Monday, August 31, 2009

Be Children of the Light

September 2, 2009

Tuesday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth DeCristofaro

For all of you are children of the light and children of the day…For God did not destine us for wrath, but to gain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live together with him. Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do. (1 Thessalonians 5:5, 9-11)

(Jesus) taught them on the Sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching because he spoke with authority. In the synagogue there was a man with the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out in a loud voice, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!" Jesus rebuked him and said, “Be quiet! Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down in front of them and came out of him without doing him any harm. (Luke 4:31-35)


I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living. One thing I ask of the LORD; this I seek: To dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, That I may gaze on the loveliness of the LORD and contemplate his temple. (Psalm 12:4-13)


We can see in Thessalonians why St. Paul is the patron of Cursillo. As Cursillistas, we consciously seek the light of God in each day and in each environment. We gather to share the joy of God’s presence with us. We encourage and build one another up. We share our joy in Christ our Brother with others. The USCCB notes on Paul’s letter say that Paul emphasizes how fundamental to our Christian life and salvation is the light of God’s personal revelation which is then embodied as we choose to follow Christ. The offer from God is an indestructible personal union with Christ.

In the Gospel, it is a demon that recognizes Jesus’ divinity. His human listeners are puzzled. They cannot see beyond their preconceived ideas but ultimately find him in their own needs as he heals their bodies with his touch and their spirits with his words. Jesus wants us to see and follow him. The Spirit blowing through us allows us to see Jesus in others and manifest Jesus within ourselves. Our indestructible personal union with Him is for us to accept. Do we nourish it, seeking Jesus within?


What demons do we struggle with? What keeps us from God? Do our demons keep others from God? Ask for God’s mercy that the Holy One might rebuke and cast out those demons which hold us hostage and keep us from seeing the Light of God in our lives.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Caught Up Together

August 31, 2009

Monday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time

For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord." Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, "Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." Luke 4:18-21


Take from me, Father, all that keeps me from accepting my responsibility to work and pray for all that is acceptable to the Lord.

Give to me, Jesus, all that leads me to carry out your work in this world.

Set me free, Holy Spirit, from my addictions and distractions, so that I might live my life for you. Amen.


Luke Chapter 4 (sometimes known as the Nazareth Manifesto) is among the most important messages proclaimed anywhere in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Jesus accepted and announced his mission and vision. Today, Luke calls on us to accept and fulfill our role as Christians so that we will always live in the presence of the Lord.

The notes to the New American Bible tell us that more than any of the other gospel writers, “Luke is concerned with Jesus' attitude toward the economically and socially poor. At times, the poor in Luke's gospel are associated with the downtrodden, the oppressed and afflicted, the forgotten and the neglected, and it is they who accept Jesus' message of salvation.” Later in this chapter, we will read, see and hear the first example of that when Jesus cures the man with leprosy and then how he cures Simon’s mother-in-law.

Jesus went much further than just a social gospel and a healing ministry. In today’s scripture, Jesus took the combined weight of the entire salvation history and placed it squarely upon his own shoulders, the shoulders which were so strong that they would also carry the weight of the cross and all of our sin along with the inequities of the world. He was able to stand up to this challenge because he was not alone. He did it with the strength of the Spirit of the Lord.

Now, that responsibility passes to our shoulders. Jesus no longer has a shoulder in this world except ours. He sent the Holy Spirit after him to continue to inspire and to strengthen us. Now, we have to bear those burdens and right those wrongs.

However, sometimes, we are the oppressed. Sometimes we are the poor, the captives and the blind. What has captured you and your heart? Maybe we are not physically enslaved but sometimes our addictions and pre-occupations keep us from helping the Lord continue to bring such hope into the world.

Pray for the strength and will to free yourself from these burdens so you can work to free others from what oppresses them.


Proclaim liberty to the captives. Let the oppressed go free. In a nation that enjoys the freedoms guaranteed under out laws, it is hard to believe that slavery and human trafficking still exist. The responsibility to be aware of these issues and to work for solutions is upon all of us.

Human trafficking is the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world. Victims experience a loss of freedom and exploitation at the hands of their traffickers who buy and sell them in pursuit of profit. As a result, human trafficking is commonly known as modern-day slavery.

In human trafficking situations, traffickers gain complete control over victims and force them into the labor, services, or commercial sex industry in order to generate profit from their labor and commercial sex acts. Some of the forms of violence traffickers use to control their victims include brutal beatings, rape, lies and deception, threats of serious harm or familial harm, and psychological abuse.

September is Human Trafficking Awareness Month in DC! There will be several events happening throughout the month. Here are two dates you can mark on your calendars now:

What: A Night of Freedom with the Nationals
Where: Nationals Park (1500 South Capitol St SE, Washington, DC)
When: Thursday, September 10 @ 7:05 p.m.

The DC Task Force is proud to announce that it will be hosting "A Night of Freedom with the Nationals" when the “Nats” host the Philadelphia Phillies. The event will bring awareness on human trafficking at a widely publicized sports game. The DC Task Force and Nationals will be selling discounted tickets and t-shirts to wear at the game.

What: DC Stop Child Trafficking Now Walk
Where: Meridian Hill Park (15th St NW and Euclid St NW, Washington, DC)
When: Saturday, September 26 @ 9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.

