Saturday, February 28, 2009

God is at Hand

March 1, 2009

First Sunday of Lent

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all living beings, so that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings. Genesis 9:13-15

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." Mark 1:14-15


Make known to me your ways, LORD; teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior. For you I wait all the long day, because of your goodness, LORD. Psalm 25:4-5


Christ came out of his Lent proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead us to God. It is the suffering of Christ that brings us life in the Spirit. His death on thecross opened the gates of heaven to all who believe in him. He is the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life. It is our belief in Christ and our imitation of him that makes our lives into the preaching of the Good News.

During the forty days in the desert, Jesus was tempted by Satan. The Angels of God ministered to Christ. How we minister to one another by our repentance is how the angels guard us and inspire us to do something for others. Prayer, fasting and good works make up our special piety during Lent. How we put controls on our eating unites us to the hungry of the world that Christ is one with when he says whatever we do for thehungry is done for him. To be hungry with Christ hungry becomes a mystical moment. We can be Christ’s suffering for the hungry of the world. Our oneness with their weakness can turn us to Christ in a special way. Piety is the intensity of our search to become more like Christ. We feast on Christ and we fast from the events in our lives thatwould separate us from him. We feast on gentleness and fast from roughness in our relationships with one another. We feast on saying kind things about each other and we fast from criticism. We feast on selflessness and fast from selfishness. We search for ways to be more like Christ by doing things that make our world a little better by ourbeing there. Let us study our lives to find where we need to feast and fast. Our plan needs detail to be fleshed out if we are going to make a difference.


We study our lives to see what even little things in our lives are out of control. The attempt to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and soul needs the inspirations that come from Scripture. Finding a good spiritual book to read during Lent is a good investment because it pays off in touches of eternal life here on earth. We are called tobe Christ to one another and it only happens in the challenges we put to ourselves. Putting on the mind and the heart of Christ is a great work. The greatness that is going to be taken up into Christ is in all the ways we are transparencies of Christ in our actions. We are called to live our lives giving the Christ of our hearts to each other. The actions that we decide to do in his name will be our claim to fame in heaven. While it is true that people can have the goodness of Christ without even knowing Christ, our efforts to make Christ real in our lives challenges all who know us to be better people. Actions speaklouder than words. What we dare to do in the name of Christ is always worthwhile doing. We have the ability to bring God into our lives by the love we have for one another. “Wherever there is love, God is there.”

Friday, February 27, 2009

Call the Sabbath a Delight

February 28, 2009

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

By Jack Finnerty

“If you call the sabbath a delight, and the LORD's holy day honorable; If you honor it by not following our ways, seeking your own interests, or speaking with malice Then you shall delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth….” Isaiah 58:13-14

“Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, "Follow me." And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with them.” Luke 5:27-29

Create a clean heart in me, O God.
Create a clean heart in me.
Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness,
In your compassion, blot out my offense.
O wash me more and more from my guilt, from my guilt
And cleanse me, O lord, from my sin.
A pure heart create for me, O God,
Put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence, O Lord,
Nor deprive me of your holy spirit.

(“Psalm 51: Be Merciful, O Lord,” Text: Psalm 51:3-4, 4-6, 12-13, 14, 17; The Grail, GIA Publications)


Note how closely the Matthew and Mark Gospels parallel Luke’s story of Levi.

Levi must have known Jesus, perhaps heard the stories of Him, maybe listened in the crowd as Jesus preached, or even witnessed the miracles Jesus was performing. However, as much or as little as Levi knew of Jesus, the Gospel suggests Levi’s immediate openness and acceptance to Jesus’ call. Levi did not need the spittle in his ears to hear, nor the mud paste in his eyes to respond to Jesus. Jesus’ call was enough.

After saying “Yes,” Levi then gave a great banquet for Jesus, opening his home and sharing his bounty with tax collectors and others. Levi chose as his dining companions those the Israelites considered the most despised, murderers and others guilty of heinous crimes. This first act of Levi, however, was following exactly the example of Jesus, sitting at a meal with tax collectors, not to show approval of sin, but to show them the good news of Christ as the only way to salvation. Create a clean heart in me, O God.

As the first week of Lent comes to a close and we prepare for Sunday, a feast day, not a day of Lenten fast or abstinence, we can prepare a banquet for our families and others whom we love. A time to celebrate, to eat and drink and share His love and His Good News with those we love.

The noted author Henri Nouwen, in his book “Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith,” writes:

“We all need to eat and drink to stay alive. But having a meal is more than eating and drinking. It is celebrating the gifts of life we share. A meal together is one of the most intimate and sacred human events. Around the table we become vulnerable, filling one another's plates and cups and encouraging one another to eat and drink. Much more happens at a meal than satisfying hunger and quenching thirst. Around the table we become family, friends, community, yes, a body…. The table is the barometer of family and community life. Let's do everything possible to make the table the place to celebrate intimacy.”

As we share our food and drink with those we love, others do not have such company. During these cold months of the year, many homeless men, women, and children in this area desperately need housing and other services. For the fifth year, area faith communities are partnering with a local nonprofit and County agencies to prevent hypothermia by providing overnight shelter during the winter. Mother Theresa told us “You must seek your own Calcutta. You don’t have to go to India. Calcutta is all around you.”

Churches and people that have found their own Calcutta have been successfully sheltering each night hundreds of our most vulnerable homeless neighbors in church halls and basements; fed nutritious, hot meals in comfortable surroundings; and released in the morning with a filling bag lunch to sustain them during the day. have conducted clothing drives, food drives, “undie Sundays” to meet the ever-present need for underwear and personal hygiene items such as toothbrushes and toothpaste, razors, soap, etc. Even more important perhaps, are the dozens of volunteers that staff the temporary shelters nightly until the weather warms, meeting the material and physical needs of the guests and attempting to satisfy their other emotional and spiritual needs.


For those of us who have known of Jesus all our lives, heard the stories, listened to the homilies, and partaken so often of His body in Holy Eucharist, do we respond to His call to us as quickly and unequivocally as Levi? Jesus and His Holy Spirit speak to us in many ways and often (how about all those close moments?), what is our response? How quickly and unequivocally do we say “yes?”

