Friday, July 31, 2009

Proclaiming Liberty

August 1, 2009

Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, bishop and doctor of the Church

This fiftieth year you shall make sacred by proclaiming liberty in the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when every one of you shall return to his own property, every one to his own family estate. In this fiftieth year, your year of jubilee, you shall not sow, nor shall you reap the aftergrowth or pick the grapes from the untrimmed vines. Since this is the jubilee, which shall be sacred for you, you may not eat of its produce, except as taken directly from the field. Leviticus 25:10-12

His disciples came and took away the corpse and buried him; and they went and told Jesus. When Jesus heard of it, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick. Matthew 14:12-14


We praise you Father for the gift of liberty that you have provided to us, your children. We have the freedom to gather in worship, the freedom to praise you, the freedom to believe and the freedom to hope for your Kingdom to come. In what we do and in what we say, help us to bring such liberty to others – those in our families, neighborhoods, parishes, nation and world. In this way, they too can be free to worship you. Amen.


Today’s readings rejoice in liberty for the captives much like that which Jesus proclaimed in the Nazareth manifesto.

He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord." Luke 4:16-19

Yet, liberty is the condition into which people enter after being held captive. Freedom emerges only after being imprisoned.

Are we free like the slaves who were released during the jubilee year? Or are we free like John the Baptist – free to speak truth to power and not fear the consequences.

Is freedom a concept that we share all the time or only when it is granted to us by some external and temporal authority? Are we free from physical imprisonment? Are we free from mental torment? Jesus wants us to be free from anxiety but for us, it is so hard to release our minds from the cares of the world.

Sometimes, when we consider the term prisoner, we picture only people who have actually broken a law – murderers, bank robbers, and others. Yet today, we also have white collar criminals like Bernie Madoff and the former executives at companies like Enron who may not have robbed a bank but who have robbed so many people of their livelihood and current or future security.

In addition, we also have prisoners of conscience who peacefully break what they consider to be unjust laws in hope of overturning those laws. The Polish trade union Solidarity broke laws to overturn a repressive government. Nelson Mandela also led a revolution that did away with the apartheid form of government in South Africa.

Through it all, God alone sets of free from what oppresses us.


This week, Archbishop Edward O’Brien of Baltimore called on academic, military, government and international leaders to embark on the “Path to Zero” nuclear weapons during a conference on deterrence. According to the release from the USCCB, Archbishop O’Brien drew on longstanding Catholic teaching that nuclear deterrence is only acceptable to prevent others from using nuclear weapons and as a step along a path to a world without nuclear weapons.

“Religious leaders, prominent officials, and other people of goodwill who support a nuclear-weapons-free world are not naïve about the task ahead,” Archbishop O’Brien said. “They know the path will be difficult and will require determined political leadership, strong public support, and the dedicated skills of many capable leaders and technical experts. But difficult is not impossible.”

The full text of Archbishop O’Brien’s talk, “Nuclear Weapons and Moral Questions: The Path to Zero,” can be found online at:

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Festivals of the Lord

July 31, 2009

By Melanie Rigney

Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest

“These, therefore, are the festivals of the Lord on which you shall proclaim a sacred assembly, and offer as an oblation to the Lord burnt offerings and cereal offerings, sacrifices and libations, as prescribed for each day.” (Leviticus 23:37)

Sing with joy to God our help. Take up a melody, and sound the timbrel, the pleasant harp and the lyre. Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our solemn feast. (Psalms 81:2-4)

(Jesus said to those at his native place who were astonished at his teaching,) “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and in his own house.” And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith. (Matthew 13:57-58)


Lord, help me to find you in the people and festivals that are part of my life on earth. Let me celebrate you in all forms.


There’s a lot of power in quiet contemplation, in solitary meditation, in one-on-one conversation with God.

And then there’s the power of sharing Him in the type of highly regulated, detailed events outlined in today’s first reading: Passover. The Day of Atonement. The Feast of Booths. Each includes sacred assemblies and offerings. In the same way, Catholics have special rituals for Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and the like.

There’s an indefinable profundity in sharing even the most solemn of assemblies with others. Community makes the hard moments easier to bear, and the joyful moments even more transcendent. We look to each other for growth and comfort. In today’s Gospel reading, we are reminded that even Jesus knew how critical that support in community is; when his hometown folks question how this carpenter’s son they’ve known forever can teach them much, Jesus can’t do the things he’s done elsewhere.

