Saturday, October 31, 2009

We Shall Be Like Him

November 1, 2009

Solemnity of All Saints

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S. J.

Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, "Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?" I said to him, "My lord, you are the one who knows." He said to me, "These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Revelation 7:13-14

Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Matthew 5:12


Piety is what makes a Saint. We are all called to live who Christ would have been if he had our gifts and purpose from God. Our prayer opens us to the word of Christ written on our hearts. We become what we pray about when we are looking at Christ in our prayer. Each of us recognizes in the good we do the presence of Christ. We know how to look at Christ when our piety is made up of all the practices that allow us to see the world through the mind and the heart of Christ. The beatitudes can tell us how we are alike to Christ. There should be one that fits us if we are serious about Christ. Preachers talk about Christ from how they see Christ in the happiness of life. The beatitude that fits us is where we can see how alike to Christ we are. The beatitudes we are most weak in show us where we need to act if we want to be more like Christ.


We are called the children of God by our Baptism; we become brothers and sisters of Christ. God has given us the life of his Eternal Word. Our destiny is heaven. By our holiness we belong to each other. Saints belong to each other in Christ. The community of Saints expresses the fullness of Christ. Christ is the Wisdom of the Father in human expression. To follow in the footsteps of Christ gives us the promise of heaven where we will find ourselves and each other in Christ. When what we shall be is revealed, we will find ourselves like him, for we shall see him as he is in all of us. For a long time I understood a saint as an update of Christ. The saint captures in their day and time a fullness of the expression of who Christ would be in their time and age. Now I understand a saint as a transparency of Christ. Christ is the fullness of the wisdom of the Father and he is now safely ensconced in heaven. Our canonized saints are the men and the women who the church recognized as a good expression of Christ in their time. They stood out from the run of the mill saint by virtue of how fully they lived in their lives who Christ would have been if he was them. The Church singles out men and women who are exceptional in how they have captured the essence of Christ in their time and age. Not all saints are recognized by canonization. We all have a little bit of Christ in us. The saints have a lot of Christ in how they live their lives and share their love with the needy of their lives. Saints are truly men and women for others because they have captured the truth of the second commandment of God in their lives. They truly love their neighbor as other selves. They live their lives for their neighbor. In giving themselves away to the needs of the needy, they have found themselves in Christ. They are the men and the women who can say with Paul (Gal. 2, 19) “Now I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”


Saints preach Christ by their lives. Saint Francis said it neatly. “Preach always and occasionally use words.” Our hearts reveal to us how to be more like Christ in the everyday of our lives. Each day we need to put into practice something special we see about Christ. The best way we can celebrate this feast day of the saints is to be a saint for someone special. Celebrate today as your feast day. We are on the road to be a saint when we are willing to be all of ourselves in his name for another.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Go and Take the Lowest Place

October 31, 2009

Saturday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers, so that you will not become wise (in) your own estimation: a hardening has come upon Israel in part, until the full number of the Gentiles comes in, and thus all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The deliverer will come out of Zion, he will turn away godlessness from Jacob; and this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins." In respect to the gospel, they are enemies on your account; but in respect to election, they are beloved because of the patriarchs. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. Romans 11:25-29

“Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:10-11


By thinking of all sentient beings as even better than the wish-granting gem for accomplishing the highest aim may I always consider them precious.

Wherever I go, with whomever I go may I see myself as less than all others, and from the depth of my heart may I consider them supremely precious.

May I examine my mind in all actions and as soon as a negative state occurs, since it endangers myself and others, may I firmly face and avert it.

(From the Tibetan text called The Eight Verses for Training the Mind and quoted at, the official website of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama)


The Rule of St. Benedict has a lot to say about humility. RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict, edited by Timothy Fry, O.S.B. and published by The Liturgical Press in Collegeville, Minnesota is all of 96 pages cover to cover. Once you account for the preface, the actual Rule is translated over 82 pages. The chapter on humility is the longest of the 73 chapters in the Rule. It is preceded by two chapters on the steps to humility: unhesitating obedience and restraint of speech. Ten pages or more than 10 percent (a tithe) of the entire Rule is devoted to teaching about the importance of Christ-like humility.

The Rule also may be the world’s first twelve-step program because Benedict enumerates twelve stages of humility which are developed from the starting point in today’s Gospel from St. Luke. The preparation for that climb to attain such humility is described by St. Benedict:

Accordingly, if we want to reach the highest summit of humility, if we desire to attain speedily that exaltation in heaven to which we climb by the humility of this present life, then by our ascending actions we must set up that ladder on which Jacob in a dream saw "angels descending and ascending (Gn. 28:12)." Without doubt, this descent and ascent can signify only that we descend by exaltation and ascend by humility. Now the ladder erected is our life on earth, and if we humble our hearts God will raise the ladder to heaven. We may call our body and soul the sides of this ladder, into which our divine vocation has fitted the various steps of humility and discipline as we ascend. (RB 7:5-9)

Turning over our life to God – easier typed and read that resolved and fulfilled – is the ultimate aim of all Christians. Through the past few weeks, especially in our readings from Romans 8, we have considered the dualism between the “body” and “soul” – between “flesh” and the “spirit.” Often, this leads some to reach is that the flesh is bad. However, nothing bad comes from God.