Prepare the table for Sunday, make the Lord’s day honorable and the sabbath a delight.

Support ministries such as the Hypothermia Shelter by your prayers, donations, and service in your churches as the opportunities arise. Find your own Calcutta!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

This Is the Manner of Fasting I Wish

February 27, 2009

Friday after Ash Wednesday

By Melanie Rigney

Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance: That a man bow his head like a reed and lie in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. (Isaiah 58: 5-7)

For you do not desire sacrifice; a burnt offering you would not accept. My sacrifice, God, is a broken spirit; God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart. (Psalms 51:18-19)

The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?" Jesus answered them, "Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast." (Matthew 9:14-15)


Jesus, as we observe the final days of your ministry here on earth, help us to understand and commit to the sacrifices that are pleasing to you and your Father.


Lenten Fast and Abstinence Rules (

No meat on Fridays during Lent if you’re over the age of fourteen.


Fasting on Fridays during Lent if you’re between the ages of eighteen and fifty-nine, fasting to mean one regular meal and two smaller meals with no eating between meals.


And so, Catholic card punched, we feel we’ve done what we’re supposed to do. We’ve followed the rules. Our stomachs growl a little, and maybe we whine a bit to our friends or group reunion about having to restrict our diets on Fridays.

Why do we do it?

An article at EWTN on these practices( states:

It is a traditional doctrine of Christian spirituality that a constituent part of repentance, of turning away from sin and back to God, includes some form of penance, without which the Christian is unlikely to remain on the narrow path and be saved.

In his Lenten message this year, Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged that the practice of fasting “seems to have lost some of its spiritual meaning,” then goes on to call it “a ‘therapy’ to heal all that prevents (believers) from conformity to the will of God.” (

The pope goes on to explain that fasting helps us to grow in intimacy with God—and in understanding of the situation of so many in the world. “By freely embracing an act of self-denial for the sake of another, we make a statement that our brother or sister in need is not a stranger,” he says. This view strongly reflects today’s first reading, in which the Lord directs us that fasting includes feeding and clothing and helping others, not simply putting on sackcloth.

And the psalmist’s message of a humbled heart echoes in the pope’s comment that “freely chosen detachment from the pleasure of food and other material goods helps the disciple of Christ to control the appetites of nature, weakened by original sin, whose negative effects impact the entire person.”

While rote fasting and abstinence may meet the word of the Catechism, today’s reading calls for a mindful observance, not simply going without meat or cutting back calories every Friday during Lent. As an ancient hymn of the Lenten liturgy cited by the pope says: “Let us use sparingly words, food and drink, sleep and amusement. May we be more alert in the custody of our senses.”


As you eat your smaller breakfast, lunch, or dinner, consider three ways in which you can be more alert in the custody of your senses.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


February 26, 2009

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Here, then, I have today set before you life and prosperity, death and doom. If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I enjoin on you today, loving him, and walking in his ways, and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees, you will live and grow numerous, and the LORD, your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy. Deuteronomy 30:15-16

“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Luke 9:23-24


Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will, All I have and call my own. You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace. That is enough for me. Amen. (St. Ignatius of Loyola)


Note the difference between how Mark relates this idea and how Luke characterizes Christian life.

Mark: He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.” Mark 8:34-35

Luke: If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Luke 9:23-24

The common elements are self-denial (like Jesus did in the desert); acceptance of the cross (like Jesus did on Good Friday) and obedience (like Jesus urged his disciples). Yet Luke adds something. Daily. Every day.

With the addition of these two syllables, Luke transforms this saying from one which compares Christian life to the overall suffering and death of Jesus to a saying that focuses sharply on the demands of daily Christian existence.

Picking up your cross is not a once in a lifetime exercise. Self-denial is not something just for the forty days of Lent. Following Jesus is not just for the easy things He asks of us. These are demands of daily Christian life.


Think about that recent movie with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, “The Bucket List.” This was a list of things each man wanted to do before he kicked the proverbial bucket. What is on your list?

  1. Run away for a day and join the circus.
  2. Ride a gondola in Venice, a bicycle in Beijing, a 2CV in France and the Ferris Wheel in London, visit Cuba and have a beer during Oktoberfest (in Germany of course!)
  3. Get the backstage pass for the New Orleans Jazz Fest.
  4. Ride in space…and maybe walk in space with that “Buck Rodgers” backpack.
  5. See Stonehenge, Piazza San Marco, Piazza San Pietro, The Acropolis, The Alhambra, the pyramids, the Kremlin, the Sydney Opera House, the Galapagos, and Easter Island.
  6. See museums like El Prado, The Uffizi Gallery, The Hermitage, The Louvre in Paris, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Van Gogh Museum.
  7. See the Seven Wonders of the World (Machu Picchu, Peru; The Coliseum in Rome; Petra, Jordan; Christ Redeemer, Brazil; The Great Wall of China; Chichen Itza, Mexico; The Taj Mahal, India).
  8. Visit all 50 states and see sites like the Baseball Hall of Fame Museum and Library, Disney World/Land, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Pike Place Market in Seattle, Mount Rushmore, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, and Waikiki Beach, Oahu, Hawaii.
  9. See the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Halloween on Duval Street, the St. Patrick's Day Parade, the White House Easter Egg Roll, the Mummers Parade, the Rose Bowl Parade and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
  10. Learn to juggle.
  11. Read the top 100 books on your personal reading list and the top spiritual classics (St, John of the Cross, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux, and more).
  12. Study music.
  13. Get a Ph.D.
  14. Join the Peace Corps (or similar volunteer program)
  15. Master Esquires list of “The 75 Skills Every Man Should Master”
  16. Watch the greatest American movies of all time (Citizen Kane, Casablanca, The Godfather, Gone with the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, The Wizard of Oz, The Graduate, On the Waterfront, Schindler's List, Singin' in the Rain, Fiddler on the Roof, and The Sound of Music). And then do the same for cinema from Japan, Italy, India and other nations.
  17. Milk a cow, ride a camel, mush a dog sled, and watch sea turtles hatch.
  18. Attend La Scala of Milan, a Bryant Park Fashion Week, Wimbledon, the Kentucky Derby, a Paul Simon concert, Carnegie Hall, a session of the US Supreme Court, the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, the launch of a manned spaceflight at Cape Canaveral and ride on the Orient Express.
  19. Live in a house by the side of the road and be a friend to all. (Hopefully the beach won’t be too far away either.). Add a sauna and pool to the backyard.
  20. Create a foundation and give away everything I have been collecting.
  21. Visit the Abbey of Gethsemane, the Holy Land, Tibet, and Kyoto.
  22. Complete a 30-day retreat on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

