Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I Cry Out to You

October 1, 2008
Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, virgin and doctor of the Church

By Melanie Rigney

… But how can a man be justified before God? Should one wish to contend with him, he could not answer him once in a thousand times. God is wise in heart and mighty in strength; who has withstood him and remained unscathed? (Job 9:2-4)

But I cry out to you, LORD; in the morning my prayer comes before you. Why do you reject me, LORD? Why hide your face from me? (Psalms 14-15)

"No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62)


Eternal Father, since Thou hast given me for my inheritance the adorable Face of Thy Divine Son, I offer that face to Thee and I beg Thee, in exchange for this coin of infinite value, to forget the ingratitude of souls dedicated to Thee and to pardon all poor sinners. (Saint Thérèse’s Holy Face Prayer for Sinners from Catholic Online)

We don’t associate Saint Thérèse with the cries of Psalm 14 or with the resignation to suffering described by Job in today’s readings. And she certainly didn’t longingly leave anything behind as Christ orders in Luke’s Gospel; rather, she battled to rush into becoming a nun and joining two of her sisters. Thérèse was so determined that when she was just fourteen and visiting the Vatican, she asked Pope Leo XIII for permission to enter the Carmel of Lisieux the following year. He told her to do what her superiors directed, and she was allowed to enter a few months after her fifteenth birthday.

Rather than suffering spiritual doubt, we think of Thérèse as she’s so often portrayed—cheerfully doing community tasks, instructing novices in her simple, childlike ways of loving Christ.

But within that simplicity, we can also find wisdom that befits her recognition as one of only thirty-three Doctors of the Church. In The Story of a Soul, a collection of in essence three autobiographies she was told to write, Saint Thérèse explains how with God’s help she opened herself to her work:

At first sight, it appears easy to do good to souls, to make them love God more, and mould them according to one’s own ideas, but in practice one finds that one can no more do good to souls without God’s help, than make the sun shine in the night.

One realizes that one must completely forget one’s own ideas and tastes, and guide souls along the particular path indicated for them by Jesus, not along one’s own.

Call it resignation, fatigue, or acceptance. But somehow, Job, Saint Thérèse, and the Apostles grew to understand the Lord’s call amid their own desires. He expects no less from us.

Buy (or download for free) a copy of The Story of a Soul. After reading Chapter X, resolve to do good for a soul in your life the way Jesus desires, not the way you desire.

Light Given

September 30, 2008

Memorial of Saint Jerome, priest and doctor of the Church

Why is light given to the toilers, and life to the bitter in spirit? They wait for death and it comes not; they search for it rather than for hidden treasures, Rejoice in it exultingly, and are glad when they reach the grave: Men whose path is hidden from them, and whom God has hemmed in! Job 3:20-23

On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. Luke 9:52-53


LORD, my God, I call out by day; at night I cry aloud in your presence. Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry. For my soul is filled with troubles; my life draws near to Sheol. I am reckoned with those who go down to the pit; I am weak, without strength. Psalm 88:2-5


“I never promised you a rose garden.” This week, the suffering part of Jesus’ servant-hood is revealed. This week, we witness the despair and faith of Job in the first reading. As Job suffers through life, so too does Jesus. Jesus sets out on his journey to Jerusalem once again facing rejection. Earlier in Luke’s Gospel Jesus was rejected in him own home town. Today, we see the Samaritans reject Jesus, foreshadowing the further rejection that will be inflicted by the trial and execution.

Cursillista Frank McCleskey reminds us of these difficulties. He tells of a picture of Jesus that his daughter put up on her mirror around the time she was about sixteen. Around the picture she wrote: “I never promised you that is would be easy. I only promised you that it would be worth it.”

Today was probably not an easy day for Jesus as he is accompanied by his disciples on this journey. They want to extract some measure of revenge in the village but Jesus rejects the rejection and moves on. Although Jesus is not welcomed, he does not call down punishment on the people in Samaria.

As we undertake our journey this week, our Mass schedule is filled with celebrations of several key saints and angels. Yesterday, we remembered the archangels Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael. Today St. Jerome and later this week St. Theresa and St. Francis of Assisi. Who else beyond this cloud of witnesses is accompanying you on your journey? What kind of company will they provide? In Sunday’s readings, we and the Philippians were encouraged in the second reading with the following advice:

If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but (also) everyone for those of others. Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:1-5


Jesus tries to be the example of the attitude of love for the disciples to follow. They don’t always follow Jesus’ advice. Whether today with them wanting to call down punishment or in Gethsemane when they cut off the ear of the servant, Jesus never gives up on them despite the challenges that life with them provides.

