Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Wednesday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Seek good and not evil, that you may live; Then truly will the LORD, the God of hosts, be with you as you claim! Hate evil and love good, and let justice prevail at the gate; Then it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will have pity on the remnant of Joseph. Amos 5:14-15
"Understand this, you who forget God, lest I attack you with no one to rescue. Those who offer praise as a sacrifice honor me; to the obedient I will show the salvation of God." Psalm 50:22-23
When he came to the other side, to the territory of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs who were coming from the tombs met him. They were so savage that no one could travel by that road. They cried out, "What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the appointed time?" Matthew 8:28-29
What have you to do with me, Jesus? What must I do to experience your saving grace? Despite my forgetfulness and sin, you never turn away from me like I turn away from you. Restore me to you so that you may always have a place to dwell with me. Amen.
Why do we do what we do? Why do we do evil and spurn goodness? One answer revealed in today’s readings is because we allow the forces of evil to have greater influence on us than we allow the forces of good or of God.
Today’s readings also reintroduce us to an interesting word: demoniac – someone who has been possessed or controlled by a demon. We have many other forms of insanity that also build off of the root “mania” or “maniac.” The influence of evil not only explains the behavior of the two men coming out of the tombs at Gadarenes but it also explains the behavior that the prophet Amos was trying to change more than 700 years earlier.
As the introduction to the Book of Amos in the New American Bible tells us, Amos was “a prophet of divine judgment, and the sovereignty of Yahweh in nature and history dominates his thought. But he was no innovator; his conservatism was in keeping with the whole prophetic tradition calling the people back to the high moral and religious demands of Yahweh's revelation. In common with the other prophets, Amos knew that divine punishment is never completely destructive; it is part of the hidden plan of God to bring salvation to men.” When we allow the forces of good or of God to prevail, then this compassionate nature of God will rise above any of our transgressions.
Even when we are possessed by forces that lead us into a life of sin, God will prevail over these forces. Jesus shows us that today in the first encounter we study when he releases the two men who were possessed and drives the evil spirits into the herd of swine.
However, the people react in a curious fashion. When they heard about the story from witnesses, they rush out of town to meet Jesus. When the rest of the people have the second encounter with Jesus, they do not know what to make of this change in the nature of the former demoniacs. They have come to fear these possessed men.
Instead of welcoming these men back into the community, they reject Jesus and ask him to leave their town and leave them alone. “When they saw him they begged him to leave their district.” They do not want to accept the change which Jesus has caused. Rather, they want to go back to the behaviors to which they had become accustomed. Jesus, the agent of change, is rejected. Jesus should be getting used to rejection by this point. Rejection will become great training for the time when his hour has come.
The core question for all Christianity arises today. “What have you to do with us, Son of God?” For the demoniacs, when they encounter Jesus, they find out that Jesus has arrived to free them from the forces of evil which have gripped their lives. However, the people from the town never ask the same question.
“What have you to do with us, Son of God?” Are your ready to encounter Jesus and ask the question? Are you ready for the answer? Are you ready to live with the way you must when Jesus changes your life? If not, Jesus might just as well pack up and leave Fairfax or Arlington or Alexandria or Manassas like he left Gadarenes.
Amos preaches that despite our actions, God is a healing God: Yes, days are coming, says the LORD, When the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the vintager, him who sows the seed; The juice of grapes shall drip down the mountains, and all the hills shall run with it. I will bring about the restoration of my people Israel; they shall rebuild and inhabit their ruined cities, Plant vineyards and drink the wine, set out gardens and eat the fruits.
What are you willing to do in exchange for this restoration? Will you accept it like the former demoniacs who become believers or will you reject it like the people from the town?
“What have you to do with us, Son of God?” Is there any more important question in all Christianity? First, we have to recognize that Jesus is the Son of God. But then, we have to accept what this means for our lives.
Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles
By Beth DeCristofaro
The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. (2 Timothy 4:17)
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 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. (Matthew 16:15-17)
Another morning and I wake with thirst for the goodness I do not have. I walk out to the pond and all the way God has given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord, I was never a quick scholar but sulked and hunched over my books past the hour and the bell; grant me, in your mercy, a little more time. Love for the earth and love for you are having such a long conversation in my heart. Who knows what will finally happen or where I will be sent, yet already I have given a great many things away, expecting to be told to pack nothing, except the prayer which, with this thirst, I am slowly learning.
(“Thirst” by Mary Oliver)
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” says Peter. Jesus revealed that God gave Peter the insight to recognize him. God moved this man in unlooked for ways and he recognized the living Grace before him. Later, of course, Peter denied that he knew Jesus, thereby denying God.
Sometimes I wonder how to recognize God. What should I do or which path should I choose? How do I know God’s desire for me? “God,” I pray, “can you write down what you’d like me to do in this notebook at the side of my bed?” Sometimes I feel that if I choose the wrong thing then I will lose out or thwart God’s will which would then be a denial much like Peter’s.
I think Peter’s example shows me that choosing an unqualified right way is less important than to be open to God’s revealing mercy and love. God’s grace is given and within me, within us. Before we reach for God, God reaches for us. There are many paths to take and they can all lead to God if my deepest desire is for God. Peter messed up pretty badly even after Jesus had recognized and named him but still became the Rock of God’s community on earth. God’s mercy, love, forgiveness and wisdom is revealed in the many chapters of Peter’s life.
Piety, study, action are invaluable tools for me to know God. What is going on within? Is it my self-will propelling me or through study, piety and action can I be in touch with God’s mercy and movement each and every day? I don’t have to necessarily do it “right”. Jesus just wants me to accept that by saying “yes” to him in the deepest places of my heart. God will then take me the rest of the way.
When did I deny Christ? Did I turn back with sorrow and remorse and accept God’s mercy? God wants to break the chains that keep us from God and rescue us from the lion’s mouth of our own self-will.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Memorial of Saint Irenaeus, bishop and martyr
Thus says the LORD: For three crimes of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke my word; Because they sell the just man for silver, and the poor man for a pair of sandals. They trample the heads of the weak into the dust of the earth, and force the lowly out of the way. Son and father go to the same prostitute, profaning my holy name. Amos 2:6-7
A scribe approached and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Another of (his) disciples said to him, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But Jesus answered him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.” Matthew 8:19-22
Lord, When You Came To The Seashore / Pescador Des Hombres
by Cesareo Gabarain
Lord, when you came to the seashore you weren't seeking the wise or the wealthy, but only asking that I might follow.