The Stop Child Trafficking Now Walk will be the first anti-trafficking walk and the largest anti-trafficking event in DC history! The walk will unify the voices of non-governmental organizations, the government, and community members and will be part of a larger national effort that includes walks in other cities such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Dallas. The DC walk is organized by DC Stop Modern Slavery, a volunteer community group.

To get more involved in the anti-trafficking movement, please visit the website Feel free to contact Polaris Project at if you have any questions or concerns. You can sign up for automatic updates on this web page:

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Doers of the Word

August 30, 2009

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? Or what great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today? Deuteronomy 4:7-8

He summoned the crowd again and said to them, "Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile." Mark 7:4-5


“Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls.” Piety is the word of God planted in our hearts, forever calling us to be a good person. The word that has been planted in our hearts has the simplicity of saying “Do good and avoid evil.” The victory that Christ won over the realm of darkness inclines every heart to goodness whether one knows the commandments or has never heard of Christ. The human race has been redeemed by the life and the death of Jesus Christ. If one did not know of the commandments and wanted to be happy, such a one would have had to discover the commandments for oneself. Good people are always attractive in their goodness. Christ captures the essence of goodness in his Gospel story. His life puts words on the actions of goodness. To look at Christ is to touch the mystery of God’s love for us. Christ is the perfect expression of the love of God and the human race will never be able to improve on the piety of Christ. He led his life for the salvation of each of us. His love is God’s love for us. Human love has its divine significance in the life of Christ.


We study the lives of Saints that we might know how to bring Christ into our time. Saints are the men and the women that have made Christ real by how they lived their lives. Religious communities are formed in the model of the founders who captured something of Christ that is unique in their charism and grace. Saints are transparencies of who Christ would have been in their time. They have tried to live a fullness of who they see Christ to have been in themselves. They come close to what Paul said of himself when he told us he no longer lived, but Christ lived in him. We study the law of God and give evidence of our wisdom and intelligence when we try to be faithful to the statutes of the Lord. When we live our lives following as close to the model of Christ and our saints as we can, we live in the presence of the Lord. Thus we become doers of the word. Thus there will come from our hearts good thoughts, chastity, fairness, gentleness, faithfulness, generosity, humility and goodness. Our good deeds will reveal us as faithful to the Lord.


The word that has been planted in us is the word of truth that makes of us the first fruits of his creatures. When we are doers of his word we care for orphans and widows in their affliction and we keep ourselves unstained by the world. Our actions are much more than washing our hands. We look below the surface for what really counts. Observances for the sake of showing off are far from us. We honor God with or hearts and we keep Christ close to ourselves in all the memories of what he ever did. We try to imitate Christ by our actions and in our traditions. We would like people to realize that what they see about us is what we are. Our actions flow from our hearts. We are more than our actions as we take on the goodness of Christ by the good we do. Christ is the first of all the good people that would love God. We are Christ-like in our lives. We become Christ to our world.

Friday, August 28, 2009


August 29, 2009

Memorial of the Martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist

“…[N]evertheless we urge you, brothers, to progress even more, and to aspire to live a tranquil life, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your (own) hands, as we instructed you, that you may conduct yourselves properly toward outsiders and not depend on anyone.” 1 Thessalonians 4:10-12

Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. Mark 6:19-20


Father, you sent us John to prepare the way for the justice that your Son would deliver to the world. Help us to hear John’s message and begin to change the direction in which we seek happiness, control and affection in life. May the graceful gifts of the Holy Spirit strengthen us to conduct ourselves properly. Amen.


From the moment that we first meet John the Baptist, he is preparing the way of the Lord. He is urging those who will listen to aspire to a higher and better calling and motivation. John’s message of change (“Repent”) propels us to a different path than the direction taken by the political, religious and military leaders of the region seeking personal or political gain.

From his first summersault in his mother’s womb when in the presence of Mary and Jesus, John’s life and death consistently point us toward Jesus. Truth has its consequences…especially when speaking the truth of moral law consistently to the political leadership. In today’s account of the imprisonment and death of John the Baptist and that of the passion of Jesus there are numerous parallels.

• Herod and Pilate each acknowledge the holiness of life of the prophet/Messiah over whom he unjustly exercises the power of condemnation and death.
• The hatred of Herodias toward John parallels that of the Jewish leaders toward Jesus.
• After their execution, respected citizens request the bodies of the victims to give the bodies a respectful burial.

However, as Ched Myers (et. al.) note in the book Say to This Mountain, “The disturbing implication for the king is that the message persists despite his having gotten rid of one messenger.”


The message in our first reading from Thessalonians bears witness to John’s life. “Live a tranquil life” as opposed to a life filled with noise, distractions and self-indulgences. Like John, this epistle wants us to seek a higher calling when we change from the ways of our past. John removed himself from the center of society and lived in the desert eating bugs and living off the land. We may not be called to erect a hovel in the Mojave Desert, but we can all contemplate living a simpler lifestyle that makes room for Jesus by getting rid of things that crowd him out of our current lives.

John’s message of change paved the way for Jesus to emphasize the same message. The change John was seeking was to get people to “conduct themselves properly” according to the new song that he and Jesus would both come to preach. John did not fear the consequences when he spoke the truth of moral law to leaders who wanted to follow their own laws.