Jesus never gives up on us either. His constant call to conversion is never pulled back. There is no RSVP deadline. The invitation is open until we choose to accept his call to work in the vineyard.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I Will Sing Your Praises

September 29, 2008

Feast of Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael

By Beth DeCristofaro

In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord. (Psalm 138:1)

Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” (John 1:48)


O God, who dost establish the ministry of angels and men in a wonderful order, graciously grant that Thy holy angels, who ever serve Thee in heaven, may also protect our lives on earth. Liturgical Prayer


There is so much more to Jesus than meets the eye. His knowledge of Nathaniel’s devotion (tradition holds that Nathaniel was reading scripture under the fig tree) causes Nathaniel to make an incredible leap beyond himself and proclaim Jesus’ divinity. “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel. (John 1: 49) And, as with each of his disciples, Jesus sees something so much more in Nathaniel, calling him to a life and a promise beyond what this Galilean had ever expected. Jesus’ promise is also more than meets the eye. Not just a life following a wandering teacher, Jesus offers an image that hearkens back to the ancestors of their faith – a vision like that of Jacob’s ladder: "Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man (John 1:51)." The image, rooted in a divine covenant, opens up into the new reality that the awaited Messiah has come and the covenant is fulfilled.

There is so much more than meets the eye, Jesus promises. Angels, messengers, bearing the word of the divine, have brought this message throughout human history. Jesus offers this vision and thus links his disciples to the more-than-meets-the-eye reality that God’s presence is in the Kingdom unfolding on earth. We are called to look beyond what meets the eye as well. We are called to build that Kingdom of God here, to extend the reach of the disciples and continue the message of the angels.


The Archangel Michael is the guardian angel of the kingdom of Christ on earth; how am I actively letting the kingdom into the world through my actions? Am I a messenger of Christ’s presence?

Raphael traveled with Tobit and, according to tradition, stirred the waters of the healing pool at Bethsaida. How do I seek to bring healing to those around me?

Gabriel was the messenger of the Incarnation; how do I incarnate the love of God within my life?

Change Your Minds and Believe

September 28, 2008

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

You say, “The LORD'S way is not fair!” Hear now, house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair? Ezekiel 18:25

Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but (also) everyone for those of others. Philippians 2:3-4

When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him. Matthew 21:32


Make known to me your ways, LORD; teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior. For you I wait all the long day, because of your goodness, LORD. Remember your compassion and love, O LORD; for they are ages old. Remember no more the sins of my youth; remember me only in light of your love. Psalm 25:4-7


Jesus is not out to test the Pharisees today as much as he is out to teach them and encourage them to change.

Jesus uses the Socratic method to teach them a lesson by bringing out the answers from the students. The lesson here goes beyond making sure our actions are congruent with our words. The lesson is that people change and sometimes, they change for the best. No matter what you are doing now – even if you are abusing the power of your office like the tax collector or abusing the gift of your body like the prostitute – if you change you can get into heaven.

We need to change because there is plenty of work in this vineyard and our hands are needed. Last Sunday, we considered the story of the master who hired servants throughout the day and paid them all the same wage. Today, the Lord is not out at the hiring hall recruiting day laborers. Instead, he is asking his own sons to go out into the vineyard. Neither son is honest with the Father. One says “yes” to get the nagging father off his back but fails to live up to his word. The other gives an honest, “No.” However, the second son changes. He realizes the error of his ways and goes – perhaps begrudgingly – out into the vineyard to work.

The Gospels are filled with two kinds of stories: first are the stories of people who change and second are the stories of people who don’t. Those who change are rewarded and those who do not are not. You can make your own list of each anytime. But today the story is hoping to point out to the Pharisees that they must consider changing. They have had the benefit of John the Baptist. They have the benefit of Jesus himself. At the end of this story, they are frozen in time and we are left to consider if they “got it.” Did these Pharisees understand that Jesus was talking to them? Did they change? Or did they resist?

On the surface, the story today is about obedience and humility. However, the underlying theme is to encourage us to change just like the example in Ezekiel of the person turning away from sin. Up until the very last instant, if we change and turn toward Jesus, we can share in the rewards promised, the mercy, kindness and humility of the Lord. Up until the last instant, Jesus was there to save us. The good thief is our final proof.


Jesus is inviting us into the vineyard to re-order our lives and priorities. Are you ready to accept that invitation? Or are you trying to get out of the work Jesus wants you to do in the vineyard? Are you ready for the conversion (the change) or would you rather not change and just remain in your comfort zone? Jesus is very honest with us. He tells us just what we have to expect. He tells us to pick up our cross and head into the vineyard because there is a lot of work to be done.