As Sr. Joan Chittister, O.S.B., considers this long chapter in the Rule on humility, she also shines a light on the tension between body and soul: “Choosing God means having to concentrate on nourishing the soul rather than on sating the flesh, not because the flesh is bad but because the flesh is not enough to make the human fully human.”

St. Benedict concludes Chapter 7 of the Rule with these words about the final achievement of humility:

“Now, therefore, after ascending all these steps of humility, we will quickly arrive at the "perfect love" of God which "casts out fear (1 Jn. 4:18)." Through this love, all that we once performed with dread, we will now begin to observe without effort, as though naturally, from habit, no longer out of fear of hell, but out of love for Christ, good habit and delight in virtue. All this God will by the Holy Spirit graciously manifest in us now cleansed of vices and sins.”
(RB 7:67-70)


Humility matters for practicing the spiritual life. (That also is the title of a website and the third volume in a trilogy of books on spirituality by Sr. Mary Margaret "Meg" Funk, O.S.B.)

Our call is to turn away from our selfish desires by putting on the mantle of humility. From here, we need the perseverance granted by the Holy Spirit to remain balanced on this difficult ladder.

Sr. Meg writes, “God is patient, gentle, meek, and humble of heart. We are created in God’s image and are invited to live in God’s likeness.” She encourages us to accept this invitation as the desert mothers and fathers have done before us and then “give yourself years to live into these teachings.”

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I Speak the Truth in Christ

October 30, 2009

Friday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are children of Israel; theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 9:1-5)

The Lord sends a command to earth; his word runs swiftly! (Psalms 147:15)

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. In front of him there was a man suffering from dropsy. Jesus spoke to the scholars of the law and Pharisees in reply, asking,“Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath or not?” But they kept silent; so he took the man and, after he had healed him, dismissed him. Then he said to them “Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the sabbath day?” But they were unable to answer his question. (Luke 14:1-6)


Open my eyes, Jesus, to your presence in the people who embrace you… and those who do not yet know you.


Do you know Christ when you see him?

The Israelites didn’t.

Paul despaired over Jesus’s rejection by his own people. The New American Bible notes on today’s first reading say Paul “would willingly undergo a curse himself for the sake of their coming to knowledge of Christ. His love for them derives from God’s continuing choice of them and from the spiritual benefits that God bestows on them and through them on all of humanity.”

The Pharisees didn’t.

Rather than embracing Jesus’s teaching or miracles, they couldn’t get past their love of their rules to discuss even the possibility that maybe, just maybe, it was all right to help someone who was suffering, even if it happened to be the Sabbath.

How did you react when Christ was present in your life today?

What did you say to that child who was singing or laughing too loudly for your taste?

What did you do when a co-worker who was making a presentation on a subject you know is her passion went past her allotted ten minutes?

What did you say when a friend asked for your help with something small that would have delayed fulfilling one of your own plans by a few minutes?

What did you do when you encountered a disoriented person on the street or sidewalk?

How did you react when Christ was present in your life today?


Thank a friend who clearly sees more of Christ in you than you do in yourself. Ask him or her for assistance in recognizing Christ in a mutual acquaintance you find difficult to love.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Continue on My Way

October 29, 2009

Thursday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him? Who will bring a charge against God's chosen ones? It is God who acquits us. Romans 8:31-33

At that time some Pharisees came to him and said, "Go away, leave this area because Herod wants to kill you." He replied, "Go and tell that fox, 'Behold, I cast out demons and I perform healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I accomplish my purpose. Yet I must continue on my way today, tomorrow, and the following day, for it is impossible that a prophet should die outside of Jerusalem.' Luke 13:31-33


“You Are Mine” by David Haas

I will come to you in the silence
I will lift you from all your fear
You will hear My voice
I claim you as My choice
Be still, and know I am near

I am hope for all who are hopeless
I am eyes for all who long to see
In the shadows of the night,
I will be your light
Come and rest in Me

Do not be afraid, I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow Me
I will bring you home
I love you and you are mine


Did you ever try to run and jump the 100-meter hurdles in a track meet? Three steps and a leap over a nearly 3 foot high fence. Another three steps and leap. Another three steps and leap. For runners who have the physical ability, the race can be over in a fleeting few seconds. The world record is a fraction over 12 seconds. For those who are slow and unable to leap, the race can take what seems like an eternity to go 100 meters.

Some of us can do it and some can not. That’s how it is with God’s love. Some of us can overcome the obstacles (hurdles) that line the path to a true relationship with God. Others need help.

As we consider the obstacles we have to God’s friendship, consider this: Who alone can conquer every obstacle? Not us. Some of us can leap over some of the hurdles but all of us can not overcome all the hurdles. But God is not keeping time on some heavenly track meet. God is at the finish line and will come to get us like the Father running down the road to greet his Prodigal Son if we stumble because only God can conquer whatever obstacle is in our way. God will go to any length, even offering up his own son to save us -- who turn our backs on him daily. The reading from the letter to the Romans today reminds us that nothing can keep us from the love of our God.

Not even Herod or the Pharisees could stop Jesus from his redemptive-salvation mission in the world. Not even execution could stop Jesus because he was here to conquer not only the obstacles of sin but also the obstacle of death as he sought to restore us into a loving relationship with the Father. The notes in the New American Bible explain that “Nothing, not even Herod's desire to kill Jesus, stands in the way of Jesus' role in fulfilling God's will and in establishing the kingdom through his exorcisms and healings.”

