowledgment that we live only from God and for God.

The success of the servants in managing their master’s money is not done for their own benefit. They turn over all of the fruits of their labors back to the master. Not a tithe (tenth). Not half. But everything they have accomplished is offered back to the master. In return, they are invited to share the master’s happiness, prosperity, and goodness. These servants used all the talents that they were offered and used them for the benefit of the master and the community.

So the real questions posed by this Gospel story is what do these servants possess? What does the story of their commercial success represent? Is this Gospel passage encouraging us to be successful in the economic marketplace? How would such an idea square with the preferential option for the poor that the Nazareth Manifesto outlines?

The success of the servants refers to their fidelity and obedience to what their master wants of them. They have “knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” and act accordingly. They know that their master seeks their obedience. They know that their master seeks their service.

They are rewarded with sharing the master’s joy because of this fidelity. So this is not a story about economic success…but rather obedience and humility in following the commandments.

These servants have practical “wisdom.” The NAB teaches that “God gives further understanding to one who accepts the revealed mystery; from the one who does not, he will take it away.” Wisdom again, as illustrated in Matthew 25, does not follow human standards. The third servant thought he too was doing the right thing. But instead, he hid his talents under the proverbial bushel. By failing to exercise the gifts he earned from the Lord, the third servant lost those gifts that he had.


Here is a great idea…why not pay a little more for some of your favorite products in order to build a more just world economic order. That idea may not sound too wise in traditional economic and capitalistic terms. Yet the idea of “Fair Trade” is starting to make a big difference. Take coffee for instance.

According to Stanford University Center for Social Innovation, “The instability of the coffee market in recent decades plunged thousands of small-scale coffee producers in Latin America into the cycle of poverty. Enter Fair Trade, a unique business model that partners industry, farmers, and United States consumers to promote equitable trade.”

TransFair is one of twenty members of Fair-trade Labeling Organizations International (FLO), and the only third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States. The organization audits transactions between US companies offering Fair Trade Certified™ products and the international suppliers from whom they source, in order to guarantee that the farmers and farm workers behind Fair Trade Certified goods were paid a fair, above-market price. In addition, annual inspections conducted by FLO ensure that strict socioeconomic development criteria are being met using increased Fair Trade revenues.

They operate a web site that helps people find Fair Trade certified products at The next time you are in the market for coffee, tea or chocolate or any of the other available products, check out where you can buy some on this site.

In addition, the One World Market in Durham, NC offers a whole range of products made by hard-working families in some of the world’s poorest countries. By supporting these non-profits, you can help assure that workers get a fair wage in the local context, work in safe conditions, guarantee no child labor, and engage in environmentally and economically sustainable practices. If you can’t buy the products by visiting the store in Durham, NC, then visit their supplying merchants and buy direct from these links on this web site

The next time you need a gift or even something for your self, your family or your home, look for ways to make the purchase from a certified Fair Trade merchant.

Foolishness of God

August 29, 2008

Memorial of the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist

[W]e proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 1 Corinthians 1:23-25

When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb. Mark 6:29


Let us pray: God, you gave your servant John the wisdom to speak truth to those in power. Through the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, please share with us that same wisdom to see through false arguments and witness the Good News to those who fail to recognize the wisdom and power of God. Help us to look for your spirit in the people and places where we least expect to find you. Amen.


Look for God where you least expect to find Him. God is not on top of some Mile High mountain but in the gutters and valleys and jail cells where the poor and abandoned can be found and served. The Lord flips over what we might expect to serve up what we least expect.

Today Mark teaches us that the “foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom.” Herod knew that what he was doing was wrong. He was using his temporal powers to punish a man to whom he was drawn. Yet Herod also was perplexed by John’s message. Who would not be so perplexed? John was living the life of a hermit in the desert wearing sackcloth and eating locusts and wild honey (That sounds like a bad episode of “Fear Factor” to me! I guess the honey made the crunchy locusts go down easier.)

We, too, are drawn to John and Jesus yet are we also reluctant to fully realize their messages in the way we live our lives?