REFRAIN (English): O Lord, in my eyes you were gazing, Kindly smiling, my name you were saying; All I treasured, I have left on the sand there; Close to you, I will find other seas.
Lord, you knew what my boat carried: neither money nor weapons for fighting, but nets for fishing my daily labor. (REFRAIN)
Lord, have you need of my labor, hands for service, a heart made for loving, my arms for lifting the poor and broken? (REFRAIN)
Lord, send me where you would have me, to a village, or heart of the city; I will remember that you are with me. (REFRAIN)
We are hearing some pretty harsh words from Jesus….words which would keep people from even carrying out what we have traditionally known as the spiritual works of mercy like burying the dead. Reading passages like this one makes me wonder if Jesus really means what he says or is he just being emphatic to make a point.
As much as I want to wish he was just taking a flair for the dramatic, the more you compare what Jesus did in his life to what we do in our life, it is hard to conclude he is just making a point.
Matthew 8 is a wake-up call. Follow me. If you don’t believe what Jesus says, believe in this message because of what he does. Follow me. As much as he might wish for the cup of crucifixion to pass him by, Jesus accepts the cup. He does not get a chance to say good-bye to his mother until he is hanging from a tree by three nails.
Jesus chose to accept his accusations no matter how harsh and unjust with silence. He put on the crown of thorns, the purple robe. He stood by for his scourging with a whip and then in an already weakened state, took up his cross and carried it up the hill until he was nailed to it.
The Cursillo movement has a tendency to stress leadership. Maybe the only leader in Cursillo is the one we are asked to follow. Maybe we should rename that Saturday talk “Followers.” Maybe the School of Leaders should be renamed the School of Followers. The God of the Hebrew Bible etched a covenant in stone, a covenant that said “Walk with me.” No matter what you do, I will not revoke my invitation. Jesus turned up that covenant a notch or three with his actions and his command, “Follow me.”
What are you doing to “Follow” this week? Remember in your prayers those high school and college students and their chaperones who are on or are preparing to go on a work camp experience at their parish or diocesan level. They have answered the call to go where the Lord and his children need.
While their friends are content to earn money in a summer job or soak up the sun at poolside, they have given up a week or more to travel in cramped cars and vans to a strange area of the state, country, or world to answer the call to arms – because the Lord asked and has need of their labor, their hands for service, their hearts for loving, their arms for lifting the poor and broken. Pray for them this week and the people that they are helping.
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ
Elijah set out, and came upon Elisha, son of Shaphat, as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen; he was following the twelfth. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak over him. Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, "Please, let me kiss my father and mother good-bye, and I will follow you." "Go back!" Elijah answered. “Have I done anything to you?” Elisha left him and, taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to his people to eat. Then he left and followed Elijah as his attendant. 1 Kings 19:19-21
For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13-14
"I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home." (To him) Jesus said, "No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God." Luke 9:61-62
The more things we have, the less freedom we have. Protecting our freedom is difficult in our world that preaches the gospel of neediness. There is the call of Christ that is in our hearts. We have been given by the resurrection of Christ the ultimate reason to do good and to avoid evil. There is no shortcut to following Christ. The world created through Christ and for Christ is a wonderful place to live in when we are unencumbered with possessions. The law of God is fulfilled by our loving our neighbor as our self. The second commandment is what selfless love is all about. When we live by the Spirit, we are not under the law. The Spirit sets us free to follow Christ. When we burn our bridges, there is no going back. The desire to follow Christ to Jerusalem is the call of Christ. The call claims our heart by all the ways we come to know Christ.
We study how to follow Christ. The desire to follow Christ is born in our freedom. The desire to be close to Christ belongs to our creation. We are created in the image and the likeness of God in Christ. If I am willing to get close to him, the realization of true happiness draws me on to even a closer relationship. The promises of the Sacred Heart are what we need to hold Christ to live up to. If we honor the love of Christ, the tepid become fervent. The fervent become more fervent. Christ promises to raise us up to great sanctity if we live his love for one another. We are called by Christ’s love for us to freedom. Love generates a response. Love calls us to an ever closer relationship. Christ comes to us in our prayer. He confirms us in our gifts so that we truly have something to give to those we love. Because we are created in the image and the likeness of Christ, we study each other to discover the truth of Christ in our lives.
Elijah anointed Elisha to succeed him. Each of us needs to have Christ’s friends in our lives. We anoint each other to closer relationships to Christ by sharing our love of Christ with those companions of life that we hold dear. Wherever there is love, God is there. Our freedom is seen in our dedication to God in our daily life. True freedom is the doing of things in the way of Christ. Our lives with the saints bring us down the road of Christ made real in our times and days. How Christ appeals to us is in our freedom. True Freedom is found in closeness to Christ. His road to the Cross is paved with his love of all of us. Our willingness to suffer for a better world is how we go with Christ to Jerusalem. Our fitness for the Kingdom of God is seen in how we look forward to what is coming in Christ for us. The Take and Receive prayer of St. Ignatius says I all: Take and receive, O Lord, my liberty, My mind and my will I return to you. Your Grace and your love is enough for me.
Friday, June 25, 2010
Saturday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Cry out to the Lord; moan, O daughter Zion! Let your tears flow like a torrent day and night; Let there be no respite for you, no repose for your eyes. Rise up, shrill in the night, at the beginning of every watch; Pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord; Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your little ones (Who faint from hunger at the corner of every street). Lamentations 2:18-19
“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” Matthew 8:8
Lord, I am not worthy to receive you. Only say the word and I shall be healed.
