Monday, November 30, 2009

A Shoot Shall Sprout

December 1, 2009

By Beth DeCristofaro

On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A Spirit of counsel and of strength, a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD. Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, But he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. (Isaiah 11:1-4)

O God, give your judgment to the king; your justice to the son of kings; That he may govern your people with justice, your oppressed with right judgment. (Psalm 72:2)

Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. (Luke 10:21)


God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, O good and gracious God, you are the God of health and wholeness. In the plan of your creation, you call us to struggle in our sickness and to cling always to the cross of your Son. Father, we are your servants. Many of us are now suffering with HIV or AIDS. We come before you, and ask you, if it is your holy will, to take away this suffering from us, restore us to health and lead us to know you and your powerful healing, love of body and spirit. We ask you also to be with those of us who nurse your sick ones. We are the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, and friends of your suffering people. It is so hard for us to see those whom we love suffer. You know what it is to suffer. Help us to minister in loving care, support, and patience to your people who suffer with HIV and AIDS. Lead us to do whatever it will take to eradicate this illness from the lives of those who are touched by it, both directly and indirectly. Trusting in you and the strength of your Spirit, we pray these things in the name of Jesus. Amen. ( )


During this first week of Advent, we begin our preparation and waiting for the birth of Christ. As Fr. Russell said today in his homily, it is a time to prepare the crib within our own hearts in order that the baby Jesus to be born within us. In the spirit of that lovely image, as we consider how we are preparing our spirit, our homes and our families for holiday festivities, let us also consider that today is World AIDS Day.

The words of Isaiah take on a poignant meaning as we consider that in 2008, more than 33 million people were living with AIDS world wide. In today’s readings, the promise of the shoot, sprouting from the tree of Jesse, brought hope and new life to a people exiled, oppressed, persecuted. Isaiah spoke of the gifts, today known as the Gifts of the Holy Spirit which the seed of Jesse will bring to humanity and Isaiah says Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, But he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.

As we prepare to welcome in awe and joy the baby who will be Emmanuel, God with us, let us remember those who are heavily burdened whether through illness of body, mind or spirit. Strive to retain the childlike wonder and sense of justice Jesus spoke of to the disciples. It is the Spirit which allows us to see Christ in each and every one of God’s creatures. May our Advent be full of the Spirit and may we be filled with the Spirit.


Learn about the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ stance on HIV/AIDS and World AIDS Day.

Visit the NIH website to see how you can help. We can be the generation to end the epidemic of AIDS.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Come After Me

November 30, 2009

Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle

But not everyone has heeded the good news; for Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what was heard from us?" Thus faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ. But I ask, did they not hear? Certainly they did; for "Their voice has gone forth to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world." Romans 10:16-18

As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him. Matthew 4:17-20


Prayer to St. Andrew the Apostle

O Glorious Saint Andrew, you were the first to recognize and follow the Lamb of God. With your friend Saint John you remained with Jesus for that first day, for your entire life, and now throughout eternity.

As you led your brother Saint Peter to Christ and many others after him, draw us also to him. Teach us to lead others to Christ solely out of love for him and dedication in his service. Help us to learn the lesson of the Cross and to carry our daily crosses without complaint so that they may carry us to Jesus. Amen.


As we began the month, we contemplated the saints and souls who have gone before us in order to show us the way of obedience. Now, as the month ends and a new liturgical year gets under way with the season of Advent, the story of Andrew, the first Apostle, provide us an opportunity to reflection.

Andrew was a fisherman by trade and was the brother of Simon Peter, the first pope. Before he even knew Jesus, Andrew was a follower of John the Baptist. He became the first man personally called by Christ to follow him. Not only did he respond to that call, he also continued to call others to join the journey first turning to his brother.

Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated Anointed). Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter). John 1:39-42

The testimony of John the Baptist helped persuade Andrew to follow Jesus. After Andrew spent a day or two with the Lord, he returned to call his brother to join them. What amazing things must he have learned that day? Imagine listening to him at group reunion talking about that close moment with Christ! Despite his occupation and family, Andrew was convinced in very short order to drop everything, follow Jesus and bring others along.

Andrew learned as part of the larger group of disciples as well as at times when he was one of a smaller group that the Gospel had to be preached to all nations, the Jews and the Gentiles. Andrew was at the miracle of the loaves and the fishes – the first meal that foreshadows the Eucharist, at the Passover Feast when the Eucharist was first blessed, broken and shared, and then at the final meal on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

As Jesus was making final preparations for his trial, execution and resurrection, Andrew also was there to hear the Lord say, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.”

Our first reading today from the Letter to the Romans points out that not everyone who heard the word heeded the word. Yet Andrew did become the first in a long line of followers heeded the call to become a “fisher of men.” That discipleship led to Andrew’s crucifixion and death as well.


“Not everyone has heeded the Good News.” A new liturgical cycle begins the constant reminders to our imperfection and how we stumble in our desire to follow Jesus above all else. Too often we heed the bad news which the media will deliver to us every day, every hour, every minute. When we hear the gloom and doom, we are encouraged to do so many things which contradict the message of the Gospel.

Avoid the crowds and save money shopping online.