Finally, through John and Jesus, we experience the tension between the “inhuman” system of justice and the justice that will come with the Kingdom. In his book “Who Will Roll Away the Stone?” Myers notes: “Only this Jesus can topple our idols, shatter our illusions, show us the way through denial, and transform our dance with death into a tango with the Trinity.”

What transformation does John the Baptist inspire you to aspire to?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Conduct Yourselves to Please God

August 28, 2009

Memorial of Saint Augustine, bishop and doctor of the Church

By Melanie Rigney

We earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, as you received from us how you should conduct yourselves to please God–and as you are conducting yourselves–you do so even more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 4:1-2)

The Lord loves those who hate evil, protects the lives of the faithful, rescues them from the hand of the wicked. (Psalms 97:10)

“The foolish (virgins) said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matthew 25:8-13)


Lord, help me to keep my own lamp full of your loving Oil.


At first reading, this is a tough parable if you’re given to selflessness. Why don’t the wise virgins share some of that oil? Wouldn’t it be better if everyone had a little bit, even if no one had enough individually? Because they won’t share, those poor foolish virgins go and buy more and then, whammo, by the time the foolish one get back, the door is closed and won’t be reopened for them. Doesn’t that make the wise virgins selfish?

Not exactly.

The wise virgins did what they could: pointed the foolish ones in the direction of oil. They understood that keeping their own lamps at the ready was essential.

And, ultimately, that’s what God expects of us. Not to spend ourselves to the point of spiritual emptiness, but to prayerfully examine what we can share—and to do so with love. Because, at the end of the day, the foolish virgins were responsible for their own lamps. And the brothers and sisters we help with service are responsible for their own spiritual journey. We can share and celebrate and pray and commiserate along the way... but we can’t make choices that last for other people.

The story of Saint Augustine, whose life and work we honor today, illustrates the point. When he came to the Lord after a profligate life that included a child out of wedlock and following an Eastern sect, it wasn’t because of all the tears his mother had shed. It wasn’t because Augustine was worn down by Monica’s proselytization. No, the reading of the Holy Scripture and its opening of his mind to God’s glory won his conversion. Augustine was appreciative of his mother’s efforts—he closes the section of Confessions about Monica’s death with the desire that readers “be fulfilled (with) what my mother desired of me”—but the ultimate decision was his. And without feeding her own strong faith during the seventeen years that she prayed and prodded, begged and pleaded for Augustine’s soul, Monica’s own passion for the Lord would have burned out.

Keep the flame strong. Be a careful steward of your own lamp’s oil.


Do something to fill your own lamp, even if it means not tending immediately to a ministry.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Stand Firm

August 28, 2009

Memorial of Saint Monica

“…[W]e have been reassured about you, brothers, in our every distress and affliction, through your faith. For we now live, if you stand firm in the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 3:7-8

Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come. Matthew 24:42-44


Meditate on these names (and they are only the beginning) that Jesus answers.

Alpha and Omega (Rev. 1:8; 22:13)
Bread of Life (John 6:35; 6:48)
Bridegroom (Mt. 9:15)
Good Shepherd (John 10:11,14)
I Am (John 8:58)
Immanuel (Mt. 1:23)
King of the Jews (Mt. 27:11)
King of kings (1 Tim 6:15; Rev. 19:16)
Lamb (Rev. 13:8)
Light of the World (John 8:12)
Living Stone (1 Pet. 2:4)
Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16)
Morning Star (Rev. 22:16)
Rabbi (Mt. 26:25)
Resurrection and Life (John 11:25)
Rock (1 Cor. 10:4)
Savior (Eph. 5:23; Titus 1:4; 3:6; 2 Pet. 2:20)
Son of Man (Mt. 8:20)
True Bread (John 6:32)
True Light (John 1:9)
True Vine (John 15:1)
Truth (John 1:14; 14:6)
Way (John 14:6)
Word (John 1:1)


Jesus goes by many names…now we can add thief in the night to this list. Usually, we would hold our “name calling” to only the main protagonistas. However, in this context, Jesus trades symbolic places with the evil one. What does Jesus have in common with a thief? First, when we suspect that there is a thief in the area, we are more vigilant…locking our cars at night and making sure we do not leave valuables unattended.

Jesus wants us to be on guard against sin like McGruff the Crime Dog. We try to be ready for anything. Be Prepared is the advice of the Boy Scouts. Usually this preparedness entails being on our toes when we are away from home. However, thieves also can break into our homes and cars.

Second, Jesus would end up being executed hanging on the cross between two thieves. One he would bring with him to glory and the other he would turn over to the forces of evil. One of those men was ready to confess his sins. That man accompanied Jesus to the right hand of the Father. The “good thief” had the joy of being the last person to see Jesus and look into the Lord’s eyes before he died.

Third, the image of the execution and criminals surrounding the crucifixion remind us about the unconditional love and forgiveness that Jesus offered through the examples of life.


Stay awake. Be aware of what is happening around you. Don’t cocoon yourself in to your house. Get out in the world and volunteer to help others. If Jesus is planning on coming anytime soon, he will leave his work for you.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Conduct Yourselves as Worthy

August 26, 2009

Wednesday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

As you know, we treated each one of you as a father treats his children, exhorting and encouraging you and insisting that you conduct yourselves as worthy of the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory. And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe. 1 Thessalonians 2:11-13

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men's bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing. Matthew 23:27-28


Where can I hide from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee?
If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, you are there too.
If I fly with the wings of dawn and alight beyond the sea,
Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand hold me fast.
If I say, "Surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light" --
Darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day. Darkness and light are but one.
(Psalm 139:7-12)


From the time we were in kindergarten, we have been graded not just on how we perform in academic pursuits, but also in how we get along with others. To paraphrase a famous cliché: It’s not what you know but who you know.