Opposing the death penalty. Welcoming the stranger-immigrant. Choosing life at all turns. Practicing faithful citizenship. Expanding affordable housing. Feeding the hungry. Visiting the prisoners. There is a lot of work waiting for your yes.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Youth is Fleeting

September 27, 2008

Memorial of Saint Vincent de Paul, priest

Rejoice, O young man, while you are young and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart, the vision of your eyes; Yet understand that as regards all this God will bring you to judgment. Ward off grief from your heart and put away trouble from your presence, though the dawn of youth is fleeting. Ecclesiastes 11:9-10

“Pay attention to what I am telling you. The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.” But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was hidden from them so that they should not understand it, and they were afraid to ask him about this saying. Luke 9:44-45


St. Vincent de Paul, apostle and witness of the charity of Christ, help us to abandon ourselves to God’s Providence, and faithfully discovering his action in all the events of our lives.
St. Vincent de Paul, servant of the poor, obtain for us a tender heart filled with compassion for the distress and suffering others.
St. Vincent de Paul, accompany us in our service so that in our work, our families, and in our parishes we become impassioned by his Gospel of love.
St. Vincent de Paul, remind us often of your motto so we always remember to “Let us love God; but at the price of our hands and sweat of our face.” Amen
(Adapted from Vincentian Reflections, 2008)


There is a banner in our house made by a friend which reads, “The soul would have no rainbow had the eye no tear.” Today’s readings express a similar idea. When everything is going well, we have to be aware of the potential risks ahead. When we are young, everything seems bright…the future, our career prospects, and more. Yet consider what happened to the man whose life we remember today.

In his youth, St. Vincent de Paul was captured by pirates and sold into slavery. Eventually, he escaped and returned to his native France in 1607 (about the time the English colony of Jamestown was being settled in the “new world.”). The typical carefree years of his youth were stolen from young Vincent and he was enslaved to serve a master in a faraway land.

When he returned to France, he became a parish priest and then founded one religious order for men and another for women. According to the Catholic Culture web site, “He founded a religious Congregation under the title of Priests of the Mission or Lazarists (now known as Vincentians), and he bound them by a special way to undertake the apostolic work of charity; he sent them to preach missions, especially to the ignorant peasants of that time, and to establish seminaries.” Then, the short bio explains that in order to help poor girls, invalids, and the insane, sick and unemployed, he and St. Louise de Marillac founded the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity, now better known as the Sisters of St. Vincent.

St. Vincent’s name and the society that perpetuates his memory and work (The Society of St. Vincent De Paul) continue to help people who truly need assistance from “the haves.” They worked with the poor in spirit and the poor in resources, people with illnesses, people enslaved to various masters, people abandoned by society, community and culture, and those who are ignored. St. Vincent recognized the “tear” in society. The rainbow of youth is replaced by the tear of age. He worked to bring the rainbow back into the world.

Similarly, Jesus knew that his disciples were amazed at the signs he was performing so he wanted to warn them that the future also would bring problems. His warning echoed the first reading: “And the dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the life breath returns to God who gave it.” “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.”

We already know the warning about God’s ways being different from our ways. So we can see that there will be conflict coming when we hear these words from Jesus. However, in the middle of the wedding with the bridegroom present, the disciples sitting there with Jesus that day could not imagine life without him. They had no way to comprehend what was going to happen. With the rainbow crested across the blue sky, who among us can see the storm clouds brewing behind the tree line?


St. Vincent worked to restore life in society. It is a call we share not just because of the Cursillo experience, but because of our shared Christian identity. Cursillo gives us tools to help us focus on what matters…reminding us daily to pursue piety, study and action. St. Vincent De Paul focused on actions that matter but not without knowing God and living in communion with God.

Learn more about the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Contact the Arlington Council at svdparlva@aol.com. Consider getting involved or supporting their work with the poor.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Timeless Into Their Hearts

September 26, 2008

Friday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

What advantage has the worker from his toil? I have considered the task which God has appointed for men to be busied about. He has made everything appropriate to its time, and has put the timeless into their hearts, without men's ever discovering, from beginning to end, the work which God has done. Ecclesiastes 3:9-11

But who do you say that I am? Luke 9:20


LORD, what are mortals that you notice them; human beings, that you take thought of them? They are but a breath; their days are like a passing shadow. LORD, incline your heavens and come; touch the mountains and make them smoke. Psalm 144:3-5



Jesus is in prayer. In solitude. After his prayer to the Father in silence, he immediately immerses himself back into the world. Jesus never wants to remain alone or aloof from those around him.

