Monday, June 30, 2008
Tuesday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
You alone have I favored, more than all the families of the earth; Therefore, I will punish you for all your crimes. Do two walk together unless they have agreed? Does a lion roar in the forest when it has no prey? Does a young lion cry out from its den unless it has seized something? Is a bird brought to earth by a snare when there is no lure for it? Does a snare spring up from the ground without catching anything? Amos 3:2-5
But I can enter your house because of your great love. I can worship in your holy temple because of my reverence for you, LORD. Guide me in your justice because of my foes; make straight your way before me. Psalm 5:8-9
He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm. Matthew 8:26
Be good to me.
The sea is so wide
And my boat is so small
– Breton Fisherman’s Prayer
“Lord, save us! We are perishing!”
How would you deal with betrayal? In reading Amos, the Lord is accusing his people, his chosen people, with nothing less than betraying the covenant. He favored us above all the “families of the earth.” Yet, rather than meet his love with our love, the Lord does nothing but witness our crimes and betrayal.
Some might see the first reading from Amos as the Lord calling for a “just punishment” for our transgressions. Yet there is only one just punishment that we get from God – forgiveness. Despite his threats, the Lord will go to the ends of the earth to take care of our enemies be they natural or man-made.
Jesus is not out to start a war with us or our enemies. Rather he is there to start a Great Calm. Despite our lack of faith, Jesus' is the history not of wars but of peace.
When have you experienced Great Calm?
We live in a society that thrives on the opposite…agitation, stress, nervousness, restlessness. Our society is the culture of the little boat that carries the disciples. We are being tossed around on the great sea just like they were. Yet we can not seek Great Calm from our Home Theatre in a Box. We can try but it won’t work. We will not get Great Calm from our I-Pod, Peapod, Izod, political candidates or Supreme Court. We will not get Great Calm from our Passat, our Camry or our Mini-Cooper. We will not get Great Calm from our double-breasted blue blazer, Chevy Blazer or the Portland Trail Blazers.
The sooner we realize the source of Great Calm, the better off we will be.
Seek great calm.
Pray to God.
According to the Villanova Nursing School Website, prayer is a means to reduce stress that our culture thrusts before us. Such prayer is any act that brings us closer to our Creator. “It can be considered lifting one’s mind and heart to God. Prayer can be vocal or silent, thoughts or words, or in songs and dances. It can be for requesting or asking for help or for adoration, contrition, or thanksgiving. Prayer is talking with God about the everyday things of human life, about our joys and sorrows, our needs and wants, our disappointments and pleasures.
Prayer – and how an individual prays – is often shaped by religious beliefs. But one does not have to belong to a specific religion to pray. Prayer does not need a special time or place, or a specific body position. Talking with God can be done anytime and anywhere. It can be done in a quiet time every morning before the rest of the family is awake, a thank you for a good day, for warmth of the sun, for love of friends who support and assist us even on our bad or difficult days.”
Villanova cites studies over the last 20 years that have shown that prayer or religious involvement is good for people’s health. Although it is not known what specific effect prayer has on health, prayer can help to relieve stress and bring about a more relaxed state of mind, a higher level of contentment, and an acceptance of those things we cannot change.
So the next time your boat is being swamped by the tidal waves of cultural stress, remember what the disciples said in their hour of need. “Lord, save us! We are perishing!”
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Monday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
By Beth DeCristofaro
He that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies me; and to him that goes the right way I will show the salvation of God.” (Psalm 50:23)
A scribe approached and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” (Matthew 8:19-21)
Thank you, God, for the delights and wonders of the world and for my ability to be delighted and to feel wonder. Thank you, God, for the gift of your Son and thank you, God, for my ability and desire to follow him. Thank you, God, for the gift of others and the potency of community. Guide me to walk with others and see you in each of them. Guide me so that in all I think, feel and do, I offer praise as a sacrifice to glorify you.
My daughter is studying abroad and I follow her travels via the Internet, “googling” the destinations she visits. It has been wonderful seeing the sights of the world with this technology! Did you know that ancient houses look like beehives in Trulli, Italy or that Vikings lived and flourished in Dublin for centuries? Or that amethyst forms beneath the earth of Sardagna (Sardinia)? It has been educational and delightful but it is also an apt metaphor for what Jesus is telling us in today’s gospel.
The images are ethereal. They neither belong to me nor do their subjects “belong” to me in the sense that I have never stood at the archeological digs in Dublin nor walked the beaches of Sardagna. I can appreciate the inexhaustible creativity of God and appreciate the beauty of God through them – and even touch the experience of my daughter through them. However, they are not mine – I cannot “rest my head” upon them.
Jesus tries to tell the crowds that he cannot lay his head upon this earth because it belongs to his Father. Jesus has emptied himself in order to bring God’s will, not his own human message, to earth. He wants the scribe to know that what is real is God. He tells the disciple that relationships with God should have nothing obstructing them, even traditional fidelity to family. Jesus says to us that all our “belonging” in the world should be in and through him, the Son of Man, rather than things. Jesus came to serve and to save not to yield power or accumulate status and wealth.
John Paul II talked of our true belonging being in God, being given by God: “When (Jesus) began his teaching, his situation continued to be one of extreme poverty, as he himself bore witness to in a certain way by referring to the precarious conditions of life imposed by his ministry of evangelization. "Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head" (Luke 9:58)…. In this self-emptying which profoundly characterizes the truth about Christ, true man, we can say that it re-establishes it and restores it. When we read that the Son ‘did not regard equality with God something to be grasped,’ we cannot but see in these words an allusion to the first and original temptation to which Adam and Eve yielded in the beginning: ‘You will become (that is, you will be) like God, knowing good and evil’ (Genesis 3:5). They yielded to the temptation to be like God, even though they were only creatures. He who is God the Son ‘did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.’ In becoming man, "he emptied himself" and by that choice he restored all human beings, however poor and deprived, to their original dignity.” 
What do we think we “own”. Of course we have mortgages on our houses…but look at the sub prime experience of many who have been forced from “their” homes. Of course we have a job title or role we play. But what of the truth that no one is indispensable? What is “belongs” to me in the internet images I look at is my wonder, my delight and my praise of God for them. And all those are gifts, fabulous gifts! that God gave me. Although ethereal, they are real. God’s gifts are real and indispensable. God’s will is real and indispensable.
What is truly real and indispensable in my life? Do I nurture? Do I ignore? Do I love wholeheartedly, like Jesus does? Where do I place my time and effort?
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.
“Now I know for certain that (the) Lord sent his angel and rescued me.” Acts 12:11
“But who do you say that I am?” Matthew 16:15
Let us pray: May the moments in out lives reflect the moments in the lives of St. Peter and St. Paul that we share in sacred scripture. Help us, like these two saints, to move from denial and persecution to love in action as we make room in our lives for what is best – your son our Lord Jesus Christ. May our words and deeds reflect their pain, their teaching and their faith in God. Amen.
Christ asks the question of all questions in our Gospel of Today. Who do we say that he is? We often think of ourselves in terms of people that we know. It is a precious moment of life when we hear another tell us who we are. When I celebrated my 50th anniversary of being a Jesuit, Walter Burghardt was my preacher. As I listened to him, I heard my life described with words that captured the dream of who I wanted to be.
Words were put on that dream that made me say to myself I could like myself. Moments when people tell us who we are capture the poetry of life in ways that are always surprising in the energy for living life to the full they bring. It was not an idle question that Christ was asking of his disciples. Peter in giving his answer caught the attention of Christ in a special way. Peter’s greatness in the kingdom of God began on this day. Christ would build his Church on Peter because of his answer to this question. How do I answer the question? Piety is the answer I give to the question with my life. How is the Church being built up by the goodness of my actions?