Today, we have a chance to reflect upon how to have a proper relationship with those around us…and how to spoil those relationships by searching only for surface glory.

The reading from the letter to Thessalonica provides the jewel of wisdom for today and the Psalm gives the reason: “Conduct yourselves as worthy of the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” (1 Thess 2:12). The Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote on a similar theme in the book The Brothers Karamazov. The character in that book, Father Zossima advised: “Strive to love your neighbors actively and indefatigably. And the nearer you come to achieving this love, the more convinced you will become of the existence of God and the immortality of your soul.”

Why? As the Psalmist reminds us, God is present everywhere and knows our true nature even if we are distracted by external signs and symbols. There is no distant land to which we can flee and be away from the Lord. When we arrive there, God will be waiting for us. In fact, God will have travelled there with us. There is no dark night which will hide us. When the sun comes up, we will know that God has never left our side. Even during what St. John of the Cross terms “the dark night of the soul,” we feel estranged from God. Yet God is never estranged from us.


Rather than focus on external signs and symbols, we should focus having a right and proper positive relationship with God; to nourish our inner spiritual life; and to use that relationship to motivate us to put love into action. It is easy and convenient to focus on the outward signs and not the hard work that the Gospel requires. Instead of seeking fans, we must seek the Lord where he can be found – in each other.

Dostoevsky also wrote: “Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams.” Love in dreams focuses on the external signs. But love in action calls on us to live among the lepers or the poor. Love in action calls on us to feed the hungry. Love in action requires us to give away our material possessions. Love in action requires us to be humble, not proud; generous, not jealous; and to radically give of ourselves, not to be conceited.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Justice, Mercy and Fidelity

August 25 2009

Tuesday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth DeCristofaro

But as we were judged worthy by God to be entrusted with the Gospel, that is how we speak, not as trying to please men, but rather God, who judges our hearts. (1Thessalonians 2:4)

Jesus said: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. But these you should have done, without neglecting the others.
(Matthew 23:23-24)


God of, you call your people to be concerned about the weightier things of your law: justice, compassion and faithfulness. Cleanse our hearts that we may do justice. Touch our minds that we may understand compassion and be merciful. Support our trust that we may remain faithful to Jesus, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

(From Day by Ordinary Day with Matthew, vol. 2, Mark G. Boyer, Alba House, 1997, p. 267.)


God knows us so well. Jesus sees through the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and God sees us though and through. Even though Jesus’ words are harsh and unyielding, if the scribes or Pharisees had had a change of heart, he would have forgiven them without qualification right then and there. His love, rooted in the will of his Father, was his ideal which trumped righteous anger. And God does the same for us.

When I was a teacher (centuries ago!) in Guam, one of my favorite eighth grade students was Brad. He was not a bad kid, but he got into more than his share of scrapes being himself – antsy, high-spirited and without sufficient boundaries to just say no when needed. I did my best to keep him reined in and not distracting his classmates. When he needed correction I supplied it. But when he came back, shamefaced and repentant, I did my best to not laugh it off. Brad truly wanted to be good, he just couldn’t help himself. After 30 years he still holds a special place in my heart.

God is interested in the heart. And Jesus knows that the actions of the Pharisees do not match what is in their hearts. Scrupulous adherence to rules – religious or societal – do not necessarily reflect purity of intention. God wants us to harmonize our insides and our outsides. Justice, mercy, and fidelity are virtues welcomed by God. These virtues, not “lesser matters”, should be paramount, guiding our lives. These guides will allow what St. Augustine counseled: “Love and do what you will”.


The debate over healthcare reform is full of rancor, obtuse language and misstatements. Do justice, mercy and fidelity guide our opinions and our discussions? Check out the new USCCB website for the Catholic Bishops’ stance. “Applying our experience and principles to the choices before the nation, our bishops’ conference strongly supports comprehensive reform that will ensure a decent level of health care for all without regard to their ability to pay.”

In addition, Sojourners magazine has assembled resources for people of faith who want to participate in the debate. The site is at: It includes resources about how to get active in the debate, moral issues involved, ways to check the facts on claims made by various groups, new coverage about people of faith and their activities on the debate, and ways to take action.

Come and See

August 24, 2009

Feast of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle

One of the seven angels who held the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came and said to me, "Come here. I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb." He took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. Revelation 21:9-10

Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth." But Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." John 1:45-46


To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did. When God takes something from your grasp, He's not punishing you, but merely opening your hands to receive something better. Concentrate on this thought... “The will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you.”

God, walk through my house and take away all my worries and illnesses; and please watch over and heal my family in the name of your Son our Lord and friend Jesus. Amen. (Author Unknown)

Come and see.

The more I read the Bible, the more I understand that the invitations never cease. In the Hebrew Bible, the Lord never stops trying to get the Israelites to humbly walk with him. So by the time we get immersed in the New Testament, Jesus picks up right where the Father left off, extending the unending, and continuous invitations for us to follow the Lord.

Come and see.