Look, Ma. No stocks. No stock portfolio yields a year of decent returns.

All you need is love, or to blow something up (a review of video games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Brutal Legend, and Assassin’s Creed 2 and Left 4 Dead 2)

Wait: There’s more! Don’t you also want the night vision goggles, etc.

Yes…those are actual headlines from just ONE section of the Sunday paper (The Washington Post Business Section November 29). What we read, hear and see in the media often call us to action (spend, consume). Let’s make Advent 2009 the season that we heed the message of the Gospel more than the message of the shopping malls.

How can you use this season of preparation to make room in your life not for a new computer or money market fund, but for a little baby who will be born in Bethlehem and needs a place to stay? How can we use the next four weeks to be like St. Andrew, and unconditionally accept the call that Jesus makes for our commitment and our responsibility to bring that message to others?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Redemption is at Hand

November 29, 2009

First Sunday of Advent, Year C

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land. Jeremiah 33:14-15

May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen. 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand. Luke 21:27-28


Advent is a time of preparation. There are long term preparations. Schedules are filled with all we need to do now and months from now. How well we are prepared for things that are going to come is the source of peace today. Worries about things that cannot be prepared for are a fact of life. What does Advent prepare us for? The simple answer is the coming of Christ again. Prophets of doom are many. Our world has more than enough people who have a good reason to be terrified by the final coming of Christ. Hopefully we are not among the number that will die of fright at the signs of what is coming. We pray that we are among the prepared. We try to prepare our hearts and transform our lives that we will be among the ready for the Second Coming of Christ. His kingship will be all too obvious when he comes with all the power and the glory of his Saints and Angels. At that time the wrong choices of our lives will be disappointments. We will be grateful for having had a healthy piety.


In the Spirit of the honesty the Second Coming can generate in the search of our souls for Christ, it will be worth going over our preparations for the Second Coming of Christ that our piety is an expression of and a statement. Christmas is a celebration of the first Coming. It is a remembrance as all birthday celebrations are. It is a special celebration because the Word of God is made flesh in the most touchable of ways. There is no mystery about the beauty of a child born into our world. The preparations for the birth are the special stories of the families that welcome their children. Easy birth and hard births are all the same before the beauty of the child that sees light for the first time. A healthy birth removes all the fears of what might have been in the joy of a reflection of each of the parents in the child born into the world. The coming of the Christ child reveals the so great love of the Father in human form that is so unthreatening that it is hard to believe the God has mixed with man. Mary brings into the world the child that will grow up to recognize the Fatherhood of God with the human motherhood of Mary. God creates the divine mix in the child that is truly God and man at the same time. The mystery of God’s so great love has an incredible human form. The first coming makes the second coming bearable.


Paul’s’ admonition says it all. “We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with all. See that no one returns evil for evil; rather always seek what is good (both) for each other and for all. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Be vigilant at all times.” We all face the truth of our days being counted. That there will be a final coming that announces the end of the world as we know it is not hard to believe. All of our actions should be a statement of our belief in Christ. We need to put Christ back into our Christmas preparation. Love is forever birthing Christ in our relationships with one another. Our Christmas preparations begin in this first Sunday of advent with statements of love that are Christmas cards that state importance of friendships and remind us again and again of how Christ comes to us many times with our family and friends. For those that honor their friends and live the good lives of friendship with all there will be no fear of Christ coming with power and glory because we will share in it in his call to come to his side for all we have done for one another.

Friday, November 27, 2009


November 28, 2009

Saturday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

He shall speak against the Most High and oppress the holy ones of the Most High, thinking to change the feast days and the law. They shall be handed over to him for a year, two years, and a half-year. But when the court is convened, and his power is taken away by final and absolute destruction, Then the kingship and dominion and majesty of all the kingdoms under the heavens shall be given to the holy people of the Most High, Whose kingdom shall be everlasting: all dominions shall serve and obey him. Daniel 7:25-27

"Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man." Luke 21:34-36


Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will.

All I have and call my own. Whatever I have or hold, you have given me.

I return it all to you and surrender it wholly to be governed by your will.

Give me only your love and your grace and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.

(St. Ignatius, from the end of the Spiritual Exercises)


The transient temporal world gives way to the vision and coming reality when the Lord takes his rightful place of kingship and dominion and we, his followers, are everlastingly obedient to his promise. Until then, the struggle between both worlds continues.

As his followers strive to survive, Jesus leaves behind some final wisdom before the events leading up to his passion, death and resurrection unfold. Any parent would probably give his or her son or daughter the same advice on New Years Eve -- avoid drunkenness. Today, as we stand on the threshold of a new liturgical year beginning Sunday with the season of Advent, we can heed Jesus’ words literally as well as in the way they foreshadow the events to come for the disciples.

Jesus preaches that the tribulations are imminent. As he warns “not to become drowsy,” we picture the disciples sleeping in Gethsemane. As he warns about the “anxieties of daily life,” we picture the same group, locked in the Upper Room, worried about whether the Romans will now come after them. Jesus goes on to encourage those around him to “be vigilant at all times.” Yet, he knows that they will retreat into their comfort zone and go back out fishing rather than set forth to preach the Gospel.

