Sunday, February 27, 2011

Then Who Can Be Saved?

February 28, 2011
Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

But to the penitent God provides a way back, he encourages those who are losing hope! Return to the LORD and give up sin, pray to him and make your offenses few. Sirach 17:19-20

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through (the) eye of (a) needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, "Then who can be saved?" Mark 10:23-26

Happy the sinner whose fault is removed, whose sin is forgiven. Happy those to whom the LORD imputes no guilt, in whose spirit is no deceit. As long as I kept silent, my bones wasted away; I groaned all the day. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength withered as in dry summer heat. Then I declared my sin to you; my guilt I did not hide. I said, "I confess my faults to the LORD," and you took away the guilt of my sin. Thus should all your faithful pray in time of distress. Though flood waters threaten, they will never reach them. You are my shelter; from distress you keep me; with safety you ring me round. Psalm 32:1-7

Sometimes, we learn the end of the story before we learn the beginning. Storytellers would call this technique “flashback.” In the case of our readings today, the key question is asked in the Gospel but the answer precedes the question in the first reading.

Who can be saved? The rich man wants to follow Jesus but calculates that the cost of discipleship is too high when Jesus says he must give away all his possessions. That leaves the audience with their mouths gaping open. Incredulous. What would happen if Father Barkett or Father Stefan said the same thing from the pulpit at St. Mary of Sorrows? Right here in the middle of deep suburbia, would there be a mass exodus out the doors? Or would we call that properly a Mass Exodus?

In a parish where most people make more money in a week than poor people around the world make in a lifetime, how would we react to such news? Impossible!

We have followed the commandments. We give to the Bishops Lenten Appeal (well at least 30 percent of us do). We support the overseas missions. We give to the Samaritan Fund. We even buy donuts after Mass and pancakes from the Knights of Columbus. What more is asked?

Penitence. As the Book of Sirach explains, “To the penitent God provides a way back.” But what does THAT mean? It means that we must put on a prodigal nature and change the direction in which we are looking for happiness. Lent may not start for two more weeks but why not start now?

We must stop pursuing a better job, a bigger house, a faster car. Instead, we must seek FIRST the kingdom of God. We must seek forgiveness for stepping along the wrong path and, in true obedience, turn to the path laid before us by the Lord. Then, nothing will be impossible. Even we might be saved.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Do Not Worry

February 27, 2011
Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time A

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

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 49:14-15

I am not conscious of anything against me, but I do not thereby stand acquitted; the one who judges me is the Lord. Therefore, do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God. 1 Corinthians 4:4-5

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat (or drink), or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Matthew 6:25-26

Worry can be a gift of God when it concerns what we are doing wrong and need to change in our lives. A God worry can get us motivated to do something about a bad situation. Worry is much to do about nothing when it concerns all the possible ways something can go wrong. Worry is honestly faced when we do all we can do to remedy a situation that is out of control. Worry creates the energy to act against a sea of troubles and by opposing them to end them. Our piety handles worry when we do what is possible and leave the rest to God. The cure for worry is confidence in the love of God for us. Our piety grows in our trust in God’s love for us. Our awareness of how well God takes care of the birds of the air, allows us to believe he will take care of us all the more. God knows all our needs. When our prayer puts words on our needs, the worries disappear in the confidence we have in how well God does things. The very groans of our heart become the voice of the Spirit interceding for us. God listening to the voice of the spirit within our souls responds to our needs with all that we need. There are three possible answers. The first is the immediacy of the gift of what we asked for. The second is the yes hidden in the not yet. God will give it when we most need it. And the Third is a gift so much better than what we asked for that we do not recognize what we receive as an answer to our prayer.

It behooves us to study the work of God that we may have confidence in and appreciate His guiding love. His creating hand is not only at work in the world around us. It works even more in the best of his creation. He has given us freedom. Of all His creations, we are the finest reflection of God’s love. We are able to love God freely without any force put on us. We look again and again at the tree of glory which is God’s greatest love for us and discover how best to respond to the carrying of the crosses in our lives. Worries are the looking at the future without the awareness of God’s saving love in his Son. We need to live in the present moment where God’s love is real in what we are able to do in the ‘now’ of God’s love for us. Worries are looks at the future without the awareness that we do not have tomorrow’s graces now. In the principle of divine economy God does not waste tomorrow’s graces on today. In God’s love for us, tomorrow will take care of tomorrow.

God sees our hearts. God tells us that the Lord will not forget us. He says it strongly with the simplicity of the statement that even if a mother would forget her son, God will never forget us. It is a mother’s love to which God compares himself. He is so much more than a mother’s love. It is in God alone that our souls can be at rest. God is the rock of our confidence that all will be well. He calls us to find refuge in him all the day. The approval addiction can drive one crazy because we can never do enough for anyone in our love. Love calls us to give our lives for the beloved. God gives us the example in the cross of his son that we might know the greatest human love possible where the mercy and love of God makes its strongest statement. We will never be able to understand the love of God any more than in how well we understand the cross of Christ that reveals God’s so great love for us. Our action is best seen in how well we carry our crosses of life. God sees our heats. Only God and we know what is on our hearts. We do not need to awake the fears of what others might think if we know we are doing our best. We drive out worries by our confidence in God’s love for us. God sees our hearts and responds.

God’s Own

February 26, 2011
Saturday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

He forms men's tongues and eyes and ears, and imparts to them an understanding heart. With wisdom and knowledge he fills them; good and evil he shows them. He looks with favor upon their hearts, and shows them his glorious works, that they may describe the wonders of his deeds and praise his holy name. Sirach 17:5-8

When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, "Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it." Mark 10:14-15

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on the faithful. For he knows how we are formed, remembers that we are dust. Our days are like the grass; like flowers of the field we blossom. The wind sweeps over us and we are gone; our place knows us no more. But the LORD'S kindness is forever, toward the faithful from age to age. He favors the children's children of those who keep his covenant, who take care to fulfill its precepts.
(Psalm 103:13-19)

We are God’s own. Our first reading from Sirach reminds us of all the graces which God has showered upon us. After bestowing these gifts, God looks “with favor” upon us -- our hearts, our minds and our souls.

The image that illustrates that best is brought to life in the Gospel by St. Mark as he relates Jesus and the interaction with children who flocked to his side. The disciples wanted to give Jesus some time to rest. Yet He stopped them and taught that we must accept the kingdom of God “like a child” with the trust, innocence and love that children were showing toward Jesus.

Sometimes being “childlike” in our society is an insult. If we are childish, people think we are immature, not grown up, not serious. Yet Jesus was intently serious in admonishing us to be like a child.

Too often we try to make our children grow up too quickly. With grades, gifted and talented academic programs, sports competition, beauty pageants, spelling bees and more, we put our children on the competitive road to adulthood at younger and younger ages.

Jesus does not want our children to be little adults. He wants us – the adults – to be grown children, approaching him with the love, devotion and acceptance that children have for those who care for them.

How can you be child like this weekend? Consider the young boy or girl going up for First Communion with all the awe and anticipation of this rite of passage. As you approach the altar for Holy Communion, think back to when you first shared fully in the Lord’s Table. Flock to the altar in joy and anticipation and then bring the Eucharistic “Christ in you” out to the world.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Life-Saving Remedy

February 25, 2011
Friday in the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure. A faithful friend is beyond price, no sum can balance his worth. A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy, such as he who fears God finds; for he who fears God behaves accordingly, and his friend will be like himself. (Sirach 6:14-17)

Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands. (Psalms 119:35)

(The Pharisees said to Jesus,) “Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.” But Jesus told them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” (Mark 8:34-37)

Lord, sometimes Your way is hard. I thank You for the people you put in my path who keep me honest by their example.

Last summer, I happened to be in the same city as a longtime friend, and mentioned I’d just been talking to a mutual friend.

The friend I was with looked at me thoughtfully. “Her walk is very different from yours, isn’t it?” she said after a few seconds.

“What do you mean?” I harrumphed, ready to be indignant or defensive.

