Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tell Me, if You Know All

October 1, 2010
Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, virgin and doctor of the Church

By Melanie Rigney

Tell me, if you know all: Which is the way to the dwelling place of light, and where is the abode of darkness, that you may take them to their boundaries and set them on their homeward paths? (Job 38:18-20)

O Lord, you have probed me and you know me; you know when I sit and when I stand; you understand my thoughts from afar. (Psalms 139:1-2)

(Jesus said to them,) “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me." (Luke 10:16)

Lord, with your bright and open heart forgive me for showing darkness to the light. Putting my back, to what is right was wrong and I have sinned against you. Forgive me O merciful one because I have realized my wrong and I am sorry for what I have done. Lord I am ready to continue following in your footsteps. Take me from the dark. Hear me now O lord. Amen. (Found at

A friend of mine recently complained about riding on I-95 north to New York City while her twentysomething son drove. “He thinks he knows everything, and he’s been driving for a whole seven years!” she fumed. “Mark and I have more than eighty years of driving between us, and he didn’t want to listen to a word we said. Finally, Mark told him to pull over to the side of the road so that Mark could drive.”

I suspect God feels the same way about us sometimes. We see it in today’s first reading, when God rebukes Job for demanding a reason for his actions. You think you’re so smart, God in essence says, then show me. Answer just a few questions. And of course, Job can’t.

Job’s not the only one who demands reasons from God. We ask why he takes loved ones away from us. We ask why people live in poverty and despair. We ask why we’re not prettier, smarter, or happier than we are.

In short, we’re like my friend’s son. And when we get too annoying, God has a way of pulling us over to the side and taking the wheel.

There’s a difference between asking for guidance and acceptance, and telling God he’s got some explaining to do. Just for today, resist the urge to ask God to explain himself to you.

At Hand

September 30, 2010
Memorial of Saint Jerome, priest and doctor of the Church

But as for me, I know that my Vindicator lives, and that he will at last stand forth upon the dust; and from my flesh I shall see God; my inmost being is consumed with longing. Whom I myself shall see: my own eyes, not another's, shall behold him. Job 19:25-27

“Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, 'The kingdom of God is at hand for you.' Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, 'The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.' Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand.” Luke 10:8-11

“The Bible Tells Me So”
By Don Cornell

(How does he know)
Oh, how do I know
(How does he know)
Oh, how do I know
(This is how he knows)

Have faith, hope and charity
That's the way to live successfully
How do I know, the Bible tells me so
(The Bible tells him)

Do good to your enemies
And the Blessed Lord you'll surely please
How do I know, the Bible tells me so
(The Bible tells him)

Don't worry 'bout tomorrow
Just be real good today
The Lord is right beside you
He'll guide you all the way

Have faith, hope and charity
That's the way to live successfully
How do I know, the bible tells me so
(The Bible tells him)

So, have faith, hope and charity
That's the way to live successfully
How do I know, the bible tells me so
(That's how he knows it)

Do good to your enemies
And the Blessed Lord you'll surely please
How do I know, the Bible tells me so
(That's how he knows it)

Don't worry 'bout tomorrow
Just be real good today
The Lord is right beside you
He'll guide you all the way

Oh, the Bible says have faith, hope and charity
That's the way to live successfully
How do I know, (oh, how does he know)
How do I know, (oh, how does he know)
The Bible tells me so

Today’s readings underscore that our Church is founded upon the principals of faith, hope and charity.

In Job, we see his faith shine forth despite all that he has endured. He knows that his God is a living God. Hope is evident in the belief that Job will see the Lord face-to-face and his whole being is consumed with the “holy longing” for that moment when he is in the true presence of God.

In the commissioning of the disciples, Jesus sends them out to perform acts of charity for those who will welcome them. Jesus tells them this mission will not be easy and they will have to overcome many hardships: over work (“the harvest is abundant”), lack of personnel for the mission (“laborer are few”), opposition and hostility (“lambs among wolves”); and more.

The urgency of the commissioning becomes evident as Jesus warns them that attachment to material possessions should be avoided and even customary greetings should not distract from the fulfillment of the task. Job did not have to be reminded of this. His possessions were already “taken back” by the Lord.

Through all the challenges of daily life, the message is built on the same depth of faith we witness in the life of Job: “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Through our faith and good works, we can aspire to be there. However, no matter how much we long for the Kingdom, it is up to us to begin to build that mighty Kingdom, brick-by-holy-brick.

What bricks of faith, hope and love will you put into place today?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Defend Us, We Pray

September 29, 2010
Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels

By Colleen O’Sullivan

War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, But they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. (Rev. 12:7-8)

“Do you believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man. (John 1:50-51)

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the Divine Power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Today the Church celebrates the fest of Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, the Archangels. Saint Michael has traditionally been known as a defender or protector of the saints against the wiles of Satan, as seen in today’s reading from the Book of Revelation; St. Gabriel as a messenger from God, as witnessed in his visitation to Mary in Luke’s Gospel, and St. Raphael as a healer, as depicted in the Book of Tobit.

In the Book of Revelation, John records a series of visions of events on earth. In between the second and third of these, lies today’s account of war breaking out in heaven. Rev. 12 begins with the story of a woman (Mary) being with child (Christ). Satan, depicted as a dragon, has his eye on the destruction of this child as soon as he is born. His desires are thwarted, however, when the child is “caught up to God and his throne.” Not one to give up easily, Satan persists in his desire to rule.

In today’s reading, we witness a monumental battle in heaven, with St. Michael and his angels on one side and Satan and his followers on the other. Satan and his friends lose. They are cast out of heaven and much rejoicing in heaven follows.

But where are Satan and his friends now? Where did they go? Right here! The Scriptures say, “Woe to you, earth and sea, for the Devil has come down to you in great fury…” It doesn’t seem to be much in vogue today to talk about the Devil or Satan. In fact, the other day one of my friends asked me, “Do you really believe in the Devil?” in a tone of voice that inferred I was behind the times if I did. No, I don’t believe in the Halloween costume sort of devil, but I know the Evil One is out there still waging his battle every day. He doesn’t rule in heaven, but what better way to continue the battle than by working on Christ’s disciples like you and me? Today’s feast day reminds us, though, that we can always turn to St. Michael for protection and help in our struggles against temptation.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is beginning his public ministry by calling people to be his disciples. In the verses preceding today’s reading, Jesus has gone to Galilee and has called Philip to follow him. Philip, in turn, finds Nathanael and tells him that “the one about whom Moses wrote in the law” has been found, but when Nathanael hears that Jesus is from Nazareth, he is very skeptical about the whole thing. Nazareth must have been on the wrong side of the tracks. However, he responds to Philip’s invitation to “come and see.”

From being skeptical, Nathanael moves to proclaiming Jesus the “Son of God” and “the king of Israel,” all seemingly because Jesus had seen him sitting under a fig tree and had recognized in Nathanael a “true Israelite,” an honest person. Jesus tells him that he will see even greater things. “…You will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” Hearing Jesus’ words in the context of today’s feast of the Archangels, we, too are reminded that there are greater things to come that we can’t imagine today, among them a whole realm of angelic activity not immediately visible to us.

Take a few minutes today to reflect on times in your life when you have been helped or saved by God’s angels – perhaps a moment when you have faced great temptation and St. Michael the Archangel protected you from the power of the Evil One; some occasion when the Lord called you to do something through the whisper of St. Gabriel the Archangel; or some point in your life when you were ill in body or spirit and were healed through the intervention of St. Raphael the Archangel – and give thanks.