Our first reading provides a rhetorical question answered in today’s Gospel. “For great as the sea is your downfall; who can heal you?” Lamentations 2:13b
The answer, of course, is the Lord. However, this may not be the most important lesson of the day. Reading the Gospel, we also are confronted with the question of power. The centurion commands legions of soldiers. With a few words, he commands these men to follow his orders. However, no amount of “position power” can help the centurion save his servant.
The weakness of his power and words is placed in stark contrast to the strength exhibited in the power and words of Jesus. Jesus does not even have to be in the room with the servant who is ill. The servant is cured from miles away at the very moment that Jesus commanded it to be so.
Recognizing the limits of any position power is driven home by the humility of the centurion. “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” (Matthew 8:8) We encounter the humility of a servant leader again when Jesus faces his trial and execution. Even though we know he has the natural power to control his situation, he surrenders to the power of others in order to ascend over his humanity and back to his divinity.
What are the limits of our faith? How far will we go to follow Jesus? Can we set aside our personal agendas in order to exercise the faith He seeks in us? Jesus never rescinds his invitation to us. Are we ready to accept it?
If we answer yes to that question, the example we have to be ready to follow is that of Peter's mother-in-law. After she accepted the healing power of Jesus, she in turn accepted her responsibility to serve the Lord and the children of God.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Friday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
By Melanie Rigney
On the seventh day of the fifth month (this was in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon), Nebuzaradan, captain of the bodyguard, came to Jerusalem as the representative of the king of Babylon. He burned the house of the LORD, the palace of the king, and all the houses of Jerusalem; every large building was destroyed by fire. Then the Chaldean troops who were with the captain of the guard tore down the walls that surrounded Jerusalem. Then Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, led into exile the last of the people remaining in the city, and those who had deserted to the king of Babylon, and the last of the artisans. But some of the country’s poor, Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, left behind as vinedressers and farmers. (2 Kings 25:8-12)
By the rivers of Babylon we sat mourning and weeping when we remembered Zion. On the poplars of that land we hung up our harps. There our captors asked us for the words of a song; Our tormentors, for a joyful song: "Sing for us a song of Zion!" But how could we sing a song of the LORD in a foreign land? (Psalms 137:1-4)
When Jesus came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And then a leper approached, did him homage, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I will do it. Be made clean.” His leprosy was cleansed immediately. (Matthew 8:1-3)
Lord, help me to always sing Your song, even when I believe You have deserted me.
There the Israelites were in Babylon, mourning the loss of their city and homes and belongings as outlined in today’s first reading. And their conquerors ask for a song of Zion. Perhaps the Babylonians saw this as torture; perhaps they didn’t understand the meaning behind the songs they called joyful. Whether the insult was intended or not, imagine the anger and resentment they felt.
While we may not be exiled physically, as Christians we may find ourselves feeling that way at work or in some social settings. It’s easy to sing the Lord’s song when we’re in community or in other Christ-friendly environments. It can be far harder to talk about what faith means to us—our belief in the Resurrection and the life thereafter, our confidence in a loving God and His call to love others—when someone we view as a tormentor rather than a brother or sister in Christ pushes our buttons. Maybe it’s when someone asks on Ash Wednesday, “Are you Catholic or something?” Or during Holy Week, when someone quirks an eyebrow and says, “So you really believe he came back from the dead?” Or when the latest in the seemingly unending barrage of new pedophilic crimes by the ordained is in the news and someone asks, “How can you be part of that Church?”
Christ doesn’t call us to sit around and weep and lick our wounds and mope when we face a challenge. He calls to stand up for ourselves—and for Him—in a loving, not confrontational manner. We can face our tormentors because He is beside us, always.
Give someone who challenges your faith the benefit of the doubt. Behind the attitude may be the beginnings of belief.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, Yet my reward is with the LORD, my recompense is with my God…It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. Isaiah 49: 4,6
"John is his name," and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Luke 1:63-64
“And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and death's shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” Luke 1:76-79
Here we are, exactly halfway around the calendar since Christmas, celebrating the feast day of John the Baptist.
John had a special relationship with his cousin that was knit early in his life. Even before these two great men were born, they had a special relationship borne of the Word made flesh. We read earlier in Luke’s gospel of the reaction that John had in his mother’s womb when a pregnant Mary came to visit her cousin Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Luke 1:41-44
We mark this feast because that special relationship is not reserved just for John the Baptist. That special relationship is one that Jesus wants to share with each and every one of us. As the Psalmist reminds us, John is not the only being knits specially in his mother’s womb. All of us are so made.
You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother's womb. I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works! My very self you knew; my bones were not hidden from you, When I was being made in secret, fashioned as in the depths of the earth. Psalm 139:13-15
Once we realize this, then we can fulfill our role and mission in life just as Zechariah did. As John’s father realized his special relationship with the Lord, he could not help himself from singing the praises of the Lord. As the Lord was with Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah and John the Baptist, he also is with each of us.
What then, will we, the children of God be? Surely the hand of the Lord is with us as it was with John. Then we must fulfill the action that the Lord expects us to observe. Once we accept God’s mission, our mouth will be opened, our tongue freed, and we will sing God’s praise with our thoughts, words, and deeds (piety, study and action).
What is stopping you from leaping for joy on this day?
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Wednesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
The king went up to the temple of the LORD with all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem: priests, prophets, and all the people, small and great. He had the entire contents of the book of the covenant that had been found in the temple of the LORD, read out to them. Standing by the column, the king made a covenant before the LORD that they would follow him and observe his ordinances, statutes and decrees with their whole hearts and souls, thus reviving the terms of the covenant which were written in this book. And all the people stood as participants in the covenant. 2 Kings 23:2-3
Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Matthew 7:17-19
LORD, teach me the way of your laws; I shall observe them with care. Give me insight to observe your teaching, to keep it with all my heart. Lead me in the path of your commands, for that is my delight. Direct my heart toward your decrees and away from unjust gain. Avert my eyes from what is worthless; by your way give me life. For your servant fulfill your promise made to those who fear you. Turn away from me the taunts I dread, for your edicts bring good. See how I long for your precepts; in your justice give me life. Psalm 119:33-40
The two readings and Psalm today seem to focus on study. The king had the book of the covenant read aloud to the people and declared that all would follow the precepts of the law. Unfortunately, obedience and fidelity can not be mandated. Such a pronouncement, while appearing good on its face, does not result in real change in the minds, hearts and souls of the people of Israel. In the end, they fail to abide by the terms of this covenant any more than they fulfilled the decrees of Abraham, Moses, David and the rest of the prophets. Knowledge alone is not enough unless it results in a change in our actions.