Finding God in the solo spots is beautiful. But it’s also critical to our faith journey that we find Him in community on feasts, solemn or not, ritualized or not. Seek places where you can sing with joy with others.


Resolve to get acquainted with some folks in God’s family whom you don’t already know. Some great opportunities are coming up: mananita at the Women’s Weekend on Sunday, August 9, at Camp Happyland in Chancellorsville; the Women’s Weekend Closing that afternoon at St. Francis of Assisi in Triangle; and the Diocese of Arlington’s first Catholic Heritage Festival August 22 in Centreville (where Cursillo will have a table).

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Both the New and the Old

July 30, 2009

Thursday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

Then the cloud covered the meeting tent, and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling. Moses could not enter the meeting tent, because the cloud settled down upon it and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling. Exodus 40:34-35

And he replied, "Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old." When Jesus finished these parables, he went away from there. Matthew 13:52-53


Psalm 84:2-11

How lovely your dwelling, O LORD of hosts! My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the LORD. My heart and flesh cry out for the living God. As the sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest to settle her young, My home is by your altars, LORD of hosts, my king and my God! Happy are those who dwell in your house! They never cease to praise you.

Happy are those who find refuge in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrim roads. As they pass through the Baca valley, they find spring water to drink. Also from pools the Lord provides water for those who lose their way. They pass through outer and inner wall and see the God of gods on Zion. LORD of hosts, hear my prayer; listen, God of Jacob.

O God, look kindly on our shield; look upon the face of your anointed. Better one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. Better the threshold of the house of my God than a home in the tents of the wicked.


Moses did as the Lord commanded. By carrying out the instructions from the Lord, Moses made room for the Lord to be present with the Israelites on their journey.

The disciples in Mark’s Gospel did as the Lord commanded. They, too, made room for the Lord in the minds of all the people that they taught. Through their teachings to both Jews and Gentiles, they merged the new lessons from Jesus’ direct teaching and his parables to light the way for the new Exodus – a trip away from the old law to the new law according to the carpenter from Nazareth.

Even though the “new” may have brought fear as the cloud of God descended on the tent, Moses welcomed the Lord. Even though the parables were hard to understand, the disciples worked at understanding them and passing them on. In both cases, the new challenged the comfortable existence of the past to create a new present in the presence of God.


If only we were as obedient as Moses and the disciples. They were not afraid of messages that took them out of their comfort zone.

Instead, we seem to let our differences dictate. We let everything gravitate to a poll. The Universal Healthcare Poll. Sarah Palin for President in 2012 Poll. Would you vote for Barrack Obama Again Poll. Michael Jackson National Holiday Poll. “Should we legalize marijuana to balance the budget?” Poll. Should Brett Favre Retire Poll. Should Michael Phelps wear the new swimsuit to go faster Poll.

Instead of looking for common ground on issues where we might find mutually acceptable solutions, we want to throw out the opinions of those who don’t agree with us even though we will never agree on everything. How boring an existence that would be if we agreed on everything! Instead of accentuating our differences, let’s look for common ways to solve the tough problems.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Better Part

July 29, 2009

Memorial of St. Martha

Whenever Moses entered the presence of the LORD to converse with him, he removed the veil until he came out again. On coming out, he would tell the Israelites all that had been commanded. Then the Israelites would see that the skin of Moses' face was radiant; so he would again put the veil over his face until he went in to converse with the LORD. Exodus 34:34-35

The Lord said to her in reply, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her." Luke 10:41-42


For You alone my soul waits in silence;
My hope is from the Beloved.
Enfolding me with strength and
Steadfast love,
My faith shall remain firm.
In the Silence rests my freedom and
My guidance;
You are the Heart of my heart,
My refuge is in the Silence.
(From Psalm 62 – from Nan Merrill, Psalms for Praying (Continuum, 1999)


Mary has chosen the better part. We are celebrating the Feast of St. Martha and her sister is portrayed at choosing the better part.

Direct encounter with the Lord is what is classified as the better part by Jesus. Moses also shared in this better part helping to bring the Lord’s Word to those around him.
Better than what? From the context of this story, it appears that Mary’s posture is better than action. However, the qualification is that Martha’s action is not informed by her spirituality. Action – doing good – is good but it is not better than being attentive to the Word of God.