Jesus knows that his ways are not our ways yet he still wants to know how much progress he is making influencing our conversion and catechesis. One gauge of that is how we perceive his ministry in our own ways.

So, after communicating and communing with God, Jesus turns to his closest friends and asks them about the impact of his public ministry and identity. He wants to know if his message is getting across to the people. Once he hears that answer, he probes deeper. He wants to know what is in the hearts and minds of his closest disciples.

Jesus starts questioning Peter…Cephas…the Rock. But through the timeless scriptures, the question no longer hangs in the air of ancient Palestine. The question now echoes through Fairfax and Arlington, Alexandria and Manassas until it settles in our hearts.

What has God put there? Who do you say that I am?


What advantage has the worker from his toil?

Who will protect us from failure? There is talk of the $700 billion bailout, the government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the rescue of AIG. In the midst of all this macro-economic activity, the singer Bono offers a thought that we all should ponder: It's extraordinary to me that the United States can find $700 billion to save Wall Street and the entire G8 can't find $25 billion dollars to save 25,000 children who die every day from preventable diseases.

Evangelical preacher Jim Wallis has often talked about the silent tsunami that is killing millions of children every day. In fact these diseases kill as many children every day as the South Asian tsunami killed the day after Christmas in 2006.

What advantage has the worker from his toil?

Was it only last Sunday that Scriptures pushed us to consider the question of equity between workers who came “into the vineyard” at different times throughout the day.

Maybe we should all take a break and read a little of Alex Counts book Small Loans, Big Dreams: How Nobel Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus and Microfinance are Changing the World. The book details how the Grameen Foundation’s small loans of $75 to $150 help people in the developing world or inner cities start businesses and start to make their dreams come true.

According to the description on the web site, “Microfinancing is considered one of the most effective strategies in the fight against global poverty….Nobel [Peace] Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus revolutionized global antipoverty efforts through the development of this approach. This book presents compelling stories of women benefiting from Yunus’s microcredit in rural Bangladesh and urban Chicago, and recounts the experiences of different borrowers in each country…”

Yet if we turn our attention away from Wall Street and consider organizations that engage in mirco-lending, we see how small amounts of capital bail people out of a life in poverty for an amount so small it can not even be called a fraction of the amounts talked about in today’s headlines.

What advantage has the worker from his toil?

So, if everything has a season, maybe this is the season to consider giving some financial support to organizations doing micro-lending. Here is an on-line directory of many groups that engage in this mission for you to consider supporting.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Who Then is This?

September 25, 2008

Thursday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun. Even the thing of which we say, “See, this is new!” has already existed in the ages that preceded us. There is no remembrance of the men of old; nor of those to come will there be any remembrance among those who come after them. Ecclesiastes 1:9-11

“Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” Luke 9:9


In the beginning was Power,

Intelligent, loving, energizing.

In the beginning was the Word,

Supremely capable of mastering and molding

Whatever might come into being in the world of matter.

In the beginning there were not coldness and darkness: there was Fire.

-- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin



Everything comes down to what you believe and what you do. We can’t hide behind Sacred Scripture without hearing and understanding it. We can’t leave it up to the Pope, the Magisterium, the bishops, the clergy, the Church or even the rest of the laity. Every question that is posed comes back to you and me. We have to decide ourselves just like the people in Galilee had to decide for themselves.

Peter faced the question: “Who do you say that I am?” Nicodemus was drawn to Jesus under the cover of darkness to find out what was going on with this itinerant preacher from Nazareth.

For these curious servants and for us, Luke and the other evangelists provide several answers.

Jesus himself tells us who he is right up front in Luke’s Gospel:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. Luke 4:18-19

In response to this Nazareth Manifesto we learn that Jesus is the person in whom God’s power is present. We see that power at work in many ways (for example when Jesus provides for the needs of God’s people by feeding the 5,000).

Peter declares Jesus to be “the Messiah of God.” His personal opinion can not be masked by what the crowds or public opinion might say.

Later, Luke also shows us the suffering servant praying in Gethsemane, hoping beyond hope that the cup of salvation will pass by Jesus. Although he will free captives, he will not be able to free himself from his appointed mission. At the end, we come to realize what Jesus means when he proclaims that he is the Master to be followed, even to death, by the challenge to take up our cross and follow him. We learn that Jesus never asks us to do anything he had not already done himself.

If none of those lessons have yet taken root in our hearts and souls, we can join Jesus and his three closest friends on the mountaintop where they witness the Transfiguration. Not only do they see Jesus in all His glory, but from the mouth of God they learn that Jesus is God’s son, his Chosen One. Our one and only job is to listen to him.