His final message resonates as we consider how his friends scattered. “Pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” As we recall those who were present at the foot of the cross, we find Mary, John and the Roman soldiers. Where are the others?


Here in this final Gospel of the year, we have the Cursillo call for piety (“Pray that you have the strength”), study (“Be vigilant”), and action (“strength to escape the tribulations”). Let us use this as a springboard for our Advent preparations in the coming year.

As Jesus warns “not to become drowsy,” when have we been less attentive to his message for us? When did we not listen with the ear of our heart but instead allowed our hearts to be hardened to that word?

As he warns about the “anxieties of daily life,” how often have we worried more about paying the mortgage than about sharing our abundance with the poor? We lock ourselves in the comfort of our living room and ignore the homelessness hidden in the woods and under the freeway overpasses throughout our suburban county.

Jesus goes on to encourage those around him to “be vigilant at all times.” What is the comfort zone to which we will retreat rather than taking up his cross and following him?

His final message resonates at every Mass in the Eucharistic Prayer. “Pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” Remember that when you hear the priest pray, “We thank you for allowing us to stand beside you and serve you.” What action and sacrifice are we committing to complete in thanks for being allowed to be in the presence of God?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

My Words Will Not Pass Away

November 27, 2009

Friday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

As the visions during the night continued, I saw One like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven; when he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, he 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)

“Mountains and hills, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.” (Daniel 3:75)

Jesus told his disciples a parable. “Consider the fig tree and all the other trees. When their buds burst open, you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near; in the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the Kingdom of God is near. Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Luke 21:29-33)


Lord, open my eyes to hear Your Word amid the cacophony that is my daily life. For all of it, good and bad, ultimately will go away—except You.


This time of year is full of joy—and pressure and disappointment. Are you bubbling over at the prospect of hosting a great Advent brunch for your parish friends or group reunion? Are you wondering how in the world you’ll find the money you need to buy Christmas presents? Did the one relative who didn’t show up ruin your Thanksgiving?

None of it matters.

Really, it doesn’t. It will all pass away, as Luke says in today’s Gospel. It’s Christ’s words—the parables, the lessons, the promises of redemption and resurrection—that last.

According to the New American Bible, the Book of Daniel, from which two readings are taken today, was among the apocalyptic writings popular from 200 B.C. to 100 A.D. “… Apocalyptic literature has its roots in the teaching of the prophets, who often pointed ahead to the day of the Lord, the consummation of history,” NAB’s introduction to the Book says. “For both prophet and apocalyptist Yahweh was the Lord of history, and he ultimately would vindicate his people.”

It was that faith in vindication that believers clung to amid persecution and distress. It was delivered in Christ. May that faith sustain us during our own stressful times, good and bad, large and small, as we prepare to celebrate Advent and the Savior’s coming.


Carve out some quiet time in the coming weeks to contemplate how faith sustains you through the busyness of the Christmas season. Consider attending Arlington Cursillo’s “A Promise Kept” Advent Quiet Night next Tuesday, December 1, at the Missionhurst Chapel from 7 to 9 p.m. Visit for more information.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Where Are the Other Nine?

November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day

And now, bless the God of all, who has done wondrous things on earth; Who fosters men’s growth from their mother’s womb, and fashions them according to his will! May he grant you joy of heart and may peace abide among you; May his goodness toward us endure in Israel as long as the heavens are above. Sirach 50:22-24

I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:4-7

And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Luke 17:15-17


God, this is a day for saying “Thank you,” and acknowledging that you are the source of all the blessings we enjoy. In spite of all the challenges we face, we are richly blessed. “Thank you.” This is also a time for us to gather as a family and ask for your help and healing. You never promise that our lives will be easy; but you do promise strength, and the wisdom we need to prevail. “Thank you.” You are welcome here at our table. At times we fall short of being everything you have intended for us. But this is why we pray: to express our gratitude and to ask what we cannot make happen on our own. Bless our conversation, and this food. And when we come back together next year, may we be able to recognize the ways that you have brought us closer - as individuals and as a family - to the destiny you have for us. We say again, ahead of time, “Thank you,” in Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Thanksgiving Prayer: Dinner Prayer for Not-So-Perfect Families from and originally shared with me by Alan Souers)


The story of the ten lepers has stayed with me in a special way ever since October 14, 2001. On the closing of the 104th Cursillo, this was the reading from the Good News during Mass (we used to have Mass at closing.). I remember Deacon Jack Ligon smiling at the ten men who were participated on that weekend and musing that the Secretariat would have to pay closer attention to the readings for the weekend when signing up candidates. Many of these have had fond reunions at MaƱanita, Closing ceremonies and by serving on teams together most recently when Carlos Hillman was rector of the 119th Weekend.

The date of that closing ceremony also is my mother’s birthday. It serves as another whack on the side of my head to remember everything she has given throughout her life to make life in the world easier for her three children and many others who were helped by her work, warmed by the blankets she crocheted, nourished by the food she prepared and sheltered under her roof because the doors were always open to family, friends and strangers.