Jesus also issues a warning in today’s Good News. Beware of false prophets who say do as I say, not as I do. In the end, the actions of the leaders will reveal what is truly in their hearts. While study, then seems to be the focus, study can not be divorced from Gospel-based actions.
Observing the rules (action) must follow study. Psalm 119 provides the key to understanding this message. Lead me in the path of your commands, for that is my delight. Direct my heart toward your decrees and away from unjust gain. Avert my eyes from what is worthless; by your way give me life.
This is a song promising real change in the direction that the author looks for happiness from what is worthless to what is worthy. Only by observing the way of the Lord will we get the gift of life. Only when we go to such lengths can we expect the Lord to hold up his end of the bargain (covenant).
What is getting in your way of following the commands of the Lord? What will it take to make the will of the Lord the fulfillment of all your desires?
Monday, June 21, 2010
Tuesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
By Beth DeCristofaro
O God, within your temple we ponder your steadfast love. Like your name, O God, your praise reaches the ends of the earth. Your right hand is fully victorious. Mount Zion is glad! The cities of Judah rejoice because of your saving deeds! (Psalm 49:10-12)
Jesus said to his disciples: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
The path that you, the child of God, are to walk upon will at times seem to be very narrow and difficult. It will lead you into circumstances and relationships that will test your mettle and refine your spirit. The path you traverse leads to God and His will for your life. The roads that are glutted with bumper-to-bumper traffic lead only to the fast-fleeting pleasures and satisfactions of this world. Walk upon Christ’s paths and live by His words and deeds for your life – for they are, indeed, the will of God for you.
(From Jesus/Now, Leslie Brandt, Concordia Publishing, 1978, p. 72-73 )
Jeff Bridges certainly deserved his Oscar for his intense, conflicted portrayal of Bad Blake in the movie Crazy Heart. This story is certainly one of conversion – perhaps not to the narrow road of Christianity; Bad’s use of Christ’s name was certainly never done in prayer. But his life was definitely of a man, with talent and passion, taking the broad, glittering road of life. He loved the big lights, the money and the acclaim more than he loved his gift of song writing, his friends and family and certainly his own health. He threw “what is holy,” his talents and his life, to the dogs of success, gluttony and sensual thrills. The success of others threatened him. When the going got tough, he lapsed into drinking and short-lived relationships.
His reformation began when he endangered someone he actually loved through his selfish, self-centered behavior. In the last scene we see a restored “Bad,” now owning his real first name, Otis because he no longer had to live up to that defiant nickname. He has learned humility and that sacrifice can bring healing. He gives away the coveted royalty check from his hit song saying, “It’s Only Money.” And he is able to celebrate the engagement to another man of a woman he loved. He has stepped out of himself to be joyful for another.
Bad Blake’s narrow gate was opened to him through his sobriety; giving up the soporific effects of alcohol – a tremendous feat for a long time alcoholic. That step and consequent hard work on his life choices allowed him to find a new, insightful voice and restored his songwriting gift.
Is there a gate which is blocked to us, obstructing our walk with Christ? Are we a gate, blocking someone else’s path to Christ?
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Memorial of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, religious
And though the LORD warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and seer, "Give up your evil ways and keep my commandments and statutes, in accordance with the entire law which I enjoined on your fathers and which I sent you by my servants the prophets," they did not listen, but were as stiff-necked as their fathers, who had not believed in the LORD, their God. 2 Kings 17:13-14
Help with your right hand and answer us that your loved ones may escape. Psalm 60:7
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove that splinter from your eye,' while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother's eye. Matthew 7:3-5
Prayer to Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, Patron of Youth
Help our youth today who are faced with a plague of false cults, false idols and false gods. Show them how to harness their energies and to use them for their own and others' fulfillment—which will redound to the greater glory of God. Amen.
Change seems to be the common denominator that unites the message of today’s readings. In the first reading from the book of Kings, people are given a Santana-like warning: “You’ve got to change your evil ways, baby before I stop loving you...Lord knows you’ve got to change.” Matthew also relates the hypocrisy that Jesus unmasks in his followers. We have to make sure that our actions are consistent and congruent with God’s actions toward us. If we too harshly judge those around us, then God will dole out similar harsh judgment against us.
When left to our own devices, the picture painted seems to indicate that most of us are powerless to change of our own accord. We need help if we want to succeed. Psalm 60 is where we find the key to unlock the treasure of change: Give us aid against the foe; worthless is human help. We will triumph with the help of God, who will trample down our foes. Psalm 60:13-14
What are you looking to change in your life? Are you guilty of passing judgment against others in a spirit of arrogance, forgetful of your own faults? What steps can you take to get over that attitude?
As Rector Phil wrote to me recently, he was struck by the words in a sermon during Mass on Corpus Christi Sunday when the preacher encouraged those assembled to “Get over you and get on with God.” He reminded me that Jesus the Carpenter can help to fix whatever in your life is causing your tripod to wobble.
Step aside and let Jesus go to work on what you need fixed. “Worthless is human help. We will triumph with the help of God.”
Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ
I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and petition; and they shall look on him whom they have thrust through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son, and they shall grieve over him as one grieves over a first-born. Zechariah 12:10
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:27-28
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
Our piety is our divine connection. Christ tells us (John 15: 9): “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.” The Father gives to the Word all that he is. Total Giving becomes total receiving. Jesus in his human life is just like the Father. Christ gives to us all of himself. The only limit on how much Christ we have is in our love. Baptism gave us his life. Each time we receive Eucharist, his life in us is increased. The only limit on how much Christ we are is found in our freedom. We do not have to live up to the Christ we are meant to be. Piety is the exercise of our freedom. The challenge of our piety is to put on the mind and the heart of Christ. We are created to the image and the likeness of God in Christ. When we surrender to Christ, we are not just surrendering to our destiny. We are opening ourselves up to the fullness of who we are meant to be. Our piety allows us to reach out to the fullness of who we are meant to be in Christ.