Last Sunday, our Joyful Noise choir sang “You Are Mine” during Mass. The God portrayed in these lyrics by David Haas is the God portrayed today in our readings from St. Luke’s Good News and St. Paul’s letter to the Romans.

God will come to us in the silence. God will come to us in the noise.
God will reach across our fear. God will reach across our joy.
God will overcome all the noises that try to keep us from hearing his voice.
God will overcome the visual pollution that blocks our sight of him.
God will light the way we need to go.
God will bring us home. Why? Because he loves us.


Jesus continued on his way to Jerusalem. Nothing and no one could make the cup of death pass from his hands. He prayed often for this cup to pass him by yet God alone gave him the strength to accept the cup and carry it to the end.

What obstacle do you need help overcoming?

Maybe we don’t face the obstacles which affect some in this world. Daily hunger. Abject poverty. Polluted water. Scarce food. Yet for all of our “wealth,” what is it that marks our poverty? Physical illness? Addiction to one of the substances or actions that mark modern life in the industrial world?

Is that or something else among your obstacles to God’s friendship? What do you need from God to overcome that obstacle?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Built Together Into a Dwelling Place

October 28, 2009

Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles

So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22

In those days he departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named apostles. Luke 6:12-13


We are now called, as a people, transformed in Jesus Christ our Cornerstone, to go forward with boldness, to take risks for the kingdom, so that we can be vital and alive, both as a Community on the move and a sacred space where adoration, affirmation, challenge and transformation, for the sake of the Kingdom, can regularly be the order of the day. (Canon Barry Naylor, The Transformed Church: A Homily for the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude)


We interrupt our regularly scheduled Ordinary Time to celebrate the feast day of two apostles who also were brothers. Simon the Zealot (to avoid confusion with Simon Peter) and his brother Jude Thaddeus (to avoid confusion with the traitor Judas) preached and were martyred in ancient Persia.

The apostles were not just a band of “strangers and sojourners” who were called to follow Jesus. Some of them had known Jesus their whole lives. Simon and Jude not only were brothers but also were first cousins to Jesus. They started with a relationship with Jesus which grew in a new dimension as they carried out their mission.Beyond that, except for legends and short lives of the saints, little is known about these two saints. According to the website we learn that “As in the case of all the apostles except for Peter, James and John, we are faced with men who are really unknown, and we are struck by the fact that their holiness is simply taken to be a gift of Christ. He chose some unlikely people: a former Zealot, a former (crooked) tax collector, an impetuous fisherman, two "sons of thunder" and a man named Judas Iscariot.

"It is a reminder that we cannot receive too often. Holiness does not depend on human merit, culture, personality, effort or achievement. It is entirely God's creation and gift. God needs no Zealots to bring about the kingdom by force. Jude, like all the saints, is the saint of the impossible: only God can create his divine life in human beings. And God wills to do so, for all of us.” (


God sent Jesus who spread the word among these Twelve apostles. These apostles laid a foundation that grew into the structure of the Church as we know it today, formed and re-formed, into the dwelling place for Christ.

These very normal people helped to build the kingdom of God. They laid the foundation of the house and Jesus was the capstone at the top of the doorway arch. The tradition is now passed to us to continue to build the temple as the Church continues to strengthen us for the mission we are asked to undertake.

Before we undertake any part of that mission, we also must realize that we are here to emulate Christ. Jesus did not do anything, especially anything important without praying about it first. Today, we learn that Jesus did not make these twelve ordinary men his chosen apostles until he spent the night in prayer one more time. As we prepare to set forth on this journey, we must make sure we prepare ourselves for the journey with sufficient prayer.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Leavening the Dough

October 27, 2009

Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth DeCristofaro

We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:22-23)

Jesus said, … “To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.” (Luke 13:20-21)


I seek to do your will, Lord. Leaven me with your courage, grow in me the resolve to bring into flower your presence in the world within me. May each day bring me closer to you. Amen


In Romans we learn that God’s forgiveness and mercy is extended without reservation and without our need to earn it. That astounding truth leads us to realize the complete freedom and responsibility God is offering to us: forgiveness is already ours and we can do with it what we want. We don’t have to measure our conduct by the threat of punishment or what might be the level of reward we attain. We can choose to follow in the ways of God without duress. Paul’s image of the groaning of creation speaks to the indwelling presence of God which we have been offered.

So it rests on us to renew our commitment each moment and each day. This is a sacred trust, an enormity and a blessing. However, in Jesus we have a model of what God anticipates from us, His beloved creations. And Jesus offers us the compelling image of the woman, humble in her day to day task. She is fulfilling her duty as woman, homemaker and most likely mother and wife – perhaps even matriarch. Her duty is life-giving. She is making bread, staple of life, and she will offer to herself and others. Bread is a wonderful image for the growing, overflowing of God’s life and love within which we can share by fulfilling our duty as God’s Chosen. We can say “yes” by each moment and each day and God multiplies that “yes” as it rises and overflows like yeast or like the blossoming mustard seed.