Today, as she sits in a care center unable to remember much of her earlier life due to advanced Alzheimer’s disease, our best witness to her life is to remember her sacrifices in Thanksgiving and pass them on to those around us.


Write a thank you note to someone for something they have done in your life. Don’t forget to send it.

Thank you sponsor Esther Silva, Rector Dave Mauer, Spiritual Directors Fr. John Adams and Deacon Jack along with the entire team who showed us the way during the best Cursillo weekend ever!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

By Your Perseverance You Will Secure Your Lives

November 25, 2009

Wednesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

…you have rebelled against the Lord of heaven. You had the vessels of his temple brought before you, so that you and your nobles, your wives and your entertainers, might drink wine from them; and you praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, that neither see nor hear nor have intelligence. But the God in whose hand is your life breath and the whole course of your life, you did not glorify. Daniel 5:23

Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. Luke 21:14-15


Although I have often abandoned you, O Lord, you have never abandoned me. Your hand of love is always outstretched towards me, even when I stubbornly look the other way. And your gentle voice constantly calls me, even when I obstinately refuse to listen. When the sins in my soul are increasing, I lose the taste for virtuous things. Yet, even at such moments, Lord, I know I am failing you and failing myself. You alone can restore my taste for virtue. There are so many false friends willing to encourage sin. But your friendship alone can give the strength of mind to resist and defeat sin.

What a good friend you are, Lord! You are so patient, willing to wait as long as necessary for me to turn to you. You rejoice at the times when I love you, but you do not hold against me the times when I ignore you. Your patience is beyond my understanding. Even when I pray, my mind fills with worldly concerns and vain daydreams. Yet you are happy if I give only a single second of honest prayer, turning that second into a seed of love.

Oh Lord, I enjoy your friendship so much, why is it not possible for me to think of you constantly? (St. Theresa of Avila Prayer)


St. Theresa of Avila once commented of God: “If this is the way you treat your friends, it's no wonder you have so few!” Perhaps she was thinking about Daniel and his fate or Jesus’ speech in these closing pages of Luke. No one can mistake that for the promise of a “Garden of Eden.”

Jesus is not painting a very appealing picture of what the future holds for his followers. His comments in today’s reading are hardly fodder for a recruiting poster. He tells those around that they will be “handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death.” “You will be hated by all because of my name.”

Yet the promise is not that we will be released and live the good life on Easy Street. The promise is that He will never leave our side, protecting every last hair on our head. That is truly how Jesus treats his friends…by sticking by their side through the proverbial thick and thin.

The conclusion is that if we persevere with Him, then Jesus will help us to survive whatever trials and tribulations come our way just like Daniel survives the lion’s den and the fire of the hot oven when he and his friends are cast into it.


As Thanksgiving approaches, consider the group that will gather around a table with you. Are there others you would like to invite? Extend an invitation today. It is never too late.

Consider also supporting a charity which helps the world’s poorest hungry children. Visit the web site of Catholic Relief Services (, or Maryknoll Lay Missioners (, the Amigos de Jesus orphanage in Honduras ( or other favorite charities to make a gift this Thanksgiving Week.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Kingdom to Stand Forever

November 24, 2009

Memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac and Fellow Martyrs

By Beth DeCristofaro

(Daniel said to the king…) the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people; rather, it shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end to them, and it shall stand forever. (Daniel 2:44)

Jesus said, “All that you see here–the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” (Luke 21:6)


I will bless you Lord, praise and exalt you above all forever. I give thanks that I, a work of your hand, might praise and exalt you each day of my life. Thanks be to you, Lord, for you are good to me. Thanks be to you, Lord, for your mercy endures forever. (from Daniel 3)


It was Christmas time and I was about eight when it really hit me how impermanent life is. President Kennedy had been assassinated and I remember our teachers crying as they sent us home early from school. Everyone seemed sad and outraged. But even more shocking to me was coming home from Christmas shopping with my dad (an always zany and fun adventure) to find my mother in tears. Her brother-in-law, my young uncle, had died leaving my Aunt to raise five young children alone.

Everything shifted in my world – my strong and capable mother was reduced to tears and immobility. A funeral at Arlington National Cemetery and family staying with us from out of town overshadowed the usual Christmas routine and gaiety. I remember receiving only one, maybe two gifts that year although my mother tells me that Christmas day was really pretty much the same as always at our house. My memories are of the emotions, my fractured world view and the upheaval in our lives rather than the facts.

For the Jews to hear Jesus say that the temple would be destroyed was more than shocking, it was almost blasphemous. This is the seat of God which God, in fact, had allowed to be rebuilt after its destruction during invasion. And for the king to hear Daniel’s dream interpretation was probably outrageous. Kings thought they, too, were gods.

So what is the point? Why not just give up and live a life of me-centeredness? Or why not succumb to depression and addiction? What good reason not to grab all the power and amusement that we can in our lives? Why consider others rather than ourselves? Why not follow every rule to the tiniest fraction of its letter for whatever code we choose – before all else and in spite of other’s needs? It’s all temporary anyway.

