Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sharing God’s Abundant Gifts

Wednesday of the First Week of Advent
December 1, 2010

By Colleen O’Sullivan

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines. On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations; he will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces; the reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth; for the Lord has spoken. On that day it will be said: “Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the Lord for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!” For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain. (Isaiah 25:6-10a)

Jesus summoned his disciples and said, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way.” The disciples said to him, “Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place to satisfy such a crowd?” Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” “Seven,” they replied, “and a few fish.” He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over – seven baskets full. (Matthew 15:32-37)

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. He guides me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage. You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come. (Psalm 23)

Advent is a time of waiting, a season of joyful expectation and longing. Once again we ponder the mystery of the all-powerful God coming into our world as a helpless infant in a rude stable in Bethlehem. We prepare our hearts to welcome Christ anew each day. We look with hope to that day when Christ will return as King in glory to redeem all his creation.

In the first reading, from the book of the prophet Isaiah, we look ahead to the great banquet that God promises on the Day of the Lord. He says he will set before us the most sumptuous feast imaginable. That promise may have had a much bigger impact on someone in Isaiah’s day than it does on you and me. We just go to the grocery store when we need more food, but as most people in Isaiah’s time were likely just one poor or failed harvest away from starvation, the promise of rich food and choice wines might really have sounded like heaven to them! It probably sounds equally good to the jobless, the homeless and the marginalized among us today as well.

God also promises that he will destroy the power of death over us and will wipe away all our tears. What a picture of salvation Isaiah paints! All our needs – physical, spiritual, emotional – will be met. We will be free to exclaim: “Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the Lord for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”

In the Gospel reading, we see once again Jesus’ great compassion for all people. He has just finished healing the mute, the deformed, the lame and the blind who have been brought to him. Now he goes up the mountain and the crowds follow him. He realizes that they must be very hungry, because they have been there for three days. So he turns to the disciples to feed them. There are no Giants, Safeways, Trader Joe’s or Shoppers to run to. So, the disciples aren’t sure what they can do. This mountain is a pretty deserted place. But Jesus takes the little food they have – seven loaves of bread and a few fish – and giving thanks to the Father, breaks the bread and gives it to the disciples to give to the crowd. To the disciples’ surprise, it turns out to be more than enough. They even have leftovers!

This is a story with more than one level of meaning. We feel the great compassion and mercy of Jesus for all people. We are reminded of the great messianic banquet awaiting us that Isaiah talks about. We are inevitably led to reflect on the meaning of the Eucharist in our lives as well.

What most catches my attention in this account of the feeding of the crowd is the way in which Jesus gives the disciples what they need to minister to others. Jesus doesn’t do it all himself; he depends on his disciples to help. He asks them to distribute and share what he has abundantly provided them. We are Jesus’ disciples today and he is depending on us to help him minister to the needs of those around us. Jesus gives himself to us every time we receive him in the Eucharist. He is the most abundant gift we can receive, but he doesn’t give himself as a gift to be hoarded. Jesus gives himself to us as the food that nourishes us and enables us to go out into the world to minister to those in need as did his first group of followers.

There are many ways to share Jesus Christ with our brothers and sisters this Advent season, but since today’s readings have food and feasts as a common theme, here are a couple of suggestions for ways in which you can help feed the hungry:

Almost every parish has a food pantry. You can help keep yours stocked with non-perishable items or give a check to your parish for that purpose.

In Alexandria, Christ House, a homeless shelter/food pantry run by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, is in need of food. To find out how to donate and what specific items are needed, go to www.ccda.net/programs_christhouse.php.

If you want to go further afield, Food for the Poor, Inc. feeds countless hungry families throughout the Caribbean and Latin America each day. For further information or to make an online contribution, go to www.foodforthepoor.org/.

Come After Me

November 30, 2010
Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle

By Beth DeCristofaro

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!” (Luke 10:13-15)

He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:19-20)

O Glorious St. Andrew, you were the first to recognize and follow the Lamb of God. With your friend St. John you remained with Jesus for that first day, for your entire life, and now throughout eternity. As you led your brother St. Peter to Christ and many others after him, draw us also to him. Teach us to lead others to Christ solely out of love for him and dedication in his service. Help us to learn the lesson of the Cross and to carry our daily crosses without complaint so that they may carry us to Jesus.

Last week we read of Jesus’ journey to the cross. This week we read of the beginning of his public ministry, teaching and healing. Of course, this beginning is also the road to the cross. But these readings have such hope, such joy, such promise in them that we are inspired to turn and look down – hopefully join in the walk – which he takes. How can we not be joyful? Paul says (quoting Isaiah) How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news! Never having seen the movie I can’t help thinking of animated penguins’ “happy feet!” dancing with the joy of life in Christ.

However, Matthew’s gospel brings me up short. At once they left their nets and followed him. Not so sure about that. Can I dance with my happy feet but…

My vocation is in health care. I can’t help feeling that if Jesus were to walk down the hall, past my cubicle tomorrow morning and asked me: Come after me… I would say, “Sure, Lord, but just a moment. Let me let the secretary know that I’m leaving…And I need to let the boss know that I’ll miss the meeting this afternoon…Oh, let me just check to see if all of the files are up to date on Ms. Smith before I go.” Or “I have to let my husband know I’ll be late”. Truth be told, I can almost hear myself saying: “You go on ahead, Jesus, I’ll catch up with you.”

This is one big commitment. My job is important and it is essential that everyone be taken care of. But why a job when the creator of the universe created me to love and follow Him? Can’t he take care of Ms. Smith even better than I can? She will be in His care if I truly follow Him first as He graces me to care for her.

Thanks to the church for giving me these four weeks of Advent to prepare the way of the Lord – again – in my heart which is willing but oh so humanly weak. Perhaps St. Andrew can help me leave my nets, meetings and calendars behind to follow Jesus at once.

In what ways do you delay following Jesus? Call on St. Andrew for the fortitude and wisdom to answer the call. Each day of Advent take an unexpected step – perhaps enlarging your charity; swallowing a righteous retort; listening to someone else’s opinion or story; stopping a hurtful e-mail; preaching the Word (whether with or without words); saying an extra prayer; telling someone “thank you” or how much they have meant to you; standing up for another. Leave your net and go after Him.

Monday, November 29, 2010

His Glory Will Be Shelter

November 29, 2010
Monday of the First Week of Advent

Then will the LORD create, over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her place of assembly, A smoking cloud by day and a light of flaming fire by night. For over all, his glory will be shelter and protection: shade from the parching heat of day, refuge and cover from storm and rain. Isaiah 4:5-6

When he entered Capernaum, a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying, "Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully." He said to him, "I will come and cure him." Matthew 8:5-7

“Let the Word, I pray, be to me, not as a word spoken only to pass away, but conceived and clothed in flesh, not in air, that he may remain with us. Let him be, not only to be heard with the ears, but to be seen with the eyes, touched with the hands and borne on the shoulders. Let the Word be to me, not as a word written and silent, but incarnate and living. That is, not traced with dead signs upon dead parchments but livingly impressed in human form upon my chaste womb; not by the tracing of a pen of lifeless reed but by the operation of the Holy Spirit. Let it thus be to me, as was never done to anyone before me, nor after me shall be done.

“I desire that he may be formed, not as the word in preaching, not as a sign in figures, or as a vision in dreams, but silently inspired, personally incarnated, found in the body, in my body. Let the Word therefore deign to do in me and for me what he needed not to do, and could not do, for himself, according to your word. Yes, let it be done for the sake of the whole world, but specially let it be done unto me, according to your word."

(“In Defense of Humility,” Bernard of Clairvaux in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2008, p. 43)

When the centurion approached Jesus and asked for help on behalf of the paralyzed servant, Jesus did not hesitate. Jesus did not have to consult his schedule on Outlook. He did not have to reach in his pocket for his Blackberry or iPhone. He did not have to rearrange his schedule. There was no negotiating for an appointment. No comments that I have to meet with the lepers on Tuesday, the prostitutes on Wednesday and the tax collectors on Thursday. No ESPN special about where Jesus decided to take his ministry next. “How about a week from Friday at 1:30 p.m.?”

