Sunday, November 30, 2008

Toward the Lord’s House

December 1, 2008

Monday of the First Week of Advent

By Beth DeCristofaro

The mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it; They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. (Isaiah 2:2, 4)

(Jesus) was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 8:10-11)


Loving God, I sense that all is your creation and everything, and all of us, are being drawn back toward your loving heart.
Help me to be a person of peace, To speak about it in an uneasy world, And to live it among the people you have put into my life every day.
Light in me a desire to prepare for your coming, to stand in the darkness, waiting, eager and filled with joy.
(Creighton University)


Isaiah prophesized during dark and unsettled times, yet his words and visions are hopeful, of a supreme and triumphal God victorious over a (finally) united, peaceful world. Jesus lived and preached during a brutal oppression yet his divine love opened doors of salvation even to the oppressor. He did not carry a spear but a plowshare to plant redemption in frail, brief, treasured human lives.

In an address concerning next year’s synod on Africa, Nigerian-born Cardinal Francis Arinze spoke about the unstable and dangerous situation in much of Africa. In part he said: “The Church does not have a miraculous recipe to solve the problems, and even less, political or economic solutions,” he said. “That is not her mission: She should preach the Gospel, which implies respect for the rights of others and the conversion of heart.”… “If the heart converts, weapons will fall from the hands of the combatants.”


During Advent, all creation is drawing near to God, and we are streaming toward the manger to witness the birth of the humble God. This divine baby to be born is known as the Prince of Peace and Lord of Light. How do we keep peace in our daily lives? How do we foment peace around us? How do we contest conflict and insist on peace within and without? Do we rationalize violence because the perpetrator “deserves” it or that it is for my “self defense”?

Are we choosing faith which will cause Jesus to exclaim: “I found such faith. I say to you, (you have) come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.”

Saturday, November 29, 2008

We Are the Clay and You the Potter

November 30, 2008

First Sunday of Advent

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

“No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him. Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways! Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful.” Isaiah 64:3-4

“Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’” Mark 13:35-37


Turn again, LORD of hosts; look down from heaven and see; Attend to this vine, the shoot your right hand has planted. Those who would burn or cut it down-- may they perish at your rebuke. May your help be with the man at your right hand, with the one whom you once made strong. Then we will not withdraw from you; revive us, and we will call on your name. LORD of hosts, restore us; let your face shine upon us, that we may be saved. Psalm 80:15-20


Advent generates expectancy. It builds up the excitement for Christmas and the birth of the Savior. How long we wait for something we want builds up the pleasure at the acquisition. Surprises do not offer the same quality expectation. What comes without working or waiting for it does not have the same joy. We can be happy with a surprise, but the looking forward to something creates a greater joy when we finally have what we were seeking. Our souls are waiting for the coming of the Lord.

We have a space in our hearts that only the Lord can fill. There is something of the Lord in every moment of our lives. But the fullness of the Lord is what heaven is all about. Advent triggers the need we all have for our God connection. We can not bridge the gap between heaven and earth without Christ. Only The love of God for us and his willing to be one of us makes the closeness of God’s coming possible. Our souls are yearning for the presence of God in our lives and the Word made Flesh is the realization of the hands on God that becomes part of who we really are.

The first Sunday of Advent rends the heavens with our great need of God. We are given the chance to face our greatest need. Only God with us satisfies the longing of our hearts. His coming is prepared for by centuries of wanderings on the part of the Hebrew people. It is almost comical that we would limit our preparation for the coming of Christ to four Sundays of preparation in the honoring of his first Coming. The good we would do prepares for his coming. The piety of the Christmas celebration sometimes gets lost in the crass materialism of our culture.

We almost needed the downturn of our economy so that we would be forced to look at the things that really count about life. The poverty in his coming has incredible echoes in people losing their homes. The homeless of the cities echo the no room in the inn. The chance to do something for all those who do not have by sharing the little we have will increase the joy of his coming in the appreciation of how our poverty is his poverty and how we share with the poor of our world will be how we share with the Christ of the first coming. Whatever we will do for the least person he will take as done for himself.


Our Advent is a time of preparation for the second Coming even as we recall the first Coming. The Grace of Christ within us says we are not lacking in any spiritual gift as we wait to renew the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we want to have a great celebration of his coming into our world we need to face up to the needs of our brothers and sisters who are suffering and do what we can to be givers that model out the emptying out of self that allowed the Eternal Word to be one of us.