Paul by his study found an answer to Christ’s question when he was on the road to Damascus and was asked by Christ why he was persecuting him.
Every Christian brings the presence of Christ. This year we celebrate the evangelizing of Paul. Paul went through his know world sharing the Christ he met in his prayer and in the Disciples of Christ, the Apostles. Paul says his life is being poured out like a libation. Paul after meeting Christ on his road to Damascus spent a good period of time studying Christ and what Christ taught. His study gave birth to a fearless courage that pushed Paul to offer Christ to all the Gentiles.
Action lays the foundation of the words of Christ in our lives. It is worth our while to take a good look at how the good things we have done in the name of Christ still lives on in family and friends. The word of Christ is bound in heaven by our efforts to share his name where we go.
It is important to give our answer to who we say Christ is. Christ is the best of who we are, created in the image and likeness of Christ.
When we find ourselves in Christ, we find the best of ourselves. Christ is the way, the truth and the light of who we are. Christ is morning sun in our lives that pushed away the darkness in the lives of those we serve. We say who Christ is best when we give our lives for the needs of the little ones of life. We make Christ real to our world when we are willing to take his place on the Cross with the problems of life we reach out to solve with his love in us. Christ is the love we have for each other that gives reality to his Mystical Body.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Memorial of Saint Irenaeus, bishop and martyr
Rise up, shrill in the night, at the beginning of every watch; Pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord; Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your little ones (Who faint from hunger at the corner of every street). Lamentations 2:19
The centurion said in reply, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” Matthew 8:8-9
Father, give me the fortitude to approach you and pour out my heart to you with my deepest desires. Jesus, lift up your hands to me as if I am a hungry child on a street corner. Respond to me with the love and openness that you answered the prayers of the leper and Roman centurion. Holy Spirit, guide me in obedience and humility to praise and thank the Lord by my willing service to the least of these. Amen.
Think of any big decision you have to make. Like most people you weigh the advantages and disadvantages, the proverbial “pro” and “con.”
Yet in the last two days, Jesus has been confronted by an outcast (the leper) and an oppressor (the Roman centurion). Not for a nanosecond did he hesitate to answer their prayers.
These encounters leave me with three questions:
Can we exhibit the strong faith shown by the leper and the centurion to turn to Jesus and ask Him to fulfill our deepest desire?
When we come face-to-face with the poor, can we with unwavering in love, just do whatever people ask of us?
After we experience any encounter with Jesus, especially one filled with healing, can we show the strong faith in action and return the love by serving those around us as we have been served?
As Jesus put the words of his ministry into action, Jesus never said, “If people see me with this leper, they won’t follow me or listen to me.” Jesus did not think, “If I help this centurion, then the Jews will treat me as a traitor.”
Contrast that with Peter in the wee small hours of an ancient Good Friday morning. When he was recognized by people in the courtyard as being a follower of Jesus, what images went through Peter’s mind? Perhaps he thought, “If they know I was with Jesus, then maybe I will be arrested, too. They might put me in jail, or worse. I could end up like John the Baptist.” So for Peter, it was just so much easier to save himself and deny Jesus.
But Jesus does not think that way. Jesus knows he is not here to save himself. He is here to save us. It does not matter if we are his family member, an outcast or an oppressor or the enemy. If we have faith and approach him in obedience and humility, he will answer us the same way he answered the centurion. “I will come and cure him.”
The only “pro” and “con” that Jesus knows is love. He behaves as if he were taking orders from the Roman centurion. People under his command and his slaves follow his orders because of his position and power. Jesus knows he has no position power. People must follow his commands because they freely choose to do so.
In the cases of the leper and centurion, we have no idea how they reacted to Jesus’ miracle. However, today, we see how Peter’s mother reacted. Again, Jesus moves quickly into action when he sees her in need.
Jesus entered the house of Peter, and saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand, the fever left her, and she rose and waited on him. Matthew 8:14-15
Peter’s mother-in-law did not even have to ask for healing. Jesus saw her need, reached out and cured her with his simple, healing touch. His miracle was met with her service.
Most people who were cured by Jesus just got up and went about their lives. But here is one case where we learn something more. One interpretation from the “Women in the Bible” web site explains it this way: Peter’s mother-in-law, however, immediately rose and began to “serve” him. The Greek word for this service was “diakoneo” which can mean to prepare a table. It can also mean to “minister.” This same word was used to describe what Jesus did for us and commanded us to do for others.
But Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28
Put Jesus words from Matthew 20 into action today. Who will you serve with “such faith?”
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Friday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
And then a leper approached, did him homage, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I will do it. Be made clean.” His leprosy was cleansed immediately. Matthew 8:2-3
Jesus, we often want to see ourselves in your shoes when we read today’s Gospel --- standing up and serving those you send to us in need. How often are we in the role of the leper and do not even know it?
Help me to approach you and ask of you the most audacious things in the world. Stretch out your hand and touch me granting my prayer borne out of faithful piety, personal knowledge of you as my savior, and healing love that only you can provide. Amen.
It would be an understatement to say that the leper in today’s Gospel has a “moment close to Christ.” Yet in these four simple lines, we have the essence of the Cursillo experience.
First, the leper expresses his faith in Christ. Yesterday, Jesus told us that blessed is the one how hears the word of God and acts upon it. The leper becomes the leaper…jumping up to approach Christ in faith and ask for aid. The leper clearly acts as if one who built his house upon rock. Yet as one who was shunned and banished from being with society, how much courage must he have shown just to approach Jesus – the Messiah who also would find himself shunned, banished from society and left to die on the cross at Golgotha.
Second, the leper shows us that through faith, he truly has come to know Jesus. He did not need years of study, a degree from a fancy divinity school, or anything of the sort. Based upon his faith, the leper had come to know Jesus well enough not to fear approaching him with the biggest request of all.
Finally, the faithfulness and knowledge pays off. The daring approach that the leper makes to Christ is met by an equally daring response. This Messiah who preached “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you” now shows exactly what he meant in those words. He takes the Gospel from being something that is said to something that is done. Jesus does not leave it up to others to do the work. He does exactly what he asks us to do…love others.
How easy it would be to love our own family and the neighbors on our street. Yet Jesus takes this man – cruelly afflicted by this disfiguring disease, and shows us how to be totally at ease in his presence.
How shocking must the disciples have been to hear Jesus say, “I will do it.” Rather than send the man off for ritually purification, Jesus accepts him as he is – a good and faithful servant who has risked all to approach his Lord.
And the prayer is not granted in time...eventaully. The prayer request is granted IMMEDIATELY. God does not hesitate to act when we approach with a humble heart filled with faith like the leper in today's story.
The twist here is how the man responds to Jesus’ command. Jesus instructs him to tell no one what has happened. Yet in the tellingf this story, just the opposite occurs. Everyone learns how Jesus changes the man’s life. This encounter paves the way for a new church built upon three pillars – 1) faithfulness rooted in personal piety, 2) intimate knowledge of God established through right relationships and study, and 3) action that turns words herd into deeds acted upon. This encounter paves the way for the life of a cursillista.
Jesus doesn’t always ask us to do the easy things in life. Occasionally, he sends a leper our way. Who is the leper facing you? Or are you the leper needing healing?