Jesus said simply, “I will come and cure him.” Maybe Nike took a page out of Jesus’ playbook when they came up with the slogan, “Just do it.”

Imagine the similar scene in Heaven when God decided to send Jesus to earth to become man.

God: “Jesus, I need you to go down to earth and clean up the mess that man is making of his own life and all of our creation.”

Jesus: “I will go and save them.”

Jesus knew exactly what he was getting into from the beginning of time. Still, he never hesitates to be the wing under which we seek shelter and protection. As Isaiah reminds us, “For over all, his glory will be shelter and protection: shade from the parching heat of day, refuge and cover from storm and rain.”

In addition to the lesson of decisiveness and willingness on the part of Jesus, today we also meditate on the lesson of the humility of the centurion. He, by his own admission, is a man of power who tells people what to do, where to go and when to go there. Yet he sets aside his position power and humbles himself before the Lord. This foreshadows the humility of the Annunciation. This foreshadows the humility of the Visitation and Magnificat. This foreshadows the manger-humility of the Nativity. And, dare we say so now, the humility of the cross of crucifixion, death and resurrection.

This humility and faith is what Jesus seeks in all whom he encounters yesterday, today and tomorrow as we prepare for his arrival again. "Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith." (Matthew 8:10b)

Do you hesitate to ask God for help? God never hesitates to respond. “Just do it.” Just ask and you will receive.

Who is asking for your help? What is stopping you? The monthly budget? The holiday schedule? Are you hoping to look up that charity on www.Guidestar.org? Just do it. Just help.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Put on the Lord

November 28, 2010
First Sunday of Advent

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

“Come, let us climb the LORD'S mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, That he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. Isaiah 2:3-4

“May those who love you prosper! May peace be within your ramparts, prosperity within your towers.” For family and friends I say, “May peace be yours.” Psalm 122:7-8

Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come. Matthew 24:42-44

Piety is my readiness for the coming of the Lord. I can never be too ready. How we get ready is what the Consciousness Examen of St. Ignatius is all about. I fixate on where I see the Lord in my life. Those moments are always a wonderful surprise. The Lord comes when we least expect him. In truth, the Lord is always there. It is all too true that we do not usually realize we are surrounded by a thousand examples of the Lord’s love. Life itself is the creating hand of the Lord at work. A meditation or two on creation opens us up to what the Lord is about. When we hear the lord in our lives we will beat our swords into plowshares. We shall change our spears into pruning hooks. A nation shall not train for war again. The Examen of what we are doing with our lives allows us to walk in the light of the Lord. Individual moments of our awareness of the presence with the Lord of our lives allows us to stay in his presence more and more as each profound awareness of the coming of the Lord gives way to an ongoing perseverance in his presence in all of life around us and in us.

We learn day by day how to go rejoicing to the house of the Lord. We learn the roads that allow us to set foot within the gates of Jerusalem. It is the Lord’s city that we are looking for. Those who love the Lord prosper within the walls of the Lord’s protection. Today is the hour for us to awake from sleep. Our salvation is nearer to us each day of our life. We study the way of the Lord so that we can throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. We drink in the presences of Christ in our lives and apply what we learn about Christ to our own lives. We put on the Lord Jesus. We cut out of our lives the desires of the flesh.

The prayer of Consideration applies what we see to be true about Christ in his life to our own lives. We are waiting once again for the coming of Christ. Advent is a special time. When I knew I was going to have supper with the President of the United States, my brother took me out to buy a new suit so that I would be dressed accordingly for an important moment. I was frozen in inactivity because all the thoughts of my mind were on what was coming. I wanted to be ready. I needed the help of my brother to meet the president in a fitting way. As a priest, I find myself doing the same thing for all my people of God. I help them to get ready for Christ. All the preparations for readiness open the heart to a greater welcome of the one who is coming. Christ deserves the greatest welcome possible. Each year, I seem to do a little bit more to be ready. What gifts we give on a birthday celebration are faint adumbrations of the gifts we should be preparing to offer at the coming of the Word of God made flesh. Christ comes in all those we love. We try to share our lives with Christ. What gifts I will offer this Christmas are the preparation of Advent that the celebration of The Word Made Flesh will be better than ever.

Behold, I Am Coming Soon

November 27, 2010
Saturday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of its street. On either side of the river grew the tree of life that produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month; the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there anymore. Revelation 22:1-3a

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

May the sun bring you new energy by day,
May the moon softly restore you by night,
May the rain wash away your worries,
May the breeze blow new strength into your being.
May you walk through the world and know its beauty all the days of your life.
(Apache Blessing)

Are you ready for some Advent? Today’s readings close out the liturgical year with important messages about yesterday, today and tomorrow.

These readings recall the beginning of time when the Lord placed the tree of life in the center of the Garden (Genesis 2:9). However, now there is no warning to avoid this tree and the fruit it bears. Now, the tree will become the center of life. The tree of life is not something that tempts us with evil but that beckons us with goodness for our physical and spiritual health.

We welcome the Lord with our prayer-invitation for Him to come into our life today and always. Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus. We ask him to come into our life and we recognize that he is ever-present in our life.

The invitation foreshadows our season of preparation that begins again when the Son rises with us today, tomorrow and always. Always, John Mcquiston reminds us, we begin again.

While we know this presence through our faith and experience, we do not always act according to this knowledge. Maybe that is why Luke shares with us a warning – a warning suitable for every day but especially for the revelry associated with our holiday parties, shopping obsession and New Year’s Eve celebrations. Do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness. Do not let the anxieties of daily life overcome your sense of the mystical presence of the Lord in your life. Harden not your hearts.

What has your Black Friday Weekend become? Has it become an amalgamation of shopping, eating and football? Use this as a time of resolution, just like you might on our traditional calendar for New Year’s Day. Do something for yourself to renew your spiritual commitments as we head into Advent. Use today to choose a book to study between now and Christmas. Commit to some volunteer effort for your action. Choose a new spiritual tool to help strengthen your piety and practices.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

My Words Will Not Pass Away

November 26, 2010
Friday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Revelations 21:1-2)

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest in which she puts her young—Your altars, LORD of hosts, my king and my God! (Psalms 84:4)

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Luke 21:33)

Stay with me always, Jesus, wherever I may roam.

It’s said that about 40 million Americans move annually, and that nearly 75 percent of us move an average of once every five years. The reasons are myriad: the economy, marriage, divorce, college, work, retirement. It’s estimated that we’ll each move sixteen times in our lives.

And then there are the moves we make in our hearts and souls, even if we don’t relocate physically—away from or toward abusive behavior, away from or toward loved ones, away from or toward meaningful service.

Moves give us a chance to start over, a chance to reinvent ourselves. The new people don’t know about our past bad behavior. They don’t know about our propensity to gossip, to talk rather than listen, to overreact to imagined slights. But they’ll learn about all those things, unless we make changes.

Whether we change or not, and no matter where we relocate physically or metaphorically, we have but one home—with the Lord. Fortunately for us, He never evicts us. His welcome mat is always out.

Advent begins on Sunday. Contemplate what you can do in the next four weeks to show your appreciation to our Landlord.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Called to Fellowship

November 25, 2010
Thanksgiving Day

And now, bless the God of all, who has done wondrous things on earth; Who fosters men's growth from their mother's womb, and fashions them according to his will! May he grant you joy of heart and may peace abide among you. Sirach 50:22-23

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

And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” Luke 17:15-19

By the President of the United States of America.
A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

Today’s Gospel always has special significance for me because it was the reading at the closing Mass on my Cursillo Weekend. In fact, we even had ten candidates to go along with the reading. How cleverly planned Holy Spirit!