The notes to the New American Bible for today point out the similarities between Mark’s account of the imprisonment and death of John the Baptist and the account of the passion of Jesus. “Herod and Pilate, each in turn, acknowledges the holiness of life of one over whom he unjustly exercises the power of condemnation and death (Mark 6:26-27; 15:9-10, 14-15). The hatred of Herodias toward John parallels that of the Jewish leaders toward Jesus. After the deaths of John and of Jesus, well-disposed persons request the bodies of the victims of Herod and of Pilate in turn to give them respectful burial (Mark 6:29; 15:45-46).”

It is in the very powerlessness and apparent weakness of John and Jesus in the face of death that God reveals true wisdom and power. On the surface, such death-by-execution is the ultimate loss. Dying by the indignity of a criminal’s death would indicate not only that some crime was committed but also that the accused put forth no logical case to avoid execution.

Why would someone on death row not put forth every defense possible?

Why would a powerful preacher risk his life by speaking truth to power?

Why would a seemingly wise and powerful leader put himself in a position to meet such an inhuman wish?

The answers can not be found in mortal logic. Only when we recognize that “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” do these stories begin to make some sense to us.


We have among us modern day John’s who donned the same kinds of simple clothing and carried the message of Gospel truth and nonviolence to speak truth to power. Earlier this month, remembering the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States, activists from the Atlantic Life Community went to government offices to remind those who saw their action that the ultimate end of this arsenal is the “extinction” of all humanity.

The Catholic Bishops, too, have spoken out against the sin of nuclear war yet many people tend to forget or ignore such statements as relics of the past rather than firmly rooted in the peace tradition of the Catholic Church.

We never want ourselves, our friends and our families to ever be on the receiving end of a nuclear weapon. If we faced such a tragic event, we would be placing many bodies in tombs as a result of the war and many others as a result of the disease and sicknesses that would follow.

Why, then, would we ever contemplate using anything in such an arsenal? As our bishops taught in the peace pastoral, not only is the use of such weapons a sin, but also the production of such an expensive arsenal is a sin because it diverts so much money that could be used serving the poor and helping others to the production of these weapons of mass destruction. The palmist today reminds us that the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.” Yet bombs like these would destroy life on earth wherever they are used.

Who is the fool here and who is the wise…those who continue to build and stockpile such weapons or those trying to get us to dismantle such bombs? Support actions that will curb our appetite for nuclear weapons and nuclear war.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

You Were Called

August 28, 2008

Memorial of Saint Augustine, bishop and doctor of the Church

He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus (Christ). God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:8-9

Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. Matthew 24:42-43


From Augustine Day-by-Day for today:

For You I Am the Bishop: Believe me, brothers and sisters, if what I am for you frightens me, what I am with you reassures me. For you I am the bishop; with you I am a Christian. “Bishop,” this is the title of an office one has accepted to discharge; “Christian,” that is the name of the grace one receives. Dangerous title! Salutary name! -- Sermon 340, 1

Lord, whether prosperity smiles or adversity frowns, let your praise be ever in my mouth.
-- Commentary on Psalm 138, 16


Why do we do what we do?

Many people seek to discover God's mercy and faithfulness from the sacred books, and yet, when their learning is done, they live for their own sakes and not for God's. They are intent on their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. They preach mercy and faithfulness without practicing them. Their preaching proves that they know their subject, for they would not preach without knowledge. But it is a different matter in the case of someone who loves God and Christ. When such a person preaches God's mercy and faithfulness, he seeks to make them known for God's sake, not his own. This means that he is not out to gain temporal benefits from his preaching; his desire is to help Christ's members, that is, those who believe in him, by faithfully sharing with them the knowledge he himself possesses, so that the living may no longer live for themselves, but for him who died for all. (From John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., Tradition Day by Day: Readings from Church Writers. Augustinian Press. Villanova, PA, 1994.)

Preaching is sharing what we know with others so that they can live for Christ, not for our own personal ambitions and desires. The unfaithful servant beats his peers because he is still living for himself. He does not care to provide to others the food they require. Instead, he uses the power of his position to exploit those surrounding him.

Those who are faithful and vigilant will provide service to others around purely because of their mission to live for Christ who was sent to serve us. Paul encouraged the community in Corinth to remain irreproachable to the end. His words also encourage those of us in the community in Virginia to stand firm to the end.