My leper is fear. And a prime example of that fear is expressed in two words: prison ministry. I know that many people in our church provide marvelous witness and service inside jails and prisons. Yet because of some irrational fear, I have never joined in that special service.
Another set of lepers that Jesus sends to face me are the homeless men and woman who stand every day on the street outside my office. How often do I drive into the garage or walk past them into the building without acknowledging their presence. Today’s Gospel is screaming for me to stop and say, “I will serve them” rather than hide, protected in my cocoon.
Who is the leper facing you? What healing do you seek?
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. Matthew 7:24-25
Slow me down Lord. Let me sit at your feet and listen attentively to the Word that you speak to me. Send your Spirit to help me listen and act on what you have asked of me. Amen.
Scribes faithfully copies and passed along the teachings and the traditions of earlier prophets. However, those who heard Jesus preach today’s lesson concluded that this was something new, something original. The people had not heard these lessons before. So they concluded that Jesus’ teaching came from his own authority, not from invoking earlier sources.
What was the message that so moved them?
Some messages are heard so often that they become cliché, trite. You have heard countless times in different phrases: “Do as I do, not as I say.” “Don’t just talk the talk, you have to walk the walk.” These phrases contrast words said and deeds done. Been there. Done that.
Jesus draws a different distinction. It is not just the words are said which matter. What matters is that we pay attention. Jesus doesn’t want to waste his breathe. He did not give up life in heaven with his loving father to join us down here in our earthy existence to be ignored. He wants us to hear what he has to say. Even the Father admonishes us that this is his beloved son. “Listen to him.”
So much gets in the way of what we hear.
Think about these words that your HEAR during your next conversation, your next ritual, or your next liturgy. Pray about being able to truly listen before you attend the next celebration of the Mass.
Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
Listen and act. So many obstacles get in the way of our listening and our acting.
As people talk, what else are you doing? Reading the newspaper, checking your e-mail on the Blackberry, typing up the minutes to the meeting, eating, driving, daydreaming.
Imagine being in the temple with Jesus for today’s Gospel. If the message you were getting was from Jesus and you were thinking about the shopping list for Giant or Safeway, how to beat the traffic getting to the Redskins/Nationals/golf course/etc., what might you miss? Would you dare to be pre-occupied with something else when He was speaking? Would his words go in one ear and out the other? Or might they not even make it into one ear? How can you possibly listen – let alone act upon those words – if your mind, your heart or your hands are otherwise engaged?
What if the Lord is using someone else to send you a message? Your spouse? Your child? Your parish priest. A co-worker? The homeless man or woman on the park bench? Yet you were concerned about following your Mapquest directions, finding a cheap gas station, or scouting for a rest area. What might you miss?
In our fast-paced culture, we are encouraged to multi-task. Yet Jesus values the person who is focused. Remember, Martha was worried about the too many things but Mary sat at the Lord’s feet and listened.
As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary (who) sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” Luke 10:38-42
I can not help but think about the people in Darfur who are facing genocide today.
Someone is being killed because their skin color is too dark or too light. Someone is being killed because they were born on the wrong side of the border. This is genocide. How can we be silent when people are crying out for life?
When we discovered the internment/death camps -- Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Majdanek -- we did not even have a term for the crime that was being committed. According to the U.S. Holocaust Museum, it was not until 1944 when a Polish-Jewish lawyer named Raphael Lemkin sought to describe Nazi policies of systematic murder, including the destruction of the European Jews. He formed the word "genocide" by combining geno-, from the Greek word for race or tribe, with -cide, from the Latin word for killing. In proposing this new term, Lemkin had in mind "a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves." The next year, the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg charged top Nazis with "crimes against humanity." The word “genocide” was included in the indictment, but as a descriptive, not legal, term.
We vowed to never let it happen again. But then the world did not act when genocide happened in Rwanda. We vowed to never let it happen again. But then the world did not act when genocide happened in Kosova. We vowed to never let it happen again. Will the world make those facing death wait until a new president is elected in the U.S. before it acts?
Urge all your leaders to support the victims in Darfur. Urge them to make sure that the peacekeepers have the resources required to protect those they serve.
Listen to their cries. And ACT ON THEM!
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Wednesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
By Melanie Rigney
Standing by the column, the king made a covenant before the Lord that they would follow him and observe his ordinances, statutes and decrees with their whole hearts and souls, thus reviving the terms of the covenant which were written in this book. And all the people stood as participants in the covenant. (2 Kings 23:3)
Lead me in the path of your commands, for that is my delight. (Psalms 109: 35)
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. (Matthew 7:15)
Lord, help me to honor the covenants you have made with me. Let me listen only to you, and ignore the false prophets who try to snatch my life.
Consider the life of Josiah, or Josias if you prefer.
“Before him there had been no king who turned to the Lord as he did,” we’re told later in this chapter of 2 Kings. He was just eight years old at the beginning of his reign, and before he was forty, he was dead, slain at Mageddo.
In today’s reading, he gathers up all the people of Jerusalem, “small and great” and shares the contents of the book of the covenant. He promises his people will follow the Lord’s desires and gets to work. According to The People of the Covenant: An Invitation to the Old Testament, Josiah proceeds to purify the temple, dismantle inappropriate shrines of worship, and demands that the Passover be celebrated regularly.
Not too shabby for thirty years of work.
As for Pharaoh Nechao, whose army killed Josiah, he continued eastward after the battle, defeating the Assyrians and as a result ruling territory from Egypt to what is now northern Iraq. Four years later, Nechao marched again to the Euphrates and was routed by Nebuchadnezzar, who took back all the territory the Egyptians had conquered. Shortly thereafter, he died.
Who had the greater impact, the longer legacy? No real question there. Who followed the Lord’s commands, rather than the false prophets of land and power? Is there any real surprise that almost no one’s ever heard of Nechao, but that Josiah garners such praise?
Our own covenants with the Lord may appear less dramatic, but they involve struggle all the same: faith, obedience, trust, hope, whatever we want to call them. Let us follow the example of Josiah and burn with passion in fulfilling our end of the covenant no matter how much or how little time we are given.
What are God’s covenants with you? Write down three ways you can better honor them this week.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist Mass during the Day
It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. Isaiah 49:6
Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel. Luke 1:65-66, 80
Father in heaven, help us to prepare the way of the Lord. Give us what we need to grow strong in the spirit so we can accept the tasks the Lord has reserved for us. Help us to be like John and live lives of simplicity and hope. Help us to be like John and reveal and affirm your truth that is so often hidden from the world. Help us to hear the Lord calling us as he has since we were in our mother’s womb. And make our hearts leap in faith as we confront the face of the Lord in all those we meet. Amen.
(Based on prayers for today in Benedictine Daily Prayer: A Short Breviary.)
After recounting key parts of the Biblical story of Elijah for the past two weeks in our readings, we turn our attention today to the appearance of the prophetic voice in the Bible who opened eyes and ears to the messenger who was to follow. Like Elijah, John would rebuke kings for breaking the law. But unlike Elijah, John was the final prophet to prepare the people of Israel for the coming of the Messiah.
Yet his message was so profound, the city could not even hold him. St. Gregory Palamas noted that John lived in the desert because “the world was not worthy of him.” John became a voice crying out in the wilderness. What a voice he was and what a message he shared.
Throughout all history, all time, do you know that there are ONLY TWO people whose very birth is commemorated by Church feasts? We all know that Jesus is one…Christmas. John, as you have probably guessed, is the other. Today we could call “Johnmas” this Solemnity of the Birth of John which comes exactly six months before Christmas Eve. As St. Augustine put it, “Surely this fact can not be without significance!”
