Tuesday, March 31, 2009

No Room Among You

April 1, 2009

Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Lent

If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us! But even if he will not, know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue which you set up." Daniel 3:17-18

Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him, "If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:31-32


Jesus, help the truth of your life in us set us free from our slavery to the altar of consumerism and affluence. Amen.


Room. No room. The choice is ours. From his humblest beginning, all the Lord was looking for was a place. Some hospitality from a local innkeeper. A place to lie his head while walking around the Holy Land. A place in the hotel in our hearts. Yet from the outset, Jesus was always fighting for a room.

We focus a lot of attention in John’s Gospel on themes of light and darkness, living water and signs offered or miracles performed. Another theme we will find woven throughout this poetic narrative is the idea of offering Jesus a place of honor in our minds, on our lips and in our hearts. In the opening prologue, John writes about how Jesus’ own people did not accept him. The disciples also struggle with making room for Jesus in their lives as if the Lord only needs a bed.

Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, "What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi" (which translated means Teacher), "where are you staying?" He said to them, "Come, and you will see." So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. John 1:38-39

Jesus wants more than just physical space to lay his head. He needs some place where the Word can rest. That is why ne needs our minds, hearts and souls.

Not only does Jesus want a place in our house, he will prepare a place for us in his Father’s house. He wants to protect his Father’s house from any way in which humanity might defile it. So he throws out the temple merchants and money-changers. "Zeal for your house will consume me."

Even the discussion with Nicodemus hinges on the misunderstanding of a tangible location or place. Nicodemus at first confuses the literal meaning of Jesus words with the metaphorical meaning.

Nicodemus said to him, "How can a person once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother's womb and be born again, can he?" Jesus answered, "Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. John 3:4-5

Even after performing some of the first signs or miracles, we read that “Jesus himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his native place.” This can be read literally as the physical geographic land of his people or more aptly as no place in the hearts of his beloved people. Our slavery to sin prevented our ancestors then and prevents us now from freely providing Jesus with the room he seeks. However, in the Lord’s infinite generosity, that never stops him from doing everything possible to make sure there is a place for us in his Father’s house.

In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. John 14:2-3

In the end, Jesus offers his whole life in prayer for us that we may make room for him in our hearts.

When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely. I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. John 17:12-14


In the end, Jesus request of us is a simple one: Follow me. Just like the simple covenant in the Hebrew Bible where the God of our ancestors just wants to walk around with us…be with us. What change are you seeking this Lenten season? What place are you preparing for Jesus?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Release Us, God

Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Lent

March 31, 2009

By Beth DeCristofaro

Then the people came to Moses and said, "We have sinned in complaining against the LORD and you. Pray the LORD to take the serpents away from us." So Moses prayed for the people, and the LORD said to Moses, "Make a saraph and mount it on a pole, and whoever looks at it after being bitten will live." … whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he lived. (Numbers 21: 7-9)

(Jesus) said to them, "You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins." (John 8:23-34)


Let this be written for the generation to come, and let his future creatures praise the LORD: "The LORD looked down from his holy height, from heaven he beheld the earth, to hear the groaning of the prisoners, to release those doomed to die." (Psalm 102:19-21) Lord, help me see how I am bound and help me loose those bonds through your loving mercy. Help me recognize how I wander aimlessly and instead set my eyes and heart upon you. Lord, help me stay out of my own way as I humbly walk your ways.


This Lent I find myself identifying closely with the Israelites in the desert. I whine, complain, find ways around the right ways, fall short and choose my own desires over the direction which God promises leads to life. And then when I find myself in a snake pit, I pray, acknowledge I have sinned against God and ask to be saved.

It’s so darn easy to be human! We need signs, symbols, answers and roadmaps, color- coded as to quickest, most scenic and easiest commute through our deserts. Jesus, the “I Am”, replaces the bronze serpent to save us and fill us with himself. From of old, generation to generation, God promises to hear the groanings of those imprisoned – even within their own egos which is certainly my only prison much of the time – and to set us free.

Human life which is both sweet and dire; Jesus is our roadmap. God created only good. Jesus asks us to look only through his eyes of love and see the good. As Fr. James Greenfield, OSF, said in his homily during Live Jesus, we can choose to see with “radical amazement” that God is present in everything. This takes practice which means being with and listening to God rather than telling God (as the Pharisees tried to do) what life is or what holiness is and what God should want.


Be grateful for this season of Lent in which God invites us to see our lives anew and rededicate ourselves to being God’s chosen one just as the Israelites did again and again when God saved them from themselves. Look at one relationship, one habit, one addiction, one shortcoming which is binding you and biting you. Bring it before God in silence and prayer. What is God telling you or asking you to do? Give up the snake and accept God’s gift of Life.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Hope in Him

March 30, 2009

Monday of the Fifth Week in Lent

But Susanna cried aloud: “O eternal God, you know what is hidden and are aware of all things before they come to be: you know that they have testified falsely against me. Here I am about to die, though I have done none of the things with which these wicked men have charged me.” The Lord heard her prayer. Daniel 13:42-44

Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, (and) from now on do not sin any more.” John 8:10-11


Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength. You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name. Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage. You set a table before me as my enemies watch; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come. Amen.