In our gospel of today the disciples are asked by Christ. “Who do you say that I am?” As long as Christ was with us in the time of his earthly life, Peter had the right answer. Today we have the same answer in a personal form. We are meant to be the presence of Christ whither we go. What Paul said of himself, we need to be able to say of ourselves. “I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me.” We study the events in the life of Christ that we might be able to translate Christ’s response to the problems with his people in his time to what our response would be if we are going to be updates of Christ in our time. What we learn by our study of the life of Christ and praying over the events in his life is how to be transparencies of him. We face life in our time and age with his answer to our problems being our answers. We study how to be Christ in our time.
The seven gifts of the Spirit need to be the driving force behind all that we would do in the name of Christ. Living out the gifts of the Spirit in our lives allows the fruits of the Spirit in us to become the visibility of Christ in our lives. The life of Christ in us can be seen by our patience in adversity, by our kindness and generosity in the face of the needs of others, by the modesty of our lives as we realize it is Christ at work in us that makes possible the good we do. How chaste we are in our lives, how joyful we are with each other, all of these fruits make the Christ of our hearts recognizable. We recognize the goodness of each other by the holiness of life that keeps our tongues speaking t he language of the angels as we give face to Christ in our world. It will not be easy to accept the invitation to follow Christ because the call is to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses daily to follow Christ. We save our life by losing it for the sake of Christ.
Friday, June 18, 2010
Saturday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
By Melanie Rigney
(Zechariah) took his stand above the people and said to them: “God says, ‘Why are you transgressing the LORD’s commands, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have abandoned the LORD, he has abandoned you.’” (2 Chronicles 24:20)
I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn to David my servant: I will make your dynasty stand forever and establish your throne through all ages. (Psalms 89:4-5)
“So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.” (Matthew 6:31-34)
Lord, You know I love you. Help me to trust You as well, to follow Your guidance on this winding journey.
In his award-winning book My Life with the Saints, James Martin, SJ, tells a story about traveling in France with his friend Peggy when they were in their twenties. Both had rudimentary knowledge of the language. Martin took a train from Paris to Chartres; Peggy was to follow in the car they had rented, but got lost along the way.
Unfortunately, she confused the verb chercher (to seek) with trouver (to find). She drove around Paris, rolling down her window every few minutes to say: “Je trouve la rue a Chartres”: “I find the road to Chartres. Needless to say, many Parisians greeted this news of Peggy’s discovery with a mild shrug. One man said, ‘Congratulations.’”
Martin goes on to talk about St. Joan of Arc’s life and the way God spoke to her and the road upon which it took her, journeys no one else could understand, and the parallel to his own path to becoming a Jesuit priest after time in the corporate world. He concludes:
… As my friend Peggy discovered, lost on the road to Chartres, the road that we seek is often the road we have already found.
Looking for the road can consume a lot of time and energy. Jesus tells us that in today’s Gospel, when he instructs us to focus on seeking the kingdom instead of our day-to-day concerns. That’s not to say we should expect others to assume responsibility for our temporal lives but rather that if we keep our priorities straight, we will find that “tomorrow will take care of itself” and that we’re already on the road we are seeking.
What are you searching for? Prayerfully consider the ways in which God has already provided it to you, and give thanks.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Friday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. Matthew 6:19-21
The Spirit of Christ sends us into the world. To the degree that we are guided not by our fears but by the power of the Spirit, we become aware of the needs of the world and we experience a deep desire to be of service. The prisoners, the sick, the hungry, the homeless, as well as the many who are entangled in war or in the preparation for war, are shown to us as brothers and sisters with whom we are united in solidarity.
(Henri J. M. Nouwen, A Cry for Mercy: Prayers from the Genesee, p. 103)
Where, indeed, will we find our heart? Is the way to a man’s heart through looking at the investment choices in his 401K plan? What, indeed, are we storing up? Buckets of money in a saving account? Shelves of books in our personal library? Acres of music in our CD collection or MP3 files? Cars, boats and motorcycles?
Are we storing up items which may be less tangible but fulfill our need for power, influence and control over other people and organizations? Position power. Political power. Economic power.
Will Jesus find that we are trying to accrue too bountiful a serving of esteem and affection in this world by focusing on fan-dom and celebrities, the number of friends on your Facebook page, the number of connections in your LinkedIn account or the size of your I-phone contacts directory?
Do our assumptions focus on securing the items to guarantee our survival and security in this world that revolves around a red, yellow or orange-colored Homeland Security threat level? Yet why should our security take precedence over that of a Gulf Coast fisherman, the unemployed workers affected by a moratorium on off-shore drilling, or the worker who was displaced when his company moved operations to a foreign or offshore location?
Jesus tells us not to do it. He wants us to realize the inherent limitations of these pursuits of happiness based upon survival/security, affection/esteem, or power/control. He wants us to give up these selfish pursuits and replace them with self-less occupations.
Let go of your pursuit of material possessions. Take the bags you got last week while grocery shopping. Go around your house, your office, your bedroom or your closets with those bags in hand. Fill up each with clothes you never wear, books you never read, shoes you never wear. Define never as anything you have not used for the past year. Let go of these items and give them to a local charity.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Thursday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Till like a fire there appeared the prophet whose words were as a flaming furnace. Their staff of bread he shattered, in his zeal he reduced them to straits; By God's word he shut up the heavens and three times brought down fire. How awesome are you, ELIJAH! Whose glory is equal to yours? Sirach 48:1-4
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
The Lord’s Prayer
(A Translation from Aramaic)
Oh Thou, from whom the breath of life comes, who fills all realms of sound, light and vibration. May Your light be experienced in my utmost holiest. Your Heavenly Domain approaches. Let Your will come true - in the universe (all that vibrates) just as on earth (that is material and dense). Give us wisdom (understanding, assistance) for our daily need, detach the fetters of faults that bind us, (karma) like we let go the guilt of others. Let us not be lost in superficial things (materialism, common temptations), but let us be freed from that what keeps us from our true purpose. From You comes the all-working will, the lively strength to act, the song that beautifies all and renews itself from age to age. Sealed in trust, faith and truth. (I confirm with my entire being)
(Thanks to my friend Carlotta for sharing this link.)