How are we consciously saying “yes” each day to God. Is the yeast in our hearts leading to actions which reflect God in the world? This being Hallowe’en week, the night when the “veil between the worlds is thin”, take a moment to contemplate how we buy and dispense candy to children who safely (for the most part) visit within neighborhoods and towns in spite of the cold and dark. Consider making a donation to your favorite charity (does your parish have a food bank?) for children who have neither candy nor safety.

CRS: For USA information:
For global relief:


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Set Free

October 26, 2009

Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, "Abba, Father!" The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:15-17

But the leader of the synagogue, indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath, said to the crowd in reply, "There are six days when work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day." The Lord said to him in reply, "Hypocrites! Does not each one of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for watering? This daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now, ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day from this bondage?" Luke 13: 14-16


God will arise for battle; the enemy will be scattered; those who hate God will flee. The wind will disperse them like smoke; as wax is melted by fire, so the wicked will perish before God. Then the just will be glad; they will rejoice before God; they will celebrate with great joy. Sing to God, praise the divine name; exalt the rider of the clouds. Rejoice before this God whose name is the LORD. Father of the fatherless, defender of widows-- this is the God whose abode is holy, Who gives a home to the forsaken, who leads prisoners out to prosperity, while rebels live in the desert. (Psalm 68:2-6)


Jesus got himself into a tough spot when he cured the crippled woman on the sabbath. However, he turned the tables of justice and righteousness on the temple officials who condemned him for such actions. As the notes in the New American Bible point out, “If the law as interpreted by Jewish tradition allowed for the untying of bound animals on the sabbath, how much more should this woman who has been bound by Satan's power be freed on the sabbath from her affliction.”

This external conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees is juxtaposed with Paul’s letter to the Romans which plays out the internal struggles that we have between our human desires and our mission from the Lord. Paul explains that we are torn between our human desires and a God who wants to have a close relationship with us…a God who wants us to be so close that we would call him our “Abba,” our “Daddy.” Yet, we are still tempted to be “debtors to the flesh.” Paul warns, “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

Both battles are full-time jobs. Jesus can not take the sabbath “off” any more than our hunger and thirst and other physical desires can be ignored one day of the week.

We are tied up by these human desires. Jesus is here to make our burdens light. He wants to set us free just as he set free the crippled woman in the synagogue (Luke 13) or the man with dropsy (Luke 14). He is here to help us conquer what lulls us to sleep and rise us up from our death (Luke 7 and Luke 8). Jesus wants to heal us and exert control over us in order for us to break the hold that sin has in our lives and remove the obstacles to God’s friendship that we erect when we sin.

As we recall the Nazareth Manifesto, Jesus has promised from the very outset of his public ministry to set free those of us who are held captive. Now, he is going about fulfilling those promises not just in our hearing, but in our witness to his actions.

"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

Jesus lived a life marked by the complete obedient surrender of his human will to the divine will of the Father. In his living example we find the truth that will set us free from our slavery to sin and turn us instead into heir of God. Paul encourages us to follow on the path toward intimacy with the Abba that Jesus showed us.


What has us all tied up like the example of the oxen in Luke’s Gospel? How can we be set free? What is Jesus saying to us today about confronting these desires in order to conquer them just as Jesus confronts Satan in order to bring healing to those who are in need?

We can not go into these battles alone. As the Psalmist points out, God will march in side by side to fight with us for justice.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

He Received His Sight and Followed

October 25, 2009

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

Behold, I will bring them back from the land of the north; I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst, The mothers and those with child; they shall return as an immense throng. They departed in tears, but I will console them and guide them; I will lead them to brooks of water, on a level road, so that none shall stumble. For I am a father to Israel, Ephraim is my first-born. Jeremiah 31:8-9

Jesus said to him in reply, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man replied to him, "Master, I want to see." Jesus told him, "Go your way; your faith has saved you." Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way. Mark 10:51-52


Bartimaeus prays the prayer that befits all of us. “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” How badly we need Jesus in our world today. Wars, crimes, hunger ravage the heart of goodness in all of us. We need to hear the cry for Jesus in the depths of our hearts. The Spirit in our hearts is forever crying out. The invitation of the Lord is loud and clear. “Come to me all you who labor and our burdened and I will refresh you.” We can never have too much of Jesus in our lives. He will always hear the cry of our heart and will come to us if we but ask. He is the true lover who is always looking out for his people. He never forces himself on us. We notice him most in our need for him. Our piety keeps us alive to his presence in our lives. The virtue of hope gives us confidence to call upon him. When we reach out to the needy of our lives we are the response of Christ to the hurt and the pain of the human race that is embodied in the little ones of life whose cry we hear. We are called by the realization that whatever we do for the least one of our lives, he considers as done for himself. He identifies with the depth of our needs and takes as done for himself whatever is done in answer to the cry of our hearts. Our piety is nourished on the ways we try to make a difference in what is wrong with our world. Every time we reach out to the hurt and the broken of life around us, we are reaching out to Jesus.