Two lessons in justice give us an opportunity to think ahead and contemplate the unjust accusers. In less than two weeks, our liturgical year will mark Good Friday and the execution of an innocent man. As we approach the cross, we can study the judgment on Susanna and the accused woman in John’s Gospel inform our piety and our actions.

Daniel comes forward to act in defense of Susanna in order to assure that “the innocent and the just” are not put to death. Just as the two old men lured Susanna into their trap, Daniel sets a trap for them, praising the accusers with his comments about “the prestige of old age. Daniel is then able to turn the tables and spring a trap on them as the two men testify about different details related to the tree in these stories.

Jesus is the advocate for the accused woman in the Gospel of John. He comes forward and also challenges those who charge her with adultery.

What does each story say to us today? There will be consequences if we bear false witness against an innocent person.

What does it mean? God saves those who place their hope in him.

What does it matter when these lessons can not come to bear on God’s only son? In our scripture reading from last Saturday, we heard Nicodemus come to the defense of Jesus in front of his peers. The converting Pharisee asked, “Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?” However, his plea falls upon deaf ears, or at least upon the ears of people who do not want to hear any defense of Jesus of Nazareth.

Judas arises bearing false witness. Despite their attempts to avoid passing judgment, Caiaphas, Herod and Pilate could not escape the trap that the crowd had set for them to condemn an innocent man and send Jesus to his death. No one stepped forward to be an advocate for Jesus once the wheels of execution were turning. Although Jesus was sent to testify to the truth, there is no one to testify to the truth on his behalf.

What does Good Friday matter if Jesus can not be saved like Susanna? Rather than escaping judgment and execution like the women in today’s reading, Jesus instead suffers and dies in order to bring us to the Easter Resurrection. Seen another way, Jesus’ death is one more way that God saves those who hope in Him. Jesus is the Daniel of Good Friday. We are the Susanna of Good Friday. From Gethsemane to Golgotha to the cross, Jesus becomes our advocate, suffering for our sins instead of allowing us to suffer and dies for our own actions. Just as the resurrection of Lazarus paved the way for the lessons of Easter, the forgiveness and mercy shown today to these two woman, also let us see our God as the true source of eternal salvation, mercy and hope.


God stirred up the spirit of a young boy names Daniel so he would come to the defense of Susanna. What is God stirring up your heart to do? Perhaps we can be strengthened in our resolve to oppose the death penalty by the results of similar efforts in New Mexico.

In a recent success for testifying for life, just a few weeks before Good Friday, the state of New Mexico became the latest state to outlaw the death penalty. According to a recent statement, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) congratulated the bishops of New Mexico and other advocates on their successful efforts to repeal the death penalty there.

“The bishops of New Mexico and many others worked tirelessly to see New Mexico become a leader in turning away from the death penalty in our country,” said Kathy Saile, director of the Office of Domestic Social Development at the USCCB.

On March 18, Governor Bill Richardson signed HB 285 into law making New Mexico the second state to repeal the death penalty since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the use of the death penalty in 1976. In December 2007, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine signed legislation repealing the death penalty in that state. Fifteen states have now have laws banning the death penalty.

Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development at the USCCB, wrote to Governor Richardson on March 16, urging him to sign the legislation, saying it “would help begin building a culture of life in our country.”

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I Will Draw Everyone to Myself

March 29, 2009

Fifth Sunday in Lent

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD. I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer will they have need to teach their friends and kinsmen how to know the LORD. All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more. Jeremiah 31:33-34

Jesus answered and said, "This voice did not come for my sake but for yours. Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself." John 12:30-32


Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will. All I have and call my own. Whatever I have or hold, you have given me. I return it all to you and surrender it wholly to be governed by your will. Give me only your love and your grace and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more. (St. Ignatius, from the end of the Spiritual Exercises)


“I will be their God and they will be my people,” says the Lord in Jeremiah 15. The victory of Christ is written on our hearts. Even people who do not know Christ have been given the victory of Christ when they respond to the law of the Lord written on their hearts to do good and to avoid evil. The Lord forgives our evil doing and he remembers our sin no more when we listen to his call that is written on our hearts by the victory of Christ on the Cross. The tree of glory is the throne of Christ and his claim on our hearts. We are privileged by our faith in Christ to know who Christ is because he offered prayers and supplications for each of us with his loud cries and tears to his Father in Heaven. Christ learned obedience by what he suffered for us as his incredible love found expression in a picture of love that we will never be able to forget if we look upon him on his Cross. The picture of Christ on the Cross is the most profound expression of God’s love made flesh in the beaten body of Christ. His invitation to discipleship invites us to take up the crosses of our lives and to follow him. The vision of Christ on the cross is the picture worth many times more than thousands of words could say. We have a vision of the length and the breath of God’s love for us that while we might ignore it in our sinfulness can never be forgotten. He has won our hearts forever and we are called to serve him in each other. What we do for the hungry, thirsty, sick, naked and prisoners is how we are close to Christ. Whatever we do for the least one in our lives he accepts as done for himself.