If this is the better part, is there a still “best” part? In a talk on contemplative prayer, Fr. Thomas Keating discusses this encounter Jesus has with the sisters of Bethany. Fr. Keating goes beyond seeing Mary choosing the “better” part. He says there remains a “best part” in which the action of hospitality and the contemplative posture are merged. Keating remarks: “When Jesus said ‘Mary has chosen the better part’ was he not inviting Mary to pursue the best part? Thus he was encouraging her to still greater self-surrender and trust.”

To attain this best part, Mary and Martha may need to combined both predispositions and engage in action that is inspired by the contemplative reflection on the Word of God.

Martha and Mary face the test when Lazarus dies. Jesus delays his trip to Bethany and by the time he is arriving, Lazarus has been dead for days. As he strides into the village like the Prodigal Son returning, Martha went out to meet him like the father welcoming his son home.

Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. (But) even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise." Martha said to him, "I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day." John 11:21-24

Their faith informs them that their brother will be raised in the next life. Jesus makes that faith pay off early with the resurrection of the brother. “Your brother will rise” is no longer a statement about the distant future but a pending eventuality.


How can we work to choose the better part or the best part? How can the witness of St. Martha help us to rise above our basic self-centered nature that seeks to fulfill our personal happiness and instead fulfill the happiness of others?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Love your stiff-necked people, Lord

July 28, 2009

Tuesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth DeCristofaro

Then (Moses) said, “If I find favor with you, O LORD, do come along in our company.This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your own.” (Exodus 34:9)

(Jesus said) “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his Kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.” (Matthew 13:41-43)


Thank you, God, Almighty Creator, kind and merciful Father. Your compassion brings me ever back to you. In the grace of your love my stiff neck and heart are softened. In all that I do may I keep in mind justice and the rights of all the oppressed. Guide me to see your mighty works each and every day, rejoicing in them and being inspired from them to serve you and yours. (from Psalm 103)


A stiff necked people? Oh yeah. Sometimes I’ve wondered how the Israelites made it at all to the Promised Land. Yes, there was the intercession and ceaseless effort of Moses to keep his people on God’s good side. But Moses’ words today bring it into clear relief. Hmmm, stiff-necked? Reminds me of kids’ excuses: “I just couldn’t help myself…” “Well I didn’t do it but she/he did” “Mom, everyone was doing it!” Oh, wait, these sound remarkably like excuses we hear in public today from politicians and celebrities. And truth be told, we murmur excuses like these behind closed doors when we think no one hears us. It’s as if we can’t quite grasp how much we are loved and how close God is to us. We seem to shove God away and try to take back be in charge of our universe.

We read story after story in Scripture about the glory of God manifest on earth, for example here in the miracles of Exodus and the incarnation of Jesus. But these recent readings have had a theme of falling away and repentance. God keeps giving us chances. We keep giving excuses.

But the real good news is that God, like a long-suffering but hopeful parent, keeps giving us more chances. Jesus’ explanation of the judgment to come sounds harsh and unforgiving. In fact he is giving his hearers the opportunity to come around, try again to listen, put ourselves into his presence rather than warrent the fiery furnace. Jesus wants us to know that God’s mercy will judge us. Jesus wants us to shine like the sun in love with God.


Are we Americans stiff-necked? Pope Benedict reminds us that society’s economic health is inextricably tied up with respect for human dignity and protection of all life. Spend some time in prayer – what does it mean to respect human dignity and protect all life in terms of the political and sociological choices we make? For example, are we really comfortable knowing how many of our neighbors have little or no health care? Be in touch with your representatives in leadership positions and make your prayerful decisions heard.

Dwell in its Branches

July 28, 2009

Monday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

So Moses went back to the LORD and said, "Ah, this people has indeed committed a grave sin in making a god of gold for themselves! If you would only forgive their sin! If you will not, then strike me out of the book that you have written." The LORD answered, "Him only who has sinned against me will I strike out of my book. Now, go and lead the people whither I have told you. My angel will go before you. When it is time for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin." Exodus 32:31-34

He proposed another parable to them. "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the 'birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.'" Matthew 13:31-32


St. Alphonsus Rodriguez
Laybrother of the Society of Jesus

Honour is flashed off exploit, so we say;
And those strokes once that gashed flesh or galled shield
Should tongue that time now, trumpet now that field,
And, on the fighter, forge his glorious day.
On Christ they do and on the martyr may;
But be the war within, the brand we wield
Unseen, the heroic breast not outward-steeled,
Earth hears no hurtle then from fiercest fray.

