Wednesday, March 31, 2010
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, To announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God, to comfort all who mourn; To place on those who mourn in Zion a diadem instead of ashes, To give them oil of gladness in place of mourning, a glorious mantle instead of a listless spirit. They will be called oaks of justice, planted by the LORD to show his glory. Isaiah 61:1-3
Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, "Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." Luke 4:20-21
Father, you have baptized and confirmed all of us as priests, prophets and kings. Help us to carry on the spirit of Isaiah and Jesus as we support each other in a shared ministry of active love for the lowly, the brokenhearted, the captives, the prisoners, and those who mourn. Holy Spirit, bless our work and the various ministries of God which we endeavor to carry out. Amen.
As today’s Gospel inaugurates Jesus’ public ministry, the scene in the reading also foreshadows so much of what is to come as we enter the Triduum. The notes in the New American Bible related to this reading explain, “Luke turns the initial admiration and subsequent rejection of Jesus into a foreshadowing of the whole future ministry of Jesus. Moreover, the rejection of Jesus in his own hometown hints at the greater rejection of him by Israel.”
What would cause such rejection? Perhaps there is a hint in what is left out of the Gospel from Isaiah’s initial prophecy. More than in any other Gospel, Luke was concerned about Jesus’ ministry and the effect it would have on people who were economically and spiritually poor. What is wrong with that? What is missing?
“…a day of vindication by our God.” The people of Israel were awaiting a Lord who would deliver them from their oppressors. They wanted God to enact the human vengeance upon their enemies. However, Jesus marked the beginning of his public ministry by leaving out any hint at vindication.
The notes in the NAB remind us that this sermon inaugurates the time of fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. “Luke presents the ministry of Jesus as fulfilling Old Testament hopes and expectations; for Luke, even Jesus' suffering, death, and resurrection are done in fulfillment of the scriptures.” However, the expectation of vengeance will not be fulfilled as we will learn over the course of events we commemorate this week.
How can we carry on our Lenten commitment to engaging spirituality into an ongoing action to serve the poor and to change the root causes of such poverty?
Holy Thursday calls on us to remember the role that the priests have accepted as servant leaders in the image of Christ to aid us. Let us not forget that we all – young and old, rich and poor, male and female, friend and stranger, neighbor and enemy – share in this united ministry from God.
Wednesday of Holy Week
The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. Isaiah 50:4-5
And while they were eating, he said, "Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me." Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, "Surely it is not I, Lord?" He said in reply, "He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me. Matthew 26:21-23
Thank you, God, for all that you have given to me. I pray that you will give me the strength to use these gifts, day by day, to help build up your kingdom by speaking to the weary, praying with the outcasts, and loving the stranger and those who hate me. Amen.
“Surely it is not I, Lord.”
Despite our sins, the Lord continues to forgive us and ask us to hold up our side of the covenant. He will always be our God whether or not we turn our back on Him. He will always be our God whether or not we deny Him. He will always be our God whether or not we betray him.
For inspiration, we certainly have poets and philosophers who write grand things about God. However, as Rachel Manteuffel noted in her article last week in the Post, God also chose normal sinners to inspire us. Of her visit to Holy Cross Abbey, she wrote:
David's son Absalom turned against him and was killed. Yet David wrote some of the most beautiful psalms, the ones about being lovingly cared for. Also some of the whiniest. I deeply respect that about God, that he chooses anti-heroes, people who have lost much, cynics. It makes me hope he has a place in the palm of his hand for ironists, the immature, the somewhat snide, the ones who can't help but laugh at bits of religion. Me.
As that fateful Passover seder convenes, we find gathering around the table disciples like John who loved Christ. We also find Peter who would deny Christ before taking over leadership of this movement. And we also find Judas who conspired in the ultimate betrayal. Which one will we be?
“Surely it is not I, Lord.”
As our Lenten journey comes to a close, reflect back over the next 24 hours and assess what you planned to do at the outset of this holy season. How did you do? How will you continue that journey of prayer, study and action throughout the year?
Monday, March 29, 2010
Tuesday of Holy Week
By Beth DeCristofaro
It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. (Isaiah 49:5-6)
Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. (John 13:31)
…you are my hope, O Lord; my trust, O God, from my youth. On you I depend from birth; from my mother’s womb you are my strength. My mouth shall declare your justice,
day by day your salvation. O God, you have taught me from my youth, and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds. (Psalm 71:15, 17)
As a kid, I always started Holy Week with mixed feelings. Lent was almost over so I could have candy on Sunday and at last the dark, spooky coverings over the statues and paintings in church were coming off. And there were three days off from school to enjoy: Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Monday. All great things. But the readings of the liturgies filled me with sadness and dread. I often did not read aloud, along with the rest of the congregation, the lines “Crucify him!” and “Give us Barabbas!” When Jesus told Judas to go about his dark business, and told Peter that Peter would betray him, I would say, “Not me, Jesus, I would stick up for you”. “I wouldn’t fall asleep in the garden, Jesus”.
Well, another Lent is ending and I am still uneasy as we read the hate and violence of Jesus’ passion. I also recognize that I have many times in my life fallen asleep, been disloyal, deceitful and have sold out. However, what I have come to fervently believe and what brings joy into the sorrow is that Jesus reached out for me during his anguish on the cross and loves me in spite of my shortcomings. That in my life, I have experienced moments of the via dolorosa and Jesus has accompanied me. That it is me Jesus wants to know not some perfected version of myself which is an impossible ideal.
