Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Harvest Is Abundant

October 1, 2009

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, virgin and doctor of the Church

Today is holy to our LORD. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!" (And the Levites quieted all the people, saying, "Hush, for today is holy, and you must not be saddened.") Nehemiah 8:10b-11

“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.” Luke 10:2-3


St. Theresa’s Prayer
Christ has no body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes through which He looks
Compassion on this world
Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good
Yours are the hands with which He blesses all the world
Yours are the hands
Yours are the feet
Yours are the eyes
You are His body
Christ has no body now on earth but yours


Today is the feast day of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, also known as "Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus" and "The Little Flower." When Therese received her First Communion, she said "Ah, how sweet was the first kiss of Jesus! It was a kiss of love... I felt that I was loved."

St.Theresa had a desire to be a nun that started when she was only three. When she was ten years old, she begged to be received into the order of the Carmelites in Lisieux. She was admitted at age 16 and pronounced her holy vows within the year.

Thérèse is known for her "Little Way." In her quest for sanctity, she realized that it was not necessary to accomplish heroic acts in order to attain holiness and to express her love of God. She wrote: “Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love."

This "Little Way" also appeared in her approach to spirituality exemplified in this quote:

"Sometimes, when I read spiritual treatises, in which perfection is shown with a thousand obstacles in the way and a host of illusions round about it, my poor little mind soon grows weary, I close the learned book, which leaves my head splitting and my heart parched, and I take the Holy Scriptures. Then all seems luminous, a single word opens up infinite horizons to my soul, perfection seems easy; I see that it is enough to realize one's nothingness, and give oneself wholly, like a child, into the arms of the good God. Leaving to great souls, great minds, the fine books I cannot understand, I rejoice to be little because 'only children, and those who are like them, will be admitted to the heavenly banquet'."

On September 30, 1897 (112 years ago yesterday), at the youthful age of twenty-four, St.Theresa died of tuberculosis, with a loving glance at her crucifix. On her deathbed, she said, “Oh, I love Him! My God, I love You!” Then she breathed her last.

Only seventeen years later, when those born in the same year were just forty-one years old, the fame of her sanctity had so spread among the people that her cause was introduced at Rome. She was beatified on April 29, 1923, and canonized on May 17, 1925, an unusually rapid process for the Church. This is the equivalent of the Church canonizing today someone born in 1957. Consider the lifetimes of two modern-day spiritual giants whom we count among the cloud of witnesses. The late Mother Teresa of Calcutta was born in 1910. The late Pope John Paul II was born in 1920.

Many books have been written about this young saint. In one, Therese by Dorothy Day, she considers why this young nun was so loved by the world and her little spiritual practices were so important. Excerpts from that volume follow (italics added):

There has been so much discussion of the diminutive “little” which Therese used constantly that it is good to remember her words of explanation of August 6. “To be little…is…not to attribute to ourselves the virtues we practice, nor to believe ourselves capable of practicing virtue at all. It is rather to recognize the fact that God puts treasures of virtue into the hands of his little children to make use of them in time of need, but they remain always treasures of the good God. Finally, to be little means that we must never be discouraged over our faults, for children often fall but they are too small to harm themselves very much.”

It was the “worker,” the common man, who first spread her fame by word of mouth. It was the masses who first proclaimed her a saint. It was the “people.” What was there about her to make such an appeal? Perhaps because she was so much like the rest of us in her ordinariness. In her lifetime there are no miracles recounted; she was just good, good as the bread which the Normans baked in huge loaves. Good as the pale cider which takes the place of the wine of the rest of France, since Normandy is an apple country. “Small beer,” one might say. She compares to the great saints as cider compares with wine, others might complain. But it is the world itself which has canonized her, it is the common people who have taken her to their hearts. And now the theologians are writing endlessly to explain how big she was, and not little, how mature and strong she was, not childlike and dependent.

What did she do? She practiced the presence of God and she did all things – all the little things that make up our daily life and contact with others – for His honor and glory. She did not need much time to expound what she herself called her “little way.” She wrote her story and God did the rest. God and the people. God chose for the people to clamor for her canonization.

She speaks to our condition. Is the atom a little thing? And yet what havoc it has wrought. Is her little way a small contribution to the life of the spirit? It has all the power of the spirit of Christianity behind it. It is an explosive force that can transform our lives and the life of the world, once put into effect. In the homily he gave after the Gospel at the Mass of her canonization, Pope Pius XI said: “If the way of this spiritual childhood became general, who does not see how easily would be realized the reformation of human society…”

The seeds of this teaching are being spread, being broadcast to be watered by our blood perhaps, but with the promise of a harvest. God will give the increase.

From Therese by Dorothy Day contained in the collection Dorothy Day Selected Writings: By Little and By Little. Edited and with an Introduction by Robert Ellsberg. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books 1998.


How can we use St. Therese’ “little way” to inspire our Fourth Day and use it to realize the change in people’s lives that are needed to save the world?