“Think about your journey, and where she is and where you are. I’m not saying don’t be her friend. I’m saying don’t let anyone take away the progress you’ve made,” my friend said in a calm tone.

The conversation ended, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the words. It’s not that I became an evil person with our other friend who also is a Christian, but I did become a different person—more gossipy, less Christ-focused. She may have generally started the backbiting and negativity, but I was always there to join in. These days, I don’t go along in that relationship; I do my best to be the person Christ wants me to be, listening and loving but also firmly re-steering our talks when they go in a wrong direction.

Some of Jesus’s teachings are easy, at least on the surface. Others, including today’s Gospel on divorce, seem hard and antithetical to his teachings on love and kindness. The presence of faithful friends in our lives can help us accept God’s commands—and live them in a way that brings other friends closer to him.

When was the last time you checked in with Cursillistas for whom you were the sponsor or co-sponsor? In the next week, see where their walk has taken them since their Weekend. You’ll both be the richer for it.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Do Not Delay

February 24, 2011
Thursday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Delay not your conversion to the LORD, put it not off from day to day; For suddenly his wrath flames forth; at the time of vengeance, you will be destroyed. Rely not upon deceitful wealth, for it will be no help on the day of wrath. Sirach 5:8-10

“Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if salt becomes insipid, with what will you restore its flavor? Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.” Mark 9:49-50

You are the salt of the earth
You are the salt of the earth
But if that salt has lost it's flavor
It ain't got much in its favor
You can't have that fault and be the salt of the earth!

So let your light so shine before men
Let your light so shine
So that they might know some kindness again
We all need help to feel fine (let's have some wine!)
(“Light of the World,” from Godspell by Stephen Schwartz)

If actions speak louder than words, then actions rooted in faith and obedience to Christ are stronger than other good works performed without such a foundation. The book formerly called “The Wisdom of the Son of Sirach” always amazes me as it encourages us to move in this general direction. Just yesterday we were advised that those who seek wisdom in the Lord will be embraced.

This book closes out the historical books in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament before we jump into the Prophetic books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah and others. Even though written more than 2,200 years ago, the advice in this book still helps us stay on the path to maintain religious faith and integrity.

The author fills up its pages with wisdom and maxims that we would do well to learn well in our study, ask for in abundance in our piety, and put into practice in our actions.

Winnow not in every wind, and start not off in every direction. (Sirach 5:11)

Be consistent in your thoughts; steadfast be your words. A man's tongue can be his downfall. (Sirach 5:12)

Sirach connects wisdom to action in a way that complements the Gospel for today.

All of us watched the unfolding people-power events in Egypt. However, bookended around those mass peaceful demonstrations were incidents of violence against Christians in that nation. Just this week, a Coptic Christian priest was found stabbed to death in his home in a southern Egyptian city. Less than two months ago, a bomb ripped through a Coptic Church in the city of Alexandria, Egypt on New Year’s Day. Both incidents have set of waves of protests in the country along different lines than the political-economic protests which ousted the president earlier this month.

In our own country, we continue to witness protests in Wisconsin and now Indiana over the rights of workers to collective bargaining. I do not imply that these current events are on the same scale. However, I would say that we should read the advice in the Book of Sirach before making any comments.

A man’s tongue or his keyboard can be his downfall.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Looking for a Road Map

Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Memorial of Saint Polycarp, bishop and martyr

By Colleen O’Sullivan

Wisdom breathes life into her children and admonishes those who seek her. He who loves her loves life; those who seek her will be embraced by the Lord. He who holds her fast inherits glory; wherever he dwells, the Lord bestows blessings. Those who serve her serve the Holy One; those who love her the Lord loves. He who obeys her judges nations; he who hearkens to her dwells in her inmost chambers. If one trusts her, he will possess her; his descendants too will inherit her. She walks with him as a stranger and at first she puts him to the test; Fear and dread she brings upon him and tries him with her discipline until she try him by her laws and trust his soul. Then she comes back to bring him happiness and reveal her secrets to them and she will heap upon him treasures of knowledge and an understanding of justice. But if he fails her, she will abandon him and deliver him into the hands of despoilers. (Sirach 4:11-19)
Be Thou my Wisdom, Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee, Thou with me, Lord.
(from verse 2, “Be Thou My Vision,” attributed to Dallan Forgaill, 8th century)

Sometimes I hear people having conversations about how complicated life is today, about how challenging it is to raise children in today’s environment, about all the dangers out there for our kids – drugs, permissive attitudes about sex, Internet predators, cyber-bullying. We talk about how people don’t seem to put much stock in marriage anymore and the high divorce rate or we talk about the ups and downs of our own relationships and marriages. Sometimes the conversations are about how to deal with problem neighbors, annoying family members or friendships that seem frayed. Whatever the topic at hand, we’re always wondering how to solve these problems, how to live on a daily basis.

Where do we turn for guidance or advice? When my nieces and nephews were teenagers, I used to watch half-amused and half-alarmed as they went about making decisions on how to conduct themselves. It didn’t matter what any of the adults in the family told them or what they learned in church or at school, they always turned to their peers for the final word.

Others of us take our questions to work and see what our co-workers have to say. Maybe they’ll be able to shed some light on how to deal with our problems. Or, if not our office mates, maybe our closest friends will have some enlightening words for us.

Life in the 21st century does seem fraught with challenges at times, but I would imagine that in every time and place, human beings have always felt that and looked for guidance on how to live their daily lives.

Toward the end of the Old Testament period right through to the time when the books of the New Testament were written, a genre of literature sprang up known as “wisdom literature.” The Books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom and Sirach, as well as the Song of Songs, are all examples of wisdom literature. Based on our commitment to God, they are written to give us guidance on the basic questions of everyday living – what to teach your children, why we shouldn’t gossip, why we should work diligently, etc.

In today’s reading from the Book of Sirach, we see that the answer to how to live our everyday lives lies not in what our peers think or our friends or colleagues, but in the pursuit of wisdom. Seek wisdom and you will be given life. You will be embraced by the Lord; you will be blessed. You will know what it is to be loved by God.

The writer warns us that wisdom isn’t always easily attained. Sometimes we are tested and tried. Other times, we find ourselves in situations full of fear and dread. But, it seems to me that in persevering in the search in the midst of trials – illness, grief, failure, etc. – we are often then rewarded with wisdom and insight into the deepest things in life.

Take a few minutes to reflect on the places in your life where you need a road map for how to proceed and pray for wisdom. In the first chapter of the Letter of James, we are told that if we lack wisdom, we should ask God, who gives generously to all, and our prayer will be answered.

Upon This Rock I Will Build My Church

February 22, 2010
Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, apostle

By Beth DeCristofaro

(Jesus) said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church… (Matthew 16: 15-18)

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;
He restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long. (Psalm 23)

Finlay Currie, a Scottish character actor, did a movie scene which truly struck me as a child. He played Peter in the 1951 movie “Quo Vadis.” The movie, awfully campy in modern terms, was set in the days of Nero’s persecution of Christians. Peter was fleeing Rome along with many others as Nero increased his persecution of Christians. (Peter Ustinov was, in my young eyes, horribly chilling as the malevolent, insane Nero). As Peter walked along a lonely stretch of road exiting Rome, he received a vision of Christ, walking toward the city.

“Quo vadis? (Where are you going?) My Lord,” he asks.

Jesus’ answer was that he was returning to be crucified again because Peter was deserting his people.

Peter was stunned to the core of his soul; he turned around, returned to Rome and confronted Nero. A following brief scene shows Peter being crucified upside down which is historically accurate.

My reaction – remembering this scene for years and years - was about the mysterious possibility and awesomeness that one could see Jesus face-to-face. But it also was about bravery and dedication which Peter found within him when faced with the choice of deserting his God. He overcame his fears to truly be Christ’s rock. Was this something I could ever be capable of? The idea of martyrdom was on the one hand heroic and on the other terrifying.