This Holy Week I feel expectant and in awe of the immense meaning of my life because God loved me enough to live and die for me. I treasure the opportunity of Holy Week to get to know Him even better. I sing with the psalmist, "My mouth shall be filled with your praise, shall sing your glory every day." (Psalm 71:8)
As we head into Holy Week, take some time to consider the awesome opportunity for prayer. The Creighton University website describes the Stations of the Cross as “a powerful way to contemplate, and enter into, the mystery of Jesus' gift of himself to us.” “(The Stations) is in the context of my relationship with God. I could read through the text of each of the stations, and look at the pictures, but that wouldn't necessarily be prayer. This is an invitation to enter into a gifted faith experience of who Jesus is for me. It becomes prayer when I open my heart to be touched, and it leads me to express my response in prayer.” Take the opportunity to spend time with the Way of the Cross – there are many examples and focuses. Several of these sites also have podcast versions:
The Stations with Mary
Migrants Stations (in Spanish and English)
The Kenyan Way of the Cross
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Monday of Holy Week
I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness. Isaiah 42:6-7
Then Judas the Iscariot, one (of) his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days' wages and given to the poor?” He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions. So Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” John 12:4-9
Dear Lord, help me keep my eyes on you. You are the incarnation of Divine Love, you are the expression of God’s infinite compassion, you are the visible manifestation of the Father’s holiness. You are beauty, goodness, gentleness, forgiveness, and mercy. In you all can be found. Outside of you nothing can be found. Why should I look elsewhere or go elsewhere? You have the words of eternal life, you are food and drink, you are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. You are the light that shines in darkness, the lamp on the lampstand, the house on the hilltop. You are the perfect Icon of God. In and through you I can see the Heavenly Father, and with you I can find my way to the Trinity. O Holy One, Beautiful One, Glorious One, be my Lord, my Savior, my Redeemer, my Guide, my Consoler, my Comforter, my Hope, my Joy, my Peace. To you I want to give all that I am. Let me be generous, not stingy or hesitant. Let me give you all – all I have, think, do and feel. It is yours, O Lord. Please accept it and make it fully your own. Amen.
(By Henri Nouwen in A Cry for Mercy: Prayers from the Genesee. This prayer was written on Monday of Holy Week – April 9, 1979 – during his second extended stay at the Trappist Monastery in the Genesee Valley of upstate New York.)
Martha is still serving. Mary is still at the feet of the Lord.
Today, rather than just listening in contemplative fashion, she now adds action to minister to the Lord. Mary anoints with oil these blessed feet that will stand before Pilate and Herod.
These are the same holy feet which will walk into the Garden at the Mount of Olives to pray. These are the same blessed feet of our Savior which will march up to the place of the Skull. These are the same feet which will be pierced by the nails driven by the Roman soldiers.
These are the same feet that will rise on Easter Sunday, enter the locked room on Pentecost, walk to Emmaus, and have breakfast with the disciples along the banks of the Sea of Galilee.
Although Mary wants to bring comfort to Jesus, the tension of Holy Week begins to build with today’s confrontation with Judas. Mary may be able to massage away the stress of the day but she can not change the path where these feet will tread. However, in everything Jesus does this week, he will assure us that he will always be with us just as the poor are…through the sacrifice of the Mass that recounts his Holy Thursday Passover, the Passion of Good Friday and the joy of the Resurrection.
How can we assure that Jesus always has a place in our life? What can we do to participate in the victory of justice? Perhaps our role is in the simple act of comforting one who is under stress with what the week ahead holds. Perhaps our role is to take a more active role in being a light for people in darkness.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Passion Sunday – Palm Sunday
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ
I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting. The Lord GOD is my help; therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame. Isaiah 50:6-7
Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:6-8
Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit;” and when he had said this he breathed his last. The centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said, “This man was innocent beyond doubt.” Luke 23:46-47
I have never wildly cheered for anyone who did not belong to family, friends or one of my school teams. I have been cheered for and felt the exhilaration energize my running. Compliments from anyone can have that effect on me. I have seen admiration do the same for others. Palm Sunday is a unique moment in the life of Christ. When Christ was told to rebuke his disciples, he said in replay, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!” Christ had predicted his passion a number of times. He knew what he was getting into. How well he took the encouragement to accept the plan of his Father remains to be seen in heaven when we can have the inside story of what Jesus was going through. In the meanwhile we can only surmise the thrill Christ felt at the crowd’s approval of all the good works he had done, all the miracles he had offered to bring the good news of how much the Father loved us all. We look at Christ in control of what was happening and can only wonder what would have Christianity been like if he kept that control and became the king in the sense of the Messianic king the Jewish people were hoping for. The Suffering Servant that would become the glorious Lamb of God that brought us redemption from our sinfulness was obscured for the moment in people’s acclamation of what they were hoping for. Christ is entering into his kingship and it is not what the foolish crowd is hoping for. His throne will be the Cross.
We listen to the passion of Christ against the backdrop of the entry into Jerusalem of Palm Sunday. It is a different kind of crowd in his Passion that is gawking at Christ going through the throes of his suffering for our redemption. The three readings on the Passion open us up to the enormity of what is happening and who it is happening to. Looking at how Christ faced his passion makes the question of how I would react to violence in my own life a real question. I will know I died a peaceful person if I am praying for those who are killing me. But I know I will have to have the prayer on my lips to believe I die a peaceful person. I do not know whether or not I could feel sorry for the one who was beating me. Such a one could not possibly know the love of God who accepts this terrible violence done his Son. What we relive in listening to the Gospel account of Jesus going to his death can give us courage in our own suffering. I place the Resurrection against the backdrop of dying like Jesus died and I know that if I did other than what Christ did I would be fleeing from the victory already won.
In preparation for the Passion of Christ, I will pray for those who are suffering unjustly. If I cannot go into a prison, I will encourage those who do. The radical of the suffering of Christ is felt by all those who are the victims of injustice in our world. All the victims of wars that are the so-called collateral damage I will keep in my prayers. I will offer sacrifices for the good of our country that is using the ability to use force as the measure of what is right to avoid being victims like Christ. It is not right for anyone to die for the sake of others without having a say in how their lives are taken. Abortion and all the crimes that are committed in the name of personal freedom I will try to do penance for. The seamless garment of love and justice kissing I will try to honor. I will try to see all the sufferings that surround us in our world today as the passion of Christ. Hopefully prayer, fasting and good works will lessen the sufferings that are Christ’s as we relive what Christ did for us. By all the actions we do for Christ who suffers with all the hungry, thirsty, sick, naked and imprisoned, hopefully we will be able to turn our actions into our celebration of Christ’s dying. Our tears need to become tears of joy in our hope of the Resurrection. May Christ live in all we do this week to enter into the mystery of God’s so great love for us in sending his son to die for us! May we die for Christ to live in him!