Yet God (that hews mountain and continent,
Earth, all, out; who, with trickling increment,
Veins violets and tall trees makes more and more)
Could crowd career with conquest while there went
Those years and years by of world without event
That in Majorca Alfonso watched the door.

By Gerard Manley Hopkins


We lost an important gardener yesterday. Fr. Raymond Geyer, O.S.B. passed away. He was a priest for more than six decades and celebrated the 65th anniversary of his monastic profession to Belmont Abbey in November 2008.

When I met Fr. Raymond in 1975, he was director of admissions for Belmont Abbey College. Of all the schools to which I had applied, Belmont Abbey College was the farthest from home. So my father and I drove 12 hours south from New Jersey to see the campus and get a feel for the school and its people.

Arriving after 6 p.m., we knocked on the door of the Administration Building and the smiling Fr. Raymond greeted us and welcomed us to campus with signature Benedictine hospitality rivaling that immortalized by Hopkins in the poetic tribute to St. Alphonsus Rodriguez. For all the years I knew Fr. Raymond since first encounter, rarely did I ever encounter the man when that ever-present smile was not on his face. The sight of the next person he would meet would always cause his eyes to dance with delight.

Fr. Raymond invited us to dinner at the monastery but we told him that we had already eaten. So he got us some fresh bed linens and drove us over to a dorm where a vacant room was provided to us at no charge. After Fr. Raymond made us comfortable, he went back to whatever business we had pulled him away from until the next morning when we got the campus tour.

Back then, little did I realize the psychology of the campus tour at Belmont Abbey. From the Admissions Office, we were ducked out the back door to the Admin Building, across a brick walkway. Fr. Raymond, of course, interjected that the bricks were hand-made by the original monks. My father thought I could use a few lessons in brick making and walkway paving I am sure. Then we were only steps away from the Abbey Cathedral – yes, it was a full cathedral at the time. In we went to see the famous stained glass windows and the baptismal font in the place that would become every student’s holy ground.

Between the Benedictine hospitality and the tour, Dad was hooked. No state university stood a chance in trying to compete with the personal attention that Fr. Raymond delivered and symbolized in everyone we met at the Abbey. Fr. Raymond set in motion the wheels which would convince my father to part with his son and his money and neither I (nor Belmont Abbey) were probably ever the same. That August, Belmont, North Carolina became my dwelling place.

In his lifetime, Fr. Ray probably made room in the branches of this bush for hundreds of students. Tonight, we remember how he added the yeast to our lives and opened up a path so we would find and follow the true God, not some false idol that we might erect in a fraternity house, corner pub, or athletic field.

There is probably some heavenly Admission Committee and today I am smiling at the thought of my father returning the favor of such hospitality as Fr. Raymond settles in to his new dwelling place.

Thank you, Fr. Ray. May your soul and all the souls of the faithfully departed, through the mercy of the God, rest in the peace of the Christ you followed with humility, stability and obedience.


What are you doing to plant mustard seeds and welcome new birds into an earthly dwelling place?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

They Had Their Fill

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 26, 2009

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

But his servant objected, "How can I set this before a hundred men?" "Give it to the people to eat," Elisha insisted. "For thus says the LORD, 'They shall eat and there shall be some left over.'" And when they had eaten, there was some left over, as the LORD had said. 2 Kings 4:43-44

Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, "Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted." So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. John 6:11-13


Piety is how we live the mind and the heart of Jesus in our lives. There are so many different reasons for following Jesus. The large crowd that followed the Lord because of his miracles and the signs that he did is no different from each of us who follow because the goodness of the Lord has touched our lives in all the good people that have been our companions of the journey. The miracle of the loaves and the fishes is one more example of Jesus reaching out to the needs of the people around him. The people, impressed by what they saw, wanted to make him king. Paul was impressive to the Ephesians because of the way he put up with being a prisoner for the sake of Christ. The good people of our lives, without their or our being aware of it, have done the same for us. Christ, who lives in the goodness of all of us, touches our hearts and claims our allegiance by the goodness that surrounds us. A good person that is suffering for the Lord speaks the language of the cross which claims the hearts of all. What is being suffered in the name of Christ redeems us. Another person’s suffering draws us closer to Christ often enough without our being aware of why Christ is so close to us. Wherever there is love, God is there. Piety is the touch of the divine in our lives, spelled out in the ways Christ touches our hearts and helps us to be better people.