Maybe you will come and see Jesus in your new spouse like Matthew and Janna did at their wedding on Saturday. Despite the heat and then the rain, their love shone like the sun. Despite the miles of distance between all those invited and the fog as we climbed the mountain, we had a common destination, to share the event which marked the public joining of this young man and his bride. They pledged to each other that if one fell down, the other would pick up the one fallen.
Come and see.

In a week in which I learned of the marital problems of a long-time friend, it was refreshing and renewing to watch these two lovers, surrounded by family and friends, embark on a shared journey into the unknown. May the Lord continue to bless them and keep them in the palm of his hand.


The healthcare reform debate is heating up hotter than the summer temperatures and with more turbulence than the latest hurricane. Here are two thoughts for you.

Thought one: Consider the facts of all the people without health care insurance. An editorial in the Sunday New York Times provides some reminders about the scope of the problem: “No matter how you slice the numbers, there are tens of millions of people without insurance, often for extended periods, and there is good evidence that lack of insurance is harmful to their health.”

Thought two: Consider the principals of Catholic social teaching as enumerated in many places. What do they show us about our responsibilities? What actions do these principles lead us to support in this important national decision-making process?

Dignity: Every human person is created in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, each person’s life and dignity must be respected.

Call to Common Good and Community: Every person has a right to participate in social, economic, and political life and a corresponding duty to work for the advancement of the common good and the well-being of all, especially the poor and weak.

Solidarity: We are one human family. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they may be.

Dignity of Work: The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s act of creation.

Role of Government and Subsidiarity: The state has a positive moral function. It is an instrument to promote human dignity, protect human rights, and build the common good. All people have a right and a responsibility to participate in political institutions so that government can achieve its proper goals.

The principle of subsidiarity holds that the functions of government should be performed at the lowest level possible, as long as they can be performed adequately. When the needs in question cannot adequately be met at the lower level, then it is not only necessary, but imperative that higher levels of government intervene.

Rights and Responsibilities: Every person has a fundamental right to life— the right that makes all other rights possible. Each person also has a right to the conditions for living a decent life—faith and family life, food and shelter, education and employment, health care and housing. We also have a duty to secure and respect these rights not only for ourselves, but for others, and to fulfill our responsibilities to our families, to each other, and to the larger society.

Option for the Poor and Vulnerable: Scripture teaches that God has a special concern for the poor and vulnerable. The Church calls on all of us to embrace this preferential option for the poor and vulnerable, to embody it in our lives, and to work to have it shape public policies and priorities.

Caring for God’s Creation: The world that God created has been entrusted to us. Our use of it must be directed by God’s plan for creation, not simply for our own benefit.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) launched a Web page promoting its support of “truly universal health policy with respect for human life and dignity.” The page,, includes letters from bishops to Congress, videos, facts and statistics, frequently asked questions, and links for contacting members of Congress.

Letters to Congress include an August 11 letter by Cardinal Justin Rigali, the bishops’ Pro-Life chairman, criticizing abortion provisions in the House version of health care legislation and a July 17 letter from Bishop William Murphy, the bishops’ Domestic Social Justice chairman, outlining the bishops concerns and priorities for health care reform as a whole.

Jesus’ ministry was filled with episodes of providing healing to people who were shunned or outcast from society. Do you think that today, Jesus would expand that healing ministry to those who need care and can not afford it? If so, remember that St. Theresa reminds us, we are the only hands and feet he has left to work in this world.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

To Whom Shall We Go?

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Rev. Joseph McCloskey, S.J.

If it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." But the people answered, "Far be it from us to forsake the LORD for the service of other gods. Joshua 24:15-16

Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?" Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God." John 6:67-69


Christ is the Love of God the Father for us and our world. It is not only that we are created through Christ, but also that we are created for him. Piety is the reality of Christ being our real life and at the same time being our response to the father for his so great love for us. Peter answers for all of us when he says when asked if he would go; to whom could we go? You have the words of eternal life. Christ tells us not only he has the word for eternal life, but that he also is the food of life. Our oneness with Christ calls us into oneness with the Father. Christ says it clearly. “I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.” The closeness to Christ is the closeness of married love. Christ loves us as husband love their wives. Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. Spouse love means each loves the other as the real self. That is how Christ loves the Church. Vatican II defined the Church as the People of God. The Church is truly the Mystical body of Christ. Our piety bids us to the Church even as Christ loves the Church as himself. We need to discover ourselves in the Church as one with Christ. Our piety claims the response of love for the Church and all the Church asks of us. We need to pray about our relationship with the Church to discover how the Church is the Word of God and God's love for us in Christ. What the Church asks of us is that we see and hear Christ in all we should do out of our love for the Church.


Christ handed himself over for the Church to sanctify her. Our imitation of Christ in how we relate to the Church is how the Church has its life in Christ. The Church is the someone who speaks for God in the world. How we listen to the Church is how Christ speaks to us. He claims our hearts by giving his life for us and we respond to Christ’s so great love for us by how we give ourselves back to the Church by using God’s gifts in us for the sake of the Church. Our service of the Church is the flesh and blood of Christ alive in our world. The redemptive suffering in our lives is how our offerings of self sanctify the Church In the name of Christ. Our study allows us to know what is of God and what is of the evil one. Peace and joy follow our attempts to do what God is asking of us. It brings happiness to know our life has meaning and to find what we are doing belongs to the work of God. The Spirit has been illuminating the minds and the hearts of the people of God down through the ages. We discover in the traditions of the Church the workings of the Spirit and learn how to recognize what leads us closer to God and reveals God to us in the examples of the good people of our lives. As Teresa of Calcutta said; “We learn to love and to be loved.”