They Would Not Welcome Him

September 28, 2010
Tuesday of the Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth DeCristofaro

Job opened his mouth and cursed his day. Job spoke out and said: Perish the day on which I was born, the night when they said, "The child is a boy!" (Job 3:1-3)

When the days for Jesus to be taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, … On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him … When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?" Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village. (Luke 9: 51-56)

Watch thou, dear Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight, and give thine angels charge over those who sleep. Tend thy sick ones, Lord Christ. Rest thy weary ones. Bless thy dying ones. Soothe thy suffering ones. Pity thine afflicted ones. Shield thy joyous ones. And all, for thy love's sake. Amen. (St. Augustine)

The film “Life is Beautiful” comes to mind as I read today. The film, if you have not seen it, is the story of a Jewish family interned by the Germans in a prison camp during World War II. The father spins the experience for his son that they are playing an elaborate game with the Germans as players not oppressors. By skillful manipulation of what his son does and sees, and imaginative stories, he is able to keep his son safe and innocent. His son believes, indeed, that life is beautiful even as the camera shows the misery, fear and cruelty around him. Fanciful, yes. But the film is also hopeful even up to the moment when Papa mischievously marches away to execution while keeping up the charade. In the film, the father helps his son always turn to beauty and love. He knew that beauty and love trumps evil and would help his son triumph even over death.

But the Holocaust, the death of Job’s family and loss of his health and fortune, the hostile reception of Jesus by the Samaritans reminds us that life is not always beautiful. That evil, sadness, hurt, loss, infidelity, violence, fruitlessness, despair, ugliness, and brokenness abound in life. God is present but God does not clean up pain and anguish before it can lay us low or cause us to question our mind and our faith. Job knew this and he accused God of treachery and impotence. Yet even in his anger he did not turn his back on God or seek shallow reasons to explain away the fact that evil exists and evil destroyed what was good in his life. Job turned to God for answers and demanded an answer, sure that his relationship with God was close enough to take the blunt and raw power of his words. He spoke from his trust.

Jesus’ friends were ready to avenge the insult to him when the Samaritans rejected him. Jesus, however, continued on his resolute way to the cross, to his Father. Jesus also knew that there is no good, rational answer to evil but also that evil is not the final answer. God’s goodness and mercy not evil are the source of life and creation. God is the beginning and the end. Jesus knew that mercy and forgiveness trumps the world’s false answer of retribution. Jesus trusted implicitly in his relationship with his father. Evil will not win out. Jesus and Job placed their faith in God and faced their lives toward God.

Richard Rohr explains that God gives us the ability to see beauty, to feel pleasure, to love, and to have faith. These gifts, these joys, perversely, allow us to know hurt when beauty, pleasure, love and faith are gone or twisted. Jesus’ redemptive sacrifice on the cross triumphed over evil even as our lives can still be marred in so many ways. Can we, like Jesus, trust in God even when we feel no trust, when we are most dejected and rejected, despised and hurting? If trust is too difficult, can we resolutely continue our life’s journey giving mercy to others and to ourselves even when we feel most lost? Welcome those who come into your life if not for their sake then for the sake of God who loves them.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The One Who is Least

September 27, 2010
Memorial of Saint Vincent de Paul, priest

Then Job began to tear his cloak and cut off his hair. He cast himself prostrate upon the ground, and said, “Naked I came forth from my mother's womb, and naked shall I go back again. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD!” Job 1:20-21

Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.” Luke 9:47-48

O Deus Ego Amo Te
O God, I love Thee, I love Thee —
Not out of hope of heaven for me
Nor fearing not to love and be
In the everlasting burning.
Thou, Thou, my Jesus, after me
Didst reach Thine arms out dying,
For my sake sufferedst nails and lance,
Mocked and marred countenance,
Sorrows passing number,
Sweat and care and cumber,
Yea and death, and this for me,
And Thou couldst see me sinning;
Then I, why should not I love Thee,
Jesus, so much in love with me?
Not for heaven’s sake; not to be
Out of hell by loving Thee;
Not for any gains I see;
But just the way that Thou didst me
I do love and I will love Thee:
What must I love Thee, Lord, for then?
For being my king and God. Amen.

St. Francis Xavier
Translated by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Alexander had nothing on Job. Job was having a particularly terrible, horrible, very bad day. His oxen and donkeys were stolen by the Sabeans. Lightning wiped out the sheep and the shepherds. The Chaldeans, not to be outdone, stole his camels. Then, to top it off, a typhoon-like wind knocked over his house (uninsured) and killed his sons and daughters inside.

Yet not even on a day as bad as this, bearing the full wrath of Satan’s opposition to the Lord, did Job abandon, disrespect or blaspheme the Lord. “Naked I came forth from my mother's womb, and naked shall I go back again. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD!”

Job exemplifies the attitudes we studied last week which encouraged us to get distance between us and our material/worldly possessions. As we heard in Luke 8, “To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.” This is not referring to material wealth but instead refers to understanding and love of God. Those, like Job, who have a healthy respect and fear of God, will not bemoan the loss of possessions. After all, the losses experienced by Job did not deprive him of life. His pain, no matter how great, was still short of execution on the cross.

When Jesus instructed the disciples to “Take nothing for the journey,” Job exemplifies acceptance of this challenge. He recognizes that he came into the world with nothing and will depart with nothing. It, then, is easier for Job to accept the hardship at hand.

Therefore, when today, Jesus is challenged to select who is the greatest among all the disciples, Jesus selects the least powerful and persons with the least attachment to worldly good – the children – to underscore his point.

The Gospel continues to challenge us to receive those who are the least as though we are accepting those who are the best.

Think of a time when you were treated like a VIP. Maybe you visited an office and they escorted you in, provided you with refreshments, and allowed you to speak to a group of employees about a cause that was close to your heart. Did you feel comfortable? Did you expect such treatment? Or are you more comfortable fending for yourself without the escort and the recognition?

Think of a time when you were not treated like a VIP. Maybe you bought a defective product and tried to get it fixed or returned to the seller. But you could not accomplish this task. Even though you might have been uneasy about accepting the VIP treatment, when common courtesies are withheld, we expect to be treated better.

The poor, the widows, the orphans, the ill, and the strangers never have to worry about getting the VIP treatment on earth. However, when they get to heaven, the roles will be reversed. St. Vincent de Paul tried to make this a reality on earth.

Who should you treat like a VIP today? Who is least of the people you will encounter today?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Be Persuaded

September 26, 2010
Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

Woe to the complacent in Zion…Lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches, They eat lambs taken from the flock, and calves from the stall. Therefore, now they shall be the first to go into exile, and their wanton revelry shall be done away with. Amos 6:1a, 4,7

“He said, 'Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' Then Abraham said, 'If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'" Luke 16:30-31

The Lazarus story too often is treated as a good story. It is always something happening to anther until the day comes that the person is knocking at our door. All too often I find myself treating the beggar as a stranger. You are not my problem I am saying to myself. How did you get to my door? Piety is the eagerness of my heart to give a welcome to Christ. Christ has promised to come to us in every stranger that touches our lives. He says it simply. “When I was hungry you gave me to eat. When I was thirsty, you gave me to drink.” I catch myself trying to hide from The Christ who appears in my life as the least of all my would-be friends. I have seen what I was like when the President of the United States was coming to supper. I was dressed in the best of my clothes. I was like a little child who is so nervous that he is quiet beyond all belief. I did not speak until I was spoken to. Again and again because I am a priest, I have been hit on for a quick fix by people of all kinds. Lazarus was the perfect down and out person. Would I have truly given to Lazarus any more than the rich man of the Gospel? The heroes of my life do just that. They do not give from the extras of their life. They give from the necessities of their lives. My heroes treat the least persons of their lives as if they were Christ.

I think about the poor people who have come to me for help. I have wanted to treat them as Christ. I have experienced trying to treat them as Christ. I might even give more than is expected of me by the beggar. But I have seen how I treat people who are important in the eyes of the world. I have given up my room for my boss. I have shared the best of what I have with people that I love in my family and without. But the catch when I study my behavior is in the truth that I am not really treating the needy person as Christ in what they need from me. The effort to see beyond appearances is helped by prayer. But it is the experience of reaching out to a poor person that seems unworthy of help that teaches us what we are doing for Christ.