The price of our salvation has been paid. Christ speaks the meaning of his life when he talks about the grain of wheat falling to the ground and dying. His dying produces the great fruit of our lives. Our dying by our fasting and good works does the same in the Mystical Body of Christ. The Church was defined as the people of God. The Church being the mystical Body of Christ gives us our fleshing out as real Christ in the lives of each other. In our service of the Christ of each other the Father honors us in our service of Christ. It is Christ that lives in us even as Paul claims for himself in Galatians 2, 19. Because we serve Christ in each other, the Father honors us by seeing us as his Children also. Our filling of what is wanting to the sufferings of Christ‘s body, his Church, gives us the peace and the real joy of our lives. We become part of the price that Christ pays for the salvation of all of us. Our union with him in the Purgative of our lives changes the world we live in by his love becoming realer to those we serve in his name.


Perfect love always generates a response in the recipient. We do not do what we do in the name of Christ for what we get out of it. Our Apostolic work can become repetitious and boring because it all too easy to be forgetful of whom and for whom we live our Christian lives. Christianity is not a set of rules. It is a walk in companionship with Christ. We love when we are sharers of each other’s lives. We are poor lovers if we want to different from or distant from the one we love. Love brings closeness of mind and heart. Putting on the mind and the heart of Christ is how our Study can stay exciting. Our reading the gospels of his life gives us the exposure to his mind and heart. Our practices of piety keep us close to him. Our actions are how we love. The gift given in his love does not need a return. We become one with Christ by the living out of his love in our apostolic labors. When our gifts are cleanly given when we die to what we might get out of giving even as our services spring up into eternal life in those we love. By giving our lives away in his love we preserve them. Thus we can hear the voice of the Father in our own lives as our love sprouts in the Christ lives of those we serve. Thus we get to see Jesus in each other.

Friday, March 27, 2009

What He is Doing

March 28, 2009

Saturday of the Fourth Week in Lent

Yet I, like a trusting lamb led to slaughter, had not realized that they were hatching plots against me: "Let us destroy the tree in its vigor; let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name will be spoken no more." Jeremiah 12:19

Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them, "Does our law condemn a person before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?" They answered and said to him, "You are not from Galilee also, are you? Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee." John 7:49-52


I pray incessantly for the conversion of the prodigal son’s brother.
Ever in my ear rings the dread warning.
This one has awoken from his life of sin.
When will the other awaken from his virtue?
-- Dome Helder Camara, August 29, 1962


What is he doing? That Nicodemus is a Pharisee. What is he doing defending Jesus?

Today our reading presents to us Nicodemus for his second appearance in St. John’s telling of the Good News. Nicodemus has heard Jesus in the temple and when we first met him back in Chapter 3, he was stealing away under cover of darkness to meet with the Prince of Light. Despite the darkness, Nicodemus was drawn to the light. This passage shows us the next stage in the conversion of Nicodemus.

Now, he is among the Pharisees when they start to foment the crowd against Jesus. Rather than being pulled along with the “group-think” of the maddening crowd, Nicodemus urges restraint. “Does our law condemn a person before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?”

His counsel, however, falls upon deaf ears. The people only hear what they want to hear and are not swayed to do a fuller investigation by talking directly with Jesus as Nicodemus had done in his first direct encounter with Christ. The words of Jesus to Nicodemus in the earlier visit now take on new meaning as we see the Pharisee come to the defense of Jesus.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God. John 3:17-21

Nicodemus learned through his direct encounter that Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save it. Although Nicodemus came to meet Jesus at night, he clearly was starting to turn his life toward Jesus, the light of the world. Now, after his “study” to get to know Jesus, he was springing into action trying to keep the world from condemning Jesus. But Nicodemus was going against the rising tide of public opinion. The Pharisees and the people “preferred” the darkness. No longer fearful of meeting Jesus only at night, Nicodemus starts acting in the daylight as his faith will guide him.

What he is doing is helping to show that Jesus was successful. The next time we encounter Nicodemus, he will be with Joseph of Aramithea at the foot of the cross, removing the body which once belonged to Jesus, anointing it and placing it in the tomb. Nicodemus’s actions are the final step in the world that paves the way for the Resurrection.


We could ask the same thing about Jesus during Lent. What is he doing, allowing himself to be led to the slaughter like the innocent Lamb that he is? Instead of challenging Jesus, perhaps we should ask ourselves what we are doing to spread the light? If someone looked at our lives, would they conclude that we prefer darkness to light? Or are we getting infected with the same message that broke through the clutter of tradition and resonated with Nicodemus?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I Did Not Come on My Own

March 27, 2009

Friday of the Fourth Week in Lent

By Melanie Rigney

… (T)hey erred, for their wickedness blinded them, and they knew not the hidden counsels of God; neither did they count on a recompense of holiness nor discern the innocent souls’ reward. (Book of Wisdom 2:21-22)

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves. (Psalms 34:19)

Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said, “Is he not the one they are trying to kill? And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him. Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ? But we know where he is from. When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.” So Jesus cried out from the temple area where he was teaching and said, “You know me and also know where I am from. Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” (John 7:25-28)


Jesus, I love you. Let me emulate your confidence in the hidden counsels of God, the recompense of holiness, and the reward that awaits innocent souls.


You probably know of Mary Hart, the long-running host of TV’s Entertainment Weekly. Even if you’re not an EW watcher, you may remember the publicity that ensued several years back when she insured her shapely legs for $1 million each. Me, I knew her as Miss Harum, who taught English at my high school in South Dakota in the early 1970s. I’ve always been a little perplexed—not envious, just perplexed—about how she got from Miss South Dakota 1970 to English teacher to celebrity. Maybe you have the same reaction if you were at the University of Virginia with Katie Couric, or at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington with Sandra Bullock.