Although Christ and Therese have departed from this world, we remain behind as their hands to work in this world.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Favoring Hand of My God Was Upon Me

September 30, 2009

Wednesday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

"If it please the king, and if your servant is deserving of your favor, send me to Judah, to the city of my ancestors' graves, to rebuild it." Nehemiah 2:5

As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus answered him, "Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head." Luke 9:57-58


A choice! Yes, this is the pearl of great price, yet it is not intended to be buried and hidden away. A choice that is not used is worse than nothing; it is a snare in which a person has trapped himself as a slave who did not become free – by choosing. It is a good thing that you can never be rid of it. It remains with you, and if you do not use it, it becomes a curse. A choice – not between red and green, not between silver and gold – no a choice between God and the world! Do you know anything in comparison to choice? Do you know any more overwhelming and humbling expression for God’s condescension and extravagance towards us human beings than that the he places himself, so to say, on the same level of choice with the world, just so that we may be able to choose; that God, if language dare speak thus, woos humankind – that he, the eternally strong one, woos sapless humanity? Yet how insignificant is the young lover’s choice between her pursuers by comparison with this choice between God and the world!

No a person must choose, for in this way God retains his honor while at the same time has a fatherly concern for humankind. Though God has lowered himself to being that which can be chosen, yet each person must on his part choose.

[From the essay “Either/Or” that appears in the book Provocations: The Spiritual Writings of Soren Kierkegaard. Compiled and edited by Charles E. Moore. Farmington, PA: The Plough Publishing House of the Bruderhof Foundation. 1999]


The “favoring hand of God” is not passing out comfort. If you thought that was the case, the readings today will wake you up faster than a bucket of ice water dumped in your warm bed.

Nehemiah was an important official in the household of the king. However, he offered to give up his favored position in order to be given the “opportunity” to help rebuild Judah. Because the king saw the sadness which weighed down the spirit of his servant, he granted Nehemiah his wish.

In the Good News, we encounter disciples who do not share the spirit of Nehemiah. They are not willing to let go of everything and follow Jesus. Jesus demands that they drop everything and follow him. Disciples have to be as willing as Nehemiah to give up their obligations and privileges and choose the path of God. What we hear from Jesus brings up the serious and unconditional nature of Christian discipleship. Even family ties and works of mercy like burying one's parents, cannot distract one no matter how briefly from proclaiming the kingdom of God.

Following Jesus does not mean staying in the finest hotels, traveling first class, or eating at the best restaurants. Instead, Jesus is up front with the facts and the discomfort that we will share in this journey. “The Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” We will not even have the kind of creature comforts enjoyed by…well…creatures.

As Kierkegaard reminds us about the tyranny of this choice, “In the end, failure to decide prevents one from doing what is good. It keeps us from doing that great thing to which each of us is bound by virtue of the eternal.”


Choose. Consider some of the choices that you are facing. Which choice will lead you down the path God is clearing? What do you need to do to make that your decision?

God’s True Child

September 29, 2009

Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels

By Beth De Cristofaro

One like a son of man…received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed
. (Daniel 7: 13, 14)

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.”
(John 1:47)


I thank you, Yahweh, with all my heart; I sing praise to you before the angels. I worship at your holy temple and praise your name because of your constant love and faithfulness. You will do everything you have promised me; Yahweh, your faith love endures forever. Complete the work that you have begun. (Psalm 138 from Psalms Anew)


Today is the feast of the archangels who are named in Scripture. Their names conjure up images of power, incorruptibility, mystery, total loyalty and splendor. Many religions speak about angels intersecting with humans, often in the role of messenger. Angels in Islam are known as malaikah. It is said that an angel revealed the Qu’uran to Mohammed. In Jewish tradition, companion angels are known as malachim. There are angels in Buddhism, Hinduism and other traditions.

The Roman Catholic Catechism says of angels (in part): E. Para. 350: “Angels are spiritual creatures who glorify God without ceasing and who serve his saving plans for other creatures: ‘The angels work together for the benefit of us all’” (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I, 114, 3, ad 3). What the catechism also says is: 343 Man is the summit of the Creator's work, as the inspired account expresses by clearly distinguishing the creation of man from that of the other creatures.” And 344 There is a solidarity among all creatures arising from the fact that all have the same Creator and are all ordered to his glory”[1] For all human fascination with angels and their mystical power, humanity is the summit of God’s creative handiwork, and we are by our creation kin to these majestic beings.

Which brings me to Nathaniel. Jesus, before being properly introduced to Nathaniel said: “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” How humbling and awesome to be recognized by the Son of God in such terms. Jesus did not point out power, majesty and mystery but Nathaniel’s basic honesty and integrity. I see Jesus expecting and respecting how Nathaniel’s interior life, a quest for God (as he sits under the fig tree in prayer) is manifest in his life. How he treats others comes from his interior journey of righteousness and holiness. That journey is not the journey of angels but the path of women and men as brothers and sisters of the human God.


Angels are recognized as protectors and guides. Who do we protect and guide not as angels but as co-pilgrims? Would Jesus say of us “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” Could you hear such words with humility, accepting then sharing such unconditional love?

It is so much easier to see duplicity in others. Look with honesty; if you detect duplicity propelling you, what will you do for yourself?