What shocks us about the life of the Church is God at work getting our attention. People hear things they do not like and move on or try to do something about what they see as something wrong. Our love of the Word of God and our actions where we try to do something about what is wrong reveal our love of God. Our goodness keeps us from walking away from the word God puts on our hearts. Love puts the best possible interpretation on what we hear about the Church. We do not reject because we disagree. We do not go elsewhere because we do not like what we are hearing or seeing. We work to find understanding and to bring understanding on what disturbs the people of God. God at work in us leads us to bring peace and accord and to throw oil of the Spirit's gifts on the troubled waters of the life of the Church. We work to bring peace and to minister to those that are weak and hurting. What we do for even one person out of love of Christ radiates out on the whole Church. We stay close to the Church so that we can stay close to Christ. We know that in Christ we have our life and the closer we come to Christ in the good we are doing for the least ones of our lives, the more we are serving the Christ who identifies with the Church. What radiates out on our world in the good we do for one comes back upon us in the love of Christ we share.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Be Humbled

August 22, 2009

Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

"Why should I, a foreigner, be favored with your notice?" Ruth 2:10

The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Matthew 23:11-12


"May I prove worthy of your kindness, my lord: you have comforted me, your servant, with your consoling words; would indeed that I were a servant of yours!"


Bless me Father for I have sinned. I watched the entire “Project Runway: All Star Challenge” on Lifetime with 2.9 million other viewers. While I usually reject other contrived reality shows (Big Brother, Survivor, etc.), watching the creativity of random designers thrown into a salad bowl of competition and having to produce high quality work under tight deadlines produces amazing work.

But ugh! The attitudes! These people do not act like they have read much of Matthew’s Gospel or the Psalms or the Hebrew Bible.

Happy are all who fear the LORD, who walk in the ways of God. What your hands provide you will enjoy; you will be happy and prosper. Psalm 128:1-2

The work of their hands is amazing. They take junk from an old restaurant and fashion it into an evening gown or dress. In the next breath – or sometimes the SAME breath -- they act like little children bickering and puffing up their peacock feathers. When they lose, they lose badly. Even the achievement of second place among 12 to 16 talented designers gets only a roll of the eyes instead of a celebration of the talent exhibited and the achievement attained.

WWJW? What Would Jesus Watch? If Jesus were around today, he would not be watching Project Runway. He has no patience for show-and-tell faith. He is looking for people who will live it out in an authentic, Christian experience. The psalm sums up today’s lesson: What your hands provide you will enjoy. This spells out the need to live out your faith daily. We will only be rewarded for our work. We will not get a trophy for just showing up. We also have to win the race.

Matthew comes at the lesson from the other direction, condemning those who make their religious life a life of performances and not sacrifices. Matthew should be a TV critic and take on some of these reality shows.

When Ruth is treated well, she wonders why people in a foreign land treat her with kindness and love? Ruth deserves the good life. She is being rewarded for her unselfish service to her mother-in-law. Usually service is its own reward. We read and thus learn that service to others offered freely in a spirit of generosity also allows us to glean the love of the Lord when he goes out for the harvest.


What role are you playing in the reality show hypothetically called “Project Life?”

Are you acting like Santino or Korto when they are voted off the runway? Or do you show your leadership and accept your role and continue serving without complaint and with the humility of Ruth?

As the church celebrates the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, contemplate on the fact that she was granted a position above all others because of her humble “yes” when asked to serve the Lord. Are you able to say “Yes?” Perform a service today without complaint and without expectation of reward.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wherever You Go, I Will Go

August 21, 2009

Memorial of Saint Pius X, pope

By Melanie Rigney

But Ruth said (to Naomi), “Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you! For wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16)

The Lord gives sight to the blind. The Lord raises up those who were bowed down; the Lord loves the just. (Psalms 146:8)

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)


God, my Father, may I love You in all things and above all things. May I reach the joy which You have prepared for me in Heaven. Nothing is good that is against Your Will, and all that is good comes from Your Hand. Place in my heart a desire to please You and fill my mind with thoughts of Your Love, so that I may grow in Your Wisdom and enjoy Your Peace. (Author unknown; prayer found at


Sometimes, we have to say no to people to say yes to God.

Consider the case of Ruth. She’s lost her husband and her brother-in-law. Her mother-in-law, Ruth, is preparing to leave Moab and return to Judah since she’s heard the famine there is over and tells her daughters-in-law to stay with their people. After they all sob, Orpah kisses the old woman and leaves. Ruth stays. Naomi counsels Ruth to go with Orpah. And Ruth, in arguably one of the most beautiful passages in the Old Testament, says no to Naomi.

Perhaps Naomi truly wanted to go by herself to be among her own people. The Bible doesn’t tell us she leaped for joy about Ruth’s insistence on accompanying her. Or perhaps Naomi was trying to be kind in pushing away Orpah and Ruth, reasoning that their chances for happiness were better in Moab. Whatever her motivation, it appears the idea of separation was difficult for all of them.