Then several years ago my family and I visited Rome. We had the awe-inspiring pleasure of visiting the “scavi,” the excavations of the ancient necropolis under St. Peter’s basilica where St. Peter’s burial place is hidden. It has been documented by meticulous scholarly research but more importantly it is a place of sacred sense and imbued with dedication, fidelity, hope and bravery of the generations of Christians which followed. With Peter, these early Christians have said to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

My prayer and my attachment with Cursillo today is that we are part of a living Church who continually says the same with our words and deeds and that we live our lives walking toward, not away, from a living relationship with Christ.

The Vatican has posted a wonderful on-line tour of the scavi. Although you cannot smell the dry earth, feel the weathered (this was all above ground centuries ago!) stone nor experience its hush, the tour gives one the feel for the years and the environment which early Christians experienced. You realize in the scavi that, just as we do today, people years ago sought not only to honor their own loved ones in death but to commit them to God (or the gods as many of the tombs are pagan).

Be patient, sometimes the “go forward” arrows do not respond promptly. Take a few minutes to appreciate the historicity of our traditions and immerse yourself in a virtual sense of the beginnings of the Church.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Help My Unbelief

February 21, 2011
Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

All wisdom comes from the LORD and with him it remains forever. The sand of the seashore, the drops of rain, the days of eternity: who can number these? Heaven’s height, earth’s breadth, the depths of the abyss: who can explore these? Sirach 1:1-3

“But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “‘If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith.” Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” Mark 9:22b-24

Father, help us in our unbelief. We pray. We attend Mass. We are involved in social ministry. We study your word and works. Yet still, evil breaks into our hearts and we fail to love as you commanded. Jesus, help us to recognize that everything is possible if we but have faith. Holy Spirit, bring compassion on us and help us share that with each other. Amen.

Ben Sirach portrays true wisdom as God’s external revelation of Himself. Thus God is the creative-source of all wisdom, preserver of all wisdom and teacher of all wisdom in various ways. So we may learn of God by observing his creation – the drops of rain, the snow-capped mountaintops, the leaves on the trees, the blades of grass, the animals in the world, and each other. We also may learn of God’s existence by seeing how He works in the world.

During ancient Palestine, people could have direct observation of God’s work in the world by seeing what Jesus accomplished. We no longer can directly experience Jesus in the world. We have to allow Him to work through us or recognize his work in others thanks to the revelation of the Holy Spirit. The bridge between then and now is faith. As we are reminded in Hebrews, "Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1)

We strengthen our faith through the practices that bolster our piety. We strengthen our wisdom through practices that bolster our study. We strengthen our faith and wisdom by exercising these in the world. We are an example to others and they are an example to us. When we love, we spread love and block hatred as Jesus did when he cast out the spirit possessing the boy in today’s Gospel.

As you go through this week, observe all of God’s creation to see how His wisdom is shared with you every day through the people, places and things that you encounter.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Love Your Neighbor

February 20, 2011
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

"You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. Though you may have to reprove your fellow man, do not incur sin because of him. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:17-18

Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” Matthew 5:43-45

Our piety flows out of the touch of the Word of God on our souls. The love of God is perfected in us by our exposure to the word of God which claims the attention of our souls. Spiritual Intimacy is one of the greatest attractions of God in us and for others. We are called to love with our mind, heart and soul. The journey to Christ is expressed by our awareness of the Christ of each other. Christ asks us to “Be perfect, just as our heavenly Father is perfect.” Christ says he has loved us even as the heavenly father has loved him. We are called to love each other just as Christ has loved us. Christ loves us so much that he gives his life for us. We are called to love one another even as Christ has loved us. That means the giving of our lives for those who need us. We are to love our neighbor as our self. The perfect self love is the fullness of our love for our neighbor.

The advice of Christ seems to be counter-intuitive. We are the temple of God. The Spirit of God dwells in us. We study how to purify ourselves by being the best of Christ. Even as the Saint is the update of Christ in their given age, we are called to be the update of Christ in our time and place. Our Christ needs to be visible to our world in which we are in our love for one another. We study how to be a transparency of Christ to our family and friends. If we consider ourselves wise we need to become a fool so as to find wisdom. The perfection of God is found in the outrage of the cross of Christ. The tree of glory might be a contradiction to the wise people of our time, but the tree of glory is the wisdom of God with the perfection of the perfect image of the love of God’s son for us on his cross.. The perfection of God is ours by virtue of the ways we embrace the cross of Christ. The invitation of discipleship is to take up our cross and to follow Christ. The yoke of Christ is perfectly fitted to our shoulders. We study how to walk with the Lord sharing our burdens. The wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God.

We are called in the foolishness of the cross of Christ to love our enemies and to pray for those who give us a hard time. The Father makes his sun shine on the good and the bad alike. We are called to measure our love for Christ in what we do for the least ones of our lives. Christ identifies with the needs of all our brothers and sisters. How we reach out to the least ones of our lives measures how much we love Christ in our brothers and sisters. No one needs to deserve our love because we are called to love even as Christ would love. The gift of our love must be freely given if we are to aspire to be as perfect as our heaven Father. He gave the perfection of his love to us in Christ. We live the love of God when we love even as Christ has loved us. We are most Christ in our lives when we allow others to minister to our needs. Christ identifies with our needs and we become Christ to those who help us even as we help Christ when we reach out to those who need us. Even as no one can deserve the love of God, no one needs to deserve our love. Justice is what we deserve. Love is the free gifts of our hearts to those who need us. Let us be Christ for one another!

Righteousness Comes Through Faith

February 19, 2011
Saturday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

But without faith it is impossible to please him, for anyone who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, warned about what was not yet seen, with reverence built an ark for the salvation of his household. Through this he condemned the world and inherited the righteousness that comes through faith. Hebrews 1:6-7

Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them. Mark 9:7-8

Father, set before me the path that leads to a right and close relationship with you. Jesus, help me to encounter situations in life that allow me to learn what you want me to do and how you want me to serve. Holy Spirit, send into my life those people who will give me the near occasion to put the love of the Lord into action today. Amen.

Our detour back to Genesis is now interrupted with a return – once again – to Hebrews. Today’s readings challenge the faith and action of the disciples just as they continue to challenge us.

St. Paul teaches us that we must believe not only that God exists but ALSO that the Lord is concerned about human conduct. Otherwise, why bother with Christian action? If God loves us and will save us regardless of our actions while alive, then we could do anything – good or bad, moral or immoral – and we could count on forgiveness and redemption.

Yet the covenant with Adam and Noah and Abraham and us is a two-way street. The Lord, we learn, will go to great lengths to bolster our faith and get to know us. Like talking out of a cloud and making Moses and Elijah appear to the disciples. But we must learn those lessons and apply them.

Today, we may not be given visions of the Jesus and the prophets transfigured before our very eyes. However, every morning we are greeted by a sunrise. And as we climb in bed, we are kissed goodnight with the setting sun and a sky filled with stars – stars that fill us with wonder at the expansive breath of God’s creation.

Each day we can walk with the Lord. He just happens now to look like our family members, co-workers, neighbors, the drunk passed out on the street corner, the beggar looking for a dollar, the waitress in the deli, the hotel maid who fixes your bed or the bus driver getting you around town.

Noah, through his action and obedience, “inherited the righteousness that comes through faith.” Righteousness is a concept that has some troubling connotations in modern society – usually akin to when we portray someone as “self-righteous.” In the letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul very likely means something completely different. Noah was not boasting that he was smarter than everyone else because he built the boat that saved so many. Instead, the use of the term “righteousness” here implies an external, not a self-driven, righteousness. It underlines the fact that a person's actions – in this case Noah and the others cited – are justified have been "judged" or "reckoned" as leading a life that is pleasing to God. Why? Because Noah focused on doing for others what his faith in God called him to do.

That is exactly the message delivered on the top of the mountain. “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.” If we want our actions to be considered right in the eyes of God, the source of our behavior must be rooted in being consistently obedient to his word in our work.