How odd that it is this same question with which Herod grapples. Just like we do, Herod must answer the question in his mind about Jesus. Unlike us, Herod had the opportunity to question Jesus directly. He had the privilege of listening directly to Jesus. But Herod listened and did not hear. Faced with the chance to gain all knowledge from a close, personal encounter with the living God, Herod took the wrong turn. Even though he initially did not find any reason to condemn Jesus, Herod finally relented to in the court of public opinion to the cries of “Crucify him!”


Can we overcome the same kinds of obstacles (peer pressure, public opinion, personal ignorance and more) which lead Herod to make the wrong conclusion?

Can we come to the conclusion that Peter reaches? Can we do it without first having to overcome our own personal denials of the divinity of Christ?

Can we come to the conclusion that the “good thief” reaches? Will we return to the foot of the cross with Nicodemus and Joseph or will we flee with the Roman soldiers?

How can we banish the thoughts that get in the way of our everlasting life with Jesus and truly listen to Him? Once we hear, will we act on what we learn or will we let it go “in one ear and out the other?”

Will we let the Fire of creation, the Power of the World, and the Word of God light us up?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Take Nothing for the Journey

September 24, 2008

Wednesday of the Twenty-Fifth Week of Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

Two things I ask of you, deny them not to me before I die: Put falsehood and lying far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only with the food I need; Lest, being full, I deny you, saying, “Who is the LORD?” Or, being in want, I steal, and profane the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:8-9)

Jesus said to the Twelve: “Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there. And as for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them.” (Luke 9:3-5)

Lord, You are indeed an adventurer. Help me to become an adventurer as well, trusting fully in You to shine Your lamp unto my feet to light the journey.


There’s an interesting contrast in today’s readings between the journey as Solomon desires it and as Jesus orders it.

In Proverbs, Solomon asks for just enough—not so much that he’s lulled into complacency but enough that he won’t be tempted to profane God’s name. We’ve likely all attempted to make similar offers: Give me a house, Lord; it doesn’t have to be big, just big enough. Help me through this crisis, Lord; give me just enough hope to keep going.

But in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus instructs the Twelve not to take walking sticks or sacks or food or money. They can’t even take a second tunic! It sounds so hard, so unlike Solomon’s seemingly reasonable request. Could Jesus possibly have understood what he was asking of mere mortals?

Consider what was asked of François-Xavier Cardinal Nguyễn Văn Thuận, for whom the beatification process began a year ago this month. Nguyễn Văn Thuận, nephew of South Vietnam’s first president, was the new bishop of Saigon when the city fell on April 30, 1975. He spent thirteen years in a re-education camp, nine of them in solitary confinement. It was in those years, he says, that “all the outer trappings fell away, and I met Jesus in the total transparency of the Gospel.”

After his release, Nguyễn Văn Thuận went to Vatican City. In 2000 in Los Angeles, then the prestident of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, he spoke of learning about the “defects” of Christ while in the camp, “defects” that he grew to love. One comes from today’s Gospel, the part about taking nothing for the journey. Nguyễn Văn Thuận said in his address:

A person in charge of publicity for a company or a politician seeking election prepares a very precise program with many promises. Jesus promises only trials and persecutions to those who follow him. … In sending his disciples out on a mission, he tells them to take nothing for the journey: no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money and not to have two tunics. … In this state of absolute poverty, where did Jesus send his disciples? How far were they to go? They were to bring salvation, even to the very end of the earth (Acts 13:47). Have you ever heard of such an adventurer and his word: I am with you every day, even to the end of the world. We are truly disciples of Jesus when we follow him even to the end of the world. We are members of his association of adventurers, without address, without a telephone number, without a fax or website.

Surely, if Nguyễn Văn Thuận could love this aspect of Christ from solitary confinement, we can find a way to embrace it in the comforts of the Diocese of Arlington.


Today, make a list of three ways in which you can become an adventurer for Christ, and set a timetable for doing one of them.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Act on It

September 23, 2008

Memorial of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, priest

He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will himself also call and not be heard. Proverb 21:13

He said to them in reply, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” Luke 8:21


Beloved St. Pio of Pietrelcina, you have had the signs of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ on your body. You have carried the stigmata for everyone, enduring both the physical and mental sufferings that racked your soul and body in a continual sacrifice. We beg you to pray for us, so that we will be able to accept both the little and the larger crosses we too must bear during our life on earth and to offer these sufferings to God, assuring us a place with him in Eternal Life.