Why do we do what we do? We do it because like the servants in Corinth, we too are called to fellowship with Jesus Christ. Because we are called, we must stay awake and be ready for him. Knowing that our Lord will come. Until He comes, we have to be ready because we do not know if He will appear to us as the homeless person begging on the street, as the sister or brother against whom we have a disagreement, or as the thief in the night.

To stay awake, we must be prepared by keeping praise for the Lord on our tongue and getting involved in active service with our hands. Preaching without also sharing piety and active love only does a part of the job. We may be called like the faithful and prudent servant “to distribute food at the proper time.” However, there are thousands of other ways to serve the Lord and the body of the church. Our job is to find one and be faithful to carrying out that service.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

So That You Might Imitate Us

August 27, 2008

Memorial of Saint Monica

By Melanie Rigney

... We wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us. (2 Thessalonians 3:9)

“And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets; now fill up what your ancestors measured out!” (Matthew 23:30-32)


Lord, on this day that we honor Saint Monica for her patient prayers that led to the conversion of Augustine and others, I am thankful for the prayers others have offered up for me, those I know well and those I barely know. In turn, I pray that all of those in my life may come to a deeper love of you.


Today's Readings

I used a set of rosary beads that belonged to one of my grandmothers’ the other day. The beads have a bit of grit on them. I like to think the grit comes not from disuse, but from the finger oils of Mary Johanna Organist Smith or Lily May Schumacher Rigney.

They were very different, my grandmothers. Grandma Smith, a lifelong Catholic, was born to Polish immigrants. She was almost 24 when the love of her life married her and converted. Most of their eight kids still were at home when he died 30 years later. Grandma Smith was known for her quick temper, love of shopping, and never passing the queen in Hearts.

Grandma Rig converted to Catholicism when she married at 18. After her husband died, she stayed on at their ranch house, keeping more than 30 years of newspapers, rocks, cereal boxes, curios, and other stuff to the point that there was a single three-foot wide path through the place. She liked to sing off-key, travel with men, and smoke unfiltered cigarettes.

I don’t remember which of them owned this rosary. I suspect it was Grandma Smith, because Grandma Rig had this cool glow-in-the-dark rosary that we grandkids were all a little scared to touch. But I don’t know for sure.

I thought about both women as I worked through the rosary. Maybe they did or maybe they didn’t pray each day for the continual conversion of their children and grandchildren. I don’t recall either of them ever talking about God to me, or going to church. But each in some way—independence, strength, resilience—inspired and continue to inspire me by example. While we honor Saint Monica today for her public petitions on behalf of her son, husband, and mother-in-law, there’s also something to be said for the power that seeing people simply living good and decent lives provides.

One named Mary, because she was born September 8 in 1900; the other, born September 9, 1895, carried a derivative of Mary’s name as her middle name for no reason other than that her parents liked the sound of it. I said a decade of Hail Marys and gave thanks for each of them.


Think about your own continual conversion. Who are or who have been your Saint Monicas, publicly or privately? Do something to honor them today.

Stand Firm

August 26, 2008
Tuesday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

Stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours. 2 Thessalonians 2:15

Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean. Matthew 23:26


May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word. 2 Thessalonians 2:116-17


Several years ago there was a popular trade paperbook book sold at all the cash registers in bookstore and other places called Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and its all small stuff. Today, Jesus is addressing those who worry about the small stuff but forget about the bigger issues.

Of the Pharisees he notes that “You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. (But) these you should have done, without neglecting the others. Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!” Matthew 23:23:24

What an image! Strain out the gnat and swallow the camel. The camel is judgment and mercy and fidelity.

What are the gnats that bother us? Traffic and weather and sports seem to dominate our news. Of the 22 minutes in an evening newscast, we probably get at least 12-15 minutes of “news” about these three topics. Yet most evening newscasts are devoid about the plight of the poor.

If a stranger were to drop into our society and make a judgment about us based on what they discover on our television programming, they might conclude that we are more concerned about getting NFL Sunday Ticket or making sure that all children are safe, healthy and thriving in life?