That was fun but put away the bucket list. Jesus did not say that picking up your cross is only a once-in-a-lifetime thing. He said it is an everyday thing. So take it off your bucket list and put it on your task list for today. And tomorrow. And the day after that.

What is on your “To Do/Task” List for tomorrow?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stirred to Concern

February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment. Perhaps he will again relent and leave behind him a blessing, Offerings and libations for the LORD, your God. Joel 2: 12-14

But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. Matthew 6:6

I close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment's gone
All my dreams, pass before my eyes, a curiosity
Dust in the wind, all they are is dust in the wind.
Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do, crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see

Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind

[Now] Don't hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away, and all your money won't another minute buy.

Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind
Dust in the wind, everything is dust in the wind.
(Popular song by the group “Kansas.”)


Today is actually the third anniversary of the start of this blog/e-mail/group meditation. There were many people who con-spired with the Holy Spirit to spur my personal Bible study and reflection.

Beth – who gets to daily Mass despite her schedule and then really gets to listen to the Word proclaimed every day.

Jim – who was reading the Bible from cover to cover at an age when I was more pre-occupied with Batman comic books and Tom Swift novels. I continued to waste the next 40 years until I began this study project in earnest.

The Men of the 114th Cursillo team – which went into hiatus due to lack of candidates in the winter of 2006.

Jack – the best salesman of Your Daily Tripod subscriptions.

Rose – who gave a poetry lecture over Advent and put three questions foremost in my mind about the Bible (What does it say? What does it mean? What does it matter?)

Frank – Rector of the first Cursillo team upon which I served who inspired me to learn more about the scripture by introducing me to the technique of “lectio divina.”

Mike – our spiritual director who encourages me at every turn.

Phil – who has overcome more obstacles in a year than some of us will know in a lifetime and still knows that You are the vine and we are the branches. I love you with the love of the Lord.

Pete – who get spurring me to wider and wider circulation. If that lights under a bushel, then you lost something kind of crucial.

Joe – who offered his Sunday homilies packed as tightly as the Gospel of St. John with inspiration on piety, study and action.

Melanie – who bridges different phases of my life and helps me to bring them together as a balanced tripod.

Gene – who redefines diakonia for me in his life and witness just as Peter’s mother in law “served” others.

Along the way, every one of these people (and others like Rector Dave and Sponsor Esther) contributed to the idea and the reality. The tipping point to start Your Daily Tripod materialized in the homily of Rev. Bill Quigley CICM on Ash Wednesday three years ago. In today’s second reading, Paul proclaims that we are “ambassadors” for Christ. Fr. Bill reminded us that any new ambassador reports to the new assignment and presents credentials to the heads of that government. What credentials do we have that would qualify us to serve in such a diplomatic posting?

Bill is now campus minister at East Carolina University. I wonder what song he will play after communion on Ash Wednesday to get those who frequent the Newman Center there to reflect upon this season of Lent? Maybe he still has the tape or CD used in the service at the Missionhurst Chapel three years ago.

With Bill asking us to build up our “cred,” the thought passed through my ears that maybe we could read the Bible every day for a year and write about it and share it with each other. After the first 365 days and a few hundred readers, the thought expanded to “Why not try to keep this up for another year?” As long as we read the Bible daily, wrote about it and had internet access, we could post and distribute reflections by Beth, Joe, Melanie, Diane, and others to whomever was interested. By the time Ash Wednesday 2008 rolled around, we quietly marked two full years. The thought of continuing one more year could complete reflections for the entire three-year liturgical cycle. That would take us through 1,095 consecutive days. Maybe then we could stop. Today, marks the 1,106th message posting to the blog/website/group.

Yet there is no end in sight. This nightly reading, writing, contemplating and sharing has become like a daily phone call with a friend – an activity with which we can not start nor end a day without experiencing. Lyfe too shorte, crafte so longen to lerne.


If you have been getting this for three days or three years, why not consider getting stirred to write something to share with the community. Think about writing even one daily reflection sometime in the next year. Advice and editorial help will be provided. Let’s give the Lord a reason to be stirred to compassion for his followers who make up his own personal diplomatic corps.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Cling to Him

February 24, 2009

Mardi Gras

Tuesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

My son, when you come to serve the LORD, prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, undisturbed in time of adversity. Cling to him, forsake him not; thus will your future be great. Accept whatever befalls you, in crushing misfortune be patient; For in fire gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation. Sirach 2:1-5

"What were you arguing about on the way?" But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all." Mark 9:33b-35


Father, keep before us the wisdom and love you have revealed in your Son. Help us to be like him in word and deed, for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (From The Carmelites)


St. Benedict probably read from the Book of Sirach when you consider how closely the main themes of his Rule overlap with the “wisdom” of Ben Sirach. Just consider these examples from the opening of the Book of Sirach and the Prologue of the Rule of St. Benedict.

Sirach: Incline your ear.

Benedict: Incline the ear of your heart.

Sirach: Receive the word of understanding, undisturbed in time of adversity.

Benedict: Receive willingly and carry out effectively your loving father's advice

Sirach: Wait on God, with patience, cling to him, forsake him not; thus will you be wise in all your ways.

Benedict: By the labor of obedience you may return to Him from whom you had departed by the sloth of disobedience.