Christianity is not a spectator sport. Neither is poker but don’t try to tell that to ESPN, Bravo, Turner and all the other cable stations which now try to get us to watch people play cards on TV. If you ever play poker yourself or watch people play poker, there is a desperation bet (or wily strategy) that you can sometimes use or see others use on these broadcasts. A player who thinks he has a good hand will push all their chips into the pot in hopes of winning (or getting the other players to fold).

The bet is called “All In.” It is not for the timid. Christianity is for people who want to go all in for the Lord, all the time. We can not just pray. We have to do more. We can not just attend Mass. We have to fully participate. We can not just leave at the end. We have to go in peace to serve the Word and the world. We can not just listen while others read the Word of God. We have to study sacred scriptures. The notes to the NAB today explain, “External rites or sacrifices do not please God unless accompanied by internal worship and right moral conduct.” That is why the Psalm today reminds us that we can not shut our ears to the cry of the poor.

We may have been born 2008 years too late to be part of Jesus’ actual, physical family. However, we can be adopted brothers and sisters if we are obedient to the Word of God. The first step in such obedience is to know what it is telling us (through study). The second is to know what it means (through prayer). The third is to know why it matters (through action).

If we want to truly experience kinship with Jesus, we have to hear the Word of God and act on it. Do we want our call to God to be answered? Of course we do. Then today’s scripture tells us that one way to assure God hears us is to make sure we are listening to hear the cry of the poor. When people call on us, we must answer as well.


Finding affordable housing is part of the cry of the poor. Many people who live in Fairfax County can not afford the rents. This includes the working poor as well as seniors and people with disabilities.

“Advocates say Fairfax's recent count of the jurisdiction's homeless ranks, which at 1,800 is slightly up over last year, can be linked directly to the dearth of affordable housing.”(The Washington Post, May 31, 2007).

According to an analysis of census data Fairfax [County] lost about a quarter of their affordable units (The Washington Post, April 28, 2007). Fairfax County lost 7,804 affordable rental units (renting for $999 or less) between 2003 and 2005. (National Housing Trust data cited in The Washington Post, April 28, 2007). In addition, from 2000 to 2005, over 5000 Fairfax County apartments were converted to condominiums.

Through the efforts of the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority, the region was able to preserve 531 units in FY 2007, far in excess of its goal of preserving 300 units during the year. If not for these efforts, those units may have been lost to higher priced rental units or condominiums. (FCRHA Fiscal Year End Status Report on the FCRHA FY 2007Strategic Action Plan).

“The ironic and vexing part of living in a community where the economy is thriving is that as housing values rise, the working men and women who serve our community cannot afford to live where they work,” explained Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerry Connolly in his State of the County 2007 address.

In April 2007, county supervisors approved a $3.3 billion spending plan for the year beginning July 1 that dedicates a penny of the real estate tax rate each year --the resulting sum would be $22.7 million --to affordable housing.”

There’s a huge demand for multifamily housing investments in the Washington metropolitan region. Fairfax County alone has about 650 mentally ill adults who need places to live,” according to an article in The Washington Post, April 19, 2007.

However, there has been no new Federal public housing units built in the County since 1997 nor are any anticipated in the future. In fact just the opposite is happening. Fairfax County lost 1,452 subsidized units (including unsubsidized units with rent restrictions) between 1997 and 2005. And to compound the problem, during the same period of time, average rents have increased 43%.

Read the County Strategic plan here for more information.

VOICE has included preservation of affordable housing in its priority issues in order to convince Fairfax County to continue to dedicate resources to preserving and expanding affordable housing. In order to achieve the goals for eliminating homelessness, there needs to be a suitable supply of affordable housing available in order to move people into home ownership or rental units. Consider joining VOICE in its advocacy to Fairfax and the other government bodies which make up the region and which can take action to insure the supply of affordable housing continues to meet demands of a growing and diverse population.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

All Will Come To Light

September 22, 2008

Monday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth DeCristofaro

The just one shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord. (Psalm 15:1)

No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed…For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light. (Luke 8:16, 17)


God of Creation, of sun, of wriggly creatures, of colors, of roosters and cluck hens, and of boy and girls, light me up! Brother Jesus, Put me on your lamp stand and make me to shine as you will. Holy Spirit, dwell within and stir me to shine so that God’s glory be revealed through me. Amen.


Walking in the woods on a summer morning several years ago, I was utterly taken in by the intensity of the light. It was one of those hot mornings when the air sizzled with the buzz of cicadas. The haze of humidity had not yet begun to blur the sharp contours, colors and lines around me. The yellow tint of the sun was on each blade of grass, wing of dragonfly and ubiquitous leafy vine. Shadows were in stark relief behind each one. At the same time, when I looked out over a small pond, the chips of reflected sun struck my eyes making the murky, chocolate-colored water appear faced with shards of glass. It was amazing. Then, I walked to the edge of the water and, looking down, with the sun overhead, saw that the water was not murky after all. It was a warm, amber color and full of life! Little creatures skated on it and wriggled though it. The sun seemed to bring layers of life, sound, warmth and sensation to me. I spent some time just gazing at the wonder of Creation.