St. Augustine noted the contrasts between these two pillars of love in his Sermons: “John was born of an aged barren woman; Christ, of a young virgin. John John’s father did not believe in his birth and was struck dumb; Christ found belief and was conceived by faith.” He continued that John is the boundary-wall between the old and the new covenants. Even in the womb, John was a prophet leaping for joy at Mary’s coming.
Zechariah’s voice was restored when his son was born…a son who became the voice crying out in the desert. St. Augustine concludes that “John was the Voice, but the Lord is the Word.”
As we think about John the Baptist living in the desert, we must realize that so many of our sisters and brothers live without a home in today’s world. The Church is an active champion to care for those who are homeless.
According to an action alert by the USCCB:
The Federal Housing Finance Regulatory Reform Act of 2008 (no bill number has been assigned yet), a broad government sponsored enterprises/foreclosure prevention bill, which passed the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee with strong bipartisan support on May 20, could come to the Senate floor for a vote any day now. This bill includes a National Housing Trust Fund that would produce and preserve housing for extremely low and very low income households.
Catholic Social Teaching has long recognized housing as a basic human right. The Catholic community—through its parishes, diocesan structures, and Catholic Charities agencies—is one of the largest providers of shelter in the nation. Since the late 1960's, the federal government through the Department of Housing and Urban Development has solicited, encouraged, and funded a variety of Church sponsored housing--particularly senior housing, transitional housing, homeless shelters, and some family units.
Bishop William Murphy, on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has written to the Senate urging support of a National Housing Trust Fund as “a genuine opportunity to let the American people know that the housing needs of low-income families are a national priority...” and to “demonstrate how vitally important housing is to the well-being of families and our communities.”
Please call your senators today, urging them to support the Housing Trust Fund championed by Senators Christopher Dodd and Jack Reed in the Senate Banking Committee. Please use this toll free number, 1-877-210-5351, to reach the Congressional switchboard and ask to be connected to your senators’ offices. Ask to speak to the legislative assistant who handles housing issues for your senators. You may locate your Senators at www.senate.gov.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Monday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
By Beth DeCristofaro
They did not listen, but were as stiff-necked as their fathers. (2 Kings 17:14)
Help us with your right hand, O Lord, and answer us. (Psalm 60:7)
You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:5)
Jesus, your forgiving, loving life challenged but did not hurt those to whom you spoke truth and life. Help me love and not hurt others by what I say and do. Help me see you in others so that I love rather than judge. Help me with your right hand to not be blind and stiff-necked but filled with your grace and blessings.
Jesus just can’t seem to let it go the importance of forgiveness and judgment in these recent readings. He even puts forgiveness into the prayer which, he teaches us, goes straight to the top: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…” Easier said than done. Staying in constant communication – prayer – with our Lord for encouragement, guidance, and prodding to help us see our own stiff-necked attitudes and our wooden-beamed hypocrisy is fundamental.
A distracting factor is our belief that we must “forgive and forget”. Forgetting a hurt is almost impossible for us humans. Look at the animosity between Turks and Greeks or sports fans who can recite stats and scores from games lost years ago. I still find myself agitated with a family member who hurt others years ago. I believe that I’ve forgiven him but I struggle to forget. In fact I choose to remember that I now don’t trust him, that he brought pain to my father and that he was self-centered.
Perhaps we can turn the lack of forgetting is actually a cross which can aid us into growing toward, not away from God; a way to relax our stiff-necks. My agitation affects me physically (stiff neck is not just an image). In my remembering, I could choose to pray for this miscreant and remember that God gave him a second chance. I could remember that I have made mistakes and, by God’s grace, I have not made the specific mistake that this relative made. I could consider, with awe, that God created this relative and that “God doesn’t make junk”. Who am I to trash this person? I could remember that each day, with my assent, God draws me ever closer in love just as God draws my relative ever closer. That is both gift and promise. I could rejoice that we all can try, try and try again. But first we get out of our own way by removing the beam from our own eye and looking for God.
Thanks, Cursillista Laura, for a timely e-mail anecdote. Have you read the story of the taxi driver who refused to get mad at the dangerous and churlish actions of other drivers? His attitude was “the law of the garbage truck” which he explained as: “He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they'll dump it on you. Don't take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Don't take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets. The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day.”
I would add that by taking on the garbage of judgment, lack of forgiveness, anger, revenge or by not removing the garbage (beam) from our own eyes, we leave no room for grace. Not taking on the garbage allows God to fill us with grace. Grace allows God’s fruit to bloom in the world through our actions, uncorrupted by garbage. What garbage have you taken on? What measure are you reaping by measuring out judgment and lack of forgiveness? Say a prayer for yourself and for the one needing forgiveness. What are the fruits which you bring to God’s world?
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.
But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph. In their failure they will be put to utter shame, to lasting, unforgettable confusion. Jeremiah 20:11
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31
Jesus, please make me worthy of your tests as you know what is on my mind and in my heart. Help me to place my complete trust in you at all stages of life so that you can rescue the life of this poor servant from the forces of the world. Amen.
Our gospel tells us that the hairs of our head are counted. Jesus tells us to fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed. God has every little blessed thing of our life there because he loves us.
There is nothing that is not under the control of our Lord. God values in us even what would seem to have little value in itself. God is the master of all that we survey. So why do we let any fear find a place in our heart? Sin is where fear is born. It discolors the beauty of God’s creation. The sin that came into the world by the transgression of Adam brought death as the utter falling apart of what is truly beautiful in God’s creation. But it is Christ who gives us the gracious gift that overflows for the many in his life.
Complaints about being on time, how people waste time, how people have strange ways of fixing blinds that shut out the beauty of the Light of the Lord weaken our enthusiasm about life and the beauty that is to be found if we take the time to smell the roses. We have to turn with all our hearts and minds and feelings to the Lord. The Lord is with us. The Lord rescues the life of the poor from the power of the wicked.
Last week I went to the ordination of four young Jesuits and was pleased to see two old friends receive the gift of priesthood. Listening to the words of ordination and hearing the challenge to bring the good news to the poor opened my eyes once again to the wondrous privilege it is to be a priest of Jesus Christ. Before the ordination I visited old Jesuits friends who are near the end of their lives. They were shadows of their former selves. Unable to do the work of priesthood any more they are men that have the chance to pray for the rest of us. The wonderful thing they have done in their lives overshadows the weaknesses of their priesthood. I felt the collision of the meeting of the beginning and the end. I knew gladness that I am still able to share the Lord. To be with friends close to death even for few moments stirred up the memory of life shared. The joy in the memory of things done well opened my heart to a greater appreciation of how God sees and looks over all that we would do in his name. How to see the good that is waiting for us to do is part of the mystery of working for the God who counts each of our hairs and knows the sparrows that do not fall to the ground without His being aware of what is happening.
Piety, study and action fit together in the divine plan. Discouragement is born of our blindness. The gifts of the Spirit are how the life of Christ comes alive in his Church. It is the coming together of our plans that gives body to the Mystical Body of Christ. The Lord in his great love for us answers our prayers and makes every effort of out lives for our brothers and sisters a God work that captures the ongoing love of God for us. The gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflows for the many in the love we have for one another. Because we are acknowledging Christ before the heavenly Father in the good we do for one another, Christ acknowledges his love of us before the heavenly Father. We have nothing to fear in Christ who strengthens us by sharing his priesthood through the Church and activating it in all of us by the ways we give our lives for each other. If we have any regret at all, it should be that we have only one life to give for our Lord who has given us all life in the gift of His.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Memorial of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, religious
Although prophets were sent to them to convert them to the LORD, the people would not listen to their warnings. 2 Chronicles 24:19
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. Matthew 6:27-28
Let us pray: Father, in the spirit of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, help us to sense and live in your real presence. Jesus, in the humility and obedience that St. Al showed, help us to accept the instructions that we are given to accomplish the work of God. Holy Spirit, watch over those who work in hospitals and protect them and those for whom they offer your loving care especially victims of HIV/AIDS. Amen.
“Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.”
“Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns,yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”
The generosity of the Father reminds me of the famous passage in the next chapter of Matthew’s Gospel: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him. Matthew 7:7-1
In the face of all this godly generosity, we memorialize St. Al – Aloysius Gonzaga, the patron saint of Catholic youth – whose life was cut short after only 23 years. Despite being born into a family of great wealth and power, he renounced all he could inherit as the first son and finally got this father to agree to allow him to join the Society of Jesus. He did not worry about what he would wear, what he would eat, or how he would look. Instead, he devoted himself to a life of prayer and did what his “superiors” in the Jesuits asked him to do.
When the plague broke out in Rome, St. Al was assigned to the hospital to care for the ill where he was exposed to the disease, caught it and died before he was 23. In his short years, he received his first communion from St. Charles Borromeo and then learned the faith at the classroom of St. Robert Bellarmine, his spiritual advisor.
His attitude upon contracting the deadly plague was one of serene holiness. In a letter ti his mother, St. Al wrote:
I must admit that when I plunge into contemplation of the divine goodness, that bottomless and shoreless sea, I cannot grasp why God should summon me to eternal rest in recompense for such brief and insignificant toil, or why he should call me to a happiness I have so lukewarmly sought, and promise a reward for tears of which I have shed so few.
Please Mother, do not insult God’s infinite goodness by lamenting for me as dead, when in reality I shall be living in God’s presence and helping you far more than I ever did in my present life. The separation will not be a long one; we shall be reunited with each other in heaven when we join our Redeemer and joyfully sing his mercies forever. He takes away the life he had earlier given us, only to establish it in a safer place and to fill it with the blessings we had always desired.
The image of St. Al caring for the ill in a Rome hospital has its modern parallel in the care needed for AIDS patients throughout the world. Currently, the Senate is debating a Global Aids bill called the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). However, the bill is stalled and no vote is scheduled. Catholic Relief Services and Bishop Thomas G. Wenski are urging Catholics to contact their senators and ask for action on this bill.
Contact your Senators now and urge them to reach a bipartisan consensus to reauthorize PEPFAR. According to CRS, “Catholic health institutions deliver approximately 25 percent of all HIV and AIDS care worldwide. Much of this care requires advanced planning while many care providers depend on U.S. government funding to carry out their programs. Without a firm commitment to reauthorize the PEPFAR program, care providers cannot plan for future activities. The risk of suspension in assured funding, however brief, could disrupt HIV treatment, undermine the credibility of healthcare institutions providing HIV services, and endanger lives.”
The CRS web site announcement goes on to say: Our faith tradition as Catholics requires us to care for “the least of these” and to uphold the life and dignity of all people. People affected by HIV or suffering from AIDS need and deserve our love and care, just as Jesus called on us to care for those who are hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill. Catholic social teaching instructs us to live in solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the world. Pope Benedict XVI, in his World AIDS Day message in 2007 stated: “I wish to exhort all people of good will to increase their efforts to halt the spread of the HIV virus, to combat the disdain which is often directed towards people who are affected by it, and to care for the sick, especially those who are still children.”
The Church strongly supports PEDFAR and Bishop Wenski’s op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel concludes: PEPFAR has a proven track record of success. Delay is not an option. The lives of millions who struggle with these terrible diseases are at risk. It is essential for the Senate to act now to renew and expand this life-saving initiative.
As a fitting memorial to St. Al, please contact your Senator today. Use the simple form on the CRS web site linked above to send a message to your Senators. It will only take 1 minute to fill out the form.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Friday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness. And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be. Matthew 6:22-23
Jesus son of David, have pity on me for investing blindly in the index funds of the world without regard to how my money is used to support the values you ask me to share. Open my mind, my heart and my eyes to the needs of the world and show me how to use my resources for the commonwealth of all. Amen.
“We read the Gospel as if we had no money, and we spend our money as if we know nothing of the Gospel.” – John Haughey, S.J. (as quoted by the Bartimaeus Cooperative).
So have you reconciled your bank statement anytime recently? Or checked the balance in your 401(K) or Thrift Savings Account? So how can we “dollar-cost average” the treasures we are encouraged to store up in heaven?
Reading today’s Gospel makes it particularly difficult to reconcile ‘storing up” such treasures on earth while there are so many people who face such overwhelming poverty.
Yesterday we took time to imagine Jesus teaching us to pray. We all know that “Jesus Saves.” So how would Jesus teach us to save?
As we save for legitimate purposes, we should be aware of how our money is being used while we sleep. It takes some research. But if you oppose (fill in the blank), are you sure that your retirement fund is not investing in practices or industries to which you would not offer support?
It was quite easy to shift funds in my retirement account into what is called a socially responsible fund. A little research at the site http://www.sri-advisor.com/index.html will show you some of the many social index investment funds and information on how they screen investment choices. Several funds use Catholic Social Teaching as a basis for investment decisions. You don’t have to sacrifice your personal beliefs along the way to saving for the education of your children, expenses in retirement, or other goals.
After doing your research, a simple call to the toll-free number of your investment company will start you on the road to investing in ways that conform to your personal values and the Gospel values.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Thursday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Till like a fire there appeared the prophet whose words were as a flaming furnace. Their staff of bread he shattered, in his zeal he reduced them to straits; By God's word he shut up the heavens and three times brought down fire. Sirach 48:1-3
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matthew 6:8
Our Father, hear me call your name.
You are in Heaven. Make a place for us with you.
Holy is your name.
We wait with hope for the coming of your kingdom.
We pray that your will, not ours, will be done here on earth as it is done in heaven.
Give us what we need for this day.
Help us to share our manna with others in need.
Forgive us our debts and sins. Give us the sense of justice and relationship to realize that we also must forgive those who violate us.
Lead us not into temptation and protect us from forces that will entice us there.
Deliver us from evil into your hands.
God, what you provide to us is the kingdom, the power and the glory now and forever.
Ben Sirach gives us a tribute to the greatness of the prophet Elijah “whose words were like a flaming furnace.” Yes…Elijah spoke the proverbial “truth to power” when he had to confront King Ahab on the drought, on the unlawful murder and on taking over the land of his neighbors. Yet he often went up on the mountain and waited to hear God tell him what to do and say. He went to the desert and waited to hear God tell him what to do and say. He hid in the forest and waited to hear God tell him what to do and say.
Elijah had to discern what the real message was…and sometimes it was not in the thunder and the rain, not in the fire and the earthquake. Sometimes, God would teach Elijah to pray in the simplest ways by just listening for the smallest sound.
Jesus today takes the disciples aside and tells them that they do not need to call down thunder and lightning, fire and rain to get the attention of God. He tells us we don’t need a lot of words either. We don’t need them because our Father who is in heaven, knows what we need before we ask.
