Sunday, February 28, 2010

Just As Your Father Is Merciful

March 1, 2010

Monday of the Second Week of Lent

I prayed to the LORD, my God, and confessed, “Ah, Lord, great and awesome God, you who keep your merciful covenant toward those who love you and observe your commandments! We have sinned, been wicked and done evil; we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and your laws.” Daniel 9:4-5

“Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” Luke 6:37-38


Psalm 79:8-13

Do not hold past iniquities against us; may your compassion come quickly, for we have been brought very low.

Help us, God our savior, for the glory of your name. Deliver us, pardon our sins for your name's sake.

Why should the nations say, "Where is their God?" Before our eyes make clear to the nations that you avenge the blood of your servants.

Let the groans of prisoners come before you; by your great power free those doomed to death.

Lord, inflict on our neighbors seven fold the disgrace they inflicted on you.

Then we, your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; through all ages we will declare your praise.


Stop. Stop. Forgive. Forgive. Give. Give.

This second week of Lent began with the Sunday Gospel on the transfiguration. Today, we continue to explore the theme of change. Luke today relates another story which stresses that we must turn away from our current behavior patterns and be merciful like the Lord.

Last Saturday, we had the parallel reading from Matthew where we are encouraged to be “perfect” as the Father is perfect. Luke reinterprets the passage and equates perfection for mercy. If the future is perfection as we imitate the Lord, then imperfection is the way we are living now.

Our rule is to do to others what we want them to do to us. Or not to do to others what we do not want them to do to us. There seems to be equity in those equations. The phrase “For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you,” is more describing the reactions of others than that of God. God is not measuring out. God is overflowing.

The Lord is perfection because he does not measure out our punishment according to our sins. Instead, in his perfect mercy, he forgives all for whatever act of commission or omission they may have engaged.


Another weekend and another time spent glued to the news about the earthquake in Chile and the resulting tsunami that passed without major incident.

This season has been given to us in order to consider how we must change. However, the pre-occupations of everyday life – blizzards, Haiti, Chile, Hawaii are now added to Iran, Irag, Afghanistan and Pakistan as we continue to be sidetracked by natural and man-made disasters. Return instead to the constant focus needed in these short weeks of preparation. Ignore the diversions set before our senses each day. Be attentive to the message of sacred scriptures and how these must inform our daily life.

Just as Daniel was agitated by the sins committed in the face of a loving God, we too must leave behind the anxieties of daily life for the assurances of the cross and redemption if we but change as detailed in the Good News.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


February 28, 2010

Second Sunday of Lent

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

He took him outside and said: "Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so," he added, "shall your descendants be." Genesis 15:5

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself. Philippians 3:20-21

While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my chosen Son; listen to him." After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen. Luke 9:34-36

Years of giving retreats have made me consciously aware of the glow of a face that is at peace with the love of the Lord in their hearts. The enemies of the cross of Christ are trapped in the many forms of selfishness. We work on the problems of our lives with the hope of the Resurrection giving form to the glory that is waiting for us if we take up our crosses and follow Christ. The notion that the only way to save our lives is to lose it in the name of Christ is the challenge of the Spiritual Life. We can only have in the Spiritual Life what we have given away. Paul holds himself as a model for us in the third chapter of Philippians. His tears show how deeply involved his heart is in his prayer. He beseeches for his people to not be enemies of the cross of Christ. There is no bypass of the cross. The equation of salvation is simple. The cross of Christ carried well in our lives plus the resurrection equals salvation. The two together bring salvation to us. The resurrection brings happy fulfillment to the crosses of our lives. Our citizenship is in heaven. We live our lives with the realization that Christ is the better part of ourselves, already in heaven waiting for us. Our job on earth is to be his presence by the way we live out lives in his name with our crosses. We are his by our Baptism where he gave us his life. Our Christian identity is nourished by our participation in Eucharist. Christ thereby increases his life within us. Our possession of the love of God connects us to the cross of Christ and gives meaning to the crosses we carry in his name.

We look at the Transfiguration of Christ with the Apostles and realize Christ is showing to his Apostle the glory that is waiting for us in the Resurrection. In heaven we will share in the glory of Christ. Even as he has taken us into his life by the Sacraments, he gives us insight off the meaning of the Resurrection in the glory that shone through his transfiguration. We are all called to be changed by our relationship with Christ. The fruits of the Spirit that grow in us are an aurora that shines around our patience, kindness, long suffering, charity, benignity, chastity and the love we have for life and the people who are our family and friends. The light of Christ shines through the good we do in life and the fruits of the spirit make us shine out with the love of Christ rising from our hearts in the smiles and gentle touches on life we offer by the way we love one another. The transfiguration we share in with Christ changes our behavior and allows us to be the light of Christ.

Lent offers us the chance to make time for Christ in our lives. Spending the special time of prayer with the Lord changes us. Making time for Eucharist feeds the life of Christ within us. Fasting makes us beautiful for the Lord. We learn a lot from the good we have done in life. We see what is worth doing in our lives by the good effects goodness has on us. Our Apostolic plan does not have to be just what we do for others. We need to plan out our lives in the richness of what our good acts can do for us. How do I want to be changed by Lent? I must go to the mountain of the transfiguration with Christ and his Apostles and celebrate the wonder of being there. Thus we see the changes Christ’s love accomplishes. We find insight on what more changes are possible with the light of Christ. The Transfiguration prepares us for the crosses of our lives and brings strength to our hearts when we share the Passion of Christ.