We need to share of our essentials that others may have some of the wonders of God’s creation that we are so incredibly endowed with by accidents of birth in our Country with our families that have done so well. We know not when the Lord will return, but we need to start preparing for his coming by sharing of the abundance we have for the sake of a more equal distribution of the wealth of our lives. May he not come suddenly and find us sleeping with all that we could have shared with the need of the poor around us. Advent must be our time of getting ready for his coming. Our family celebrations will be special if we have invited another family who does not have to share of our abundance. We need to reach out to the poor more than they need our reach out. Our giving makes space for the coming of the Lord.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Look Upon His Face

November 29, 2008

Saturday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of its street. Revelation 22:1-2

Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man. Luke 21:36


Lord, give us the strength to escape the tribulations in our life so that we may stand before you and look upon your face. Until then, help us to see your presence in the faces of our sisters and brothers who reach out to us in their time of need. Help us to help those who are unable to reach out to us. Amen.


Connections abound today between so much of what has come before as well as what will come as we look ahead to Advent. As the liturgical year ends today, we feast upon images culled from the very beginning of the Biblical history – images of God’s first two creations from Genesis: light and water.

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw how good the light was. God then separated the light from the darkness. Genesis 1:1-4

Then God said, “Let there be a dome in the middle of the waters, to separate one body of water from the other.” And so it happened: God made the dome, and it separated the water above the dome from the water below it. Genesis 1:6-7

Today, St. John shares his final vision with us in Revelation 22. We learn when creation reaches perfection in the fullness of time, that “Night will be no more, nor will they need light from lamp or sun, for the Lord God shall give them light, and they shall reign forever and ever.”

The life-giving waters return, conquering man’s sin and evil in the world. The waters are overflowing with God’s grace wherever they reach. No container can hold them as they flow down the streets.

This triumph is a far cry from the visions of blood, not life-giving water that fill the streets as we read in the book of the prophet Ezekiel. I will be glorified in your midst. Then they shall know that I am the LORD, when I inflict punishments upon it and use it to manifest my holiness. Into it I will send pestilence, and blood shall flow in its streets. Within it shall fall those slain by the sword that comes against it from every side. Thus they shall know that I am the LORD. Ezekiel 28:22-23

Later, the vision of pestilence and violence gives way to a vision that is recalled in Revelation -- the vision of the life-giving waters.

Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east); and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me round on the outside to the outer gate, that faces toward the east; and the water was coming out on the south side. Ezekiel 47:1-2

The prophet Zechariah also had a vision of such life-giving waters and the end of night (darkness which symbolizes conquering evil).

“On that day there shall be neither cold nor frost. And there shall be continuous day (it is known to the LORD), not day and not night, for at evening time there shall be light. On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea; it shall continue in summer as in winter. And the LORD will become king over all the earth; on that day the LORD will be one and his name one.” Zechariah 14:6-9

Such life-giving waters are not just the topic of visions. They also are the real promise of Jesus to the woman at the well and to the disciples in the Gospel of John. Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” This promise left her wanting such water. “Sir, give me this water that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” John 4:10-15

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, 'Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.” John 7:37-38. From his pierced side on the cross, those waters replaced the blood of the Lamb and began to flow.

So as St. John returns to these images of life and light, he is addressing topics which his audience would well know. The vision of the fulfillment of these promises also comes to us in today’s Gospel along with a warning not to stray from the path Jesus points out through drunkenness, anxiety or laziness. If we hold fast to this life, then it will be rewarded with the pearl of all promises…the chance to stand before the Lord in his physical presence. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8)


As we celebrate another holiday weekend designed to give thanks, we are jolted to consciousness by the continued violence which we do not welcome in the world. A Brooklyn rabbi and his wife who moved to India to start a Jewish center and the Virginia man and his daughter are the latest victims of terrorism which continues to invade our world. Blood flowed in the streets of Mumbai, India. Not far away, anti-government protestors had seized control of two airports in Thailand by staging a massive, non-violent sit-in. The New York Times reports:

Weary of antigovernment protesters who have paralyzed Bangkok’s two commercial airports with mass sit-ins, Thailand’s prime minister announced an emergency decree on Thursday that authorized the police and some military units to evict them. The order by the prime minister, Somchai Wongsawat, raised the prospect of arrests and violence if the demonstrators refused to leave. The airport protests, which began Tuesday night, have shut down Bangkok, the capital, to air commerce and elevated the antigovernment protests here to a national crisis.

As we long to look on the face of the Prince of Peace in the approach of Advent, we are reminded that the prophecy of the living water and the end of night is not yet a reality. Still we must struggle. Although we are not in Mumbai or Bangkok, we still must struggles with the violence and selfishness in our midst. Despite a financial crisis which had promised to dampen consumer spending on the high holy day of Consumerism, a worker in a Wal-Mart store was trampled to death by bargain hunting shoppers who put their wallet ahead of the life and safety of those around them.