I am not going to do for anyone more than I intend to do. I need to plan my behavior with the poor and to reach out again and again to practice what I preach in how I help the poor. A few moments spent with a poor man or women make it hard to just walk on by. Acknowledging a person by looking them in the eyes takes away all the rote behavior in what I do. Looking the person in the eyes allows us to see their hearts and to realize better how much more we can help. We help the poor best when we look them in the eyes to see the Christ that would live in them with a little help of ourselves. Taking an extra moment with a poor person makes a Christ moment out of what we are doing. Giving until it hurts makes real the Christ we would be in his name.

Pay Attention

September 25, 2010
Saturday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Rejoice, O young man, while you are young and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart, the vision of your eyes; Yet understand that as regards all this God will bring you to judgment. Ward off grief from your heart and put away trouble from your presence, though the dawn of youth is fleeting. Ecclesiastes 11:9-10

"Pay attention to what I am telling you. The Son of Man is to be handed over to men." But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was hidden from them so that they should not understand it, and they were afraid to ask him about this saying. Luke 9:44-45

Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart. Psalm 90:12

Jesus had a very unusual burden to bear on his human heart. He knew that he would not die of old age. We, on the other hand, hope that is our fate.

Remember those whom you have watched succumb to old age, disease or death. Sometimes, their end came slowly. They endured pain, hardship and the slow loss of the gift of life as described in our first reading. Medical professionals even have stages for disease so that they can track the physical effects on their patients.

My mother Ruth (Rizzo) De Cristofaro has recently been classified as Stage Six Alzheimer’s. Almost like a camp fire dimming in the evening, each month quenches more and more of the light in her eyes, the brightness of her smile and the “get-up” in her step.

No more does she have the joy of trips to Atlantic City with her friends. No more does her contralto voice in the church choir cause the children in the pews to look up to the loft and seek out the source of that song. No more does her favorite season, Christmas, even get marked on her calendar with decorations, baking and wrapping of gifts. The radio no longer trumpets the smooth sounds of her favorite singer (Sinatra) and her Sundays are not spent watching her favorite golfer (Tiger) stroll the fairways head held high to victory at the 18th green. No more does the marvel of her embroidered handiwork win the blue ribbon at the women's club or the praise of mother’s who get the baby blankets and hats woven with the skill of her hands and eyes, her yarn and needles. No longer are the phone bill be stacked with calls to her three loving sisters.

Jesus, though, knew his end would not come naturally. He knew that a friend would hand him over for torture, execution and murder at the hands of the church and state.

Jesus implores us to pay attention to the miracles of the present moment of our youth while we can still love and make choices and love.

To what are we handing our lives over each day? Do we attempt to drown out our problems with alcohol, drugs, gluttony and television? Do we hoard our money and not share with others?

Jesus wanted each one of us to have right relationships with each other and with Him and His Father. He and the prophets warned us what was ahead.

Why not call or visit someone today whom you know is in the waning days of life or illness. Stop by their home, hospital room, or whatever facility they call home in this stage of life and bring with you some photograph and memories of their youth and your shared joys.

“Hello, Mom.”

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Everything Appropriate to Its Time

September 24, 2010
Friday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every thing under the heavens. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant. A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces. A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away. A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to be silent, and a time to speak. A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. What advantage has the worker from his toil? I have considered the task that God has appointed for the sons of men to be busied about. He has made everything appropriate to its time, and has put the timeless into their hearts, without man's ever discovering, from beginning to end, the work which God has done. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11)

Lord, what is man, that you notice him; the son of man, that you take thought of him? Man is like a breath; his days, like a passing shadow. (Psalms 144:-3-4)

Then (Jesus) said to (the disciples), "But who do you say that I am?" Peter said in reply, "The Christ of God." (Luke 9:20)

God, grant us the serenity to accept things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference; patience for the things that take time, appreciation for all that we have, and tolerance for those with different struggles; freedom to live beyond the limitations of our past ways, the ability to feel your love for us and our love for each other, and the strength to get up and try again even when we feel it is hopeless. (Reinhold Niebuhr)

“Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)” by the Byrds

Are you the same person you were when you started high school? When you began your first job? When you had your first child? When you made your Cursillo Weekend?

Are you the same person you were yesterday?

Four years ago, I was on fire for God after a lengthy absence from faith, and the way that worked for me to show that, the call I felt, was to volunteer for or participate in practically every parish program available. Parish Council, season-specific small-faith groups, ushering, greeting, you name it, I was there. It was a time to drink deeply, to overwhelm myself sometimes with the Body of Christ.

What time was it for you then?

These days, the fire is still there, but the Lord’s call has changed. He uses the skill he’s given me to carry the Word in writing, through books and devotions. I find myself carving out more quiet time in prayer, listening to how God desires that I use this skill. It’s a somewhat lonelier ministry—you don’t see me at my parish much these days beyond Sunday Mass—but it is rich and fulfilling. It is a time to think deeply, to overwhelm myself sometimes as I work to listen more and talk less in prayer and by extension with people in my life.

What time is it for you today?

Where will we all be—physically, emotionally, spiritually—four years from now? Only God knows. But then, he’s the only one who really needs to know. His constant presence is what matters. The rest is a passing shadow.

Are you continuing to do something—hold a grudge, engage in an activity—even after God has indicated its time has passed? Are you fearful of a call that’s tugging at your soul? Pray for the wisdom to do God’s will.

Who Then Is This?

September 23, 2010
Memorial of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, priest

One generation passes and another comes, but the world forever stays. The sun rises and the sun goes down; then it presses on to the place where it rises. Blowing now toward the south, then toward the north, the wind turns again and again, resuming its rounds. All rivers go to the sea, yet never does the sea become full. To the place where they go, the rivers keep on going. Ecclesiastes 1:4-7

“Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” And he kept trying to see him. Luke 9:9

Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will shout for joy!

Father, help us to seek an authentic and loving answer to our relationship with you. Through Jesus Christ, never stop pursuing your relationship with us no matter how much we revert to the ways of the word that never change. Use the Holy Spirit to build that love on your agenda, not ours. Amen.

“Who then is this about whom I hear such things?”

Jesus preaching and healing had made an impression on many people. The word had even reached King Herod. This is the same vain man-king who at first seemed conflicted over what to do about John the Baptist but relented to the wishes of his wife and daughter and had the prophet beheaded.

“Who then is this about whom I hear such things?”

Even Herod wanted to know more about Jesus.

In every age, the Lord has been our refuge. In the age of the Hebrew Bible before Christ appeared as man. During the years Christ lived among us. And it continues now when the Holy Spirit continues His presence in the world. Are you asking yourself the same question Herod pondered? Are you trying to see Christ in the world today?

When was the last time or the first time you asked yourself this same question? “Who then is this about whom I hear such things?”

What was your answer? Are you still pursuing the question? Cursillo gives us a chance to know ourselves and to know Jesus. The next opportunity will be a weekend for men coming up in October 8-11 at the San Damiano Spirituality Center. The scripture theme for the weekend is “Turn to me.” (Isaiah 45:22).

Help the team recruit candidates for the weekend who are anxious about getting to know Jesus. And support them with your Palanca. Send cards and letters to the address on the team webpage:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


September 22, 2010

Wednesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Every word of God is tested; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Add nothing to his words, lest he reprove you, and you be exposed as a deceiver. Proverb 30:5-6

He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there. And as for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet 3 in testimony against them.” Luke 9:3-5

Suscipe by St. Ignatius of Loyola

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, All I have and call my own. You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me. Amen.

Nothing. Else.

The implication that flies off the page to me today is the strong message that we are to fully rely on God and the Word. Add nothing else so we do not put our interpretation upon the Word – possibly misleading others. Then, when we go out into the word, bring nothing else along. Maybe we should hold hands and stick together as Robert Fulghum (Author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten) advises, but Jesus instructs us to take nothing else but our companion for the journey.