Friday, February 26, 2010

So Be Perfect

February 27, 2010

Saturday of the First Week of Lent

“Today you are making this agreement with the LORD: he is to be your God and you are to walk in his ways and observe his statutes, commandments and decrees, and to hearken to his voice. And today the LORD is making this agreement with you: you are to be a people peculiarly his own, as he promised you; and provided you keep all his commandments…” Deuteronomy 26: 17-18

But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. Matthew 5:44-45

Psalm 119:1-8

Happy those whose way is blameless, who walk by the teaching of the LORD.
Happy those who observe God's decrees, who seek the LORD with all their heart.
They do no wrong; they walk in God's ways.
You have given them the command to keep your precepts with care.
May my ways be firm in the observance of your laws!
Then I will not be ashamed to ponder all your commands.
I will praise you with sincere heart as I study your just edicts.
I will keep your laws; do not leave me all alone.


“Change.” It’s a subject about which we hear a lot of during the season of Lent. Today, we see an added dimension to change. Change is not just a one-way street. Moses drives home the point that our relationship with God really is about “exchange.” Jesus then adds an exclamation mark.

When we consider the concept of exchange, think in terms of giving and receiving at the same time. On holidays and special occasions, we use the term “exchange gifts” with those we love. When someone gives a gift, they also receive a gift. There is an interchange where both people meet and share.

Moses outlines the interchange between the people and their God. The people have a responsibility: “to observe [God’s] statutes and decrees…with all your heart and with all your soul.” When we walk in God’s ways, then the Lord will make you “a people peculiarly his own, as he promised you; and provided you keep all his commandments, he will then raise you high in praise and renown and glory above all other nations he has made, and you will be a people sacred to the LORD, your God, as he promised.”

The laws were well known and laid out pretty extensively in the books of the Hebrew Bible especially in Leviticus. The people and their religious leaders knew what was expected of them…until Jesus comes along and raises the bar.

The notes to the New American Bible on today’s Good News remind us of these rules. “There is no Old Testament commandment demanding hatred of one's enemy, but the ‘neighbor’ of the love commandment was understood as one's fellow countryman.” In the Hebrew Bible, hatred of evil persons is assumed to be right. However, while Jesus reinforces the exchange, he increases the standard of behavior to be considered God’s children. “Jesus extends the love commandment to the enemy and the persecutor. His disciples, as children of God, must imitate the example of their Father, who grants his gifts of sun and rain to both the good and the bad.”

Instead of just being good or being right, now Jesus says we must aspire to perfection. No where else but in Matthew’s gospel do we encounter the standard of perfection. Luke uses the term “mercy” in its place.


Perfection is a tricky concept. As the Winter Olympics conclude this week in Vancouver, we have had numerous opportunities to see both perfection and imperfection on display. Pick up the newspaper and you can read about the latest scandals that bring out the imperfections in all of us.

We must surpass the old standards of behavior to attain this new relationship with the Father.

The challenge of Lent is to rely upon the benefits of our exchange with the Lord in order to rise above our personal imperfections whatever they may be.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

With You Is Forgiveness

February 26, 2010

Friday of the First Week of Lent

By Melanie Rigney

When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die. But if the wicked, turning from the wickedness he has committed, does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins that he committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die. (Ezekiel 18:26-28)

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; LORD, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to my voice in supplication. If you, O LORD, mark iniquities, LORD, who can stand? But with you is forgiveness, that you may be revered. (Psalms 130:1-4)

“… (I)f you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)


Lord, help me to accept the depth and certainty of Your forgiveness … and to forgive others.


We call Psalm 130 De Profundis, from the psalm’s opening words (“Out of the depths I cry to You”). Most likely, it was written during the Babylonian Exile. We find it at vespers, services for the dead, and sometimes as part of our preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It’s inspired musicians in the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, and poems by folks as diverse as C. S. Lewis and Dorothy Parker.

It’s also the title of a lengthy letter ( Oscar Wilde wrote near the end of his prison term. The tone is different from Wilde’s witty, arch writings, more thoughtful and vulnerable. In part, he writes of a friend’s simple action of waiting in a corridor as Wilde was taken into court.

That, before the whole crowd, whom an action so sweet and simple hushed into silence, he might gravely raise his hat to me, as, handcuffed and with bowed head, I passed him by. Men have gone to heaven for smaller things than that. It was in this spirit, and with this mode of love, that the saints knelt down to wash the feet of the poor, or stooped to kiss the leper on the cheek.

Later in the letter, Wilde says religion doesn’t work for him, that he has faith in things he can touch and see. And yet, as he cries out of the depths to describe the simple charitable action of his friend, he uses the words and imagery of religion.

The simple things are praised in today’s Gospel reading as well. Rather than focus on the trappings we might offer as outward signs of our faith, Jesus calls on us first to dig into the depths and make things right with others. And when we do that, we gift everyone—the Lord, our brothers or sisters, and ourselves.


Do something simple and, to you, forgettable to help someone who is crying out of the depths.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Do To Others

February 25, 2010

Thursday of the First Week in Lent

Be mindful of us, O Lord. Manifest yourself in the time of our distress and give me courage, King of gods and Ruler of every power. Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion, and turn his heart to hatred for our enemy, so that he and those who are in league with him may perish. Save us by your power, and help me, who am alone and have no one but you, O Lord. Esther C:23-25

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened…If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.” Matthew 7:7-8, 11


I thank you, LORD, with all my heart; before the gods to you I sing.
I bow low toward your holy temple; I praise your name for your fidelity and love. For you have exalted over all your name and your promise.
When I cried out, you answered; you strengthened my spirit.
All the kings of earth will praise you, LORD, when they hear the words of your mouth.
They will sing of the ways of the LORD: "How great is the glory of the LORD!"
The LORD is on high, but cares for the lowly and knows the proud from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of dangers, you guard my life when my enemies rage. You stretch out your hand; your right hand saves me.
The LORD is with me to the end. LORD, your love endures forever. Never forsake the work of your hands! Psalm 138:2-8


Have you ever been bashful or shy? Sometimes, we just are reluctant to approach a total stranger and ask for help. However, we would not hesitate to ask our friends something we would not share with a stranger.