If you would like to read more about different religious takes on angels try beliefnet.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dwell Within

September 28, 2009

Monday of the Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Thus says the LORD: I will return to Zion, and I will dwell within Jerusalem; Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts, the holy mountain. Zechariah 8:3

Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to them, "Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest." Luke 9:47-48


Refrain: Deep within, I will plant my law, not on stone, but in your heart.
Follow me; I will bring you back. You will be my own, and I will be your God.

1. I will give you a new heart, a new spirit within you, for I will be your strength.

2. See my face, and see your God, for I will be your hope.

3. Return to me, with all your heart, and I will bring you back.

("Deep Within," by David Haas)


If one theme of Luke’s Gospel in this liturgical year is the proper behavioral response to hearing the word of God (“act on it”), then the other prominent theme is the rationale why that behavior is required. We must act on the Word because it dwells within us. To do otherwise is counter to our very nature.

On the historical level, Zechariah preaches about the return of the Jewish exiles to the Holy City and the rebuilding of the temple. However, on a higher level, we experience the Lord’s promise to dwell with each of us and what that requires of us.

It was a fabulous occurrence for God to dwell with and within humanity. It was as unlikely to happen in the traditions of ancient Judaism as would exalting a powerless child. Yet that is exactly what the Christmas story revealed in its Epiphany. Jesus extends that Epiphany today not to just the Child of God bit to every child of God.

The scriptures are getting across an important point about authenticity. Aside from the pride shown by the arguing disciples, Jesus points to a compelling example of humility. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest. Jesus by his very life shows us that he is not afraid to take on the posture of the least among us. First, though he is God, he takes on the frailest human existence in the womb of his mother. Then he takes on the posture of a criminal with no one to Advocate for his cause accepting the fate meted out by the court.

Today, he dwells in each of us through faith and through the sacraments. He becomes part of our whole being spiritually, intellectually and emotionally. With the Jesus-nature within us, we are compelled to act on that very essence. To deny it would be to deny Him and our selves (sin). To cultivate that essence is to make ourselves the baby in that manger, the criminal at that trial, the condemned man executed on that cross and the risen priest, prophet and king.

After Resurrection, that is when his Advocate takes center stage. In our humanity, we may think he most needed a lawyer/defender/advocate when he faced off with Herod and Pilate and the Pharisees in those final Good Friday hours. Instead, we have learned through His teaching that Jesus needed his Advocate to stand in for him against all the evil/temporal forces of the world when he was no longer here to lead us into battle himself.

So he encourages us to take on the same humble posture that he was never hesitant to put on. When we put on Christ in Baptism, we receive the child in [His] name, we receive the indwelling Jesus and we receive the one who sent Jesus into our midst. That is the path to greatness.


Jesus does not discriminate and that is why as a Church we stand for social justice for all. Last week, a delegation of Catholic bishops met political leaders of both parties to advocate for policy issues that are consistent with Catholic Social Teaching.

According to a release by the USCCB, Archbishop José Gomez of San Antonio, Texas, led the September 17 delegation, representing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“We met with our political leaders of both parties to re-affirm the principles of Catholic social teaching about the dignity of all human beings from conception to natural death and the centrality of the common good. We offered these principles grounded in social ethics and our religious heritage as constructive guidelines for achieving a just and equitable resolution of the public policy debates around these key issues,” he said.

The topics raised by the bishops with legislators are:

Health Care and Immigration. The U.S. Bishops have for decades been in favor of health care reform that is truly universal and respects the life and dignity of all, including the poor and legal immigrants. Health care legislation must allow all legal immigrants, regardless of income level, to participate in any new health care system and oppose any ban that would prevent them from participating for five years. Such legislation must also support the inclusion of pregnant women and children, regardless of their legal status.

Just Immigration Reform. The U.S. Bishops support just immigration reform, which contains several core elements. This would include broad-based legalization through a program that provides an opportunity for “earned” permanent residency and a new worker program that includes a living wage. The U.S. Bishops support family-based immigration reform and a restoration of due process protections lost in the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. The U.S. Bishops also support addressing the root causes of migration and the inclusion of the DREAM Act and AgJOBS in reform legislation.

Hispanics and Poverty (Housing). The U.S. Bishops support a national housing policy that includes preservation and production of quality housing for low income families, the elderly and other vulnerable people. The U.S. Bishops also call for an end to abusive lending penalties and urge Congress to fund the National Housing Trust Fund, which will preserve or produce 1.5 million rental homes in the next ten years and 200,000 new housing choice vouchers annually for ten years.