The Lord is not playing some cheap, mind-reading parlor game. He knows what we need because he dwells within us…he is us. We have him in our minds, on our lips, in our hearts and in our souls. He knows what we need because he loves us. Like a mother knows when her baby is hungry, the Lord knows for what we hunger. Like a father knows when his child is lonely, the Lord knows for what we long. Think of how you protect that which you made. If you built a house, you care for it daily. If you raised a child you love her or him every minute even when they are not with you. That is the same with the Lord. God knows what we need because in Eucharist, the Lord’s very being is consumed into our very being. What we need is what he needs.
Imagine you are settled into you quiet place this morning, or this afternoon, or tonight. You don’t know how to start your encounter with the Lord. So listen to his words in today’s Gospel. Just start by calling out the Lord’s name. “Abba! Abba Father. You are the potter and we are the clay. We are the work of your hands.” Tell him what you wish for. Tell him what you will do in order to get that wish. Ask the Lord to walk with you and protect you from the evil in the world and the evil in your heart. Tell the Lord that you want to be just like Him and help others to get what they need in life.
Before we can get God’s love, we must ask for forgiveness. Before we can get God’s love, we must offer our own personal forgiveness to others.
Write down something that you want to ask God to forgive you for.
Write down something that you want to forgive in others.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
By Melanie Rigney
Love the Lord, all you faithful. The Lord protects the loyal, but repays the arrogant in full. (Psalms 31:24)
Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. (Matthew 6:1)
Lord, Your words convict me of my arrogance. Help me to do good in Your name, not so that I may attract accolades.
I can be pretty strident about brevity in communication. For example, a fundraising letter set to appear in the bulletin was shared at a recent council meeting at my parish. I was quick to grumble that the text was twice as long as anyone would read. You see, I think of myself as the Mark of the Tripod Foursome. I wish my thoughts and words flowed as beautifully and poetically as those of Father Joe, Tony, and Beth do, but we all have different gifts. Mine is writing tightly and clearly.
For that reason, I was struck by the necessity in today’s Gospel reading of three words: “in order that.” They’re words I delete from almost every manuscript, essay, white paper, and other document I edit for the government or on a freelance basis. Worthless verbosity, I’ve always said. Try it yourself; 99 times out of 100, you can eliminate them without changing what’s being said whatsoever.
But the phrase is crucial in Matthew 6:1. Christ isn’t saying here that no one can ever know we’ve done good. Rather, he advises us against doing good “in order that,” for the purpose that, others see it. That’s what meant by “secret” as it appears several times later in the reading; not that our works are for naught if someone finds out, but rather that we are to remain pure and focused in the reason we perform them. In my case, I told myself the desire to have stronger, more effective fundraising letters was behind my comment, but in reality, it was all about grandstanding—and arrogance.
May God give us the wisdom and strength to do good without expecting a payback from Him, our colleagues, or ourselves. Let us perform righteous deeds with open, loving hearts because we strive to be righteous, and for no other reason.
Where is your arrogance in performing righteous deeds? In the way you provide service in your parish? In the way you talk about your work accomplishments? In the way you interact with the disenfranchised of our society? Journal about your arrogance, and come up with ways in which you can do these acts to praise God and for no other reason.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
When Ahab heard these words, he tore his garments and put on sackcloth over his bare flesh. He fasted, slept in the sackcloth, and went about subdued. Then the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Have you seen that Ahab has humbled himself before me? Since he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his time. I will bring the evil upon his house during the reign of his son.” 1 Kings 21:27-29
But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. Matthew 5: 44-45
Lord God, reading is so easy but doing is so long and so difficult. Help us to put Matthew 5 into practice. Jesus, you set for us an example of dying for the sinner, not only for the just and the good. Then you sent your servants to show us that it can be done. Mary. Peter. Paul. Francis. Benedict. Theresa. Change us so we can change the world. Help us to mirror your example and that of the saints as we work to help all people, friend and foe alike. Amen.
Elijah speaks truth to power. He knows of King Ahab and Jezebel’s act of treachery and murder. So Elijah spells out exactly what the future will hold.
“Because you have given yourself up to doing evil in the LORD'S sight, I am bringing evil upon you: I will destroy you and will cut off every male in Ahab's line, whether slave or freeman, in Israel. I will make your house like that of Jeroboam, son of Nebat, and like that of Baasha, son of Ahijah, because of how you have provoked me by leading Israel into sin.” 1 Kings 21:20-22
Ahab is condemned because, not only of the murder, but also all of his evil doing. He became completely abominable by following idols, just as the Amorites had done, whom the LORD drove out before the Israelites. (1Kings 21:26) However, it is a future that Ahab wants to avoid so he repents for his latest sin.
The notes to the New American Bible tell us that in the Hebrew Bible, hatred of evil persons is assumed to be right. Once again, Jesus comes along and changes everything. Jesus extends the love commandment beyond just our family and neighbor to the stranger, the enemy and the persecutor. As his sisters and brothers, we must imitate His example and the example of Our Father, who grants his gifts to both the good and the bad.
The vengeful God of 1 Kings is gone. In his place is a loving God. The wrath that the God of 1 Kings saves up for future heirs of Ahab’s line is gone. In its place is a forgiveness that lasts generations. Now, God will not only forgive the repentant sinner, but also those who come after.
Our job: surpass the code of conduct that binds others. In such perfection, we must mirror God in mercy and forgiveness.
Our job is to be like Elijah and not to pull any punches when it comes to warning people away from their sinful ways. That is a job easier said than done. Who wants to be seen as sanctimonious? Who wants to be the bearer of constant warnings about sin? Who wants to be the judge and jury? Such a role does not sound like fun. We might end up being shunned like the neighborhood scold.
Yet time after time, that is what we face. As Ezekiel warns, it is as much our job to warn the sinner as it is to live according to the right relationship with God and our sisters and brothers.
You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me. If I tell the wicked man that he shall surely die, and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked man from his way, he (the wicked man) shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warn the wicked man, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself. Ezekiel 33:7-9
What is a warning that you would like to issue to those around you?
What warning are people trying to tell you? How will you react? Will you be defensive or will you accept their warning as Ahab accepted the warning of Elijah?
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Monday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
By Beth DeCristofaro
When Jezebel learned that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Go on, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite … Ahab started off on his waydown to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it. (1 Kings 21:15-16)
At dawn I bring my plea expectantly before you. For you, O God, delight not in wickedness. (Psalm 5:4)
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. (Matthew 5: 39-40)
Loving Father, I bring to you all my faults and especially my wrath. I see my anger leads to a dreadful failing, a shameful falling, and a sorrowful dying. But in this dying I trust your mercy continually at work protecting me even against myself, and turning everything to good for us.
(From All Will be Well: Based on the Spirituality of Julian of Norwich, Richard Chilson, Ave Maria Press, 1995, p. 100.)
A good friend of mine had a son who, as a teen and young adult, suffered from alcohol and drug abuse. He was, at various times, violent, neglectful, rude to all, uncooperative, blaming and, perhaps most hurtful he rejected his family. My friend prayed unceasingly and asked us to do the same for him. She was at times fearful in her own home for safety. But she never stopped loving him.
Of course, we say. He is her son. He is ill. He deserves another chance. And any parent’s heart will bleed with her at her sadness and pain.
But Jesus says to us: When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. (Matthew 5:38-40) This command is not qualified to turning the cheek if your son or a favorite friend acts out. Jesus says “someone” including the stranger. He says to “go the extra mile” for this someone who has offended.
Remember, last week Jesus said: But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. (Matthew 5:22) Whoa, are you kidding, Lord? That idiot who lied to me? That jerk who pickpocketed me? That inconsiderate weakling who didn’t stand up for me?