Our prayers never fall on deaf ears. Even before we recite them aloud, the Lord knows what is on our minds, on our lips and in our hearts. Do we even need to put these prayers into words? Of course we do!
We can not take anything for granted. If you do not have a technician service your furnace regularly, then in the winter, when you turn it on, it might not heat your home.
Jesus goes to great lengths to teach us how to pray to the Father. Do as I say. But he does not stop there. He also repeatedly demonstrates – through his own personal example – how frequently he prays to the Father. Many times, he goes off in private. Other times, one or more of the disciples are within range and can hear and report on Jesus’ prayer to the Father. Do as I do.
Our actions build out of a life of piety and study. If not, then it would just be social work with no religious foundation or cornerstone.
Reflect on the Lord’s Prayer and consider what love-in-action response it inspires for you this day. Perhaps there is a human service, health, environmental, arts, or other cause that is looking for your volunteer support. Consider supporting it with your time, talent and treasure.
For example, over the last 58 days, the images of the people, land and wildlife in the Gulf Coast states affected by the BP/Deepwater Horizon accident and spill have been burned into our hearts and minds. Spend some time on The Nature Conservancy's The Gulf: Ways You Can Help (http://www.nature.org/multimedia/features/art31637.html) resource section for the latest from Conservancy bloggers -- spread the word that one of North America’s most treasured places needs our help.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, "Ask for whatever I may do for you, before I am taken from you." Elisha answered, "May I receive a double portion of your spirit." 2 Kings 2:9
When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. 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 6:5-6
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Advertisers and PR flacks have a rough road to travel. They constantly are seeking new ways to tear us apart from our treasure so we buy products that will not last – products that we do not need with money we do not have. They are in a constant battle with the attitude of people in their target markets who think, “So what? Who cares? What’s in it for me?”
Christianity is the same way. Its words in action must cut through the clutter of messages vying for our attention. However, Jesus is not a sugar coating advertiser. He calls it the way it is. Instead of promising us treasures on earth, Jesus is building us up to the realization that we must first seek the Kingdom of God. Then, once we have taken up our cross (DAILY), then we will reap the rewards that the Father will bestow.
Rather than wear our Christianity on our sleeve or like a big silver or gold jeweled cross hanging around our necks, Jesus tells us we must pursue our life in Christ in secret, not in public. There is a time and place for public witness and proclamation. However, we should not undertake such actions for our own recognition but rather so that people will be lead back or turn back to Jesus.
We are tempted to ask the questions, “So what? Who cares? What’s in it for me?” The Lord cares and what’s in it for all of us is eternal life with him.
Have you caught World Cup fever for your favorite country? Are you wearing the colors of your team? Perhaps you are pulling on your Celtic green or Laker purple and gold as the NBA Finals comes to a close. Did losses by your Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers or Washington Capitals pave the way for the first Stanley Cup to land in the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks in 49 years?
We are very familiar with making public expressions of our fandom. Even at Mañanita, we sport our rainbow colored clothes, hats and paraphernalia as a wake up call to the candidates on a Cursillo weekend.
Jesus is not concerned with any such showboating. Rather, Jesus is concerned with the authenticity of our love in action. What are you doing to put your love into action in secret this week not as you would have it, but as He will offer it to you?
Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
By Beth DeCristofaro
When Ahab heard these words (of God), he tore his garments and put on sackcloth over his bare flesh. He fasted, slept in the sackcloth, and went about subdued. Then the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Have you seen that Ahab has humbled himself before me? Since he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his time. I will bring the evil upon his house during the reign of his son.” (1 Kings 21:27-29)
Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’. 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 5:43-43)
Help us, O God, to love and care for all that you have made. Forgive us for hiding from you, and for failing to love ourselves and others wholeheartedly. Help us to be humble. Quiet our fears. Teach us to follow our deepest longing to be with you, and to find your life-giving presence in every moment we live and every person we meet.
(Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church, http://www.spcworks.org/images/11-4-07bulletin.pdf )
Today is the feast of St. Germaine Cousin, a French girl born in the mid 16th century who became known for her devotion to daily Mass and her holiness. Frail and sickly from birth, Germaine’s stepmother hated and abused her for her deformities. Germaine never returned the hatred but instead prayed for God’s protection and strength to please her mother and forgave her for the countless hurts inflicted. Amid the many miracles ascribed to her was on the occasion that Germaine’s mother was angry and cruel because she believed Germaine had stolen bread for a homeless beggar. Instead, as she knocked Germaine’s cloak to the ground, beautiful flowers fell out even though it was mid winter. Germaine offered the flowers to her mother saying that they were a gift from God to show God’s forgiveness.
God’s words to Ahab come to mind as I think of this truly wicked stepmother tale. I must admit that I feel that if anyone deserves to have evil brought upon her house, it would be a child abuser. But does God actually punish the child for the sins of the mother? Jesus’ words show the truth. Everyone has the right and the occasion for forgiveness. Jesus tells his followers to be more than generous with their love just as He says time and time again God is with God’s love. And just as all are worthy of God’s love, everyone has the opportunity for forgiveness – Ahab did and by repenting he gained forgiveness. His wife, Jezebel, did not repent of her sins and died a nasty death. Germaine’s stepmother’s heart was softened with the loving, forgiving nature of her daughter. All who are children of our heavenly Father have the possibility for forgiveness because they have the probability of God’s abounding love.
Pray for someone who will not forgive you or who will not accept your forgiveness. In response, accept forgiveness with humility when it is offered. Try lavishly forgiving someone.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Monday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
“…[O]ffer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.” Matthew 5:39-40
Hear my words, O LORD; listen to my sighing. Psalm 5:2
Perhaps we are groaning because we do not want to let go of our human ways of doing things. Instead, we persist in our ways and remain anchored in our comfort zone instead of turning to the ways of the Lord. However, we know that we can enter the Lord’s house because of the Lord’s great love for us. Father, continue to guide me in your justice and make straight your way before me.