Hispanics and Education. The U.S. Bishops encourage the federal government to promote programs that keep students in school, include Catholic students and teachers in federal education program, especially reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, reauthorize the D.C. Scholarship program to assist low income students in the District of Columbia to receive financial assistance to attend private schools, and support funding for students to attend community colleges where many Hispanic youth are educated.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

For Whoever Is Not Against Us Is For Us

September 27, 2009

Twenty-sixth Sunday Ordinary Time

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

But Moses answered him, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!" Numbers 11:29

There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us. Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward. Mark 9:39-41


The victory of Christ is the Resurrection. Christ in dying for us brings us to heaven with himself. Christ is our foothold on heaven. We are his hands and feet here on earth with our piety and all the good we do for others. The good that we do in the name of Jesus is our claim on heaven. The Spirit of the Lord dwells in our hearts and is the source of the miracles of life that we are part of. We can never be jealous of the good people do in the name of Christ because anyone who does the work of Christ is on our side and has a claim on heaven just as we do. All our efforts need to b ring unity with Jesus Christ. We need to respect the work Christ does in all his people and realize that when one works in the name of Christ they are with us even if they do not belong to us. The precepts of the Lord give joy to the hearts of all good people. The anonymous Christians of our lives are with us even if they do not know it. We need to look at what we do in the name of Christ and hope that we are not leaving out of our lives the goodness we see in those who do not know Christ as we do. Our piety needs to be there for all to see and to imitate. The precepts of the Lord that we live by and give joy to the heart need to be visible in our lives to all who see us. We need to preach always by our lives and occasionally use words.


Wealth rots away. Clothes corrode. Naked we came into the world and naked we go out. The good we do is not interred with our bones but lives on in our hearts. What we have failed to do, will be a testimony against us. The treasures we have stored up in heaven are the good we do. What we do for one who belongs to Christ will not be lost to us. Our good example will live on in the hearts of those we touch with our love of Christ. For whoever listens to us when we speak in the name of Christ hears Christ. How our lives effect people we need to improve so that we will not be responsible for those who have lost their way. Our actions make a difference to people. We would not want to be responsible for someone losing the way because they were following us.


The word of the Lord is truth. We need to ask the Lord to consecrate us in the truth. What we do for the poor and the needy of our lives open up heaven to us. We Need to commit ourselves to look beyond appearances and to see the good others do. We need to acknowledge the good people of our lives to empower them to do even more good. We need to commit ourselves to do what we need to do to stop bothering people by our false piety and to help people get closer to Christ. We need to be a genuine Christ for each other. A good action is a compliment that helps another to be a better person. One good action each day can keep the devil away.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Among You

September 26, 2009

Saturday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the LORD. Zechariah 2:14

And all were astonished by the majesty of God. While they were all amazed at his every deed, he said to his disciples, "Pay attention to what I am telling you. The Son of Man is to be handed over to men." Luke 9:43-44


Father, help us to hear the word of the LORD so that we can proclaim it on distant coasts and in our own neighborhoods through how we live our lives. Brother Jesus, gather us together so we can care for others as you the shepherd cares for your flock. Holy Spirit, turn our mourning into joy, console and gladden us as we cope with our heart breaks. Amen.


“I am the Alpha and the Omega.” Revelation 22:13

The first and the last. The beginning and the end.

In the totality of experience, the Lord amazes us that He will humble himself and actually come to dwell among us. Yet, with that prophecy fulfilled, so must the next fact also be manifest. That despite our amazement at the wonder of God, we will not only turn our backs on him but actually turn him over to his enemies who will execute him in the most humiliating and painful torture used in his time.

Jesus is roused from his holy dwelling and moves in with the tenants. The Lord’s descent from heaven to a painful hell is complete. The celebration of the Christmas night melts into the suffering of Good Friday when day becomes night.

The Jesus life-experience we witness commands our attention. Yet Jesus lives this way for a reason that is made perfectly evident in today’s Gospel. He needed to do something extraordinary to get our attention as we live through the ordinary. Pay attention to what I am telling you.

Repeatedly over the past few weeks, our readings have reminded us over and over and over and over again not to just listen to the word but also to put it into action. The shocking nature of the revelation made today is the headline of the story. The very people who were worshipping Jesus turned on him a few weeks later. Yet the revelation did not fit with their pre-conceived notion of what the Messiah would be so they rejected the teaching.

Jesus does not want us to stop reading and listening at the headline. Maybe that is why we have the rest of the Good News…to show us how to live. To wake us out of our slumber and put love into action.


Despite the miracles of life and the many signs Jesus introduced into the world, he also existed side by side with suffering. The blind, the lame, the sick, the dead, and many more play prominent roles in Jesus’ public ministry until he experienced the most excruciating pain and suffering around.

We too exist in a world of contrasts. Just consider the homeless men and women living in the shadow of the White House or the Cathedral or the World Bank. Right next to symbols of power, success and authority, we can encounter people in their most vulnerable condition.

Look and listen this week as you go about your life experiences. Look for the contrasts in life that you would otherwise not notice. Listen “with the ear of your heart” to the word of God and see how it can apply to your life. Do this in order to better “pay attention” to what Jesus is telling us today about our life and times and the hurting people who live among us.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

And How Do You See It Now?

September 25, 2009

Friday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem like nothing in your eyes? (Haggai 2:3)

Send your light and fidelity, that they may be my guide and bring me to your holy mountain, to the place of your dwelling. (Psalms 43:3)

Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, "Who do the crowds say that I am?" They said in reply, "John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, 'One of the ancient prophets has arisen.'" Then he said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter said in reply, "The Messiah of God." (Luke 9:18-20)


Lord, help me to live in the now, not dwelling on who I have been or dreaming about who I will be tomorrow. Help me to be present, now, to do Your work on earth.