The Lord is imploring us, if we want something, to turn to him. However, if there is no underlying friendship and relationship, we will have a harder time putting our needs before the Lord. No matter what we may have done in the past, the Lord wants us to be his friend, to walk with him and to serve his family.

Yesterday, we encountered the Lord when he was upset with the people of Ninevah. He sent his servant Jonah to convert these people to his ways. Even though the Lord was going to bring the full force of his wrath upon these people, when they changed, the Lord changed as well.

The act of forgiveness or reconciliation changes both parties. But the Lord wants us to start the conversation with him. Ask. Seek. Knock. He implores us to turn from whatever pursuits in which we are engaged and to get engaged with the Lord instead. When we do, He will care for us, guard us and protect us. Esther’s prayers will be answered.


Forgiving Haiti's debt called key to recovery

Feb. 15, 2010
By Dennis Coday
(National Catholic Reporter)

Obstacles on Haiti’s road to recovery were removed in early February as major players in the international financial system took up the cause of canceling Haiti’s $890 million international debt.

The most significant breakthrough came Feb. 5 when the U.S. Treasury Department announced that the United States would work with its partners around the world to relieve all debts owed by Haiti to international institutions.

Let us urge our political leaders to ensure that Haiti’s reconstruction and recovery will be financed with grants and not new loaned to create a new mountain of debt.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

They Repented

February 24, 2010

Wednesday of the First Week in Lent

“Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God; every man shall turn from his evil way and from the violence he has in hand. Who knows, God may relent and forgive, and withhold his blazing wrath, so that we shall not perish.” When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out. Jonah 3:8-10

Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here. Luke 11:30-32


Psalm 51

Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense. Wash away all my guilt; from my sin cleanse me. For I know my offense; my sin is always before me.

Against you alone have I sinned; I have done such evil in your sight That you are just in your sentence, blameless when you condemn. True, I was born guilty, a sinner, even as my mother conceived me. Still, you insist on sincerity of heart; in my inmost being teach me wisdom.

Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure; wash me, make me whiter than snow. Let me hear sounds of joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Turn away your face from my sins; blot out all my guilt. A clean heart create for me, God; renew in me a steadfast spirit.

Do not drive me from your presence, nor take from me your holy spirit. Restore my joy in your salvation; sustain in me a willing spirit. I will teach the wicked your ways, that sinners may return to you.

Rescue me from death, God, my saving God, that my tongue may praise your healing power. Lord, open my lips; my mouth will proclaim your praise. For you do not desire sacrifice; a burnt offering you would not accept. My sacrifice, God, is a broken spirit; God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart.


The reference to the “sign of Jonah” works on two levels of meaning in today’s Gospel. First, the audience would have been familiar with the story in the first reading. So they could interpret is as referring to “the preaching of the need for repentance by a prophet who comes from afar.” However, it also alludes to the need for the death inside the whale and the return to life of Jonah. While the audience would have know about Jonah and the whale, at this point in the narrative, Jesus alone knows that “the sign of Jonah” also is a foreshadowing of his own death and resurrection.

An effective preacher/prophet helps to move his audience to change their behaviors. Jonah got the people of Ninevah to “repent.” Jesus also seeks to have the evil ways of his generation “repent.” If earlier generations repented at the preaching of Jonah and the wisdom of Solomon, then surely they would react even more so to “something greater” that is represented in the teaching and person of Jesus.

But what does repent really mean in this context against the charge of “evil?” Dictionaries will tell us that repentance means to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one's life for the better. Or as the 1969 Carlos Santana song implores, “You’ve got to change your evil ways, baby before I stop lovin’ you. Lord knows you’ve got to change.”


No matter what others tell us, change still has to come from within. Jonah or Santana or Jesus can tell us to change this or that but we have to decide for ourselves what change or changes we will make in our lives.

Sometimes we are spurred to action by the message delivered by a modern-day Jonah. But if there is no one to sound the warning bell, we are left to our own perception and decisions about what to change.

Psalm 51 shows us the steps we need to take to change. In it we hear the psalmist recognize his weakness and also recognize that without the help of God, he alone can not change anything.

Contemplate on what changes you are making in your life for this Lenten season and how you will carry that over beyond these 40 days with the help of the Lord.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Your Father Knows

February 23, 2010

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

By Beth DeCristofaro

(My word) shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)

Jesus said to his disciples: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:7-8)


Bring me ever closer to you this Lent, My Father. Walk with me as I journey to your cross and resurrection, My Christ. Fill me, Holy Spirit, with the desire for God above all, the discipline to accept God’s will and the courage to show God to the world. Amen.


If you know what I want already, Lord, why do I have to say it? If you know what is in my heart, Lord, why don’t you just give it to me?

Perhaps it is because God wants me to love, not want things that might be gotten from a vending machine. Perhaps God wants me without having to “earn” my desire just like God loves me without me working to earn God’s love. Perhaps God wants me to know that by talking and listening in prayer, I am turned to God in a special way and I am drawn ever closer to him – in good times and bad. Perhaps God wants me to want and love God as much as God wants and loves me. Perhaps God wants me to want to seek his will rather than my own. God is not the dispenser of goodies but the source of life and goodness. In turning to the source, with humility and love, for our needs we come more closely into touch with the risen Christ who is God within.