“I can't believe that God put us on this earth to be ordinary.” Lou Holtz
Saturday, my college classmate John Giblin posted the above quote by former Notre Dame Football coach Lou Holtz on Facebook. I’ve been thinking about it a lot this weekend of extraordinary things.
Everyday, we get up and go to work. Unlike when Johnny Carson, David Letterman and Jay Leno show up at their desk, no one breaks into applause when we do the very ordinary thing of showing up to work every day. But we are not there to show up. We are there to shine. It’s what we do and why we do it that transcends the ordinary.
If we were to head down to the courthouse on any given day (city, county, state or federal), there would be defendants and lawyers forcefully presenting and pleading their case before judges and juries. It is just natural (ordinary) in our Perry Mason/Jack McCoy world to idolize the successful defense attorney.
How different are these ordinary trials from the trial that happened more than two thousand years ago in Palestine? That Jewish defendant, turned over by his own religious leaders, stood before the Roman leader and then the local ruler and refused to plead his case. His closest friends were probably shocked at the scene playing out right before their eyes. Yet, right here in his own words as quoted by St. Matthew, we can read and hear the basis for his very unusual defense (or perhaps you would call this a non-defense).
Offer no resistance to one who is evil.
When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.
These are not ordinary directives. These are extra-ordinary precepts which require extraordinary fortitude to accomplish. Such accomplishment will not come if we act alone but only when we act consistently for life under the wings of a loving God who sent his only son to support us and the Holy Spirit to carry on his work.
Clearly these directives are aimed at turning the tables on how people behaved in society. Jesus sought out change. Change by us. Change for us. Change in us.
He wanted us to change from the quid pro quo, eye-for-an-eye system. Not much is made of the term resistance these days. Instead, our culture of death concentrates on armed conflicts.
We fail to recognize the peaceful resistance in the American South which brought about the advent of civil rights for all people…bought by the blood and broken bones of those who demanded change. We fail to recognize the peaceful success of the Solidarity trade union in Poland whose members refused to cooperate with an unjust system and that system was overturned. Nelson Mandela refused to cooperate with the apartheid system in South Africa and this week the world celebrates the World Cup being hosted by Mandela’s country women and men…all of them.
All of these movements were inspired by the Gospel as well as by the resistance model lived out by Mahatma Gandhi in India. In fact, it was Gandhi amplified the message of Matthew 5 with the quote, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Change can and does happen without force.
What change is Jesus seeking in your heart with the words of today’s Good News? Offer no resistance to that change.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ
“The LORD on his part has forgiven your sin.” 2 Samuel 12:13b
For through the law I died to the law, that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me. Galatians 2:19-20
So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little. Luke 7:47
Love of God is what Piety is all about. Love is not something we can deserve. The heart has reasons the mind will never comprehend. The trip from the head to the heart takes a lifetime. It is the shortest distance, but the longest journey of life. We learn to love in our parents’ love for us. God’s love for us antedates our conception. We were loved before we arrived in our mother’s womb. God has first loved us and we are capable of loving back. We learn what love is all about in the love of God for us. Christ tells us he loves us even as the Father has loved him. Christ invites us to live in his love. How much we love is seen in the ways we give our lives for the sake of another. Piety is our love affair with Christ. God is love and he who lives in love, lives in God. There is no limit on God’s love for us once we realize he loved us so much that he gave us his only son. God loves us so much he wants to be one of us. The Son loves us so much that he dies for us. Do I love God so much, I am willing to die for Christ? Even as Christ is willing to be one of us, am I willing to be one with Christ? Our human love is modeled on Christ’s love for us in his dying on the cross for our redemption. Because God is pure love, there is no limit on the love of God. When we touch God’s love, we touch all of God’s love for us. Yet it is true to say that we can limit how much of God’s love we have. When we say we do not deserve God’s love that is all too true. Love is a free gift of God and we could never deserve it. God’s love is in all that happens in our lives. The Hidden Life grace allows God’s love to be in the insignificant of our lives. Christ’s death on the cross allows our suffering to take on the meaning of Christ’s suffering when we join our suffering to the suffering of Christ. In our Baptism we are born again into God’s love. Christ gives us all of himself. We have the freedom to accept as much of God’s love in Christ as we are willing to accept. Baptism gives us God’s love in Christ. Christ becomes the deepest meaning of our lives. When we are willing to live fully in Christ we have discovered the fullness of who we are meant to be.
We study how to join our lives to Christ. Spirituality is putting on the mind and the heart of Christ. We do not have to strain our minds to do that. Love is what Christ is all about in our lives. The image that expresses his love for me is Christ is a prisoner of my hearts. We are not only called to love one another as Christ has loved us. We are called to work at the scriptures and to pay attention to our heart’s coming alive to what we are reading and praying. Love of the least ones who come into our lives Christ takes as love for him. If I want to know how much I love Christ in my brother or sister, I need to see what I do for the least ones in my life. I deliberately try to love the least ones with all the love I have for the ones I most love in my life. If I could love with such a love, no one would know who it was that I most love. Our Gospel of the woman who washes the feet of Christ with her tears and dries them with her hair speaks a wonderful image to me and gives the challenge. My sinfulness does not have to keep me away from Christ. Rather my sinfulness should draw me even more closely to Christ. His love covers a multitude of sins if we would let it.
The best actions will always be the ones that flow out of our hearts because we care for one another. The best resolution is to try to do something beautiful for each person that crosses our path. We need to do that with the love that comes from Christ’s cross. He can live on in us as we fill up what is wanting to the suffering of Christ’s body, his Church. The only way I can hold unto Christ’s love is to give it away. The only way I can save my life is to lose it for Christ. When I can say I no longer live, it is Christ who lives in me, I will have arrived at the summit of love. The paradox of love is the truth that I can only keep Christ in my heart by giving him away to every person who comes my way.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary
And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. Luke 2:49-51
My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden,
For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm:
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree.