“Your faith has saved you.” This is a phrase we hear uttered by Jesus regularly in the Good News in addition to his comments about the lack of faith among the people in Israel. He also said this to the woman who bathed his feet in perfume. Yet the people he encounters when making comments about faith are not people who he meets in the temple. They are people who are doing something. The leper returns to Jesus to give thanks. The woman bathes his feet in perfume.

Faith compels them to action. Their encounter with Jesus changed them and they acted differently than they had before Jesus was a part of their life. Maybe they are the first Cursillistas.

Action does not always mean we have to engage in some kind of social work for the betterment of society. Action includes the simple deed of freely giving thanks. We all like to be recognized for what we do.

Saying “thank you” can seem like simple words. Yet think of the implications when we do not say give thanks. Imagine how the worker feels who puts in extra time on a project and the boss takes all the credit. Think of a time when your contributions were overlooked.

Jesus did not heal and bless people so that they would come back to him with thanks. The Lord was not into a “quid pro quo” relationship. He gave freely and expects us to do the same. Our faith is not strengthened because we have been blessed. Many will freely give thanks today and always who have been blessed with a lot less than we have received in life.

Through Him, we are called to fellowship with the Lord who gave freely. We are also called to fellowship with our sisters and brothers and must pass on that spirit of giving thanks freely so that they may do likewise.

Let us remember to give thanks today and every day to the God from whom all blessing flow. Let us not need a presidential proclamation or national holiday to do so. Although it is nice to know that since President Lincoln did it first in 1863, we have been doing so. Hopefully, we will continue for at least another 147 years.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Be Not Afraid

November 24, 2010
Memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac, priest and martyr, and his companions, martyrs

By Colleen O’Sullivan

Then I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire. On the sea of glass were standing those who had won the victory over the beast and its image and the number that signified its name. They were holding God’s harps, and they sang the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb: “Great and wonderful are your works, Lord God almighty. Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, or glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All the nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Revelation 15:2-4)

Jesus said to the crowd: “They will seize you and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” (Luke 21:12-19)

Be Not Afraid (Bob Dufford, S.J.)
(Click on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hup6wQ17XRI to see sung version with illustrations)

You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst.
You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way.
You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand.
You shall see the face of God and live.

Be not afraid,
I go before you always.
Come follow me, and
I will give you rest.

If you pass through raging waters in the sea, you shall not drown.
If you walk amid the burning flames, you shall not be harmed.
If you stand before the pow’r of hell and death is at your side, know that
I am with you through it all.

Blessed are your poor, for the kingdom shall be theirs.
Blest are you that weep and mourn, for one day you shall laugh.
And if wicked men insult and hate you all because of me, blessed, blessed are you!

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is in Jerusalem. He knows his time on earth with his beloved disciples is quickly coming to a close. Because he loves them so much, he doesn’t want to leave them unprepared for what is coming, so he tells them that for their faith in him, they may well be persecuted and taken prisoner. They may be sent to prison or handed over to one of the synagogues, which served as “holding cells” for those awaiting trial as well as places of study and worship. It may be Roman authorities who seize them or it could even be family or friends who betray them and hand them over to the authorities. They may be put to death for their beliefs.

I can only imagine the fear and dread Jesus’ words must have evoked in his friends’ hearts. This is so not what they were expecting. They were hoping for great things to happen in Jerusalem, for the immediate, full realization of the Kingdom of God with a lot of earthly fanfare and kingly splendor. Yet here’s their leader, Jesus, talking about persecution and martyrdom. This would be a very depressing Scripture passage if it weren’t for Jesus’ promise to his first disciples and to us as well. We don’t have to think up any defense when we’re questioned because of our beliefs; Jesus will give us the words to say. “You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” In other words, lose your life for Christ and you will gain eternal life.

We see that in the reading from the Book of Revelation. Those who have died as martyrs rather than worship the image of the Roman emperor as some kind of god are shown in heaven playing harps and singing, first the song of Moses (Exodus 15) about the triumph of the Israelites over Pharaoh and then the song of the Lamb about God’s great and wondrous works.

Throughout the centuries, many faithful men and women have been martyred for their faith in Christ. Today we remember St. Andrew Dung-Lac. Born in 1795 in northern Vietnam, he was ordained a priest in 1823. His preaching skills, his simple lifestyle, and his good example drew many in Vietnam to Christ. The emperor, Minh-Mang, however, hated Christians and persecuted them with great zeal. St. Andrew was arrested several times and was tortured and beheaded in 1839. He was one of 117 Christians martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Many more may have lost their lives, but we know the names of these 117, all of whom have since been canonized. (For more information about St. Andrew Dung-Lac and the 117 Vietnamese martyrs, see http://sacredspace.ie/livingspace/F1124S/ or www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1209.)

We are fortunate to live in the United States, where we are free to believe and worship as we please. In the bulletin for this past Sunday from Nativity Parish in Burke, I read that there are 3 billion people around the world who do not know that sort of freedom.

Take some time to reflect on Jesus’ love for you, his willingness to give his life for you on the Cross. What are you willing to give in return? A little bit or everything?

Lord, let me so live in you and love you that, put to the test, I would not abandon you or betray my faith in your love for me and all your creation. When others seek to chip away at or even destroy my beliefs, open my ears to hear those whispered words of love and wisdom you promised your disciples. Thank you, Lord, for the lives of my martyred brothers and sisters in Christ. May their examples strengthen me in my own faith journey and bring me closer to you.

God Rules with Justice and Faithfulness

November 23, 2010
Tuesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth DeCristofaro

(Jesus) answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.” (Luke 25:8-10)

For great is the LORD and highly to be praised, to be feared above all gods.
For the gods of the nations all do nothing, but the LORD made the heavens. …
God rules the peoples with fairness.
Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them. Then let all the trees of the forest rejoice
before the LORD who comes, who comes to govern the earth, To govern the world with justice and the peoples with faithfulness.
(Psalm 96:4-5, 10-13)

These were uncomfortable times in the age of David as Jesus walked the dusty and poor roads of Palestine. Today is not any different. Pick up any paper for the bad news of today.

David’s words are very current: For the gods of the nations all do nothing. And Jesus’ warning to his friends seems ominous. It is all too easy to be lost in dreadful, frightening news. In an interview recently on American Public Media’s “Being,” Thupten Jinpa, a Buddhist scholar and former monk remarked that shocking stories make the news because, at heart, people do not expect such behavior and are appalled. His take on the media is that stories about kindness and goodness are foundational, probable and are, therefore, taken for granted. He believes that humanity still expects other humans to be good.

Jesus certainly expected it from those who chose to follow him and he knew just how difficult it would be for them. He knew of the dangers and wickedness of those who choose not to put God in their lives but, instead, choose gods of their own devising. But God has had another plan for creation, and for us, from the moment the LORD made the heavens. … God rules the peoples with fairness. (Psalm 96). And even in these uncertain times, the hope of the coming of the baby King is just around the corner. If the end times are not imminent, God’s love always is.

Do we expect good from each other? Jesus offered the choice to everyone who he encountered. Can we offer the choice, by expecting the best, from those we encounter? Can we look with eyes of love rather than suspicion?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A New Hymn Before the Throne

November 22, 2010
Memorial of Saint Cecilia, virgin and martyr

I heard a sound from heaven like the sound of rushing water or a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. They were singing (what seemed to be) a new hymn before the throne, before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn this hymn except the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been ransomed from the earth. Revelation 14:2-3

When he looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins. He said, "I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood." Luke 21:1-4

Father, help us to learn the lessons of the poor widows we have encountered in Luke gospel. The first looked high and low until she found her lost coins. Let us treasure the people around us so they may never be lost. The second persisted in her requests from the local judge. May we prayer with her persistence. The third gave all she had. May we be inspired by her spirit of altruism as we hear from charities that are helping people who really need help throughout this Holy season and next year. Bless us in these pursuits so that we may approach the throne of Christ the King. Amen.