March 27, 2010
Saturday of the Fifth Week in Lent
I will make with them a covenant of peace; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them, and I will multiply them, and put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling shall be with them; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Ezekiel 37:26-27
Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to
Father, throughout this season you have shown us people who have come back to you. The disciples left their former lives to follow you. The woman at the well found herself alone with you and after that encounter she sought and shared the water of everlasting life. The women who was almost stoned found herself alone with you and turned her life around after such an encounter. Tax collectors. Fishermen, Roman centurions. Lepers. Outcasts of all shapes and sizes. Maybe there is even room for a Virginian or two. We know that you want us to come back to you. Give us the gumption to break away from the buzz of our prodigal lives to come back to your open arms.
Yearning. Reading this pair of passages right before Holy Week begins strikes me with a sense of longing, almost an aching. We clearly hear God craving for our presence matched by our hunger and thirst for God’s presence in the routines and rituals of our lives.
Ezekiel presents that hunger and pining from the point of view of the Lord. God wants to bring his people back together with him and with each other. And he will go to great lengths to do just that.
Just listen to God’s lamentations, the extreme measures he is willing to take to bring us back:
“gather them from all sides”
“make them one nation”
“there shall be one prince for them all”
“never again shall they be divided”
“deliver them from all their sins”
“cleanse them so that they may be my people”
“there shall be one shepherd for them all”
“live on the land which I gave to my servant Jacob”
“make with them a covenant of peace”
“I will multiply them”
“put my sanctuary among them forever.”
“My dwelling shall be with them”
“my sanctuary shall be set up among them forever”
Can you hear in this the pleading of a parent who misses her (or his) child)? A friend who will do anything to be reunited with another from whom they have been separated? Can you hear the promises and gifts that will be showered down in favor to spur such reconciliation?
Moving forward to the Gospel, we learn that Jesus has once again headed toward the desert to gather his physical and spiritual strength for the mission which is set before him. The fullness of time is approaching and Jesus is preparing for his purification.
Yet despite the conflict that looms, the people still long for Jesus’ presence in the temple. When he is not there, they can hardly imagine the place without him. They can not even fathom the rituals of the coming Passover without Jesus. What do you think? How can he NOT come back to us?
As we prepare to enter the holiest season of the year, an article in the local family-owned newspaper has caught my attention: “The Silent Treatment: A quiet vacation at
Each year, my father-in-law, the late Alex Costea would spend Holy Week on retreat at Holy Cross Abbey – or Berryville as he would refer to the town. The article describe the experience:
Cistercian monks are withdrawn from the world to be closer to their God, a God who eases toward you in a silence. Their emphasis is on manual labor and self-sufficiency. They hark back to Saint Benedict, who wrote in the 6th century that silence teaches obedience and awareness of sin. The Cistercian order was founded in 1098 by monks who felt that 11th-century monastic life had become too ... modern. Practical speech and talking with those outside the order are allowed -- it isn't a vow of silence, but silence is taken seriously as a spiritual tool.
Today, we heard that Jesus retreated to Ephraim, near the desert, with his disciples. Perhaps we can not all flock to Berryville for Holy Week. However, are we enter the final stages of our Lenten journey, maybe now is a time to take stock in where we can go to withdraw from the world a little in order to draw closer to our God who longs for us to come back to him.
(PS: And don’t forget that one option is the Men’s 120th Cursillo at Missionhurst April 15-18.)
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent
By Melanie Rigney
I hear the whisperings of many: “Terror on every side! Denounce! let us denounce him!” All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine. “Perhaps he will be trapped; then we can prevail, and take our vengeance on him.” But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph. (Jeremiah 20:10-11)
In my distress I called out: LORD! I cried out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry to him reached his ears. (Psalms 18-7)
The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy. You, a man, are making yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, ‘You are gods’”? If it calls them gods to whom the word of God came, and Scripture cannot be set aside, can you say that the one whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world blasphemes because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” (John 10:31-38)
Lord, help me to see that Your yoke truly is far easier than I try to make it.
When I arrived to help out after dinner for the recent Diocese of Arlington Women’s Weekend, most of the work had been done. The cook crew was taking a breather in the dining hall with a bottle of wine and the remains of crème brulee.
“Wine and crème brulee,” a dear friend said with a laugh. “It’s hard to call this palanca.”
But that’s exactly what it was.
In case you’re not familiar with the term, palanca means lever in Spanish. In this context, the meaning is that Cursillistas do service or make sacrifices that with God’s grace empower the accomplishment of things that otherwise could not be accomplished. Sometimes it’s prayer, sometimes it’s notes, sometimes it’s doing or not doing something (like cleaning the closet or forgoing chocolate). It doesn’t have to involve wearing a hair shirt or fasting for days on end.
A handful of people had made a delicious, from-scratch meal that included salad, steak, vegetables, and crème brulee for three dozen candidates and team members, then cleaned up the dining area and kitchen afterward, all in the space of three hours. And, the cook crew was still laughing and joking after the experience. If that’s not palanca, what is?
There’s a bit of a misunderstanding sometimes in more fundamentalist circles about Catholics and works. Some think that being Catholic means “earning” our way into heaven by recording X number of good deeds or sacrifices. But that’s not what being a Catholic Christian is about. We believe salvation is by grace along, but without works—showing God our thanks for that gift of salvation—faith is unrealized or, worse, dead.
There are some people whom we will never convince by words that that’s what Catholicism is about. But they may learn to accept us if the Lord is visible through our works and the joy and peace with which we do them.