We can only do so much with our lives. Our sacrifices seem insignificant. We forever doubt the efficacy of whatever we do. We study the life of Jesus to be able to see what God is asking of us. Our blindness is our ignorance of what we are capable of doing with the help of the Lord. If we only do what we think we are capable of doing without the help of the Lord we are shutting the Lord out of our lives We have to open our hearts to what our hearts tell us needs to be done. We study the pain and the hurt of each other to search out where we can make a difference with the help of the Lord. Christ is able to deal with our ignorance and our mistakes. God calls us to share the priesthood of his son. We must make sin offerings for ourselves and all who need our goodness. In seeing what is wrong with our world we can hear the voice of the Lord calling us to make a difference by our lives.


If we help a single person, the example of what we do can influence the lives of our friends. Sharing our apostolic plans with others challenges them to reach out beyond what they plan to do on their own. When we join our efforts to one other, Christ works with us. The beauty of the people of God gathering together in the name of Christ is that the Mystical Body of Christ has a reality that God sees. Working in the name of Christ, makes Christ real in our world. Following Christ together makes us Christ to our world.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Bear Fruit in the Future

October 24, 2009

Saturday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

For those who live according to the flesh are concerned with the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit with the things of the spirit. The concern of the flesh is death, but the concern of the spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:5-6

"There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, 'For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. (So) cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?' He said to him in reply, 'Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.'" Luke 13:6-9


Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent, by righteousness. But rebels and sinners shall be destroyed together, and those who forsake the LORD shall be consumed. For you shall be ashamed of the oaks in which you delighted; and you shall blush for the gardens which you have chosen. For you shall be like an oak whose leaf withers, and like a garden without water. And the strong shall become tow, and his work a spark, and both of them shall burn together, with none to quench them. Isaiah 1:27-31


When something gets repeated, the speaker is doing it for emphasis. Thanks to technology and having The Bible on a CD, a simple search reveals that Scriptures deal with the need for “repentance” and “change” no fewer than 72 times. (It was pretty spooky when that result came up considering the scriptural significance of the number 72!). From Exodus to Isaiah to Luke to Hebrews to Revelation, we hear time after time to turn away from what makes us happy and turn toward what makes God and others happy.

Luke frequently relays Jesus call for repentance in both the Gospel and in the Acts of the Apostles. Paul also does so in his letters to the Hebrews, Romans and other groups in the early Church. Today is another one of those examples where these messages echo down through the years.

Yesterday, we heard Jesus talk about the tension he felt between his divine nature and his human nature regarding his pending torture and execution. He readily admitted that although he wishes us peace, his message will cause division in families over who turns to the truth and who does not.

Today, Luke shares with us the parable he heard from Jesus about the untiring patience of our God who waits for us to change and bear fruit, nourishing us all along the way. Instead of tension, God grants us his untiring patience. When we refuse to change, we are like the barren fig tree that the land owner wanted to cut down. However, the Lord, our caring gardener, intervenes and calls for patience – promising to help us grow so that maybe next year we will bear fruit. I imagine that if we do not, the next year, when the gardener makes his rounds and notices the barren tree, the gardener will once again beg for a change to continue to cultivate the ground around us until we yield our first fruits for the Lord. As long as the Lord is tending to our garden, the landowner may be able to prune us, but he will never prevail in cutting us down.

As Paul teaches, “The concern of the flesh is death, but the concern of the spirit is life and peace.” That is why our symbolic fig tree seems dead because we are not focused on the concerns of the spirit.

It is up to us if we are to be cultivated so that our Christ-spirit dwells in us and is alive. “But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness. If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11)


Are we a people who long to see the face of the Lord as the Psalmist writes today? Or do we long to see the screen of our Blackberry, the keys to our car, the menu of our IPod and the buttons on the remote control of our entertainment center? The choice is ours. God will wait but we have to be careful not to run out of time. Make one change in your choices this weekend.

From various internet sources, here are some notes on the Biblical Significance of the Number 72:

  • The 72 disciples sent by Jesus. (Lk 10,1)
  • The 70 ancients accompanying Moses that received an outpouring of the spirit, plus the 2 absent ones which had remained in the camp, Eldad and Medad. (Nb 11,25-26)
  • The 72 races resulting from Noah. They are enumerated in chapter 10 of the Genesis. There are fifteen descendants by Japhet, thirty by Cham, twenty-seven by Sem. The list is arbitrary since the descendants of Peleg are not taken into account, and that the fathers are counted at the same time that their sons.
  • The 72 languages confused to the Tower of Babel.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Who Will Deliver Me from This Mortal Body?

October 23, 2009

Friday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

For I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh. The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want. Now if (I) do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. So, then, I discover the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand. For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 7:18-25a)

May your love comfort me in accord with your promise to your servant. (Psalms 119:76)

“Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate, make an effort to settle the matter on the way; otherwise your opponent will turn you over to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the constable, and the constable throw you into prison. I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” (Luke 12:57-59)


Thee alone do I love, Thee alone I follow, Thee alone I seek, Thee alone am I prepared to serve, for Thou alone art rightly Lord, and of Thy lordship I desire to be. Direct, I pray, and command whatever Thou wilt, but heal and open my ears, that I may hear Thine utterances. Heal and open my eyes, that I may behold the signs of thy command. Drive delusion from me, that I may recognize Thee. O Lord, most merciful Father receive, I pray, Thy fugitive; enough already, surely, have I been punished, long enough have I served Thine enemies, whom Thou hast under Thy feet, long enough has error had its way with me. To Thee I feel I must return: I knock; may Thy door be opened to me; teach me the way to Thee. (Excerpted from St. Augustine’s prayer for conversion)


“What day were you baptized?” a friend asked at a recent group discussion of “Spe Salvi facti sumus/in hope we were saved,” Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical. Nearly all the cradle Catholics looked around blankly; most of the converts came forth immediately with the date. Not surprising; they were all adults when they converted and fully conscious of the import of the day.