At least one of our national cable news channels these days is devoted --- dare I say hopelessly and overloadingly devoted – to every minute developing detail in the news about a missing two-year old girl in Florida. Yet while they give blanket coverage to the tragic story about this girl, they ignore thousands of other missing children. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that 797,500 children (younger than 18) were reported missing. Even if we don’t include the 203,900 children who were considered by DOJ as “in family abductions,” that still leaves 1,600 more children missing each day without the benefit of cable news networks focusing on their cases around the clock.

Even more importantly, also ignored is the plight of poor children through the country. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty:

Nearly 13 million American children live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level, which is $20,650 a year for a family of four. The number of children living in poverty increased by 11 percent between 2000 and 2006. There are 1.2 million more children living in poverty today than in 2000.

Not only are these numbers troubling, the official poverty measure tells only part of the story—it is widely viewed as a flawed metric of economic hardship. Research consistently shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice the federal poverty level to make ends meet. Children living in families with incomes below this level—for 2006, about $41,000 for a family of four—are referred to as low income. Thirty-nine percent of the nation’s children—more than 28 million in 2006—live in low-income families.


Stop sweating the small stuff and make social justice for the poor, the missing and the exploited one of the values that we stand behind and devote time, treasure and talent to alleviate.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Enter, Don’t Lock the Kingdom

August 25 2008
Monday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth DeCristofaro

We ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters, as is fitting, because your faith flourishes ever more, and the love of every one of you for one another grows ever greater. Accordingly, we ourselves boast of you in the churches of God regarding your endurance and faith in all your persecutions and the afflictions you endure. (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4)

Proclaim God's marvelous deeds to all the nations. Announce his salvation, day after day. Tell his glory among the nations; among all peoples, his wondrous deeds. (Psalm 96: 2-4)

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter. (Matthew 23:13)


Thank you, God, for opportunities to know you through people like the Thessalonians, great teachers such as Paul and most especially your Son, my brother, Jesus. May I use the gifts you have given to me for your glory. May I celebrate your marvelous deeds everyday.


Rather a bad moment for those scribes and Pharisees. Jesus points out how they are trying to be gods themselves. They use the Law as thrones on which they can lord it over others. They make use of an ancient code as if they know God's mind and as if the Law proves that they do the perfect thing. They have locked God away even from themselves in doing so.

Contrast this with Paul's desire to "boast" of the faith and endurance of the Thessalonians. This community seems to understand how to let their light shine so that

God's glory is abundantly evident to all and life-giving to themselves. It is ironic that the Thessalonians are being persecuted while the scribes and Pharisees are the community's fat cats. God is with those who unlock the Kingdom within themselves and share it with others no matter the life situation.

In early August, Pope Benedict met with local clergy in Bressanone (Northern Italy) during his holidays. National Catholic Reporter columnist John Allen wrote of this gathering. The pope's take on evangelism speaks to Paul's enthusiasm for the Thessalonian's faith practices and contrasts with what the Scribes and Pharisees inflicted on others. "A seminarian named Michael Horrer, who had followed Benedict XVI to Australia for World Youth Day, asked the pope how to 'exercise our mission as witnesses of Christ' back home among families, friends, and acquaintances. In the first place, Benedict urged renewed commitment to the spiritual basics -- prayer, meditation on Scripture, the Eucharist, and the Sacrament of Penance. Beyond that, the pope didn't dwell on specific evangelization strategies, but instead recommended the cultivation of simple human virtues. He offered several examples: 'Honesty, joy, openness to listening to one's neighbor, the capacity to forgive, generosity, goodness, [and] cordiality.' Such qualities, Benedict said, "are indicative of the fact that faith is truly present," and often represent the best form of witness."


Such virtues are also what we cultivate in Team formation. Do we cultivate them in our day to day activities? Consciously practice honesty, joy, openness to listening, forgiveness, generosity, goodness, cordiality, endurance and faith today. Keep the babe chicks and team who experienced these evangelizing values this weekend in your prayers. Let God's presence be know through your celebration of God's glory and as you build the Kingdom.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Upon this Rock

August 24, 2008

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. Isaiah 22:21

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways! Romans 11:33

He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. Matthew 16:15-17


"How great is the glory of the LORD!" The LORD is on high, but cares for the lowly and knows the proud from afar. Though I walk in the midst of dangers, you guard my life when my enemies rage. You stretch out your hand; your right hand saves me. The LORD is with me to the end. LORD, your love endures forever. Never forsake the work of your hands! Psalm 138:5-8


Piety is the way we say who Christ is. Piety reveals how much of our lives we put into the answer to the question that Christ puts on our hearts. Piety is the statement of our lives that we are willing to be who Christ would have been if he had been us. Piety makes Saints. Men and women are willing to give their lives for Christ change the world we are living in by their willingness to be updates of Christ in what they say and do with their lives. What Christ said to Peter at Caesarea Philippi, he says to us. He is willing to make us into the rocks on which he will build his Church today.