How many of us have recently taken a summer vacation or other short trip? What did you pack for that journey? Clothes. Bathing suit. Sunblock. Digital camera. Computer. Battery. Charger. Books. Music player. Beach chairs and blankets and towels. Games. Cards. Bikes. Food for the car. Food for the room while away. And once we got to wherever we were headed, we bought more stuff. Some disciples we would make!

“Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic.”

Every word of God is tested. How about you? Are your words all tested before they go out? Are your actions? Is your life?

What is your test? The Suscipe by St. Ignatius of Loyola presents us with a test that seems well-related to today’s readings. If we are to take the Challenge of Nothing, then the only option is to get rid of everything else.

Offer back to the Lord everything else… your freedom, your mind, your desires, your stuff. Can we face life and live out this prayer? Can we accept only God’s love and grace? Is that enough for you and me?

What can you offer back to the Lord today?

Monday, September 20, 2010

I Call Sinners

September 21, 2010
Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and evangelist

By Beth DeCristofaro

…grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. And he gave some as Apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the Body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13)

As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, "Follow me." And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" He heard this and said, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners." (Matthew 9:9-13)

Lord Jesus, I give you thanks for calling me, a sinner. May St. Matthew be a model. Help me to follow you. Help me not concern myself with the destination but the commitment to living a life of mercy, a life that matures into an ever closer relationship to you. Help me to place you before all else. May all I do bring glory to God rather than myself. Amen.

St. Matthew. I picture him sitting outdoors at the tax stand, maybe near the temple or one of the gates of the city. He was probably dressed better than most of the Jews who came to pay their taxes. I imagine he had a pillow to sit upon, lunch brought to him and a skin of wine at his elbow. His beard would have been perfumed, neatly trimmed. He would have been aware and particular of his appearance in order to play the part. But in his spirit I am sure he was sick. He was taking money from his fellow countrymen to give to the oppressors, and probably lining his own pockets from the takings. What ever he might have looked like, could he have been comfortable in his own skin? He was a betrayer of his heritage and a thief. Then Jesus called him. He got up and followed.

Jesus calls me. How eagerly do I get up and follow? Right now I’m job hunting. It’s perhaps my most least-favorite duty in the universe. It calls for organization – not my prime skill – as well as tenacity and good selling energy. Last week, I asked a friend for her prayers. I asked that the Holy Spirit help me in finding the right job which God has in store. Her answer rocked me back a bit. She took my arm and said to me: “Pray that you listen to the Holy Spirit.”

It’s not really the same thing to pray for the job or to pray to listen to God. God invites us to pray specifically. But God also graces us each one according to the measure of Christ’s gift … until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God. Am I ready to follow and help in attaining to the unity of faith and the knowledge of God’s Son? That’s a big order because I don’t really know what that even means. I do know what it means, however, to be a volunteer manager, a teacher or a chaplain. Matthew got up and followed without knowing. His gifts were revealed to him as he followed, listened, and committed to Jesus. Jesus knows my gifts. May I be open to His use of them.

Spend some time in prayer for someone (or those someones) who you feel are sinful, unrighteous. Ask that they hear the Holy Spirit with the ears of their hearts. Ask the same for yourself. Ask that your heart be filled with mercy and that your spirit be eager to spend your gifts for Jesus.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Despite the Cost

September 20, 2010
Memorial of Saint Andrew Kim Taegŏn, priest and martyr, and Saint Paul Chŏng Hasang, martyr, and their companions, martyrs

Refuse no one the good on which he has a claim when it is in your power to do it for him. Say not to your neighbor, "Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give," when you can give at once. Proverb 3:27-28

“No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.” Luke 8:16-17

LORD, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy mountain?
Whoever walks without blame, doing what is right, speaking truth from the heart; Who does not slander a neighbor, does no harm to another, never defames a friend; Who disdains the wicked, but honors those who fear the LORD; Who keeps an oath despite the cost, lends no money at interest, accepts no bribe against the innocent. Whoever acts like this shall never be shaken. Psalm 15:1b-5

Who, indeed, may dwell on the mountain of the Lord?

Actually, one answer may be no one. No one may dwell on the mountain of the Lord. Think about the mystery of the Transfiguration. When Jesus appeared to his three beloved disciples with Moses and Elijah, Peter wanted to erect three tents for them. But the Lord said no. Now was not the time to be separated from the community, dwelling on the mountain.

Ministry meant then and means today that we must minister within the community, among the children of the light, and reach out to those who have not yet accepted the light.

Luke furthers this by sharing Jesus’ explanation that we must not light a lamp and put it under a bushel.

Today is the day that we must be fully present to those around us. We must be among them to respond to their needs. Refuse no one the good on which he has a claim when it is in your power to do it for him. As the writer of Proverbs urges, “Give at once.”

Too often we are weighing the pros and cons, the pluses and minuses. Fuhgeddaboudit. Give now. Despite the cost. The martyrs we honor today did not analyze the pluses and minuses before they picked up their cross daily to follow Jesus.

Is there a charity or cause to which you have been meaning to send a contribution? Don’t let the sun set on today without putting a check in the mail or sending a payment via your favorite electronic means.

True Wealth

September 19, 2010
Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Never will I forget a thing they have done! Amos 8:7

If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours? No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Luke 16:11-13

“No person can serve two masters.” Piety is how we serve Christ. Leaving a car door open can be an invitation to the evil spirit. It only took a few moments for a book on tapes to be gone. A change purse went with it. Leaving a door unlocked was but a moment of distraction. I did not want to put the evil spirit to work. I look at how irritated I am with myself and have to laugh. But it is a hollow sounding laugh. I do not like being so dumb that I would leave something out to be taken. It is a simple statement to say God is love. God is unable to not love us in each moment of our lives. Each moment is a chance for us to see what the Lord is saying to us as we reflect on what is happening or happened in the moment that disturbs us. How is God’s love in a small loss? To have a small loss and to be bothered by it reveals the importance of the ordinary in our lives. As our gospel tells us, we reveal to others by our being trustworthy in small matters that we can be trusted in the big moments of our lives. The little moments of our lives reveal what we are made out of. Our piety challenges us to love God in the little things of our lives. Personal space violated teaches us to be respectful of the personal space of others. We serve our heavenly Master in how we serve our companions of life. How we serve one another present to us in the now reveals how we serve the God we do not see. How should we serve Christ?

We profit by the study of the lives of the Saints because we see men and women who were able to give their all to what they were doing. We need to be honest to ourselves by studying how much of ourselves we put into the job we are doing. We give too little when we give less than our all. When we study Christ we realize he loved us just as the Father loved him. Study allows us to grow in loving each other even as Christ has loved us. No greater love has anyone than to give their lives for the sake of their neighbor.

Our moment now makes all of our life worthwhile once we realize it only takes the moment we are in to change the world we are living in for the better. That is the best reason for putting out our best effort. Our stewardship is seen in all the actions of our lives. We do not need to wait upon something we think is worthy of our time and energy to put out our best effort in what we are doing. The Sacrament of the Present Moment is built around how the ordinary of life can be truly extraordinary. We have a God potential in our lives by giving all of ourselves to the person we are with. Now is the start of the whole rest of our lives. Now is the only moment that touches the eternal now that is heaven. The most important action of our lives is always what we are doing now. This is the moment good and pleasing to God for which our whole lives have been prepared for. We are the profitable servants when we open our hearts and give our lives to what we are doing NOW for the sake of Christ in each other. Then we are serving only one master. Dumb moments of little losses can be changed into great moments of real gain. Christ our Master makes all we do worthwhile.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Unless it Dies

September 18, 2010
Saturday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

You fool! What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be but a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind; but God gives it a body as he chooses, and to each of the seeds its own body. 1 Corinthians 15:36-38

The seed is the word of God…But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance. Luke 8:11, 15

Seed, scattered and sown, wheat, gathered and grown, bread, broken and shared as one, the living Bread of God.
Vine, fruit of the land, wine, work of our hands, one cup that is shared by all, the living Cup, the living Bread of God.