There is something different about the people described in the readings. Something sets them apart from everyone else. Who can ascend the mountain of the Christ the King?

First, we must sing a different tune. It was the American writer Henry David Thoreau who wrote the line, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

The people described in the vision of Revelation are out of step with the rest of culture. They are singing a new hymn before the throne. They are not defiled. They are not following false gods of money and material possessions. Their purity is because they have rejected the sexuality (adultery and fornication) of society. Only these people of purity can approach the throne of Christ the King.

Second, we must free ourselves from the pursuit of money and worldly possessions. In the Good News, Jesus is singling out the poor widow and her two small coins. This widow – who might be the same widow who searched high and low when a coin was lost, is now ready to part with two of those coins and clink, clink, they fall into the temple treasury. This widow does not let her pursuit of a secure retirement, a better car, a bigger house, an Division I college education, or the gift registry at Williams Sonoma get in the way of her relationship with Christ the King.

The answer is right there in the song the psalmist sings. The clean of hand and pure of heart, who are not devoted to idols, who have not sworn falsely. They will receive blessings from the LORD, and justice from their saving God. (Psalm 24: 4-5). They can ascend the mountain of the Lord.

How can we cultivate the disposition that will allow us to approach the throne of Christ the King? Our King started the liturgical year as a poor, cold, naked baby in a barn with hardly the surroundings of a prince. Our King ended the liturgical year hanging on the cross, refusing to save Himself but freely offering paradise to the thief on his side.

We must resist the prevailing popular moves in our culture just like the people in Revelation resisted the temptations in their world and like the poor widow resisted getting too attached to her two coins.

The ads packing today’s newspaper and filling the airwaves of television and radio scream out for us to get a jump start on the holiday shopping season. Total Beverage. The World Market. Penn Camera. They have all made us the “target” of their “best buys.” The challenge of the season which begins in six days is to resist the marketing of the money-takers and plan for a season that will bring us closer to Christ the King.

Plan to make your season a stretch of holy days that will extend from Advent to Epiphany. What will you do? Consider these three steps.

1) Enhance your prayer life. Do something special throughout Advent to keep the meaning of the season present in your life. Get out some fresh candles for your Advent wreath and keep it shining.

2) Focus your study. Put down the “plastic pack” from your newspaper and pick up a book to help you through this season. Two to consider are “Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas” and “Oh Come Emmanuel: A Musical Tour of Daily Readings for Advent and Christmas.”

3) Shop for your favorite cause: Plan to make charitable gifts long before you are faced with the year-end tax deadline. Give from your heart not because it makes your tax return look better. All charity is local whether you are making your gift to the Campaign for Human Development Catholic Charities in your hometown, or your favorite cause.

Remember Me When You Come into Your Kingdom

November 21, 2010
The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King – 2010

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

All the tribes of Israel came to David in Hebron and said: "Here we are, your bone and your flesh. In days past, when Saul was our king, it was you who led the Israelites out and brought them back. And the LORD said to you, 'You shall shepherd my people Israel and shall be commander of Israel.'" 2 Samuel 5:1-2

He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins…For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross (through him), whether those on earth or those in heaven. Colossians 1:13-14, 191-20
Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us." The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, "Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." He replied to him, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Luke 23:39-43

By our piety, we make Christ the King of our lives. We give ourselves over to him. He becomes the be-all and the end-all of our existence. All that we do comes from his inspirations and becomes the very purpose of our lives. We live our lives for his sake. We join ourselves to his way of looking at life. The Commandments become second nature to us because we love Christ with all our heart, mind and soul. We become, by our piety, his presence in our world. The Mystical Body of Christ for any one of us is the sum of all our relationships to Christ. We rejoice that we are found worthy to suffer for his name because of the closeness of our oneness with him. Our sufferings fill up what is wanting to the suffering of Christ today. Because Christ is our King, we are his representatives to the entire world by the Christness of our lives. Christian means another Christ and when we are true to ourselves we are true to Christ in what we say, think and do.

The Examen of the Consciousness of Christ in our lives is the study of how Christ rules our lives. By our Baptisms, we have been called to make our hearts his dwelling place. Christ is our King when he is the love of our lives. All the ways we reach out to the last, the lowest and least persons of our lives is the proof that Christ is the King of our hearts. Christ identifies with the needy. He is the king of our hearts when we reach out to their needs. The hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the naked and the prisoners are where Christ is most easily seen by us. What we do for the last, the lowest and the least person is how we treat Christ. The most loved of our lives are the models of what we should offer to the nobodies of our lives. When we would give to the least fortunate what we would give to the most loved people of our lives, we live with Christ as the meaning of our lives. We truly live with Christ when we live with the poor of our lives.

Christ’s kingship is seen in our actions. Each day it is worth our while to look beyond those who approach us to help at least one person. It is best to help the stranger we will not see again because then we know we are doing it for Christ since we will not get anything out of what we give. If we can give without counting the cost, we know our own relationship to Christ, our king. God transfers us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Then we say with our lives that all was created through him and for him. Thus, we come to the reconciliation of all things because peace is brought into our lives by the blood of his cross, now ours, in how generously we share with the one who needs us. Then, Christ is truly the king of our lives.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

No Longer Dared

November 20, 2010
Saturday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

“That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called 'Lord' the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive." Some of the scribes said in reply, "Teacher, you have answered well." And they no longer dared to ask him anything. Luke 20:37-40

Cursillo Leaders Prayer
Lord, grant that we may understand the necessity for depth in our movement, rather than surface glory. Convince us of the truth that colorful programs do not constitute success.

My God, give us a spirit of self sacrifice so that we may offer everything for your cause: our time, our abilities, our health and even our lives if necessary.

Instill in us courage in our initiatives, good judgment in our choice of the right means, and that determination which in spite of failures assures victory.

Move away from us the tiny rivalries, sensitivities, discourtesies, pride, everything which distracts from You, everything which divides or discourages.

Help us to maintain at a high level a meaningful supernatural and mutual charity among ourselves, so that each one will seek by preference the most humble tasks and will rejoice at the good performed by others so that all our spirits united in a common purpose will have one single sprit, Yours Jesus, and that this spirit may let us see Your attractive goodness marked in all our faces, Your warm accents in all our words, and in our lives something superior to the world, something that proclaims Your Living Presence among us. Amen.

St. Paul, Patron of Cursillo - Pray for us.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patron of the Americas - Pray for us.

The temple conflicts between Jesus and the Pharisees pretty much come to a close with this encounter. After repeated attempts to catch Jesus preaching content at odds with Mosaic Law, the Pharisees are unable to construct a question difficult enough to trap Jesus. After Jesus successfully responds to this mindtrap, the Pharisees back off and no longer dared to ask him anything.

Literally, today’s Gospel challenge is a question about the resurrection. It is meaningful because the answer gives one final point of emphasis to the authority and knowledge that Jesus has --- authority which allows him to rise above having any petty conflicts with the temple elders over who was in charge.

With this “epiphany,” some of the temple leaders realize that the knowledge Jesus possesses goes well beyond their bookish knowledge. We know that Jesus has knowledge that goes beyond studying the scrolls in religious education. His study springs forth from his spirituality. His spirituality compels him to action.

This reading nearly closes out the 2010 liturgical year. Only one week remains. In the encounter, we can recall all the conflicts that have come before and the ultimate encounter with authorities which lies ahead as triumph turns to tragedy. Tragedy turns to arrest. Arrest turns to torture and execution. Execution leads to death by hanging on the cross.

But, ah, through Jesus, we also know that death turns to life. His reach so exceeds anything we or the Pharisees can ever grasp.

Jesus – in his life of piety, study and action – carries out that mission in the real world. That world is the skeptical world also populated by the Jews, attending the temple ruled by the the Pharisees, in a land occupied by the Romans.