It is worth our while to study all the ways we feed on Christ in our lives. Spiritual Direction brings a close study of what is going on in our spiritual journey. When I describe out loud to another my spiritual odyssey, I own it in a different way than when I am just saying it to myself. When a spiritual director puts what I have said in his or her own words, I see myself through how they see me. Spiritual Direction takes on its richest meaning when I have another who is a companion of the journey. Such a one sees where I am going and is able to point out the dead end streets. One who walks the journey with me can recognize the pitfalls and help me see where the next turn in the bend is leading us. The journey is smoother when I can see the potholes. When I walk with one who knows the road, I have more confidence in the direction I am going.

Every event that I pray in the life of Christ helps me to put on the mind and the heart of Christ. To see myself doing what Christ does affirms the rightness of the journey. Recognizing something wonderfully done in my life allows me to know what makes me alike to Christ. Wherever there is love, Christ is there. We are created to the image and the likeness of Christ. Every good person is a reflection of the Light of Christ. Discovering the need to do good in our lives, opens us up to the call Christ has on our hearts. Life itself gradually reveals the plan of God for our lives.


Elisha is a forerunner of Christ. When he shares the food brought to him with the crowd, he hears the word of the Lord. What he thought would not be enough for the people with him had leftovers. The gift we would give to our world too often seems inadequate to the needs of our world. Yet the little we give is multiplied by the love of the Lord. What we share with others becomes so much more by the love that is generated in the ones we share with. The Lord is calling us not only to give until it hurts, but to give so generously that the recipients of our gifts have leftovers. When we have given all that we can give, then it is time for us too to withdraw to the mountains to be alone. There, the Lord can feed us as he answers all our needs.

Place Us with You in His Presence

July 25, 2009

Feast of St. James

We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. 2 Corinthians 4:8-12

“…[W]hoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28


Jesus, place us with you in the presence of Our Father. Everything indeed is for you, so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God. We constantly face sin and death in our lives. Help us make your spirit, Jesus, manifested in our piety, study and action. Amen.


By all comparisons, our existence today is remarkably more comfortable than the life that St. Paul experienced. We have clean running water in our homes. We have ice cubes in our frost-free freezers. We have central heating and air conditioning. No chopping fire wood. We have New Balance shoes. We have the Boston Celtics (or your favorite team). We have Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Ice Cream from Ben & Jerry. We have nonfat vente café mocha at Starbucks. I’ll stop there but you get the point.

Despite lacking all this and more (and being held in chains by the Romans), St. Paul looked at the glass as half-filled. St. Paul dealt with his conditions by relying upon his faith in the presence and ultimate triumph of life, in his own and every Christian existence, despite the experience of death.

St. Paul asks us to look up, too. For him, the negative never completely prevails; there is always some experience of rescue, of salvation. It reminds me of the song “Looking Up: Three Days in September” written by WAMMIE award-winning DC recording artist Cletus Kennelly after September 11 when the planes were all grounded. In the short term, we looked up to empty skies. But in the long run, life returned to more normal routines…even if our days were color-coded for terrorism. (You can listen to “Looking Up” here at

Jesus warns us not to get too complacent. We are destined to share in the cup that passes over his lips, too.


Things are indeed looking up for some. Just last week, the stock market jumped over the 9,000-point level for the first time since January. Mark Buehrle pitched a perfect game for the Chicago White Sox. And the latest Harry Potter movie is out.

But there is no joy in all corners of Mudville. Without quality, affordable health and dental care, present existence does not appear glorious at all to all people. How can people see themselves as a “treasured earthen vessel” if they are in physical, emotional and spiritual pain? Despite our creature comforts, these lull us into laziness while we see the ravages of neglect all around us. While politicians fight about health care reform, they fail to see the problem of families, children, the elderly and the poor who do not have access to the healing powers of modern medicine. They don’t have the money to play the health care game.