Righteousness Comes Through Faith

February 19, 2011
Saturday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

But without faith it is impossible to please him, for anyone who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, warned about what was not yet seen, with reverence built an ark for the salvation of his household. Through this he condemned the world and inherited the righteousness that comes through faith. Hebrews 1:6-7

Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them. Mark 9:7-8

Father, set before me the path that leads to a right and close relationship with you. Jesus, help me to encounter situations in life that allow me to learn what you want me to do and how you want me to serve. Holy Spirit, send into my life those people who will give me the near occasion to put the love of the Lord into action today. Amen.

Our detour back to Genesis is now interrupted with a return – once again – to Hebrews. Today’s readings challenge the faith and action of the disciples just as they continue to challenge us.

St. Paul teaches us that we must believe not only that God exists but ALSO that the Lord is concerned about human conduct. Otherwise, why bother with Christian action? If God loves us and will save us regardless of our actions while alive, then we could do anything – good or bad, moral or immoral – and we could count on forgiveness and redemption.

Yet the covenant with Adam and Noah and Abraham and us is a two-way street. The Lord, we learn, will go to great lengths to bolster our faith and get to know us. Like talking out of a cloud and making Moses and Elijah appear to the disciples. But we must learn those lessons and apply them.

Today, we may not be given visions of the Jesus and the prophets transfigured before our very eyes. However, every morning we are greeted by a sunrise. And as we climb in bed, we are kissed goodnight with the setting sun and a sky filled with stars – stars that fill us with wonder at the expansive breath of God’s creation.

Each day we can walk with the Lord. He just happens now to look like our family members, co-workers, neighbors, the drunk passed out on the street corner, the beggar looking for a dollar, the waitress in the deli, the hotel maid who fixes your bed or the bus driver getting you around town.

Noah, through his action and obedience, “inherited the righteousness that comes through faith.” Righteousness is a concept that has some troubling connotations in modern society – usually akin to when we portray someone as “self-righteous.” In the letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul very likely means something completely different. Noah was not boasting that he was smarter than everyone else because he built the boat that saved so many. Instead, the use of the term “righteousness” here implies an external, not a self-driven, righteousness. It underlines the fact that a person's actions – in this case Noah and the others cited – are justified have been "judged" or "reckoned" as leading a life that is pleasing to God. Why? Because Noah focused on doing for others what his faith in God called him to do.

That is exactly the message delivered on the top of the mountain. “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.” If we want our actions to be considered right in the eyes of God, the source of our behavior must be rooted in being consistently obedient to his word in our work.

Friday, February 18, 2011

“What Could One Give in Exchange for His Life?”

February 18, 2011
Friday in the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

The whole world spoke the same language, using the same words. While the people were migrating in the east, they came upon a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, “Come, let us mold bricks and harden them with fire.” They used bricks for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth.” The LORD came down to see the city and the tower that they had built. Then the LORD said: “If now, while they are one people, all speaking the same language, they have started to do this, nothing will later stop them from doing whatever they presume to do. Let us then go down and there confuse their language, so that one will not understand what another says.” Thus the LORD scattered them from there all over the earth, and they stopped building the city. (Genesis 11:1-8)

Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? What could one give in exchange for his life? (Mark 8:34-37)

Blessed are the people the Lord has chosen to be his own. (Psalms 33:12)

For what or whom would you sacrifice your life?

Most parents would say their children. Many couples would say their spouse or partner. Others would say other family members or treasured friends; many would say their principles or beliefs. We think about the saints and martyrs, people like St. Thomas More, who stood by the teachings of our faith and paid the ultimate human price. We think of the example of people like Valeen Schnurr, who after being shot at close range during the carnage of Columbine was asked by one of the gunman whether she believed in God. She said yes—and the murderers moved on after an exchange with her about why she believed. And we wonder whether we could do the same.

But how often do we think about what we’re willing to give in exchange for everlasting life?

Are we willing to give up excesses, in spending, consumption, and time, excesses that keep us from spending time in prayer or service?

Are we willing to give up willfulness and pride and judgmentalism, traits that get in the way of loving our neighbors as Jesus commands us to love?

Are we willing to give up the false gods of money and position, which distance us from loving the Lord with all our hearts and souls?

The choice is ours.

Think about what your answer is when Jesus asks, “What could one give in exchange for his life?”

Thursday, February 17, 2011

An Accounting for Human Life

February 17, 2011
Thursday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

For your own lifeblood, too, I will demand an accounting: from every animal I will demand it, and from man in regard to his fellow man I will demand an accounting for human life…God added: "This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come, of the covenant between me and you and every living creature with you: I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Genesis 9:5,12-13

And he asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter said to him in reply, "You are the Messiah." Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him. He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. Mark 8:29-31

“The soul would have no rainbow if the eye had no tear.” (Unknown)

“I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden.” It was a line in a popular song sung by country artist Lynn Anderson and covered by many artists.

Today, we hear in our first reading that God promised Noah a rainbow, not a rose garden, as the sign of the new covenant. However, God did not promise that there would never be any rain. You can’t have a rainbow without the storm. Nor did God promise that everything would come easy. Each of us is called to account to the Lord for human life.

Jesus leaves out the part about the rainbow in today’s Gospel. He is the living rainbow of hope sent to save us. Now that he has been with the disciples for a while, he quizzes them about his identity. Who do you say that I am? Once they know Jesus, he can begin to prepare them for the coming storm. Like us, Peter prefers to focus on the rainbow, not the clouds.

We never know how we will deal with the storm clouds on the horizon or how long it will take to overcome the obstacles strewn in our path.

Even though we are six years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast region and the flood waters from the levee breach destroyed entire sections of the city, many people are still trying to rebuild. Some people still have trailers in their front yards, dumpsters in the driveway for construction debris, and volunteer crews working on their houses.

The St. Bernard Project ( continues to work with Americorps, United Way and churches from around the country to coordinate volunteer labor. This year, they are hoping to raise $35,000 during Mardi Gras to continue the rebuilding process and bring a rainbow back into the lives of people who still can not get into their homes.

Yesterday, I met two homeowners where our group (I am at a conference in the Crescent City this week) worked on these rehab projects. Led by able young adults – Laura from California and Nathan from North Carolina – they taught crews of about 14 people at each site what needed to be done in an afternoon of work.

Take a look at the site above and consider how you can help people restore the rainbow in their lives.

Once Is Not Enough

February 16, 2011
Wednesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

By Colleen O’Sullivan

When Jesus and his disciples arrived at Bethsaida, people brought to him a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on the man and asked, “Do you see anything?” Looking up the man replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.” Then he laid hands on the man’s eyes a second time and he saw clearly; his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly. Then he sent him home and said, “Do not even go into the village.” (Mark 8:22-26)

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

(from “Be Thou My Vision,” Attributed to Dallan Forgaill, 8th century)

In the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus calls to Simon and Andrew as they are at work fishing. “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” A little bit down the road, he sees James and John, also at work in a boat. He calls them to come along, too. I have often wondered just where they thought they were going and what being “fishers of men” meant to them. Maybe the whole thing sounded like a great adventure, more exciting than fishing day after day. Had they understood about the Cross and a suffering servant Messiah, would they have tagged along so eagerly?

In the Sacrament of Confirmation young teenagers in our parishes renew the promises made for them in Baptism by their parents and godparents. When you’re 12 or 13, what does it mean to declare your faith in Jesus and to promise to follow him? At 12 or 13 years of age, I remember thinking the 17-year-old girl next door was all-wise and all-knowing. If I couldn’t think further ahead than four or five years, I’m sure I had no real concept of what Christian discipleship would entail or what I was signing on for.

By the time we come to today’s Gospel reading, the disciples have been with Jesus for quite a while. Jesus is frustrated, though, because they still don’t grasp what his ministry is all about. In the passage right before today’s, Jesus asks them in exasperation: “Do you not understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? Do you still not understand?”

When they get to Bethsaida, Jesus heals the blind man, but it takes two attempts before the man sees clearly. After the first one, his vision improves, but he can’t tell trees and human beings apart. Jesus has to lay hands on his eyes a second time before his vision is 20/20.