Sirach: Accept whatever befalls you, when sorrowful, be steadfast, and in crushing misfortune be patient; For in fire gold and silver are tested, and worthy people in the crucible of humiliation.

Benedict: To you, therefore, my words are now addressed, whoever you may be, who are renouncing your own will to do battle under the Lord Christ, the true King, and are taking up the strong, bright weapons of obedience.

Today, on the last day of ordinary time before Lent, we might be focused on very different verbs than those stressed by Sirach and Benedict. The common conception of Fat Tuesday is to “PARTY!” There are parades. There are the beads. There are kegs. Yet scripture warns us to “prepare yourself for trials,” “time of adversity,” and “the crucible of humiliation.”

The solution behind these dark clouds is not revelry. Instead Sirach and St. Benedict point us toward humility and its fraternal twin obedience. If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” From this comes the Prince of Peace who will wash the feet of those who love him.


Getting us through these trials will be our clinging and loving nature. What do we describe with the word clinging?

A child who clings to her or his mother, the comfort zone of protection from the cruel, big, loud and invasive adult world.

The vine that grows spreads its branches along the trellis. (I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. John 15:5). If we are branches spreading out from the true vine, Sirach and Benedict give us “rules” to live by, “rules” to grow by.

The root meaning of the Latin and Greek words translated as “rule” is trellis. St. Benedict (in his Rule) was not promulgating rules for living; he was establishing a framework on which a life can grow. While a branch of a plant climbing a trellis cannot go in any direction it wants, you cannot know in advance just which way it will go. The plant is finding its own path, within a structure. The space in which it moves is open, though not without boundaries. (From Benedict’s Dharma, edited by Patrick Henry)

As we look forward to Lent beginning tomorrow, we are asked to grow and to change. How will you approach your spiritual growth in the 40 days to come?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Wisdom is God’s Mercy and Love

February 23, 2009

Memorial of Saint Polycarp, bishop and martyr

By Beth DeCristofaro

All wisdom comes from the LORD and with him it remains forever, and is before all time … The word of God on high is the fountain of wisdom and her ways are everlasting. (Sirach 1:1, 4)

Then the boy's father cried out, "I do believe, help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24)


The sun burns in the sky like the Face of God, but we do not know his face as terrible. His light is suffused in the air and the light of God is diffused in Hagia Sophia…The Diffuse Shining of God is Hagia Sophia. We call her His “glory.” In Sophia His power is experienced only as mercy and as love. (“Hagia Sophia” in The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton)


The plea of the boy’s father in the Gospel is so familiar. We are often torn between our faith which gives meaning and our senses which tell us “what is.” Christ told his friends that if they but had the faith of a mustard seed, they could move mountains. My eyes and knowledge of geology tell me that this is a metaphor. My faith tells me that God brings healing and peace but my father, a good, just and faithful man, died young of cancer. Jesus spoke of God’s goodness on the earth but we see war and cruelty. Christ commissions his followers to heal and cast out demons but they are ineffective.

“I do believe, help my unbelief.” Jesus tells his followers that they could not cast out this demon because “This kind can only come out through prayer.” (Mark 9:29)

The notes on Sirach from the NAB say: “Wisdom: here the author speaks of true wisdom, namely God's external revelation of himself. The author makes clear that even human wisdom, properly understood, comes from God.” We must turn again and again, immerse ourselves in the heart and loving mercy of God, in order to be brought to the fullness of faith. We do not do not receive God’s gifts of wisdom perfectly. And we are incapable of absolute faith, total love on our own. God’s love in our lives is filtered by our weaknesses, our sin, our fears, our incompleteness and yes, even our biological form with its frail synapses, unreliable ligaments and organs. Yet God loves us the more for our surrender: Help me in my unbelief.

Today is the feast of St. Polycarp. As a second generation Christian, he knew St. John the Evangelist but never knew Jesus. It was an age when the truth about Jesus’ teachings was being debated. St. Polycarp decided that the only path to the truth was to imitate Jesus’ life. By casting himself back on Jesus again and again, Polycarp was able to sort through heresies and lead his flock to be strong and faithful despite severe persecution.


God’s outpouring of Wisdom walked the roads of Galilee in the person of Jesus. Are we turning to Him in our unbelief? How do we open ourselves to the love and mercy of God? Consider taking a different tack: read poetry or read from Song of Songs aloud. Listen to a different kind of sacred chant. Attend a Taize Mass or take part in a group practice of centering prayer. Walk a labyrinth. Freshly experience God. By repeatedly and humbly seeking God’s wisdom we will be ever more open to it.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Yes Is In Him

February 22, 2009

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers. Isaiah 43:18-19

Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’?” Mark 2:8-9


Happy those concerned for the lowly and poor; when misfortune strikes, the LORD delivers them. The LORD keeps and preserves them, makes them happy in the land, and does not betray them to their enemies. The LORD sustains them on their sickbed, allays the malady when they are ill. Once I prayed, "LORD, have mercy on me; heal me, I have sinned against you. Psalm 41:2-5


The Sacrament of the Present Moment gets a wonderful plug from Isaiah 43. “Remember not the events of the past.” The Lord is forever doing something new in our present moment. Reality therapy is the becoming fully alive in the moment we are living. We worry the Lord with our yesterdays when we keep going back to our sinfulness as if the Lord did not forgive what we have done. The Lord is our forgiveness and he wipes out what is our imperfection in the glorious summer of his Resurrection.

Paul captures the reality of our forgiveness in Christ by his second letter to the Corinthians where he says that Christ is a “yes” to our asking for forgiveness. God has given us the seal of forgiveness in the Spirit he has put in our hearts as a first installment of his love for us. The Spirit takes the groans of our heart to himself and God listens to God when our hearts are crying for forgiveness. Jesus is a perpetual “yes” to the cries of our heart for forgiveness.