The people in today’s Gospel appear to have felt the same way about Jesus. They notice that so far, he’s still free despite the “radical” message of love and peace that he carries. But surely, he can’t be the one, because they know him. They know his mother. They know where he grew up. They have trouble getting past that to think about everything he’s said and done.

Jesus tries yet again to explain: “You know me and also know where I am from. Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true.”

Celebrity or schoolteacher, cheerleader or grandparent, as we carry forth our ministries today, it really doesn’t matter whether people know us when (or now) and can place us into tidy little pigeonholes based on our backgrounds and pasts. Whether they are perplexed or are truly wicked and envious need not concern us. Rather, the key is whether we are doing today what the One who loves us desires. Let’s focus on how we are comforting the brokenhearted and crushed in spirit, confident in the hidden counsels of God.


Sunday begins the final week of Lent before Holy Week. Contemplate what you have done so far this season to help the brokenhearted and crushed in spirit—then offer up a little more.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Seek the Praise

March 26, 2009

Thursday of the Fourth Week in Lent

But Moses implored the LORD, his God, saying, "Why, O LORD, should your wrath blaze up against your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with such great power and with so strong a hand? Why should the Egyptians say, 'With evil intent he brought them out, that he might kill them in the mountains and exterminate them from the face of the earth'? Let your blazing wrath die down; relent in punishing your people. Exodus 32:11-12

“I do not accept human praise; moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I came in the name of my Father, but you do not accept me; yet if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God?” John 5:41-44


Come God! Do not smile and say you are already with us.
Millions do not know you and to us who do, what is the difference?
What is the point of your presence if our lives to not alter?
Change our lives, shatter our complacency.
Make your word flesh of our flesh, blood of our blood and our life’s purpose.
Take away the quietness of a clear conscience.
Press us uncomfortably.
For only thus that other peace is made, your peace.
Dom Helder Camara


Advocacy. Sometimes the powerless can not speak for themselves. They need someone to step up and speak for them. Someone like Moses. Someone like Jesus.

Now, that doesn’t always mean that we listen to what the Advocate says. But we know that we need help and the Advocate is there to lend a hand and a voice to our message.

Advocacy works on a spiritual level as well. Then we call it intercession. That is when we don’t think the power of our prayer alone is enough. We then turn to the Cloud of Witnesses to help carry our message forth to – pardon me Hebrew National – a higher authority.

Maybe you asked St. Anthony to help you find that lost ring. Maybe you asked St. Theresa to help motivate you to volunteer. Maybe you asked St. Francis to help the poor. So whether you ask your late Uncle Bill or St. William of York for assistance, they will act as the holy megaphone to make sure your prayer gets its day in the court of heavenly opinion.

The neat thing about this “wherever-two-or-more-are-gathered” church is that we are never alone. Even when we think we are on the eve of destruction (see Psalm 40 yesterday), someone is patiently listening for our call.


If we can rely upon others for help, we also have a responsibility to help advocate for the poor and the powerless. The United States Catholic Conference and Catholic Relief Services are urging us to contact members of the Senate Budget Committee to urge support for President Obama’s 2010 budget request for international affairs so that a $3 billion increase can be allocated to poverty-focused international assistance programs.

According to an Action Alert sent out March 24, the USCCB and CRS explain the following:

WHY IS THE INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS BUDGET LEVEL IMPORTANT NOW? The FY 2010 budget that the Senate Budget Committee will approve next week determines overall funding levels for various U.S. government programs and initiatives, including international affairs. President Obama requested $51.7 billion for international affairs in his FY 2010 budget outline. While this represents only 1.4% of the President’s entire budget proposal, this funding level would permit increased funding for programs essential to confronting global poverty.

HOW DO KEY PARTS OF THE INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS BUDGET CONFRONT GLOBAL POVERTY? The international affairs budget encompasses lifesaving programs that confront global poverty, including: provision of food and clean water; treatment of people affected by HIV and other deadly diseases; promotion of agriculture and microfinance to help people support themselves and their families, and delivery of education and health services to poor people. At this point in the Congressional budget process, a strong international affairs budget level is critical to ensuring that adequate resources for those programs assisting poor and vulnerable people around the globe are available as the budget and appropriations process continues.

WHAT DOES THE INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS BUDGET HAVE TO DO WITH MY FAITH? Our Catholic faith teaches us to follow the Gospel’s call and uphold the life and dignity of the human person. As part of this effort to practice our faith, we are called to alleviate human suffering and promote justice worldwide. By insisting that our government assist our brothers and sisters who need a hand up to lift themselves out of poverty, we are acting on our faith.

For more information contact: Stephen Colecchi, Director, USCCB Office of International Justice and Peace, scolecchi@usccb.org, 202-541-3196 or Tina Rodousakis, Manager, CRS Grassroots Advocacy, trodousa@crs.org, (410) 951-7462

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

With Us is God

March 25, 2009

The Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

Then he said: Listen, O house of David! Is it not enough for you to weary men, must you also weary my God? Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:13-14

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. Luke 1:38

Piety (Based upon Psalm 40)

Lord, I am waiting for you just as you are waiting for me. Draw me out of my selfish pursuits and self-destructive behaviors. Set my feet upon the solid ground that you have cultivated for my personal and spiritual growth. Put your song of praise on my mind, on my lips and in my heart.