The same is true for us. Our church of today must exist in the modern world just like the ancient church had to exist in the ancient world. Our piety, study and action is likely to meet the some of the same kind of conflict and resistance that Jesus met – personally, spiritually and politically. His challenge came from within his own community and within his own church. We might find the same thing. It might be easier to witness the Gospel to strangers on a hillside or on the shores of the lake than it is among our own family and friends.

Where is the conflict in your life that has to be resolved? How can you answer the conflict?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hanging on His Words

November 19, 2010
Friday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

I went up to the angel and told him to give me the small scroll. He said to me, “Take and swallow it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will taste as sweet as honey.” I took the small scroll from the angel’s hand and swallowed it. In my mouth it was like sweet honey, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour.
(Revelations 10:9-10)

How sweet to my taste is your promise! (Psalms 119:103)

Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, “It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.”And every day he was teaching in the temple area. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile, were seeking to put him to death, but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose because all the people were hanging on his words. (Luke 19:45-48)

Jesus, I am ashamed how often this house You have given me becomes a den of thieves—thieves seeking to deprive others of their dignity and self-respect and privacy. Forgive me. Help me to build a house of prayer to You.

The angel’s scroll was sweet, for it foretold of God’s people’s victory. It was sour, for it also revealed their suffering. The taste of our faith lives today often is complex as well. The sweet can seem pretty abstract and distant at times. We get lonely. We don’t understand why we or those we love have to suffer physically. We envy the riches or happiness of those we judge less worthy than ourselves.

The sour, well, the sour we comprehend all too well.

But because we believe in the sweetness of God and His Word, we try to have faith and hope that God is there even when we can’t see Him anywhere. We do our best to cast out the thieves that would love to rob us of that faith and hope, which is our very essence as Christians. And, as long as we hang on to that, those that would do us evil cannot accomplish their purpose.

Examine today where the sweet exists behind the sour in your life.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Worthy Are You

November 18, 2010
Thursday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time

They sang a new hymn: “Worthy are you to receive the scroll and to break open its seals, for you were slain and with your blood you purchased for God those from every tribe and tongue, people and nation. You made them a kingdom and priests for our God, and they will reign on earth.” Revelation 5:9-10

As he drew near, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If this day you only knew what makes for peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes.” Luke 19:41-42

Father, help us to recognize our opportunity to love with our actions, not just our words, our deeds, not just our speech, when your Son invites us to share our love. Because Christ paid the ultimate price for us, you have made us worthy to receive and accept the invitation to love others as you loved us. Holy Spirit, help us to break the seals of selfishness and live for Him as he lived and died for us. Amen.

Jesus began his public ministry by entering the temple in Galilee and reading from the sacred text handed to him. Today, the angels proclaim that He is once again worthy to break the seals and read from these scrolls again. Despite his rejection and death, he can now unroll the scriptures again. He paid for that privilege with his life and his blood.

“The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favor!” (Luke 4:18-19 New Jerusalem Bible Reader’s Edition 1968)

Yet beyond the parallel image of Jesus returning to the temple to read from sacred scripture, we are struck by two stark images today…first the image in Revelation that Jesus has made us a kingdom that will reign on earth.

However, as Jesus enters Jerusalem, he knows that the people will reject him. He laments for his city, his life, and for us. If only we knew what makes for peace.

If only we knew that Jesus makes for peace. Alone. No one else will give us that peace but resting in Jesus. Nothing else will give us that peace except putting aside everything for Jesus. No place else will give us that peace except standing at the foot of the cross weeping with Mary and John – unless, of course, we are asked to climb up there with Jesus.

“If you in your turn had only understood on this day the message of peace! But alas, it is hidden from your eyes.” Jesus weeps because he knows that he is about to enter into a time that is the farthest image from a year of favor as could possibly arise. "This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.”

If only we knew what makes for peace. We certainly know what makes for confrontation. What causes you to weep?

The images of cholera-stricken Haiti? The images of the environment degraded and hives barren of honey bees?

Families torn apart by divorce and children bounced around in a foster care system? Diseases ravaging the bodies and minds of those we love?

War taking the lives of young women and men and older women and men? Children as young as ten years old conscripted and caught in the cross fire of aims and ammunition?

Unemployed workers once again nearing the end of their rope and hope? People around the world living on less than $2 dollars per day?

What shall we do about these to bring about the Lord’s year of favor to them and all?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Share More, Gain More

November 17, 2010
Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, religious

By Colleen O’Sullivan

He said to him, 'With your own words I shall condemn you, you wicked servant. You knew I was a demanding person, taking up what I did not lay down and harvesting what I did not plant; why did you not put my money in a bank? Then on my return I would have collected it with interest.' And to those standing by he said, 'Take the gold coin from him and give it to the servant who has ten.' But they said to him, 'Sir, he has ten gold coins.' 'I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Luke 19:22-26

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come…Worthy are you, Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things; because of your will they came to be and were created.” (Revelation 4:8b, 11)

As the days grow shorter and our liturgical year draws to a close, we find ourselves having almost completed the journey toward Jerusalem with Jesus as depicted in Luke’s Gospel. Jesus knows that his disciples are expecting great things in Jerusalem. They are expecting immediate, full realization of the Kingdom of God in the holy city. The reign or Kingdom of God is, in fact, about to appear, but it won’t be what they expect. No great military feats, no restoration of the political kingdom of Israel await them. Instead, a God who willing dies a painful and humiliating death for them on a cross. Because Jesus knows that he will have to leave the disciples and that some amount of time will elapse before he returns as King in glory to redeem all of his creation, he wants to prepare his friends. He wants to leave them an instruction book, so to speak, on how to conduct themselves while they wait for his final return.

So, Jesus tells this parable about the gold coins. He tells the disciples a story about a nobleman who is going to travel to a far off country to seek a kingship. Since he will be gone quite a while, he calls the servants together and entrusts each of them with ten gold coins. The nobleman tells them to use the coins in trading during his absence. Time goes by and eventually he does return. He calls each servant to give account for what he has done with his coins. The first servant shows the new king that he has doubled the sum, for which he is rewarded with oversight of 10 cities. The second servant shows that he has made a 50% profit with the coins. Again, the king rewards his servant, this time with oversight of 5 cities. The next servant called forward, however, has held on to his coins, safeguarding them, but not earning anything with them. His coins are taken from him and given to the first servant. The new king says, “I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

The Lord has entrusted each and every one of us with proverbial gold coins or gifts in some shape or form. Today, we honor St. Elizabeth of Hungary, an early 13th century woman who was the daughter of the king of Hungary, for the ways in which she shared her gifts. She married the ruler of Thuringia in Germany. From the start she had in-law problems. They didn’t approve of her because she didn’t conform to their idea of what a queen should be like. She wouldn’t wear her jeweled crown, because Christ only had a crown of thorns. She spent her time caring for the poor, the sick and orphans. When her husband died of the plague on a Crusade, her in-laws cast her out and refused to allow anyone in the kingdom to take her in. She could have gone back to her father’s house in Hungary, but chose to live an ascetic life in Marburg, Germany, where she continued to care for the sick and the poor. Even after her in-laws took her back because they wanted her son to inherit the crown, she continued to spend much of her time in prayer and charitable works. She was canonized only 4 years after her death. (To learn more about St. Elizabeth of Hungary, see http://sacredspace.ie/livingspace/F1117S/ or http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1202)

We, too, await Jesus’ final coming in glory. In the meantime, we are also asked to share the gifts God has given us. In my own life I have come to see how true it is that the more we share, the more we gain, often much more than we give in the first place. My housemate and I have next door neighbors from El Salvador. A couple of years ago, it came to our attention that the oldest child in the family, a second grader, could barely read. We discussed it and came to the conclusion that if we didn’t help him, he would probably end up as just another high school drop-out. No one in his family knows English well enough to help him much with his homework. And we know they came to this country so they and their children could have better lives. So, we decided to help them by tutoring the little boy. By the end of second grade, he was reading at grade level. Just last week he had an assignment to write a letter to someone he admires. He chose a favorite soccer player on a Colombian team. The letter came from his heart. All I had to do was show him where to add a comma in one sentence. The teacher said his was the best letter in his fourth-grade class and framed it. My housemate is translating it into Spanish and sending both a copy of the original and the translation to the soccer player. I can’t speak for my housemate, but I know I have received far more from working with this enthusiastic little boy than I have given. Share even just a little of what God has given you and you will gain so much more in return.