1. Is not the bread we break, a sharing in our Lord? Is not the cup we bless, the blood of Christ outpoured?

Seed, scattered and sown, wheat, gathered and grown, bread, broken and shared as one, the living Bread of God.
Vine, fruit of the land, wine, work of our hands, one cup that is shared by all, the living Cup, the living Bread of God.

2. The seed which falls on rock will wither and will die. The seed within good ground will flower and have life.

Is there any more apt analogy for the change needed within our lives than the seed. The analogy of the seed in both our readings drives home the importance of change in our lives. For the new to emerge, the old must pass away. There is no turning back.

Look at a seed. Take one out of a piece of fruit. When you contemplate the seed of an apple or orange, what do you see? The small shell that is buried in the ground, surrounded by dirt, mud, fertilizer? The sprout shooting up from the ground? The fragrant apple or orange blossom that must wither and die to make way for the fruit?

What do you see?

Now leave behind your fruit seed and think of a grain of wheat. Imagine all the change and transformation that takes place with the seed from a stalk of wheat. Just like our apple seed, it is planted and sprouts. The seed becomes a plant. The stalks yield grains which are ground to become flour. Just like you can not turn the flour back into the stalk, the stalk cannot be changed back into the seed. It has changed.

Take that flour and mix it with a little water and yeast to make dough. Bake that in the heat of an oven and you have bread. Bless and break that bread and it changes again into the body of Christ.

The farmer who planted the seed will no more recognize the loaf of bread transformed into the Eucharist than will the disciples recognize the body of the Risen Christ.

We are asked to change just like the seeds in the garden of life. However, we do not known if we are on rocky ground or fertile soil. We do not know if we will win when we fight against the weeds of our life. Let today’s Word of God be the yeast of change in your life.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

My Joy Will Be Full

September 17, 2010

Friday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

If Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty too is our preaching; empty, too, your faith. Then we are also false witnesses to God, because we testified against God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:12-17)

Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full. (Psalms 17:15)

Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources. (Luke 8:1-3)

Lord, let me believe.

Today’s first reading is stark and challenging. It’s not enough to believe Christ rose from the dead, Paul tells us; you have to believe that you too will be raised after death.

Jesus was fully man and fully God, after all. It’s an interesting parlor game to talk about what he knew and when he knew it about his life and his ministry and his excruciating death… and that beautiful Easter morning when the tomb was found empty, for he lived again. But he isn’t like us. He turned away the devil. He turned the other cheek. He tolerated, no, he loved the apostles and other followers, no matter how dense and clueless they were.

In the end, it doesn’t matter when he knew. What’s important is that he showed everyone his belief, his faith in the Father’s wisdom, no matter what was asked of him. He calls us to do the same—nothing more, nothing less.

Poke your faith around a little. Where is your preaching empty?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I Am What I Am

September 16, 2010

Memorial of Saint Cornelius, pope and martyr, and Saint Cyprian, bishop and martyr

For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God (that is) with me. 1 Corinthians 15:9-10

“Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty. Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?” Simon said in reply, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.” He said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Luke 7:41-43

Jesus, I am what I am just like Paul is what he is and the sinful woman is what she is. Your love and forgiveness will help me rise above my nature and imitate your example. I am not fit to be your follower. Give me the grace of Paul and Simon so that I might judge rightly and follow you. Amen.

Paul is the sinful woman and the man with teh greater debt. Just like she showed great love when her sins were forgiven, Paul/Saul showed great love when he was forgiven for his sins committed when he persecuted the early Christians.

A persecutor like Saul may have appeared to be disqualified from apostleship, but in fact God's grace has qualified him. His experience is mirrored in the parable of the two debtors as well as in the comparison between the Pharisee and the sinful woman.

How do we react to Jesus’ ministry? Are we like the Pharisee who invites Jesus into our lives only to act with self-righteousness? Or are we like the woman who recognizes her sinful nature? Her reaction to the forgiveness was to shower Jesus in her love and tears.

His action (love/forgiveness) is a consequence of her faith in seeking out Jesus. Her action (love/praise) is the consequence of His forgiveness. What behavior is Jesus trying to help us to rise above? Gossip? Greed? Selfishness? Use his love as your ticket away from such behavior. In His love is the strength we need to break the bounds of old habits.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Love Never Fails

September 15, 2010

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows

Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I shall show you a still more excellent way. 1 Corinthians 12:31

"Behold, your mother." John 19:27b

Give thanks to the LORD on the harp; on the ten-stringed lyre offer praise. Sing to God a new song; skillfully play with joyful chant. For the LORD'S word is true; all his works are trustworthy. The LORD loves justice and right and fills the earth with goodness. Psalm 33:2-5

Today is the feast day for our home parish: St. Mary of Sorrows, Fairfax, VA. The parish has been a fixture in this wealthy and growing and diverse region for more than 150 years.

As we enter the Worship Center, we have numerous chances to behold our mother walking past the statue of her which graces the walls there and another which stands beside the altar and another with Joseph and Jesus stands sentinel as we come and go to the parking lot. A reproduction of the Pieta also rests inside the sanctuary. At the Historic Church, a grotto like that in Lourdes, stands in front of the church building.

Beholding our Mother means more than just meditating on the various statues throughout the parish grounds. Mary showed us the more excellent way of obedience and action. First, she agreed to participate in God’s plan for salvation. Before the Lord could send His son into the world, Jesus needed to find the love of a mother to nurture him and help him grow into the man who would become our savior.

Today’s Psalm echoes one of the central passages from Mark’s Gospel. Psalm 33 teaches us that “Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.” God has chosen Mary to be his own and our Mother of Sorrows and we see why in this passage:

But he said to them in reply, "Who are my mother and (my) brothers?" And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. (For) whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother." Mark 3:33-35

The key lies in doing the will of God. Mary accepted that will and acted upon it. If we are to behold the more excellent way that she leads us toward, then we must follow her example and do the will of God.

This week, the state of Virginia has plans to continue the long tradition of state-sponsored murder with the execution of Teresa Lewis. Lewis is accused of planning the murder-for-hire of her husband and son in order to collect insurance money and run away with another man. We have the choice to follow the more excellent way of love and mercy.

According to an article in The Washington Post: “If neither the U.S. Supreme Court nor Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) intervenes, Lewis will become the first woman executed in Virginia in nearly 100 years and the 12th nationwide since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. Both of her co-conspirators, the men who fired the deadly shots, received life terms. Lewis's execution is scheduled for Sept. 23.” She did not pull the trigger yet she is the one person on death row.

Church teaching is unequivocal about this. If a reliable alternative to the death penalty (like life in prison with parole) exists, then as Catholics, we should ask our leaders to halt this execution.

Please consider contacting the Governor to ask him to change her sentence. You may contact Governor McDonnell directly (1) by phone at 804-786-2211, (2) by mail at Office of the Governor, Patrick Henry Building, 3rd Floor 1111 East Broad Street Richmond, Virginia 23219, or (3) through the governor's web page, at

Or consider signing this petition which seeks to have her sentence commuted to life in prison.

The Son of Man Gives Eternal Life

September 14 2010

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

By Beth DeCristofaro

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 21:9)

They remembered that God was their rock, God Most High, their redeemer. But they deceived him with their mouths, lied to him with their tongues. Their hearts were not constant toward him; they were not faithful to his covenant. But God is merciful and forgave their sin; he did not utterly destroy them. Time and again he turned back his anger, unwilling to unleash all his rage. (Psalm 78:36-38)

Jesus said to Nicodemus: "No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life." … For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:13-15, 19)

"How splendid the cross of Christ! It brings life, not death; light, not darkness; Paradise, not its loss. It is the wood on which the Lord, like a great warrior, was wounded in hands and feet and side, but healed thereby our wounds. A tree has destroyed us, a tree now brought us life" (Theodore of Studios).