God’s word returns, achieving the end for which it was sent, through me and you. Christ, as human, knows what we know. Christ as God knows who and what we are. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.


Slowly, thoughtfully, pray the Our Father today. Give God’s word back in your love and submission to God’s will.

Read a reflection about the Our Father. Some suggestions:

“Our Father: The Prayer of Relationship” by Fr. Gerry Pierse, C.Ss.R.

The Well of the Trinity, Reflection on the 'Our Father', Dominican Nuns of Ireland

“Our Father reflection” by Theo Tigno

Lent and "Our Father": The Path of Prayer, Carl E. Olson

Sunday, February 21, 2010

He Refreshes My Soul

February 22, 2010

Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Apostle

Tend the flock of God in your midst, (overseeing) not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 1 Peter 5:2-4

Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 16:17-18


The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength. You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name. Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage. You set a table before me as my enemies watch; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come. (Psalm 23)


Finally Peter understands.

For months, Jesus has been recognized as the messiah and son of God by evil spirits, by people in foreign lands and others. However, he has not been recognized by his closest followers. Today, Jesus quizzes Peter one more time. And in this exchange, Peter testifies that he believes Jesus is the Son of God.

With this understanding, Christ Jesus does not waste a minute in putting this revelation to use to advance the Kingdom of God on earth. Jesus immediately sets Peter apart from the rest of the disciples by entrusting to him the care of his flock. As the shepherd and guardian of souls, Peter inherits from Jesus a critical role in leading the church. The familiar role of the shepherd in the Hebrew Bible and in the New Testament now falls on Peter’s shoulders.

This is a critical development in the formation of Peter’s own discipleship as well as in the formation of the early Christian community. It also bears fruit on our own formation as Christian women and men because Peter is not installed as the regent, one who will become “king” when Christ dies. Instead, he is given the mantle of servant-leadership to care for this around him.


With this role, Peter also assumes responsibilities which are symbolic of the entire community. These roles become duties which we inherit. Tend the flock of God in your midst, overseeing not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock.

In this Lenten season, as we are moved to fasting, prayer, service and almsgiving, let us remember to be a quiet example to the flock as Peter directs because the Lord refreshes us for the work that lies ahead.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

He Heard Our Cry

February 21, 2010

First Sunday of Lent

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us, imposing hard labor upon us, we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and he heard our cry and saw our affliction, our toil and our oppression. He brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand and outstretched arm, with terrifying power, with signs and wonders; and bringing us into this country, he gave us this land flowing with milk and honey. Deuteronomy 26:6-9

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we preach), for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:8-9

Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and: ‘With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him in reply, “It also says, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’” When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time. Luke 4:9-13


Moses points out to the people all the wonderful things that the Lord has done for them. He tells them how they should respond to the Lord for all that has been done for them. Our piety is a response to the Lord in gratitude for what has been done for us. The Lord has given us freedom and smarts enough to realize what loving response to the Lord may be. Calling upon the name of the Lord in gratitude and taking up the cup of salvation as Psalm 116 suggests is a good beginning to Lent. Prayer, fasting and good works are the “stuff” of Lent. There are traces of evil in all of us that stem from selfishness. The seven capital sins are examples of how the gift of life can be focused on ourselves and become selfishness as we live our lives exclusively for what we get out of what we are doing. Piety pushes us to live our lives for the sake of Christ. It makes Christ the center of our lives rather than what we get out of doing something just for ourselves. Piety is how we make Christ the Center of our lives. Lent gives us the chance to study ourselves to see what we may change in our lives to be more like Christ.


Lent gives us the chance to go into the desert with Christ and to test how we respond to the major temptation of the life. The Pope labeled those temptations “secularism, materialism and individualism.” How has secularism influenced my life? Have I made the material things of life into gods? Does everything have to be done according to my need? Have power and glory crippled my heart? Do I do what I do because people see what I am about and admire me for it? All these questions reveal to me how closely I am willing to follow Christ. The basic question I may answer with this Lent is how close to Christ I am willing to come. The decisions I make about how to live my life for these forty days are the ascetical practices that I will try to live out in the name of Christ. Very little change of life style happens by accident. It takes a decision to be a more real Christ in my life.


Prayer makes it possible to put on the mind and the heart of Christ. Making prime time for prayer shows the importance of prayer to self and others. Lent is a special time for closeness with the Lord. We may get up a little earlier than usual for special prayer. Cutting into sleep for the sake of the Lord is an action of love. Prayer is our love affair with the Lord. Starting out the day with prayer gives the tonal quality of prayer to what we do during the day.

Christ fasted forty days. He was hungry. The devil tempted him to make rocks into bread. Hunger can make us eat more than we need to satisfy our bodily needs. Cutting down on how much we eat allows us to walk in the shoes of the hungry. Being weak in the work we are doing can be dangerous. How we fast needs the prudence of a doctor’s okay. Fasting for the sake of solidarity with the hungry connects us to Christ who is one with the hungry of our world. Being with Christ is its own reward. Losing weight is a good side reward for giving ourselves to Christ. Grace builds on nature and the discipline of fasting gives us control over our lives in so many ways. Discipline frees us from the control of our passions and feelings. Giving time and energy to the work that God gives us, offers a chance to do for others what we do not have to do. True charity gives our total self to the needs of others. Thus the saints stand out by their gift of self to others. . There is nothing more gratifying than doing for the Lord what no one else is making time for. Love births freedom in choices we do not have to make. Going the extra step for the sake of a needy person is an example of love. Giving beyond the expectation of another, even until it hurts, is what generosity is all about. Lent is our opportunity to strengthen our spiritual life by being part of what the Church is doing. Materialism, secularism and individualism need to be checked in our world today and the checking process is prayer, fasting and good works. Thus we become more a part of who we may be in Christ.