Help me to turn my back on seeking happiness and security in this world from Jack Daniels or Jim Beam. From Ipod or Izod. From the NFL and the NBA. From the golf course or the baseball diamond. From the stock markets or the savings bond.

Send the Holy Spirit to inspire change – a change in the direction in which I am looking for happiness. Revive me from sleep walking through life to live once again reconnected to you and your presence. Nothing in this world is a shadow of your wonders. Open my ears and eyes to your word and works.

LORD, do not withhold your compassion from me; may your enduring kindness ever preserve me. For all about me are countless temptations. Rescue me! Come quickly to help me, LORD! Put to shame and confound all who seek to take my life away from you. Take from me Father all that keeps me from you. Give to me, Jesus, all that leads me to you. Set me free, Holy Spirit, that I might dedicate my life to you.


You have found favor with God. God has bent down and heard our cry. Whether we are at the top of Mount Tabor or at the pit of despair, the message gets through. There is no heavenly receptionist running holy interference. Our message gets right through to the ear of our God.

When the angel spoke these words, the “favor” was not limited to Mary. All of us…in the fullness of time…have found favor with God. God wants to be with us. The joy of the annunciation is not just the announcing that Jesus is on the way. The joy is that God, who originally set up the covenant with us decades ago still wants to fulfill that despite all that we have done and all we have “failed to do.” God does not want to be some remote, distant object of our worship. From the very outset of the original covenant with Moses, Abraham and David, God wants to be engaged in a very intimate relationship with us.

Did you ever have a friend that you could not wait to see? Maybe she or he had been travelling, away at school or on a business trip and you were awaiting their return. God wants us to have the joy of the reunion every day. God wants to be so close that he can stop by and take a walk with us around the block, along the beach or share a jog around the lake.

What does God ask of us in return? The Psalmist gives us that answer. “Here I am; your commands for me are written in the scroll. To do your will is my delight; my God, your law is in my heart!” Psalm 40-:8-9

• God seeks awareness of the present moment -- every moment just like God always is aware of us, our wants and our needs.

• God seeks understanding -- not only understanding of the commandments but the will to carry them out without resentment. God does not want to coerce us into following Jesus. God wants that decision to be ours, freely chosen and gladly chosen.

• God seeks our hearts – because once God is instilled within us, the law to rest in our hearts, not to be imposed on our minds like some kind of Biblical brainwashing.

Awareness. Understanding. Happiness. That is why cults are so anathema to the Bible. We don’t need to follow some cult figure serving us false Kool-Aid. We need to be attracted to the love and life-giving water that Christians have for each other and act accordingly not because we have to but because we want to.

Sacrifice and holocaust do not point the way toward a walk with God. As the prophet Micah 6:8 put it, “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.” With us is God. Within us is God. The values God instills are the values God seeks us to live.


As blogger “Sherry” expressed it: “In the end, I’m not sure that there is more that any of us can do than our best. I am here, Lord. I am doing my best, trying to discern your will, trying to uphold your will, and please you. Here I am Lord.”

Do your best for the candidates on the next Cursillo.

Psalm 40 is the theme for the next Men’s Cursillo Weekend. Visit the web site and get the list of candidates for Palanca. Right now there are 12 disciples signed up for the weekend. Do you know a potential candidate? Talk to God about your friend before you talk to your friend about the weekend. Then make a friend. Be a friend. Bring a friend to Christ. M118 (April 16-19, 2009) Missionhurst.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Take Up Your Mat and Walk

March 24 2009

By Beth DeCristofaro

Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live,…for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh. Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of every kind shall grow; their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail…for they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary. (Ezekial 47: 9,12)

God is our refuge and our strength, There is a stream whose runlets gladden the city of God, the holy dwelling of the Most High. God is in its midst; it shall not be disturbed; God will help it at the break of dawn. (Psalm 46: 2, 6)

Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes. In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled. … "Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you." (John 5:2,14)


Gracious God, you give us all our needs through your flowing gifts. Grant me greater freedom and peace from all that binds me, blinds me, frightens me, irritates me and causes me to stray or hesitate to say “yes” to you. I ask to wade in the flow of your life and sit on the fertile banks, nourished, enriched, renewed. I ask to take up my mat and walk with your son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


Water flows through these readings today symbolizing the many gifts and presence of God. God’s abundant blessings flow bringing life, fecundity, healing, cleansing. God overcomes the death of the arid desert or of the sinful soul, sustaining, refreshing, hope.

This flow is also symbolic of God’s word through human history. The Chosen people journeyed on God’s word to a land flowing in natural riches. The divine out flowing continued as they build a capital city designed to honor God and although it is not built on a river, the prophet sees the upwelling water emanating from God present within it. The stream continues through the songs of the psalmist to the birth of the Word, to the pool at Bethsaida and the feet of Jesus who is the divine upwelling personified.