Next week is Holy Week. Engage in a meaningful dialogue with a non-Catholic about the differences and similarities in your faith traditions.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
The Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God; let it be deep as the nether world, or high as the sky! But Ahaz answered, "I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!" Then he said: Listen, O house of David! Is it not enough for you to weary men, must you also weary my God? Isaiah 7:11-13
Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her. Luke 1:38
Sacrifice and offering you do not want; but ears open to obedience you gave me. Holocausts and sin-offerings you do not require; so I said, "Here I am; your commands for me are written in the scroll. To do your will is my delight; my God, your law is in my heart!" I announced your deed to a great assembly; I did not restrain my lips; you, LORD, are my witness. Your deed I did not hide within my heart; your loyal deliverance I have proclaimed. I made no secret of your enduring kindness to a great assembly. Psalm 40:7-11
Nine months before we celebrate Christmas and ten days before the miracle of the Easter Resurrection, we recall the miracle which set this chain of events in motion. A profound yet amazingly simple promise by a virgin in Nazareth: “May it be done to me according to your word.”
This interaction between Mary and Gabriel is so profound that it is the first mystery meditation of the 40 decades of the Rosary. This interaction is so profound that it also paved the way for the attitude exemplified by John the Baptist in his ministry. This interaction is so profound that it also foreshadows the attitude which governed every breath taken by Jesus during his life on earth.
How can it be? How can God come to us and be with us through the interaction with a young teenage girl living in poverty in the region of Palestine? How can it be? Elizabeth answers that question for us: Nothing will be impossible for God.
We do not celebrate this event in order to know all the answers. We celebrate the Annunciation as a solemn occasion so that we may remember it. But the solemn occasion does not end with remembrance. We celebrate the Annunciation as a solemn occasion so that we may emulate it. We do this – we act – because we remember to put this attitude in our hearts as well.
The contract between the Lord and his people is simple. Psalm 40 and the first reading from the poetic prophet Isaiah prompt us to act. The Lord will be there for us if we are there for him.
Jesus began his public ministry reading from these same scrolls. To do God’s will is his delight. Daily focus on the tripod of piety, study and action is the scroll for us. This Fourth Day pursuit can help to make knowing and doing God’s will our delight as well. Maybe we will not be asked to pay the ultimate price paid by John the Baptist, Jesus Christ or Oscar Romero. Yet the sign he offered to them is the same sign offered to us: “The virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel, which means, ‘God is with us!’”
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
“If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us! But even if he will not, know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue which you set up.” Daniel 3:17-18
Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32
Penitential Prayer of St. Augustine
The house of my soul is narrow;
enlarge it that you may enter in.
It is ruinous, O repair it!
It displeases Your sight.
I confess it, I know.
But who shall cleanse it,
to whom shall I cry but to you?
Cleanse me from my secret faults, O Lord,
and spare Your servant from strange sins.
St. Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430)
Why does the liturgical calendar call this season “Lent?”
Although earlier names for this season marked the forty days of Lent starting on Ash Wednesday and extending until Holy Thursday, sources say that in the Middle Ages, when sermons began to be delivered in local languages, the name “Lent” was adopted. This comes from the German “Lenz” for spring when the days began to lengthen.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “The Teutonic word Lent, which we employ to denote the forty days’ fast preceding Easter, originally meant no more than the spring season. Still it has been used from the Anglo-Saxon period to translate the more significant Latin term quadragesima (French carême, Italian quaresima, Spanish cuaresma), meaning the ‘forty days’, or more literally the ‘fortieth day’.”
Spiritually, Lent is the time of preparation when we engaged in prayer, fasting and acts of charity and self-denial (dieting, giving up chocolate, wine or other favorites). So in one sense, Lent is our spiritual “spring cleaning” before the celebration of Easter. Maybe this is even more so depending on how hardy you celebrated Mardi Gras – especially the post Super Bowl revelry of all the New Orleans Saints fans.
Spring also introduces the modern concept of daylight saving time. As we enjoy the dawn’s early light, the role of images of light and darkness also come out in Lenten days as well as in our prayers and readings. Many of the morning prayers in Lauds call on images of light and darkness. As the season progresses from late winter into early spring, those prayers now are recited in the light of early dawn. However, on Ash Wednesday, it is still dark out when Lauds are recited.
My less historical reflection on the name coincides with the action of the readings from this period. After Ash Wednesday, Jesus emerges from the desert (another 40 day period) and we follow the progress of his public ministry as he increasingly irritates the Pharisees until the action climaxes on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. The end of his human days is a stark reminder that God “lent” us his only Son to help us to be born again of the spirit and free us from the sin that enslaves us.
The readings this week from John’s Gospel remind us that Gid "lent" us Jesus to help us know the way, the truth and the light. And we shall know the truth and the truth (Jesus) shall set us free.
Today’s first reading showed the benefits not only of worshipping God but also of refusing to worship a false God. Today’s Gospel reinforces the message to follow the authentic “truth” that we come to know through Jesus alone.
How are you using Lent to turn away from any false gods in your life? How are you using Lent to better get to know the truth that Jesus teaches? How are you using Lent to inspire your action and almsgiving?
Monday, March 22, 2010
March 23, 2010
Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
By Beth DeCristofaro
But with their patience worn out by the journey, the people complained against God and Moses, … Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he lived. (Numbers 21:5,9)
He said to (the Pharisees), “You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.” So Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM,and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me. (John 8, 23-24, 28)
Lord, teach me what it is to be on mission. Give me insight how best to do your will in my little world and on your Earth. To speak your Word. To feed your lambs. And dear God, help me to see what is in my nature that lures me away, takes me down, draws me back to Me, far from our
So where am I on this Lenten journey? Worn out at times yet keeping my eyes on the Son, lifted up, at others. This year I decided on two sacrifices – to give up something I love and to be kinder, more open to someone significant in my life. And I have for many years cooked at least one meal from the CRS rice bowl recipes in solidarity with those for whom fasting is a daily way of life. How is it going?