Light Shall Rise For You

February 20, 2010

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday; Then the LORD will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land. He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails. Isaiah 58:9-11

After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, "Follow me." And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him. Luke 5:27-28


Hear me, LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and oppressed.

Preserve my life, for I am loyal; save your servant who trusts in you.

You are my God; pity me, Lord; to you I call all the day.

Gladden the soul of your servant; to you, Lord, I lift up my soul.

Lord, you are kind and forgiving, most loving to all who call on you.

LORD, hear my prayer; listen to my cry for help. (Psalm 86:1-6)


One thing about certain parts of scripture, it sure can make decisions along the spiritual journey seem easy. Take Levi.

Levi was at work. He was sitting at his customs post collecting taxes from his neighbors to pass on to the Romans. Imagine a pretty comfortable chair. Piles of money all around. Probably also some nicely appointed gifts. Yet with just a few words, Levi leaves it all behind.

We see an obedience in Levi to the words of Jesus which reacts as firmly as the evil spirits which were cast out with just an utterance from the Lord. Such confidence and self-assurance (God-assurance?) in making this change is seldom seen “nowadays.”

We would make an extensive “pro” and “con” list s we labor over the decision. We could consult our spouse, children, parents, neighbors, co-workers, others who have made a similar decision and more. Not Levi. Jesus said simply, “Follow me.” And he followed. Jesus simply asks (or commands) Levi with two simple words. “Follow me.” And just that simply, Levi leaves everything behind and follows.

What would it take for us to react with the same speed?


Our first reading today from Isaiah answers the question “What do the followers of Christ do?” Our faith compels us to action and the prophet lays out an extensive program of social justice. However such a program is not without its reward.

Among other steps, we are compelled to:

  • Remove from your midst oppression,
  • Stop making false accusation
  • Avoid malicious speech
  • Feed the hungry
  • Comfort those who are afflicted

If we do this, then the Lord will reward us with a personal, one-on-one relationship.

This week, we have ample opportunities in the Arlington Cursillo community to put Isaiah’s program into practice as we help comfort the families and friends of three members of our community who have died.

  • Brother David, Bishop Loverde’s secretary
  • Sean, the son of Cursillistas Tom and Rae Copeland
  • Marianne, the mother of Cursillista Freddie Wall

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Fasting That I Wish

February 19, 2010

Friday after Ash Wednesday

By Melanie Rigney

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. (Isaiah 58: 6-7)

My sacrifice, God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn. (Psalms 51:18-19)

The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”(Matthew 9:14-15)

Lord, help me to fast in all the ways that please and honor you this Lenten season.

When I was nine or ten, I gave up candy bars for Lent. Sort of.

Every Saturday, my father and mother loaded us into our Ford station wagon to go to the Sunshine grocery store. I’d get to pick out five candy bars that had to last until the following Saturday. I’d eat one each day after school. It would have never occurred to me to go a day without a candy bar—or to have two in one day or to share my stash with anyone else.

So, this particular Lent, each week after we got home from Sunshine, my father would get down a round metal box from a high cupboard in the kitchen. I’d make a production of putting my candy bars in the box, then he’d put it back in place.

Easter Sunday came around, and I got up before anyone else. The Easter Bunny’s gifts of white chocolate and jellybeans and marshmallow Peeps couldn’t have interested me less. No, what I wanted to do was to take that metal box and have a total pig-out. I pulled over a stepstool, got the box, and went to the kitchen table.

I opened a 3 Musketeers® bar, my favorite, and took a huge bite. Yuck! I looked at the bar—the chocolate was a funny light brown color. Then I opened a Brach’s mint patty. This time I looked before I bit; it had a flat look to it rather than the usual sheen. I didn’t go any further; instead, I threw the box and its contents into the garbage.

What was up with God, I wondered. I hadn’t promised that I’d never eat the candy bars, just that I wouldn’t eat them during Lent. It seemed to me that God had gone back on His end of the deal.

Childish logic and childish behavior, to be sure. But I wonder how many of us still talk about giving up something for Lent, rather fasting in the far more challenging way today’s first reading describes.

As Catholics, we are called to include penance that subtracts as part of our Lenten journey; for many of us that means no meat on Fridays and only one full meal on those days. We also are called to include penance that takes us out of our own little metal boxes and adds to our service, to our prayer time, to our financial contributions to our parishes and charities. Both types of penance can enrich and inform our faith. But if we approach the “adding” type thoughtfully and prayerfully, it can lead us to a fuller understanding not only of God but also of ourselves and our brothers and sisters. And that type of understanding doesn’t go stale after a few weeks.

If you live in the Diocese of Arlington and haven’t already made a pledge to the Bishop’s Lenten Appeal, please consider doing so as part of your penance that adds this Lent.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


February 18, 2010

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

“Here, then, I have today set before you life and prosperity, death and doom. If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I enjoin on you today, loving him, and walking in his ways, and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees, you will live and grow numerous, and the LORD, your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy.”
Deuteronomy 30:15-16

Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
Luke 9:23-24


O Lord, I do not know what to ask you. You alone know my real needs, and you love me more than I even know how to love. Enable me to discern my true needs which are hidden from me. I ask for neither cross nor consolation; I wait in patience for you. My heart is open to you. For your great mercy's sake, come to me and help me. Put your mark on me and heal me, cast me down and raise me up. Silently I adore your holy will and your inscrutable days. I offer myself in sacrifice to you and put all my trust in you. I desire only to do your will. Teach me how to pray and pray in me, yourself. Spacer

--Vasily Drosdov Philaret, c. 1780 - 1867


When it all boils down, the ultimate action each of us take in deciding which path to follow in our spiritual life, is the act of choosing.