But at some point, we all, no matter what our age at baptism, took responsibility for our own continual conversion. And, doubtless we’ve all experienced the struggle Paul, a convert, shares today: “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.” Like Paul, we look to Christ to deliver us from our own desire to sin and help us walk closer with him.

Our faith lives may have major, mindblowing conversion moments: the birth of a child. The death of a parent. The life-threatening illness of a friend. The first time we hear our own name included in the Prayers of the Faithful.

Other moments are smaller and perhaps more private: the day we don’t snap back or roll our eyes when a person we find difficult says something we consider stupid. The afternoon we give a beggar a dollar without being concerned about how the money will be spent. The morning we don’t remake the bed or refold the towels to our satisfaction because a spouse or child doesn’t do it quite right.

In 2007, the pope shared with seminarians some thoughts on this subject: “… the journey after conversion is still a journey of conversion … it remains a journey where the broad perspectives, joys and lights of the Lord are not absent; but nor are dark valleys absent through which we must wend our way with trust, relying on the goodness of the Lord.”

Let us honor the Lord by honoring those points of conversion and learning from them, even if they don’t come with a certificate from the Church.


Share with your family or group reunion your most recent memorable date of conversion. If you can’t remember one, journal this week about moments of change so that you can identify them going forward.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Become Slaves of God

October 22, 2009

Thursday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit that you have leads to sanctification, 5 and its end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:22-23

I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Luke 12:49-50


Father, take down the obstacles which block our path to you and that impede your love from reaching us. Help us to accept the sacrifice of your loving son Jesus as the way to live once again in holiness, united with you. With the new life you grant to us, help us use that life for the benefit of all but especially to transform the lives of the poor. Amen.


“The wages of sin is death.”

First, our sins result in the sacrifice of Jesus to sanctify us. Death to Christ for our sins means that we have given up trying to overcome the obstacles to our friendship with Jesus. Yet God never gives up.

Second, though, is our own death – metaphorically if not actually. If we do not submit to the purification of the baptism of fire that Jesus delivers, then we will physically die to God and to other believers …even though we might go on in life, our friendship and relationship with God and the Church will be dead, will be over like the death and separation experienced by the Prodigal Son or the rich man, Lazarus.

Paul’s letter to the Romans celebrates what we have inherited due to Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf when we accept our role as “slaves of God.” If we have faith, then we have been freed from sin by the purifying fire that Jesus freely delivers.

We don’t want to change any more than Jesus wants to die on the cross. Even though the divine part of Jesus’ nature wishes that the baptism of fire which will conquer sin was already engulfed, the human part of Jesus dreads the pain that is to come to his physical body. As much as God wants to free us from our sins, Jesus expresses the human anguish for the painful death that he knows awaits him.

Much of what follows in Luke’s Gospel from this point forward unites Jesus with the suffering of the people he touches and with other people who are outcasts and sinners. Such suffering is the precursor to the suffering which will come in the passion and crucifixion. Out of this identification with suffering and repentant sinners, Jesus urges all of us to change. “If you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!"

To spur us to change, Jesus often invokes imagery of a garden in the coming chapters of Luke’s gospel (mustard seed, fig tree, etc.). These pictures also allude to the garden that awaits Jesus in Gethsemane before he stands trial…the Garden where we see this anguish pouring forth from Jesus in blood.

Finally, Jesus also predicts that we will share his anguish because of the wages of our sin as families are torn apart between those who do heed the call to change (“believers”) and those who do not. The notes in the New American Bible for Romans 6 explain: “Through baptism, believers share the death of Christ and thereby escape from the grip of sin. Through the resurrection of Christ the power to live anew becomes reality for them, but the fullness of participation in Christ's resurrection still lies in the future. But life that is lived in dedication to God now is part and parcel of that future.”


October is Mission Month for the Catholic Church and missionaries around the world will benefit from special collections taken up this month.

Maryknoll Lay Missioners join the church in celebrating this month. Maryknoll Lay Missioners (MKLM) is a Catholic organization inspired by the mission of Jesus to live and serve in economically poor communities in Africa, Asia, and the Americas, responding to basic needs and helping to create a more just and compassionate world.

These lay people make up one of the three separately operated and funded entities of Maryknoll Missioners. The three distinct branches of Maryknoll Missioners – Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers, Maryknoll Sisters, and Maryknoll Lay Missioners – are each separately funded and depend on unique donors for support.

Visit their website at and considering supporting one of these missionaries or a favorite missionary of your own choosing.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Obedience from the Heart

October 21, 2009

Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

But thanks be to God that, although you were once slaves of sin, you have become obedient from the heart to the pattern of teaching to which you were entrusted. Freed from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:17-18

Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come. Luke 12:39-40


Father, help us respond to the problem of evil in the world with our actions. Jesus, help us to observe and emulate the virtuous and honest people that we encounter in this world. Holy Spirit, teach us how to turn this knowledge into action because as Psalm 37 teaches, “The salvation of the just is from you, LORD, our refuge in time of distress. Help and rescue us. Save us from the wicked, because in God we take refuge.” Amen.