Our Gospel is one of the most poignant stories of Christ’s power to forgive our sins. The paralytic carried by the four men and let down through the roof which they broke through to bring their friend closer to Christ hears Christ offer forgiveness for his sins. The Scribes ask the question of how Christ can forgive and hear the Question they had not even spoken out answered with Christ healing the paralytic so that they might realize he also has the power to forgive sins. We know the power of the miracle he does to prove to an honest soul that he can forgive sins.


The actions of our lives when we are reaching out to the poor and the needy in the name of Christ become the proof of our piety and of the study we do. The forgiveness of sins is how we keep from judging our past. Charity covers a multitude of sins. The words of forgiveness of the Church are engraved on the hearts of each of us by the good we do in our lives. We are challenged to love our enemies. The forgiving of others opens our hearts to the forgiveness of Christ. Our hearts are open to his forgiveness by how we forgive one another. We are open to God’s forgiveness in Christ by how forgiving we are to one another. Our world will discover peace again when it can see how we love one another even as Christ has loved us.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Listen to Him

February 21, 2009

Saturday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Because of it the ancients were well attested. By faith we understand that the universe was ordered by the word of God, so that what is visible came into being through the invisible. Hebrews 11:1-3

Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them. Mark 9:7-8


LISTEN carefully, my child, to your master's precepts, and incline the ear of your heart (Prov. 4:20). Receive willingly and carry out effectively your loving father's advice, that by the labor of obedience you may return to Him from whom you had departed by the sloth of disobedience.

To you, therefore, my words are now addressed, whoever you may be, who are renouncing your own will to do battle under the Lord Christ, the true King, and are taking up the strong, bright weapons of obedience.

And first of all, whatever good work you begin to do, beg of Him with most earnest prayer to perfect it, that He who has now deigned to count us among His children may not at any time be grieved by our evil deeds. For we must always so serve Him with the good things He has given us, that He will never as an angry Father disinherit His children, nor ever as a dread Lord, provoked by our evil actions, deliver us to everlasting punishment as wicked servants who would not follow Him to glory.

(Prologue, The Rule of Saint Benedict)


How often do we actually hear the words of God in His own voice?

We hear God through the silence of the sunrise. We hear God’s voice through the cries of the newborn. We hear God speak to us through the Bible, the prophets and the saints. But today is different. Today is one of the two episodes in the New Testament where God’s actual voice is heard and related to us. After speaking to us in silence for so long, God is moved to utterance by the presence and communion with his Son.

What does he say? Two things:

"This is my beloved Son.”

“Listen to him.”

Up until now, Jesus is seen as a great teacher and healer. But now, everything changes. What Jesus does and says takes on added importance with this “third-party endorsement.” This gives Jesus a unique position among all the teachers of his day. There is no other teacher who can rival him with his message or with an endorsement like this. “This is my beloved Son.” Jesus now elevates above the level of John the Baptist and the prophets.

No longer do we need to come to our own conclusion. The question ceases to be “Who do you say that I am?” Now the identity of this itinerant preacher is established. Unfortunately, everyone was not there…there was probably a smaller audience than those gathered at Jesus’ baptism when we first heard directly from God. That message was similar.

After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened (for him), and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove (and) coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." Matthew 3:16-17

What difference does this message make in our life? If God has elected these two occasions to speak so people can hear, it is interesting to note the key points God makes. God’s priority was to first establish Jesus’ credentials and identity. Not only are we told that God is pleased with Jesus, but also God urges us to pay attention to what Jesus does and says.

In light of the obstacles that Jesus faces, we have a strong lesson paired up in the Letter to the Hebrews. Through the example of the faith exhibited by Jesus and the saints, God guarantees the blessings to be hoped for from him, providing evidence in the gift of faith that what he promises will eventually come to pass. In the Hebrew Bible, all they had were promises and commandments. Now, in the person and divinity of Jesus, we see the promises begin to be fulfilled.

So what? Who cares? What’s in it for me?

Here is why this matters so much -- Our universe is put in order by these words from God. This matters because God is reaching down and pointing us to our priorities. And the verbs God uses are significant. First he uses the present tense, the here and now when God describes who this person Jesus is “This is my beloved son.” Second, he tells us to “listen,” just like we learn St. Benedict does when he starts he rule for life.

Fist, God tells us to recognize Jesus around you. Look! Maybe Jesus no longer stands in our midst as a human being. However, we must recognize the gift of Jesus by being open to a relationship with Him through the Spirit.

Second, once we have opened our eyes, then we must open our ears. Listen! Listen to Him. But don’t stop there. Once we know what he says, we must follow Jesus and carry out the plan. Only when we do both will we also please God.

Think back to that first Ideal talk on your weekend. If we center our lives on the ideal God delivers today, how could we ever go wrong? Instead, we go wrong by not recognizing Jesus and not listening to what he tells us to do.


Take note today of where you see Jesus in your world, your family and your environment. Then, once you recognize Jesus, listen to what He is saying. How does Christ speak to you today? What is He inviting you to do in the world this week?

Thursday, February 19, 2009


February 20, 2009

Friday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Then the LORD said: "If now, while they are one people, all speaking the same language, they have started to do this, nothing will later stop them from doing whatever they presume to do. Let us then go down and there confuse their language, so that one will not understand what another says." Genesis 11:6-7

What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? What could one give in exchange for his life? Mark 8:36-37


The Cross Is
The cross is the hope of Christians.
The cross is the resurrection of the dead.
The cross is the way of the lost.
The cross is the savior of the lost.
The cross is the staff of the lame.
The cross is the guide of the blind.
The cross is the strength of the weak.
The cross is the doctor of the sick.
The cross is the aim of the priests.
The cross is the hope of the hopeless.
The cross is the freedom of the slaves.
The cross is the power of the kings.
The cross is the water of the seeds.
The cross is the consolation of the bondsmen.
The cross is the source of those who seek water.
The cross is the cloth of the naked.
We thank you, Father, for the cross. Amen.


Don’t get too comfortable.