ENOUGH! Say “Enough!” to this madness, of this madness. As a New (liturgical) Year’s Resolution, vow to make your holiday season holy. Opt for giving away to thrift stores and homeless shelters rather than hunting and gathering more affluence this year. You’ll never miss what the Salvation Army, Yesterday’s Rose or the Clock Tower Thrift shops can offer to their clients. Opt also, to make gifts to give to those close to your heart this year. Take a holiday from materialism.

Prepared as a Bride

November 28, 2008

Friday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Revelation 21:1-2

Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Luke 21:32-33


Prayer for a Reluctant Leader

You asked for my hands that you might use them for your purpose.

I gave them for a moment, then withdrew them for the work was hard.

You asked for my mouth to speak out against injustice.

I gave you a whisper that I might not be accused.

You asked for my life that you might work through me.

I gave a small part that I might not get too involved.

Lord, forgive my calculated efforts to serve you only when it is convenient for me to do so, only in those places where it is safe to do so, and only in those who make it easy to do so.

Lord, forgive me, renew me, heal me, nurture me, empower me, send me out as an instrument of your peace that I might take seriously the meaning of servant leadership. Amen.


Here God lives among his people. After this world passes, only some people will live with their God.

Psalm 84 sings of the joy of living in the presence of God. As the sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest to settle her young, My home is by your altars, LORD of hosts, my king and my God! Happy are those who dwell in your house! They never cease to praise you. Selah Happy are those who find refuge in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrim roads. Psalm 84:4-6

Yet the Book of Revelation holds another warning: All the dead were judged according to their deeds…Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the pool of fire. (Revelation 21:13,15) Just as Matthew 25 warned us last Sunday about the importance of our action in love, today, we hear it again. We will be judged by our deeds. The joy of Psalm 84 could be short-lived.

The question remains one of “When?” The time will not be known to us…we must prepare because it will be so. Heaven and earth will pass away. Each one of us will pass away. Yet if we want our names to be in the book of life, then now is when our piety, study and action matter most of all.

Marriage is one of the biblical metaphors used to describe the covenant relationship between God and his people from the Book of Isaiah forward. God wants to walk down the aisle with us. Walking with him is our choice.


One of our deeds is to be concerned for the “least of our sisters and brothers.” Catholic Relief Services is asking people to urge their members of Congress to ask President-elect Obama to have a strong budget for international affairs. Please join them by completing an easy form. CRS has form which you can complete to send the message to your members.

A bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives has prepared a letter to President-elect Obama to urge him to include a strong international affairs budget in his overall proposal for the fiscal year 2010 U.S. government budget. While the current financial crisis is seriously straining our nation, CRS explains that now more than ever is the time for the U.S. to remain engaged in the world. A strong international affairs budget will demonstrate our nation’s commitment to help poor people. In the long-term, such investments will also promote a more stable world and protect the global economy.

The U.S. international affairs budget includes overall funding levels for our nations’ investments in global humanitarian, economic, and diplomatic initiatives. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) receives some of the funding from the international affairs budget for its emergency response, agriculture, education, HIV and other health programs.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

At the Feet of Jesus

November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Day
May [God] grant you joy of heart and may peace abide among you; May his goodness toward us endure in Israel as long as the heavens are above. Sirach 50:23-24

Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” Luke 17:17-19


From the People’s Companion to the Breviary (Vol. II) for Thanksgiving Day.

How can we repay you, O God, for all your goodness to us.

Most gracious God, you have blessed our land with more than we need;
-- Increase our spirit of generosity that we may share with other lands.

You have often saved our country from the ravages of war;
-- may we never cause destruction to other nations.

You have graced our country with great natural beauty;
-- grant that we may never exploit it, but endeavor to protect it and save its natural resources.

O God, our forbearers sat at table with our native “Americans” giving thanks for your bounty;
-- help us in our endeavors to restore the rights and dignity of our indigenous people.

You continually call us forward;
-- may we step into the future ever conscious of our responsibility to all humankind.


Sometimes certain passages from scripture make a special impression upon us. Today’s Gospel is one of those special passages for me. It was the Gospel reading at the closing Mass for the Men’s 104th Cursillo. (In case you were wondering, there were ten candidate-lepers on that weekend.) Throughout my adult life, this reading has probably been part of Mass at least 50 times but on that date, it touched a special place in my mind.

I do not think that any of the candidates were “cured” of anything on that special weekend. Yet it was only one month after terrorist attacks rocked our national psyche and our sense of personal security. Maybe that vulnerability helped give us a sense of security and peace in those three days sequestered in Missionhurst. But on Sunday night, we had to go back into the world. We could not stay holed up in a colony of babe chicks, lepers, or any other people set apart. After being taken under the eagle’s wing, we had to fly away. Yet we (at least I did, I can not speak for the others) did so with a renewed sense of commitment in the security of the love of our brother Jesus and support of our community. Just as the lepers were reborn into the community and no longer apart, it was our turn to return to the community. But in the rush, we needed to stop and thank you…praise you. I hope we have done so. I hope we will continue to do so.