He has filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich He has sent empty away.
He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy;
As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to His posterity forever. (Luke 1:46-55)
Why were you looking for me?
Jesus is always trying to pry open the hearts and minds of those around him. His human parents were no exception.
We learn in the notes to this passage in the New American Bible that this story’s concern with an incident from Jesus’ youth is unique in the canonical gospel tradition. It presents Jesus in the role of the faithful Jewish boy, raised in the traditions of Israel, and fulfilling all that the law requires. With this episode, the infancy narrative ends just as it began, in the setting of the Jerusalem temple.
Mary and Joseph are just beginning to learn about the primacy of the mission set forth from God. However, they were the first responders. Had they not already accepted their missions according to the Father’s wishes, then Jesus might not even be here to preach in the temple.
This questioning, peripatetic, Socratic method is a common means Jesus employed when he was making a point. Just consider some of the key questions Jesus poses in Luke’s Gospel.
• Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?
• What are you thinking in your hearts?
• Can you make the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?
• Have you not read what David did when he and those (who were) with him were hungry?
• For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?
• And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?
• If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit (is) that to you?
• Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?
• Where is your faith?
• Who touched me?
• Who do the crowds say that I am?
• But who do you say that I am?
• What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?
• What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?
• 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?
• Salt is good, but if salt itself loses its taste, with what can its flavor be restored?
• What woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it?
• When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?
• Why do you call me good?
• Who can be saved?
• Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?
How can Jesus use these questions to make a point in your life?
From the very first question posed to Jesus and Mary right on through the last one posed after the Resurrection to us, Jesus often sets up his major points by asking an opening rhetorical question. He uses these inquiries as a way to break open our hearts so He has a way inside.
Meditate on one or more of the Jesus Questions posed in the Gospel of St. Luke. What is your answer? Are you willing to share that answer with others?
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Solemnity of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
By Melanie Rigney
I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest, says the Lord GOD. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy, shepherding them rightly. (Ezekiel 34:15-16)
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose; beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul. (Psalms 23:1-3)
The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For Christ, while we were still helpless, died at the appointed time for the ungodly. (Romans 5:5-6)
“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4)
Jesus, Son of God and our Saviour, have mercy on all who wound your Sacred Heart by sin, unfaithfulness and neglect. O loving Heart of Jesus, broken by our ingratitude, pierced by our sins, yet loving us still, accept in reparation the suffering I now make to you of all that I am and all that I have. Draw me ever nearer to your Sacred Heart: there where I can learn best, teach me, Jesus, your blessed way to eternal life. (Found at www.Catholic.org)
When you think about the shepherds in your life, who comes to mind? I’ll bet many of them are not people who quoted Scripture at you or lectured you about skipping Mass or not going to Reconciliation. In fact, maybe you have a few folks like my uncle John.
I do not remember ever having had a discussion about God or Catholicism with John in fifty-odd years. I’d be hard-pressed to say for certain that we’ve ever gone to Mass together, other than that I’m pretty sure he and his wonderful wife, Kathy, were at my Confirmation.
John and I usually talk about politics, sports, what’s up with other parts of our large extended family, and the good old days. Like the time when I was eight or so and he was thirty-ish, and he tricked me into staying silent for a whole day by saying it was a game called Possum. Like the time he called in sick from his high school coaching job to interview for a college gig, and later, when the college officials found out he’d lied to get the time off, they changed their minds about him. Like the time he loaded up a bunch of us kids to watch “Bonanza” on color TV (you have no idea what a big deal that was!) and convinced my cousin Clay that Clay’s seatbelt was stuck and Clay would have to watch TV from the car through the very large picture window into John’s house.
John may not talk a lot about his faith, but it’s there in the way he lives his life. He’s upbeat and optimistic despite a recent string of health challenges. He and Kathy have been married for forty years. Faith has sustained them through losses and relocations. They both are always active in their parishes (and are Cursillistas) and volunteer their time to social justice and other ministries.
Some shepherds have proclaimed the Good News and witnessed to me, providing blessings and gifts and support that I can never repay. But I’m just as grateful for the ones like John, who never pushed or prodded, but brought rest to my life during some very turbulent times. From John and others, I’ve learned that there’s no one right way to shepherd, anymore than there’s one right way to love.
Write a note of personal thanks to someone who came after you when you were lost.
June 10, 2010
Thursday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Therefore, if 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
Jesus, help us to rise above our petty disputes and rivalries so that we can focus our relationships on love, not on power.
Who is right?
Whenever a dispute comes up, we try to determine who is right so that the person with the best case prevails. This legalistic attitude pervades almost everything we do. If the laws are not trying to sort out the winner, then the other predominant way that people try to determine this is through strength – “might makes right” or “survival of the fittest.” If lawyers and arms can not determine a winner, we put things up for a popular vote and the majority wins (right or not). One final way society sorts our winners and losers is by who has the most (money, toys, cars, houses, etc.).
Parents and teachers try to settle arguments between children and students on a playground. Debate teams put for rhetorical arguments for one position or another. Teams fight on the field for the right to say they are the best. Whichever team comes out ahead in the score at the end of the game is declared the winner. Judges try to sort out criminal and civil disputes. Voters try to decide which candidate is best for the future of their town, state or country. Majority wins.
Over the last few weeks, we have read and heard about disputes between Jesus and the church leaders. The leaders have repeatedly tried to trap Jesus with their complex questions about Mosaic law in this world and the next. Rather than match wits with them on a finite interpretation of such laws, Jesus rises above the petty arguments to prevail.
Today, Jesus writes another new chapter in conflict resolution. Never once does Jesus tell his audience to consider who is right in the despite between brothers or between opponents before a judge. Instead, Jesus tells us not to turn to God until we return to our neighbor and make things right by repairing our relationships. What is important is dealing with those around us in a spirit of love and mercy, not in a spirit of right or might.
Assess the relationships in your life. Which ones are solid? Which ones are shaky? Which ones do you need to apply the principal from today’s Good News? Once you know, apply the words of Jesus to right your relationships. “Go first and be reconciled.”