Jesus says that following him has requires some special responsibilities. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.” Mark 8:34-35

The quid pro quo of the Gospel is not found in taking up the tassels of the Pharisees nor in sitting at the place of honor during a meal. Do we have all the creature comforts – flat screen television, blu-ray DVD, surround sound home theatre that synchs with your Ipod? How about that nice Escalade with Garmin satellite GPS navigation system? The king size bed and down comforter? The 50-gallon hot water heater and central heating and air conditioning system? The latest Nike Air Jordans and GQ clothing?

As they say in Brooklyn, “Fuggettaboutit!” What difference is there if you have all these but do not live in Christ and in the Gospel? (As the Book of Mark progresses, we notice that Jesus more frequently equates himself with the Gospel).

Jesus says we have to deny all our own wants – when we want to satisfy our personal hungers and desires. Instead of picking up all this at the mall, Jesus wants us to pick up our cross – our burdens – and follow Him.

As the notes in the New American Bible explain: “Jesus challenges all believers to authentic discipleship and total commitment to himself through self-renunciation and acceptance of the cross of suffering, even to the sacrifice of life itself.”

We will never get what we need from the world that is full of Madoffs and Stanfords. We must seek out something better just as Jesus pointed out to Martha that Mary had chosen the “better” part.

Life without a commitment to the Good News is not a life fulfilled. It is like “a raisin in the sun.” The N.A.B. points out that life seen as mere self-centered earthly existence and lived in denial of Christ ends in destruction (see the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis today). When lived in full loyalty to Christ, despite earthly death, it arrives at fullness of life.


Profit from your cross? What is your cross this week?

Are there medical issues causing you and your family distress?

Are there economic issues shaking your confidence?

Are you wound up tightly over political issues?

Or perhaps something at school – those tests, applications, and teachers – is wearing you down.

Embrace your human condition and offer it back to the Lord. Be a Cyrenian to someone else…help them carry their cross, too.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I Set My Bow in the Clouds

February 19, 2009

Thursday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

For your own lifeblood, too, I will demand an accounting: from every animal I will demand it, and from man in regard to his fellow man I will demand an accounting for human life. If anyone sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; For in the image of God has man been made. Genesis 9:5-6

“But who do you say that I am?”…“You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” Mark 8:29, 33


“Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?”
Robert Browning (1812-1889)


On the one hand, today Jesus wants to know what people think. Then, right away, he turns the tables and wants to rise above human opinion.

Maybe what we are witnessing in today’s Gospel reading is the first public opinion poll. “Who do you say that I am?”

The pollsters would tell us that this is a hard question to tabulate. It is open-ended. There are not three or four clean choices. How can we cross tabulate the answers by gender, race, economic status or age? If we allow the Gallup Organization, Harris Poll or University of Michigan to rewrite Mark 8:29, then we might find the following:

Q1: Who do you say that I am?
1. Moses
2. Elijah
3. John the Baptist
4. Jesus Christ Superstar
5. The Messiah/Chosen One/Son of God

However, Jesus does not seek to have a closed-end relationship with us. He is open to us whenever and wherever we realize his true nature. If we are not ready for him just yet, that’s O.K. Jesus will wait twenty minutes or twenty years.

As we develop that open, honest and caring personal relationship, Jesus wants to take it to a new level above and beyond the human condition or public opinion. He does not want us to follow the crowd and the culture. Sometimes, he wants and demands that we march to a “different drummer.” Jesus expects us to be like He was – counter to the prevailing culture and attitudes. He does not want us to think like we thought as a child. He wants us to rise above that and to start thinking like God who demands an accounting for human life – all human life.


Set your sights on the clouds. That is where the Lord has set his bow.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

How Can I Repay the Lord for All the Good Done for Me?

February 18, 2009

Wednesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

When the Lord smelled the sweet odor (coming from Noah’s offering after the floodwaters receded), he said to himself: “Never again will I doom the earth because of man since the desires of man’s heart are evil from the start; nor will I ever again strike down all living beings, as I have done.” (Genesis 6:21)

How can I repay the Lord for all the good done for me? (Psalms 116:12)

Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. (After the man’s sight was restored, Jesus) sent him home and said, “Do not even go into the village.” (Mark 8:23, 26)


I offer you, Lord, my thoughts: to be fixed on you; my words: to have you for their theme; my actions: to reflect my love for you; my sufferings: to be endured for your greater glory. I want to do what you ask of me: in the way you ask, for as long as you ask, because you ask it. I pray, Lord, that you enlighten my mind, inflame my will, purify my heart, and sanctify my soul. (Attributed to Pope Clement XI)


Repaying God for all the good done for us is like shopping for a Christmas or birthday gift for a friend who has the means to buy or do anything he or she wants. A week at the shore? The friend already owns a house at the best beach in the world. A nice bottle of wine? The friend is a world-class vintner. Tickets to an exclusive concert? The friend already has access to the best music, 24/7.

Today’s readings show how our concept of God has evolved. The vengeful God of Genesis, which dates to perhaps 1600 B.C., seems almost remorseful for the havoc He has raised among His people, given that “the desires of man’s heart are evil from the start.” God sounds a bit like a bully who knows He’s let things get out of hand when He pledges that he will never again “strike down all living beings, as I have done.” The offerings of Noah are described as having a “sweet odor,” indicating that burnt offerings are desirable to this God.

About six hundred years later, the psalmist, who has been delivered from mortal danger and despair, offers to pay his debt by sharing his vows in the presence of all God’s people. The New American Bible notes on this reading also indicate that this God grieves the death of His faithful, and accepts their deaths as sacrificial offerings.

Then we see Jesus, God’s son, in Bethsaida with the blind man. Christ takes the blind man outside the village and twice puts hands on him. The man’s sight is restored. Rather than sacrificial offerings or the sharing of the miracle with others, the thanks Christ asks is that the man go home, adding, “Do not even go into the village.” Some say this is because Christ wanted the people to understand his spiritual message first, rather than to see him as a political messiah or as a magician.

This passage is important, in part because of what comes next in the Gospel. In the verses that follow today’s reading, Jesus asks who people say he is and his ministry begins in earnest. But here, in today’s readings, he asks for little in return for the gift of the man’s sight: “Do not even go into the village.”