We know what the disciples answered when Jesus asked them who people said he was: John the Baptist. Elijah. An ancient prophet come back from the dead. And we know what Peter said when Jesus asked who the disciples said he was: The messiah of God.

But turn that question around. What would you say if Jesus asked you who the crowds say that you are? And who would you say you are?

The way we define ourselves and the way others define us can change with time. At different stages of my life, for example, the answers would have been: Student. South Dakotan. High school debater. College journalist. Wire service editor. Wife. Sister. Magazine editor. Civil servant. Many of those roles have come and go, but the one that never changes is beloved child of God. Funny how that one isn’t the first one that comes to mind for many of us when we are asked, “Who are you?”

Relationships, jobs, expertise, ministries... they come and go. Our former glory and our hopes for the future during our time on earth matter little, for we have no control over either. What we can do is to live a life of love and service in the now, focusing on our true identity with Christ as our guide and our hope.


Who are you? Is it who God wants you to be? Consider this during your prayer time today.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Consider Your Ways

September 24, 2009

Thursday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Now thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways! You have sown much, but have brought in little; you have eaten, but have not been satisfied; You have drunk, but have not been exhilarated; have clothed yourselves, but not been warmed; And he who earned wages earned them for a bag with holes in it. Haggai 1:5-6

But Herod said, "John I beheaded. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?" And he kept trying to see him. Luke 9:6



As Catholics, we recognize that prayer is of the utmost importance, an invaluable contribution to helping the poor overseas. We invite you to join us in bringing to Our Lord the following intentions and thanks.

Disaster response: Natural disasters focus our attention on our brothers and sisters like few other events. Let us pray that many are spared these traumas during this season, and that God equips Catholic Relief Services with willing and able hearts and hands when disaster strikes.

Zimbabwe: Let us pray for the 20,000 orphans of Zimbabwe who are served by CRS programs, that God grants them strength and direction as they navigate their lives without the support of parents.

Mexico farmland: Thank you, Lord, for resilience, and for rising damaged land back to productivity after the floods which struck Mexico two years ago.

Typhoon Morakot: Let us pray that the people of Taiwan whose lives were threatened and disrupted by this storm will recover quickly. And we thank God for the Daughters of Charity who are working amidst the damage.


Curiosities and Priorities.

Herod’s interest in hearing about Jesus calls to mind the night-time visits of Nicodemus to hear from Jesus. Even though Nicodemus was a Pharisee, he was intrigued by the teachings of Jesus. Even though he did not want his fellow Pharisees to know of his interest, Nicodemus would sneak over to listen to Jesus under the cover of darkness.

In a similar way, Herod was attracted to the preaching of Jesus even though he personally condemned John the Baptist to execution. Listening to Jesus was almost like a guilty pleasure. Herod would never want his people or the politicians back in Rome to know what he was doing. After all, he already had rejected John’s message of repentance. Even though Herod was not yet ready to turn away from his lifestyle, nonetheless, he was drawn in to Jesus’ preaching on the very same theme of change that John established.

Yet John’s message was not really that new. In the Hebrew Bible today, we read from the beginning of the book of Haggai. Five centuries before John and Jesus walked and preached, Haggai was exhorting the Jews to “Consider your ways.”

The task at hand was to build a temple suitable for the Lord. Although the Jews were literally building the temple, we too must prepare a place for the Lord. Yesterday, we heard Jesus mark out a space for us in his house. He offered us a place to unburden ourselves from things that weigh us down.

Now, he is asking us to prepare a place for him rather than staying in our expensive, paneled suburban homes watching our flat paneled televisions.


The prophet asks us today, “Is it time for you to dwell in your own paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?” Haggai 1:4

Look at the world. There are signs all around us of how the world is a broken place. Are we going to react to the Lord’s call for us like Herod – showing curiosity while continuing along the same old ways we have followed? Or will we be like John the Baptist and fully commit to the message the Lord wants us to proclaim with our lives?

Take courage. The Lord is with us to guide us along the way. As we consider our ways, perhaps now is a time to consider accounting for your ways and turning to the Lord for forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation freely given.

"Take courage, all you people of the land, says the LORD, and work! For I am with you, says the LORD of hosts. This is the pact that I made with you when you came out of Egypt, And my spirit continues in your midst; do not fear!” Haggai 2:4-5

So what would we do differently afterward? Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced more than 250,000 Catholics have signed up for the Catholics Confront Global Poverty initiative, a renewed nationwide effort to address the root causes of global poverty through education and advocacy. In less than seven months, the program has reached one quarter of the goal to mobilize one million Catholics.

Launched in February 2009 on the heels of Pope Benedict XVI's 2009 World Day of Peace Message on "Fighting Poverty to Build Peace," Catholics Confront Global Poverty calls on Catholics to learn about and share the stories of those struggling to rise above extreme poverty, to pray for the poorest members of our human family and to advocate with policy makers on behalf of poor people worldwide.

"The global financial crisis is having a devastating impact on people here and the poor around the world, and the progress that has been made could be wiped out for decades to come," said Ken Hackett, CRS President. "In a world where an estimated 1.4 billion people live in extreme poverty, the message of the Church is clear. As Catholics, we are called to help our brothers and sisters in need."