Well, I can relate to the moaning Israelites. There have been many days that I have sure missed my glass of wine in the evening. On days that have been very tough at work or when things just haven’t gone well, a glass of delicious, relaxing wine would have worked wonders. And there are the good days when a glass would have been a celebration. In the giving up I am called back, often, to the giving up which a Christian life requires of us. I have taken the opportunity (when I don’t reflexively whine…) to say a prayer, to reorient myself to Jesus rather than my own comfort and to appreciate that I have given up a luxury to which many in this world do not – and will never have – access.
Being kinder, gentler to someone is harder. This really reminds me that my life is not just about me. That God is everyday asking me to speak the Word and feed God’s lambs. That takes effort. That takes humility. That takes trust that God knows what is best for me and my significant friend. That takes turning the journey over to God because, God knows, I’d rather do it my way. And how about that? It’s difficult but there is fruit in that desert. There is grace in the moments when I suddenly realize that I have turned back to me rather than to God and I can make a choice for God. The journey continues.
Let’s just say about the rice bowl recipes that I suspect a donation to CRS will be the end of that resolution. And God still loves me in spite of the incompleteness of my resolve.
These readings today, with the images of the seraph raised on high and the promise of Christ raised on high, are so compelling. Moses saved his people through the intercession of God. God saved me, the world, you, through the intercession of his Son. How can I not say “yes” to the mission to follow God?
A later king, Hezikiah, had the bronze seraph made by Moses melted down and destroyed because the people had begun to worship it rather than God. Look at what you have begun to worship – patterns of behavior, attitudes about people or things, lifestyle choices, rigid rituals, total self-sufficiency or unhealthy relationships. How can you turn your eyes back to God rather than this thing of worship? There is still time to reorient the journey. Call on God’s grace and your own courage.
Please welcome our new babe chicks from the Women’s 130th Cursillo into your parish families! DeColores!
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent
But Susanna cried aloud: "O eternal God, you know what is hidden and are aware of all things before they come to be: you know that they have testified falsely against me. Here I am about to die, though I have done none of the things with which these wicked men have charged me." Daniel 13:42-43
Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." So the Pharisees said to him, "You testify on your own behalf, so your testimony cannot be verified." Jesus answered and said to them, "Even if I do testify on my own behalf, my testimony can be verified, because. But you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge by appearances, but I do not judge anyone. John 8:12-15
The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength. You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name. Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage. You set a table before me as my enemies watch; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come. Psalm 23
Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus comes to us every where just like the wind. Whether we are in a dark hour before death, on the verge of being stoned to death like the woman in Sunday’s gospel, or any dark valley that we cross, Jesus is there. Maybe that is why Psalm 23 has been so often part of our Lenten daily readings.
The Lord comes to us where ever we may be. He does not need a GPS device or an application for his smart phone.
The hint for this truth is provided early in John’s Gospel and reinforced today. In John 3:8 we learned: “The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” However, Jesus knows where He came from – alluding to the Father – and where He is going – alluding to the passion and crucifixion.
Also, in another characteristic that sets Jesus apart from us is his trait not to judge. “I do not judge anyone.” Again, we learned the root of this in John 3:17-21 when he said:
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.
We may not all know where we are headed; however, we all know something about where we came from. In a country like ours, practically all of our families were immigrants at one time or another. That is why we all need to become familiar with the implications of Catholic Social Teaching and migration. The USCCB has a fact sheet which summarizes the positions (http://www.justiceforimmigrants.org/documents/immigration-and-catholic-social-teaching.pdf)
If you picked up postcards in your parish this weekend from the Justice for Immigrants campaign, remember to fill them out and bring them back next Sunday so they can be mailed as a statement of solidarity between Catholic parishes and immigrants.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Fifth Sunday of Lent
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ
Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers. Isaiah 49:18-19
Brothers, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God's upward calling, in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14
So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She replied, "No one, sir." Then Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go, (and) from now on do not sin any more." John 8:9b-11
Piety considers everything that does not speak Christ from the heart a loss. Piety gives us a claim on holiness. Zero tolerance is such a poor reflection of the forgiveness of Christ that there is obviously something wrong with it. Paul accepted the loss of all things and even good things were looked at as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus as Lord. Even good things that capture our energy can be considered a loss if they keep us from focusing Christ with all our minds, hearts and souls. The terrible things that gave birth to the notion of zero tolerance are all that terrible. Treating people with zero tolerance is just as terrible. We have an awesome challenge in the way Christ treated the woman caught in adultery because it is so easy to condemn others for what we are not caught at. The notion of zero tolerance dirtied the Church more than we will perhaps ever be aware of because it mocks the charity of Christ who did not let off the hook those who wanted to stone the woman taken in adultery. When he told them that the one without guilt could cast the first stone, none of the bystanders could qualify as sinless. Christ who was without sin did not condemn her. Our piety to be as genuine as it needs to be in following Christ, will not allow us to be critical of others. Our piety if it will reflect Christ will not allow us to be a condemning person. Piety calls us to give everyone a chance to change. We can condemn the sin. We should not condemn the sinner until they have failed to take the chance to change. Our piety protects those who cannot defend themselves. Piety encourages sinners to change.
Christ studied the Word of God we find in the Old Testament. So much of who Christ is, is portrayed in Isaiah. Christ is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. Piety springs forth from the influence of Christ on our lives through the example he gives us of forgiveness in his life. Christ made a way in the desert. In wastelands he puts water for his chosen people to drink. Christ forms our piety that we might announce his praise to the world by the way we live our lives as a forgiving people. We study our lives to discover who we need to forgive. But we study our lives all the more to see whose forgiveness we need to ask for. Who have we condemned wrongly? Whose asking for forgiveness have we failed to respond to?