Daniel’s dream interpretation prefigures the Jesus who later stood, while looking at the temple in Jerusalem, actually embodying the temple and the kingdom which will stand forever. That kingdom, being built even now on earth, calls for us to look beyond ourselves like the widow did with her two pence. It calls us to put God’s will first – as Eleazar did and the martyrs in Vietnam did. It calls for us to put Jesus in the place of any temple, code of conduct or rules as Jesus asked his disciples and the moneylenders to do. And to receive joy in return despite pain, poverty, antagonism, temptation, distraction, ego. The kingdom will stand forever and we are welcomed into it by the King himself.


Centuries later we know the names of Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar we know as a king who ruled a long time ago in a culture and kingdom long dead. Daniel we know as a person whose voice remains alive and relevant today because he accepted the kingship of God rather than a man. What will people know of God because of your voice? Your work? Your hands? Your prayers?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

More than All The Rest

November 23, 2009

Monday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

But Daniel was resolved not to defile himself with the king's food or wine; so he begged the chief chamberlain to spare him this defilement. Give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. Daniel 1:8,12b

He said, "I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood."
Luke 21:3-4


“Lilies of the Field” by John Michael Talbot

Consider the ravens.
They do not sow and they do not reap.
Yet God the Father provides for them
And among the earth, these are among the smallest things.

Consider how the lilies grow.
They do not spin and they do not sew.
But I tell you not even Solomon
In all of his the splendor was arrayed like any one of these.

So seek ye first the Kingdom of God
And the wealth of his righteousness.
For wherever your treasure lies,
There will you find your heart.

Do not be concerned for your life or your body:
What to eat, what to wear, what you will do for tomorrow.
Seek out instead his heavenly kingdom
And the rest upon the earth in its own time will come.


Today, like so many other days, the themes in St. Luke’s Gospel expand upon lessons Jesus also earlier in the Gospel. Those lessons which get repeated are doubly or triply hopefully have an even greater chance to cut through the clutter of cacophony surrounding us. Maybe we just might hear Jesus over the sounds of the horns on the Beltway of life.

Daniel and the poor widow put their own life and livelihood on hold just like Jesus was stressing back in chapter 12.

Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your lifespan? (Luke 12:25) Daniel was not concerned about his lifespan nor about eating well. He refused the food from the kings own table in order not to break the dietary laws of the Torah. He and his three friends survived very well on water and vegetables.

If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? (Luke 12:28) The poor widow could but some new clothes to keep warm with those two coins she dropped into the temple treasury.

Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32) The chamberlain was afraid that he would incur the wrath of the King if he did not carry out the orders. However, Daniel persuaded him to test the vegetarian solution so he could allay the fears of possible retribution.


Yesterday, the headline on the cover of Parade magazine asked readers, “What stirs Hugh Grant’s heart?” Need I say who cares?!

What today’s readings are trying to have you uncover is what stirs YOUR OWN heart? We see that Daniel acted out of obedience. We see the poor widow acted out of self-less generosity. What about you?

Does this remind you of any of the talks from your Cursillo weekend? Perhaps the Ideal talk?

As that talk ended, and as the liturgical year ends, reconsider the questions posed after that talk. Have you recently observed the direction in which your thoughts, your free time, your money and your energies go?

What are your thoughts? What do you think about most often?

How do you spend your free time? On what do you spend your money?

What pleases you most in life?

What is your Ideal?

There will you find your heart.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

On the Clouds of Heaven

November 22, 2009

Solemnity of Jesus Christ, the King

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

As the visions during the night continued, I saw One like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven; When he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, He 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 answered, "My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants (would) be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here." So Pilate said to him, "Then you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." John 18:36-37


We look at Jesus Christ as King. We have a feast day that calls him king. But it does not do justice to who Christ is in our lives. God’s plan of salvation puts all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ. Paul details his plan of salvation in Christ in the first chapter of his letter to the Ephesians. We are chosen by God in Christ. We become his adopted sons through Jesus Christ. We have our freedom from the ravages of sin through Christ. God’s plan for us is in Christ. All will be brought together under Christ as head. The hopes of the human race were in Christ before he even came. Our salvation comes from our belief in Christ’s headship. Our piety expresses our worship of Christ as our King. Christ’s kingship is much more than a word. It expresses his claim on our hearts. Our piety is the expression of what we think of Christ and how important he is to us. Our piety expresses the love of our hearts for Christ. It is how we offer ourselves to God through Christ. Piety is how we make the least wish of Christ the purpose of our lives. It is the overflow on our behavior of a reverence for everything that belongs to Christ. His least will and desire becomes the law of our hearts. Christ is the “Word Made Flesh” of God’s love for us.


Christ opens up our hearts. Piety is how we express in our lives Christ as “the end all and the be all” of our existence. Christ opens the heavens to us as the first born of all creation. He will bring us all together in his love for us and how our love for him reciprocates his love. We study what made Christ tick and how he discovered the will of his Father so that we can do likewise. We follow up on the lives of the saints who made Christ real in their time and age as a real person so that we might know how to do it in our time. We study the behavior of Christ so that we might be a better expression of Christ in our lives and so that his kingship over us might be real to those we love and live with. How we show people they are important to us flows out of how we show Christ he is important to us. His kingship over our hearts is expressed in how we treat each other. What we do for the least persons in our lives is how we treat Christ. What we do for the least people of our lives is how much we love Christ who identifies with the needy of our world.