Our study has as its purpose to instruct us in how to be a Christ of today.

Peace and Justice have to meet. Christ identifies with the ravaged face of his poor. Christ is willing to be one in all the needs of the people who are most his. The cry of the poor belong to Christ and there is no excuse in what can one person do against so much injustice in our world. It is true that we can only face one hungry, naked, sick, thirsty, prisoner at a time.

The work of the Lord needs men and women grounded in how to harness the energies of love. For it is love that will change the world that we are living in if in spite of all our mistakes, we reach out in the name of Christ to do something about the problem we face.. Love will heal these ills if we give it a chance.


Paul says it so wonderfully in his letter to the Romans, 11:33-36. Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways! He calls us to reach out in his name. In the work that we choose to do in his name, God clothes us with the robe of Christ and girds us with his sash and gives us his authority. The catch in the recognition of Christ as the Holy One of God is that we have to go up with him to Jerusalem. The call of discipleship is to take his place with the crosses of our lives. It is by carrying his cross that we make Christ recognizable in our lives.

Here I Will Dwell

The voice said to me: Son of man, this is where my throne shall be, this is where I will set the soles of my feet; here I will dwell among the Israelites forever. Never again shall they and their kings profane my holy name with their harlotries and with the corpses of their kings (their high places). Ezekiel 43:7

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


Pray for justice, peace, and life with the Novena for Faithful Citizenship. At this link, you can download the Podcast and join Catholics throughout the United States in prayer, beginning Tuesday, September 2, nine weeks before the election.

Options for praying the Novena for Faithful Citizenship:

Start on September 2 and pray for nine consecutive Tuesdays, up until the general election.

Start the Novena on any day of the week, whenever people gather, and pray on that day every week.

Begin praying the Novena on October 26, nine days before the election, and continue each consecutive day.

Create any combination that works for you and your community—and feel free to pray the Novena more than once (1 Thes 5:17).


There is a new novel out that was reviewed in USA Today last week: American Savior by Ronald Merullo. The plot supposes that Jesus returns and runs for President of the United States. Now that is what I call fiction. The novel is a political satire that sets Jesus on a path not for worldly power, but to make a point to millions of people. Merullo seems to be communicating that politics as usual is no longer the preferential option for the poor or anyone else.

My willing suspension of disbelief will not/can not bring itself to think that Jesus has any such plans in his second coming. One need only read Matthew 23 to realize the point that Jesus is trying to make in this novel. The Jesus we meet today in scripture would never put himself in a position to try to be elected to the most powerful office in this country or any country. He always drew the hard and fast distinction between rending unto the government what belongs to the government and likewise offering to God what is due to God. Plus, Jesus would run on the Nazareth Manifesto, bringing good news of the preferential option for the poor, the sick, the abandoned and those in prison. Where would that leave government contractors, K Street lobbyists, and the chattering class of reporters?

So today, Jesus reminds us that to be greatest, we must do the opposite of what society would consider popular and powerful.

There is another book out – less satirical – which intrigues the Christian imagination during this political season. Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw or According to its authors, "Our greatest challenge is to maintain the distinctiveness of our faith in a world gone mad. And all of creation waits, groans, for a people who live God's dream with fresh imagination."


In a political season which has already featured both candidates at a mega-Church, we can reflect on how we will transform our beliefs into "Faithful Citizenship."

Practically speaking, as American Catholics wrestle with the challenges of this political season, the US Bishops have offered to us Faithful Citizenship. In helping to realize the broaqd implications of this statement, the bishops have a series of articles on the website. In one article, John Carr points out that "In his first encyclical Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI places love and care for the poor at the center of Catholic life." On the website, John Carr writes that the "priority for the poor…needs to be at the center of the national discussion in this election year. The facts about poverty in our land raise significant moral and policy issues."