Veneration of the Cross began in the Eastern church in the fourth century and came to the West during the seventh. Theodore’s words: “How splendid the cross of Christ!” rings true for us today but we tend to forget that in Jesus’ day and even into the early church, the cross was a symbol of cruel punishment and oppression. Crosses, laden with the dead or dying, were places of despair.

With Jesus acceptance of death upon this instrument of torture, succumbing even unto death, his resurrection into new life transforms the symbol into a sign of freedom from sin and death. The Israelites had only to look upon the bronze serpent to be healed of the serpents’ poison. We can choose to look upon the cross, and see more than suffering, see beyond despair. The death symbol for the oppressed peoples of the Roman empire is now the life-symbol for Christians.

What is a place of suffering in your life right now? Can you stand at the foot of the cross with that suffering? Can you accept that Jesus suffered for you and suffers with you now? Pray for strength. Pray for the Spirit to sustain and guide you. Pray for life. Pray for freedom not only from your suffering but from the bonds which suffering puts upon you such as resentment, hopelessness, confusion, the desire to lash out against those who have caused your suffering. You are not alone. God loves you even as he loved his Son who chose suffering in order to offer freedom.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

But Say the Word

September 13, 2010

Memorial of Saint John Chrysostom, bishop and doctor of the Church

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes…Therefore, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 1 Corinthians 11:26, 33

And Jesus went with them, but when he was only a short distance from the house, the centurion sent friends to tell him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you; but say the word and let my servant be healed.” Luke 7:6-7

“Lord, I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word, and I shall be healed.”

Luke portrays Jesus as a man of piety, study and action -- praying, preaching, healing, answering prayers, debating the Pharisees, and exorcising demons. He goes the way and shows the way so we can follow. Jesus singles out his encounter with the centurion as an example of how the Church he is building will stretch beyond the Jews. The centurion exemplified the spirit expressed today in Psalm 40: “To do your will is my delight.”

The attitude he embodies is noted well by Jesus. Even though the Jews faced persecution and hardship at the hands of the belligerent forces from Rome, Jesus listened to the plea from the centurion and makes the Psalm come to life: “May all who seek you exult and be glad in you.” Jesus not only granted his prayer but he commented to those around, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”

Value in relationship was a central theme in the Sunday Gospel about the lost sheep, the lost coins and the lost son. Today, we see the centurion go to great lengths to aid the servant who was of such value to him. Rather than just go out and commandeer another to serve him, the centurion seeks healing for the valuable man already in his service.

If Jesus were to come to Fairfax County, would he find such faith in the people filling up the pews of our churches or would he find that faith in the more unlikely places where we might not look? Under superhighway bridges where the homeless sleep? In the parking lots of convenience stores and paint stores where immigrant laborers seek our day jobs tending our lawns and making needed repairs to our homes? In the under-funded AIDS clinics where indigent patients hope to find ways to afford the life-saving drugs prescribed by doctors of those with insurance?

Rather than climbing the ladder of success, Jesus tells us today to “wait for one another” just like he waits for the centurion. We are asked not to leave anyone behind. Just like the centurion seeks help for his servant, the shepherd seeks out the one lost sheep and the widow searches for her lost coin, we are to follow the ways Jesus exhibits and leave behind our human (selfish) ways and focus on being in right relationship with God and each other.

There may be a little centurion in all of us. We are reminded of his humility and obedience at every Mass in the prayers before communion. However, we are no longer asking the Lord to heal our servant but to heal ourselves. Our prayer will be answered in the same way that Jesus answered the prayers of the Roman centurion.

Went Back

September 12, 2010

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

"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

This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost. But for that reason I was mercifully treated, so that in me, as the foremost, Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example for those who would come to believe in him for everlasting life. 1 Timothy 1:15-16

So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. Luke 15:20

The years go by and it almost seems nothing has changed. The Lord is on the back burner now and it seems as if he is not getting the prime time he deserves. Piety becomes more and more nebulous as we see how half heartedly we do the things of the Lord. Consolation seems little and is far between the times of dryness. It is hard to believe that the Lord has chosen us. It is not that we have chosen the Lord. We accept the call and come to recognize the call in the good things we are able to do in life as we reach out for the missing sheep of the gospel story. We are looking for the missing coin. We search the house and when the coin is found, we rejoice. God rejoices in us as we the missing coins of the gospel story are found by the Lord. We could never really get far from him. He is always inviting us to come closer. We are the lost coins he finds.

We take a good hard look at all the ways the Lord is saving us. He calls us by the kind words of a friend calling us back to the straight and the narrow path. He is with us in every good book we have a chance to read that reveals something of the Master’s plan for us. He talks to us through the sermons of the lives of the good people around us who preach by their lives, if not even with their words. He is calling us by the calls to kindnesses that are the opportunities to do good for our neighbors. Our spiritual reading opens our eyes to how we can get closer to the Lord in the actions of our lives. We do not have to be the Prodigal Son of the Gospel story. We can stay close to the Father by the goodness of our lives. The Saints show us the way as they make Christ real by their lives and their goodness. Christ is constantly being updated in our world when we live out the good things about Christ that we study.

We make the choice to return to our Father’s house. We discover that the Father is always waiting for us to come back. The Father celebrates our returning home. We are always God’s children even when we do not deserve to be called such. We take the actions of love. We run out to welcome back our brothers and sisters who had lost their way. We share the best of ourselves. We open up our hearts to those who have seen the error of their ways. The best of all the actions we can do in the name of the Love of Christ is to have a place in our hearts for everyone who would share our journey with us. We join with the rejoicing of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. We enter into the joy of the Lord. Each day we try to recognize a virtue in each person that comes into our lives. The hidden moments of our lives when we do what needs to be done without being asked give us the chance to share Christ without anyone noticing what we do. We live our lives for Christ by staying close to the Father. We become Christ to our world.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Looking Up

September 11, 2010

Saturday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. 1 Corinthians 10:16-17

How can I repay the LORD for all the good done for me? Psalm 116:12

I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them. That one is like a person building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built. Luke 6:47-48

Father, as we pray, we often lift up our eyes to you in praise and worship. Today, as we recall the terrible events of this date nine years ago, send us the Holy Spirit to remind us that we are a people united by your love and the sacrifice of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Help us to always be a people who look up to you in hope, never in fear and never in hatred for anyone who is created in your image and likeness. Amen.

November 11, 1918. December 7, 1941. August 6, 1945.

November 22, 1963. January 28, 1986. September 11, 2001.

Dates. Every generation has its dates with history – dates upon which everyone who was alive and older than age 5 can tell you exactly where they were when they got certain news. These shared experiences unify generations and citizens. Depending on your age, you can probably instantly identify what happened on the historical dates listed above. These share experiences also united us in other ways.

Nine years ago, following the attacks and the national response, people also flocked back to their church or a church. The fear of the unknown and the piety for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice on that fateful day united us not only in national spirit but also in religious devotion.

Some of us endured a funeral or several funerals for loved ones killed in the planes or on the ground. Others suffered from injuries. Others survived and wondered why they were able to get out of the Twin Towers or the Pentagon while friends were not.

Union also is the theme of today’s Good News. Communion with Christ is exclusive and goes above and beyond any other such communion. But the union alone is not what marks us as a people. We are marked by what we do and how we act because of that union and because of that love. As St. Paul notes in the First Reading from his letter to the Corinthians, we are known by the quality of our deeds if we are followers of Christ.