With the release of his latest Encyclical Letter, Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI reiterated his plea for richer nations to stand with people living in poverty and take action, especially in light of the global financial crisis.

Are your ready to become a part of this initiative? Will you approach it with curiosity or with priority?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Stake in His Holy Place

September 23, 2009

Wednesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

“And now, but a short time ago, mercy came to us from the LORD, our God, who left us a remnant and gave us a stake in his holy place; thus our God has brightened our eyes and given us relief in our servitude. For slaves we are, but in our servitude our God has not abandoned us; rather, he has turned the good will of the kings of Persia toward us. Thus he has given us new life to raise again the house of our God and restore its ruins, and has granted us a fence in Judah and Jerusalem.” Ezra 9:8-9

He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there. And as for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them.” Luke 9:3-5


My God, I am too ashamed and confounded to raise my face to you, O my God, for our wicked deeds are heaped up above our heads and our guilt reaches up to heaven. From the time of our fathers even to this day great has been our guilt, and for our wicked deeds we have been delivered over, we and our kings and our priests, to the will of the kings of foreign lands, to the sword, to captivity, to pillage, and to disgrace, as is the case today. Ezra 9:6-7


“Get your gear.” (Special Agent Jethro Gibbs, NCIS)

“Take nothing for the journey.” (Jesus of Nazareth)

Two opposites. If we are to fully rely on God (f.r.o.G.), then Jesus asks us to completely detach ourselves from our gear – our material possessions.

If we go away for a long weekend, the packing is intense. Two nights and we need to pack clean clothes and toiletries of course. Traveler’s checks or cash? Snacks on the road? Then, what will we read in the car? Is there a pool at the hotel? Then we need bathing suits and towels and sun block and goggles. Do we have internet access? Then the computer gets packed along with the power cord and Ethernet cable. Don’t forget the I-pod, mobile phone and digital camera. Each has a USB cord and power supply so the batteries don’t die. What have I left off?

You get the picture…what we do today is so far removed from what Jesus commissioned his disciples to do. Take nothing for the journey!

Like Ezra, we are slaves. Slaves to our jobs. Slaves to our possessions. Slaves to our diversions.

So Jesus came and “gave us a stake in his holy place.” Some Bible translations use the term “nail” or “peg” in this reference implying that God provides a space for us to hang up our possessions and free ourselves to open a space for Him in our lives. Ezra’s confession allows him to open a space in his heart for God who will free him from his servitude. Check your bags at heaven’s gate.


What is anchoring you to your way of life? God is offering us a space free us from what ties us down. He offers us a peg in his cloak room to put away those things that occupy our hands, our minds and our hearts. Thus freed, we can then consider how to reuse that time in our lives better so God’s will “will be done.”

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hear the Word and Act

September 22, 2009

Tuesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth DeCristofaro

King Darius issued an order to the officials of West-of-Euphrates: “Let the governor and the elders of the Jews continue the work on that house of God; they are to rebuild it on its former site. (Ezra 6:8)

He said to them in reply, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” (Luke 8:21)


I rejoiced when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD."… Here are the thrones of justice, the thrones of the house of David. For the peace of Jerusalem pray: "May those who love you prosper! May peace be within your ramparts, prosperity within your towers." (from Psalm 122)


In Houston, Texas in the early 1990’s, a drug bust went bad and an innocent bystander was killed. Dede was the light of her mom’s life, only 27 years old. The murderer received a 20+ year sentence. Dede’s mom, Mother Arna Washington was an active church member, beloved by many who were in her Sunday school classes. She was inconsolable over the death of her daughter and at each parole hearing, spoke against parole for the convicted murderer, Ron Flowers.

Then, some fifteen years later, to her shock, her own beloved church community began an aggressive outreach to prisoners. In addition to bible study classes there were life skills classes and one-to-one mentoring in the jails. And to add to the horror, she found out that her own pastor was mentoring Ron Flowers. She demanded that the outreach be stopped, crying in hurt betrayal. Her pastor listened patiently and explained to her that he found that the murderer was a changed man, that Flowers had allowed Jesus into his life, and that the pastor found that he had work to do for and with this man. And, he gently added, “I find that I have work to do with you, too, Mrs. W”.

Although she was still angry, Mrs. W accepted the challenge to lead Bible study in the prison although not directly with Flowers. She found herself uncomfortably moved by the stories of the incarcerated men and their dedication to living a Christian life. She did not appear at the next hearing and Flowers was released on parole. He continued working with the pastor, found a steady job and reintegrated into civilian life.

Several years went by and graduation from the mentoring program was to be held at the church. Mother Washington decided to go in loyalty to the program and, she told herself, to see what had become of the murderer of her daughter. When she arrived, she found Flowers in a back hall, hiding because he was so afraid of what she would say to him. She stood looking at him and something within her let loose. You have worked so hard, she told him. Where is your mother today on your graduation day? The response: she gave up on me. I have not seen her since I entered prison 15 years ago.

She wrapped her arms around him and said “You need a mother. I will be your mother.” They cried together for a long time. She cheered for him at graduation that day. They began to attend worship at Rock Creek United Methodist Church together and she routinely invited him for dinner at her house. Mother Arna stood up for Flowers at his wedding three years later and he was at her bedside when she died.