According to the notes in the New American Bible, today’s first reading from Romans contrasts all of humanity with those few who are counted among the believers. In contrast to humanity, which was handed over to self-indulgence, believers are entrusted ("handed over") to God's pattern of teaching, that is, the new life God aims to develop in Christians through the productivity of the holy Spirit. Throughout this passage Paul uses the slave-master model in order to emphasize the fact that one cannot give allegiance to both God and sin.

We can never let our guard down. Fortunately, our help is in the name of the Lord. Christians have been released from the grip of sin, but sin endeavors to reclaim its victims every minute of every day. The antidote is constant remembrance that divine grace has claimed them and identifies them as people who are alive only for God's interests.

[P]resent yourselves to God as raised from the dead to life and the parts of your bodies to God as weapons for righteousness. For sin is not to have any power over you, since you are not under the law but under grace. Romans 6:13-14

Vigilance also is reinforced as the theme in today’s Gospel. Vigilance leads to readiness. The images used are those of “slaves of righteousness” and “weapons of righteousness.” Rather than being controlled by sin, our faith calls for us to be slaves of the opposite forces. Once we are thus dedicated, we will be weapons that will fight off the near occasion of sin.

What does righteousness really mean in the context of these readings? According to some biblical translations, the Greek word that we translate as righteous is “dike” (pronounced, dee-kay). The ancient Greek meaning was “tendency.” The use of this word in the Bible implies justice and conformance to established standards. Justice means doing the right thing; and conformance to established standards (in the Bible) refers to following the ways of God. So, the word righteous can also be translated as just, since righteousness is so closely tied to justice.

So, another way to consider this reading is calling on all of us to be slaves of justice and weapons of justice. Once we know this, then we have a lot to do in order to fulfill this role. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more. Romans 6:48b


To be counted righteous, we must treat others with love. We read in Matthew 25:37-40, ‘Then the righteous will ask, Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you as a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison, and come to you? And the king will say to them, I tell you the truth, when you did it for one of the least of these my brothers, you did it for me.’

Our exemplar of justice is Jesus. He became human so he could show us the best that we can be and asked us to follow him and his example.

When Jesus encountered broken bodies and broken minds and broken spirits, he became their healer and sent forth the power of his love to renew the face of the earth. That task, that righteousness, that justice is now resting on our shoulders.

The Lord does not outline this task for us in Scripture for us to feel guilty but in order for us to feel free to accept the mission carved out for us.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Grace Overflows

October 20, 2009

Tuesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth DeCristofaro

If by that one person’s transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many. (Romans 5:15)

Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will. (Psalm 40:8,9)

Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. (Luke 12:37)


Let my heart be the vessel of God’s Love. Let my thoughts be the blossom of God’s Love. Let my words be the expression of God’s Love. Let my actions be the fulfillment of God’s Love. (Rev. David Ridge, Living Water Unity Church, Arvada, CO)


“Our God is an awesome God…” God is and was before there was nothing and before there was something. God created and creates from nothing. God limited the infinite self to become a creature. God offered himself in a sacrifice which is truthfully, beyond all understanding. And our reward, if we recognize and follow the ways of God, is to be “waited on” like a servant should wait on the master. And to further our amazement is the fact that God allows us, no, God frees us, to choose or not to choose to be godly, to be vigilant or to be ignorant and centered on the limited existence of a creature.

So how come we so often choose “no thanks”? I think back to raising my two daughters when they were little. I often became frustrated when I had to say “stop” or “don’t do that” for the umpteenth time. And my girls were little, learning about the world. It took them a long time. Meanwhile I would grow aggravated and even spank them thinking that if they experienced a negative consequence maybe that behavior would not be repeated…Right. I became the center of the universe in terms of discipline and teaching. But my limitations were very much magnified by their falling short because I experienced them as transgressions against me (and yes, safety, values, and all those good things we try to pass on). But God’s model, the model that God offers us, is one which goes the extra mile for those who love God. In Sunday’s gospel Jesus told us For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

In the gospel passages right after today’s passage, Luke continues the dialogue describing consequences faced by the servant who is not vigilant or who mistreats other servants when the Master returns. There are consequences when we go against our nature, a nature that is created in God’s image. When we abuse that image we abuse God and we abuse God’s creatures. We cut ourselves off from God, the Master of the story, and face the consequences. Why do we keep doing that?


In what ways are we being vigilant servants and in what ways are we being abusive servants? Where do we put ourselves before the Master? Do God’s gracious gifts overflow from what we think say, and do? Or do we overflow with our own desire for power, mastery, and divinity?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

What Matters to God

October 19, 2009

Memorial of Saint John de Br├ębeuf and Saint Isaac Jogues, priests and martyrs, and their companions, martyrs

Abraham did not doubt God's promise in unbelief; rather, he was empowered by faith and gave glory to God and was fully convinced that what he had promised he was also able to do. That is why "it was credited to him as righteousness." Romans 4:20-22

"Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!" But God said to him, 'You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?' Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God." Luke 12:19-21


Father, we know that what matters to you is finding those who are lost. Help us to have the strength of faith shown by Abraham, Moses and Mary to accept in obedience and faith the work you ask of us. Give us the fortitude to carry it out in the world. Gives us these qualities and make us rich in what matters most to you. Amen.