The divine flow continues as Jesus’ body sheds his last drop of human water and he rises to redeem. Today we stand bathed in the flow from the sanctuary first by our baptism in which the indwelling God resides within us and then by our agreeing to take up our mats and walk as Jesus directs, “Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you." Jesus brought the man at the well into wholeness of body and spirit and Jesus will do so for us. Jesus did not tell the man that his sins caused him to be incapable of walking but that the spiritual life affects the physical life and God wants complete wholeness for us.

We know how difficult this is! “Kicking” or letting go of our deficits and incompleteness is a never ending work. Other people or our own interior voices chide us: "It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat." It takes great courage and dependency on God to continue to “get up and walk”. But it is what Jesus calls us to do. God wants us to be free and joyful as part of God’s beloved creation.


Jesus taught how important community is: the disciples worked together, Jesus healed the sick and lame and sent them to the temple to be welcomed back into their rightful life. How can these images of healing, restorative, life giving waters be brought to bear on our own responsibility to our community? In this land where water is plentiful, dripping from our faucets, filling our bathtubs and pools, watering our gardens, do we consciously conserve so that others with less access have their needs met? Even if the water from the Potomac does not irrigate the parched earth of Sudan, China, the American West or Australia’s outback, our acts of conscious concord with our brothers and sisters are acts of grace.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Rejoicing and Happiness

March 23, 2009

Monday of the Fourth Week in Lent

Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; The things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind. Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I create; For I create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight. Isaiah 65:17-18

The royal official said to him, "Sir, come down before my child dies." Jesus said to him, "You may go; your son will live." The man believed what Jesus said to him and left. While he was on his way back, his slaves met him and told him that his boy would live. John 4:49-51


Lord our God, almighty Father, you want us not to turn to the past to regret it and to mourn over it but to hope in the future, in the new earth and the new heaven. Give us a firm faith in your Son Jesus Christ, that notwithstanding the shortcomings of our time we may have faith in the future, which you want us to build up with your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (From the Carmelites web site)


Sometimes, Jesus uses outward signs to make his miracles happen. Or perhaps to make us think he needs such props. Today, we see Jesus Unplugged. There is no mud to splash on the eyes of the blind man. There are no jugs of water to turn into wine. There is no command to the demons to depart or to the deaf ears to be opened. In fact, Jesus performs this miracle long distance after he seemed to be refusing to perform another sign. In fact, Jesus challenged the official to profess his faith and to live it.

Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” At first, it appears that Jesus may refuse to heal the son. But then the royal official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”

Time matters not. Distance matters less. Touching did not matter. Words did not matter. Belief – like that of the royal official – is all we need to connect to Jesus. Then, Jesus willingly connects to us. The Carmelites reflection for today points out this demand for faith.

Both in the first as well as in the second response, Jesus asks for faith, much faith. He asks that the official believes that his son has already been cured. And the true miracle takes place! Without seeing any sign, nor any portent, the man believes in Jesus’ word and returns home. It should not have been easy. This is the true miracle of faith; to believe without any other guarantee, except the Word of Jesus. The ideal is to believe in the word of Jesus, even without seeing.

The key words here: “The man believed.” Then, the words of Isaiah 65:24 are fulfilled: “Before they call, I will answer; while they are yet speaking, I will hearken to them.”

Jesus challenges us to profess our faith and live it. Listen to the words of Isaiah…Jesus will not discard us…in fact he is right here. Shouting and waving his hands. He is ready to respond to those who do not even ask him. He wants to be found by those who do not seek him.

So to get our attention, Jesus stands before us shouting: “Here I am! Here I am!” To a nation that does not call upon His name, he stretched out his hands.


If Jesus is willing to create for us a new heaven and earth when we seem indifferent to him, how much more will he respond to our belief when we turn to him in faith like the royal official?

How do you respond to God’s word? Do you look for outward signs or do you believe because everything God creates brings happiness and rejoicing?

In addition, Jesus shows today how the church extends her hands to foreigners and strangers. Who among us is not from a family that moved to this nation from a foreign land within that last few generations?

Italy. Germany. Poland. France. England. Ghana. Belgium. Haiti. India. Japan. China. Colombia. Philippines. Guatemala. Boston. The list goes on and on. People around us come from all different lands. Jesus responds to their requests. He does not ask for citizenship. He does not ask for a Visa. He does not even ask for a driver’s license or voter ID card. Are we as willing to connect with the strangers in our land?

The Lord Looks into the Heart

March 22, 2009

The Fourth Sunday in Lent

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

But the LORD said to Samuel: "Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart." 1 Samuel; 16:7

When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered and said, "Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" Jesus said to him, "You have seen him and the one speaking with you is he." He said, "I do believe, Lord," and he worshiped him. Then Jesus said, "I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind." John9:35-39


"Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light." Ephesians 5:14


Jesus sees himself as the Way, the Truth and the Light. Our gospel about the man who was born blind calls us to find our light of life in Jesus. He will give sight to our blindness. We are all blind to something in our lives. The darkness of sin in our lives blocks the light of Christ. Looking at the story of the man born blind, we see that his blindness in life was not from sin. God allows us to have problems that obeying Jesus can cure us of. He lights up our road on what to do through the Church and the Scriptures. We each have a destiny in the plan of Christ that will not be realized until we find ourselves in Christ. He truly is the Way and the Truth of our lives.