The unity of September 11, 2001 has faded into history for some. Today, our country is torn apart by issues and actions like how to end the wars, where to build mosques, whether or not to burn Korans, and the fear of the unknown enemies lurking around every corner. However, the unity of our faith is not built upon fear and division. It is a religion built upon the rocks of faith, hope and charity.

One of my enduring memories of 2001 is a song which reflects the hope of tomorrow. The song “Looking Up (Three Days in September)” by Cletus Kennelly was written on September 13 and the lyrics recall the days after 9/11 when the skies were empty. However, life returned to normal and the skies were once again filled with the planes that were grounded after the attacks. Even though the skies were empty, we kept “looking up.” Even though we were stumbling in the darkness, our faith kept us “looking up.”

Today, as we recall those killed and injured in the attacks and in the wars which followed, let us also remember the enduring faith that is our communion in Christ, a faith that keeps us “looking up.”

What are you planning to do today to commemorate the memories of those who died on this date? The Psalm suggests a strong theme of thanksgiving for the blessings bestowed upon us by the communion cup and communion bread. How can we repay the Lord for our blessings today as we remember those who have been called into full communion with Jesus in heaven?

Run So as to Win

September 10, 2010

By Melanie Rigney

Friday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

For a sun and shield is the Lord God, bestowing all grace and glory. The Lord withholds no good thing from those who walk without reproach. (Psalms 84:12)

"Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:39-4)

Lord, I am in this to win it. Help me to remember every step, every mile, is not a practice sprint, but truly a part of the most important marathon I could ever run.

I’ve lost close to a hundred pounds twice in my life. Both times, when I was tantalizingly near the goal… five or ten pounds away… I eased up. I quit monitoring my eating habits. And in both cases, the pounds came back on a lot faster than they’d gone off.

There can be a temptation to stop and call it good in our faith lives too. Can’t we take a little time off from trying to reflect Christ’s love to others, especially to people we really don’t like? Can’t we cut back just a bit on our charitable donations so that we can manage a new car payment?

Paul gives us the answer in today’s first reading; a half-hearted effort, shadowboxing as it were, won’t win the race. We must train constantly, drive ourselves, be disciplined. For while we all can win the race, we can only win it if we’re in it to win it, every minute of every day. Whether we’re teacher or disciple, taking a lap or two on autopilot won’t work. If we ease up too long, we may disqualify ourselves.

And about my struggle with weight? I’ve still got a way to go, but I’m down three dress sizes from this time a year ago. I think before I put anything in my mouth. I contemplate the true reason I want something to eat. I’ve disciplined myself to working out three times a week. This time, I’m in it to win that battle too.

Identify the part of your training that could use a coach? Reach out to someone who can help you with it.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Love Builds Up

September 9, 2010

Memorial of Saint Peter Claver, priest

[K]nowledge inflates with pride, but love builds up. If anyone supposes he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if one loves God, one is known by him. 1 Corinthians 8:1c-3

“But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.” Luke 6:27-30

Take, Lord, and Receive

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will.All I have and call my own.Whatever I have or hold, you have given me.I return it all to you and surrender it wholly to be governed by your will.Give me only your love and your grace and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.
St. Ignatius, from the end of the Spiritual Exercises

The readings this week have focused on the new ways that Jesus has introduced. Joseph was asked to wed Mary even though the old ways of doing things would allow him to break off his relationship with her. The man with the withered hand found out that he did not have to wait until tomorrow to be healed because Jesus said loving each other takes precedence over following the old laws governing the Sabbath.

Today, Jesus introduced another new concept. Previously, the command to “love your neighbor” concerned your fellow citizens. Now, however, Jesus extends that command to love beyond those who live around us and cover even our enemies.

Not only must we love those who are our enemy, but also we must take the Ultimate Humility Challenge. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.

The prayer from the end of the Spiritual Exercises takes up this very theme. Not only are we to give and give, but also we are to return everything to Jesus.

Who among us would be tempted to say, “That’s not fair!” We would be right if Jesus was going to be limited to human standards. However, Jesus is breaking the mold. No longer will the laws of the Hebrew Bible or the American Dream establish the social contract. Now, love supersedes all. Love builds up.

Today, we celebrate the Memorial for St. Peter Claver, one of 50 Jesuits who have been elevated to “Saint” or “Blessed” in the church. These individuals and groups have turned their back on what the world thinks is fair. They have accepted and put into practice the love that Jesus commands.

Take inventory of the items you have collected in your life. What can you surrender so others may benefit. Maybe some items in your closet not worn over the past year. Maybe some time that you might otherwise spend watching football this fall.

After Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, entire neighborhoods were devastated. Some have yet to rebuild. Others are slowly being rebuilt. The rebuilding needed an impetus to get started. The parish of St. Peter Claver was among the first to be rebuilt in the devastated neighborhoods around the French Quarter. Today, homes around it are slowly recovering.

Volunteers are still needed and welcome to assist this vibrant parish community with various stages of repair in the church, school and community. If you are going to be in the New Orleans area soon and are interested in volunteering, please call the Parish Office at 504-822-8059 to leave your name, telephone numbers, and indicate the type of volunteer help you are offering.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Come Forth

September 8, 2010

Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

“But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small to be among the clans of Judah, From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times. (Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time when she who is to give birth has borne, And the rest of his brethren shall return to the children of Israel.) He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the LORD, in the majestic name of the LORD, his God; And they shall remain, for now his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth…” Micah 5:1-3

…[B]ehold, 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." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means "God is with us." Matthew 1:20-23

With delight I rejoice in the Lord. (Isaiah 61:10)

Joseph had his life well planned out. The Israeli Dream circa 1 B.C. Establish a decent career in a trade (carpentry). Get a house (Nazareth). Find a wife (Mary). Get married and have kids. But as the poet Robert Burns has noted: “The best laid schemes of mice and men Go often askew, And leave us nothing but grief and pain, For promised joy!”

His betrothed was found to be pregnant. Rather than cause her public shame, Joseph decided to quietly and privately break off the relationship. He would not “come forth” in this marriage. Instead, he and Mary would part ways. Until God intervened with His Plan. Enter God’s Dream circa All Time: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means "God is with us."

Joseph had a unique role in fulfilling this other Dream. He had to make a choice between his dream and God’s. What would “come forth” from this union was the promised savior of all.

Come forth. God has plans for each of us.

One of my favorite jokes goes something like this: Q. How do you make God laugh? A. Tell Him your plans.

We are surrounded by the forces calling for us to fulfill the American Dream circa 2010. Get that nice new car to stimulate the economy. Climb the corporate/career ladder. Put your children through the best schools. Pick out that retirement home early and save for the day you can kick back and enjoy it.

What if God has other plans?

In his book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, David Platt issues a challenge to us like the angel of the Lord issued to Joseph. Toss out that dream of yours and latch on to that dream of God’s.

Consider how we have interpreted the Good News to support our own social, political and cultural preferences. When Jesus challenges us to “Come Forth,” he challenges us to abide with him as He dwells with us.

In a column on this book appearing in yesterday’s New York Times, David Brooks summarizes Platt’s message: Jesus…made it hard on his followers. He created a minichurch, not a mega one. Today, however, building budgets dwarf charitable budgets, and Jesus is portrayed as a genial suburban dude. “When we gather in our church building to sing and lift up our hands in worship, we may not actually be worshipping the Jesus of the Bible. Instead, we may be worshipping ourselves.”

Is there any mega-Church bigger than our Roman Catholic Church? Yet God turned to Mary and Joseph, Peter and Paul, and you and I and asks to build a personal relationship with Him. He wants us to come forth from our dream into his. Today, as we focus on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, reflect on how you can transition into a lifestyle more aligned to “God with us.” What is your first step?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Tormented Were Healed

September 7, 2010

Tuesday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth DeCristofaro

Why not rather put up with injustice? Why not rather let yourselves be cheated? Instead, you inflict injustice and cheat, and this to brothers. Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the Kingdom of God? (1 Corinthians 6:7-9)

(Jesus) came down with them and stood on a stretch of level ground. A great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people … came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and even those who were tormented by unclean spirits were cured. Everyone in the crowd sought to touch him because power came forth from him and healed them all. (Luke 6:17-19)

Lord Jesus, Heal those parts of me which are flawed, fearful, angry, paranoid, self-righteous or in other ways fixated on myself and my status in this world. Heal me and help me to be attentive to the needs of others and your will. Draw me ever closer to you today, Lord. Help me not inflict injustice or cheat my brothers and sisters. Help me choose the right thing in my life today.