Who were Jesus’ kinfolk in this true-life story? Flowers, Mother Arna, Pastor Homer Williams heard the word of God and acted on it.


Can we accept that God loves us even when we worship false gods or ignore the will of God? Can we love others who are wrong, mean, misguided, or hurtful - because God loves us? Through our actions are we building the house of God for those who are in exile? Or do we exile others because we cannot believe in, accept and share God’s unconditional love?

In what way do you hear the word of God and act on it?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The One Hope of Your Call

September 21, 2009

Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and evangelist

Live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1b-3

Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” I did not come to call the righteous but sinners. Matthew 9:12-13


Listen to the song “One Faith” by Michael Card and John Michael Talbot at this web address:


Twenty-five weeks into the liturgical calendar for ordinary time, we hold in our hands the Holy Invitation. This is the invitation that Jesus never stops sending. So whether we are in week one or week thirty-four, Jesus invites us daily.

Jesus of Nazareth requests the honor of your company at a dinner to be given in his honor. Come and you will see. All you must do is pick up your cross and follow him. RSVP in the way you live according to the Gospel.

Jesus did not invite Matthew or you or me to be Jewish or Catholic or Roman. He invited us to follow him. In this call, the hope for the unity of the Christian community resounds. Whether Catholic or Baptist, Presbyterian or Lutheran, Coptic or Greek Orthodox, we share in one baptism to the same friendship of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, in real life, everyone does not accept everyone else.

That fact is similar to the social judgments popular in Jesus’ day. When Jesus eats with tax collectors, the Pharisees wonder why he consorts with sinners. Jesus rejects their assumptions. There are many traditions that would have prevented Jesus from acting in certain ways. However, Jesus is not the Tradition. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Light. His way can not be wrong.

Jesus did not come to call the self-righteous. He came to invite all of us to follow him with the Holy Invitation that he delivers today to Matthew.


Rather than looking to exploit reasons to divide us into categories, Paul urges us to recognize the one hope of our call – Jesus Christ.

Are we capable of responding to Jesus' call to change our live and where we place our pursuit of happiness? Are we capable of responding in faith to the Holy Invitation contained in the Gospels?

Who are the “tax collectors” in your life? Why do you reject them? Are you willing to sit down with them? Are you willing to accept healing from the physician?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Fruit of Righteousness is Sown in Peace

September 20, 2009

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him. For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Wisdom 2:17-20

Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all." Taking a child he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them, "Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me." Mark 9:35-37


The urge to be the greatest is a force to be reckoned with and to be taped into by the way we live our lives. People do foolish things for the sake of power, honor or glory. There is a desire to be first in all of us. Prestige attracts our souls and can corrupt anyone. Living up to the good opinion of others challenges us to be better people. A good reputation helps us to be better people. We always want to do more for those who love us.

Humility has to be a part of our spirituality if we are truly going to be close to Christ in our lives. No one can deserve love. Love is a free gift for another. Justice is what we deserve. Wisdom from above is remedy for a jealousy that drives selfish ambition. The Word made flesh models our piety and the example of Christ models what our piety needs to look like when we put controls on the desires of selfish ambition. There is no escape from our own share in the passion of Christ if we are going to face down the disorders and the foul practices that disfigure our face of Christ. The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune test the mettle of all.

Goodness comes from involvement in efforts to improve the quality of life around us. Giving our lives for the sake of others gives us share in the passion of Christ. He saw his death coming and did not rush it so that he could educate his disciples. Christ associates greatness with the willingness to be the servant of all. No one likes to be taken advantage of and the notion of being the servant of all gives us a challenge that is difficult to respond to without giving up major control over what we are asked to do in life. It takes the working of the Holy Spirit to teach us how to respond to call Christ puts in our hearts.


Christ gives us the example of a child to study if we want to honor the desire to be first that is in our hearts. First in the kingdom of heaven is different than first in the eyes of our world. Our world gives power, honor and glory first place. God gives us closeness to the lowly Christ for our heavenly ranking. Christ puts his arms around a child. His disciples were looking at being at his side as the measure of greatness in the Kingdom of God. Christ tells them; “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me: and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me. “ The Last Judgment scene of Mt. 25, 40 reinforces this with the closeness belonging to what we do for the least ones of our lives. Christ is to be found in everyone who needs us. He is found in us when we need another. When Christ comes in his glory, everyone will want to be close to him. We can assure our closeness now by our closeness to the cross of Christ. It is not crowed there.