By our goodness we gain Christ. Forgiveness belongs to the sufferings of Christ. What are the crosses of life that I run away from that if I take them up would allow me to be more a disciple of Christ? We have not yet attained to the maturity of Christ in us until we arrive at the Resurrection when we will become one with the Christ who calls us into his life and is the source of all forgiveness. There is no shortcut to the Resurrection. We have to be taken possession of by Christ. Forgiveness allows us to forget what lies behind and straining forward like Paul to what lies ahead, our forgiving actions continue our pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling in Christ Jesus. We pray “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive and we try to be a forgiving people that God may be free in the space of our forgiving to forgive us even more than we have been a forgiving people.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them, "Does our law condemn a person before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?" They answered and said to him, "You are not from Galilee also, are you? Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee." John 7:50-52
O LORD, judge of the nations. Grant me justice, LORD, for I am blameless, free of any guilt. Bring the malice of the wicked to an end; uphold the innocent, O God of justice, who tries hearts and minds. A shield before me is God who saves the honest heart. God is a just judge, who rebukes in anger every day. Psalm 7:9-12
How often do we go against the crowd? It’s easy to surf along with the tsunami of trends in society. However, it takes a special kind of gumption to go against the grain and challenge the status quo. Maybe that is why the Nicodemus we see today in his second and penultimate appearance in John’s gospel is one of my favorite biblical characters.
Nicodemus was there when what has become one of the most popularly quoted Bible passages of modern day was first uttered. Yes, the infamous John 3:16. He was there because of his natural curiosity. Yet, at that point, he was still hesitant to go against the prevailing attitudes of the Jewish community. So he wandered over to see and hear Jesus under cover of darkness.
We will meet our friend Nicodemus one more time. And then, after all the disciples have fled, he will be at the foot of the cross with Joseph of Aramethea removing the body Jesus once occupied and giving him a proper burial…in his action, he performs one of the core spiritual works of mercy.
Today, that natural curiosity with the preacher from Nazareth has grown and Nicodemus stands up to those in the temple who seek to destroy Jesus. Many times, we are in our comfort zone praying quietly in a small, private inner room. But are we ready to take that faith from the sanctuary into the streets?
As I think of the divisive rhetoric sometimes directed at immigrants in our media, I can not help but think that the words Nicodemus spoke today in the Gospel might not give us cause to pause…, "Does our law condemn a person before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?"
On Sunday, March 21, people from all across America, including busloads of Catholics from parishes in our area and beyond will descend upon the National Mall to march for immigration reform and economic justice. http://reformimmigrationforamerica.org/blog/what-march/
Our own Bishop Loverde from Arlington, VA, and others will join Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahoney and others concelebrating a Mass for Immigrants at 11 a.m. in St. Aloysius Gonzaga Roman Catholic Church (Upper Church)—19 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC (corner of N. Capitol and I Streets; Union Station Metro). The Mass is organized by the Justice for Immigrants Campaign (www.justiceforimmigrants.org) of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
Following Mass, organizers encourage Catholics to participate in the “March for America: Change Takes Courage and Faith,” rally 1-5 p.m. on the National Mall. Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration, will offer a reflection at about 1:30 p.m., during the interfaith prayer service being held prior to the rally, and Cardinal Mahony will give remarks at approximately 2:40 p.m. during the rally (stage located at 7th Street between Constitution and Independence Avenues).
Thursday, March 18, 2010
March 19, 2010
By Melanie Rigney
The Lord spoke to Nathan and said: “Go, tell my servant David … “Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me: your throne shall stand firm forever.” (2 Samuel 7:4-5, 16)
“I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant: “Forever will I confirm your posterity and establish your throne for all generations.” (Psalms 89:4-5)
It was not through the law that the promise was made to Abraham and his descendants
that he would inherit the world, but through the righteousness that comes from faith. (Romans 4:13)
When … Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”(Matthew 1:18-21)
Gracious Saint Joseph, protect me and my family from all evil as you did the Holy Family. Kindly keep us ever united in the love of Christ, ever fervent in imitation of the virtue of our Blessed Lady, your sinless spouse, and always faithful in devotion to you. Amen. (Author unknown)
We don’t know much about
Mary’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy could have resulted in her stoning. But Joseph wasn’t out for blood. He was prepared to divorce her quietly. His faith in the Lord, fortified by an angelic visit, let him take her into his home despite the gossip.
Centuries later, the drought- and famine-stricken people of
Some see Joseph as “one of us.” He wasn’t special by his birth, as were Jesus and Mary, as much as he was special by his faith and the way he lived it—quietly, without fanfare, but with passion and determination to take care of his family. It’s appropriate, then, that we remember him with two feast days—May 1 to honor him as the patron saint of workers, and today to honor him as Mary’s husband.
Thank someone who has quietly protected you from physical, mental, or emotional harm.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent
“Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, and how you swore to them by your own self, saying, 'I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky; and all this land that I promised, I will give your descendants as their perpetual heritage.” So the LORD relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people. Exodus 32:13-14
“Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father: the one who will accuse you is Moses, in whom you have placed your hope. For if you had believed Moses, you would have believed me, because he wrote about me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” John 5:45-47
At Horeb they fashioned a calf, worshiped a metal statue. They exchanged their glorious God for the image of a grass-eating bull. They forgot the God who saved them, who did great deeds in Egypt, Amazing deeds in the land of Ham, fearsome deeds at the Red Sea. He would have decreed their destruction, had not Moses, the chosen leader, Withstood him in the breach to turn back his destroying anger. Psalm 106:19-23
Public Defender or Witness for the Prosecution? Within the readings we have today, Moses potentially plays both roles. In the passage from Exodus, Moses intercedes with the Lord on our behalf. He convinces God to blow off some steam rather than to inflict upon us the punishment which we deserve.
However, Jesus warns us that even Moses might reach the end of his patience with the way his people have rejected Jesus. “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father: the one who will accuse you is Moses, in whom you have placed your hope.
How, indeed, will we believe? Will we believe because we have empirical evidence about God? Look around at the season poking its head out into the newly arrived sunshine. After winter blizzards and heavy spring rains, one day of sunshine is all it takes for the buds to begin to appear on the trees. The crocus and tulips are poking their green stems and leaves up through the mulchy mushy soil to brighten our days with bright yellow and pink and red hellos.