How symbolic of the way Jesus is at work in me! Jesus has had to lay his hands on my eyes many times throughout my life. Each time my vision becomes sharper. At age 57, each day still brings new discoveries and struggles about what it means to be a disciple, what it means to follow Jesus to the Cross. It’s easy to answer that initial call of Jesus; it’s more difficult to stay the course when everything in the culture around us calls to us to take the easy way through life. The Cross was a scandal in Mark’s day; it’s still a scandal to non-believers today.

Take a few minutes to reflect on ways in which Jesus has clarified your vision of your path through life. Give thanks that we have a Savior who heals our inability to see again and again. If you are having trouble seeing the way forward, just call on him for help.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Guard Against False Leaven

February 15, 2010
Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth DeCristofaro

When the LORD saw how great was man’s wickedness on earth, and how no desire that his heart conceived was ever anything but evil, he regretted that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was grieved. So the LORD said: “I will wipe out from the earth the men whom I have created, and not only the men, but also the beasts and the creeping things and the birds of the air, for I am sorry that I made them.” But Noah found favor with the LORD. (Genesis 6:5-8)

Jesus enjoined (the disciples), “Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? And do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?” They answered him, “Twelve.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?” (Mark 8:15, 17-18, 21)

Rise and shine and give God your glory, glory (3x)
Children of the Lord …
If you get to heaven before I doosies doosies
Drill a hole and pull me throughsies throughsies Children of the Lord
Rise and shine and give God your glory, glory (3x)
Children of the Lord. (from “Arkie Arkie,” traditional)

For all of human history, it seems, God has watched humanity turn away to something less. In Genesis, God looked down upon the beauty of creation and sees men going astray. Mark records Jesus saying: “Be on guard.” And for all of sacred history, God has found favor with the one or two, who remain faithful and so, in God’s infinite mercy, continues to nourish us.

God wants to continue to nourish us. God can feed us with fragments left over. When I am fragmented, broken and left over, God still gathers me tenderly up. God used Noah, the disciples, uses my friends and family, my Cursillo group to show how much I am treasured.

I am not sure that I understand. But I believe and I hope and I try to stay on guard against the false leaven of bogus promises, easy escape, and counterfeit evil. It’s harder – because it is insidious for me – to stay on guard against more mundane iniquities such as worrying incessantly over that which I have no control and ferocious self-reproach as I continue to be less than perfect in oh so many ways. The former takes me out of the present to my family and friends, the latter puts me on a pedestal where God should be. Even as I try to stay on guard, I certainly trust that when it is my turn, one of God’s beloved witnesses who have gone before me is going to drill a hole and pull me through.

There is so much evil in the world it can take your breath away. What are you ignoring instead of taking loving, nourishing action? Are you watching out or are you a complacent and comfortable Christian?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

To The Obedient

February 14, 2011
Memorial of Saint Cyril, monk, and Saint Methodius, bishop

Then the LORD asked Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" He answered, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?" The LORD then said: "What have you done! Listen: your brother's blood cries out to me from the soil!" Genesis 4:9-10

The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, "Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation." Mark 8:11-12

You sit maligning your own kin, slandering the child of your own mother.
When you do these things should I be silent? Or do you think that I am like you? I accuse you, I lay the charge before you.
"Understand this, you who forget God, lest I attack you with no one to rescue.
Those who offer praise as a sacrifice honor me; to the obedient I will show the salvation of God." Psalm 50:20-23

The Pharisees treated Jesus like some kind of on-demand magician – able to perform miracles at the drop of a hat. However, the miracle making that engaged Jesus always contained a critical element on the part of the audience – faith. When people turned to Jesus in faith, he was moved with pity and transformed their world.

However, Jesus was not there to perform like some circus act. He was sent in love to love and spread love. When the demands by the Pharisees for a miracle were voiced, Jesus turned his back on the request of “this generation” who wanted action without offering love or faith or obedience.

Unless we get to know Jesus, we could expect him to be like the man running some kind of travelling salvation show. Our study is vital to building a firm basis for friendship with Jesus.

Throughout the Gospels, we rarely see any effort on the part of the Pharisees to get to know Jesus. The prime exception to this is the actions of Nicodemus who not only sought out Jesus at night, but also defended him inside the temple and stood at the foot of the cross when others scattered.

Jesus welcomes us to an authentic call – he calls us and allows us to call on Him in our time of distress. Thus, the love of the Lord is a two-way street. That love is not available to those who forget and reject God. Likewise, to “those who offer praise as a sacrifice honor me; to the obedient I will show the salvation of God.”

Jesus was always transforming his world for the good. Rare was the occasion when he would not respond to a request for healing that was rooted in faith and obedience, hope and love.

That work continues today. Because just like Jesus acted out of love, not envy like Cain, we are asked to act out of love. We are, in essence, the keeper of our sisters and brothers. We inherited this role from our brother Jesus.

Who will be transformed by your presence and action today?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Go First and Be Reconciled

February 13, 2011
Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

If you choose you can keep the commandments; it is loyalty to do his will. There are set before you fire and water; to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand. Sirach 15:15-16

[W]e speak God's wisdom, mysterious, hidden, which God predetermined before the ages for our glory, and which none of the rulers of this age knew; for if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 1 Corinthians 2:7-8

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Matthew 5:17-18

Righteousness has the stamp of piety. “Yes” means “yes” and “no” means “no.” It is not that we wear our hearts on our sleeves. It is more a case of what you see is what you have. There is no two ways about anything. We do what our hearts tell us to do. The law of the Lord is written on our hearts. Goodness is a way of life. What we have accomplished in our Spiritual journey is a commitment to the commandments of the Lord. We have heard in the depths of our heart what the Lord is asking of us. Hopefully we have reached the point in our lives where we would rather die than violate the commandments. Mortal Sin is no longer a choice of our lives. Even venial sin is less of a worry because we are trying as best we can to do what is right. The image I like is that I am following the Lord in my choices of life. I am always trying to be as close to him as I possibly can. If I were to discover the Lord going in the opposite direction, I would change horses in midstream once I discovered it was the Lord I was going away from. Immense is the wisdom of the Lord. We realize he is mighty in power, and all seeing. We live to act justly and to do what is right. We realize the Lord understands our heart and we are determined to do what he is asking of us as immediately as we can once we discover what the Lord prefers.

Our study teaches us that we are blessed when we follow the law of the Lord. We accept God’s promise to remain with those who do what is just and right. Our study is how we beg the Lord that we might live in the presence of the Lord. We realize all too well that the fact I think I am following the Lord’s will does not guarantee that I am doing so. We study what we do because we know it pleases God that we have the desire to please the Lord. Because we have studied our road we know we can trust that the Lord is with us and will not leave us to face our perils alone.

The best of our actions is the Examen of the consciousness of Christ being with us. Even as we start our day by turning our lives over to the Lord that he can use us, we finish our day searching out how well he was able to use us. This wisdom belongs to those who are mature. It is not wisdom of this age that we are living in, where materialism, secularism and individualism rule the choices of the immature. Our choices are ruled by what eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, but by what has entered the human heart. Our choices are ruled by what God has prepared for those who love him. We invoke the spirit who scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God. Our actions are based on the plan of God for us. We try to act on decisions that reflect our appreciation of our destiny to live our lives in Christ. Our surrender to God’s way of doing things begins with the Morning Offering of ourselves to the Lord and finishes with our prayer of gratitude in the evening for all the ways he not only kept us close to him, but allowed us to live our lives in God’s wisdom which is found in our crucified Lord. We give thanks that he also used us for his greater honor and glory.

“Where are you?”

February 12, 2011
Saturday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

The LORD God called to Adam and asked him, “Where are you?” Genesis 3:9

“My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a great distance.” Mark 8:2-3

Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Relent, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants!
Fill us at daybreak with your love, that all our days we may sing for joy.
Make us glad as many days as you humbled us, for as many years as we have seen trouble.
Show your deeds to your servants, your glory to their children.
Psalm 90:12-16

There is a line of monologue in the classic film “The Sound of Music” that Maria utters when leaving the convent to care for the Von Trapp children. “When God closes a door, He opens a window.”