We do what we do because it is our job. How we come to realize that life is more than a job is a special moment in all our lives. We can easily tire of what we do all the time. The Hidden Life Grace is discovered in prayer about all the years that Christ spent behind the scenes. He was known as the son of the Carpenter. That means he worked with Joseph and continued the work of Joseph after he died. His call came to him in the River Jordon with his Baptism and the voice of the Father saying “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. He had done nothing of note up to that point. The Father was applauding how he lived the hidden moments of his life. All the things he did that we have no knowledge of give meaning to the obscurity of our lives. We all have obscure times when no one notices us. How we react to the hidden moments of our lives can make us like to Christ who did the least things in his life with all his heart. In the mystery of the kingdom of God we are most like Christ when we do the ordinary of our lives in an extraordinary way. . The times of our life when we are not noticed, give us the opportunity to be like Christ in his hidden life. God is telling us with the hidden years of His Son that it is not what we do but with how much love we do what we are about that make us like Christ. What we do that the world notices are moments in any life. The hidden life grace means that in the kingdom of God only the insignificant is worthy of all-out efforts. Since it is not the job that is important, it has to be how we do what no one notices that makes us like Christ. Our greatness in the kingdom of heaven will come from the ways we are like Christ. We all have hidden moments where heaven will be our reward. Our claim to fame in heaven will be how close we were to the cross of Christ in our lives. The crosses of our lives and how we carried them with Christ will be our claim to fame in heaven. Doing well what no one sees or is able to thank us for will have its thanks in heaven.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Who Dwells in Unapproachable Light

September 19, 2009

Saturday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearance of our Lord. 1 Timothy 6:14

But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance. Luke 8:15


Shout joyfully to the LORD, all you lands; worship the LORD with cries of gladness; come before him with joyful song. Know that the LORD is God, our maker to whom we belong, whose people we are, God's well-tended flock. Enter the temple gates with praise, its courts with thanksgiving. Give thanks to God, bless his name; good indeed is the LORD, Whose love endures forever, whose faithfulness lasts through every age. (Psalm 100)


We hear an echo of the same psalm (100) in today’s Mass which was prayed just two weeks ago. Come with joy into the presence of the Lord.

Once again, we are the recipient’s of a Holy Invitation. Now that we the Holy Spirit has delivered the invitation, how will we submit our RSVP to the Lord? What seed will our response reflect?

Will we be like the seed that fell on the path and was trampled or eaten by the birds?

Will we be like the seed that fell on rocky ground and withered for lack of moisture?

Will we be like the seed that fell among thorns and was choked to death?

Or, will we accept this invitation to grow in the presence of the Lord like the seed that fell on good soil?

These seeds will become “those who hear the word of God and act on it.” (Luke 8:21). This same concept of listening and action is included in the conclusion of Timothy’s letter: Tell the rich in the present age not to be proud and not to rely on so uncertain a thing as wealth but rather on God, who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, ready to share, thus accumulating as treasure a good foundation for the future, so as to win the life that is true life. 1 Timothy 17-19


Listen, as St. Benedict says, with the ear of your heart. What invitation is the Lord delivering to you?

Today, Scripture continues to remind us that there is a big difference between idle listening and listening which impels us to act out the actions manifest in Jesus’ teaching.

How will you engage the invitation?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

For the Love of Money Is the Root of All Evils

September 18, 2009

Friday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains. (1 Timothy 6:10)

Fear not when a man grows rich, when the wealth of his house becomes great. For when he dies, he shall take none of it; his wealth shall not follow him down. (Psalms 49:17-18)

Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources. (Luke 8:1-3)

Lord, help me to be a good steward of the financial, emotional, physical, and spiritual wealth you have given me.

Even in the first century, there was some overhead to carrying the Good News to the world: Food. Clothing. Shelter.

Today’s Gospel acknowledges some of those who provided for the ministry, including Joanna, the wife of Herod Antipas’s steward. There are differing views on where Joanna got her money, whether Chuza too converted or whether she received a settlement in a divorce. But there is no doubt she was a key member of Christ’s circle; she was among the women who found the empty tomb when she went to anoint Jesus’s body.

We know from Jesus’s other teachings that wealth is not a guarantee for salvation. But neither is poverty. Rather, the point, as today’s Psalm reading says, is that we will take none of our earthly wealth with us when we die.

Some of us are blessed with gifts or situations that lead to financial wealth. To use those gifts to ethically amass wealth is not sinful in and of itself; after all, Paul tells us today that it is “the love of money,” not money itself, that is the root of all evils. The issue is what we do with that wealth as we amass it.

In his World Day of Peace message last January 1, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the strong linkage between peace and poverty:

In today's globalized world, it is increasingly evident that peace can be built only if everyone is assured the possibility of reasonable growth: sooner or later, the distortions produced by unjust systems have to be paid for by everyone. It is utterly foolish to build a luxury home in the midst of desert or decay. Globalization on its own is incapable of building peace, and in many cases, it actually creates divisions and conflicts. If anything it points to a need: to be oriented towards a goal of profound solidarity that seeks the good of each and all. In this sense, globalization should be seen as a good opportunity to achieve something important in the fight against poverty, and to place at the disposal of justice and peace resources which were scarcely conceivable previously.

Let us all find ways to follow the example of Joanna, and use less of our wealth on toys and frills and diversions and channel more of it in support of causes and movements “towards a goal of profound solidarity that seeks the good of each and all.”

Many of us are planning our 2010 charitable giving through the United Way, the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) for federal employees, or other means. Consider upping your contribution enough that it pinches a little. If you’re looking for ideas on places to share your wealth, check out the CFC’s Catalog of Caring

( to learn about local, regional, and national causes.