Find a quiet time to reflect on the gifts God has entrusted to you. What have you done with your proverbial gold coins? When you see instances where you have shared and received even more in return, give thanks to the Lord, for these are his gifts to you as well.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Come down, I must stay at your house

November 16, 2010
Tuesday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth DeCristofaro

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me. I will give the victor the right to sit with me on my throne, as I myself first won the victory and sit with my Father on his throne. ‘Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” (Revelation 3:22)

“Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” And he came down quickly and received him with joy. … Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:5, 8-10)

Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he.
He climbed up in a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see.
And as the Savior passed him by, He looked up in the tree,
And he said, "Zacchaeus, you come down from there;
For I'm going to your house today, for I'm going to your house today"

Zacchaeus came down from that tree, as happy as he could be,
He gave his money to the poor, and said: "What a better man I'll be."
(lyrics for children’s song – with gestures, author unknown)

These are such beautiful and vivid readings. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock…” What an image! Knocking at my door is God who wants to spend time with me! Astounding! And miraculous! But there it is. But I am so aware that as I open the door to God, even as I welcome God, I stand there – in the way – and actually become the obstacle to God entering.

Lazy habits, neglect in loving and caring for those around me, stinginess, fear…I could go on and on with those places in me which block God’s entrance. I know many parts of myself which I need to change. I also know that it is difficult to make changes so feel weighed down and (usually) guilty about those deficits.
And then we meet sinful, short guy Zacchaeus who first answers the door to let Jesus in but then makes the decision to remake his life and reprioritize his actions. He shows us that, not alone but with Jesus, he – we – can make the changes needed to open our doors to God. Zacchaeus does not stammer a lukewarm promise to Jesus but chooses a full conversion of his being to orient himself to God and the life of God within him. Zacchaeus stands tall and welcomes God in.

Climbing a tree is generally easier than making needed personal changes. In what way do you stand in God’s way at the door? Sing the song above (make up your own tune!) Add you own name and add gestures. Have fun and laugh as you join Zacchaeus in climbing down his tree and becoming a better person. Out of what tree do you need to climb? What riches do you have to part with and what reconciling is needed in your life?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Do the Works

November 15, 2010

Monday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

“I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate the wicked; you have tested those who call themselves apostles but are not, and discovered that they are impostors. Moreover, you have endurance and have suffered for my name, and you have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first. Realize how far you have fallen. Repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” Revelation 2:2-5

Then Jesus stopped and ordered that he be brought to him; and when he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He replied, “Lord, please let me see.” Jesus told him, “Have sight; your faith has saved you.” Luke 18:40-42

Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.

Have you lost the love you had at first? Remember that glow you had on the final day of your Cursillo weekend? Recall that spirit of community you had with the team and the other new Cursillistas. When you left that special place, you were a new you.

Remember the feeling you had at the closing? Look back on your notebook. Recall the words of your testimony to the community at large. When you stood up to speak, you were a new you.

What has happened since then? How many weeks, months or years has it been since your Fourth Day started?

We are beginning to wind up another liturgical year. Advent lies just days away. In these final weeks, the readings remind us of the same message we heard at the beginning of this year and throughout. God asks us to change. He asks us to follow the commandments. He asks us to have the faith and persistence of the people we have met all year on this journey.

In the readings today, we meet the blind man with faith to move mountains and regain sight. “Lord, please let me see.” His prayer is not unlike that of the persistent widow, the prodigal father, the bridegroom, the Roman centurion and the ten lepers. They turned to God with the faith the size of a mustard seed and God responded in love. “Have sight; your faith has saved you.”

Who have you encountered this year in the Gospel of Living and Dying? What real brides and bridegrooms, parents, and soldiers have you touched? Have they reached out to you for support? Have you reached out to them? Who have you encountered who was a stranger, who was ill, or who was elderly or infirm? How have you put the love of your Fourth Day into action?

There is no need to wait until New Year’s Day to change something in your life that needs changing. Do you want to unburden yourself from the binding technology that controls your life so there is more room for God and others? Do you want to let your possessions drift away so you have more room in your life for Jesus?

If so, don’t try to make drastic changes. Just try to make one minor change this month to get prepared for Advent. Keep that change going every day for the next month and see how you will succeed.

Change is just the first step. Then, we must tackle the works.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Arise the Sun of Justice

November 14, 2010
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

For lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, And the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch, says the LORD of hosts. But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays. Malachi 3:19-20a

“…[T]hey will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.” Luke 21:12-15

Piety is our connection with Christ. Christ is not meant to be an odd moment of our day. Rather Christ is meant to be our very life. Our Gospel today gives us the same awareness the death of a good friend offers us. We are not meant for this world. All the threats against life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness fall into place as idle threats when we realize we are born into this world to praise, reverence and to serve our God. Hints of our mortality are nothing more than presages of a better time to come. We are made for Christ. Our living in Christ now by immersing our lives with his and bringing him into our world allows us to face the values that are most important. Our Gospel says it well. By our perseverance in Christ we will secure our lives. All the costly stones and votive offerings we see will pass away and we will be left with what really counts in life. Our living life to the example of Christ brings Christ into our lives and allows us to model Christ to our day and age. Christ is our way, our truth and the value of our lives.

Behavior is a reflection of what we really believe. What we see in another is what we get. Paul asks that his behavior be taken seriously. Paul is saying that his example is what he preaches. When we see his actions we know what he believes. The best sermon we will ever give is the story of our lives. Our perseverance in what we believe gives us the freedom to die that we might be with the Lord. The Hidden Life Grace tells us that what we do is not what is important. Rather it is with how much love we do what we do that makes the difference. So we are encouraged to work quietly in the Lord Jesus Christ and to earn our way to heaven by how much love we do what we can do for one another. We do not have to look or wait for something worthwhile to give all our energy and effort to. Rather we need to do the insignificant in the significant way that love makes possible. In all that we do, we need to put our heart and soul into doing for the sake of Christ.

Christ is the way and the truth of every good action of our lives. I bring Christ into my life by inviting him. Each morning I begin my day with the prayer of Ignatius. “Direct O Lord, I beseech you, all my actions by your divine inspirations. May my every thought, word and action of this day begin from your inspirations and be carried out by your gracious assistance.” Whatever happens around us becomes unimportant as long as I live my day for the Lord. At the end of the day, no matter what has happened it behooves us to check out by the Examen of the Consciousness of Christ in our day how well he has used us and how closely involved he has been in our lives. Because a moment spent with the Lord is worth a thousand years, it only takes the action of our now to make our entire life worthwhile. All our life is a preparation for what we are now doing and if we do what we do for the Lord, we are always ready for his final call. No moment has to be feared if it carries the possibility of bringing us home to the Resurrection.

A Just Decision

November 13, 2010
Memorial of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, virgin

Beloved, you are faithful in all you do for the brothers, especially for strangers; they have testified to your love before the church. Please help them in a way worthy of God to continue their journey. 3 John 5-6

“There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’ For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, ‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.’”Luke 18:2-5

Father, give us the poor widow’s persistence to call out to you night and day. Jesus, may our prayers reach your ears that you can bring our petitions to God who will answer them swiftly. Holy Spirit, bring us the justice, prudence, temperance and fortitude to live faithfully keeping the commandments until those prayers are answered. Amen.