Christ spits into the dirt and makes mud which he rubs on the eyes of the man born blind even as he tells him to go and wash. Washing the dirt out of our eyes can make it easier to see where we are going in life. We stumble like a blind person by our sinfulness. What obscures our paths in life takes many forms. All the forms of selfishness make it difficult to see beyond our noses. True self love is the love we have for our neighbor. We are too often locked into the prison of our addictions in life. Addictions are traps that keep our focus on what we are getting rather than on what we are giving. The giving of Christ is the Light that shines on our hearts and shows us how to reach beyond the limits of our selfishness.


There is need for an honest look at what Christ is asking of us. We each have a destiny in life that s revealed by our piety and our spiritual reading. The people who lived in darkness have seen a great light in Jesus. Our piety is founded in putting on the mind and the heart of Christ. Looking at what he said during his life opens us to greater clarity on what will make us really happy. Our piety is made up of all the actions we do for the good of each other. The prayer, fasting and good works of our Lent can bring healing. They increase our strength to be able to go against our desires for pleasure at the cost of sin. When we not a slave to our passions, we can be open to all those who base what they are doing on the example of Christ. Jesus is all around us in his creation and in the people who follow the lights of their prayer. They are the transparencies of Christ in our lives. Spiritual intimacy is what is born from sharing Christ with one another. Selflessness is the opening on the reality that we are all created in the image and the likeness of Christ. He does not clone. We each have our own uniqueness in Christ. Together we make up the Mystical Body of Christ. Together we can be His great light to the world.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

For It Is Love That I Desire

March 21, 2009

Saturday of the Third Week in Lent

Let us know, let us strive to know the LORD; as certain as the dawn is his coming, and his judgment shines forth like the light of day! He will come to us like the rain, like spring rain that waters the earth. Hosea 6:3

“But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:13-14


Oh God, be merciful to me a sinner.


“Repent” is the first word spoken by Jesus during his public ministry following the arrest and execution of John the Baptist.

After He announced the call for “repentance (change),” then Jesus asked us to “Follow me.” However, before we can follow Jesus, we have to change the direction in which we seek happiness.

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

According to Matthew we learned, “From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew 4:17

Now this does not mean that we have to spend our life in pain whipping ourselves, doing penance, fasting, vigils, rosaries, and almsgiving. It just means that we must change the direction in which we are looking for happiness. Shift from looking for happiness in the world to looking for happiness in Jesus. That very Lenten sentiment is echoed in today’s readings.

We encounter in Hosea, the basic outline of a Fourth Day lived in the presence of Christ. “Come, let us return to the LORD.” This echoes the call of Christ to repent or change. Christ will revive us from sleep walking through life to live once again reconnected to Him and His Presence. We are not turning around aimlessly but turning to orient our lives toward the Star in the East.

The prophet Hosea outlines three ways to make this reconnection:
1) Piety. Your piety is like a morning cloud, like the dew that early passes away.
2) Study. “Let us know, let us strive to know the LORD; as certain as the dawn is his coming, and his judgment shines forth like the light of day! He will come to us like the rain, like spring rain that waters the earth.”
3) Action. For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice.

Who said Cursillo was a lay movement that came into being after World War II in Spain? It appears that Hosea beat Eduardo Bonin to the draw by about 3,000 years.

Next, we encounter such a change in “direction” at the back of the temple while standing next to the tax collector. At several places in the New Testament we find people who are so touched by Jesus that we witness their conversion. That is the case with the tax collector hanging out at the back of the temple in today’s Gospel. He clearly seeks to change his orientation in life away from his worldly ways dominated by money and the love of money in order to re-orient himself toward God.


Are you ready to change direction? Are you ready to make the Four Consents to God as outlined by Fr. Keating? (Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love: The Way of Christian Contemplation. New York: Continuum, 1995.)

"The spiritual journey is a training in consent to God’s presence and to all reality." Through grace we repair the emotional damage of a lifetime and are introduced to the path of unconditional love ("Love one another as I have loved you").

The four consents (based on the work of theologian John S. Dunne) correspond to the passage of human life. "In childhood, God asks us to consent to the basic goodness of our nature with all its parts." This basic goodness is not what we do but what we are, as God made us. The difficulties we experience in childhood may prevent us from fully consenting emotionally to the goodness of life.

The second consent, corresponding to adolescence, is to "accept the full development of our being by activating our talents and creative energies," including but going beyond sexual energy and its expression.

The third consent (early adulthood) calls on us "to accept the fact of our nonbeing and the diminutions of self that occur through illness, old age, and death." Dying is the ultimate letting go of everything to which we are attached in this world. Making this consent is more difficult if we have not made the previous ones.

The fourth consent is to be transformed. "The transforming union requires consent to the death of the false self, and the false self is the only self we know. Whatever its inconveniences, it is at least familiar. Some of us are more afraid of the death of the false self than of physical death."

Each of these consents is a kind of death, a letting go of a former life. But we can take with us the best of each stage; for example, we can continue to be childlike (simplicity, innocence) without remaining childish (subject to tantrums and ignorance). In this way we can move to the level of mental egoic consciousness and even beyond.