Adam and Eve could have certainly benefitted from the hope that springs from that attitude and prayer. Yet even as the story in Genesis details their exile, God continues to provide for them. God provides clothing to keep them warm and land to farm for food. Despite their betrayal, the Lord remained moved with love and pity for his children.

While some depict the God of the Old Testament as the vengeful God, in these actions we still see the love and connection that is the legacy passed along to Jesus who was moved to pity for the crowd that had nothing to eat. Once again, in our Gospel reading, we encounter a God who provides, a God who transforms the people around him by His loving actions.

This week, in our Engaging Spirituality class, we read a letter written by Ched Myers in which he recounted a story about dumpster diving with the late Philip Berrigan. While fishing around for food, the elder Berrigan asked the younger Myer, “Where is Christian hope?” The young Californian had no answer. Berrigan replied that hope is wherever you are.

No matter where we might be – physically, emotionally, economically, politically, or spiritually – the Lord continues to seek us out. When exiled from Eden, the Lord provides. When stranded in a deserted place, the Lord seeks us out.

“Where are you?” The Lord wants to find us and help us no matter where we are or what we have done. Whether we are in a fancy restaurant, an airport, our living room or an inner city Baltimore dumpster, hope is there because the Lord is there with us, looking for us, wanting with all his heart to help us transform what we have into the abundance of loving loaves and fulfilling fishes to meet our every need.

Do you feel far away from the Lord today? What can you do to close that distance and capture the hope that springs from the Lord to whatever place in which we find ourselves?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Be Opened!

February 11, 2011
Friday in the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney
Then the eyes of (Adam and Eve) were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. (Genesis 3:7)

Then I declared my sing to you; my guilt I did not hide. I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,” and you took away the guilt of my sin. (Psalms 32:5)

(Jesus took the man who was deaf and who had a speech impediment) off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”) And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. (Mark 7:33-35)

Remind me, Lord. I keep forgetting that you are powerful enough to single-handed handle all of my problems, no matter how large, how small, how complex, or how simple. (Excerpted from Remind Me, Lord by Olga Carmen de Juana)

There’s an allegory going around via the Internet. A pickup driver sees a man trudging along the side of the road, carrying a bag that’s so heavy he needs to use both arms. The driver pulls over and gets out.

“Do you want a ride?” the driver shouts out the window.

The man nods.

The driver motions him to join him in the cab.

“I’ll be fine in the back,” the man says.

“Suit yourself,” the driver says as he gets out and opens the tailgate. Then he gets back behind the wheel.

After a few minutes, he looks into the rearview mirror. The man is standing in the back end, struggling to keep his balance. And he’s still holding that heavy bag.

“Put down the bag and sit,” the driver shouts out the window. “It’ll be a lot easier on you.”

The man shakes his head. “I’m fine,” he shouts back.

“Suit yourself,” the driver says.

From time to time, we’re all the man who won’t put down the bag. We don’t go to God with our burdens, real or imagined, because we think we can handle things just fine ourselves—or, like Adam and Eve, because we’re afraid of His reaction. We forget, of course, that He already knows anyway, and loves us anyway.

How much better and, in the long run, easier it is to emulate the deaf man and go to Jesus with our burdens. He’s happy to help—if we put down our pride and fear and arrogance and let Him open our hearts and souls.

Put down one of your bags today, and rest in the Lord.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

A Suitable Partner

February 10, 2011
Memorial of Saint Scholastica, virgin

The LORD God said: "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him." Genesis 2:18

Happy are all who fear the LORD, who walk in the ways of God.
What your hands provide you will enjoy; you will be happy and prosper:
Like a fruitful vine your wife within your home, Like olive plants your children around your table.
Just so will they be blessed who fear the LORD.
Psalm 128:1b-4

He said to her, "Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs." She replied and said to him, "Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children's scraps." Mark 7:27-28

Compassionate God of love,
You give us models of strength and courage.
As Saint Scholastica trusted
that her prayer would be heard,
give us insight to ask for help
in difficult situations.
May we help to foster the Benedictine values
of hospitality, stewardship, respect and justice.
This we ask through Jesus, the Christ,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit
forever and ever. Amen.

“Happy are all who fear the Lord.”

“Happy are ALL who fear the Lord.”

Note: the Psalmist does not say “Happy are the Jews who fear the Lord.” Nor does it say “Happy are the Americans who fear the Lord.” Nor does it say “Happy are the Europeans who fear the Lord.” All who have faith in the Lord are welcome at His table.

“Happy are ALL who fear the Lord.”

Jesus has moved his ministry into the district of Tyre. This is Gentile country where the confrontation arises between Jesus and the woman whose daughter is possessed by evil spirits. In the exchange, the “children” at table refers to the Jews who have the first claim on the faith of Jesus.

However, when it appears that Jesus will turn his back on the pleas of the mother, she will not give up trying to save her daughter. The woman reminds Jesus that when the children are fed, then even the dogs under the table get the scraps from their plates. The Gentiles are the dogs under the table.
When Jesus realizes that this woman has approached based upon her faith in Him, he acts on her prayer to save her daughter.

Jews and Gentiles, Romans and Samaritan, native and foreigner all share in the benefits of Jesus’ ministry when they have faith, express it and act upon it. All who turn to Jesus in faith can access his healing.

Everyone has the potential to be touched by the ministry of Jesus. Beyond that, none of us have to face the world alone. In both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, companionship on the journey is a common theme. Even in the story of Genesis, the Lord acknowledges that man should not face the world alone but must have a suitable partner.

To whom can you provide companionship on the journey? As the community prepares for both a men’s and women’s weekend this spring, you can provide that companionship to the teams in formation and to potential candidates.

How else might you extend your Christian action to build up the Body of Christ in the world and bring to reality the Kingdom of God on earth?

The Breath of Life

February 9, 2011
Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

By Colleen O’Sullivan

At the time when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens - while as yet there was no field shrub on earth and no grass of the field had sprouted, for the Lord God had sent no rain upon the earth and there was no man to till the soil, but a stream was welling up out of the earth and was watering all the surface of the ground – the Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being. (Genesis 2:4b-7)

If you take away their breath, they perish and return to their dust. When you send forth your spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth. (Psalm 104:29b-30)

“What comes out of a person, that is what defiles. From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.” (Mark 7:20-23)

Abba, Abba Father, you are the potter, we are the clay, the work of your hands. (from Abba! Father by Carey Landry)

I love the imagery of this creation story. I can just picture God reaching his hands down to his newly created earth, scooping up a handful of dirt and fashioning himself a mudpie person. Then I see him looking lovingly at what he is holding in his hands. Finally, God leans over and completes what he has set out to do. He gently blows into his new creature the breath of life, God’s very spirit. To be created in the image of God is to be filled with the spirit of God.

In the psalm, a hymn to creation, the psalmist directly links the creation of human life and the renewal of all creation with God sending forth his spirit. Without that life-giving breath, we perish and return to the earth from which we came.

Knowing this, how is it that we don’t fall on our knees and thank God every day for creating us and sustaining us with his life-giving spirit? Knowing that God has breathed life into every human being, how can we not respect all human life? How can we not care for the needs of our brothers and sisters?

The answer to each of those questions is short and succinct – sin. The portion of the creation story in today’s reading from the Book of Genesis stops short of the account of the creation of a female companion for that first man and the story of their fall together into sin, but in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus talks about sin and the power it holds over our hearts. We who should be filled with love for God and God’s creation are instead sometimes twisted by a distorted sense of self-importance. When we become our own little gods, then all the evils Jesus mentions become possible. When we are the centers of our own universes, we can be jealous and envious of others, their possessions or good fortune. When we see ourselves as more important than anyone else, including God, then we can be filled with evil thoughts, which sometimes lead to evil deeds.