Sometimes, we have a stark choice to make as Moses outlined in today’s first reading. Those stark choices are between something that is seen as inherently good and something else which is evil or bad by nature. In a society that is beset by a political and cultural red state vs. blue state duality, we might like to think that every choice is so cut and dried. However, the majority of the choices we face are not as simple and straightforward as Yankees vs. Red Sox, Tastes great vs. less filling, red state vs. blue state.

In scripture, we get this dichotomy every where. The good thief vs. the bad thief. Cain vs. Able. The Prodigal Son vs. his Stay-at-Home Brother. Don’t forget Mary vs. Martha. That is where discernment comes in – choosing between two goods. Should I allow my ill mother to remain in her own apartment living independently or help her move into a nursing home where she will be well cared for by a staff devoted to her well being. The choice is not independence vs. freedom alone. It also is professional quality care vs. personal lower quality care. Both have something good to offer. Our dilemma is choosing what is best.


We must strive to choose the better part. Sometimes, as we learn from Luke’s Gospel today, the better part may not always look like the best, most logical choice. “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

Every choice may not be as momentous as the one before it or the next one, but every day we have to discern which is the best part.

What choices will you face during this Lenten season?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

And Your Father Who Sees In Secret Will Repay You

February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment. Joel 2:12-13

So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. 2 Corinthians 5:20-21

But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. Matthew 6:6


Father, your demands of discipleship are strict. Walk with us for the next forty days of this Lenten journey as we strive to follow your wishes and build your Kingdom here on earth. We ask this through the friendship and support provided by your son Jesus and through the intervention of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Ash Wednesday is kind of like an anniversary of Your Daily Tripod. All kinds of messages came together on that day in 2006 while I sat in Mass at Missionhurst and Fr. Bill Quigley preached about being “ambassadors of Christ” (and also played “Dust in the Wind” as the meditation song after communion).

Playing the role of ambassador is our Confirmation responsibility. It also is our Fourth Day responsibility as Cursillistas. Yet how do we balance the public role of ambassador with the admonition in Matthew to conduct our religious life in private?

As the notes to the New American Bible explain, the declaration about our representation of the Lord is a “statement of God's purpose, expressed paradoxically in terms of sharing and exchange of attributes. As Christ became our righteousness (1 Cor 1:30), we become God’s righteousness (cf 2 Cor 5:14-15).”

But God’s intention also is to call on each of us to have a personal (i.e. non-public) relationship with Him. Through prayer, fasting and almsgiving, we should conduct ourselves in private so as not to appear to be doing any of these acts for personal gain. Our purpose is to advance, not ourselves, but the Kingdom of God. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. Matthew 6:6

Three times Matthew reminds us that our reward will come from our “Father who sees in secret will repay you.”


How do we reconcile these seemingly conflicting instructions? Be ambassadors but do it in secret? Let’s turn to the two foundational symbols which make the cornerstone of our faith and the Cursillo movement – the cross and the tripod.

We do not only have one role any more than Jesus had one role. He was Son of God as well as fully human. We have to balance our different roles and responsibilities in order to have a fully mature relationship with God.

In our personal relationship (friendship) with God, we are to conduct ourselves privately from our inner room. That is the vertical direction. However, in spreading God’s word and His kingdom on earth, we must reach out in all directions as Christ does on the cross. That is the horizontal dimension of our faith. We need both working in order to have a complete relationship with God.

What we do in that relationship is also measured out in the three facets of the Cursillo method – piety, study and action. Each complements the other two but can not stand alone. We must retreat into our private inner room in order to gain strength and support to go out into the world as ambassadors for Christ. We must lean on the support we get from others in our group reunion in order to continue to work in the world.

As we mark the first day of our Lenten season of fasting, almsgiving and prayer, let us offer up this balanced role as a way of growing in our faith and friendship this special season.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Guard Against False Leaven

February 16, 2010

Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time (Mardi Gras)

By Beth DeCristofaro

No one experiencing temptation should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one. Rather, each person is tempted when lured and enticed by his desire….all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights. (James 1:13-14, 17)

Jesus enjoined (the disciples), “Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” (Mark 8:15)


Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for it is from your goodness that we have this day to celebrate on the threshold of the Season of Lent. Tomorrow we will fast and abstain from meat. Today we feast. We thank you for the abundance of gifts you shower upon us. We thank you especially for one another. As we give you thanks, we are mindful of those who have so much less than we do. As we share these wonderful gifts together, we commit ourselves to greater generosity toward those who need our support.

Prepare us for tomorrow. Tasting the fullness of what we have today, let us experience some hunger tomorrow. May our fasting make us more alert and may it heighten our consciousness so that we might be ready to hear your Word and respond to your call.

As our feasting fills us with gratitude so may our fasting and abstinence hollow out in us
a place for deeper desires and an attentiveness to hear the cry of the poor. May our self-denial turn our hearts to you and give us a new freedom for generous service to others.

We ask you these graces with our hearts full of delight and stirring with readiness for the journey ahead. We ask them with confidence in the name of Jesus the Lord.