  • Poverty is pervasive. One in eight Americans lives in poverty, which represents more than 37 million people.
  • The younger you are in America the more likely you are to be poor. One in six children, or 13 million children, lives in poverty.
  • Family factors contribute to poverty. A child born to unmarried parents who have not graduated from high school, without a worker in the family has an 80 percent chance of growing up poor. A child born to a family without these factors has an 8 percent chance.
  • Poverty is not distributed evenly. While most people who live in poverty are white, one out of four African-Americans, and one out of five Hispanics, lives in poverty. (See the Catholic Campaign for Human Development's Poverty USA website,

In their statement A Place at the Table, the U.S. bishops outline a four-part strategy to address poverty. It calls for us to consider the following for our action:

  1. Individuals to pursue education and work, to build strong families and to make sacrifices for children
  2. Churches, faith-based and community organizations to support families, confront discrimination and injustice, strengthen neighborhoods and communities and stand with and help poor and vulnerable families
  3. The market, businesses and unions to work to secure jobs at decent wages, health care and other benefits, a voice in the workplace, and efforts for growth and opportunity
  4. Government to live up to its responsibility to protect the weak and vulnerable, promote human dignity and human rights, act effectively when other institutions fall short and promote greater economic opportunity and justice for all.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Depend on These Two

August 22, 2008

Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Then he said to me: Prophesy over these bones, and say to them: Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: See! I will bring spirit into you, that you may come to life. Ezekiel 37:4-5

You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:37-39


Pray the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary today with special reflection on the final mystery, The Coronation of Our Lady:

The "splendor of an entirely unique holiness" by which Mary is "enriched from the first instant of her conception" comes wholly from Christ: she is "redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son." The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person "in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" and chose her "in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love."



Jesus is asked something very specific. "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" Not what are the top ten list. Not what are the top three. Not what are the top two.

The human nature to find the gold medal winner is certainly understandable as we slog through the final days of the 2008 Olympics. We often read about the medal count over…the gold medal count…and all the rivalries. But the media, and by assumption the public, just care about whose number one. Just like the Pharisee in today's Gospel.

Jesus could not care less about number one. He has never allowed himself to be trapped by the scribes and today is no different. When people jockey for power and position, he puts them in their place by elevating a child to the top seat or telling the first to go last.

So today, rather than singling out only one commandment, he offers two…two commandments that we must obey. Just as Ezekiel obeys the command to prophesy over the dry, dead bones, we are ask to obey two basic commandments…to love god and to love our neighbors.


Do something today that allows you to take a back seat to someone else. Put yourself second, or third or last as a way of expressing your love of neighbor and obedience to the commandments featured in Matthew 22.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Come to the Feast

August 21, 2008

Memorial of Saint Pius X, pope

I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees. Ezekiel 36:25-27

“But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:10-14


Lord, you opened the eyes and heart of Simon of Cyrene and you gave him, by his share in your cross, the grace of faith. Help us to aid our neighbors in need, even when this interferes with our own plans and desires. Wash away the obstacles that hinder us from realizing that it is a grace to be able to share the cross of others and, in this way, to know that we are walking with you along the way. Help us to appreciate with joy that when we share in your suffering and the suffering of this world, we become servants of salvation and are able to help build up your Body, the Church. Amen. (From Way of the Cross by Benedict XVI)


Exodus, Jeremiah, Leviticus and Ezekiel all repeat the covenant of the Hebrew Bible. “You shall be my people and I will be your God.” While often repeated, it does not come without conditions. There is an ever-present need for change in order to bring the promise full circle.

Ezekiel details how the Lord offers to cleanse (change) his people, curing them of their infirmities, getting them to turn back from their idols. The Lord’s generosity (“I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you.”) comes through at all times.

However, that unconditional generosity seeks our response. We can not sit there like a dead fig tree. We may have free will but if we want to take advantage of this new covenant, then we must choose to accept the changes the Lord offers to us. God will change us but we have to be willing to accept such changes. We have to be willing to be washed. We have to be willing to accept a new heart. We have to make room for a new spirit to be placed within us. Without this re-birth, then we will be our old, flawed selves. This is what Jesus referred to when talking to Nicodemus during that late night encounter.