Action speaks louder than words. What I do for Christ each day is where and how piety becomes a ritual in my life. Before I get out of bed each morning I turn my life over to Christ. The right side of the bed is the side Christ is on. I get up to meet with him for a few minutes of prayer. I remind myself of the injunction to do whatever I do for Christ. No task is too little to do in his name. Everything I do not like doing is my share of his cross. How I offer up my life for the needy gives the Christ focus of the day. Christ is not just an anybody of my day. He always the person I am with. How we break down Christ’s disguise in each person we are with is by the invitation we give another to share a precious moment of the day. How we share makes prayer out of what we are doing. How we get beyond appearances to the reality of what love is in the moment we are living is by our prayer. How much of ourselves we put in the moment is the truth of how much Christ we live with and work for. Christ is the meaning of our lives when we are willing to be all of ourselves in his name. Thus Christ is king of our lives.

You Have Answered Well

November 14, 2009

Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

So he called in all his Friends and said to them: "Sleep has departed from my eyes, for my heart is sinking with anxiety. I said to myself: 'Into what tribulation have I come, and in what floods of sorrow am I now! Yet I was kindly and beloved in my rule.' But I now recall the evils I did in Jerusalem, when I carried away all the vessels of gold and silver that were in it, and for no cause gave orders that the inhabitants of Judah be destroyed. 1 Maccabees 6:10-12

And they no longer dared to ask him anything. Luke 20:40


Father, open our ears so that we may hear the lessons you have for us this beautiful day. From these lessons, give us an open mind and an open heart to put ourselves in your presence, accept your mission and do your will. Amen.


King Antiochus did not like having the tables of war turned on him. As long as he was winning his military campaigns against Egypt and sacking Jerusalem, he never expressed sorrow for his actions. In fact the Jewish Encyclopedia refers to him as “Antiochus the Wicked.” However, now he was on a losing streak. His armies were losing. His earthly power and influence were waning in the face of the strong defense that the Jews put up in Jerusalem.

The Pharisees and the Sadducees also did not like having their power in the temple challenged by this itinerant preacher from Nazareth. So they tried to trap Jesus with some tough questions. Now that Jesus has rid the temple of the money-changer and merchants, he can back down to the business of conversion and preaching there. Just as the Maccabees rose up to challenge King Antiochus, Jesus answered the temple challenge with a strong defense of the truth that it ended his “inquisition” by the temple authorities. “Teacher, you have answered well.”

Some of the people are beginning to realize through experience what Peter, John and James learned on the top of the mountain when the voice of God proclaimed, "This is my chosen Son; listen to him."

During the time they witnessed the Transfiguration, the disciples also heard Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah talking about his exodus and all that he would accomplish in Jerusalem. The human part of that accomplishment may be seen in his success at winning over some minds in the temple and his recognition that he is a authoritative teacher. However, these pale in comparison to what he will accomplish from the Passover Feast through Easter Sunday for the salvation of all.


What is keeping you up at night or bothering your conscience? We have an answer to our anxiety. Seek forgiveness from the Lord through the sacrament of reconciliation.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Let Us Go Up to Purify the Sanctuary and Rededicate It

November 20, 2009

Friday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

“Now that our enemies have been crushed, let us go up to purify the sanctuary and rededicate it.” (1 Maccabees 4:36)

“Yours, O Lord, are grandeur and power, majesty, splendor, and glory. For all in heaven and on earth is yours; yours, O Lord, is the sovereignty; you are exalted as head over all.” (1 Chronicles 29:11)

Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, “It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” (Luke 19:45-46)


Lord, I sometimes quake to think of You looking into my house. Help me to clear the temple of the things—impetuousness, insecurity, anger, and self-doubt—that create a distance between us. I humbly ask that You help me to make room within for a true place of prayer.


Jesus Christ Superstar Clip

Whether you’re of an age that you can recite every single word of dialogue and song to Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) or just don’t get the obsession, I defy you not to get the shivers at 1:50 into the above link. It’s when Ted Neeley (Jesus), who’s plenty angry about what the moneychangers and others are doing in his temple, pauses from overturning tables to shout, “My temple should be a house of prayer. But you have made it a den of thieves. Get out!” (It’s right up there with the moment two years earlier in Billy Jack when Tom Laughlin calmly says a racist act makes him go berserk… and then does just that. But that’s a whole ’nother column.)

It can be a little disconcerting to think of Jesus being even righteously angry, not patient and kind and loving and turning the other cheek. Yet Luke tells us that he drove out the merchants and flat-out insulted them about what they were doing.

Imagine, then, God’s anger with the way we treat the temple He has given us. We overeat. We drink too much. We gossip. We fret. We fight. As humans, we embrace mentally, physically, or emotionally any number of the seven deadly sins each week. We desecrate the temple.

How then, to return ourselves to a state that is pleasing to God? Today’s first reading from Maccabees describes in great detail the way the brothers purified the sanctuary: with sacrifices and burnt offerings, with praise and prostration and music. They repaired the gates and celebrated the altar’s consecration for eight days. It was a joyful time. The temple was back in God’s desired state.