Will our faith save us? Will we be among the nine who go off to celebrate or the one who returns to the feet of Jesus?

At the Last Supper, Jesus knelt in front of each disciple to wash their feet. He called them his “friends.” Not his students, apostles, or any other term. Simply friend. They saw him in a new light as the servant-leader-friend, not as the Son of the Almighty Father.

Today, the one Samaritan serves as a role model for us…if Jesus will kneel at our feet, we should be proud, eager, and willing to kneel at his in Thanksgiving. We celebrate the leper who returned because we prayer in every Mass that “it is right to give you thanks and praise.” How can we repay you for all your goodness to us?


Remember in your prayers today, all those who are not celebrating at home with their families. Remember your family, friends and others who are in a nursing home, hospital, or otherwise alone today. Perhaps you have relatives away on a mission trip or deployed to places like Iraq or Afghanistan. As you consider all for which you are thankful, remember those who have helped you along your way…especially those who are not present with you in your celebration.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Great and Wonderful Are Your Works

November 26, 2008

Wednesday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

Then I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire. On the sea of glass were standing those who had won the victory over the beast and its image and the number that signified its name. They were holding God’s harps, and they sang the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb: “Great and wonderful are your works, Lord God almighty. Just and true are your ways, O king of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, or glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All the nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Revelation 15:3-4)

Sing a new song to the Lord, who has done marvelous deeds, Whose right hand and holy arm have won the victory. (Psalms 98:2)

(Jesus told the crowd they would be handed over to the authorities and called upon to testify and advised:) “Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.” (Luke 21:14-15)


Lord, I thank you for all the joys and gifts you have brought into my life—family and friends, a roof over my head, food in my kitchen. Help me to remember these are but trappings and that you alone are worthy of my adoration.


What a picture John paints in today’s first reading! A sea of glass. The victors holding harps and singing joyfully to the Lord. In commentary released May 11, 2005, the Holy Father called Revelation 15:3-4 “brief and solemn, incisive and grandiose in its tonality.” It’s appropriate that we consider this Scripture as we head into Advent, the period of waiting and the beginning of the new liturgical year that also leads into a promised new era of government in this country.

The pope identifies the canticle’s purpose as “a sign that invites all people of the earth to conversion. Nations must learn to ‘read’ in history a message of God. Humanity’s history is not confused and without meaning, nor is it given over, without appeal, to the malfeasance of the arrogant and perverse.”

Benedict’s comments dovetail nicely with the Gospel reading, in which Jesus warns the crowd that the road will not be easy for his followers, that they will be given up even by those they love, and that some will be put to death. However, Christ holds out the promise of comfort to the faithful: He will provide them with the words with which to defend themselves. Even those who are put to death will find their lives secured by their perseverance. In the same vein, the pope said in his discussion of the two verses from Revelation 15: “Thanks to fear of the Lord there is no fear of the evil that rages in history and one takes up again with vigor the journey of life.”

And so, as we head into the closing, dark days of this calendar year and the uncertainty that comes with any transition of power, let us resolve to celebrate what is to come, and take up with vigor the victory already won for us.


What works can you, just one person, take on to help Americans affected by our growing financial crisis? One option is a contribution to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Catholic Campaign for Human Development. The second collection at Diocese of Arlington parishes was devoted to CCHD last week, but it’s not too late to help. CCHD aims to help those in need to develop economic strength and political power. It seeks to educate the general public about the problems that face the poor. In the past thirty-six years, CCHD has given more than 7,800 grants for self-help projects developed by grassroots groups. Provide some time, talent, or treasure during Advent to one of these groups.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Time to Reap Has Come

November 25, 2008

Tuesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Another angel came out of the temple, crying out in a loud voice to the one sitting on the cloud, “Use your sickle and reap the harvest, for the time to reap has come, because the earth's harvest is fully ripe.” Revelation 14:15

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


There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.
A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)


If you have been through a Journalism 101 course, you are familiar with the “5 W’s” – who, what, when, where, why. These facts are what a reporter digs up to tell a story well. The Jews press upon Jesus to tell them when his prophecy will come true about the destruction of the temple (the death of the Son of Man) as well as the end of time. Jesus shares a lot of details but he leaves out the “when.”

If you have to track your hectic schedule either in Outlook, another program or in a Day-Timer or paper calendar, all your appointments pivot on the when. You have to make priority decisions based upon when you can meet with this person or that, this group or that. Deadlines drive our daily existence. The walls that box in our life is the ability to meet our commitments by those deadlines.