Like the gentle wind in which Elijah found God, Jesus answers “Yes.” One would think that the gentle wind would even forgive whining, greedy Ahab and immoral, malevolent Jezebel if they repented. No doubt they would still face punishment. Forgiveness does not imply accepting evil behavior. Forgiveness is all about love. Jesus wants us to love, love, and love some more, as he says later in this same chapter: But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. (Matthew 5: 44-45)
Jesus sure asks a lot of me. He wants me to hand over my cloak. What does my cloak look like? Does it include indignation, anger, self-righteousness, hurt? I need to give them over at the same time I give of my treasures: time, belongings, money, prayer and love. During the readings last weeks Jesus gave us stark, dramatic examples of how his law of love is completing and fulfilling the law of order in the Old Testament. God wants a new attitude. The ultimate finish line is set for me, not “them”: So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5: 48) Leave the judgment to God.
To whom does Jesus want me to show forgiveness and love? Is it a child (old enough to know better) who has flouted my good advice or thrown away opportunities? Is it a friend who has hurt me? Is it an undocumented worker whom I prefer to call illegal and refuse to recognize her/his human rights because she/he is not an American? Is it a fighter in Iraq or Afghanistan who is against my country and my beliefs? Is it an underemployed worker who wants me to pay for her health care instead of pulling it together herself.
Pray for that person or persons. Pray for yourself. Give over your cloak. After all, our cloaks, our country, our health, our paychecks, our very self is all a gift from God. Share God’s gifts of which the most important is love.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.
Therefore, if you hearken to my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my special possession, dearer to me than all other people, though all the earth is mine. You shall be to me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation. Exodus 19:5-6
For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly. Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8
At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” Matthew 9:36-38
Let us pray: Father, send out laborers for your harvest and count me among them. Jesus, help me to pick up your mantle of love and share that like you did with all – no matter if they are friend or foe. Help me to see the needs right around us and jump right in to do your work. If we do your work, then bear us up on eagles’ wings and bring us to you at the appointed hour. Amen.
Christ died for the ungodly. What do I do for those who do not deserve my love? Rarely do I think about doing something good for a pain-in-the-neck person. Knowing the people I work for makes it almost automatic that I do what I do for good people. How frequently we exchange gifs with those who care about us. Our world today by instant communications opens up the possibility of reaching beyond those we can touch daily by our presence. Our lives today have an international dimension to them.
We are part of something that is bigger than where we live. The question of how far to reach and how to make my life reach beyond my likes is a real question when I look at the Christ who died for the good and the bad alike. There are so many people that are abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. What should we do?
I need to pray to Christ, the Lord of the harvest, to send out laborers for his harvest. That is what the gospel says. How often do I ask the Lord for helpers? What am I asking for? Christ sends out disciples with authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness. Twice in my life I looked for foreign shores to do the work of Christ. It did not take me long to realize that I did not have to go a long distance to find work for the Lord. The Lord’s needs are visible all around us. I need to open my eyes to what is needed in the every day of my life. Christ worked for us when we were still sinners. No one has to deserve my love if I am going to be like the Christ of my heart. He shares his work with us. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. It is where people need us in the here and the now.
God gives us his son. I need to share his love with the people that are around me.
If we hearken to the voice of the Lord and deepen his covenant, we shall belong to the Lord as his special possession and we shall be dearer to the Lord than all other people. The Lord will bear us up on eagle wings and bring us to himself if we are willing to be laborers for his harvest. We need to be able to reach beyond ourselves. We need companions of the harvest and we need to be willing to claim the victory of Christ for all who come our way. What we give to the strangers in our lives has all the more meaning because we have given our love to our family and friends. The outer ripples of our love will be true because we have joined with each other to be the laborers for the harvest of the lord.
Saturday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Elisha left him and, taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to his people to eat. Then he left and followed Elijah as his attendant. 1 Kings 19:21
1) Messenger sent by Yahweh (with the warning about the drought)
2) Defender of the faith against the false witness of the followers of Ba’al
3) In retreat, he was patient in prayer awaiting the message of the Lord
4) He was careful in discerning God’s call and not mistaking the message of false gods or false signs
5) He was a messenger proclaiming the coming of the Lord (like John the Baptist later in the New Testament.
As Joel Miller recounts in his sermon on “Elijah’s Fire and Jesus’ Bread: Elijah was in a difficult line of work. His job description read something like this:
A) Applicant will frequently confront most powerful person of the nation with news that will make him want to kill you
B) Must be willing to sit alone by a river for several years in a row getting fed by birds
C) Must be willing to live with strangers who have hardly any food. Advised to pray that food doesn’t out
D) Must be able win duals with other prophets when outnumbered 450 to 1
E) Must be able to receive revolutionary insights from God and communicate these clearly and concisely to a nation that doesn’t care.
Not only did Elijah come to know God and serve God, he also knew who God was NOT. He rejected the worship of Ba’al and pursued the truth of Yahweh. He knew that God was not the fire, the hurricanes or the storms. Instead, God was the small hand coming from the sea or down from the clouds.
All that said, if he won such a strong victory for the Lord against the priest who worshipped Ba’al, why did he have to kill them all? Wasn’t victory enough?
“Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you.”
Tim Russert has kissed his father for the last time and has now followed.
With his sudden death Friday, the high profile Washington Bureau chief for NBC News and host of “Meet the Press,” gives us a chance to watch those pundits and journalists in the “public square” pay tribute to the life of one of the leading Catholic men of our day. Mr. Russert made no secret of his faith. He spoke proudly about how he stood on the shoulders of his father, a veteran of World War II who never had the opportunity to go to college like he did and how his son, Luke, also stood on the values that were passed on in the family.
Mr. Russert showed the same respect for his parents that Elisha did before being called to follow Elijah. Four years ago, Mr. Russert wrote a book about his still living father who survives the death of his famous son. Then last year, he authored another book about the reactions that people had to his first book with letters about their own fathers.
On Sunday – ironically Father’s Day -- Tom Brokaw will host a special edition of Meet the Press to look back on Mr. Russert’s career. Kiss your mother or father this weekend and then try to watch tomorrow’s special program.
May all the souls of the faithfully departed rest in peace.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Memorial of Saint Anthony of Padua, priest and doctor of the Church
Even if my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will take me in. LORD, show me your way; lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Do not abandon me to the will of my foes; malicious and lying witnesses have risen against me. Psalm 27:11-12
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna. Matthew 5:29-30
Lord take me in no matter what I do to stray from your path. Take me in. Do not abandon me to the forces of selfishness, materialism and greed that so infect today’s world and rise up all around me. Take me in. Amen.
What is it about Elijah that caused him to be revered as such a great prophet? Some of his actions up to now seem particularly barbaric by modern standards…at least my modern standards. No wonder nearly everyone wants to kill him because of his particularly violent way of defending Yahweh.
So as much as I would like to spend tonight reading about Saint Anthony -- my name saint -- instead, I keep trying to understand what it is about Elijah that – despite his violent means – allows the Lord to hold him in such high esteem.
A few references set the stage:
Elijah came onto the scene a few chapters earlier warning Ahab, king of Israel, that there will be years of drought, a drought so severe that not even dew will fall. This catastrophe will come because Ahab and his queen--Jezebel--stand at the end of a line of kings of Israel who are said to have "done evil in the sight of the Lord." In particular, Ahab and Jezebel had encouraged the worship of Baal and killed the prophets of the Lord.
Elijah not only challenges Baal on behalf of Yahweh (Jehovah) the God of Israel, he challenges Jezebel, her priests, Ahab, and the people of Israel.