In the same way, God loves to see our temple in its desired state. When we resist temptation and use the gifts of intellect, strength, compassion, and love, it is a joyful time. We purify ourselves with His help in prayer and in service. We celebrate, as David did, the Lord’s “grandeur and power, majesty, splendor, and glory.” And we don’t have to be in a cult classic or a YouTube video to do it. We just have to be ourselves… and trust God to help us turn out the thieves.


Work on tidying up your temple with a priest, spiritual director, or a trusted friend.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

He Saw the City and Wept

November 19, 2009

Thursday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

But Mattathias answered in a loud voice: "Although all the Gentiles in the king's realm obey him, so that each forsakes the religion of his fathers and consents to the king's orders, yet I and my sons and my kinsmen will keep to the covenant of our fathers. God forbid that we should forsake the law and the commandments. 1 Maccabees 19-21

As he drew near, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, "If this day you only knew what makes for peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation." Luke 19:41-44


There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant. A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces. A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away. A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to be silent, and a time to speak. A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8


In these waning days of the liturgical year, the examples we have considered from sacred scripture readings and the feasts and memorials of various saints have helped us focus with laser precision on people who are faithful to God’s commandments over any other influences – financial, political, military or commercial. St. Leo the Great, St. Martin of Tours, Mattathias, the seven brothers, Eleazar, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Mother Cabrini, and Jesus.

When Gospel of Luke is considered together with the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, we find that these books share many stories and sayings uttered by Jesus. However, Luke also stands out with much more unique content unique content not found in John or other well-known common sources. St. Luke is the only evangelist who tells the stories of the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan and the Corrupt Steward. Today’s story of Jesus weeping as he arrives in Jerusalem is another unique element told only by Luke. As the year wraps up, we also continue to consider some of the unique stories Luke offers which are not found in the other Gospels.

Today’s episode of Jesus weeping over the city when he arrives in Jerusalem is one such uniquely Luke story. This is not, however, Luke’s first reference to Jesus’ lamentation over Jerusalem. The first occurred in 13:33-35: 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.' "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were unwilling! Behold, your house will be abandoned. (But) I tell you, you will not see me until (the time comes when) you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"

Luke (and our modern translator’s) use of the word visitation also is a stark reminder and contrast to Mary’s visitation to her sister Elizabeth. Although Jerusalem may not have recognized the time of its visitation, remember how his cousin John leapt (not wept) with joy in his mother’s women when in the presence of Mary and Jesus.

The sorrow for Jerusalem is a sorrow for the people who did not live out the kind of fidelity to the Lord among them that the heroes and heroines of the Hebrew Bible and saints did in their lives. As the notes in the New American Bible teach us, “By not accepting Jesus (the one who mediates peace), Jerusalem will not find peace but will become the victim of devastation.”

When Jesus does enter the city, Luke has him proceed directly to the temple where he cleanses the temple. Once the temple was claimed and cleansed for the Father, Jesus then offered his own body to the Father to save all those who had rejected him. As Jerusalem faces physical destruction, so, too does Jesus. He weeps not only for the city and his friends there. He also weeps because he knows what lies ahead in the short remaining hours of his life.

Such a downfall also was predicted at the outset of this book. We recall the foretelling of this lamentation when new parents filled with hope presented their young son to Simeon in the temple. Rather than seeing the hope in this child, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." Luke 2:34-35

Thus, the rejection Jesus was destined to experience for his unrequited, unconditional love is part of the source of this latest lamentation…even though it is a rejection he expected from the outset of his ministry (“…no prophet is accepted in his own native place.”).

Yet, throughout the year, in the midst of this rejection by the rulers and the most powerful, the sick, the oppressed, the blind and the lepers turned repeatedly to Jesus and showed a faith that would save themselves. How different a fate they experienced because they could look upon the Lord and say, “Jesus, Son of God, have pity on me.”

Jesus wept one other time in the Gospel…not when he was scourged. Not when he wore the crown of thorns. Not when the nails were hammered into his hands. Not even when the sword was thrust in his side. Our other example of Jesus weeping was outside the tomb of Lazarus. Just as he saw his own destruction reflected back on him from Jerusalem, Lazarus also forced Jesus to confront his own humanity.

More often, Jesus was trying to stop the weeping such as when he raised the Roman official’s young daughter from the dead, (Mark 5/Luke 8) and then finally when he comforted Mary outside his own tomb. She approached the grave alone weeping. Jesus appeared to her and reminded her that the time for weeping was no more.


Instead of rejection, the Lord longs for our praise and fidelity. As we are reminded in Psalm 50:14-15, “Offer praise as your sacrifice to God; fulfill your vows to the Most High. Then call on me in time of distress; I will rescue you, and you shall honor me.”