Maybe there’s a lesson for us here too. Maybe not all of the miracles God provides in our lives are not meant to be shared with the village either. Maybe the greatest gift we can give Him on those occasions is the sacrificial offering of, to paraphrase Pope Clement XI, focusing our thoughts and actions on the Lord, with little complaint about our sufferings.

You can’t buy that type of devotion in the store. But it is the gift that keeps on giving—both to God and to His people.


Ash Wednesday is just one week from today. What will you do during Lent to repay the Lord for all the good done for you?

Monday, February 16, 2009

He Walked With God

February 17, 2009

Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

But Noah found favor with the LORD. Genesis 6:8

He enjoined them, "Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." They concluded among themselves that it was because they had no bread. When he became aware of this he said to them, "Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Mark 6:15-17


O LORD, have pity on us, for you we wait. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of trouble! Isaiah 33:2


With whom have you taken a walk recently?

When we take a walk with someone, we share some special moments. Perhaps you watched the sun rise on the beach with your spouse. Perhaps you walked the dog with your grandchild. Perhaps you hiked a trail with your son’s Scout troop.

When we walk with someone, we say that nothing else in the world matters more than spending this time, these minutes, with you. It is a very intimate relationship. No words need pass between you and your companion. All that is required is spending time with them in the sample place doing the same thing. Together.

When people wanted to learn from the ancient philosophers, they walked with them. Aristotle taught his lessons while walking about the Lyceum in ancient Athens. Jesus taught his lessons while walking about Galilee and Jerusalem. When Jesus invited the disciples to follow him, they accepted it as an invitation to walk with him.

I have a friend who grew up Catholic. He went to church and we even attended retreats together in college. We were there when he and his wife were married more than 30 years ago. We also were there when he walked his daughter down the aisle last year.

This gentle man is committed to helping people. However, somewhere along the line, the sins of the institutional church turned him away from the Church. Today, he does not need to be with God in a church. When he wants to be with God, he puts on his Nike’s (when he isn’t running barefoot on the beach) and heads out for his form of “communion.”

In the tradition of Noah and Abraham and the disciples, God is looking for people like my friend who will walk with Him. God wants us to spend some quality time with Him. God wants us to walk in the same direction that He walks. God wants us to care for the protection of all that he has made.

God asks very little else of us.

But Noah found favor with the LORD. These are the descendants of Noah. Noah, a good man and blameless in that age, for he walked with God. Genesis 6:8-10

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said: "I am God the Almighty. Walk in my presence and be blameless. Genesis 17:1

You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

“Walk with me.” Think back to Noah and Abraham and Micah. The price of the covenant was simple…to walk humbly with God.

When Jesus cured the paralytic man, he commanded him to “Rise, pick up your mat, and walk.”

When Jesus raised the twelve-year-old girl from the dead, his command was “Arise” and the Gospel commented that she walked around.

When Jesus sent the disciples out on their mission, he told them only to take a walking stick and sandals, the essential tools for someone commanded to walk humbly with God.

When Jesus appeared after the resurrection, one of those first appearances was when he was teaching a pair on the walk to Emmaus.

So whether you are headed to Emmaus or Centerville, take a step in the right direction. I leave you with these thoughts from Breaking Free by Beth Moore:

One of the things I enjoy most about God is his daily-ness. We don't develop an appreciation for His presence from crisis points. Pure appreciation for God's presence emerges from a daily walk—perhaps in the mundane more than the miraculous…I remember when a profound change occurred in my daily approach to God. For years I asked God to walk with me. Suddenly, as if someone pulled the string on a lamp, I realized God wanted me to walk with Him.


Take a walk today with God. Bring someone else along if you can.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Where Is Your Brother?

February 16, 2009

Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth DeCristofaro

So the LORD said to Cain: "Why are you so resentful and crestfallen. If you do well, you can hold up your head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door: his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master." … Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the LORD asked Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" He answered, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?" (Genesis 4:6-7, 9)

(Jesus) sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, "Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation." (Matthew 8:12)


Lord, help me see the ways I'm too self-centered this week. Help me notice the needs of those you place in my life. Stretch my heart to love more today. (Creighton University)


In the Children’s Illustrated Bible that my family owned when I was little, there was a picture of Cain and Abel that always made me unhappy. It showed Cain, heavily bearded and wearing cave-man style furs fuming beside an altar from which black smoke trickled down toward the ground. Clearly he was upset that God had rejected his offering. On the other page was Abel. He was dressed in white, shepherd-like robes, his shining eyes and face lifted to the heavens and his hands raised in prayer next to the billowing white smoke which rose into the sunshine. Not fair! Why would God be mean to Cain? Cain’s face scared me and the thought of God randomly choosing to hurt someone frightened me even more.

Cain’s story still bothers me. But my understanding of it has changed through reading and reflecting on Cain’s own words. God tries to let Cain know that Cain has an opportunity to reject temptation. Later, when God asks Cain about Abel, the question itself is simple enough, "Where is your brother Abel?” However, Cain lies to God in pride, guilt, anger and fear: "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?" He rejects God’s gift of life. He rejects the community that is family. He rejects the kingship of God. God put humans together on the earth because love is relational and is manifest by service to, caring for one another. We are granted the potential to recreate the love God gives to us through creation itself.

Contrast that with the pleas for help by the deaf man and the Greek woman in Gospel readings last week. They said to Jesus in essence: “We bow before your authority and plead for life and healing.” Cain will not bow: Cain said to the LORD: "My punishment is too great to bear. Since you have now banished me from the soil and I must avoid your presence and become a restless wanderer on the earth, anyone may kill me at sight." (Genesis 4:14). He gives in to the demon at the door in his rage and casts-off relationship with the divine. Cain chooses to turn his back on God. I can still pity him but understand now that, rather than describing God’s capriciousness, this story is about humanity’s refusal to accept culpability, seek reconciliation and to trust in God’s mercy.

I can almost hear God sigh from the depths of his spirit, watching Cain stomp away in self-righteous anger and fear. God loved Cain and did not want this first of sons to turn away. Jesus echoes this sigh as the Pharisees reject him in their arrogance and pride.