Jesus said, For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light. (Luke 8: 17) So much was revealed in the light of that summer sun which might have remained hidden had I not stopped to contemplate it. We are invited to be part of God’s light. Study helps us immerse ourselves in the Light of the Word. Piety, listening and being with God, helps us absorb the light into our being. Action helps us spread the light beyond the vessel of ourselves.

Can we strike the spark? Can we afford not to? To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away. (Luke 8:18)


Where is God’s light shining on you now? Are you lifting up your eyes to it with a “Yes!” Is your group reunion, ultreya and personal prayer lighting you up? If not, what are you going to do about it? Is your light out from under the bed? On whom are you shining it? Step in! Life and light are teeming on the mountain!

For to Me, Life is Christ

September 21, 2008

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. Isaiah 55:8

Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. Philippians 1:20-21

“…The last will be first, and the first will be last.” Matthew 20:16


The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love. The LORD is good to all, compassionate to every creature. Psalm 145:8-9



“Better late than never!” How often have we said that without thinking about how it is finished?

“But better never late!” We are a time management people. We want to do each job as fast as it can be done. It could be said that we are in a hurry to our own funerals.

“Haste makes waste.” We have hurried up so that we can wait more times than we can count. Horace, the Roman poet, had a one line poem.

“Carpe Diem.” It was translated by an English poet as “Pluck the flower of the hour.

Our parable by Jesus catches the essence of all these sayings. The landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard and went on doing it every hour on the hour captures the essence of all those sayings. But when the landowner pays the first as much as he paid the last, those who bore the blunt of the heat of the day felt cheated. When the landowner asked if they were envious because he was generous, he introduced something special into the equation of generosity and justice. Thus, the last will be first and first will be last introduces mystery into the question. What do we do in life that is worthy of the kingdom of God?

For me, this is where the Sacrament of the Present Moment gets a theological base. It is no longer a question of how much time did we spend doing something. It only takes a moment to make life worthwhile. A moment working for the Lord can be worth a thousand years. Love is what takes the temporal and the limited and makes it into something that heaven is all about. So whether to die to be with Christ or to live to share Christ becomes a realistic dilemma. We seek the Lord while he may be found in this life and we call to him while he is near. God does not do things the way we do measuring what he can get out of what we do. God looks at the love of our hearts and how we are giving ourselves so that we might make him present in the good we do. God’s ways are so much more generous than ours that every comparison we would make limps in
comparison to the reality of his so great love.

We study what we can make of our lives. Christ will be magnified in what we do of good for one another. We live for Christ and we die for Christ. We go on living for the sake of the people we serve in his name.


By our actions the Christ of our lives has visibility. What makes a saint is how Christ is lived out in the today of our world. The saint is the update of Christ. We go into his vineyard to work for him and we give Christ hands and feet by how we reach out and do his work. Paul says it perfectly. “For to me life is Christ.”

Into My Vineyard

September 21, 2008

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Seek the LORD while he may be found, call him while he is near. Isaiah 55:6

Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear news of you, that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind struggling together for the faith of the gospel, not intimidated in any way by your opponents. Philippians 1:27-28

Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? (Or) am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous? Matthew 20:14-15


The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love. The LORD is good to all, compassionate to every creature. Psalm 145:8-9



Thy Kingdom Come. When we pray the way Jesus taught us, we ask for God’s kingdom to come. Until it does, it is our job to plant seeds like St. Paul through our “fruitful labor.” However, as we see today, fruitful labor for the Lord has a different set of rules than those advanced by our capitalistic system.

As Fr. Mike Hann reminded us in his homily for today, God’s ways are not ordinary. His ways are not our ways. Our ways are not (yet) His ways.

Our ways are to get paid by the hour. Those who work eight hours get paid more than those who work four hours. Some workers get paid a lot (read CEO here) and others get paid a little (read minimum wage here). Some have a golden parachute and others have a social safety net. But that is not the way in God’s kingdom.

Jesus does not mind when you come to the vineyard, he just wants you to come. Early morning, noon or at night, whenever you come there is plenty of work to do. The harvest is great but the laborers are few. One or more joining the workers at any time are most welcome. Their reward is the same.