Within one liturgical year, the Church has many options to choose for the daily readings. Today is another when the same reading used recently (Sunday, October 17) in the Gospel is repeated in a short time frame. What lesson is there in the story of the persistent widow (or the story of the dishonest judge) which needs such repetition?

Perhaps the goal was that one time when this was read we might focus on the persistence needed in our prayer life. Maybe the second time we hear it we will focus on the attitude of the judge and consider how we treat each other. The third time we hear it, we will reflect upon how two people with such differences can live together in the same place. Or, as option D lists on the SAT, “all of the above.”

Then, I opened today’s newspaper to read that Myanmar’s military government freed its archrival, democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, on Saturday after her latest term of detention expired.

Suu Kyi is a Nobel Prize winner. If there is anyone who is living the life-lessons of the persistent widow in our day, perhaps she exemplifies the quest for truth and freedom and democracy more than any other. Nelson Mandela did the same and his struggle against apartheid was successful – but only after he spent 27 years in prison on Robben Island.

This time, Suu Kyi was detained for seven and a half years. But she has been in jail or under house arrest for 15 of the past 21 years.

Hers has been and is a difficult life in this country ruled by the military since 1962. Her father was murdered when she was only two years old. In 1988, she helped to start an opposition political party which won a general election in 1990 but the ruling military refused to turn over power. Just last week, a puppet government was elected by the junta in the first election held in twenty years.

Suu Kyi could have left her homeland after being released from prison the first time. However, she feared that she would not be allowed back to help the people and nation she loves.

Perhaps news of her freedom will give hope to Liu Xiaobo, a fellow Nobel laureate and co-worker for the truth, who remains in prison in China.

What is there in your prayer and in your life with which you would be so persistent in seeking?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Where the Body Is

November 12, 2010
Memorial of Saint Josaphat, bishop and martyr

By Melanie Rigney

Anyone who is so “progressive” as to not remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God; whoever remains in the teaching has the Father and the Son. (2 John 4:9)

Open my eyes to see clearly the wonders of your teachings. (Psalms 119:18)

He said to them, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather.” (Luke 17:37)

Jesus, it begins and ends with you. I know true love and true freedom can be found in carrying the cross.

I was at a retirement party recently, and one speaker described the honoree as “a friend of God.” We like to be around friends of God, the speaker said; they help us deepen our own spiritual relationship by example and instruction.

To paraphrase the psalmist, friends of God help to open our eyes to see the wonders of His ways. But for some gnostic groups in the time of the first reading’s writer, the way wasn’t through Christ in the flesh, according to the New American Bible. Understanding his physical life was important, but it was only a first step that believers would put behind them as they grew in knowledge of the spiritual Christ. To many gnostics, whether Jesus returned from the dead physically didn’t matter; it was a person’s spiritual maturity that determined whether the resurrected Christ was present. The leaders of the early Church disagreed. Christ was fully divine and fully human, they said; you can’t separate the two.

And maybe that’s why “friends of God,” whether they be Abraham or Jacob or the person next door, are so important to our spiritual growth. We see the intimacy and confidence in their relationship with the Lord, not simply by their piety but also by the way they interact with others. And by the thoughtfulness of their words and the maturity of their actions, they show us how to return that gift of friendship God offers to us all.

A friendship with God isn’t solely about being on your knees ten hours a day. Even if you’re called to be a contemplative, at some point in the day you’re going to have to deal with other people within your community. It’s learning to live a Christian life in the world, “where the body is,” as Luke wrote, that the challenges arise. And it’s there that our friends of God can help shoo away the vultures.

Where are the vultures threatening your spiritual life? Reach out to a friend of yours and God’s for help.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Refresh My Heart in Christ

November 11, 2010
Memorial of Saint Martin of Tours, bishop

Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord. So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me. Philemon 15-17

Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he said in reply, “The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’ For behold, the kingdom of God is among you.” Luke 17:20-21

Happy those whose help is Jacob's God, whose hope is in the LORD, their God,
The maker of heaven and earth, the seas and all that is in them, Who keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free;
The LORD gives sight to the blind. The LORD raises up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD protects the stranger, sustains the orphan and the widow, but thwarts the way of the wicked.
The LORD shall reign forever, your God, Zion, through all generations! Hallelujah!
Psalm 146:5-10

Today is Veterans Day in the United States. Today also is the day we in the Catholic Church mark the memorial to a saint who was what we would call a “conscientious objector.” Thus we have another cultural contradiction to wrestle with as we confront the church in the modern world, our faith working in society.

The American Catholic web site (http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1196) reminds us a little of St. Martin’s story: Born of pagan parents in what is now Hungary and raised in Italy, this son of a veteran was forced to serve in the army against his will at the age of 15. He became a Christian catechumen and was baptized at 18. It was said that he lived more like a monk than a soldier. At 23, he refused a war bonus and told his commander: “I have served you as a soldier; now let me serve Christ. Give the bounty to those who are going to fight. But I am a soldier of Christ and it is not lawful for me to fight.” After great difficulties, he was discharged and went to be a disciple of Hilary of Poitiers.

The famous legend of Martin’s life has him encounter a poor man one cold winter’s night. Martin tears his cloak in half and gives half to the poor man. That night, in a vision, he sees Jesus dressed in the other half boasting about the good deed performed by Martin.

The reflection on the American Catholic site poses an interesting picture for Catholics to wrestle with. The writer explains that “Martin's worry about cooperation with evil reminds us that almost nothing is either all black or all white. The saints are not creatures of another world: They face the same perplexing decisions that we do. Any decision of conscience always involves some risk. If we choose to go north, we may never know what would have happened had we gone east, west or south. A hyper-cautious withdrawal from all perplexing situations is not the virtue of prudence; it is, in fact, a bad decision, for “not to decide is to decide.”

Some years back, a Salesian father was giving a talk. He commented about what is discernment and the definition has really stuck in my mind to this day. Discernment is the ability to judge well. Usually, we have to choose between good and evil. No real judgment is needed in these situations. Moral standards teach us what is right and what is wrong. However, sometimes, we have to choose between good and good or good and better or better and best. That is when it gets hard and that is what discernment is all about.

Think of Mary and Martha. Martha wanted to serve the Lord with her hospitality. Good. Mary wanted to serve the Lord by sitting at his feet and listening to what he had to say. Better. Jesus did not condemn Martha. He told her Mary chose the better part and he refused to command her to serve him in the same what that Martha had chosen to serve him.

Choosing to marry or become a priest…good and good.

Choosing to steal a fancy jacket from a store or buying it…bad and good.

Allowing an elderly parent to remain at home living independently or moving your parent into assisted living so he or she has the proper help needed in life. Good and good. Not easy but good ends and means may come from both actions.

Judging does not mean discernment is easy. In fact, it might actually be harder to discern what is right when there are voices arguing on both good sides of a question.

What are you “discerning” in your life? What good and good choices do you face in life? In what kinds of matters have you sought God’s guidance?

How do you feel after you have made a decision after discerning with the holy Spirit? Are you at peace with the outcome?

Thank a veteran for her or his service. Good and good.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Thank You, Lord

November 10, 2010
Memorial of Saint Leo the Great, pope

By Colleen O’Sullivan

But when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)

As he continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance form him and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests. As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” (Luke 17:11-19)

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. He guides me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage. You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come. (Psalm 23)

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is traveling through Samaria and Galilee on his way to Jerusalem. As he enters one of the villages on his route, ten lepers call out to him from a distance. “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” You see, they were the outcasts of their day. People were afraid of lepers, afraid of contracting the disease from them, so lepers were condemned to live on the margins of society. They had only each other for company, because they were forbidden other human contact. No one else would help them, so they decided to take their chances on Jesus. Perhaps they had heard about his healing powers. Maybe they had just seen from afar the crowds surrounding the Lord and decided to see what he could do for them.