For what can you offer your praise to the Lord today? For what distress do you need to call upon his holy name for rescue?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

To Everyone Who Has, More Will Be Given

November 18, 2009

Wednesday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

"I do not know how you came into existence in my womb; it was not I who gave you the breath of life, nor was it I who set in order the elements of which each of you is composed. Therefore, since it is the Creator of the universe who shapes each man's beginning, as he brings about the origin of everything, he, in his mercy, will give you back both breath and life, because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of his law." 2 Maccabees 7:22-23

And to those standing by he said, 'Take the gold coin from him and give it to the servant who has ten.' But they said to him, 'Sir, he has ten gold coins.' 'I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Luke 19:24-26


From you let my vindication come; your eyes see what is right. You have tested my heart, searched it in the night. You have tried me by fire, but find no malice in me. My mouth has not transgressed as humans often do. As your lips have instructed me, I have kept the way of the law. My steps have kept to your paths; my feet have not faltered. I call upon you; answer me, O God. Turn your ear to me; hear my prayer. Show your wonderful love, you who deliver with your right arm those who seek refuge from their foes. Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings from the violence of the wicked. (Psalm 17:2-9)


As today’s Gospel lesson unfolds, we learn that Jesus is getting near to his final destination – Jerusalem. His followers are expecting the Kingdom of God to appear any moment now. So this story Jesus chooses to tell today to the expectant followers becomes all the more significant because it is the last lesson before arriving in Jerusalem where the events foretold by the prophets will play out.

Don’t be fooled by the symbolic topic of the story. At the gates to Jerusalem, Jesus did not turn into an investment banker overnight and abandon all the teachings we have had throughout this liturgical year. In fact, this Gospel parable is remarkable consistent with the Nazareth Manifesto which outlined the extent of Jesus’ mission at the outset of this book of the Gospel. In many ways, it is the fitting bookend to the Nazareth manifesto which will be fulfilled not in the hearing but lived out in the coming days.

Before we move forward and reflect on the true meaning of this story, let us recall the words Jesus spoke at the outset of his mission: He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord." 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 4:16-21

What is “acceptable to the Lord” in today’s story?

The successful servants are the ones who had knowledge of the master’s goals and set about to accomplish those with all the talents and skills which they possess. Those who did this were blessed with even more from the Lord. What is not acceptable is to ignore your talents and hide them away from helping to grow the Kingdom that God seeks to spread on earth. Those who prefer to remain selfish and not use their talents for the good of the community are punished by losing the little they have.

Jesus is not abandoning his aims to “bring glad tidings to the poor…to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.” The use of the financial theme is purely symbolic in this parable, not literal. Don’t expect Luke to relay Jesus’ year end tax tips or whether the bull market has legs or whether it is time to put your gold coins into growth stocks.

In fact fidelity to the law (goals) that God has over the goals that the world or Citibank or Fidelity Investments propose is further emphasized in the Hebrew Bible story from 2 Maccabees about the mother and seven sons who refused to disobey God’s laws and follow the laws of the King. These brothers would not trade their own life for a bite of a Sausage Egg McMuffin.

In other words, the Psalmist proclaims the main theme for us today: My steps have been steadfast in your paths, my feet have not faltered. I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me; hear my word. The Lord is indeed demanding. However, he does not demand our obedience without the promise made in Nazareth as this mission unfolded.

Such true fidelity will be spelled out in the example made of Jesus as he arrives at his final destination – Jerusalem in the next few chapters in Luke’s Gospel. Therefore, this lesson in obedience is the final spoken lesson Jesus gives to his followers before the arrival in the Holy City and the events of the final Passover dinner begin to unfold in this chapter and the subsequent chapters that conclude Luke’s Good News. As the last lesson before arriving at his destination, Jesus will now show us in his last steps how his steps are steadfast in his Father’s way so that ours may be as well.


What can we do to possibly be worthy of the sacrifice that will be offered for us? A new liturgical year will be upon us in less than ten days. How can we change the direction in which we look for happiness and fulfillment from being self-centered to being God-centered?

Maybe none of us will face torture like the seven brothers or like Jesus is about to in the next parts of Luke’s Gospel. However, maybe we can become advocates so no one else is tortured at the hands of any government – including our own.

Reflect the example of Sister Alice Zachmann, SSND, who received the Pax Christi Metro DC Peacemaker of the Year Award last weekend. As one of her friends has written, “Sr. Alice is a person who knows no limits and has been a tireless worker for human rights across the globe. She inspires and makes us believe that we all can make a difference.”

Sr. Alice first visited Guatemala in 1975. Moved by the beauty of the country, and by the suffering and repression of its impoverished people, she founded the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission (GHRC) in 1982. The GHRC brought public and Congressional attention to the human rights situation in Guatemala. Under her direction, the GHRC created the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition project (TASSC). TASSC was founded in 1998 by torture survivors on the principle the that torture is a crime against humanity and that survivors are the most effective voice in the campaign to end its practice. In 2002, TASSC International became an independent non-profit organization, the only organization founded by and for torture survivors. Alice has served as its office manager and outreach director since 2002. She will retire at the end of this year and return to spend time with her order and her family in Minnesota next summer.

Even though she spoke no Spanish in 1975, she committed all of the rest of her talents to this cause. As she retires after nearly 35 years working with the people of Guatemala and GHRC, she says that she still speaks no Spanish. Yet her work has echoed through the continent.