Abel praised God in thanksgiving for the life of the crops he grew and the lifeblood in his own veins. God marked but did not allow Cain to be killed for murder. Consider writing to your Governor Tim Kaine and other elected officials to assert the pro-life stance which rejects the death penalty. Virginia is scheduled to execute a prisoner on February 19.

In a press release last week, “The bishops of Florida have asked Governor Charlie Crist to ‘set a new standard of decency" for the state by doing away with the death penalty. Set a new standard of decency for the State of Florida,’ the bishops appealed, ‘by abandoning executions and commuting death row sentences to life in prison without possibility of parole.’ The bishops are not endorsing that ‘We should let people go free, but that they are being punished by being put in prison for the rest of their life.’ A spokesperson noted that there have been several cases of death row inmates who have been found innocent. ‘We have to ask ourselves if we are killing an innocent person. That would be a terrible tragedy.’

The letter of the bishops' conference did not affirm (inmate) W. Tompkin's innocence, but rather asked that Crist ‘replace the violence of death by execution with life long imprisonment in the penal system as a way to protect society and ensure punishment for offenders.’ (Tompkins was executed February 11)

‘We pray for healing for (Tompkin’s victim) Lisa DeCarr’s family and friends who have suffered the pain of losing their loved one. No punishment, no matter how severe, can ever erase the grief caused by her wrongful death,’ the prelates added.”

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I Will Do It

February 15, 2009

Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time

By Rev. Joseph McCloskey, S.J.

As long as the sore is on him he shall declare himself unclean, since he is in fact unclean. He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp. Leviticus 13:46

A leper came to him (and kneeling down) begged him and said, "If you wish, you can make me clean." Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, "I do will it. Be made clean." Mark 1:40-41


Lord I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word, and I shall be healed.


The strength of piety is revealed in the awareness that one is doing everything for the glory of God. Annoyance at another is where piety best serves as we try not to give offense. No matter how great the saint, there is always someone who is only a pale imitation of what should be done if we are to be genuine imitators of Christ as Paul was. Whether or not we are capable of loving each person who comes into our lives with the same love we would have for the one we most love is a consummation devoutly to be wished. When we are able to love such wise that one cannot even guess who would be the person we most love, then we have learned to love as Christ loved.

One who bears the sore of leprosy has to cry out “unclean, unclean” when another comes close. Touching a leper brings ritual impurity. Lepers had to make their abode outside the camp. The leper of our Gospel came to Jesus and begged for a healing. From the time of his leprosy it is doubtful that our leper of the gospel had ever been touched. I can remember my terror when I met my first leper. I do not remember myself as graciously shaking hands with him even when I knew that a leper had to come into contact with an open sore on me for leprosy to be passed on. When my leper was gone, I checked my hands carefully to be sure I had no open sore. I remember washing my hands more carefully than ever. Leprosy is a dreadful disease. Christ stretched out his hand and touched the leper. The healing touch is not a rough, brief touch of another. Christ touched the open sore to bring healing to the leper. Christ’s touch of the leper teaches me how to face up to my fears and how to bring healing to another. A loving touch is how we heal those we are trying to help.


The examen of the consciousness of Christ in our lives needs to focus how we reach out to those who are a part of our lives. Leprosy takes many forms in our world today. How I relate to people who have hurt me is a question I need to answer each evening when I review the day. What I have done for those I really care about has to be the model of what I would do for those who get on my nerves. Am I kind, patient, gentle, loving, understanding, and aware of what another suffers? Am I making an effort to put the best interpretation possible on what another does to me? Am I disposed to honor the freedom of another to be late, sloppy, and careless in how they treat me? How do I identify with those who are the last lowest and least in the eyes of my friends? Do I try to encounter the Christ of each person who is part of my life? The actions of our lives are not always jobs to be done. They are very much the style of how we try to be Christ like in what we do for each other. Piety, Study and Action meet in how we try to be Christ to each other.

Friday, February 13, 2009

They Ate and Were Satisfied

February 14, 2009

Memorial of Saint Cyril, monk, and Saint Methodius, bishop

The LORD God then called to the man and asked him, "Where are you?" Genesis 3:9

“My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.” Mark 8:2


Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart. Relent, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants! Fill us at daybreak with your love, that all our days we may sing for joy. Make us glad as many days as you humbled us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. Show your deeds to your servants, your glory to their children. May the favor of the Lord our God be ours. Prosper the work of our hands! Prosper the work of our hands! (Psalm 90:12-17)


God wants us around. Even after Adam disobeyed the instructions in the Garden, God is still looking for Adam. “Where are you?” It is Adam who is ashamed of his actions, not God.

The next Men’s Cursillo in Arlington is using Psalm 40:8-9 as its theme. “Here I am, Lord. I come to do your will.” How different salvation history would have been if that phrase was Adam’s answer when the Lord came calling.

Acting in the Sacrament of the Present Moment has been a common reaction throughout the Bible. From Isaiah to Samuel, from Moses to Ananias, people of faith have put themselves in the presence of the Lord marked with obedience and humility with similar phrases. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

When we answer “Yes” to God, God answers “Yes” to us.

Jesus, also, wants us around. Even after the crowds have been with him for three days, instead of sending them home, he acts like a Benedictine and offers holy hospitality…getting his guests something to eat. Even if we have nothing, Jesus will provide for us. If the only food around was the fruit from the tree of knowledge, Jesus would probably pick that and offer it to the crowds. Instead of that, Jesus has a much more satisfying meal to offer to his visitors. As the bumper sticker says, “Without the Bread of Life, you’re toast.”


Where are you when God calls? Are you busy watching the big game on TV? Maybe you are headed down to the Mall for the big sale. Put yourself in God’s presence this weekend. Show up for church early enough to contemplate the readings before Mass begins. Stick around until Jesus offers you a meal that is much more satisfying than anything you can get at IHOP or Brion’s Grille. And then shock Fr. Barkett and stay until the last verse of the last hymn is sung.