Jesus hears and sees them on the outskirts of the crowd. In response to their cries, he tells them to go and show themselves to the priests. All ten of them, Luke tells us, are cleansed as they turned to follow Jesus’ command, but only one of them, a Samaritan, realizes the great gift Jesus has just given him. He returns to Jesus, falls at his feet and thanks him. In response, Jesus bestows on him a far greater gift than mere physical healing; he tells the man to stand up and go. “…Your faith has saved you.”

Among the first words that parents strive to teach their children are “please” and “thank you.” When someone gives you something, you should say “thank you.” As Paul reminds all of us in his letter to his friend in the faith, Titus, “…when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

What greater gift could a person hope for? What greater reason to fall on my knees and thank the Lord! But how often I’m like those other nine lepers rolled into one! I take it all for granted. I get busy with whatever I’m doing and forget to thank God for the many blessings he bestows on me every day. Lord, forgive me my indifference.

Or something negative happens and I start to complain, forgetting all the good things God is responsible for in my life. Lord, forgive me for the rapidity with which I let one cloud overshadow the gift of your infinite mercy and kindness.

Most days I make time to pray using the Irish Jesuits’ website, Sacred Space. It doesn’t take long and one of the things I like most about it is the invitation to look back over the previous 24 hours and recall those moments that I am grateful for and to thank God for those gifts.

When you do that day after day, you realize how blessed you truly are. Try praying with Sacred Space for a few days and see if you don’t find that to be true as well. (www.sacredspace.ie )

“No one can be grateful and unhappy.” (“The Secret” from Seedlings in Wellsprings by Anthony de Mello, S.J.)

Monday, November 08, 2010

You Are God’s Building

November 9 2010
Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

By Beth DeCristofaro

The angel brought me back to the entrance of the temple, and I saw water flowing out...Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live. (Ezekiel 47: 1, 9)

Brothers and sisters: You are God’s building. (1 Corinthians 1)

(Jesus said) “stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me’. At this the Jews answered and said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:16-19)

My God, I thank you and praise you for you are my refuge and my strength. (from Psalm 46)

Today on the feast of the dedication of the Lateran Basilica, considered the “cathedral” of Rome and the Pope’s church, it is a perfect time to remember that each one of us is God’s Building. Cursillo reminds us of this during our weekend as we learn that orienting our lives to Christ calls for us not only to realize how precious we are to God but that we are, if we choose it, are called to commit to a personal relationship with Christ and to be living, working members of the church community we joined at our baptism.

On this feast in 2008, Pope Benedict explained “The Word of God during this Solemnity recalls an essential truth: the stone temple is the symbol of the living Church, the Christian community, that the Apostles Peter and Paul had, in their Letters, already understood as a "spiritual building", constructed by God with the "living stones" that are the Christians, upon the one foundation that is Jesus Christ, who is in turn compared to the "cornerstone" cf. 1 Cor 3: 9-11, 16-17; 1 Pt 2: 4-8; Eph 2: 20-22). "Brethren,... you are God's building", St Paul writes, and he adds, "God's temple is holy, and you are that temple" (1 Cor 3: 9c, 17). The beauty and the harmony of churches, destined to render praise to God, invites us human beings too, though limited and sinful, to convert ourselves to form a "cosmos", a well-ordered construction, in close communion with Jesus, who is the true Holy of Holies. This reaches its culmination in the Eucharistic liturgy, in which the "ecclesia" that is, the community of baptized finds itself again united to listen to the Word of God and nourish itself on the Body and Blood of Christ. Dear friends, (he went on)…today's feast celebrates an ever current mystery: that God desires to build himself a spiritual temple in the world, a community that adores him in spirit and truth.” http://www.wf-f.org/JohnLateran%20dedic.html

In what way are you a strong, vital living stone in close communion with Jesus and supportive of others in your local and global community? Treat yourself and attend a Mass during the week if you are not generally able to do so. If you often attend daily Mass, spend some time with Jesus in a new, different way. Perhaps you can practice lectio divina with today’s gospel or prayerfully imagine yourself in the scene as Jesus clears the temple. What do his actions and words mean to you, today?

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Set Right What Remains To Be Done

November 8, 2010
Monday of the Third-second Week in Ordinary Time

For a bishop as God's steward must be blameless, not arrogant, not irritable, not a drunkard, not aggressive, not greedy for sordid gain, but hospitable, a lover of goodness, temperate, just, holy, and self-controlled, holding fast to the true message as taught so that he will be able both to exhort with sound doctrine and to refute opponents. Titus 1:7-9

“Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.” Luke 17:3-4

“I fail people daily, God help me, when they come to me for aid and sympathy. There are too many of them, whichever way I turn … I deny them the Christ in me when I do not show them tenderness, love. God forgive me.” Dorothy Day Journal entry, 1952

The duty of forgiveness that shines through today’s Gospel is one that will help us remember the memory of Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day who was born on this date in 1897. Considering all she did in a life devoted to prayer and action, Dorothy remained always fighting the same battle of self-interest against community interest that we face every day. The qualities of the bishop (and the tendencies to avoid) that are listed in the selection from Paul’s letter to Titus reveal that this struggle has been going even longer than that.

The psalm today also captures these qualities as it asks: “Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord?” That answer, too, strikes out at our individuality. That answer is the person “whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain.”

Dorothy came to the Catholic Church after a period in her life that was filled with sin, hardly clean, and certainly filled with vanity. She came to term that period of time as the “long loneliness.” This time was marked by political activism, having a child out-of-wedlock, and drinking late into the morning with playwright Eugene O’Neill and others in Greenwich Village. From that life to Catholicism, Dorothy’s conversion surprised not only her friends but also herself.

Authors Jim Wallis and Joyce Hollyday describe in the chapter on Dorothy in their book “Cloud of Witnesses,” that the Catholic Church was something altogether different for Dorothy than it was perceived by the world. They write: “[The Catholic Church] was that immense net that had caught, not only scoundrels, but saints beyond counting. It was the Church of the Mass: the persistently present Jesus waiting in bread and wine on the altar…It was a church in which there was not only the thanksgiving sacrament on the altar but the healing sacrament of forgiveness in the confessional.”

The core role that forgiveness played in spirituality for Dorothy was noted by one former Catholic Worker in his writing. In thinking back to his days in the Catholic Worker community, author Robert Coles notes the many things he learned living with Day: “For one thing, I learned that you couldn't understand Dorothy's life among the poor or her witness for peace and justice apart from her faith and her rigorous discipline of prayer. At the same time I learned that there is more to heroism than walking a picket line or going to jail.

He added, “The practice of patience and forgiveness, the effort to love those closest at hand even when they are disagreeable--it was the exercise of Dorothy's faith in such small, seemingly unheroic forms that allowed her to stand up to the powers of the state. Therein lay the secret of her tranquility…”

Yet, like Day’s tranquility, Luke’s Good News warns us to be on guard against our individualism, our ego and our indignation. No matter what sin our sister or brother commits against us, forgive them seventy times seven. We must sacrifice our ego for the cause of forgiveness. In Dorothy’s own words from a letter to a troubled monk: “Yours is a great suffering--I can see that, and of course we do not pick the particular kind of suffering we want to bear. But thank God you have some little burden of suffering to bear at this time when there is so much of it in the world. When it dawns on us that this is a little coin the dear God is enriching us with to purchase salvation--our own and other's--it ceases to be suffering.”

Can such forgiveness really be a source of tranquility for us? When we are wronged, we want to strike back. How dare they (fill in the blank with whatever offense was aimed at you intentionally or not)! The example of Dorothy Day tried to inspire us to rise above our ego and our selfish tendencies.

At the end of her autobiography “The Long Loneliness,” Dorothy wrote: “We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other. We know Him in the breaking of the bread, and we know each other in the breaking of the bread, and we are not alone anymore. Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet, too, even with a crust, where there is companionship.”

What companion is seeking your love, your forgiveness, your patience and your mercy today? Grant it without it being requested.