Whatever we may have done in our earlier life, God is always inviting us through grace to make these consents. They involve both the acceptance of legitimate pleasures with its abundant life and the final surrender of the false self to the true. Our paths differ; some may find the path in early adulthood, others in the midlife crisis, still others in old age. The process of dying itself may provide "the greatest chance of all to consent to God’s gift of ourselves."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Worth More than All Burnt Offerings and Sacrifices

March 20, 2009

Friday of the Third Week in Lent

By Melanie Rigney

Straight are the paths of the Lord, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble in them. (Hosea 14:10)

I am the Lord your God: Hear my voice. (Psalms 81:11, 9a)

(After Jesus shared the two greatest commandments,) (t)he scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, He is One and there is no other than he. And to love him with all your heart, and all your understanding, and all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:32-34)


With all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind, with all my strength, above all possessions and honors, above all pleasures and enjoyments, more myself and everything belonging to me, more than all my relatives and friends, more than all men and angels, I love Thee, O My God. (Adapted from Pope Pius VI’s Litany of the Love of God)


Talk about a light bulb moment!

The scribe most likely has spent much of his life studying the hundreds of Laws of Moses. He asks Jesus about the greatest commandment after hearing Christ acquit himself well amid questioning by other scribes, the chief priests, and the elders. And, voila, the scribe gets it! And what a compliment Jesus pays him: “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”

How far would Jesus think we are from the Kingdom of God in the way we live the two greatest commandments? Consider your own slavish devotion to ritual and judgment over love. Where are your burnt offerings and sacrifices? I’m not asking about cattle and sheep, but about the practices we all offer up in hopes of not having to actually live those two greatest and most difficult of commandments.

§ We offer up more money in the church envelope on holy days of obligation because we’re too busy to go to Mass most Sundays.

§ We offer up listening to Christian radio instead of our favorite rock oldies on the way to work because we’re too busy to spend time with God in prayer.

§ We offer up in conversation our opinions about the root causes of poverty because we’re too busy to do anything about it.

§ We offer up meaningless time spent with acquaintances because we’re too busy to truly love our neighbor, warts and all.

As today’s first reading says, the Lord’s paths are straight, but we stumble in them. Sometimes, almost anything in the world can seem easier than deepening our relationship with God and our neighbors. May we listen for His voice ... and bring our neighbors along with us on our journey to the Kingdom.


The Diocese of Arlington’s Project Rachel on Saturday will hold a one-day sacramental retreat for post-abortive women. Pray that the retreat will help the participants move closer to the Kingdom through a more loving relationship with God, others, and themselves. For more information, e-mail projectrachel@arlingtondiocese.org or call (888) 456-HOPE.

Stand Firm

March 19, 2009

Solemnity of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever. 2 Samuel 7:16

…[T]he angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21

Prayer to St. Joseph for the Unemployed

O Saint Joseph, we pray to you for those who are out of work, for those who want to earn their living or support their families.

You who are the patron of workers; grant that unemployment may vanish from our ranks; that all those who are ready to work may put their strength and abilities in serving their fellowmen and earn a just salary.

You are the patron of families; do not let those who have children to support and raise lack the necessary means. Have pity on our brothers and sisters held down in unemployment and poverty because of sickness or social disorders. Help our political leaders and captains of industry find new and just solutions. May each and every one have the joy of contributing, according to his abilities, to the common prosperity by an honorable livelihood. Grant that we may all share together in the abundant goods God has given us and that we may help underprivileged countries. Amen.


We all want our children to grow up with more opportunity than we had. Yet for St. Joseph, it could not have been a very easy task raising Jesus. What did he know or sense about the destiny of his son after the angel of the Lord appeared to him in that fateful dream?

Despite his best inclination according to Jewish law, Joseph did not abandon his fiancé and her baby even though he knew the baby was not his biological offspring. Instead, Joseph stood firm with Mary and Jesus.

We are not the biological offspring of Our Father either. Yet God stands as firm with us as Joseph stood firm with his family. God wants to be with us. He wants to walk with us. He wants to get in the boat with us and go fishing.

God took great pains to set his son up in a normal family. But it did not take long before the Son’s life was very different from the other Jewish boys of his day. Although he survived the first slaughter of the innocents, ultimately this Innocent Lamb was slain to save us from our sins.

What would any of us think if we had such a premonition about the fate of our own child? The lyrics of “Joseph’s Song” by Patrick Mulhern come to mind. (Michael Card and others also have recorded it)

How could it be this baby in my arms
Sleeping now, so peacefully
The Son of God, the angel said
How could it be?

Lord I know He's not my own
Not of my flesh, not of my bone
Still Father let this baby be
The son of my love

Father show me where I fit into this plan of yours.
How can a man be father to the Son of God?
Lord for all my life I've been a simple carpenter
How can I raise a king? How can I raise a king?

He looks so small,
His face and hands so fair
And when He cries the sun just seems to disappear
But when He laughs it shines again
How could it be?


Bless the children you meet today and those you don’t meet but still love.

“May the Lord bless you and keep you. May He make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you and give you peace.” Amen.

Il Signore ti benedica e ti custodisca. Ti mostri la Sua Faccia ed abbia misericordia di te
Volga a te il Suo sguardo e ti dia pace Il Signore ti benedicica. Amen.

(I could not resist sharing that in Italian. It is from a prayer card we got at the Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi Italy a year ago this week.)