When I reflect on all this, there is often quite a disparity between what God has breathed into each of us and what comes out of us in return.

When you have a chance tonight, think about all the people who crossed your path today. Were you able to see the likeness of God in any of them, because, after all, we are all created in God’s image? When others look at you, what do you think they see? Take time to thank God for the gift of your life and, where you think God’s image in you might be obscured by sin, ask God for forgiveness and grace to live more fully as his spirit-filled child.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Keep Your Heart Close To God

February 8, 2010
Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth DeCristofaro

God said, “Let the water teem with an abundance of living creatures, and on the earth let birds fly beneath the dome of the sky.” And so it happened: God created the great sea monsters … Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth all kinds of living creatures: cattle, creeping things, and wild animals of all kinds.” And so it happened: God made all kinds of wild animals, all kinds of cattle, and all kinds of creeping things of the earth. God saw how good it was. … God blessed (Man and woman), saying: “Be fertile and multiply;
fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.”
(Genesis 1:20-21, 24-25, 27-28)

(Jesus) responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.’ You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.” (Mark 7:6-7)

Take Lord, all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will.
You have given me all that I have, all that I am, and I surrender all to your divine will.
Give me only your love and your grace.
With this I am rich enough and I have no more to ask.
St. Ignatius of Loyola

Great sea monsters, creeping things, living things that move on the earth. These passages from Genesis are so full of vivid, vibrant images that they enchant me. There is jubilance to them; did the writers of the story seek to impart the wonder and pleasure of this innocent, sensual process? They did a lovely job conveying an ultimately mysterious process which we call creation. It amazes me that humans spend so much time arguing over the authenticity and scientific basis for Genesis. Did God create the world in seven days or did God create the primordial processes which “Banged” at a specific moment in time and began the formation of stars, worlds and humans? It seems to me that the research is interesting but loses some of the joy and awe which the Genesis writers captured. (Although if you listen to many physicists, they sense awe even as they delve into the sub molecular or the galaxy clusters at the far end of the universe.)

And then there is that whole thorny question of “dominion.” We continue, after millennium, to argue debate and often confuse the idea that we have complete rights to all the earth’s resources rather than following God’s instruction to safe keep God’s creation.

In the Gospel, Jesus is again baited by the Pharisees. He reminds them that God’s commandment is at the core. Jesus gives us the fundamental good news: God wants our hearts to be close to God. I, for one, think that God wants us to rejoice in Him, joyfully live within the beauty of creation rather than distract with other ideals even if they be laws which are written “for the good of man”. Close to God we are close to each other as brothers and sisters. Close to God we can always be within God’s heart even during the tragedies or dark places of our lives.

We are no longer in Eden. It’s pretty apparent everyday. But what beauty, freshness, and innocence do we miss everyday because we are too aware of potholes, burdensome laws, insufficient social systems, wars, mud slides, cyclones, ice storms that inconvenience or hurt us? Read the story of creation again. Where can you find creation in your everyday?

Sunday, February 06, 2011


February 7, 2011

Monday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Then God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw how good the light was. God then separated the light from the darkness. God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." Thus evening came, and morning followed--the first day. Genesis 1:3-5

As they were leaving the boat, people immediately recognized him. They scurried about the surrounding country and began to bring in the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. Mark 6:54-55

Govern everything by your wisdom, O Lord, so that my soul may always be serving you
in the way you will
and not as I choose.
Let me die to myself so that I may serve you;
let me live to you who are life itself.
St. Teresa Of Avila

Sunday’s first reading (Isaiah 58) and Gospel (Matthew 5) set the stage for this theme of light and it continues today and this week.

Light was the first thing God created in Genesis. In the current winter of our restlessness, the season where natural plants have entered a dormant (dead) stage, our days are marked by long hours of darkness. We spend more of these hours indoors, working and living and awaiting the coming longer, warmer days of spring. As we mark our days through Lent and into the Easter season, the hours of light get longer and warmer.

When you light a candle outside on a summer night, watch as the insects, mosquitoes, moths and other flying bugs are drawn to the light. They are attracted by the light in the darkness. Maybe some are attracted by the warmth that is thrown off by the light. Whatever the reason, the light attracts living things like a magnet attracts metal shavings.

Where ever Jesus travelled, people were drawn to him just like living things are drawn to the light. We need light to read and understand what we can learn about Jesus. We need light in order to see the light. The operative word in today’s Gospel is immediately. They did not wait for the word to spread. They flocked to Jesus without hesitation.

Mark’s Gospel is filled with examples of the kinds of people attracted to the light, life and warmth of Jesus. Good people and people possessed with evil spirits turned to Jesus. Jews and Gentiles. Romans and Pharisees. Some had nefarious motives like trying to trap him in some dubious theological arguments. Others just sought healing for themselves or for their family and friends.

What is it about Jesus that attracts you to the Christian-Catholic faith?

What is it about faith that makes you hesitate?

Shine Through the Darkness

February 6, 2011
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time A 2011
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Isaiah 58:7-8

Happy are those who fear the LORD, who greatly delight in God's commands. Their descendants shall be mighty in the land, generation upright and blessed. Wealth and riches shall be in their homes; their prosperity shall endure forever. They shine through the darkness, a light for the upright; they are gracious, merciful, and just. Psalm 112:1-4

You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:14-16

Our goodness is a light that shines in our world. Our sharing bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless might seem insignificant to some. To the one that is brought in from out in the cold, the light of a warming love does the trick. They believe God has touched their lives. The good we have done in our lives lights up the path of the Lord we are following. It makes it possible for our world to come alive to the hope of goodness for all. The light of the Lord shines through the piety of our lives. Piety makes it possible to trust in the Lord. Piety shall be exalted in glory. Our piety salts each good action of our lives with the taste of the Lord. Piety leaves a good taste in the mouth of those who practice it. The good things we do ripple back upon us in wonderful ways. The smile of gratitude opens our hearts to be even more giving. We are called to be lamps to the selfishness of our world. Our selfless acts allow the light of the Lord to shine.

Our study allows us to light a lamp so that the goodness of the Lord can be seen. It is the evil in our world that challenges us to foster our goodness. God, our Father, has given us a share in the one bread and the one cup that makes us one in Christ. We can only hold unto Christ by giving him away. Our study allows us to have a part in making good come out of evil. By our learning how to lift the burden of others the lamp of our love for Christ shines into all the dark places of our hearth. We study how to let the unloved feel the warmth of our love. Christ becomes the meaning of our love.

Every time we think we are too weak to do what is necessary to make a difference in our world, we need to hear the words of Christ when he would plead to use our weakness. “It is in your weakness t hat my strength shows itself.” There is no bypass of the Cross of Christ. We look at our burdens in life and realize that when we take up our burdens we are taking up the cross of Christ. The Resurrection is on the other side of the cross and there is no bypass of the cross of Christ if we want to get to the Resurrection. Our study is our climbing his cross to look out at our world through the eyes of Christ in the throes of his suffering. Then his invitation to be his disciples by taking up our crosses and following him all of a sudden will make sense. When we accept the fullness of the love of God for his Son, we accept the love of God that is the ultimate meaning of the suffering in our lives. Thus our actions in carrying our crosses become the means that the light of Christ shines on our world. Redemptive suffering is how the love of Christ continues his salvific work in each of us. We are his love to the world. He is the light that shines out on our world through our goodness.

Friday, February 04, 2011

All That is Good

February 5, 2011
Memorial of Saint Agatha, virgin and martyr

May the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep by the blood of the eternal covenant, Jesus our Lord, furnish you with all that is good, that you may do his will. May he carry out in you what is pleasing to him through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever (and ever). Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21

People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. Mark 6:33-34

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)

We really don’t know what it means to hunger. We may occasionally comment “I’m hungry.” Or “It’s time to eat.” But the people like you who are reading this – with Internet access, a car (or three) in the driveway, a roof over your head, and a closet filled with enough clothes for three people – do not really know hunger.