Nicodemus said to him, “How can a person once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother's womb and be born again, can he?” Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit.” John 3:4-6

Garments play an important role in the life of Christ. At his birth, we learned that Mary wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in the manger. At his crucifixion, we learned how Jesus was robbed of his dignity and every last thread on his human body. He offered up everything to redeem us of our sins. At the resurrection, Mary Magdalene sees Christ shining brightly in a radiant white garment.

Without putting on the wedding garment of change, we remain our old selves. Yet the wedding features new creation. Although the banquet may be seen as if it is any party with food and friends, drinks and dancing, you are always drawn to the new garments. The bride’s dress. The groom’s tuxedo. All the guests are “dressed up” for the occasion.

Yet it is not just a change in outward appearances. These external signs are also signs of the internal change…the bride offering her heart and her life and her love to her groom. The groom offers his heart and his life and his love to his bride.

The Lord offers to us his heart, his life, his spirit and his love. He asks only for the same from us. Nothing more. But nothing less.


Unless we accept the need to change, we will not move forward in our journey. What one thing are you willing to change to be invited to the feast?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I Myself Will Look After and Tend My Sheep


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Memorial of Saint Bernard

By Melanie Rigney

Thus says the Lord God: I myself will look after and tend my sheep. (Ezekiel 34:11)

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength. You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name. (Psalms 23: 1-3)

“… Are you envious because I am generous?” (Matthew 20:15)


Thank you, O Shepherd, for your tender mercies. May I accept that your generosity is available to all, whether they find you early or late in their day.


Today's Readings

World Youth Day Opening Mass

“Where do you stand?” the Archbishop of Sydney, George Cardinal Pell, challenged the crowd at the opening Mass for World Youth Day in Sydney last month.

Today’s beautiful readings present comfort or challenge, depending on where we stand or the progress we’ve made on our particular journey. Ezekiel shows us a Father angry with the leaders of Israel. “You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured,” the Lord storms. “You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost, but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally.” As a result, God says, “I myself will look after and tend my sheep.” Comforting words to those who feel abused or misused by a source of authority; discomforting to those who are in power, perhaps.

The Gospel reading tells the story of the vineyard owner who paid both the early and latecomers the same agreed-upon daily wage. When the workers who had arrived early protested, the owner reminds them that they were paid what had been promised. Then the owner asks, “Are you envious because I am generous?” Comforting words to those who found the Lord after a struggle; discomforting to those who measure piety in years served, perhaps.

In the opening lines of the Twenty-Third Psalm, David shows supreme confidence in God, saying His followers will want for nothing and need fear no evil. Comforting words when our challenges seem manageable; discomforting words to those struggling in uncharted waters, perhaps.

We all mess up, as the leaders of Israel did. We all exhibit envy, as the vineyard workers did. We all have those dark moments where even as we believe, we wonder how even God can possibly help us.

Cardinal Pell identified the root of the problem and the solution in his homily that day in Sydney:

Young or old, woman or man, Christ is still calling those who are suffering to come to him for healing, as he has for two thousand years. The causes of the wounds are quite secondary, whether they be drugs or alcohol, family breakups, the lusts of the flesh, loneliness or a death. Perhaps even the emptiness of success.

Our task is to be open to the power of the Spirit, to allow the God of surprises to act through us. Human motivation is complex and mysterious, because sometimes very strong Catholics, and other strong Christians, can be prayerful and regularly good, but also very determined not to take even one further step. On the other hand, some followers of Christ can be much less zealous and faithful, but open to development, to change for the better because they realize their unworthiness and their ignorance. Where do you stand?

The archbishop went on to encourage prayer for an openness of heart, even when we are fearful. “If we take God’s hand, He will do the rest,” he said. “Trust is the key. God will not fail us.”


Where do you stand? Sign up for time on the palanca clock for the 127th Women’s Cursillo Weekend that begins Thursday, and use part of the time to pray that the team and candidates find the trust needed to take God’s hand on issues that have been troubling them.