And perhaps Ruth was hesitant about insisting on going with Naomi to a new land. Or perhaps she was totally certain of her decision. Or perhaps God gave her a nudge to put the old woman before herself.

Not surprisingly, Ruth’s “no” works out well for both women; in Bethlehem, Ruth marries Boaz and gives birth to Obed, who becomes the father of Jesse and grandfather of David.

Ruth’s no is also a yes: to the living God, who centuries later will send His Son through this lineage to share that loving the Lord and each other are the most important of all the laws.

And what happened to Orpah? We don’t know. We can surmise that she remarried. We can hope that in another situation, she turned her face away from paganism and toward God. Quite possibly, as she walked away she had sorrow in her heart, but wasn’t brave enough to argue with her mother-in-law. Or perhaps the idea of moving away from everything she knew made Naomi’s “stay” easy to obey.

Loving God with all our hearts, souls, and minds isn’t a one-way dialogue with us giving praise and thanks. No, this relationship is truly bi-directional. And in the listening, we learn how to say yes to loving others and ourselves, even if the word that needs to come out of our mouths are no. No, I won’t give up on you. No, I don’t hate you. No, I won’t leave you.


Listen carefully to your family, friends, and coworkers this week. Who is trying to push you away, even though your presence is needed? Ask God for the courage to say no.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Here I Am Lord

August 20, 2009

Memorial of Saint Bernard, abbot and doctor of the Church

“Whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites shall belong to the LORD. I shall offer him up as a holocaust.” Judges 11:31

Then he said to his servants, “The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.” Matthew 22:8-9


Happy those whose trust is the LORD, who turn not to idolatry or to those who stray after falsehood. How numerous, O LORD, my God, you have made your wondrous deeds! And in your plans for us there is none to equal you. Should I wish to declare or tell them, too many are they to recount sacrifice and offering you do not want; but ears open to obedience you gave me. Holocausts and sin-offerings you do not require; so I said, "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 40:5-8


“Here I am, Lord.”

“To do your will is my delight.”

“We thank you for letting us stand in your presence and serve you.”

“Thy will be done.”

These are words that we pray all the time. Are we willing to go to the lengths that are required to make that happen?

“Here I am, Lord.” These are words which have been on the minds, in the hearts and on the lips of saints and sinners throughout Biblical history. In the Hebrew Bible, we heard these words from Isaac and Esau. From Jacob. From Moses in front of a burning bush. From Abraham before and after being asked to sacrifice his beloved son. From Samuel and Eli. From David. From the prophet Isaiah. From a young virgin named Mary when the angel appeared to her. From Ananias when asked to aid Saul of Tarsus.

Here I am. Words that are now on our lips as we pray Psalm 40 in today’s Mass.
Lord, we are waiting for you just as you are waiting for us…guests invited to your wedding feast but pre-occupied with other attractions. A re-run of NCIS here. District 19 in the theatres. Another day at the office. Another traffic jam. Draw us out of our selfish pursuits and self-destructive behaviors. Set our feet upon the holy ground that you have cultivated for our personal and communal spiritual growth. Put your song of praise on my mind, on my lips and in my heart.

Here I am, Lord. 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.

Here I am, Lord. 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 us; may your enduring friendship protect and defend me from all that keeps me from you because all around me are countless temptations.

Get me away from them. Rescue me! Come quickly to help me, LORD!

Please foil all the people and organizations which seek to steer 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.

In the end, there is nothing 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.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The First Will Be Last

August 19, 2009

Wednesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Once the trees went to anoint a king over themselves. So they said to the olive tree, 'Reign over us.' But the olive tree answered them, 'Must I give up my rich oil, whereby men and gods are honored, and go to wave over the trees?' Judges 9:8-9

“Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? (Or) am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?' Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Matthew 20:14-16


I look to the faithful of the land; they alone can be my companions. Those who follow the way of integrity, they alone can enter my service. No one who practices deceit can hold a post in my court. No one who speaks falsely can be among my advisors. Each morning I clear the wicked from the land, and rid the LORD'S city of all evildoers. Psalm 101:6-8


When the Lord wants to flag a lesson that is very important to the Christian way of life, he repeats it multiple times. Sometimes, he repeats it to different audiences (Jews and Gentiles) and other times he repeats it to the same people. One some occasions, the same lesson is taught in consecutive days in the Gospel. That is the case today as we hear another treatment of humility. “Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

In the Hebrew Bible, the reading from the Book of Judges lays down the contrast between royalty and regular people with the parable of the trees. The writer takes the olive tree, the fig tree and the grapevine as examples that he tries to elevate to a leadership role in the Church. He gets no where. One by one, the symbols to which he turns reject the offer of external royalty. They prefer to retain the unique value that they bear to others.

Matthew also gives us a gut-check on how our personal value of justice compares with the Lord’s value of equality. The workers perform the same service for different lengths of time but get the same wages because of the generosity of the Lord. The last are equal to the first.


We like coming in first. First place holds a lot of mystique in Americana. We remember the FIRST pilot who flew across the Atlantic solo. We don’t remember the second. We remember the first person to set foot on the moon. Being in first position is important whether hitting lead-off in the batting order, sitting first chair in the clarinet section, or in winning the 100-meter race.

Things are quite different in Christianity where we try to imitate Christ who put himself last.