How, indeed, will we believe? Will we believe because we have learned to see Jesus in the women and men who dot our daily lives? From those closest to us like our spouses who put up with all our lazy habits to those we only encounter briefly at the toll plaza or on the sidewalks, do we see the person of Jesus in them?
How, indeed, will we believe? Will we believe because we have learned to listen to the voice of God by meditating on words, sounds and images? God is there speaking to us. Jesus calls on us to hear what the Father has to say to us.
How, indeed, will we believe?
Are the words of Jesus enough?
Are the words of John the Baptist enough?
Are the words of God enough?
Are the scriptures enough?
Are Moses and the prophets enough?
Imagine for a minute that Moses is walking into a courtroom. You are sitting at the defendant’s table. What seat will Moses take in the room? Will he march up to sit with the prosecutor? Will he sit next to you and your lawyer as co-counsel? Will he sit behind you ready to take the witness stand in your behalf?
As Psalm 106 reminds us today, the Lord “would have decreed [our] destruction, had not Moses, the chosen leader, withstood him in the breach to turn back his destroying anger.”
The challenge of today’s Gospel calls to mind the story of Lazarus and the rich man who ignored the needs of the poor beggar at his gate. Maybe what we need to do is encounter God in the person of the poor who are with us always reminding us of the presence of the Lord in everyday life.
The Lord exerts a presence every day of our life. Our job is to recognize it and act accordingly.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Sing out, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth, break forth into song, you mountains. For the LORD comforts his people and shows mercy to his afflicted. But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me." Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. Isaiah 49:13-15
"I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me. John 5:30
An Old Irish Blessing
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
According to Stephen Walker, the symbolism of the Celtic cross is shared by many different people who claim it as their own. In our modern multicultural world the ringed cross is as much a symbol of ethnic heritage as it is of faith and it is often used as an emblem of ones Irish, Scottish or Welsh identity.
Yesterday, at a Mass of Christian Burial for The Honorable Ronald Horan, Sr., Fr. Kevin offered one explanation. Celtic spirituality recognizes the sacred in all things. The circle represents our unity with all things made by God, including each other. Through the symbol of the cross, Christ becomes the brother who unites all of us to all creation.
Legend has it that St. Patrick traced the Christian cross over the Druid circle to unite the symbols of both traditions. If that is true, then it was very appropriate that the doors on both sides of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church sported two green Celtic crosses each.
The unity of all is brought together by the shared symbols at the Funeral Mass. Water reminds us of our shared baptism with Christ. The white cloth draped over the casket symbolizes our Baptismal garment. The songs and ritual of the Mass remind us of the sacrifice Jesus made on behalf of all of us.
Each of us has unique memories of our loved ones who have passed on to life in Christ. Yesterday, Ron Horan, Jr., shared one special heartfelt story about his father’s commitment to the spirit of the law despite the slings he suffered from the legal community. Yet for all our differences, the scripture readings and prayers recited by Missy and Chris also unite us in one faith tradition. Whether it is Psalm 23, the Peace Prayer of St. Francis, or the famous Irish Blessing, our rituals help give us anchors to hold on to when we are feeling lost, alone, and have to let go of the physical memories of those we love.
The final resting place reminds us that no matter what we do in life, our physical bodies will all end up in the same condition. How we live our life will determine what happens to our spiritual life here and beyond. Nothing we do or accomplish is done alone if we seek to do the will of the one who sends us forth to love and serve the world. As Fr. Kevin put it in his homily yesterday, there is no expiration date on the love that the Lord has for Ron Horan, Sr., Jr., or for any of the rest of us.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
By Beth DeCristofaro
The angel brought me, Ezekiel, back to the entrance of the temple of the LORD, and I saw water flowing out from beneath the threshold of the temple to the East … He said to me, “This water flows into the eastern district down upon the Arabah, and empties into the sea, the salt waters, which it makes fresh. Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live, and there shall be abundant fish, for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh. Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of every kind shall grow; their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail. (Ezekiel 47:1, 8-9, 12)
One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked. (John 5:5-8)
Joyful praise in Lent? I'm not sure I always feel that. I ask you to help me prepare to understand and embrace the paschal mystery in my life. I don't always see the beauty and mystery of this season and often I run from the pain. Help me to see how your saving grace and your loving touch in my life can fill me with joyful praise of the salvation you have sent to me. (From Creighton U Ministries “1 Prayer a Day for Lent” http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Lent/Daily-prayers-04.html)
Ezekiel is witness to the incredible generous, creative life force of God as he watches the living waters, God’s grace bubbling over wasteland brings fecundity and existence to what was desert. And the man at the well cannot be healed by the his efforts and the so-called power of the pool. It is Jesus’ living word which heals him.
There have been months of desert in my own life. As a student studying abroad I was very lonely away from home and isolated by an imperfect command of the French language. Attending Mass was comforting in the rhythms of the ritual but the words did not reach me. Then I met a family (truth be told I played peek-a-boo with their toddler during the sermon). They invited me to lunch and we struck up a friendship during which I began to feel the cool wash of refreshment on my parched soul. God’s presence in the form of a giving, welcoming family gave me a new beginning. Later in life I felt paralyzed under my own sadness and anger when my brother died. It was as if the bubbling pool was too far from me. I kept looking for a reason and the biological reality of an unlooked for heart attack was not an answer that comforted. I’ve prayed often about and for Mike and myself. Healing myself didn’t work. Leaving it in Jesus’ hands and, in essence, accepting Jesus words to get up and walk despite the paralysis has helped me heal. And often, the living waters of God’s community – my family, dear friends, Cursillo – have swept me along to renewal and regeneration.
God had my back in France and he had my back when Mike died. God has the infinite capacity and desire to re-green the desert of the East and of my soul.