God is not keeping score like some spiritual Santa Claus making a list and checking it twice to find out who is naughty and who is nice. He only cares about the end of the race. Until then, the invitation is always open…there is no deadline on the RSVP.


Some people are being left out of the vineyard entirely. They need someone to speak up for them. A new organization has formed called VOICE to do just that. V.O.I.C.E. is Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement in Northern Virginia.

Through VOICE, Northern Virginia clergy and lay leaders have been working with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) over the last three years to create a broad-based, non-partisan, multi-racial, multi-faith, citizens’ power organization, rooted in local congregations and other voluntary associations to make change on social justice issues (affordable housing, immigration, child care, etc.) affecting the lives of low- and middle income residents in 4 Northern Virginia jurisdictions: Prince William, Fairfax, Arlington, and Alexandria.

IAF has several organizations in the Washington/Baltimore Metro. Area: WIN (DC), AIM (MD) and BUILD (MD). These organizations advocated for and helped pass the first living wage law in the United States (Baltimore), won a $25 million dedicated annual fund for affordable housing in Montgomery County, MD, and secured $1 billion for neighborhood investment in Washington, DC. These organizations have also trained thousands of leaders for public action at the local, state, and national level. For more information on the IAF, visit www.industrialareasfoundation.org.

Now a similar effort is underway in Northern Virginia. VOICE leaders will present an action agenda on affordable housing/homelessness, immigration, and health care to NOVA’s political, corporate, civic, and religious leaders at the VOICE Founding Action on October 5, 2008. The meeting will take place at First Mt. Zion Baptist Church, 16622 Dumfries Road (Va. 234), Dumfries VA 22025-1920 (Phone 703-670-1084).

Now is a good time to study these kinds of issues and prayerfully considering supporting VOICE. For example, in Fairfax County, affordable housing and homelessness are key health and human welfare issues. The county government has extensive research on the extent of the problem. Thousands of people remain homeless in a county which is one of the richest in the nation. Yet the problem remains a hidden problem in Fairfax County. Ending homelessness is the right thing to do in one of the wealthiest areas of the United States. And it will cost us less as a taxpayer to permanently house the homeless instead of providing temporary assistance.

A total of 1,813 persons were identified as being homeless on January 25, 2007 according to the 2007 Point in Time Survey done by Fairfax County. Of that total, 730 were single individuals with no children living with them and 1,083 were persons in families. Many homeless adults are employed, but the majority of the people who are homeless have very low annual income. This severely restricts their ability to move out of homelessness and into affordable housing.

(In addition to the individual stories, there is extensive needs assessment data from various government sources on the issues upon which VOICE will speak out. In coming action reflections, I will share some other needs assessment data how the issues which VOICE has adopted for advocacy impact Fairfax County and other areas of the Arlington Diocese.)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Embrace It

September 20, 2008

Memorial of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon, priest and martyr, and Saint Paul Chong Hasang, martyr, and their companions, martyrs

You fool! What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be but a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind; but God gives it a body as he chooses, and to each of the seeds its own body. 1 Corinthians 15:36-38

But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance. Luke 8:15


I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life in the world to come. Amen.


The harvest imagery continues today with the analogies of resurrection to seeds and life to seeds. The notes to the NAB point out, “There is a change of attributes from seed to plant; the old life-form must be lost for the new to emerge. By speaking about the seed as a body that dies and comes to life, Paul keeps the point of the analogy before the reader's mind.”

So change occurs in two different ways. First, during natural life, the Word of God changes us. When we hear it and embrace it, then the seed acts as if it fell on rich soil and bears good fruit. Second, after natural life, the body changes before resurrection.

If our same earthly body was resurrected, then people would not have any trouble recognizing us. But the examples we have of the encounters Jesus had with people after the resurrection are filled with stories of how people did not recognize him. Mary Magdalene at the tomb did not recognize Jesus even though she last saw him only three days earlier. She did not recognize the body resurrected but when she heard his words, she recognized him.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. John 20:15-16

When the disciples went fishing after Pentecost, at first they were taking instructions from a man on shore. But it was only after the successful catch that John announced to Peter that they were having another encounter with Christ. Also, on the road to Emmaus, Jesus spoke for a long journey while his disciples failed to recognize him until they shared the meal.


Our job is not to wait for eternal life in the world to come but rather to bring a little heaven to earth for each other.

This weekend, the men preparing for the 117th Cursillo are having their Talk Day at Missionhurst. Please offer Palanca for them this weekend and in the final weeks of preparation until the Cursillo takes place October 23-26.

Where else can you bring a little heaven into the world? Where else can you tend to your crops so that they bear fruit through perseverance?