As Jim Wallis recently commented on the Sojourner’s website and blog: “In a nation as prosperous as ours, all Americans should have access to quality, affordable health care. Reasonable people may differ on how best to accomplish this goal, and I welcome a rigorous policy debate about it, but it should be a moral priority for all of us. We must work together to find common ground that will provide quality, affordable health care to all Americans.”

Let’s work to find common ground on tough issues so all Americans can share in “Looking Up.” We can use our inheritance of life to bring joy to others.

“I, the Lord, Am Your God”

July 24, 2009

Friday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

“I, the Lord, am Your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.” (Exodus 20:2)

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The decree of the Lord is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple. (Psalms 19:8)

"Hear then the parable of the sower. The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.” (Matthew 13:18-22)


Jesus, Almighty King of kings, You Who obeyed Your Father to the end, teach me the meaning of obedience. My soul burns to comply to Your Will, striving to charm Your Divinity. While my worldly nature seeks one way, my spiritual nature seeks another. Bless me with the strength to obey, that my soul may subdue both natures, blending them as a fair aromatic bloom. I always seek favor in Your eyes, to always obey You until my last breath! (Found at Catholic Online or


Obedience is “the submission to the authority of God which requires everyone to obey the divine law,” according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. We’re required to be obedient to the Church “in those things which pertain to our salvation” and to civil authority “for the sake of the common good and the order of society.”

A lot of other wise things have been said about obedience.

Thomas Aquinas: “Obedience unites us so closely to God that it in a way transforms us into Him, so that we have no other will but His. If obedience is lacking, even prayer cannot be pleasing to God.”

Teresa of Avila: “Souls who by God’s mercy are brought so far ... will, I believe, be greatly benefited by practicing prompt obedience.”

Henry David Thoreau: “What is peculiar in the life of a man consists not in his obedience, but in his opposition, to his instincts, in one direction or another he strives to live a supernatural life.”

Peace Pilgrim: “The purpose of problems is to push you toward obedience to God's laws, which are exact and cannot be changed. We have the free will to obey them or disobey them. Obedience will bring harmony, disobedience will bring you more problems.”

Henry Ward Beecher: “True obedience is true freedom.”

Beautiful words. But if true obedience is true freedom, why is it so hard to achieve?

In our hearts and souls, we know we owe all to the Lord. Like the Israelites in today’s first reading, He has led us out of places of slavery, be that slavery in physical chains or mental or emotional ones. He has set down commandments that are the basic principles for a harmonious community: Honor me. Honor others in your life. Don’t do things that will hurt you or others.

Yet despite the perfect law of the Lord and His words of everlasting life, and the examples of Christ’s passion and Mary’s “let it be done to me,” we find it so difficult to obey these rules in our daily lives. We turn down the volume of that inner voice that seeks to set us on God’s path. We become that person in whom the Word has been sown... but we fall from the path due to tribulation, persecution, anxiety, or temptation. And it is obedience to the Lord, our God, that brings us back, again and again.

None of us ever will be as perfectly obedient as Christ. But every time we acknowledge and learn from our mistakes, we are brought closer to true obedience, and closer to the relationship the Lord desires to have with us.


Discuss with your group reunion or others important in your life what obedience means to you and the places you find it difficult to obey.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

In a Dense Cloud

July 23, 2009

Thursday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

The LORD also told him, "I am coming to you in a dense cloud, so that when the people hear me speaking with you, they may always have faith in you also." When Moses, then, had reported to the LORD the response of the people, the LORD added, "Go to the people and have them sanctify themselves today and tomorrow. Make them wash their garments and be ready for the third day; for on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai before the eyes of all the people. Exodus 19:9-11

To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Matthew 13:12


Lord, help us see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly every day. Help us to hear your message through the thunder surrounding us. Help us to see you in our sisters and brothers wandering in a dense fog. Help us to follow you even if we do not fully comprehend what your message and mission is for us. Amen.


Sometimes the words “understanding” and “God” just don’t seem like they should appear in the same sentence. How do we understand when tragedy or illness afflicts the young and innocent? In our “quid-pro-quo” world, we like to think in Newtonian terms where every action causes an equal and opposite reaction. However, God’s love doesn’t follow any law of thermodynamics or macro-economic supply and demand. Instead, it is freely given in any condition no matter what we do.