Jesus has laid out a set of requirements for our life. He asks us for humility, service and obedience. He tells us what will happen if we don’t follow him. Then he leaves it up to us to “follow Him.” Then he leaves it up to us to meet the commitments. Then he leaves it up to us.

We put off picking up our cross. We put off our piety for tomorrow. We worry about next week. We put off our study. We worry about our bank accounts, loan payments, yard work, and so much more. We put off our action. We worry about our own lives not the lives of others that Jesus sends our way. We put of the WHEN.


As we wind up this liturgical year in the coming days, consider now the “resolution” you will make. Consider addressing the WHEN of your spiritual life by committing to the NOW in your resolutions for the new liturgical year.

Don’t just make a mental note. Write it down. Put it on your calendar. Enter an appointment and commitment with Jesus in your Outlook or calendar. You will never know when the time to reap has come.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Follow the Lamb

November 24 2008

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

By Beth DeCristofaro

These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. (Revelations 14:4)

Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD? Or who may stand in his holy place? He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain. (Psalm 24: 3-4)

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


Jesus, Help me follow you wherever you go. Soften my resistance to the challenge of your way. Open my heart to your mercy that I may see around me your blessings and share them with others. All that I am, all that I have, are gifts you have given to me. Help me give them away so that I might stand in your holy place surrounded by those beloved by You.


Yesterday’s Gospel gave us Jesus explaining that doing for the lowest and poorest was doing for him. Of today’s Gospel the NAB says: “The widow is another example of the poor ones in this gospel whose detachment from material possessions and dependence on God leads to their blessedness.” Generosity of heart rather than survival is Jesus’ message. But Jesus’ generosity is inspired by love and charity rather than tradition or self-fulfillment. Jesus keeps trying to get us to understand that we live in community not isolation. Jesus is not in isolation from God the Father; the Spirit completes and breathes into the Trinity and into us.

This lovely French proverb struck me as a measure of where I am in my quest-for (or ignoring-of) charity: ‘Trop est avare à qui Dieu ne suffit’ which means “You’re too greedy if God is not enough for you.” Do I really need that extra pair of warm gloves or CD (wow, that music is so beautiful!)? Why do I not let God fill me up instead of the “stuff” that I “long” for? Being one who panics when my bank account begins to dip, as I watch the poor widow I am amazed and humbled.

In a secular world “It is a fact that givers are happier people than non-givers. According to the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey, a survey of 30,000 American households, people who gave money to charity in 2000 were 43% more likely than non-givers to say they were "very happy" about their lives. Similarly, volunteers were 42% more likely to be very happy than non-volunteers. …givers to all types of religious and secular causes were far happier than non-givers.” So we now have numbers to trust in if we are too preoccupied or absorbed to experience the vital and intense peace of God’s blessings.


Take some time to reflect on the proverb. Ask yourself: Is God enough? For what am I greedy? In what way am I self-centered or insecure? Make the commitment to give away that for which you are most greedy. Empty yourself in order that God will fill your depths.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Inherit the Kingdom

November 23, 2003

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest, says the Lord GOD. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal (but the sleek and the strong I will destroy), shepherding them rightly. Ezekiel 34: 15-16

Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. Matthew 25:34-36

Psalm 23

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. Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage. You set a table before me as my enemies watch; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The embrace of the "Cross" is for the good and the bad alike. The altruistic love of the "Cross" issues the claim over our hearts of the kingship of Christ. His love is a forever. It will always be there for us until the end of time. Wealth and power will pass away. The love of God for the simple and the poor is a heavenly bias that will never end.

Faith and hope in Christ open the doors of our heart to the mystery of his love. His love is not just forever; it is also so free it can never be deserved. We are able to claim this love any moment of our lives.

Faith and hope will pass away when we see Christ in the fullness of his kingship. Then the only thing that will last is the love that is forever. How can we not love Christ who rules our hearts? He is the God of love and all creation becomes the statement of a king that sings God's love for us. The God of love is the king of glory. A share in his cross is our claim to glory. Our love for one another is how we celebrate his kingship.

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

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

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

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sing a New Song

November 22, 2008

Memorial of Saint Cecilia, virgin and martyr

Then they heard a loud voice from heaven say to them, "Come up here." So they went up to heaven in a cloud as their enemies looked on. Revelation 11:12

Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for battle, my fingers for war; My safe guard and my fortress, my stronghold, my deliverer, My shield, in whom I trust, who subdues peoples under me. Psalm 144:1-2

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


Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation. -- St. Augustine of Hippo


Friends invite each other over to their homes. We see such exchanges today in our readings. Not only does Jesus invite us to experience heaven, but also his followers continue to ask for him to intervene on earth.