All Things Are Possible


August 19, 2008

Tuesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

By your great wisdom applied to your trading you have heaped up your riches; your heart has grown haughty from your riches – therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Because you have thought yourself to have the mind of a god, therefore I will bring against you foreigners, the most barbarous of nations. They shall draw their swords against your beauteous wisdom; they shall run them through your splendid apparel. Ezekiel 28:5-7

“Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:24-26


Father, help us to oppose what is intrinsically evil and embrace and support everything that supports the common good. As we approach the Labor Day holiday that signals the end of the summer season, bring to us a renewed vigor as we seek to build together a society that cares for all of its own, reaches out to the poor and vulnerable, and offers true hope to all. Let us share justly and freely the goods of society and advance the good of every person and the common good of all. Amen.


Despite all of our best intentions and free will choices, the outlook for our lives is pretty bleak if you read today’s scriptures with the eye of a skeptic. We have grown haughty from our riches. We have thought ourselves to have the mind of a god. Our riches obstruct us from getting into heaven. Why not just throw up our hands in defeat?

If we listen carefully to Jesus, it is our job to give God a reason to save us. There may not be anything that we can do. Yet there is everything that God can do. “For God, all things are possible.” All things. Death. And Life!

We must be careful not to conclude as the enemies do in the Psalm, “Our own hand won the victory; the LORD had nothing to do with it.” In fact, the Lord has everything to do with our victory. “Learn then that I, I alone, am God, and there is no god besides me. It is I who bring both death and life, I who inflict wounds and heal them, and from my hand there is no rescue.” Deuteronomy 32:39

There are a lot of choices in the world. Last weekend, two political candidates squared off in separate interviews at Rick Warren’s church. Much was said about the pro-life stands of each candidate. In the end, Respect Life really means Respect God and Respect All God Makes. For God, All Things are Possible. It is up to us to “carry out carefully every word of this law.” Not to pick and choose among the words, but to follow them all.


With our changing economy, the outlook for many workers this year also is pretty bleak. That is why you should take some time to read the Labor Day statement issued this week by the Most Reverend William F. Murphy, Bishop of Rockville Centre and chairman, USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

The Labor Day statement highlights the section of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship that addresses economic justice, work and workers’ rights. He said the bishops’ statement in outlining the key elements of what comprises a just economy, “makes both links and distinctions between the fundamental duty to oppose what is intrinsically evil (i.e., the destruction of unborn life) and the obligation to pursue the common good (i.e., defending rights of workers and pursuing greater economic justice).”

You can read the whole statement at the Justice, Peace, and Human Development website (

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Many Possessions

August 18, 2008

Monday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth DeCristofaro

You were unmindful of the Rock that begot you. You forgot the God who gave you birth. (Deuteronomy 32:18)

“If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. (Matthew 19:21-22)


Fill me with love, Brother Jesus, so that I need not be filled with possessions and longings. Fill me with love that I might brim over with your presence. Fill me with love that I might love those around me mightily. Fill me with love, Lord Jesus, that each step I take is toward you.


“…[F]or he had many possessions.”

Well, this description fits me in a disturbing way. In fact, compared to this young man in the first century A.D., I would probably be considered a billionaire. Should I hold a mega yard sale? Should I live as the Catholic Workers live – on donations from others, owning very, very little? Or perhaps as Mother Theresa did? Knowing myself, that doesn’t seem likely. So, does this mean I’ve failed God? Have I forgotten the rock that begot me?

John the Baptist serves as a model. Eccentric as he seems today, he put his whole life into proclaiming the Messiah’s coming. John knew that keeping his eye on the “treasure in heaven” was where his heart and faith lay as well as his possessions. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease." (John 3: 29-30) John was willing and eager to diminish himself in putting forward Jesus.

How does this work in my life? As John went on to say of himself, I also am one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things. (John 3: 31) John made the definitive sacrifice in order to proclaim Jesus. Jesus asks of me that I, too, sacrifice earthly things including possessions, including my security and “safe places”, including identity and desires. God gives me the freedom to decide what that sacrifice will be.


Be mindful of possessions – are they needed or wanted? Choose stores which benefit local groups or carry fair trade items. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops website has daily action tips:

What else do I possess – attitudes, character traits, way of life, prejudices - which I put before God? Am I always right? Do I know what is best for others? Do I value rules and regulations above relationships? Give up a possession.