Lent can be a season of paradox if we truly allow ourselves to immerse in the vibrant, disturbing, challenging, hopeful and refreshing words of God. I feel that this Lent has pulled me along in its flow from the promises made by God to his Chosen People in history to the promises of Jesus now in my life. The images today of the living waters of God gives me a renewed hope that God has the world safely in hand despite vast arid spaces of desert, hurt, suffering and pain. God is there within those scorched areas too. What are we doing to renew God’s freshness within us and in the world around us?
Sunday, March 14, 2010
March 15, 2010
Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; The things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind. Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I create; For I create
Jesus said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe." The royal official said to him, "Sir, come down before my child dies." Jesus said to him, "You may go; your son will live." The man believed what Jesus said to him and left. John 4:48-50
MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. (Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude”)
Did you ever telephone someone and have them pick up the phone before you even heard the phone ring on your end? It is almost as if they knew you were going to call and sensed you on the other end of the line. Intellectually, we know that the phone had to ring or why would our friend have answered. But our sense of hearing tells us something was missing.
Throughout Lent, many of our readings lead us to reflect on the Living Presence of the Lord in the present moment. Isaiah chapter 65 (from which is drawn today’s first reading) starts out with God lamenting his wait for us to pay attention to him. God sounds almost desperate for our attention. Imagine a hungry infant screaming for his dinner. God, however, is more alone than that. He is alone like the father awaiting the return of his prodigal son.
God is ready to respond to us but we do not turn to him with our petitions. God is ready to offer us a hand to steady us on our walk, but we set out in a different direction. God is ready to respond but we remain pre-occupied with the show of sacrifices rather than the real work of piety, study and action. Just listen to his plaintive cry:
I was ready to respond to those who asked me not, to be found by those who sought me not. I said: Here I am! Here I am! To a nation that did not call upon my name. I have stretched out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, Who walk in evil paths and follow their own thoughts, People who provoke me continually, to my face, Offering sacrifices in the groves and burning incense on bricks, Living among the graves and spending the night in caverns, Eating swine's flesh, with carrion broth in their dishes. Isaiah 65:1-4
God is sitting there waving his hands at us saying “Here I am! Ask me!” Yet we can not hear because we have the volume turned up too loud on March Madness, or Netflix or The Celebrity Apprentice. Before we even call, God is ready to answer. However, something is missing. God wants us to be like He is. God is waiting for us to say to Him, “Here I am.”
In the Roman official from
After being rejected in his home town, Jesus went to
Jesus returned to
The people in
Like the steward at the wedding who filled the six jars with water, the Roman official acted. Hearing was not enough. In the same way, we have to listen. But that is not enough. We have to follow through. The Lord is not waiting for us to give up Big Macs or “NCIS” reruns or even the grande low fat double Mocha chino at Starbucks. He is waiting for us to act. What do you think the Lord wants you to follow-up on this Lenten season?
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Fourth Sunday of Lent
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ
While the Israelites were encamped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, they celebrated the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth of the month. On the day after the Passover they ate of the produce of the land in the form of unleavened cakes and parched grain. On that same day after the Passover on which they ate of the produce of the land, the manna ceased. No longer was there manna for the Israelites, who that year ate of the yield of the land of Canaan. Joshua 5:10-12
So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
“He said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’” Luke 15:31-32
The embrace of Christ from the cross covers all the sinfulness we bring him if we but ask. It is the love of God fully expressed in a human act of love. God so loves the world that he gives us his only begotten Son as the revelation of his love for us. On the cross of Christ we see the mystery of divine love reaching out and always ready to be our forgiveness. He died once and forever that we may have sonship with the Father in the Father’s love for Christ. His dying on the cross fully expresses the mystery of God’s love for his creation. I see a parent’s love of their children in every parental act. God’s love for us is the sharing of his son with us. God gives us the perfect gift. God does not force his love on us. His love makes us free because love can never be forced. He does not overpower us with his love because he gives us the freedom to accept Christ. How much my heart desires to be one with Christ is the measure of my potential to love. Because God first loved us, we are able to love him back in His Son. Our piety is seen in the Christness of our lives.
Christ welcomes sinners and he eats with them. We study how we can be zealous like Christ in our outreach for the world so terribly in need of God’s love. He was with sinners in order to help them. We need to look at our motives in our friendships. If someone is not following Christ and leading me astray, Christ would not want me to stay around. The story of the Prodigal Son is really the story of the prodigal father who is forever waiting for the son to freely return. God gives us the gift of his love so that we would recognize that our real happiness is to be with him. We ought to choose for ourselves to stay with Christ. We study our motivations. Justice is the duty that we owe. God’s love is the gift that is waiting for us. We come home to God’s love for us in his Church. We would never want the Father without our awareness that he first loved us. His love for us is a unique love that takes us as we are. The Father in the Prodigal story was waiting for the son. It seems that the Father never took his eyes off the road his son would return by. We return to the father because he loves us. We stay with the Father because like the elder son we recognize the Father’s love. We should never forget that the love is always there waiting for us to accept it. We need but ask.
The decision to turn our lives back to God is made in the realization of all that is missing. Peace, happiness and security are the essentials of a good home. That is what family offers us. Belonging takes away loneliness. People who want us for ourselves and not for what we can give them make for good friends. Family is a blood relationship. It is a love that belongs to the fiber of our being. We are called by the Father’s love to share our lives with each other as members of God’s family. How we look out for each other without being asked is the beauty of true love and a true family of God. We need to be forever going home. There is never a day that God is not calling us. The road home needs the firm steps of a vision of God waiting for us. God is willing to share the best of his life with us. He offers us his son. Every prayer, word and deed needs the vision of the son to bring us to our true home. It is Christ who takes our prayers to the Father and it is in Christ that we are heard by God as his sons and daughters. It is in dying with Christ that we rise to our destiny of loving God forever. We love our world even as Christ did in all the ways we carry our crosses for the sake of each other. It is in our dying that Christ restores our world today. It is the greatest joy humanly possible to give our lives by our sufferings for the sake of each other. It is thus we become the Mystical Body of Christ. We thus become his embrace of what is wrong with our world and can remake it in his love.