“Come up here.” With those simple words, Jesus invites us to get above the fray of the battle between “good” and “evil.”

Before reflecting on this Divine Invitation, let’s consider the first verse of Psalm 144. The Old Testament is filled with images of religious wars fought with God at the side of the Hebrews. However, today the psalmist (IMHO) is not talking about some kind of heavenly boot camp training soldiers to go into literal battles with human enemies. Yes, that is what it says. However, the battle here symbolizes two struggles.

First is humanity’s struggle with the forces of evil lead us into temptation (fill in your favorite of the seven deadly sins here). Second is the battle between life and death or what is human and what is truly divine.

Sometimes, we get too boxed in to our current way of thinking and seeing that we no longer can think or see. To open our minds and eyes, St. John in Revelation sets out to define the struggle. The “beast from the Abyss” may literally refer to Roman conquerors and political enemies of Israel.

Today, the beast from the Abyss could symbolize Wall Street, K Street, Wilshire Boulevard, Times Square and Disneyland. From all of these “abysses” flow forces of distraction, comfort and opiates that sidetrack us from the task at hand -- taking up our true cross in the battle.

The two lamp stands and olive trees symbolize those who stand by the Lord on earth. Are you ready to shine your light on the proverbial battle? With the right “training,” they will conquer the forces which attack them. However, the powers described go beyond human, earthly strength. The powers are not political, economic, or even religious. The powers are super-natural, overcoming rain, hunger and plaques.

When Jesus was in the desert (Luke 3) he faced the temptation of conquering hunger, political power and supernatural power over death as it was offered by Satan.

The psalmist is not referring to military “boot camp” training but to training in the practice of the teachings of Jesus to overcome death and not consider heaven like some simple continuation of life on earth but as something “completely different.” These teachings are the shield, protecting us in “battles” like those faced by Jesus in the desert. These lessons prepare us to battle to forces in society with which we will come up against. If we accept the training from Jesus, then we will be prepared to fend off the forces of the “abyss” which seek to conquer us.

The notes from the New American Bible explain that after the “martyrdom of the two witnesses, now called prophets, the ungodly rejoice for three and a half days, a symbolic period of time. Afterward, they go in triumph to heaven, as did Elijah.

After fighting the good fight or the fight for the good, these witnesses are invited into the kingdom. “Come up here.” These are very much like the words used in Jesus’ call to Phillip and Nathaniel, “Come and see.” They were being invited to see the heavenly at work in the temporal world. Today, St. John shares the invitation to experience the kingdom on a higher level.


Psalm 144 goes on to make an invitation. The poet asks the Lord to come to earth. “Incline your heavens and come; touch the mountains and make them smoke (144:5).” Just as Jesus asks us to follow him so we can experience heaven, when we truly have a two-way relationship with the Lord, we also will invite him into our lives to guide us. Then, we are truly the children of God. Send out your invitation today.

* * * * * * *

Where were you on November 22, 1963? Can you believe that JFK was assassinated 45 years ago today.

Image credit: Carlo Saraceni, Saint Cecilia and the Angel, c. 1610 - Oil on canvas, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A House of Prayer

November 21, 2008

Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, “Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” So I went up to the angel and told him to give me the small scroll. He said to me, “Take and swallow it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will taste as sweet as honey.” Revelation 10:8-9

Then Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.’” Luke 19:465-46


Father in heaven, on this feast day of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, help us remember your words that ring out and proclaim, “Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother, and sister, and mother.” Brother Jesus, remind us to follow the will of the Father and not the whims of the marketplace. That marketplace sometimes ignores the human and moral dimensions of life, especially during this current financial crisis. Holy Spirit, help us to achieve greater responsibility, accountability and transparency in our man-made institutions and laws.

The principle of solidarity in Catholic Social Teaching reminds us that we are in this together and warns us that concern for narrow interests alone can make things worse. The principle of solidarity commits us to the pursuit of the common good, not the search for partisan gain or economic advantage. Protection of the vulnerable – workers, business owners, homeowners, renters, and stockholders – must be included in the commitment to protect economic institutions. Guide our political and religious leaders as we ask that they give proper priority to the poor and the most vulnerable. Amen.


Corruption. When we get our hands on something, anything, we have a tendency to corrupt it. Alter it. Damage it. Distort it. Harm it.

Everywhere we turn today, we find a den of thieves. Banks need bailouts. Insurance companies need bailouts. Airlines are in bankruptcy. Automobile makes are trying to avoid bankruptcy but right now, their private-jet-setting, zillion-dollar-geniuses have not been able to convince Congress to fill up their tin cup.