Today, St. Mark comments that “People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat.” I’m not sure who “they” means. Does St. Mark mean that “the people” were coming to Jesus and skipping meals because Jesus fulfilled their every need, as mentioned in the closing passage of the letter to the Hebrews? These people truly hungered for the Word, for Jesus, this wandering wondering preacher. Like the good shepherd that He is, Jesus satisfies their spiritual hunger.

Or does St. Mark mean that the disciples were so busy helping Jesus minister to the crowds that they did not even have time to eat? Is that why they wanted a break, to go away to a deserted place and rest for a while? Were they so busy that they needed to refresh and recharge their batteries?

The ambiguity is fine…I think the passage prompts me to reflect either way on what it truly means to hunger for something and how Jesus is the way to satisfy true hunger.

Today, as you watch the stories about the unfolding events in Egypt, I ask you to remember the children of Egypt (and around the world), especially those who are poor and living in obscure neighborhoods like Giza, or Imbaba or elsewhere. While the political and economic winds swirl around them, the stores are closed and they may not know from where their next meal will come. Consider supporting organizations like Coptic Orphans, Food for the Poor and others who work to help meet their basic needs.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Jesus Is the Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever

February 4, 2011
Friday in the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 3:7-8)

The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid? (Psalms 27:1)

(Herod’s wife’s) daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.” He even swore many things to her, “I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” Her mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request, “I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. (Mark 6:22-27)

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. (Reinhold Niebuhr)

The Washington Post recently reported the percentage of native-born Muslims in the United States is expected to rise from 35 percent today to 45 percent in 2030.

“Does that mean more and more Christians will suffer being persecuted terribly in that year?” one of my cousins posted on his Facebook page.

I sighed. My cousin and I have very different political and religious views. But it’s not even the difference in our views that bothered me as much as the conclusion he reached. I thought, well, not a surprise coming from him, and moved on.

A few hours later, however, another of our cousins responded: “For the most part, people are just people, regardless of their religion. Don’t let the zealots sour you on a whole people.”

And I felt ashamed. Here I’d let something I found offensive go by without a public or private comment, and another relative had stated what I believe in non-threatening, non-combative language.

It’s easy to do that, isn’t it? We become like Herod, not exactly comfortable with a situation, but afraid to look foolish in the eyes of others. That failure to speak up can have small consequences, as in my case, or large, as in the case of Herod putting to death a man he consider righteous and holy or the case of those who felt uneasy about the actions of Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot.

Jesus said the two greatest commandments are to love the Lord with all our heart and soul, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. He gave us that advice two thousand years ago, when it wasn’t popular or easy to love those who look or act or think differently. He asks no less of us today—or tomorrow.

Pray for guidance so that the next time you are put in an uncomfortable situation, you may speak up in a loving way, willing to accept the consequences.

Take Nothing for the Journey

February 3, 2011
Thursday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

…[Y]ou have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, and God the judge of all, and the spirits of the just made perfect, and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel. Hebrews 12:22-24

He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick--no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave from there.” Mark 6:8-10

Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous;
Teach me to serve thee as thou deserves;
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to seek for rest,
To labor and not to seek reward,
Save that of knowing that I do thy will.
St. Ignatius Of Loyola

Our readings for this week continue our journey into Paul’s letter to the Hebrews. The passage today compares and contrasts the covenant of Moses and the covenant of Christ.

According to a note in the New American Bible, Paul claims that the Mosaic covenant originated in fear of God and threats of divine punishment. However, the note points out that the covenant in Christ “gives us direct access to God, makes us members of the Christian community, God's children, a sanctified people, who have Jesus as mediator to speak for us.”

It goes on to point out that “not to heed the voice of the risen Christ is a graver sin than the rejection of the word of Moses. Though Christians fall away, God's kingdom in Christ will remain and his justice will punish those guilty of deserting it.

Finally, the blood of Abel, the first human blood to be shed, is contrasted with that of Jesus that speaks to us “more eloquently.” The NAB notes that “Abel’s blood cried out from the earth for vengeance, but the blood of Jesus has opened the way for everyone, providing cleansing and access to God.”

Access to God is provided once we hear and act on the word of God. The disciples are commissioned in today’s Gospel reading from Mark. They go out into the world taking nothing but their love of the Lord and the lessons he has taught to them. Out in the world is where they are meant to be, not locked in an Upper Room someplace. There, they can bring Christ to dwell with others and to be among the people. Through this mission, the disciples will provide the people they meet with the teaching and healing that will open the path to allow God to dwell with them.

How are you travelling on the path that Jesus cleared – a path which he walks with you – a path that leads to union with God?

As the Gospel points out, it is not enough for us as Christ’s followers to walk that path. This is not a secret trail leading to a private hide-away or country club. This is a path open for all who follow the Word. Therefore, we also must help others find that path and walk with Jesus and us. As you walk on that path, how are you helping Jesus continue to open a direct path to God for others?

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

What a Friend

February 2, 2011
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

By Colleen O’Sullivan

And suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek. And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:1b-c)

Therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. (Hebrews 2:17-18)

He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” (Luke 2:27-32)

Piety - Entrusting Myself to the Hands of Jesus
I’ve come to think that the only, the supreme, prayer we can offer up during these hours when the road before us is shrouded in darkness is that of our Master on the cross: “In manus tuas commendo spiritum meum.” To the hands that blessed and caressed, that were pierced;…to the kindly and mighty hands that reach down to the very marrow of the soul – that mould and create – to the hands through which so great a love is transmitted – it is to these that it is good to surrender our soul, above all when we suffer or are afraid. And in so doing there is a great happiness and great merit. (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., from Hearts on Fire, p. 132)

Both the prophet Malachi and Simeon in our Gospel reading today testify to the coming of our Savior. Malachi says the Lord whom we seek will come to the temple. Hundreds of years later, Simeon is at the temple in Jerusalem when Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to be presented, as was the custom. This faith-filled elderly man immediately recognizes that he is in the presence of the promised one, the salvation of Israel. He can die in peace, knowing that God’s anointed one has come.

When I was a child, I eagerly listened to my grandmother’s stories about Jesus and absorbed what the nuns taught us in CCD about Jesus. Somewhere along the line, though, something didn’t get communicated clearly. By the time I was seven or eight, I was a proper little heretic. I understood that Jesus was God’s Son and fully divine, but I had some difficulties with the fully human part. In my young child’s mind (influenced by Saturday morning cartoons and grade-Z Saturday afternoon Westerns), I pictured Jesus and the disciples in the desert, replete with huge Saguaro cacti and rattlesnakes. I imagined them having wagon-train style meals. Only I thought that Jesus just pretended to eat with the disciples. I pictured him taking a bite of food and then going behind one of the giant cactus bushes and spitting it out, because he didn’t really have a stomach like the disciples. He was just pretending to be human.

Fortunately, somewhere along the way, my thinking got straightened out. Thank goodness, a Messiah who only pretends to be human is the furthest thing from the truth. God sent his Son into the world and Jesus willingly took on every aspect of our human nature except sin – every sort of trial and sorrow or happiness and joy that you or I could ever experience. In the reading today from the Letter to the Hebrews, the author says Jesus became like you and me in every way so that he could be a merciful and faithful high priest before God. Because Jesus was tested through his suffering, he can help us in our trials.

This should have great implications for our prayer lives. Sometimes we approach God in prayer as though we are putting on our “best faces,” saying what we think God would like to hear, leaving out a lot that’s going on inside. What a waste of time! First of all, God knows everything about us. We can’t hide our real selves from God. Secondly, we’re depriving ourselves of the experience of God’s love and compassion. There is nothing we could share with Jesus that he hasn’t experienced or wouldn’t understand or couldn’t forgive.

I am reminded of the words from an old hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus:”
What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.
- Joseph M. Scriven, 1820-1886

Next time you pray, remember that even in the deepest, darkest recesses of your heart, there is nothing that Jesus, because he became like us, couldn’t comfort, heal or forgive. Share with him something that you usually keep tucked away and allow yourself to be embraced by his love for you.