Today’s quizzical response from Jesus (as well as Moses’ encounter with a thunderstorm and cloud of dust on the top of a mountain) can have all of us scratching our collective heads. This reading is not an economic commentary no matter how much we might like to fund a pot of gold at the end of the Book of Revelation. Today’s readings instead are a glimpse into the future of understanding and knowledge. God gives further understanding to the persons who accept the revealed mystery; from the person who does not accept it, God will take away that knowledge.

This might help us to understand the banishment handed down in the Garden of Eden and the outcome of the lives of the first apostles. However, what does it say about our condition? Are we the ones who understand? Or are we the ones who don’t quite “get it?” Was Isaiah talking about us when he proclaimed: Go and say to this people: Listen carefully, but you shall not understand! Look intently, but you shall know nothing! You are to make the heart of this people sluggish, to dull their ears and close their eyes; Else their eyes will see, their ears hear, their heart understand, and they will turn and be healed. Isaiah 6:9-10

We won’t know even though we want to know.


Our challenge is to accept the mysteries that the Lord has been revealing throughout time and now reveals to us. The sad but true reality is that the Lord expects us to remain impenitent. Is our stubbornness caused, by the prophet's warning just so we can fulfill Isaiah? Moses had to endure the ignorance of his people. Jesus did the same. Why should we be any different?

Which camp will we find ourselves? The camp of God-knowledge or the camp of self-centeredness?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I Have Seen the Lord

July 22, 2009

Memorial of Saint Mary Magdalene

Then Moses said to Aaron, "Tell the whole Israelite community: Present yourselves before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling." When Aaron announced this to the whole Israelite community, they turned toward the desert, and lo, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud! Exodus 16:9-10

But Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken my Lord, and I don't know where they laid him." John 20:11-13


Jesus, as you called Mary Magdalene, call us by name when we stand at the tomb of ambiguity and cannot recognize you. Like her, let us proclaim: “I have seen the Lord!” Send us out as you sent her to be an apostle in proclaim through our prayer and ministry that you are risen and live among us – that disciples will be made of all the nations – and all will come to know that you are with us always as our Way, our Truth, and our Life. Amen. (From the People’s Companion to the Breviary, Vol. II)


If Jesus were an actor, we might say that he certainly does know how to make an entrance for maximum effect. The Lord appears in the most unlikely circumstances. The Jews were wandering in the desert and were upset that they had lost the security and comfort of Egypt for the unknown future. Into their midst during this time of crisis, the Lord appeared and provided comfort and food for the Jews to eat in the desert.

After an early morning visit to the tomb, Mary noticed that the stone had been rolled away so she ran to get the disciples. After Peter and John inspected the tomb, they left but Mary remained behind weeping. Along and upset, the Lord appeared to her in one of her lowest moments.

Mary desired to remain in the presence of Christ even after he was tried, convicted, executed and buried. Even after the disciples went home, Mary remained behind in search of her Lord standing fast in exhibiting her love for the Lord in this time of crisis for herself personally and for the early Church.

When Jesus appears, Jesus first addresses her as “Woman.” To her he poses the same question he posed to the disciples at the beginning of Johns Gospel. “What are you looking for?” And when Jesus then addresses her by name, she has an “epiphany” moment. [In John 1:38: 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?"]

Mary Magdalene continues the same search that was begun in the opening of John’s Gospel and also provides the same response as she recognizes Jesus and calls out "Rabbouni," which means Teacher – again the same way the first two disciples addresses Jesus in John 1.

By persevering in her search, Mary achieves a close moment with Christ that sets the example upon which we can follow: Continue to search and persevere until Christ calls you by name. In the course of this one day, Mary went from not knowing where the Jesus of her desire had been laid to becoming the first person to witness the resurrection. She announced to the disciples the fruits of her search: “I have seen the Lord.”


Are you ready to present yourself before the Lord in times of trouble?

When do you experience moments closest to Christ? Is it when you are happy and at peace? Or does Jesus reach out to you when you are faced with your most troubled situations?

What are you looking for in these hours? How will you answer Christ when he asks you the same questions? Will your actions exhibit the endurance of Mary? When you are rewarded with experiencing the presence of Christ in the present moment, to whom will you announce it?