When I’m in large groups of people, I don’t do very well. Give me one or two good friends or interesting strangers any day. This introversion and, I’ll admit, fear, makes me tongue tied at busy nursing stations, social gatherings, airports and the like. I nearly turn into a proverbial wall flower. Usually the professional role takes over and I certainly function just fine. Some people even are amazed when I tell them how paralyzing it is for me to walk into a room full of people. Be assured this isn’t as difficult in Cursillo events because no one can stand alone very long in a Cursillo group without someone coming over with a hug, smile and a “how ya doin’?”

Whatever our fears, compulsions, obsessions, attitudes are, if they get in the way of our being Christ to others or if they harm others, these are the ills which Jesus can heal. Paul speaks particularly to the Christians of Corinth, warning them of relying on the pagan justice of their culture, but his words ring with conviction today: don’t inflict injustice on others even if you do so unconsciously through fear or the need to be successful. It is God who will judge and determine consequences. Instead, rely on the strength of Jesus who let power go out from him to heal, who was not afraid to heal even in front of powerful critics.

In today’s gospel, Jesus went off alone to pray and when he returned he named the twelve who would become his apostles. In concert with God, ask for healing. Take time alone with Jesus. What in your inmost being, in your life needs healing? Listen today, don’t talk.

Consider attending school of leaders or a Cursillo gathering to which you have not yet gone. Or take advantage of “Just Faith,” “Engaging Spirituality” or another program in your parish/diocese which will allow you to prayerfully reflect on how you act as Christ in your daily doings.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Stretch Out Your Hand

September 6, 2010

Monday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough, inasmuch as you are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 1 Corinthians 5:7-8

Jesus said to them, "I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?" Looking around at them all, he then said to him, "Stretch out your hand." He did so and his hand was restored. Luke 6:9-10

Lord Jesus Christ, you have given your followers an example of gentleness and humility, a task that is easy, a burden that is light. Accept the prayers and work of this day, and give us the rest that will strengthen us to render more faithful service to you who live and reign forever and ever. Amen (Night Prayer from

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians takes up various issues of bad behavior. Measured against the standards of the early Christian community, steps must be taken to correct behavior that is outside the new norms of Christian community. Jesus, as we see in the reading from Luke, had already set new standards of behavior for the community. However, the community at that time measured Jesus’ behavior against the existing standards. Therefore, the Pharisees were enraged and started to take steps to correct Jesus’ behavior.

The dividing line is Jesus who came among us to introduce a new social contract. As a witness to this new way of living together, Jesus cured the man who had the withered hand and presented himself in the temple in the Sabbath. "I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?" Rather than rest from all labor, Jesus takes us out of our old ways of living and into new directions. Paul’s metaphor to “clean out the old yeast” is at work today in both readings.

As we learn in the note in the New American Bible: “In the Jewish calendar, Passover was followed immediately by the festival of Unleavened Bread. In preparation for this feast all traces of old bread were removed from the house, and during the festival only unleavened bread was eaten. The sequence of these two feasts provides Paul with an image of Christian existence: Christ's death (the true Passover celebration) is followed by the life of the Christian community, marked by newness, purity, and integrity (a perpetual feast of unleavened bread).”

As we celebrate Labor Day 2010, the world of work is moving into new directions as well. Bishop William Murphy of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops noted this change in the 2010 Labor Day statement entitled “A New ‘Social Contract’ for Today’s ‘New Things,’” which can be found online (

Just like the man with the withered hand benefitted from the new social contract that Jesus set forth in today’s Good News, workers today need the same kind of outreach and action from all sectors in our culture including religion, politics, business and more.

“America is undergoing a rare economic transformation, shedding jobs and testing safety nets as the nation searches for new ways to govern and grow our economy,” said Bishop Murphy. “Workers need a new ‘social contract.’” Bishop Murphy said that creating new jobs would require new investments, initiative and creativity in the economy. He also drew on the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI, which call for placing the human person at the center of economic life and emphasize the role of civil society and mediating institutions such as unions in pursing the common good.

As you enjoy this holy day and civil holiday, read and reflect upon the implications of Bishop Murphy’s complete statement on your life whether you are a worker, manager, business owner, retiree, student about to enter the world of work (inside the home and beyond).

If you are not working for reasons such as illness, unemployment, family priorities or other reasons, how can you stretch out your hand to others, no matter what your personal circumstances to help them without boasting or pride but out of the same spirit of love and life shown by Jesus every day?

Consider also that we may be the man with the withered hand. How can we accept the aid of others in humility and with thanksgiving?

Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Cost

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

For what man knows God's counsel, or who can conceive what our LORD intends? For the deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans. For the corruptible body burdens the soul and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns. And scarce do we guess the things on earth, and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty; but when things are in heaven, who can search them out? Wisdom 9:13-16

“I should have liked to retain him for myself, so that he might serve me on your behalf in my imprisonment for the gospel, but I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that the good you do might not be forced but voluntary. 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.” Philemon 13-16

"If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Luke 14:26-28

“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” The invitation to discipleship has its loudest expression in the crosses we carry in the name of Jesus. The hurts, the pains and the brokenness of lives around us can make our crosses seem light. Following Christ and closeness to his cross are one and the same in the Spiritual journey. What is the something that I am putting before Christ in my life? Busy at something and making time for an interruption hardly seems a cross. But people come before things in our following of Christ. How I make space for the least person who comes into my life is where I see closeness to Christ at work. We are all called to treat the least person in our lives as Christ. He brings us to the truth of love of our neighbor as the true self love. We are called to be brothers and sisters of each other. We have a great work to accomplish in our lives which is the spreading of the kingdom of God. Christ tells us that anyone who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be his disciple. He calls us into the intimacy of his life. He asks us to value our closeness to Christ more than anything else in our lives. He gives us the chance to find him in all things.

We need to look closely at where we spend our time and our money. What are the things that I value in life more than the chance to serve Christ’s mission. The examination of the things that I am doing each day to be closer to Christ is one of the most important studies of life. There are problems in our world that we avoid because they interfere with our comfort zones. How true it is that the work of the Lord needs prayer, fasting and good works that we may ring true in his plan. When am I with another for reasons other than their good? I must do something about laziness in my life if I truly am going to be a servant of the Lord. I must discover what I value more than Christ in my life. I must study who is taking the place of Christ. Am I searching for Christ in all the companions of my life? Saints are transparencies of Christ. Sinfulness can cloud the life of Christ within us. I must love the Lord my God with my entire mind, my heart and my soul. Study gives us the chance to find more of Christ in each other.

We must make Christ all in all. The efforts to serve Christ in each moment of our lives will turn us into true lovers of each other. It is the cross of Christ that distances us from anything that separates us from Christ. Paul gives us a wonderful example in sending Onesimus back to be with the one Onesimus owed service to. Paul gives us the example of making all those around us free to do what God expects of them. We are partners of Christ when we honor the freedom of each other. We give Christ reign in our hearts when we work as beloved brothers and sisters of each other. We work out God’s plan in our lives with difficulty. The difficulties are the cross of Christ which is redemptive for those we offer our work up for. We might not be called to be prisoners for Christ. But we should be prisoners of our love for the good of each other. When we invite Christ into our lives, he sends the Spirit that we can search out what the plan of God is for us and thus find our paths on earth made straight.