According to Dennis Bracter, “When crops were abundant, Ba‘al (a rival deity in the Old Testament) was praised and thanked for his abundant rain. It is in this context that drought of I Kings 18 had such impact. Not only was lack of rain a threat to survival, it was also a sign that the gods of the Ba‘al myth were unhappy. That is why, Bracter contends, that the "contest" between Elijah and the prophets of Ba’al carries such significance. The issue is really who controls the rain, Ba‘al or Yahweh. Elijah shows that it is Yahweh. Yet in victory, he turns to violence – gruesome violence – and that leaves him exiled from all the people.
The confrontation and execution of the prophets of Ba’al left Elijah in conflict with King Ahad and Jezebel who now threaten Elijah. After that, Elijah hid in the mountains and the wilderness until a sign and message from the Lord caused him to race ahead of Ahab to Jezreel.
After the journey to Jezreel, Elijah takes up hiding in a new place near Mount Horeb because the Israelites also seek to kill him. During this exile, Elijah gets another message from the Lord on his next assignment. Rather than stay in exile, the Lord sends Elijah back into the world to anoint the kings and prophets who will succeed him.
Clearly Elijah has emerged as a defender of the Lord who is forced to face possible death when he goes back out into the world as commissioned. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if his reputation as defender of the Lord would have been secure without the need to execute his rivals?
Some answers may lie in our Psalm for today.
Hear my voice, LORD, when I call; have mercy on me and answer me. "Come," says my heart, "seek God's face"; your face, LORD, do I seek! Do not hide your face from me; do not repel your servant in anger. You are my help; do not cast me off; do not forsake me, God my savior! Even if my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will take me in. LORD, show me your way; lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Do not abandon me to the will of my foes; malicious and lying witnesses have risen against me. Psalm 27:7-12
The Lord does not abandon Elijah to the will of his enemies. Instead, He keeps Elijah on “a level path” with them.
Jesus, in today’s reading from Matthew, comes along and is now encouraging purity of heart and mind, body and soul. As the notes to the N.A.B. for this chapter point out, “No sacrifice is too great to avoid total destruction.”
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna. Matthew 5:29-30
So while Elijah’s behavior helped him to survive the trials he faced for the Lord in the 9th century B.C., Jesus changes the standards of behavior when he comes along. So Elijah helps Judaism survive and thrive when it was faced with particular challenges from the outside world. Yet, a few centuries later, he may have had to use different tactics.
If I am missing something, please post a comment or send me references to understand “Elijah for Dummies” (like me).
Maybe this whole mass execution bothers me because we have made such progress on death penalty issues. There is a long way to go but we had some good news this week in Virginia.
Thank you very much to all who took action over the weekend and yesterday to ask Virginia Governor Tim Kaine to commute the death sentence of Percy Walton, who was scheduled to be executed Tuesday night (6/10/08) at 9pm for his murders of Jessie Kendrick, Elizabeth Kendrick and Archie Moore. Late Monday, Governor Kaine commuted Percy Walton's death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole, citing Walton's severe mental illness.
You can read the Governor's statement here.
Please take a moment to thank Governor Kaine for this action.Gov. Tim KaineP.O. Box 1475Richmond, Virginia 23218Phone: (804) 786-2211Fax: (804) 371-6351
You can e-mail Gov. Kaine via his web page.
 “Ba‘al Worship in the Old Testament” by Dennis Bratcher http://www.cresourcei.org/baal.html
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Thursday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
The hand of the LORD was on Elijah. 1 Kings 18:46
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24
Father, help us to reject the false promises of the world and maintain a focus on your commandments of love. Jesus, give to us all that is authentic in life. Holy Spirit, deliver to us the wisdom, fortitude, temperance, and justice needed to allow God to dwell in us. Amen.
The events that unfold on Mount Carmel are the defining moments in the life of Elijah.
The Lord had promised rain to Elijah – rain that would help overcome the drought and famine. The natural disasters were matched by the disaster of the people turning away from the Lord and following false gods.
Elijah had summoned the people and prophets on the mountain to encourage them to return to follow the Lord. He pointed out their choices:
Elijah appealed to all the people and said, "How long will you straddle the issue? If the LORD is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him." The people, however, did not answer him. 1 Kings 18:21
Elijah asks for a sign of the Lord’s power in order to get the people to return to worshipping the Lord. His request is answered. Elijah is trying to get the Israelites to return to worshipping the Lord, rather than Baal – a practice that allowed child sacrifice and prostitution. The natural signs from the Lord – a fire – helped Elijah accomplish his task of appealing to the Jews to return to faith in the Lord.
Answer me, LORD! Answer me, that this people may know that you, LORD, are God and that you have brought them back to their senses." The LORD'S fire came down and consumed the holocaust, wood, stones, and dust, and it lapped up the water in the trench. Seeing this, all the people fell prostrate and said, "The LORD is God! The LORD is God!" 1 Kings 18:37-39 (emphasis added)
Just as Elijah appealed to the people to return to authentic faith (“back to their senses”) in the Lord and to reject false gods, in the Gospel reading from Matthew, Jesus also seeks authentic, truly loving faith from the people. Jesus redefines the laws and tells his followers that they must not even approach the altar if they have a problem with another member of the community. Rather than offer to God a sacrifice yet still have hatred in their heart, Jesus says to purge the hatred first and then turn to God.
What “false gods” are you pursuing? Are you seeking that pay raise or promotion? Are you planning to buy a bigger house now that the prices have dropped? Who are you having to go over or around to get what you want?
What would Elijah have to show you to get you to pursue a life of authentic faith rather than pursuing your selfish or materialistic impulses? What reconciliation would Jesus ask you to seek before turning to his altar of love in action?
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Memorial of Saint Barnabas, Apostle
By Melanie Rigney
Barnabas looked for Saul in Tarsus, then brought him to Antioch. “For a whole year they met with the Church and taught a large number of people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.” (Acts 11:26)
Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19)
Jesus, come into my heart and my soul. Guide my actions and thoughts so that I am truly worthy of being called Christian.
What does it mean to be called Christian?
Seems fairly straightforward, doesn’t it? Believe in Christ and try to follow his ways. Yet, think of how revolutionary that year in Antioch was. Paul and Barnabas were so on fire with Christ’s message that large numbers of people understood that this was something new. “It was a new religion,” the Catholic Encyclopedia says, “new in its Founder, new in much of its creed, new in its attitude towards both God and man, new in the spirit of its moral code.” And today, more than two thousand years later, we continue to find this walk in Christ’s footsteps to be new and challenging. And at a micro level, we as Christian all too often are ignorant or suspicious of differences among our theologies.
According to a Zenit News Agency dispatch, Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, detailed plans for a new guide to help Catholics engage in dialogue with other religions. The announcement came as part of the diacastery’s general assembly meeting last week. According to Zenit, the cardinal says the guidelines will be inspired by the Ten Commandments, which he called “universal grammar that all believers can use in their relationship with God and their neighbor.” The cardinal went on to say “all believers have a common patrimony: faith in one only God, the sacredness of life, the need for fraternity, and the experience of prayer, which is the language of religion.”
The preface to C. S. Lewis’s landmark Mere Christianity provides a guide of sorts, likening the search for Christianity to a hallway:
If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. … When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house.
Let us strive to respect the space of others in this great House.
Use the cardinal’s examples to open up interfaith dialogue with a friend this week. Discuss your “common patrimony” and close the conversation with the Lord’s Prayer.