(A Mardi Gras Prayer from Creighton U, “Praying Lent”)


Jesus has been challenged again by the Pharisees and Sadducees in Mark’s Gospel for proof that what he preaches is of God. But he refuses to take their false test. In the preceding verses, Jesus sighed in deep disappointment that the “leaven”, the false lives and religiosity of the leaders is so strongly engrained within them they refuse God’s call. Jesus reminds his disciples that it by God’s graciousness that they and the thousands were fed and that it is through the gifts and presence of God that they will be fed, sustained and nourished no matter the desert in which they find themselves during their lives.

The Pharisees chose the false security of laws, traditions and proscriptions which they, themselves fashioned. Today, Mardi Gras, we have the opportunity to prepare for Lent. Looking for the distractions, temptations and false gods in our lives is one way to prepare. We can review what the leaven in our lives is: such as the false leaven of over- activity, cultural temptations, self-importance, unhealthy lifestyles or immoral choices. We can seek to renew our choice of the leaven which God gives to us.


Today, on Mardi Gras we can become more aware of the feasting in our lives and bring our gratitude for God’s blessings into our prayers. At the same time we can examine our feasting which might, in fact, be detrimental to ourselves or hurtful to others or which might deprive others that which God intends for their full lives. From what do we need to fast this Lent which will increase our desire for God?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Why Does this Generation Seek a Sign?

Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it. But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8

He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, "Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation." Mark 8:12


Even today our society seeks a sign without faith. We are surrounded by misplaced piety. Players from opposing teams kneel and hold hands hoping that the field goal will split the uprights. Across the Astroturf, their opponent are also kneeling in prayer hoping that some mystical wind or unforced error will push the ball wide left or right.

However, let the game end and then watch as the players express the unity of their faith circle-up and kneel together in thanks and praise for the athletic talents and the healthy completion of the contest.

We face challenges large and small every day. St. James reminds us to accept these challenges with grace. “Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4


“Ask and you shall receive.” This theme is echoed in the gospels of Matthew, Luke and John as well as in the letters. Yet in Mark’s narrative today, we seem to have something of a reversal. The Pharisees are seeking a sign but even though they ask for one from Jesus, such a miracle is not forthcoming.

Instead of scratching our heads over this contradiction, today’s first reading from James as well as earlier passages from Mark clear up the question. James reminds us that we must ask God “in faith, not doubting.” Ironically, James uses the metaphor of the waves in the sea tossed about by the wind. This recalls the scene played out in our Gospel (January 31) less than three weeks ago when the disciples were in the boat on a storm tossed sea and Jesus was sleeping through the hurricane.

A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Quiet! Be still!" The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, "Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?" Mark 4:37:40

Do you not yet have faith?

Jesus not only rebuked the wind but he also rebuked the disciples. In the end, he did save them from the storm at sea in order to plant the mustard seed of faith in them. However, today’s narrative with the Pharisees does not have the same ending. Jesus knows that his dialogues with these learned men have all been set up to trap him. So he not only sidesteps the question, he refuses to play along with the game as if Jesus was some magician. Faith is needed as the basis for any good work which Jesus can muster.


As we prepare to go off to a deserted place to pray this Lenten season, how can these questions from Jesus help us make the best use of this time?

"Why does this generation seek a sign?"

"Do you not yet have faith?"

Saturday, February 13, 2010


February 14, 2010

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD. He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8

And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way. Luke 6:20-23


Our categories of safety do not fit Christ when we use the world as our measuring rod. The poor blessed by what they suffer boggles the imagination. The most deeply ingrained prejudices of the human race are for wealth, power and glory so badly entwined that is almost impossible not to see the cross of Christ as a dismal failure on his part. The cross is a contradiction and a scandal all wrapped up into a bitter pill for anyone to swallow without an appreciation of Christ. In a real way our piety is all about how deeply we love Christ and how seriously we want to be one with him. The deepest expression of piety is oneness with the mind, the heart and the soul of Christ. Christ chose short life, poverty and the dishonor of the Cross as the expression of the God love for the human race. The great saints grappled with the question of whether they could give as much glory to God by riches or poverty by choosing Lady Poverty. The same goes for long life or short life. Which way if equal in the glory to God would I chose to be more like Christ? Always assuming I could give as much glory to God by the disgrace of the cross would I choose the easy way? Do I love Christ so much that I would be unhappy to be treated any differently than he? The blessings of the beatitudes are the happiness that comes from being with Christ all the way with all my mind, heart and soul.


For Christ to be my rock of safety, the stronghold that saves me, I must study his life by my prayer. The invitation of discipleship is to take up my cross and to follow him. If I seek my strength in the flesh, my heart will be far from the Lord. Prayer, fasting and good works are the badge of full membership in the Mystical Body of Christ. The resurrection belongs to my not holding unto the good things of this world. Because Christ was raised from the dead, my good works, prayer and fasting give me the reason to hope in the Resurrection. If I am not trying to make my life on earth into a heaven, the good I do on earth will be waiting for me in heaven with the gift of the resurrection. I study how important the resurrection is to my motivation and good works. I know that my faith is in vain if I am still in my sins. I ask myself if I am fleeing the victory already won in the Resurrection of Christ. The equation of salvation is Cross plus resurrection.


Living out the Beatitudes gives us a claim on heaven in the now of our lives. There is no good in this world of ours not worth doing in the hope of the Resurrection. The happiness the good works of the Beatitudes promise is meant to be part of the happiness of life now. We are called into the joy of the Lord. The infallible sign of the resurrection in each of us is the joy that overtakes our hearts when we are doing the work of the Lord. Christ claims to be our life and is our way to the Father. Christ is the truth of God’s love in us. Christ is our life if we give ourselves to him in the love of what we do for the least ones in our lives. The good works of our lives are our claims on the love of God and the proof that the Resurrection lives in who we are today.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Satisfy Them

February 13, 2010

Saturday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

"My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a great distance." His disciples answered him, "Where can anyone get enough bread to satisfy them here in this deserted place?" Mark 8:2-4

Psalm 106:43-47

Many times did [God] rescue [his people], but they kept rebelling and scheming and were brought low by their own guilt. Still God had regard for their affliction when he heard their wailing. For their sake he remembered his covenant and relented in his abundant love, Winning for them compassion from all who held them captive. Save us, LORD, our God; gather us from among the nations That we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in praising you.