In the readings, Jesus enters Jerusalem and exerts his authority in the temple to cleanse it of man-made corruption. Jesus met the enemy and it was his own people.

In real-life, AIG said in its quarterly filing that it would allow employees to collect $503 million in deferred compensation. General Motors, Ford and Chrysler CEOs flew to Washington in their expensive private jets to ask for billions in guaranteed money from the government to help its ailing industry.

Just like we must take our medicine (pick up your cross and follow me), business leaders must take the medicine that the markets will dole out to them. Perhaps in time even the auto industry may get needed funds so it does not fall off the face of the earth thrusting millions of workers into unemployment and thousands of communities into deeper poverty.

Greg Erlandson, president and publisher of Our Sunday Visitor takes a serious look at who we have to blame and fear in all this economic strife. He identifies the den of thieves that have plundered our economy. As reprinted on the internet, his essay charges:

Instead of statues of a bull and bear on Wall Street, we should erect a Trojan horse, because what's pushed America to the brink of financial disaster was not all those [undocumented workers] coming in and "stealing" our jobs as busboys and janitors and underage laborers in meat-processing plants.

This was an inside job. It was made in America. It was all the hotshot brainiacs, our best college grads, the brokers and bankers pulling in bonuses that weren't just in the hundreds of thousands but in the millions.

Erlandson goes on to note:

I know people who are in this country illegally. They pay their taxes, they work two or three jobs at minimum wage and send money back home to support impoverished family members there.

Yes, they broke the law. Yes, a country has the right to enforce its laws and protect its borders.

But Americans have taken their eyes off the ball. We have not been done in by the strangers among us. We have been done in by our own.

Never has it been more true: We have met the enemy, and he is us.

Certainly words to ponder as we extricate ourselves from our own den of thieves.


Please give generously in the second collection this weekend.

The 2008 collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development will take place on November 22-23, the weekend before Thanksgiving, in most dioceses of the United States. In his announcement of the annual appeal and collection, Bishop Roger Morin, Auxiliary Bishop of New Orleans and chairman of the Bishops' Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, urged Catholics to participate.

"The current economic situation is squeezing everyone in our country. For some of us, that means more careful planning when we take the car to do errands, cutting back on restaurant dinners, and postponing discretionary purchases," said Bishop Morin. "For millions of Americans who live on the edge of poverty in the best of times, it means making wrenching choices every month about feeding their families, paying their rent, and getting necessary medical care."

"The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) helps the working poor and others who are trying to keep their heads above these turbulent waters. In the name of all of the Catholics in the United States, CCHD fights poverty and challenges injustice," Bishop Morin said. Please give generously this weekend.

Since 1970, CCHD has supported more than 4,000 small self-help projects initiated and led by poor people throughout the United States. Funds raised during the annual collection have been used in dioceses in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

Recent CCHD grant recipients include Tenants and Workers United in Alexandria, Virginia.

Image credit: Jesus Drives Out the Money Changers by El Greco.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What Makes for Peace

November 20, 2008

Thursday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

Then I saw a mighty angel who proclaimed in a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?" But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to examine it. Revelation 5:2-3

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


“What the Catholic Worker Believes” by Peter Maurin

The Catholic Worker believes in the gentle personalism of traditional Catholicism.
The Catholic Worker believes in the personal obligation of looking after the needs of our (sisters and) brothers.
The Catholic Worker believes in the daily practice of the Works of Mercy.
The Catholic Worker believes in Houses of Hospitality for the immediate relief of those who are in need.
The Catholic Worker believes in the establishment of Farming Communes where each one works according to his ability and gets according to his need.
The Catholic Worker believes in creating a new society within the shell of the old with the philosophy of the new, which is not a new philosophy but a very old philosophy, a philosophy so old that it looks like new.

(Peter Maurin founded the Catholic Worker movement with Dorothy Day in the early 20th century. Today over 185 Catholic Worker communities remain committed to nonviolence, voluntary poverty, prayer, and hospitality for the homeless, exiled, hungry, and foresaken. Catholic Workers continue to protest injustice, war, racism, and violence of all forms in ways that their faith leads them to what makes for peace.)


Readings from Revelation, Psalms, Luke, and Matthew give us pause to look back and remember the messages which we have heard throughout the liturgical year and to look ahead for what the future may bring. They do this all while focusing on central messages at the heart of our faith.

Looking back. The image coming to mind with these words from Revelation is the picture we encountered early in the Good News according to St. Luke. “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” We saw who was worthy in Luke 4 when Jesus first entered into the temple. After spending his days in the desert, Jesus returned to Galilee and entered the temple and delivered a “new hymn” within the structure of traditional old Hebrew scripture. In reality, as we hear the words, we realize that what Jesus read was not a new hymn but was a very old hymn (from Isaiah). It was so old that it just seemed like it was new.