Life experiences sometime drive home the same lesson. As prices rise, confidence drops. People worry about the stability of their jobs, about paying their mortgages or rent, and more. They fear that they will be the first ones to be shown the door in corporate downsizing. After riding high in some responsible position, job security fades away.

Perhaps the Lord intends it to be that way. He forces us to stand on sandy, shifty soil waiting to see where we place our trust. How will we do in that test? Are we as contented with our role and our self as the trees are in the parable from the Book of Judges? Would we act like the buckthorn and jump at the chance to take over a leadership role? These trees are happy in accepting their God-given fate in life and not in living beyond their means.

Are we like the workers in the field who measured their worth against others and not a higher standard?

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Last Shall Be First

August 18, 2009

Tuesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth DeCristofaro

But Gideon answered him, “Please, my lord, how can I save Israel? My family is the lowliest in Manasseh, and I am the most insignificant in my father’s house.” “I shall be with you,” the LORD said to him… (Judges 6:15-16)

Jesus said to his disciples: “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven. … “For men this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” (Matthew 19: 23, 26, 29-30)


I will listen for the word of God; surely the LORD will proclaim peace to his people, to the faithful, to those who trust in him. Near indeed is salvation for the loyal; prosperity will fill our land. Love and truth will meet; justice and peace will kiss. Truth will spring from the earth; justice will look down from heaven. (Psalm 85:9-12)


What is success anyway? Jesus words are pretty ominous to us in the Land of Opportunity. “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?” (Matthew 19:27) Peter asks. God does seem interested in the least of us – Gideon, David, Peter, Matthew, the slow-learning Cure of Ars (St. John Vianney), a conscientious objector farmer named Fraz Jagerstatter, a little, wizened, sharp-tongued nun named Theresa.

What are our successes? Where do we place our security? As we look around the globe and even closer to home, it seems that we place our dreams, hopes and identities into rather insecure securities. Land can be taken away – or ravaged by drought. Personal fortunes are precariously balanced on economic conditions or our own health. Families can let us down and our professional skills are never enough all the time. Our cherished dreams might never come to fruition. But for God all things are possible.

Dietrich Bonhoefferer said: “It is grace to know God’s commands. They release us from self-made plans and conflicts. They make our steps certain and our way joyful. God gives his commands in order that we may fulfill them and ‘his commandments are not burdensome’ (1 John 5:3) for him who has found all salvation in Jesus Christ. Jesus has himself been under the law and has fulfilled it in total obedience to the Father. God’s will becomes his joy, his nourishment. So he gives thanks in us for the grace of the law and grants to us joy in its fulfillment.”
(From Psalms: The Prayerbook of the Bible, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Augsburg Fortress Press, 1970, p 31-32. )


Where in my life am I clinging to successes and securities instead of to God’s law and promises? What am I holding onto so tightly that I become my own obstacle to growing in God? Where am I parsimonious rather than joyful and generous in God’s love?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Treasure in Heaven

August 17, 2009

Monday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Even when the LORD raised up judges to deliver them from the power of their despoilers, they did not listen to their judges, but abandoned themselves to the worship of other gods. They were quick to stray from the way their fathers had taken, and did not follow their example of obedience to the commandments of the LORD. Judges 2:16-17

Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to (the) poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Matthew 19:21-22


O God, in your love you have given each of us gifts and talents to serve the common good. Help us to use them generously and lovingly, for we are you children. Free us from the desire to serve only our own interests, and help us to grown in the spirit of love that makes us sisters and brothers. Amen. (From the People’s Companion to the Breviary Volume II. This is for morning prayer today.)


Although there are other passages in which Jesus enumerates the greatest commandments, today’s encounter with the rich young man gives us a version of those New Testament commandments. Later in Matthew, Jesus lays down the two greatest commandments: He said to him, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22:37-39

For us to love God with all our heart, with all our soul and with our entire mind, we can not have any distractions pulling us away. Not the fancy car or boat, not the 401K, not the nice jewelry or the bigger house. Not the softball league, the Redskins season tickets, and not the nice prom dress. Without these kinds of possessions, we will get rid of everything that keeps us from God.

A few years ago, when I first met the Catholic poet and activist Rose Berger, she said something about her way of life. She always wanted to be able to open her home to anyone from an old friend to a homeless beggar. To be free for this and not worry about any of her “stuff,” she vowed not to acquire anything that she would be sorry to lose.

We may not be able to emulate that pledge, but it has freed Rose to be able to have no distractions. Once we cut our ties to all of these kinds of attachments, then it is easy to love our neighbor as ourselves. We will never be jealous of their possessions. We will never be jealous of their relationships. We will not be tempted to steal anything because of false desires. Thus freed, nothing will keep us from loving our neighbor as we would like others to love us.


Christianity is not a Sunday exercise. Christianity is a daily challenge. Christianity is a way of life, not just a way of faith.

We may contemplate today’s Gospel and dismiss it as the type of instruction which is only followed in monasteries and convents. However, if we take it to heart, we can start freeing ourselves from the possessions that “hold us so tight.”

Another life style choice Rose Berger elected may be a first step for us. Whenever she buys a book or movie or music, she gives away something else already in her collection. The next time you are browsing the shelves at Borders or the pages of, think about what you can cast off when you bring home the latest best-seller. It might take a little longer to get rid of all our possessions this way, but in the end, we will leave them behind one way or another.