Abraham was rich in what matters to God. Abraham was willing to sacrifice his most loved possession under God’s command. It was faith of this strength that helped him to give glory to God AND to do what he had promised.

Romans is often cited to support the theology of “sola fide” or “by faith alone.” To go along with this, we read in Hebrews further on what Abraham did because of his faith:

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go. By faith he sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise; for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God. By faith he received power to generate, even though he was past the normal age--and Sarah herself was sterile--for he thought that the one who had made the promise was trustworthy. So it was that there came forth from one man, himself as good as dead, descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sands on the seashore. Hebrews 11:8-12

By such faith, Abraham is our example of what is referred to in Hebrews 1:1. "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."

Theological sources explain the doctrine of sola fide or "by faith alone" asserts God's pardon for guilty sinners is granted to and received through faith or belief alone, to the exclusion of all human efforts or works. All humanity, it is asserted, is fallen and sinful, under the curse of God, and incapable of saving itself from God's wrath and curse. But God, on the basis of the life, death, and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ alone grants sinners judicial pardon, or justification, which is received solely through faith. Such faith brings us into relationship with God. However, to be brought into a right relationship with our neighbors, our human efforts are required to go along with and beyond faith alone.

Witness how most inner city missions and programs like the Catholic Workers, the Salvation Army or others that bring the Gospel to the streets minister to homeless men, women and children. They may pass out Bible tracts to spread the word but they also pass out hot soup, warm blankets and a nutritious meal. The corporal works of mercy go hand in glove with the spiritual works of mercy. Both arise from our faith in the Word Jesus brought down from heaven.

Our sins are forgiven by faith in God. However, once we have had our sins forgiven, Jesus taught us to pray “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We need man’s response to God to make the faith come full circle.

Faith alone may bring us pardon, but that faith instills in us a requirement and responsibility for those around us. If Moses had faith but did not act to lead his people to the Promised Land, half of the salvation narrative would be lost. Mary is the purest realization of obedience in faith. And through Mary, we see how faith must be transmitted into how we live our lives. If Mary had faith in the Lord but did consent to bear God’s son and raise him up in the world, the other half of the narrative would be lost.


Faith is what compels us to act. God is always inviting us not just to sit with him but to walk with him, to follow him. Faith alone helps the individual but that individual then has to carry that faith into the world through good works. That is the other half of being rich in what matters to God.

If not, then the Catechism of the Catholic Church could end after the first section: Part One: The Profession of Faith. Instead, it also has three other integral parts: The Celebration of the Christian Mystery through Mass and the other actions of the Church; Life in Christ which brings us to active works of charity to preserve the dignity of all; and Christian Prayer to express and live out our covenant with the Lord.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

My Servant Shall Justify Many

October 18, 2009

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

(But the LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity.) If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life, and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him. Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear. Isaiah 53:10-11

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:14-15

Jesus summoned them and said to them, "You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. Mark 10:42-44


A true piety brings greatness in the Kingdom of God. Greatness belongs to the quality of the service we offer to one another. If I try to treat everyone as better than myself I have the beginnings of greatness for the Kingdom of God. Our reflection of Christ in our lives finds its greatest challenges in the fact that being God he did not think it too much to surrender all the God controls over the world to be just like anyone of us. God loved us so much that he was willing to be one of us. Can I love Christ so much that I am willing to be one with Christ? Surrendering all my controls over the things in my life brings conformity to Christ’s way of living life. Love takes us to oneness with the beloved.


We study the life of Christ to learn how to better be like Christ in our lives. The challenge is to love the Lord my God with my entire mind, my heart, my soul; to do so with all the strength of heart and soul. It is no small challenge that the Lord puts to us by his example. Who would not want to be close to him? Our reluctance could be because we realize what closeness to Christ implies being close to the cross of Christ. It is not crowded around his cross. James and John did not realize the truth that closeness to the Cross of Christ is the measure for how much love of Christ is ours. Discipleship is the carrying of our Cross in his name. We do that without thinking in our love for family and friends. How could we not reach out to their pain and their needs? Piety does that for us with Christ of everyone. It pushes us out of our comfort zone into making comfortable those who are suffering around us. It shows up in the sacrifices we make in our lives even for strangers.


The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God when we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. Paul tells us that the glory that will be ours by our carrying the cross makes a mockery of what we suffer. How little our cross will seem against the backdrop of the glory waiting for us in our union with Christ. Christ sympathizes with our weaknesses because he has been tested in every way, yet without sin. So we can confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace.

Service of one another is the action called for if we want future greatness. When we are asked for help, we need to make the one asking feel like he is doing us the favor. Saying thanks to the one who needs our help even as we cheerfully offer our service speaks volumes about the love of God in our hearts that we are sharing. Anticipating and doing the service before we are asked makes for a cheerful giver. Rejoicing with the chance to put ourselves out for others makes for closeness to Christ. Anticipating the needs of others makes us good servants of one another. By putting ourselves in the last and the lowest place we offer ourselves to Christ because we are thus trying to be just like him. The last shall be first in the kingdom of heaven.