“Where can anyone get enough bread to satisfy them here in this deserted place?” Mark 8:4

When something gets repeated, we lend to it special significance. Some biblical stories only appear in one Gospel (prodigal son and woman at the well come to mind for example). Other stories appear in the writings of all four evangelists. However, the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish is told six times in the gospels – twice each in Matthew and Mark and once in Luke and John underscoring the foreshadowing of the Eucharistic significance as well as the retelling of the “manna in the desert” narrative from the Hebrew Bible.

Jesus knows that before his followers can love God, they (we) must have satisfied the need for food, clothing, shelter and health. Therefore, Jesus meets us on the road and provides for these first level needs with the bread of life and the water that will satisfy. He does not want those who have become his followers collapsing from exhaustion before they (we) can spread the Good News.

But where do we place our trust? In the Pepperidge Farm delivery driver who is bringing loaves of bread to Safeway in the blizzard? This week, with the 2010 Snow Odyssey which struck the Mid-Atlantic States, you may have had to wait on long lines for groceries or witnessed store shelves that were empty of basic provisions. You may have lost power when trees or ice knocked down power lines until workers braving the elements could get out to make necessary repairs. You also were probably confined to quarters until the storms passed and you could get out of your house.

You also may have heard about neighbors shoveling out the driveways of the elderly and the sick. Or people with four-wheel drive vehicles volunteering to get essential workers to local hospitals. Or people walking into a store where there were no workers, picking up groceries and leaving money on the counter. Sometimes, the worst conditions bring out the best in all of us.

Jesus performed the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish from what people brought to the gathering in the desert just like he started the miracle at Cana from the jogs of water on hand. We relive this miracle every day in the celebration of Mass.

Before the bread and wine are transformed, we have to place our offerings before the altar. What do you bring to the Lord? What is your offertory?

When we hope in the Lord, we can get a balance in our lives between what we have to do and what the Lord will provide to us from his eternal covenant. This does not mean that we should all stop working and become beggars. It does however, tell us what kind of perspective we must have that balances what the Lord provides to us with our use of the gifts we have to provide for ourselves and others.


How many times have we echoed this line of the disciples? “Where can anyone get enough bread to satisfy them here in this deserted place?” Mark 8:4

After the attacks of September 11…after the South Asian tsunami…after Hurricane Katrina…after the Haitian earthquake…driving through the inner city, Appalachia, or the reserved lands of Native Americans and more. The tremendous needs of the poor seem to outstrip our ability to help if we think in individual terms. "As each one has received a gift, use it serve one another as good stewards of God's varied grace." (1 Peter 4:8-10)

If our gifts of time, talent and treasure are added to that of others and our trust is placed with the Lord to “multiply” these efforts, then we can see greater success than individually possible.

The answer is not so much in the work of “anyone,” but in the hearts and hands of “everyone.”

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


February 12, 2010

Friday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

I am the Lord, your God: hear my voice. (Psalms 81:11a and 9a)

… (P)eople brought to (Jesus) a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”) And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.” (Mark 7:32-35)


Lord, I humbly ask you to open my ears and my mind to your voice.


Cec Murphey’s February Newsletter

I found out last week that a friend whom I don’t see as often as I’d like has what appears to be terminal cancer. She and her husband have chosen to keep this challenge to a few trusted friends. When I found out secondhand and asked the husband what I could do besides pray, the answer was: “Prayer is our one need.” And my guess was that he meant more than “Cure A” as part of a long list of petitions.

It’s tempting when there is so much we feel needs God’s special attention to turn our intentions into a laundry list of sorts, to be read or recited in a somewhat mechanized and directive way:

· “Please guide the surgeon’s hands so that B’s surgery may be successful.”

· “Please help C find a job so that he can support his family.”

· “Please help my kids to behave.”

· “Please show D how to be a more faithful Christian, and help me not to let her work my nerve so much.”

Sometimes, we get so busy trying to manage things for God that we forget to listen to His voice, as if we were truly hearing impaired. And when we don’t see the response we wanted, we stop talking, as if we were truly speech impaired.

My friend Cec Murphey, coauthor of 90 Minutes in Heaven and other best sellers and a retired Presbyterian minister, wrote beautifully this month about a man named Steve who no longer was praying for his brothers. The brothers hadn’t changed after twelve years.

In his column, Cec sympathized with Steve, saying he’s results-oriented as well. Then he wrote:

Here’s how I see prayer working—and using the word working emphasizes my pragmatic side. In the act of praying, something takes place inside me. … Each time I mention others by name, I feel closer to them and to their problems. The result is that I become kinder or I’m reminded to eliminate loose talk and focus on positive living for myself. Although it may be only slight, when I pray regularly for others, it is inner growth. And sometimes those individuals also change.

I’d never thought about my prayer list in that way before, about being a vehicle for my own change as well as a petition for the assistance of others. It made me think that my friend’s husband was more right than he realized. Not only is prayer the one need for him and his wife, it’s also the one need we have in deepening our own faith and trust, if we’re willing to listen.


Slow down a little. Don’t pray today “for everyone on my list, and You know who they are.” Pray for each of them by name, and talk with God about your relationship with each.