He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: “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.” Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:17-21

This “Nazareth manifesto” outlines the social Gospel which we are to pray over, study, and put into practice. This is echoes in our reading today from Revelation. They sang a new hymn: “Worthy are you to receive the scroll and to break open its seals, for you were slain and with your blood you purchased for God those from every tribe and tongue, people and nation. You made them a kingdom and priests for our God, and they will reign on earth.” Revelation 5:9-10. This passage is fulfilled in our hearing.

From Nazareth, Jesus lived and loved and served his way on the road to Jerusalem where we see him today entering the city, knowing full well what is in store for him inside these walls and beyond. Jesus knows that his journey as a man is about to end and that the scripture passages about the slaying of the Lamb of God will be fulfilled next.

Looking forward. We look forward to the Resurrection experience when Jesus’ first words to the disciples in the Upper Room when he returns are “Peace be with you.” Yet, before we can experience that peace, we must experience the passion, death and resurrection. Foreseeing all that brings tears to the Savior’s eyes.

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


Are you ready, willing and able to spread this Good News by your words and deeds? Are you ready, as we wind up this liturgical year, to take this message from the sanctuary to the streets? I often recall a protest in which I was participating. Art Laffin from the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Community in Washington, D.C., turned to me and handed me his Bible opened to a critical passage. Standing there on the sidewalk of Pennsylvania Avenue, he asked me to read out loud a key passage. People walked by during their lunch hour probably thinking we were some crazy hippies. Yet we came not with a political message, but with a message inspired by faith.

Is it any less important to read the Good News on the streets than it is to study the Good News in the seminary? Is it any less important to share the Word standing in the public square than it is standing on the predella as a lector to proclaim the Good News in church? Are we not asked to bring that message into the world when we leave? Go in peace to love and serve the Word and the world. I probably do not stand in solidarity on Pennsylvania Avenue reading the Good News out loud enough. Maybe I ought to do it some more.

Where will you proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord? Do it from the seminary if that is where you are called. Do it from the sanctuary if that is where you are called. Do it from the streets if that is where you are called. The location matters not. The proclaiming matters all.
Credit: Original image “My Peace” created by Lee Hodges is posted for sale at

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What Must Happen Afterwards

November 19, 2008

Wednesday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

… I heard a trumpet like voice that had spoken to me before, saying, “Come up here and I will show you what must happen afterwards.” … At once I was caught up in the spirit. … the twenty-four elders fall down before the one who sits on the throne and worship him, who lives forever and ever. (Revelation 4:1-2; 10)

Let everything that has breath give praise to the Lord! Alleluia. (Psalms 150:6)

Upon his return, the nobleman rewarded the two servants who had turned single coins into ten and five respectively, and commanded that the servant who had kept his coin in a handkerchief to give it to the servant with ten coins. The nobleman said: “I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”(Luke 19:26)


Worthy are you, Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things; because of your will they came to be and were created. (Revelation 4:11)


When I was twelve, my mother’s youngest sister, Karen, moved from California to my hometown in South Dakota with her six boys ranging in age from eight to less than a year. Her husband was headed for a tour in Vietnam, and the thought was that it’d be good for Karen and the kids to be close to family. In the next two years, we celebrated a lot of birthdays and holidays and went on a lot of picnics together.

But my strongest memory is of the innumerable times that Karen drove up to our house in her big gold Impala, all six boys in tow, and hollered, “Who wants to go for a ride?” Somehow, the four Rigney kids clambered in with the Joneses. We’d go for what seemed like hours, Karen leading us in song after song after song in her clear, true soprano voice. Her personal favorite at the time was “The Magic Penny” song:

Love is something if you give it away, give it away, give it away

Love is something if you give it away; you end up having more.

It’s just like a magic penny; hold it tight, you won’t have any.

Lend it, spend it, and you’ll have so many, they’ll roll all over the floor.

Karen lived “The Magic Penny” song too. She gave me her prized baton and majorette boots, though it was clear even at twelve that I wasn’t majorette material (though I longed to be). She went on goofy meatpacking, dairy, and other industrial plant tours with us kids because we couldn’t do them without a chaperone. She faithfully took the boys, one of whom was deaf, to a weekly Mass for the deaf at a parish that was a bit inconvenient for the family.

I think about that servant who was so afraid to take that single coin out of his handkerchief. Then I think about Karen and other people I’ve known who fling their coins outward and upward, giving praise every day by their actions, not just their words. And I think, those are the people who will be ready for what comes afterwards, because they’re living in preparation for it today.


Today, give away some time, talent, or treasure on which you have little expectation of a quick return. Be amazed how amply you are repaid.